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Early to Bed, Early to Rise…

Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, or so said Benjamin Franklin, although he wasn’t the originator of the concept. In fact, it seems he might have taken it from Aristotle, (384 BC – 322 BC) who said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”

Ancient scripture also had a lot to say on the subject thousands of years before even Aristotle was credited with the idea:

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. (Pro 6:9-11)

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed. (Pro 26:14)

It’s been a custom in my family for generations to rise with the sun every morning to pray. I learned as a child to get up early and for some years was blissfully unaware that anybody might feel anything other than cheerful about getting up in the mornings. A number of people have since questioned me as to why I don’t sleep in and just pray right after I get up, later, at a more “decent” hour of the morning…

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Daniel and his strict adherence to various practices such as prayer and diet customs which were from the same source (and family) as the ones that I observe…

David also wrote in Psalm 55:17: Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

One of my grandmothers taught us early to meet with God at sunrise, noon and sunset every day, and to look forward to each prayer time at least as eagerly as one might do if they had an appointment with the most respected and important human individual imaginable. The identity of said imagined personage of course could vary widely! For some it might be the president or king of their country, others perhaps might be impressed by a celebrity of some sort, but regardless, if you had an invitation to meet with your esteemed hero, wouldn’t you make every effort to be ready and on time for the appointment, even if it was at an early hour of the morning? The excitement of the prospect would probably eliminate your sleepiness in short order and it’s unlikely that you’d even consider being late or not showing up without even calling to cancel!

How much more so when you’re meeting the Creator and Maintainer of the universe?

Of course, we also pray from moment to moment at any time or place during the day, in accordance with the advice given in 1Th 5:17: “pray without ceasing”, but there is a special blessing in showing up for a prearranged appointment with God. The feeling of His presence at such times is unmistakable. Try it and see; what do you have to lose, aside from perhaps a bit of sleep? As long as you’re up, you may get some other things accomplished as well! If you were to sleep just one hour less every day, (especially if you’re in the habit of staying in bed more than necessary) you would have the approximate equivalent of 2 months of 8 hour work days worth of extra time. Just think what you could accomplish if you put that time to constructive use…

My grandmother was a firm believer in the usefulness of developing good habits, and she usually assisted us in fun and interesting ways. To assist us in being able to wake easily, she would have us “practice” getting up in the mornings by setting up a game involving a simulated waking scenario. She usually did this at noon time prayer, which lent itself nicely to this practice session.

First we would lie in our beds while she told us a story. She always told the best stories, so it was no hardship to jump into bed and lie under our covers to listen! She’d have a washbowl and pitcher of appropriate temperature water set up and waiting nearby, just like it would be in the mornings; warm for cold weather and refreshingly cool for hot summer conditions. She was from a previous generation when running water was the exception and not the rule, and had an antique bowl and pitcher for this purpose that she was partial to. (for that matter, I’m no “spring chicken” myself these days, and my childhood lifestyle didn’t always include running water either)

After the story, we were to close our eyes and pretend to be asleep as if it were a new day dawning, and then she would call our names in the same manner as we were accustomed to in the mornings. When we heard our names, we’d take a deep breath, and stretch (she insisted this was very important) and then immediately sit up, and take several more full, deep breaths, then leave our beds and proceed joyfully (she encouraged us to clap our hands and skip and cavort) to the wash bowl and splash water on our faces and dry them on the towel just as was our usual morning routine. Then we proceeded to wherever it was determined that we would be having noontime prayer that day, which would be outside under a tree whenever possible.

I often think of my grandmother in the mornings when I wake up, and although I usually make my way to the wash bowl with somewhat more dignity than in those days, it’s still with joy in my heart and no desire to lie about in the bed.

To read more about my wise and wonderful grandmother, CLICK HERE to see my recent book, Ode to Mothers.

Reports from adult friends seem to indicate that a modified version of this process will also work to reprogram a person to lose the tendency to want to lie in bed, and instead find it easy to get up and begin the day. If you want to try this, you can set your alarm to go off in 5 minutes or so, (not so long that you’ll actually get sleepy and want a nap!) then get into bed and pretend it’s almost the morning waking time. When the alarm sounds, reach over immediately and turn it off, take a deep breath and stretch, sit up and take several deep, slow, focused and unhurried breaths, then get up and simulate whatever the first element of your morning routine is. (You might consider adding a few moments of prayer at this point in your routine if it isn’t already your custom)

One of the first things to do when you are ready to begin is to decide whether you will rise at an earlier hour or if you just want to make getting up at your usual waking time more comfortable. Naturally, for this to be of benefit, you need to be firmly committed to the plan. It’s important that you make an effort to follow the routine in the mornings when you’re really getting up, just as you practice it in the daytime.

It seems that it takes about a month to firmly establish most new habits, although most people who try this method say they notice positive results in a very short period of time.

Category: Children, Health  8 Comments

The further into the future we go, the more complicated the simple things in our lives become!

