Searching for Terms

You know that looking at the search terms that land people on this blog are one of my little thrills, right? It’s almost a voyeuristic pleasure, as if I’m getting to see what it is that people are secretly searching for out there on the Internets.

Here are 9 from the last 30 days, with my comments.

“sweet christian girl”

Sorry, definitely wrong blog for that.

“cool tattoos for guys arm for a dead dad”

I *think* that you’re aiming for a nice tribute to your dad here. Watch your syntax, though.

“tell me what each district stands for in hunger games”

How about asking nicely?

“i want to be skinny pregnant”

I understand how you feel, but please don’t try for that. Read this.

“polly pockets in medieval times dress”

That would be AWESOME.

“jesus eating lunch”

And why not?

tiffani amber thiessen fat thin

Geez, neither! Curves do not = fat

“tim keller eating disorder”

I don’t think he has one. But you never know!

“mom failure overweight child”

No. No, you’re not a failure. You might like to read this.

“woman being eaten alive by stone bear statues”

Uh, ok.

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus

{Once again, I’m posting as part of the Patheos book club, Take & Read}

I didn’t expect to like Sacrilege.

I am always happy to acknowledge, even celebrate Jesus’ iconoclastic ways, but I’m not exactly comfortable in the non-churchy feeling ‘gatherings of Christ-followers’ that Hugh Halter advocates.

It’s not that I don’t think that they are a perfectly commendable, appropriate way to be the church, it’s just that I am quite happy to meet and worship God in a traditional, even liturgical, setting. I get it that not everyone feels that way, which is fine.

But I find liturgy freeing, not constraining, and while I agree that some churches could probably spend a little less on operating costs and a little more on ‘the least of these,’ I’m just not convinced that de-institutionalizing church is the answer to hypocrisy and apathy.

For example, Halter remarks that his church reserves one Sunday a month (or thereabouts) to forgo meeting for worship and instead do some kind of service to their community–teaching inner-city kids to play lacrosse and having a barbeque party, say. In a way, this sounds great.

But I would miss singing hymns, hearing the word, celebrating the Eucharist. It is in those humble things–worshiping in word and song and sacrament for just an hour or so–that I meet God and am inclined to see the world outside the church with new eyes. I don’t see how (even occasionally) erasing the tradition of Sunday worship is the best way to make the church more ‘missional.’

(Why not erase an hour or two of something else–TV? Internet? Working out?)

Here’s the thing–I like this book despite not liking a lot of things in it.

I really do like Halter’s insistence that following Jesus doesn’t mean we have to get caught up in all of the social, political, institutional trappings that have grown up around Christianity, especially American Christianity.

But instead of a primitivist (yea, perhaps Marcionist?) turn that says “let’s just read the 4 Gospels and James’ epistle and built our practice on that” (which Halter essentially says), I suspect a better way might be to look to other Christian traditions outside American evangelicalism to discern how other faithful, Christ-following people have lived out (and do live out) their faith.

Because it seems to me there’s a tendency for that which is radical and ‘unorthodox’ to become, over time, a new orthodoxy.

I’m all for smashing the idols that Christians worship, but I’m sticking with the liturgy and with Micah 6:8–He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

It’s not in the Gospels or in James, but it sure does stand the test of time.

Jesus in the Nursing Home

It’s been hard for me to get back into the rhythm of the Saturday-night nursing home dinners. I love Mrs. S. {who was always the heartier eater since I began the palliative feeding project} but I hate how Mr. S. isn’t ever there any more when I go to the nursing home. That’s what it feels like: he isn’t ever there any more.

Yes, that’s very stupid, because Mrs. S. is still very much there, and she still appreciates a good meal and a good cup of coffee, not to mention a little company. I’ve been back a few times, and then several times I’ve cooked and my mom has brought the meal to her. Once I accidentally set her steak on fire and we had to cancel, not to mention that my dad got to play volunteer fireman for real (again).

This past Saturday my mom brought her some peanut butter cookies I made and a burger from her and Mr. S’s favorite local joint–

This was 'their' table.

