The State of the Nation is only as Good as the Hearts of its People

Standard
cafe-costa-rica-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Cafe’ Costa Rica” acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas (SOLD), prints available (close-up of coffee beans)

When I was raising my family, multi-tasking was encouraged for everyone who wanted to succeed. Instead of lighting the home fires, women were encouraged to engage in career acceleration, pushing many out of the home and into the marketplace. That’s when the songs “I am Woman” and “Nine to Five” were the beat we marched to in our efforts to accomplish more in less time and to be more productive.

I once bragged to a friend that I could bathe my two youngest while cleaning my bathroom fixtures and scrubbing the floor all at the same time. I made my own cake mixes, yogurt, granola and bread to save money, and I could whip up a meal and have it on the table within 30 minutes without the benefit of microwaves or crockpots.

"Queen of Diamonds" 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

“Queen of Diamonds” 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

A generation later, the results were a nation of hyperactive insomniacs who didn’t know how to “chill.” Multi-tasking became the cause celebre´ for depression and nervous breakdowns; the culprit for lack of focus, and the fragmenting of a person’s time and energy.

We were accused, by the so-called experts, of short-changing our spouse and our children. Some women came back home and recommitted themselves to family life, while others were too entrenched in the upward climb to turn back. They had come close to the “glass ceiling;” and by golly, they were going to crash it if it killed them. The casualties were enormous. The ones who made it never looked back.

Once abortion was legalized, women were set free to crash the barriers that had held them back previously. The toll has only recently been felt as the Social Security Fund dries up because there are not enough workers to replace those who either have been aborted or who are on welfare. America has painted herself into a proverbial corner.

The women whose children grew up and moved on in their absence feel cheated of the experience of motherhood. They rushed here and there, watched their kid’s games and celebrated their achievements, but do they really know them? How many times have they actually had a loving conversation without telling their kids to “hurry up, we’ve got to get going?” or criticized their obnoxious antics and behavior.

Today, we look around us and see not a nation of happy and well-adjusted people, but a country full of drug addicts who participate in road rage, riots in the streets, and mayhem. Our leaders are immoral and dishonest. The people in whom we put our trust are untrustworthy. Tyrants rule in our board rooms and on our streets. We have made a mockery of that which once was sacred and blasphemed the God who gave us life.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we "Blend in, rather than Standing Up?"

“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we “Blend in, rather than Standing Up?”

Collectively, we desecrate the holy, the weak, and elevate the swindler and the swine. We worship pleasure and wealth and turn our backs on the lowly and common. Children in many cases dishonor parents and parents turn their backs on the children who need them. There is a lack of common decency and respect. “It’s all about me” rings from the rafters of homes, automobiles and businesses. “I want what I want, and I want it now.”

Never in the history of the world has there been more need of a Savior to bring us back to our Heavenly roots. Jesus said: 7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is God: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for sin.”
(I John 4:7-10 NIV)

“If this is true,” you say, “then why isn’t there peace on earth? Why is there so much violence?”

First off, God is not the author of confusion, nor violence, nor evil. Mankind does that very well without him. Before Christ was crucified, he did clarify this point for us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.” (In other words, His peace is within) “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Our world could use a little more peace, especially in the hearts of its people.

"Lady in Waiting" oil on canvas (prints available)

“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas (prints available)

Turn a Crisis into an Opportunity – Adapt and Survive!

Standard
"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas

“Fish Market” acrylic on canvas

I’m working for a few weeks at my Church while our Office Manager is on vacation. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to another environment when you must. Reminds me of the time I was in charge of a Hawaiian Luau for over 100 people at a former church.

We were planning on barbequing the meat and eating outdoors. We had butcher paper laid out on the grass for tablecloths with colorful place settings and centerpieces. Bright flowered cushions and pillows were placed on the ground for seating. The charcoal was ready, a yummy menu was planned by a Hawaiian member; her husband had prepared our musical program.

Guests in colorful shirts and muumuus were given leis as they came in and directed to their seating. A short time later, the unexpected happened; Murphy’s Law to be precise. The Kansas City wind began to whip and in the blink of an eye a severe rain storm started dousing everyone into a frenzy. We ran for cover.