There was a time when the basic activities of the day took care of all of the exercise anybody needed.

Hoeing a few rows of the garden plot got the heart rate up and worked the large muscles, and kneading the dough for the week’s supply of bread also helped to ensure that strength was maintained.

Obviously, I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and most Americans have worked hard to leave that sort of thing behind, and prefer sitting on their behinds!

The problem is, without serious conscious effort and determination, most of us these days are not as healthy as we could be because most of our activities are performed sitting down.

Instead of walking over the hill to the berry patch and soaking up some sunshine while we pick a basket of berries, we drive to the grocery store and grab a bag of frozen berries and a bottle of vitamin D capsules.

Scientists who have studied the decline of the modern human have discovered that there are two kinds of exercise that are lacking in the urban world that previous lifestyles supplied naturally.

Most everyone has heard of aerobic or “cardio” exercise, and how it’s important in reducing the risk of modern lifestyle diseases, but what does that mean exactly?

In order to qualify as aerobic exercise, you must engage in an activity for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. Do you keep at it that long if/ when you exercise?

If your exercise session is shorter than that and leaves you panting and gasping for air, you cross the line into an anaerobic workout. Not that doing so is a bad thing, of course, because you need both. (And you would surely have both if you were taking care of your chores on the old homestead!) You can also tell the difference because anaerobic work will tire you out faster and is more likely to make you sore afterward.

Aerobic activity is, as you might imagine, the type of exercise that people usually notice the most obvious benefit from, and it’s also somewhat difficult to come by in modern society, due to the busy lifestyles we maintain. Aerobic exercise takes time to do properly; a relatively large chunk of time, relatively speaking, and ideally we need to get a good session of it every day. It’s long in duration but low in intensity. (Like a natural lifestyle) It makes you breathe deeply and your blood flows faster, but if you’re working (or “working out” as the case may be) with a companion, you should still be able to carry on a conversation. Aerobic exercise is fueled with the breath.

Some chores like chopping and stacking rounds of firewood (or intense repetitions of lifting heavy iron bar weights) is in the anaerobic category, meaning it is short-lasting, heavy, and or vigorous, activity. Anaerobic exercise uses energy that is stored in the muscles and is not dependent on oxygen from breathing. During anaerobic exercise your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply, and there is a temporary shortage of oxygen being delivered to the working muscles.

Another thing that occurs when one is working anaerobically, is that lactic acid is produced and in the beginning fatigue occurs quickly, along with sore muscles, but with persistence endurance will build and you can work (out) longer before you get tired. This would have practical applications if you were working on the homestead because the increase of endurance might mean that you could work faster, as well as longer, if you were trying to finish an outdoor chore before it rained on you…

When lactic acid builds up to a certain level in the blood, it causes muscular fatigue, and so one cannot keep up that pace for very long. Back on the farm, this would mean that you’d vigorously work away at digging your garden plot until you have to stop, lean on your mattock or hoe for half a minute or so to catch your breath, and then go at it again. Now the scientific way to go about it is to lift iron weights for half a minute or so, give or take, then rest for ten or twenty seconds and have another go, until you’re fairly well worn out, and you’ll have had yourself an anaerobic workout!

As endurance increases, the body is able to handle the lactic acid more efficiently, and that’s a good thing on a number of levels.

Several metabolic changes take place when one increases the level of regular intense exercise (or hard work as the case may be). There is a decrease in the production of lactic acid, and increased efficiency of the removal of it from the bloodstream, which delays the occurrence of fatigue during anaerobic exercise.

Research indicates that this efficiency is increased by 12% to 50% with regular anaerobic activity.

Of course having said all of that, I’d better lay in the standard disclaimer: “Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program or adding any additional exercise to an existing routine.”

In any case, it’s only common sense that beginners should start with lower-intensity aerobic exercise if this will be a rare foray away from the computer desk and couch. A nice long walk is an ideal place to begin an exercise program, because it’s relatively easy to safely control how much you exert yourself, especially if you take a friend with you. Remember the conversation rule, and pace yourself so that you can still talk as you go, but not so slowly that your breathing does not deepen at all. Even if you can’t convince anybody to going along, then go with God; a “Prayer Walk” is great for the spiritual health as well as physical well being!

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Where is Mercy and Compassion?

This might be a good place to begin…


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That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…

The title of this post is of course a quote by William Shakespeare from his play Romeo and Juliet and means that the names of things do not matter, only what things are…

This certainly applies to sugar. Refined “sugar” in any of its forms is bad enough. Studies have shown that it is responsible for a plethora of ills, which I don’t have documentation for right at my fingertips, but if anybody is interested, let me know and I’d be happy to dig some up for you. 🙂

One source states that we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year! During the 1800’s the average consumption was only 5 lbs. per person per year.

Cancer and some of the other ills of our modern society were also very rare a century ago.

It’s been fairly well established at this point that refined sugar contributes to the growth of cancer cells and compromises the immune system.