I hate not going to eat with Mrs. S. And I know that I have to put my sadness at Mr. S’s absence from the nursing home aside and just do the thing I know is right. I’ve stopped in with donuts and coffee on a weekday, but the Saturday night rhythm is off. I feel sad when I go there and get on the elevator for the 2nd floor, instead of turning left on the first floor for Mr. S’s room.

Here’s the thing, though: when I finally do get ‘it’ under control (‘it’ being my nerves, or sadness, or whatever it is that makes me feel like staying away) I feel gloriously happy at the end of it all. Nursing homes are ugly and they have weird smells and depressing sights and sounds, but Jesus is right there, too. And hanging out with him, my mom, and Mrs. S. makes for a great Saturday night, even if there’s a gaping Mr. S-shaped hole there, too.

My dad and the boys, imitating a picture of Mr. S., who was my dad's sponsor in joining the volunteer fire department. You can see the black band my dad (and the other Star Hose members) wore on their badges for the months following Mr. S's death.

Hungry NYC Children and an Advent Project

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger released a report last week indicating that nearly a half million children living within the five boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn) are living in families that can’t afford an adequate supply of food. That is one quarter of all children in NYC. The report also noted that food pantries and soup kitchens have seen a 12% increase in the number of people served in the past year, on top of an increase of 7% two years ago and 21% three years ago.

In other words, more and more people in New York City–something like 1 out of every 6–are hungry. But in the past year, 59 pantries and kitchens closed their doors, unable to run because they’d run out of funds. And that, in turn, happened because the Emergency Food and Shelter Program–a federal program that helps to fund hundreds of New York City’s feeding programs, not to mention thousands across the country–was cut back by 40% as part of the budget deal this year. Additionally, as an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle notes, the majority of pantries and kitchens have received fewer and fewer private donations.

Here, in the shadow of the financial district whose gambling caused the meltdown, one out of every four kids live in families that can’t buy enough food, and both their government and those who can afford to help them out cut the funding that fills in the gaps? Is it any wonder people took to the streets?

Other reports from around the country–like this one at NPR–confirm that the situation in New York City is far from unique. So consider: what can you do to help? What I’m going to do is this: each day of Advent I’ll set aside a small portion of money–like an Advent calendar in reverse–and at the end of Advent I’ll give what I’ve collected to a food bank. It won’t be much more than a symbolic act, but it is what I can do. I hope that, in this way, anticipating Christ’s coming can become an opportunity for loving the people he loves in the way that he did.

Want to join me?

Does God Care What I Eat?

Does the Bible teach________(fill in the blank) about healthy eating?

There are plenty of ‘Christian diets’ out there. Over the past years, I’ve read every Christian diet book I could get my hands on. I even read a whole book ABOUT Christian diet books. (It’s by R.Marie Griffith and it’s really interesting.) But no, I don’t believe that the Bible teaches any particular diet. But that doesn’t mean the Bible has nothing to say about food–far from it! But a theology of food is a different thing from a diet–a prescriptive plan for “what you should eat.” The Bible isn’t that kind of a book. I see it as giving a framework for understanding God, humanity, and the rest of creation, and food plays into that, but as far as teaching “what you should eat”–I don’t think it’s possible for the Bible to do that. It’s asking a question the Bible can’t answer by nature of the kind of book it is.

So what do you think the Bible says about eating?

I think that food is a good gift from a good God who wants to give good things to his children. I think that God created people to live in loving, caring, community, and that eating together is a universal way of forming and cementing that community (most weddings, worldwide and throughout history, involve some kind of mutual feeding–like the cake ceremony). I think Jesus talked about himself as the Bread of Life and the Living Water because his self-sacrificing death and resurrection promises to make all creation New, and food and drink are daily reminders of his sacrifice and that redeeming grace. I think Christians have a real responsibility to practice the Eucharist not just at church, but whenever we eat and drink, and especially when, in eating and drinking, we make an effort to share with those who don’t have enough. And I think that all our eating and drinking and enjoyment is both a wonderful gift in the here-and-now and an anticipation of the day when we’ll sit at the supper of the lamb “and taste how gracious the Lord really is.” (That last bit’s from Robert Farrar Capon.)