Monday, April 16, 2012

accepting resurrection

in her article "the dominion of love" in the green bible, barbara brown taylor writes 
when the rain comes do, everyone and everything gets refreshed--those who deserve it right along with those who do not. that is just the way God is with God's creatures. if they are here, God made them, and if God made them, God loves them.
sure, some of them give God headaches and others break God's heart, but we humans do not get to make distinctions.... we are here to preside over the dominion of love. made in the divine image, we are here to love as God loves. "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect" (matthew 5:48).
wait, wait, wait a minute. how does that work? well, you know how it feels under the shadow of those wings, right? perfect. so move over. make room, because there is a whole creation seeking refuge, and you, you are the spitting image of the One who gives life to all.
these last few months have caused me to sit with who i am in the world. i've been thinking about what i eat, who i share meals with, where my food comes from, how i get my food. i';ve been thinking about all the times i've failed to remember my connectedness to creation and to people around the world. so, i remember the times i drank non-fair trade coffee, when fair trade coffee was just a couple blocks away. i remember the times i consumed incredibly processed foods when i should have chosen fresh, local foods. i remember the times i forgot who God calls me to be as an embodied human being and ate too much gluten or lactose. these are moments that i'm certain will happen again. these are moments when i have not done a good job of living up to what it means to be created in the image of our God who loves creation in all its connectedness, in all its diversity, in all its life. and i wonder if i have broken God's heart.

but i also remember all the moments when i've walked the extra block for fair trade coffee--when i've chosen to spend more time learning about food sources and local farmers--when i've chosen to listen to my body, in all its limitations and said yes to its boundaries.  and those are the moments when i have felt most connected to God and to creation.

i remember how easy it is to fall back into the traps of eating without thinking, without remembering. its easy to forget how connected we are to other people and other parts of creation. its easy to shove other living things out of the shadow of God's love. its easy to be wooed by food systems that offer tasty and easy food, but also offer us death.

so, less than two weeks after easter... i know i will struggle to choose life when i choose what i will eat. 


i am grateful that i have a choice and that the choice is waiting with every fork, with every bowl, with every table guest. 

i hope i choose to eat in life-giving ways. i hope i remember in whose image i'm created.

O Lord, who clothes the lilies
And feeds the birds of the sky,
Who leads the lambs to pasture
And the deer to the waterside,
Who has multiplied loaves and fishes
And converted water to wine,
O Lord, come to our table,
As guest and giver, to dine. Amen.
(an episcopal grace)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday: Need to Remember, Want to Forget

What did I eat again???

Breakfast: 2 pieces of peanut butter toast, banana
Lunch: lots of trail mix, cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks, strawberries.
Dinner: more carrots, German potato salad, a blueberry and pumpkin seed muffin with nutella. Chocolate pretzels (with rainbow sprinkles!)

Origin of an Item:
This is the reason the muffins came out so good. Ted’s Organic Grains. Who said wheat doesn’t grow in IL? It’s even more precious because it’s hard to find.  There’s basically a secret handshake involved at any farmers’ market to procure it.

Theological Reflection:
Today on Good Friday, Christians remember Jesus’ death. I am struck by the words of one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (emphasis mine). Remember me because I’m that someone everyone wants to forget. I’m the one that people ignore and despise.

Lent is ending, and so is my time of remembering every last thing I ate every day—okay only every other day. : )  Then I go back to not keeping track. But isn’t Lent supposed to change how I am in the world, going forward, just a little?

I want to take away the practice of remembering. By this I don’t mean remembering what I ate—that was super hard sometimes! (Good thing I always eat grapefruit at breakfast).No, I want to remember that I ate.  And that I ate well. And that I’ll eat again.

And that is a beautiful thing—I want to remember that too. There’s safety and security in knowing we have been filled, and that we’ll eat our fill again. Obviously many in this world can’t practice a remembrance like this because, well, they don’t have 3 solid meals a day.  