"Sunset on the Nile? acrylic on canvas

“Sunset on the Nile? acrylic on canvas

Guests grabbed what they could and took them inside. We did our best to reassemble our lovely décor on the floor of the gymnasium. Hair was blown, table runners were torn and some were wet. What we all did, especially me, was adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances. My only option was to accept this freak of nature and of God as gracefully as possible.

The barbeque grills were dragged under the dripping eaves of the church where they remained until the meat was cooked. Laughter and merriment ensued as people accepted this turn of events. It was a great lesson for all of us. When things go wrong you can cuss in anger and look for someone or something else to blame or you can carry on and enjoy the moment.

We all have crises in our lives. It seems like there’s “never a dull moment.” “Why me?” we ask. Where is God in all this? (Perhaps, he’s laughing, too.) We may feel picked on. We may whine and whimper, but that seldom does any good. When the “chips are down” we need to “roll with the punches” and accept every trite phrase that will help us get through it. Courage and integrity are borne of such moments.

Through the years, I’ve seen my share of road rage. I’ve been given the finger and had a swear word or two shouted at me through someone’s opened window. I’ve had to stifle a humiliating gesture in return. I’ve pulled back my inner reins and held in my own choice words of anger. Instead, I choose to believe that the person in the other car is having a bad day. Even worse, that he may be a “loose cannon” with a gun in his car.

"Wasatch Mountains" watercolor on rice paper

“Wasatch Mountains” watercolor on rice paper

I select to ignore his rant and to err on the side of safety. Soon my anger turns to pity at his outrage. I continue driving as if nothing happened. I proceed more cautiously, not wanting to offend him or other drivers in any way. I’m not only a better driver because of it, but I’m learning the secret of how to adapt. My response (or non-response) has made me stronger. Instead of reacting I have chosen to act in a way that preserves my dignity and integrity.

Every challenge or problem that comes into our lives is an opportunity to grow. We become the “captains of our own ship” as we pursue our lives, our goals and our dreams. If we allow others to upset us or to turn us into a mirror image of them, we slide backwards into the same old ruts.

There are people who simply don’t care. They would rather reduce themselves to the basest form of humanity and fight for their own selfish needs. They may feel it is their right to get what they want at all costs regardless of anyone else. Pity the world! These are the attitudes that pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and nation against nation. These selfish demands that we hold onto are the seeds of war. What kinds of seeds are you sowing? Your simple words and actions are more important than you think.

Solving World Hunger God’s Way

Standard
"Fuchsia Fantastic" 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

“Fuchsia Fantastic” 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

Like many people in this slumping economy we’re staying close to home. We remind ourselves that people come here to enjoy our beaches, our tropical weather, and our wildlife. So we check out the tourist brochures, enjoy the side trips, and try to see things with fresh eyes.

That’s how we stumbled upon a national treasure; take that back–a global treasure. If you’ve heard about ECHO (Educational Concerns (for) Hunger Organization), you know what I mean. “Wow!” was all I could manage the first time I visited this incredible place.

On my second visit, I was so excited I felt like shouting “Wake up America–here lies the answer to world hunger!”

I longed to tell ECHO’s amazing story, but how could I do it in 1200 words or less? How do you eat an elephant? You keep it simple. So come with me on the most remarkable journey of my life.

Egyptian symbols

Egyptian symbols

Twenty-five minutes north of Fort Myers on I-75, and then a right turn on exit 143 to Bayshore Road (route 78), we are greeted by a sign welcoming us to ECHO Global Farm and Nursery. A short left down Durrance Road, and we arrive at the white frame visitor center an unpretentious building with a gravel parking lot. We enter from a country porch that serves as a “sample-and-taste” area for the tropical fruits and vegetables grown on ECHO’s 52 acres.

Inside, a seed shop and book store peaks our curiosity. Saving the shopping for last, we pay our admission fee: adults $8, children under 12 free. Each year, over 9,000 tourists enjoy ECHO’s guided tours; moneys from these ventures amount to less than 25% of ECHO’s income and goes back into the ministry to serve the poor and for the Glory of God.

