Tag Archives: food

An Apple a Day Revisited

It was a completely unexpected outcome.  Researchers expected that patients would be more content.  They thought they might sleep better.  But nobody expected that redesigning a hospital room would cause people to ask for less pain medication.

The story was in the New York Times last week (In Redesigned Room, Hospital Patients May Feel Better Already – NYTimes.com).  University Medical Center of Princeton NJ needed a new hospital, and decided to try to design a new hospital room from the ground up.  After extensive interviews with patients, nursing staff and many others, the new room was created, tested and eventually incorporated in the new building.  People love it, staff love it: All the rooms are single patient, have large windows looking out, a couch for visitors, even (why didn’t they think of this a century ago???) a continuous handrail from bed to toilet.

The unsurprising surprise was that people in these new rooms get better faster:

But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30 percent less pain medication. Reduced pain has a cascade effect, hastening recovery and rehabilitation, leading to shorter stays and diminishing not just costs but also the chances for accidents and infections.

There are probably many reasons for this result.  One is certainly the window.

This  will not surprise anyone who has read  Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Louv’s thesis, backed up by extensive research that he cites throughout, is that we human beings are hard-wired to live in the natural world.  We are happier and healthier when we’re outside in God’s creation, but even when we can’t be outside in creation, we are better if we can just see it.

That’s not a surprise, is it?  I took some effort in my own book, When Heaven and Nature Sing, to show that our uniqueness as human beings comes in part from our special hybrid nature.  We are created by God to live in two worlds at the same time.  We’re spirit creatures (“a little lower than the heavenly beings”, Psalm 8:5) who live in the physical world.

We are not spirit beings who inhabit bodies. Nor are we bodies that have attained self-awareness as an extension of our brain’s organic cognitive functions. We are a spiritual/physical unity, ‘incarnate creatures’ (Tolkien’s term) or perhaps better, ‘embodied selves’. [When Heaven and Nature Sing (Kindle Locations 1109-1111)]

Hence the “apple a day” proverb of our title.  Our ancestors knew what we are fast forgetting.  Simple things from the world of nature – an apple a day – lead inevitably to health, to happiness, to rest.

The other important feature in the hospital room might well be the couch.  An accommodation for visitors and family members, with the expectation that they might even want to spend the night.  What a revolutionary idea.

I wonder if that fact that we need to invent things like couches in hospital rooms is simply an indication of how far we’ve moved from where we ought to be.  Wendell Berry has an entire essay on the topic of health that is worth your time to click over and read.  Here’s a taste of how he ties God, love, community and health into one impossible-to-untangle package:

I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world. summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.

I believe that health is wholeness. For many years I have returned again and again to the work of the English agriculturist Sir Albert Howard, who said, in The Soil and Health, that “the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man [is] one great subject.”

…I believe that the community-in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures-is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms. [Berry, Health is Membership, 1994]

The significance of all of this should be obvious.  One of the reasons we have an “environmental crisis” is because we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we’re not like the other creatures.  That somehow, with our great intellects and amazing creative abilities we can transcend our creatureliness.  That we don’t need apples and that we can heal ourselves with machines and with chemicals.


We can’t.

We don’t have feet of clay – we have feet of flesh and bone.  We need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to be out in God’s world.  We need the joys and the frustrations of family and friends and community.  And when we’re sick we need that more than ever!

That’s why people who can be in a carefully designed hospital room and look out at God’s sky, God’s trees and God’s birds, holding the hand of someone they love need 30% less pain medication.

Now if we could get those patients to spend time outside in creation before their hospital visit, maybe we would have 30% less people going to the hospital in the first place.

That might be worth a try!

So next time you find yourself headed for the hospital, just say, “I’ll take a room with a window, please.”

News Update from Care of Creation

This year is starting off fast and exciting for Care of Creation.  I am just back from a week-long trip to our project site in Kijabe, Kenya along with Lee Hardman and Nelson Hard, two of our U.S. board members, and I’m excited about what God is doing through our efforts in that part of the world.  Let me share some of what we heard and saw during this visit. 