But at the same time, when we only remember our own experiences, we catch cultural amnesia.  Forget about the poor or the hungry. We do such a good job of training ourselves to forget beggars as soon as we are past them, we’re at the point we don’t bother to look them in the eye as we blow by. Their invisibility is our willed forgetfulness.

Today, Jesus was told by a societal outcast: Don’t forget. Remember me. What would we just as soon forget about, and what can we ask Jesus to remember?


Thursday, April 5, 2012

loving at the table

food list
breakfast: mixed nuts and gluten-free pretzels, green tea
lunch: veggie panini and soy latte from beans and bagels, orange
dinner: veggie flatbread, vitamin water zero (pomegranate)

origin of an item
beans and bagels has two locations in chicago and one of them is on montrose, less than a quarter of a mile from my chicago congregation, ravenswood presbyterian church.

theological reflection
on this maundy thursday, i'm thinking of the commandment Jesus gives his disciples when he tells them to love others as they have been loved by God in Jesus (John 15:12). 

love others.

so i'm thinking, too, of the ways i've loved others today and every day--the times when i've succeeded and when i've failed. 

i remember that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, knew that his closest friends would abandon, disappoint and betray him. he knew that he would be lonely and broken. 

yet he still calls these friends to his table. and at this table, he offers them a feast. he knows that they will hurt him--deeply--and he feeds them. 

so, i'm thinking more about the ways i've loved others today and every day--the times when i've offered hospitality (even when i didn't want to) and the times when i refused. the times when i've loved another person and the times when i've been filled with hate. the times when i've recognized that how i live my life affects the lives of other people and the times when i've ignored our interconnectedness and interdependence.

i had dinner tonight with one of my very best friends. we ate before i went to church and i felt in our conversations all the moments we've shared together--the moments of joy and sadness and frustration and giddiness... i know deep within me that she will never betray or abandon me, that she will always love me unconditionally (and vice versa).

i wonder if jesus wished that he could feel the same way about the people he gathered around the table with him. i wonder if he was sad when he realized that none of his followers would live up to his new commandment to them. 

so, i'm thinking about what it means to share a meal with those we know will disappoint us. and i wonder what might happen if we saw ourselves more clearly in the disciples. we will disappoint each other (and we do). we will abandon each other (and we do). we will betray each other (and we do). 

sometimes we do not offer others a feast, but a famine. we do not offer others hospitality, but hostility. we do not offer others love, but distrust, alienation and betrayal.

but every meal is an opportunity to love others--from animals and plants to farmer to factory workers to table guests.

who do we welcome to our tables? what do we offer them? how do we love one another as we eat?

thank you for the food we eat,
thank you for the world so sweet,
thank you for the birds that sing,
thank you God for everything.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Communion Bread with Peanut Butter

Breakfast: 4 muffins tinfoiled and tossed in the fire.
bacon and sausage grilled over the fire.
Lunch: Communion. Communion leftovers (pita bread) with peanut butter and hummos
Dinner: 2 pears, seared over the fire. Wild mushroom soup, bruschetta all over--you guessed it---the fire! Lots of trail mix.

Origin of Item: whole wheat pita bread from Pita House Bakery in Chicago (Albany Park)

Theological Reflection: I was camping yesterday for a retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan, and we had a short communion service using local Michigan wine and Chicago pita bread. But then, there were only 6 of us and lots of pita left. Being in the woods, the birds didn't really need our help with food, so we decided not to disperse it to them, as is customary. We were the ones with limited supplies (relative to the city).  So what did we do? That's right, we ate it. But it wasn't so good without that wine to soften it up a bit. The Eucharist was a little dry and chewy. So then what did we do? We broke out the hummos and peanut butter. And we cleaned up.

Being a bunch of church nerds, we then tried to figure out if, and to what extent, we were now heathens. Of course, our Lutheran understanding meant that God is "in, with and under" the bread and wine. Which in no way makes them inedible after communion--quite the contrary. But does their status as sacrament make them undippable? Now that's harder. The pb n pita perplexed us, but it was hard to put our messy fingers on why.

