When Verna van Nuland was 66 years old, doctors told her that her chance of living much more than a year was slim. She’d been diagnosed with a long list of chronic ailments and prescribed an equally long list of medications—all in an attempt to keep her alive to see another year.
Verna spent her life in service to others. In her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, she was known as the “Flower Lady” because she operated a very successful flower shop. Hundreds of couples had promised to love and honour each other while surrounded by the colour and fragrance of Verna’s handiwork. Now, as she faced her retirement years, it seemed that all the colour and fragrance in her life had vanished.
“I spent years taking care of business and very little time taking care of myself,” Verna admits. “My health was so poor that I could hardly get out of bed. The simple act of showering left me exhausted. Many times I’d slowly make my way to a nearby shopping centre and spend the day in the food court so that, if I died, someone would find me.”
That’s when something amazing happened. Verna discovered a set of health laws that God Himself had set in motion at the same time that He created the flowers that Verna arranged and sold. The Flower Lady came face to face with a powerful truth: those ancient, often ignored health laws established by God in Eden still make sense today.
We can only imagine the sorrow that filled Adam and Eve’s hearts as they stood looking at the gate separating them from what used to be their garden home. They’d made a choice to live by their own rules instead of God’s. They’d set their feet on a path that would lead to their own destruction while setting their Creator’s feet on a path that would lead to Calvary. Because of their choices, they were banned from the Garden and an angel was posted to guard the gate.
No longer would Adam and Eve be in complete control of their environment. They had given that important responsibility to the same evil force that had turned their hearts from God. They’d chosen to live by a very different set of laws—including those that determined the level of health they enjoyed and even how long they lived.
But God didn’t give up. Like any good parent, He wanted to stay connected with His wayward children. He kept pressing His love into their lives, even when His presence wasn’t fully appreciated or recognised. As human appetite began to include a taste for animal flesh, the Creator attempted to reduce the dangers inherent with meat consumption by instructing Noah, right after the Flood, “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything” (Genesis 9:3). Then He quickly added a warning: “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (verse 4).
Generations later, as the children of Israel were stumbling across the Egyptian desert, God saw that their food supply was running dangerously low. So, He fired up the heavenly ovens and baked up a brand-new gift. “I will rain down bread from heaven for you,” He announced in Exodus 16:4. The Bible says that the people called the bread “manna.” It was “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (verse 31).
Unfortunately, the people became tired of the manna. “If only we had meat to eat!” they whined. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost. . . . But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:5, 6). So, God altered His plan just enough to allow great flocks of quail to land nearby, providing the flesh food the wanderers demanded (verses 31, 32). But the quail were diseased and many of the people died (verses 33, 34).
So it went beyond the gates of Eden: God providing and humans complaining. Generation after generation turned their backs on God’s perfect health plan—the one He’d created before the fall of Adam and Eve, the one epitomised for health and longevity, the one designed to keep human hearts, muscles and organs working at full capacity forever. And sickness wasn’t an option before sin took hold of the human thought process. Sickness became the rule after those gates were slammed shut.
science and the Bible
What did God know that humankind didn’t? Why did He keep trying to pull people away from their diet rich in animal products to the ideal He’d created in Eden, where animals were friends, not nutritional supplements? Modern science is just beginning to figure that out. Their research has centred on two elements contained in most meats: blood and fat.
It’s no secret that today’s animals are a far cry from what they used to be. A generation or two ago, the cow that became a hamburger lived on green pastures and drank unpolluted water. Today a cow spends most of its life on a feedlot jammed with thousands of other hapless creatures. They’re fed a high-fat, high-protein diet, sometimes containing recycled cows, and shot full of powerful antibiotics. The meat from these animals may contain up to four times as much fat as range-fed animals.
And what does all this fat do to us? According to Dr Hans Diehl, co-author of the book Health Power, excessive amounts of fat in our diet can trigger the development of atherosclerosis—a hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply nutrients and oxygen to the body. It can also thicken our blood, slowing circulation. When body cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, they become much more susceptible to injury, disease and death. Some cancers can be traced to high fat intake.
Then there’s blood. Blood from animals—the main source of taste in meat—opens up a wide range of additional health concerns. Blood serves two purposes. It’s the body’s nutrient/oxygen delivery system, and it’s part of the toxin disposal system. Much of the blood circulating in animals is loaded with what we don’t want in our bodies. When we consume blood, we’re ingesting whatever toxins happened to be circulating in the animal at the time of its untimely demise. These toxins can include pesticides from fertilisers, diseased cells and spent nutrients (a nice way of saying “waste material”). But there’s more.
Blood is the main source of cholesterol—that dangerous demon of heart disease—in meat. It also contains uric acid, a component of urine. Toss in a high dose of unhealthy bacteria and suddenly God’s command that “you must not eat any fat or any blood” (Leviticus 3:17) makes a whole lot of sense.
He was basically trying to protect His children from what today is the number one killer of human beings around the world—heart disease. He was also making it possible to minimise infection and a host of illnesses based on ingesting and processing health-destroying impurities. His post-Eden dietary compromises sprang from a heart longing to protect and nurture His wayward sons and daughters while allowing them the liberty to make their own choices, unwise though they might be.
Did we listen? Do we ever?
This leads us back to those tightly closed gates at the entrance to the lost Garden. If everything that happened from that moment on demanded a compromise by the Creator God; if what we eat is designed to satisfy a sin-altered appetite, is it possible to force open those gates and return to the Garden where we can enjoy what the Creator had in mind originally? Can we take advantage of God’s uncompromised Health Plan?
Verna van Nuland is living proof that just such an opportunity exists. Following the advice of a doctor who desperately wanted to provide the dying woman with a ray of hope, Verna enrolled in CHIP, a lifestyle adjustment program centred on a whole-food, plant-based diet accompanied by moderate exercise and stimulating mental challenges. Within weeks, gone were the animal products from her refrigerator, including all dairy. Gone were the sugary sweets. Gone were the weekly glasses of wine. Gone were the junk foods and soft drinks. It was as if she’d walked right back into the Garden of Eden when it came to her food choices!
Something else began to fade from her life. Hypertension, chest pains, fatigue, reflux symptoms, obesity and general pain vanished. Under the careful scrutiny of her doctor, she discontinued all medications including oxygen, her blood pressure came under control, her cholesterol count dropped to safe levels and her weight plummeted.
Today, five years later, instead of crawling to the local shopping centre to await death, Verna rides her bike 80 kilometres a day when the weather permits, plays tag with her grandchildren and looks forward to the sunshine streaming through her window each morning.
Yes, Verna boldly walked back through those gates and re-entered Eden, adopting God’s ideal health plan as her own. Like Adam and Eve before the Fall, Verna is free to wander among the plants and animals unfettered by the lifestyle diseases plaguing so many today. She knows firsthand the full meaning of God’s words when He told His wandering people, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
Now in her seventies, Verna says, “I have to make right choices every day. I don’t have anything in my house that I shouldn’t be eating, because if I do, I’m the kind of person who will eat it until it’s gone. It’s like walking with the Lord; it’s about the minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day choices we make. When we get involved with our own health, it’s unbelievable what happens. I mean, I’m here because of right choices!”
Verna van Nuland’s story is being repeated thousands of times every day as more and more people walk back through those gates and return to God’s original health plan. They are choosing to “walk with the Lord” as Verna says, to place their faith in His sustaining power and the healing potential He packed in every morsel of that original whole-foods, plant-based diet. The gates of Eden are open. We can stay out or go back in. The choice is ours.