ECHO receives NO government funding and depends solely on hundreds of volunteers and generous donations. A volunteer greets us and directs us to a small auditorium where another volunteer presents an overview. Afterward, a ten minute film explains ECHO’s history and mission. From that point on, we are hooked.

In 1981 Co-Founder Dr. Martin Price traveled to Haiti to learn about a “miracle tree” called the maringa. Indigenous to the Philippines, the maringa tree has unique restorative and nutritional powers. “Mothers who were malnourished,” Price noted, “began lactating again after eating the maringa leaves. Children with distended stomachs were running and playing after only three months on a maringa diet.”

"Broken" mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“Broken” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

Thanks to Price, the maringa is recognized as one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, and has become the most respected and requested seed and plant species at ECHO. The starvation and poverty that Price witnessed in Haiti became the impetus for the founding of ECHO and its vision for the future.

ECHO’s mission is lofty: “a ministry to bring glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor.” For 28 years ECHO has worked to bring this mission to fruition. Why have corporations and governments failed to solve the canker of world hunger: because they simply throw money at the problem and then walk away.

ECHO is people driven not power and profit driven. They are an inter-denominational Christian organization that serves over 180 developing countries worldwide, and 3400 mission organizations. They don’t just feed the poor. They teach them the skills they need to grow their own food; foods that will thrive and survive in their own unique part of the world.

"Victims of War" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“Victims of War” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

These global growing areas are represented on our tour. As we walk from one miniature setting to another, our guide explains the soil type, elevation, and rainfall of each specific climate. These global areas become a “living classroom” giving us a chance to see vegetation and typical growing conditions in each climate. For a few moments, we are able to see, sniff, taste, and experience the conditions that exist around the world.

The ECHO farm provides education and training for “community development workers, missionaries, volunteers, and interns who take their hands-on agricultural experience on overseas assignments. This process of ‘training the trainer’ has proven to effectively empower the poor with solutions of HOPE.” Past ECHO interns are now helping earthquake victims in Haiti, and I suspect Chile, to get back on their feet.

The newest addition to ECHO is the Technical area. Here interns and employees devise systems for smokeless cooking and power. Solar panels made from foil, plastics, and wood frames are used to support cell phones and computers.

Alternative fuel sources are being developed that help poor families save money and improve their health and standard of living. A simple bio-gas fuel system uses cow manure and water in a recycled 55-gallon drum to produce methane gas; “enough to cook two meals a day for an entire family for up to four months!”

As we move into the Tropical rain forest area, a watering pump is demonstrated. The pump was designed from materials that a developing country might have on hand. A young boy in our group jumps on board and begins pumping with his feet. The water moves from an overhead tank, through a hose, and into an adjoining garden row.

"India Rising -- Prince ofd Thieves" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

“India Rising — Prince ofd Thieves” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

The urban gardens are next. What do you do when you don’t have land space? You grow food on the roof. Small gardens are made from kiddy wading pools and rubber tires. These mini-gardens require very little soil. Carpet on the bottom keeps the soil moist. Empty pop cans on the top keep the plants upright. A drip system waters the plants with minimal water. Good things to know should a food shortage ever occur in our own country.

ECHO takes pride in their seed bank. Many of the seeds are grown on the ECHO farm. There are over 350 varieties of vegetables, multi-purpose trees, fruits, and other crops that have the potential for producing under extreme conditions. Each year, ECHO “sends free trial packets to overseas leaders who report back on their performance and community acceptance of the plants. In some cases, a pack of ten seeds has multiplied into thousands of plants,” and have, in some cases, introduced a new crop.

On tour, we see live maringa trees. The trees are kept short so families can easily harvest the leaves. In a dry powdered state, the leaves contain 27% protein, 38% carbohydrate and 19% fiber. We sample the fine green leaves which taste like water cress, having a light peppery taste. Fresh maringa leaves can be cooked or used in salads. The roots and the seeds have vital uses. The entire tree is edible.

We learn that every 16 seconds a child in a third world country dies from drinking polluted or contaminated water. The maringa tree has the cure. One crushed maringa seed can purify a bottle of water in about 90 minutes. The remaining 10% can be purified by leaving the bottle in the hot sun for another 30 minutes. One seed per bottle multiplied many times over can save a lot of lives.