But looking back, it raises the question for me of when does our flexibility, our openness, lead to irreverence? When does having fun become making fun? I'm not suggesting we were irreverent or disrespectful in any way, not at all. But I do wonder, in a world that must reconsider it's commitment to quality and locally-produced food, can we really say that all "bread is bread"?  Or do we need to make some clarifications as to when and how and to what foods we give our reverence?  Thank God for Communion, not bread, because it demands our reverence. That loaf reminds us that it is not just bread. And it demands that we do not live by bread alone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

soymilk and grace

Food list

Breakfast: peanut butter and bread, coffee and soymilk
Lunch: salad, carrots, raisins, a pecan sandie, orange
Dinner: salad, vegan bean burrito, cream cheese brown

Origin of an Item
I don’t remember the last time I had a glass of milk. When I was in high school, my parents (who have histories of heart disease on both sides of their families) stopped buying cow’s milk and started buying soymilk, because soymilk is known to reduce people’s risk for heart disease. Much to my younger sister’s dismay, they’ve never converted back (but now that she lives at home again, they keep some cow’s milk in the house for her). We keep soymilk in our house now for cereal and coffee, but nobody I live with just drinks a glass of soymilk… but my lactose intolerant self does enjoy some good chocolate soymilk every once in awhile.

What is soymilk really? I like this succinct definition: “Soymilk is not technically a milk, but a beverage made from soybeans. It is the liquid that remains after soybeans are soaked, finely ground, and then strained. Since it doesn't contain any lactose, soymilk is suitable for lactose intolerant folks. It's also a popular cow's milk substitute for vegetarians since it's based on a plant source (others include rice, oat, almond, coconut, and potato milk).” (

My soymilk was made by Wild Harvest and they had this to say on their website: “We choose our partners carefully and each shares our commitment and belief in providing great tasting, healthy foods free from all that is artificial.” They seem to actually know their farmers (though one might argue that since they’re trying to sell a product, they might want to embellish those relationships.


In Grace at the Table: Ending Hunger in God’s World, David Beckmann and Arthur Simon write that “more than 800 million people in the developing countries still suffer chronic undernutrition… in the United States 34 million people live in families that are food insecure…Yet widespread hunger is not longer necessary. Wars and tyrants will cause some people to go hungry, no matter what we do. But the resources, technology and knowledge needed to end the sort of routine, pervasive hunger the world now tolerates are readily available” (3).

We have the technology to feed people who are hungry in the United States and around the world. Evil in the world (like war and tyrants) means that some hunger will happen until we live into peaceful ways of life and governance. But we also choose to not use technology to make sure all stomachs are full with delicious, healthy, accessible food. This is another kind of evil in the world. Beckmann and Simon suggest that we have to address issues around population levels, joblessness, gender, economics (including debt) and legislation. These are global systemic issues that we can figure out. I’m reminded of how we can figure out how to use food like soymilk so that people like me (allergic to lactose) can enjoy cereal or soy ice cream.

It is not just people of faith who should respond to hunger, but whenever Christians say give thanks for the food they share together, they recognize the abundance that God has given them. They recognize that all people are loved by God, God who longs for all people to have enough.

Today I give thanks for the gift of food at my table and for the challenge to work so that all will be fed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

choosing processed (or not)

food list
breakfast: fruit leather, apple, pretzels
lunch: coffee, crackers, monterrey jack cheese, pink lemonade, a cupcake (it was a birthday celebration!)
dinner: whole wheat pasta, peas and corn
snack: soy chicken nuggets

origin of an item
most of my food today came from aldi's. i've come to understand aldi as the lower-income version of trader joe's... which means that most people who live in my neighborhood can afford to shop for food at the same place. i'm grateful for a grocery store that is a block and a half from my house, and i'm grateful too that i see my neighbors when i get my food.

this morning on my drive into school, i heard this story about school lunches on npr. what the written article doesn't say that the audio includes is a conversation about what processed food is. the parents are arguing that school lunches are too processed, and they point to ingredients in burgers that they cannot pronounce. in response, a food scientist reminds the listener that the fact that the burgers are processed is not really the problem. lots of foods are processed. this same food scientist points out that pasta is a processed food--we don't eat raw grain. 

