I Support Mix It Up At Lunch Day BECAUSE I am a Christian

One of my current writing projects has me spending a lot of time in the Gospels, especially the Gospel according to Luke, which may be my favorite Gospel (are we allowed to have favorites?) not least because of its astonishing reversals:

It’s the Gospel where a poor, uneducated girl–Mary–has more faith than an educated, aged, male priest–Zechariah.

It’s the Gospel where a widow’s two pennies amounts to more in God’s eyes than fat donations from wealthy pockets.

It’s the Gospel where Jesus says: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Invite the people who can’t pay you back by conferring social prestige on you, because that is the where the real reward is.

Yes, Luke’s Gospel is a Gospel that proclaims love for the marginalized. And out of the four, Luke has the most meals.

(It’s the Gospel in which Jesus is accused, among other things, of being a “glutton and a drunkard,” who eats with “tax collectors and ‘sinners.'”)

In other words, it’s the Gospel that Mixes It Up At Lunch.

Do you remember lunch in middle school? And high school? I do, because every year, when I’d get my new schedule, I’d have a gnawing sense of dread, wondering who I’d have lunch with and where I would sit, and fearing that I might end up alone.

There were always sharp divisions at lunchtime, weren’t there? The cheerleader table, the ‘artsy’ table, the ‘brainy’ table, the athletic table, and so on, and so on; divisions so definite that may well have been clearly marked on the tables themselves.

Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center–an organization dedicated to “fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society” (sound familiar?)–says that in their surveys, students “have identified the cafeteria as the place where divisions are most clearly drawn.” That’s why they’ve initiated “Mix It Up At Lunch” day, which is October 30 this year.

On this one day,

“we ask students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch. It’s a simple act with profound implications. Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.”

The Times article noted that Mix it Up has been particularly effective at one school at pairing special needs students with those outside their usual (sometimes isolating) circles.

Have you ever experienced that–especially over a meal? Eating with others is, in virtually every culture, a profound act that indicates acceptance and belonging and mutual care. It’s why a new husband and wife feed one another cake. It’s why we bring casseroles for families with new babies and when there’s a death. It’s why children who eat together with their families tend to do better than those who don’t.

It’s why it was so scandalous that Jesus did all that eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes and other ‘questionable’ characters–because eating with others breaks down the walls between people.

It meant that Jesus was intimate with people that the religious elite regarded as unacceptables.

But this was not some New Testament innovation. All throughout the Hebrew Bible respectful generosity–hospitality! sharing food!is a mark of righteousness. As the writer Marilynne Robinson writes:

“When Jesus describes Judgment, the famous separation of the sheep from the goats, he does not mention religious affiliation or sexual orientation or family values. He says, ‘I was hungry, and ye fed me not.'”

Is it that much of a stretch to extend that to “I was lonely and awkward and confused, and you ate with me not?”

So I’m more than a little grieved to read the headline “Christian Group Finds Gay Agenda in an Anti-Bullying Day” in the New York Times. The American Family Association encouraged their millions of subscribers not to send their children to school on October 30, calling Mix It Up day “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools,” a baseless and hurtful claim.

By now I think you’ll see why I happen to think Mix It Up at Lunch Day expresses some important Christian values–values that come from Moses, are affirmed by the Prophets, and are lived out by Jesus–

values that, often enough, reveal themselves in the people we’re willing to share a meal with.

Wouldn’t it be better to open the Times to read something like “Christian Group Finds Christian Agenda (as expressed in Luke’s Gospel) in an Anti-Bullying Day”?

Because eating with people from outside your circle is what Christians are about.

{I haven’t forgotten that it’s World Food Day. Click here to take action!}

The Eating Disorder You Don’t Hear Much About

The thing about a disorder like anorexia is that it eventually makes you look something like what the dominant culture regards as most beautiful, and achieving that ‘look’ becomes more important than, say, staying alive.

And it’s perfectly socially acceptable–for the most part–to tell skinny people how ‘good’ they look. When I was 17 and recovering from major thoracic and spinal surgery, I returned to school fragile and emaciated from the ordeal, only to hear “Oh my God, you lost so much weight–you look so good!!!”

Only a few sane, mature adults registered the appropriate shock and concern at my wasted appearance. Our culture is so sick that we think “sick” looks “so good!!! Anorexics are even praised for their self-discipline.

Image credit here

On the flip side, it’s seldom recognized that many people who are obese are actually suffering from an illness–compulsive eating disorder–that is often moralized as a lack of self-discipline.

It’s the unglamorous eating disorder. Because while thin people are praised, fat people are scorned. There are cries of war against ‘obesity’ from the highest places in the land while the Goddess of Thin gathers more and more worshipers to herself.

