Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Dunstan's Library News April

This is my article for the church newsletter.

Here is the latest news from St. Dunstan’s Library. The library is waiting for you, right downstairs and down the hall. It’s open all the time. We have more than a thousand books on various aspects of the faith. With about 350 recent additions, the library has something for everyone.

You may have heard the news about the upcoming retirement of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. If you want to know more about him, come to our library. We have Rowan Williams: an Introduction, by Rupert Short, published in 2003. The book covers Williams’ career and evolution as a thinker. If you need still more, try these books by Archbishop Williams: Anglican Identities;   Lost Icons.  Tokens of Trust;  The Truce of God;  On Christian Theology;  Resurrection.

To use the library, just find the book you want. The books are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. Books with no author (yes, they exist!) are in the alphabetical list by title. The collection is arranged in a few categories, including Bibles and commentaries, nonfiction, arboretum collection, fiction, children’s books, music, DVD and VHS recordings (only a few), and pamphlets and tracts.

After you find a book, check it out. In the notebook on the shelf, write your name, the author and title of the book, and the date you take it. Keep it until you finish and then remember to return it to the designated return shelf. It’s the same shelf where you find the checkout notebook.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lent and Stuff

It's that season again. What does the word “Lent” bring into your mind? Giving up something? More church rules?  Something else to ignore in favor of real life? Or is it about looking at the spiritual dimension of life?

I haven’t heard much about Lent lately from my institutional church, the Episcopal Church. Our church is well known for not making doctrinal pronouncements. However, I think it continues to be interested in God and spiritual growth. It has sacraments, liturgical seasons, and the Book of Common Prayer. So it really isn’t a spiritual desert.

Is Lent just a time to decide what to give up? Do people still actually do this, or is it a relic of the 1950s? Is Lent about anything any more?

Is it just about rules? A list of rules is helpful for some people, especially Roman Catholics, who have plenty of rules. Other people might establish their own rules. Still others may treat Lent like new year’s resolutions, promises of better habits to observe for about a week and then forget. We are deep or shallow, consistent or not.

But why?  We live in a society where stuff is all around us. Our homes are full of stuff. The media advertises stuff.  President George W. Bush famously said after the 9-11 attacks that it’s ok to go out and shop again, as if that is what makes America strong. Stuff is baggage.

Enter Lent, a season of promise.  Lent, to me, is about unloading the baggage in order to bring the vision of God back into focus. In a world of stuff, people need to remember that life in Christ is not about stuff. It is about Christ, in whom we live and move and have our being. We pray, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory (traditional version)”, and then we look into our garages, which are so full that we can’t get our cars into them. Lent gives the opportunity to rearrange our stuff so that God reappears in our homes and hearts.

Giving up something is a start, something important to that person.  It represents the acknowledgement that Americans have too much stuff. And yet, people with hardly any stuff still can do it. It’s the idea that passing up something strengthens the inner part of the person, lessens the gluttony of the soul, and leads the person to a greater share in the life of God. Yes, it really can happen. Yes, it isn’t always easy.

Lent has a purpose. It is about living the Christian life. It’s not about the church telling us what to do, as much as it is about looking at self denial as a way to get back on track with God. Jesus told the rich man to get rid of all he had and follow Him, and the man went away in sadness because he had a lot of stuff.

Every year I give up the same thing. Like Benjamin Franklin, who had a cycle of thirteen virtues to work on, at the end of the cycle it was time to start over. Franklin needed to start over with humility every time because he lost sight of it while working on the others. Judging from reading about his life, I’m not sure he ever mastered it. I give up complaining annually because it creeps back when I’m doing something else. Complaining is some of the stuff that clutters the garage of my soul.

That’s life. Lent formalizes it.

I also gave up potato chips.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Blood Sugar Solution

Here is an interview that got my attention. A half hour (actually 34 minutes) with Dr. Mark Hyman. I was fascinated.

Dr. Hyman is well known. Among other things, he is he doctor who is said to have turned around Bill Clinton's heart disease. He is chair of the Institute for Functional Medicine. Functional medicine? Hmmm. I have seen him in short television interviews, and several times on the Doctor Oz Show, where Dr. Oz gives Hyman time to present some of his medical ideas, and then says he disagrees with everything he has to say. That's the thing. We see these important people interviewed for about a minute of sound bytes, rather than seeing them take time to actually get to the point. In this interview, Dr. Hyman gets to the point.

Dr. Hyman has written several books. I have not read any of them. He has a new book called The Blood Sugar Solution. I thought this interview would be about the book. It kind of sort of is, but mostly it is about Dr. Hyman's philosophy. He says he treats causes rather than symptoms. When asked if he is a holistic doctor, he answered that he has a "whole list" to treat, meaning that he treats not just each symptom separately, but the underlying causes of the presentations of symptoms. He says that his pharmacy is the grocery store; food is his medication. Not junk food. Real food.

Hyman had things to say about type 2 diabetes. After all, his new book is about diabetes. He listed a lot of conditions that go with diabetes, including heart disease. He pointed out that most heart attack patients have diabetes or pre-diabetes. He said that statin drugs are not helpful in preventing a first heart attack and have dangerous side effects. He said that heredity does not explain the current epidemic of diabetes, since it was much less prevalent thirty years ago; it has multiple causes. He also said that type 2 diabetes is completely preventable. He has had patients who have prevented or reversed it.

Well, if this is the big disease that leads to many other diseases, it must be time to read his book. He didn't give details on what foods will take the disease away, but he said they are in his book.

This interview was done three months ago by Randy Alvarez, on, and posted on YouTube.  Dr. Hyman has an interesting website, His new book has a website,