so, today i lots of processed food, both good and bad.
good: fruit leather, pretzels, crackers, cheese, whole wheat pasta
bad: cupcake!

the article/report also talks about not so good processed foods. one of the kids interviewed for the story says that she loves cheetos. that's not food at all. i wonder how far my cupcake is from being a cheeto--what are the chemicals that differentiate them?

as i was listening to this story, i thought about how important it is to have a choice about what we eat and that those choices need to include a healthy option. look, i get that maybe these burgers aren't healthy (there's some ambiguity in the report and i'm not a food scientist). and this is the real problem with the school lunches--choice. do the kids have access to healthy food? (one of the women interviewed in the story says that her kitchen offers healthy food too). that healthy food has to be affordable--the choice has to be realistic. one of the schools that has switched to real beef (and other good things) noted that they had to raise the price of their food by about 40 cents. 40 cents?! that's $2.00 more for lunch each week ... which maybe doesn't seem like much, but what about students who have limited income? i wanted the report to address whether students and their families were able to afford the healthier food, and i wanted the answer to be yes. 

healthy, real food is good, as long as its affordable and available. and there needs to be an option to not choose healthy food every once in a while... because cupcakes are delicious!

the bread is pure and fresh,
the water cool and clear.
lord of all life, be with us.
lord of all life, be near.
(an african blessing)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Occupied by Hunger

Occupy Palm Sunday! Logan Square, Chicago

Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast. Clementine oranges
Lunch: 2 apples, lots of cornbread
Dinner: Pizza, nachos, hummos and crackers. (can you tell I'm in grad school?)

ORIGIN OF ITEM: El Milagro tortilla chips. A local tortilla business since 1950. In my humble opinion, they make the best chips in Chicago, in part because they grind their own flour. Which is awesome.

Have you ever been so hungry, or something smelled so good, you couldn't focus on anything else? It's like what people are saying or what I should be doing is secondary. I get terse and distracted. I'm too preoccupied with the grumbling demands of my own stomach! (Apologizes if you have ever experienced this terseness firsthand)

On Palm Sunday, the people of Jerusalem occupied its streets to welcome Jesus as the Messiah.  I wonder if some people were too busy enjoying a hearty Sunday meal to go out and see what the commotion was about.  Did some ask, What's all that ruckus? Why are people yanking all the fronds off our trees?!   And did they just kept eating? Maybe some did.

But we do know there were others that just couldn't resist, even if they were about to sup, and went to check it out. We can't know the meal history of the crowd that day: the first Palm Sunday is about 2,000 years and 6,000mi from us. But we do know that they were starving for freedom from the occupation under Rome.  And we are able to share that state of mind and, at times, state of stomach: the occupation of ourselves by hunger. Hunger for food. Hunger for change. Hunger for peace with justice.

So this Palm Sunday, as we look to relate this ancient parade to our current lives, I think it helps to imagine that visceral  voice from our gut, urging us to bring wholeness/fulfillment to our bodies and our world.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

consuming blueberries

food list
breakfast: oatmeal, frozen blueberries from summer 2011's logan square farmers market, fair trade coffee
lunch: plain baked potato
dinner: vegetarian chili, cream cheese brownies, gluten-free/vegan corn bread, fried lemons (way more delicious than you might imagine), chardonnay, mixed green salad

origin of an item
last summer we were at the logan square farmers market and we came across roeder bros. blueberries  and they sell frozen blueberries (grown in michigan!) in 5 lbs and 10 lbs boxes. at the time, i thought we would never use 5 lbs of blueberries (we bought them anyway). on this march morning, however, i'm grateful for these tasty local berries!