One thing I know is that we are all more than we look like; that we all are beautiful, marvelous, and perfect even in our brokenness because we are made by a God who is beautiful, marvelous, perfect, and who became broken like us to redeem that brokenness.

It would be better for all of us if we could stop keeping score–my disorder’s prettier than yours!–and give grace to one another. A great place to do that is in the breaking of bread, together.

Continue reading The Eating Disorder You Don’t Hear Much About

Why and How to Minister with Meals

I’ve written a number of times about bringing a home-cooked meals to people.

It’s a time-honored tradition, one my family and I benefited from richly following the birth of our second son in St. Andrews, Scotland. When there are new babies, or when there is illness or death, bringing a meal, far from being a mere symbolic gesture, does at least 2 things:

1. It lets the person/family off the hook from planning/shopping/preparing dinner.

2. It lets them know that they are not doing this “thing” (cancer, grieving, new parenthood) alone.

{These observations are from my friend Ellen’s post this week–she learned firsthand the power of meals when she had cancer and she and her family were fed for 8 weeks by friends, acquaintances, and a few people they’d never even met!

“And it suddenly made sense, this impulse to feed people who are going through something life-altering.”

Recently I became aware of a nifty website that aims to facilitate such sharing of meals. It’s called MealTrain.com, and it’s an easy way to organize meals for someone. It’s free, you can put the word out via email and/or Facebook, and it allows you to note the receiving family’s preferences and/or allergies as well as to indicate what you plan to bring (so that the new family doesn’t end up with lasagna–or whatever–4 nights in a row.)

And it’s free!

Meals are a great way to communicate love and care in a variety of circumstances–

  • when a new family moves into a community
  • when there is a death
  • when someone is ill, injured, or hospitalized
  • when someone has had a miscarriage, or during a difficult pregnancy
  • when there is a new baby
  • when someone’s spouse has been recently deployed

Maybe you can think of more reasons. Whatever the reasons, a meal given to someone is a means of grace made edible. I don’t want to go all preachy on you, so I’ll just say this: think of a time when you were so tired, or sad, or overwhelmed, or lonely, and cooking dinner was really the last thing you wanted to have to worry about. Imagine what it would’ve meant to have a friendly face show up with a meal made especially for you.

What have been your experiences of giving and receiving meals? Have you used MealTrain?

(Just to be clear–I’m writing about Meal Train because I like what they’re doing, not because I’m receiving anything for doing so!)

I just want to be at OUR table…

While in the magical disembodied world that is the Internet, I have appeared to be where I always am, in fact, my family and I have been in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for more than a week. We’re getting ready to leave, and while we have had a wonderful time with friends both new and old, we are feeling ready to get back to our home (and our cats.)

(After a stop at the Harrisburg branch of the Appalachian Brewing Company, of course.)

My older son (Aidan, age 6) reminded me of the centrality of the table to what it means to be a family in a home. He’s not much for homesickness, or at least for openly expressing it, but today he asked if we’d be back tonight in time for dinner.

When I said I wasn’t sure, his eyes filled quickly with tears, which he tried to hide, and he bravely said,

“I just really wanted to eat dinner at our table again. I miss our table.

Yes, my son–that longing for the table–our table–is built into you from the beginning. It is a picture of the longing we all have for belonging at a great table with all our beloveds, where we are ourselves are beloved, and where grace and plenty abound.

Aidan and his Grandpa at 'our table.' "Prost!"

That’s why, as the French say, “the table comes first” (when purchasing furniture as newlyweds.)

That’s why, as Robert Farrar Capon says, the table–or board–is one of marriage’s two essential pieces of real estate.

(The other being bed, of course.)

And so we’re headed back to our table.

{Wishing you grace, peace, and love around your table, friends!}

When Foodies Marry Non-Foodies…

Here it is, your Saturday Eating Reading!

…from Elizabeth Bernstein at the Wall Street Journal comes this look at what happens when Ms. Adventurous Eater marries Mr. Bland-and-Boring…

“Sharing meals is one of the most enjoyable things couples do together, a regularly scheduled time to relax, have an intimate conversation and recharge the relationship. But when one person is an adventurous eater and the other has simpler tastes, meal times are often divisive.”

So when a foodie and a non-foodie fall in love…

” ‘Non-foodies feel left out or even judged, and foodies feel that an important part of them isn’t fully understood,’  says Drew Ramsey, a Manhattan psychiatrist, Columbia University professor of psychiatry and co-author of ‘The Happiness Diet.’ “

sorry, this photo isn't exactly relevant but it's just too awesome in too many other ways...

What do you think? Does food bring you and your partner together, or highlight your differences? Is it important enough to matter?

{I’m no longer posting on Sundays, so I’ll see you on Monday!}