"India Rising -- the Lost" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“India Rising — the Lost” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

Neam is another tree that Dr. Price discovered in his travels. The leaves contain an anti–bacterial oil that can be used for psoriasis or other skin ailments besides keeping mosquitoes and bugs away. The locals use neam twigs as a toothbrush and make toothpaste from the leaves. Their white teeth and lack of cavities indicated to Price that this was a tree ECHO should grow and share with other poor countries.

There is so much more to learn. We’ve only brushed the surface. Because of what ECHO does, lives around the world are made better, richer, and healthier.

Check out their web site: http://www.echonet.org/

Better yet, plan a trip to ECHO and take the tour yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Acquired Taste is learned, Distinct and Personal

Standard
Tansy's Pride

“Tansy’s Pride” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; ready to frame

I remember the first time I tasted pizza as a child. The heavy greasy cheese slid into my stomach like a bomb. The taste blew my mind, but my stomach churned. Thirty minutes later, I barfed up this delectable plate like a rock. Strangely, a few days later, I found myself hungering for another taste, another smell of this tantalizing taste treat.

Mushrooms were always used in my mother’s cuisine; however, I’d never eaten them raw. My first dry and papery bite was disappointing. The taste and smell reminded me of somebody’s musty basement. Once I got past that, their succulent, melt-in-your mouth texture and flavor made me a life-long fan. Japanese Shitake mushrooms are a favorite, along with Italian Portobello smothered in Marsala sauce, and American morels sautéed in butter for a light and delectable dish.

My first experience with pâté de foie gras came in Germany at the Ratskeller in Bremen. Goose liver pâté never tasted so fine, smooth and exquisite. The escargot brought back hints of musty basement, but I learned through continual tastings to linger and enjoy; that is until I saw a snail farm in Paris on Public Television. After watching these asexual creatures co-habit and reproduce in mounds of slime, I haven’t been able to enjoy them since!

Frog’s legs, rabbit, rattle snake, and locusts all require nibbling and experimentation to get the hang of it and to appreciate these newfound edible sensations. Of course, a little chocolate never hurts to hide what you fear.

Beer is a taste that many abhor, even after several mugs full. Once you get past the sour after taste, the rest is history. There’s nothing like a cold beer on a hot day to quench thirst. And what a great accompaniment with cheesy pizza or to soothe your stomach after eating Italian spices.

Wine is another love-it-or-leave it beverage that is literally time tested. Ancient as the “Ancient of Days,” wine is beloved the world over for its ability to enhance food, aid digestion, and quench the palate.

Our choices change as we age. Knowledge and experience mature our taste buds and our sense of smell. Our eyes no longer cringe at what we dislike, but embrace the exciting challenge of discovery. We not only become more discriminating with our food, but with our interests. Art becomes “eye candy” that we analyze and enjoy. The more knowledge we gain about the subject, the more we begin to understand ourselves and what appeals to us.

Books take us places we’ve never been before. The more we devour their pages, the more likely we are to expand our interests. For example, two of my friends, knowing that I was an avid reader, recommended books they thought I would like. The first turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever read, yet I was determined to finish it. There were too many details and too many tears. The lengthy descriptions and static pace prolonged the agony and bored me to tears. Even minor characters were examined under a magnifying glass until I felt tormented to “get on with it!”

I realized I read to get away from my own stress and to find escape in someone else’s adventure. I want something fast-paced, usually historical, and always exciting or meaningful.

The same goes for food. I hunger for delectable dishes that teach me about foreign lands and the people who live there. That’s why my paintings are usually filled with exotic people and places. I find other cultures and the faces they wear beautiful and telling. They remind me of our common humanity and give me hope in the concept of basic human goodness.

Taste and appreciation are both acquired traits. I’ve known people who are afraid to taste something new for fear it will gross them out. Fear keeps us from enlarging our sphere of influence and enjoyment. Fear of the unknown may keep us from lending a helping hand or experiencing the contributions of others. Don’t hold back! Give it a go. I dare you!