in his book, jesus and the earth, james jones suggests that the "enemy of faith in God is human self-sufficiency" (3). human self-sufficiency (or the belief that we can do anything and everything on our own) might be the enemy of eating too. our consumption of food marks who we are as people (because we are what we eat, of course) and who we are as christians (especially when we believe that jesus' ministry was defined by material consumption). jesus' ministry shows us that not all consumption and use of creation is bad--he responds to the needs of the people by using creation (26). Jesus uses creation to give life--he fed the hungry using fish and bread (out of the sea and out of the ground), he healed a blind man with mud, he taught his followers over meals. jesus uses creation, and its up to us to figure out how we will consume and use creation. its also up to us to see how our consumption affects other people and other parts of creation.

the fact is that we are not ever really and totally self-sufficient. we think that we are, especially when we don't think about where our food comes from, especially when we don't think about the ingredients and the workers and the location connected to our food. i continue to be in awe of God every time i think about how our bodies are so complex that we are fed by a variety of good and delicious things, and that the earth gives us what we need if we respect it. God feeds us if we remember that we cannot rely on ourselves. we need God. we need each other. we need all creation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

NAFTA and Noah: lessons from covenant

Breakfast: toast and grapefruit
Lunch: apple, carrots, almonds, cereal, etc
Dinner: Pizza, strawberries

Origin of one Item: The strawberries came from CA. They were organic, but I know that strawberries are one of the top 12 foods for highest pesticide use, aka the Dirty Dozen. And the distance they traveled is about 2,000 miles.

Theological Reflection:
I ate strawberries from Mexico in March. Ugh. I feel like I've broken my Lenten agreement with myself to pay better attention to what I eat. The word translated often translated as covenant in the Bible  (berit in Hebrew) can also describe contracts/covenants/agreements of a more legal nature between equals. Other times it is used to describe a more existential agreement between God and humanity--decidedly non-equals.

This multi-layered use of berit makes me think of NAFTA(North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), which is one reason I can get cheap strawberries from Mexico. The "free" market drives our cheap corn to them, making it so what is worth their while is to grow berries cheaply for thousands of Jamba Juices. Thus, NAFTA I would claim, is the sort of unequal berit. Yet not in a good way.

For Noah, the unequal, unconditional nature of God's covenant is forever. It doesn't matter what sort of wrongs people do--God will deal with that on a case by case basis--but never will there be ultimate destruction of the Earth. For his end, Noah has obligations, but they are dictated by God. He doesn't have much negotiating power in this agreement. Noah listens, and the agreement is that God will continue to love humanity.

I think Mexico may be a bit like Noah in this context, with little negotiating power. Whether or not Mexican farmers would rather grow corn for Mexicans and not strawberries for Americans --that doesn't quite matter. Tthe US dictates the terms, and Mexico must comply. Often times this is the case.  The "developing" countries can get strong-armed by trade "agreements" where they don't have much say.

Now, lucky for humanity, God's berit/agreement is unconditional and everlasting. But no country is God. While it is true that we in the US may have more dollars, the Christian message claims that we are not of greater value. Further,God's covenant with Noah extends to "to all living beings..."(Gen 9:16) What a different food system we'd have if our own treaties were based off the assumption that all life is included, but grounded in the reality that we are all flesh--that none of us are God. How differently would we eat, eating as equals?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

prophets and vegans

food list

breakfast: fruit cup, potatoes, coffee
lunch: applesauce, raisins, fruit leather
dinner: coffee, orange,  apple, gluten-free pretzels, sweet potato chips

origin of an item

this morning i had breakfast at medici's in hyde park. this locally owned restaurant (so local that the owner and her son are usually around during early breakfast time) has been in hyde park since the 1960s, and it is often filled with students and scholars as well as "normal" hyde park people--i went there often when i lived on the other side of hyde park, back before i was a student in hyde park. the coffee is fair trade and organic, and it is delicious!


today was a totally vegan day for me, and i've been thinking a little about what it means to be christian and vegan. there is some suggestion that genesis 1:29 ("i have given every green plant for food") is biblical teaching that we should only eat plants (, for example) but that does not take into account all the places in the bible where animals are eaten or we are told that we can eat meat. it also doesn't take into account the fact that vegans eat more than just plants. 

