The Whole 30

whole 30The Whole 30: The 30-day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.

So Maeve mentioned a while back that she was doing something called a Whole 30. She said she felt amazing, better than she had in years as a result of adopting this way of eating. Curious, I went to do some recon and just as quickly wondered why on earth anyone would DO such a thing. After thinking about it a bit more and running it by my daughter, I figured it might not hurt for me to take a month and give my body a good long rest from eating junk of any kind. Besides, I had a race coming up (yes, I wear glasses!) and some extreme nutrition might be just the ticket to get me running a little better.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that this wildly popular book is just a more widely accepted version of the paleo diet. Been there, done that, not interested. But I kept thinking, “It’s just 30 days. Whaddya afraid of?”  What I was afraid of was 30 days without baking! So my oldest daughter and I split the cost of the book, and jumped in with both feet.*

I am always leery of claims of renewed health as soon as they gave up this or that food group. I’d never experienced such a thing and there are very few diet schemes I haven’t tried over the past 20 years since our twins were born. The one thing I’d never given up cold turkey however, was sugar. I felt amazing after the first week and I continued to feel better and better as the weeks went on.

So, the plan seems like a good one. What about the book? Meh. The writing was extremely preachy, which isn’t my style. While I fully appreciate that wisdom and superiority of a nutrition plan that sticks to food as God made it, there are things here that are so extreme they can set you up for failure. With no room for the occasional treat eating loses its fun. Food is fuel more than fun, and there’s a lot of good food for meativores such as myself to enjoy on this plan, but extreme rigidity turns me off.

Basically, there are a lot of things about this plan I’ve adopted as permanent habits. Drinking my coffee without cream or sweetener will never be among those things. for people who like bandwagons, this book could be either the best or worst things you ever run across. That said, I can’t really argue with the increased sense of well being (not to mention the 3 inches off my waist!) that I experienced from doing this plan about 80% of the way.

So while the literary me and the part of me that recoils from lifestyle trends is leery of recommending it, the part of me that laments the poor health of the average 40-something American woman can’t help but suggest it’s worth a look.

Grade: C+


Dust Tracks On A Road

dust tracksDust Tracks on a Road, an autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston. Originally published in 1942.

This book, written at the height of Hurston’s notoriety, is an intriguing read. Because of my personal connections to some of the historical notes Hurston lays at the beginning of her story, I read it with expectations that went unmet. It was a very detached autobiography which should not have been surprising as it was very much in keeping with Hurston’s “cards close to the vest” persona.

The foreword of the edition I read was written by Maya Angelou. Much as in the foreword by Toni Morrison of the edition I read of Their Eyes were Watching God, there was much angst. Hurston never fails to simultaneously fascinate and confound modern day black feminists. Ground breaking, politically incorrect, and seemingly born without a victim-hood bone in her body, the forewords of her books read eerily similar no matter which of the black feminists writers is entrusted to the task.

Hurston was a rebel from childhood, often aided and abetted by her mother who admired her spirit. Her father worried for the troubles she would encounter in the world if she continued to run headlong wherever it suited her fancy. She however fully expected to run into trouble, looking forward to the lessons the trouble would teach as she journeyed through life.

It never occurred to Hurston to be afraid of white people, having befriended and hung out near the lake with an old man from the neighboring town who took a liking to Zora precisely because she had so much spunk. He took her fishing and taught her life lessons. Later two white women were fascinated with Zora’s reading ability when they came to Eatonville to take a tour of the negro school there. Again, Zora found herself a beneficiary as a result of who she was and what she could do. It didn’t take long for Zora to conclude that while racism was a real thing, it wasn’t something she needed to fret about with regard to her own life so long as she was honest, hard working, unafraid, and generally excellent.

With the exception of her general disregard for religion (she was the master of her fate after all), Zora Neale Hurston again and again defies the  thinking of the very modern black feminists who revere her and her contributions. After the of her early years, much of the book is an exposition of Hurston’s philosophies on life and their effect on her more than any detailed information about her personal experiences.

