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Letters From a Hospital Bed #4: Reflections From a 99 Year Old

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.

An Exploration of the Strange Experience of Being Still…Well, More Still Than Normal!

December 1, 2021

My dear friends;

Just recently, while enjoying white bean soup for my lunch, I was reminded of taking my young family to the south of Italy. This region is remarkably stony with little soil and where the local diet often includes a white bean soup. Where grown locally, the bean plants trail over the low stone walls of the stone houses – referred to as ‘trullo’. As a young family, we enjoyed a few days spent living in a ‘trullo’ where, in the hot climate, the house is cool by day and by night. As a geographer, I had read about the origin of this particular white bean soup at the Centre for the Study of Domesticated plants, in Paris. This soup is one of the oldest recipes of its kind in the world and had been the result, in Neolithic times, of the first use of fire in this ancient region, which enabled Neolithic man to first shape bowls from clay and then boil this particular soup. As I recounted this memory to my nurse while eating my lunch, she wondered whether I was simply making this up. No, I replied, its all quite true. “Oh my goodness, she said, I can no longer call you just “Jim”, I must call you professor”. I protested and assured her that she must continue to call me Jim for I am still a human being, just as she is. Perhaps, next time you are wandering the grocery aisles in search of something that might rescue you from the trivialities of mere post-modernity, you might reach for the white bean soup and join the entire panoply of Western Civilization in the celebration of this ancient meal!

On a recent morning, I was listening to my son and realizing that we can be very privileged to be bound in bed, having all the time in the world, to listen to one’s children, express their intimate experiences of the Lord, in contrast to when you are running about, all very busy but no time to really hear them. The story that Christopher was telling me was a unique story about himself, a rare experience of knowing God’s joy in him. The story is too private to share, but we had, also from the hospital bed, a very moving experience together when, lying on the horizonal, I could look straight into his eyes and I heard him say, “I have seen you see me, notice me, not writing and reading as always, but because you are in bed, you are noticing me.” These are precious moments in my day. I wonder how you each might find the space to look your loved ones in the eye and know them and be known by them.

Affectionately yours;


Editors Note: It was with some bemusement that I found Dad on a recent morning, up, dressed, sitting alert in his chair, waiting for me to arrive. “Get the machine” (his laptop) he asked, “I have a story”. I jumped to it, opened his laptop and sat awaiting his narrative. It is not every morning, with only one flat white coffee between deep sleep and alert with a keyboard, that I find myself immediately around a Neolithic campfire in southern Italy, complete with bean vines growing over stone walls, newly fired clay pots to boil a primitive soup, interspersed with memories of camping holidays that I was supposed to remember from the age of 4 or 5. All this inspired by Dad’s recent consumption of his lunch the day before. I tried hard to draw a line between the “trullo” (look it up, I had to!), Neolithic man, bean soup and deep spiritual enlightenment for his friends around the world. Dad was certain this had great significance for us; well for him, at any rate. I confess to find the thread just a tad hard to follow but I have learned not to question the mysterious ways of God, including the occasionally unfathomable labyrinth of our father’s mind. Perhaps, white bean soup (either modern or ancient) will connect for you in ways his more Philistine kids might have missed, but we seek to be faithful in retelling, not always successful in interpretation!

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5 Σχόλια

Chris, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I LOVE that he is valuing his time with you, seeing you, and telling us all to listen to the people around us. It's beautiful!

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Libbie Weber
Libbie Weber
14 Δεκ 2021

Dear ‘Dr. Hou’ and Chris,

I’m warmed (hah!) by this story of fire and white bean soup, given that one of my favorite things when visiting Tuscany is just a side of plain white beans cooked with olive oil and garlic. I appreciate thinking about the invention of white bean soup, having also been able to spend some time a couple years ago in a trulli compound in Puglia. (I get, too, the irony of listening to such a story from one‘s dad in a priv hospital room in BC!) And my husband Roger and I do find that a robust pot of white bean, kale, and sausage soup does rather rescue us from ‘the trivialities of mere post-modernity’ a…

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Norbert Haukenfrers
Norbert Haukenfrers
10 Δεκ 2021

First of all thank you for once again sharing your father with us, his spiritual children. Often I‘ve left conversations wondering what that was about, and sometimes never. And yet in listening and telling we give each other the greatest gift of every age, our attention, not just to the origins of white bean soup but of our lives interconnect over a meal of a deep, life-giving heritage.

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Connected with my inner caveman! I remember Jim telling me in a conversation about Adam and Eve that perhaps God chose two Neolithics and put his spirit into them. Love that idea.

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I can just hear him telling that story to the nurse! 😁 Chris, I love your narratives alongside your dad’s. Twice the blessing!

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