vegans eat way more than just plants... and way more than tofu. actually, i remember when i lived in hyde park, i met someone for the first time over dinner and he was shocked that i was a vegetarian at the time. i didn't look like what a vegetarian to him. at the time, i suggested to him that vegetarians have so many options for food, so we are as diverse as any other group of people. now, i think i would press harder to hear what he thought i would look like, and i might even press him to hear what he eats... not all omnivores look the same either! anyway, i wonder what he would imagine a vegan would look like.

i know i continue to have expectations about how vegans are supposed to act. my experience with vegans (even when i was vegan all the time) has led me to imagine that vegans are often cranky, snobby and judgmental. they spout off the dangers and sufferings associated with factory farming (see: Action for Animal's document on factory farming) without much thought about how it might affect their dinner partners. please. how can the rest of us get on with our lives if we have to think about the conditions of our food or the people who prepared it?

but i think vegans can be prophetic. the prophets in the old testament often fasted (or gave up some kinds of food) in order to draw attention to God or in prayer or to prepare. for example, esther fasts before she goes to the king to ask that her people be saved. fasting (giving up some or all food) can be an act of preparation, purification, prophecy. i think you could fast and not be vegan or prophesy without being vegan. i don't think vegans or fasting (or even christians) have the corner on telling the truth or working for change. but sometimes doing without makes the truth a little easier to tell because our own struggles to do better can be a model for what can be. 

how can we eat prophetically?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Injustice Anywhere: Gun Violence and our Dinner Table

Breakfast: Egg burrito, grapes
Lunch: carrots, sugar snap peas, hummos, lots of almonds, diet coke, apple, double coconut muffin aka deLISH. 

Dinner: black bean dish a la this casserole, peas, chocolate covered almonds

Origin of One Item: Almonds 
I used a cool website called What's on My Food. It even has a free App.  It's a little too much info. in my opinion, but thorough. 
It seems there's probably an upswing in pesticide use for conventional almonds, but it's not a lot. And most of them come from CA. Mine came in the shell (a pain, but cheaper overall I hope!) so if the pesticides remain mostly on the shell, then so much the better for you, and the worse for me. 

Theological Reflection:

From the Web of Creation: Biblical Themes about Creation: 

Justice for humans is related to justice toward Earth.

"For the Bible, creation is one world. Humans and the rest of nature are inextricably tied together as part of one reality with a common relationship with God. Therefore, when humans flourish in peace and justice, also the land flourishes with grapes and grain. On the other hand, when there is violence and injustice, the land languishes."

The earth dries up and withers. The world languishes and withers. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the land.” (Is 24:4-7;)

This weekend was an especially good food one, though I didn't enjoy it much. I was too caught up in the Treyvon Martin case. And last weekend was an especially violent one here in Chicago. There were 49 people shot, 10 were fatal and included a 6yr old girl on her front porch. In the coverage one father said he now couldn't let his son go outside for fear the boy would be shot too. 

If a child is not safe outside, they are not outside as much. Parents should do what they need to in order to keep their children safe.  And while outdoor activities like Sierra's Club No Child Left Inside or community gardens or park clean-ups are good and necessary, they can sound hollow on certain weekends. Outside? No way. 

If we are ever going to build a diverse coalition to combat change(which we need), we must understand this crucial dynamic of how the injustice of gun violence--of any human injustice--intersects with the injustice felt by the earth. 

So back to the good part of the weekend: food. Our meals can create justice and health for our families and communities, and for the environment. They do this when we create them mindful of local, organic, simple, colorful, seasonal, whole. But they also can do this by an awareness of who eats them and where.  

So at your next meal, who might you welcome in peace to the dinner table? Because whether we feel we can or can't go outside--due to violence, pollution, or what have you--at least we might gather and give thanks, making our meal into a sacrament. By so doing, may we honor all that  suffers injustice and give thanks for our connection to them. 

Then maybe we find the courage to take our meal outside.