One thing is crystal clear as Hurston tells her scrappy story, and that is that she figured out early in life that rallying for her race at the expense of her dreams and economic survival wasn’t for her. More than that, she thought that “our interests are too varied” to expect any kind of monolithic unity anyway. Some interesting quotes follow.

On being self-aware:

“I did not know then, as I know now, that people are prone to build a statue of the kind of person it pleases them to be. And few people want to be forced to ask themselves, ‘What if there is no me like my statue?'”

On not taking yourself too seriously:

“My sense of humor will always stand in the way of my seeing myself, my family, my race or my nation as the whole intent of the universe.”
On the folly of living an isolated life:
“Make the attempt if you want to, but you will find that trying to go through life without friendship, is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it.”
Lots of good quotes and insights to be found here, as is the case with much of what Hurston wrote. The book however, I found fair to middlin’.
Grade: B-/C+


Music Interlude

As long as I can remember, which would be at least the past 40 years, people called on my daddy to come and sing this song at their loved ones’ home going services. Last week, my eldest brother sang it for him. It is a powerful song. I hope the lyrics touch you the way they do me:

May the Work I’ve Done Speak for Me

May the work I’ve done speak for me.
May the work speak for me.
When I’m resting in my grave,
There’s nothing more to be said;
May the work that I’ve done speak for me

May the service that I give speak for me
May the service that I give speak for me.
When I’ve done the best I can and my friends don’t understand
May the service that I give speak for me.

The work that I’ve done
It may seem so small
Sometimes it seems like nothing at all
But when I stand before my judge
I want to hear him say, “Well done!”
May the work that I’ve done speak for me.

May the life I live speak for me
May the life I live speak for me.
When I am resting in my grave there is nothing left to be said
May the life I’ve lived speak for me.


Life Together

life togetherLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, originally published in 1939, is to date my favorite book besides the Bible to read about the virtues and beauty of Christian love and community. In fact he begins the book with a Scripture I rarely hear quoted anymore even though we recited it regularly in the church of my youth:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1

This was a timely read for me as my husband has determined (and he is a resolute man), that we will be given more to hospitality. We’ve had a -small, intimate- dinner party of sorts every month for the past 3 months, and I suspect this is going to be a way of life for us for the duration. Reading Bonhoeffer reminded me how often we take for granted the blessing of living in a time and place where fellowship with other Christians is readily available.

To make matters worse, we set up barriers and self-righteous reasons why we don’t fellowship with other believers. Or we make up reasons why it’s more holy to not need other believers (especially those of lesser faith) in our lives. Bonhoeffer’s writings will do wonders to expel the serious believer of such foolish notions. I’ll round this out with quotes from the book before I offer a grade.

On the great blessing of Christian community:

“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing.”

“The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy.”

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.”

On the difference between spiritual love and human love:

“Likewise, there is a human love for one’s neighbor. Such passion is capable of prodigious sacrifices. Often it far surpasses genuine Christian love in fervent devotion and visible results. It speaks the Christian language with overwhelming and stirring eloquence. But it is what Paul is speaking of when he says: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned”- in other words, though I combine the utmost deeds of love with the utmost of devotion- “and have not charity [that is, the love of Christ], it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13: 3).”

“I do not know in advance what love of others means on the basis of general ideas of love that grow out of my human desires- all this may rather be hatred and an insidious kind of selfishness in the eyes of Christ. What love is, only Christ tells in His word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love toward the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christs bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where His truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love.”

On Christians caring for one another:

“So long as we eat our bread together we shall have sufficient even with the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue. This is a strange divine law.”

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.”

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

“The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.” 

The final chapter in this short (115 pages) book, is on the importance of confessing our sins to one another, something I admittedly often struggle with:

“The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.”

“Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned.”

The entire chapter on the importance of confession to a fellow believer is profound and convicting. It is certain to cause those of us who relish our “privacy” to wrestle and struggle. However, it does this in a good way.

Bonhoeffer, who certainly knew what it was to live in true, physical isolation from the comfort of fellow believers, reminds us not to take for granted the spiritual bounty we have been blessed with for however long we may have it. More than that, he reminded me to be prayerful and mindful of those much less fortunate in this regard.

Grade: A