Farming God’s Way
Farming God’s Way (FGW), a conservation no-till agricultural program that is presented as part of an intensive Biblical-worldview training program, continues to generate a lot of interest among farmers and with the staff of other development organizations in East Africa.  The project site at Moffatt Bible College now features 8 test plots, four for FGW crops with the rest serving as controls.  The week before we arrived, a large group of farmers witnessed the harvesting of beans – the FGW plot produced 3.3 times as much as the control (that’s a 330% increase in yield!).  Continue reading

Back to the Start

I’ve been pushing hard all summer on a major writing project with the goal of finishing the intial writing by the end of September.  This is the main reason you’ve seen less posts on Our Father’s World than usual.  Sorry about that – but hopefully the end product will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, enjoy this video clip from Chipotle.  You may know that I’m not much of a fast-food advocate – but this company does seem different.

Enjoy and pass it along!

Drought and famine (again)

Drought Map It has been a year of flood and drought.  This spring’s floods along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are old news to most of us, as is the ongoing drought in Texas, which is breaking records set as long ago as 1917, long before the Dust Bowl of the 1930′s.   

 But nowhere in the world are things as bad as what is happening in East Africa, not far from where Craig and Tracy Sorley are serving in Kenya. 

 The Worst Drought in 60 Years


“Once More Into the Abyss”.   That’s how the Economist news magazine described the developing drought in Kenya and other East African countries a week or so ago:

BLOATED bellies with stick arms and legs; huge eyes staring out of skeletal heads; gaunt mothers trying to suckle babies on withered breasts. The world thought it might never see such scenes again. Famine in Africa, absent for many years, appeared to have gone the way of diseases for which we now have cures or vaccines. Continue reading

Old Literature: Jayber Crow on Preaching and Preachers

Via Flickr-click for source image

["Old Literature" is an occasional series of posts on works from the past (and in some cases, the not-so-long-ago-past) that still speak today.  Here are some of the earlier posts.]

Wendell Berry maybe best known for his essays on agrarian (hence environmental and ecological) topics; his greatest work, to my mind, is in his novels, all of which take place in and around and concern the “membership” of Port William, a small river town in Kentucky.  My wife Susanna and I recently finished reading (aloud, of course!) Hannah Coulter, and we are now halfway through Jayber Crow.  Yes, I know we’re working backwards – that’s how life is sometimes.  Anyway – last night’s selection caught my attention and seems worth sharing.  Enjoy the selections – but better, get out and read the book!

Jayber, whose religion is real and deep and passionate and mostly of the unorganized variety, is the town’s barber – and gravedigger – and permanent bachelor – and, in this chapter, has just become the Port William’s church janitor.  Jayber’s  observations on the nature of the preaching (and preachers) in this rural church are important, and reflect Berry’s perception of a fundamental flaw in the Christian faith as practiced at that time and in that place: Continue reading

Egypt: A surprising creation-care connection

The Egyptian revolution now underway has a personal connection for me – my niece Annie is attempting to pursue graduate studies in the middle of the chaos.  I had a conversation with her mother, my sister Marilyn this morning:  “So what’s Annie doing?  Trekking to the airport every day to try to get out?”  “Not exactly – she’s trekking to demonstrations every day…” Anyone who knows Annie – heck, anyone who knows her mother – would not be at all surprised by that. Marilyn’s family lived in Egypt for a number of years, and she has been covering the crisis very competently on her blog here if you’d like a well-written day-to-day overview including occasional eye-witness reports from Annie.

There are so many dimensions to this uprising that it’s hard to know even where to start.  There are plenty of obvious dimensions of this crisis:  A hard-pressed population’s desire for freedom.  The fear many have of the possibility – maybe remote, maybe not – of an Iran-style Islamic state taking the reins after Mubarak leaves. Continue reading