Some people may be shocked to hear this, but many folks are already well aware of the danger and continue to eat it anyway. The tongue is like an unruly child, demanding what it should not have, and like an overly indulgent parent, we all too often give in to its demands!

Research of late seems to indicate that “High Fructose Corn Syrup” is an even more destructive substance than regular refined sugar.

Food and drink manufacturers switched to High Fructose Corn Syrup in the early 70s because it is cheap and 20 times sweeter than the regular sugar of the past.

A single 12 oz can of cola has up to 13 tsp of sugar, most of it fructose from High Fructose Corn Syrup. And, as an aside, drinking only one soda a day adds up to 15 pounds a year!

High Fructose Corn Syrup is being hidden in our food and drinks in great quantities. Just read the labels. And by the way, ingredients are listed in the order of the greatest quantity. Often you will find Sugar AND High Fructose Corn Syrup listed as the first TWO ingredients! That doesn’t just mean that there is more sugar than any other single ingredient, that means that there is more sweetener than any other two ingredients put together.

In a study at Princeton University separate groups of rats were given the same caloric intake of sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup. The rats fed High Fructose Corn Syrup gained much more weight than the ones consuming regular table sugar. In a second study , the rats fed a diet incorporating High Fructose Corn Syrup “showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.”

The High Fructose Corn Syrup group male rats did not survive to adulthood, suffering from anemia and high cholesterol, their hearts enlarging until they actually exploded. Their testicles also did not develop normally which was the least of their problems. The females were not so physically affected but none could bear live young. The livers of the rats on the High Fructose Corn Syrup diet looked like the livers of alcoholics.

Personally I try to avoid all sources of refined sugar, and I had the good fortune to have been brought up in my early years without it.
Ancient advice passed down in my family cautions us to “use only a little honey to sweeten your food.” Whether that admonition meant a little honey or a little honey is no longer clear but either way it’s still good advice.

For the first years of my life the only sweets I knew were fruits, juices, and very limited amounts of honey.

When I was old enough to make my own choices in this matter, I happily interpreted the advice to mean any sweetener in moderation is acceptable. I rationalized that at the time the ancients admonished us to use only a little honey, there probably wasn’t much else in use as sweetener except honey.

However, my mother and grandmother have always reasoned that it was clearly implied that other substances were not to be substituted for the honey, (as well as limiting the amount used) and they adamantly refused to use anything else, and not even much of that.

The first few times that I sampled products with sugar, I not only became nauseous, I experienced many other side effects. But the taste was so compelling that I made excuses for the way I felt. I eventually built up a slight tolerance for it, although I could still eat only a little before feeling at least some effects from it.

I had my first viral cold in my life following a sugar binge when I was more than 20 years old. If you would dismiss this incident as simple coincidence (as I did at the time) consider the established effects of sugar on the immune system. The amount of sugar that is contained in a piece of pie is enough to generally inhibit the immune system for up to eight hours.

Each white blood cell should, in theory, have the ability to destroy 14 “germs” in its lifetime. Sugar greatly inhibits their ability to do so. Obviously, the more hindered your white blood cells are in their work, the more chance there is to contract sickness. Not only does refined sugar inhibit white blood cell effectiveness, its effects are cumulative, increasing its negative effects as the quantity consumed increases.

Thus, 6 teaspoons of sugar (eaten at one time, about half of a 12 ounce soda) decreases a white blood cell’s ability to destroy bacteria by 25%. This means that now, instead of destroying 14, it only has the ability to destroy 10.

12 teaspoons of sugar (drank the rest of that soda did you?) inhibit that poor wee white cell’s ability by 60%. Instead of destroying 14 germs, now our white blood cell can only kill 5.5 (the one that got away?)

18 teaspoons of sugar (a can of soda and a jelly donut!?) decreases the effectiveness of our struggling white blood cell by 85%. That means that our white blood cell can now kill only 2 bacteria instead of 14.

24 teaspoons of sugar (TWO jelly donuts!!?) will decrease its effectiveness by 92%. Now, your poor white blood cell can only destroy 1 germ if it’s lucky. Better not get exposed to anything…(wait a minute, is that new guy that I just shook hands with sneezing and sniffling? Have I been rubbing my eyes?)

In order to get the blood sugar levels swinging wildly for the day, many people like to eat prepared “cold” breakfast cereals with milk (part of a healthy breakfast, right?). Very few of these are made without added sugar. Even then, many people add more from the sugar bowl!

If you drink soda, remember that you consume about nine to twelve teaspoons per 12 oz. can. You probably wouldn’t put that much in your coffee or tea, but it hides very effectively in your soft drink, where you probably never give it a second thought. Some people eat yogurt because they believe it’s a healthy thing to do. One 8 ounce serving of fruit flavored yogurt can contain almost as much sugar as a can of soda!

By the way, if you’re thinking that it might be a good idea to avoid some of that sugar by switching to artificial sweetener, you might want to research that first – it’s even worse than sugar! 🙂

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