Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the tag “hunger”

Simple Lent & Simple Food

If you live in North America, you live in the land of abundance. We have a staggering array of options when it comes to food. Just going to the grocery can be overwhelming if you shop at a store like Wegman’s (a store that was a guilty pleasure when I was on internship).

Maybe we have too much choice. Perhaps our choice has caused us to lose focus of the process of how our food is produced, processed, and marketed to us. Is it just to purchase a piece of fruit out of season that has traveled thousands of miles and burned a lot of carbon? Do we even remember how to eat seasonally, to put food by, or to support our local farmers and farm markets?

The shocking thing is that even in this land of  plenty, almost 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table each day. The average SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment is $4 per day per person. In the United States alone, more than 16 million children live in homes where food is scarce. The situation globally is even more grim, and increasing hunger is likely to lead to violence as people fight over resources.

What can people of faith do? First of all, we can become more aware of the situation, especially in our own communities. You don’t have to look very far to find those who are hungry in your own home town. Secondly, we can examine our own patterns of consumption. How much do you spend on groceries each month? Have you ever broken it down by day and per person? You might be surprised. Now add the amount you spend dining out and on quick snacks and luscious lattes. It will be far more than $4 per day.

How might you simplify your consumption? How could you eat more responsibly and healthily? How can you find ways to work toward the elimination of hunger? For starters, check out the work of Bread for the World, for example, and become involved in being a part of the solution. Then find your local soup kitchen or food pantry and volunteer. Plant an extra row or two in your garden this year and give that produce to the hungry.

We decided during Lent we would simplify our diets as much as possible, increasing our consumption of legumes, avoiding processed foods, and continuing to support local farmers and economies. My spouse even gave up desserts for Lent. Tonight we dined on pinto beans, cornbread, and cabbage. It was a wonderful meal that cost only about a dollar each and was healthy and filling. We are also constantly aware of our waste stream and try not to waste food. Each year we are adding another raised bed or two, increasing the size of our garden.

Sure, these are small actions, but when we all take small steps good things happen. We have the capability to eliminate hunger in our world. To do so we must all be mindful of the choices we make and of how these choices reflect Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.

Here’s an idea! Instead of going out to eat, why not invite friends over for a shared meal. You provide the entree and beverages and invite your friends to bring a dish to share. You’ll have a good meal and an even better time. If you are adventurous consider a theme that puts an upper limit of how much can be spent on each dish. Keep it simple. Keep it real. Make it fun. Nobody said Lent had to be a completely grim experience.

Above all, pray for open eyes, open hands, and a heart that is willing always to share and set an extra place at the table. The Creator of the Universe deals in abundance. As the people of God we need to live from abundance, too.

Thanks-Living Activity

Be sure to check out this new film that premieres on March 1. You can find out more at bread.org.

Photos by David Shankbone and Natalie Maynor. Thanks!

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Seeing Baby Jesus

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways. –Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 24, 1979

Today Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. Our Spanish-speaking friends call it “El Dia de Reyes” or “Three Kings Day.” Whatever you call it or however you celebrate it, the intent of the day is to celebrate the “manifestation” or appearance of Christ to all nations.

Many of you will be familiar with the Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Perhaps this beloved song conjures up images of bathrobe clad children parading up church aisles during the traditional retelling of the birth narrative. A few of you may associate it more with Patti’s Smith’s haunting rendition (Thanks, David Lose, for the reminder!) of this mid-nineteenth century hymn by the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

But the celebration of Epiphany is more than just three Kings, bathrobes, and a hymn. Think of the word itself–epiphany. In the Greek, ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, means a “manifestation or striking realization.” I’m wondering how many 21st century folks experience epiphanies of faith.

Is Jesus simply a little china figurine to be brought out at Christmas and packed securely away after the twelve days are over? Is this “sweet little baby child” much easier for us to palate and manage? After all, if we can put him in a box or on a shelf at will, we aren’t faced with uncomfortable truths and niggling nudges to move out of our comfort zones.

Or, do we even see him at all? The foreign wise folk  saw him, but the religious leaders did not. The shepherds saw him, but Herod could not. Can we see Jesus today? Do we look in the right places? Is he a picture we grew up seeing on the Sunday school wall, or can he be seen as Oscar Romero states “among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat”?

The Herods of our day–the powers and principalities, the culture and media–seem not to see him. I suspect they don’t want us to see him either, because seeing Jesus leads one to do strange things such as leave home and country bearing gifts or leaving the security of jobs and secure lives to follow him in the wilderness of our world. Seeing Jesus–experiencing an epiphany of faith–is a life-changing experience, one that is often unsettling and even fearful. Seeing Jesus leads to a changed world.

The good news is that Jesus is there whether we “see” him or acknowledge him or choose not to do so. The Creator of the cosmos is active and on the loose in the world, working on restoring, fixing and fitting together all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe and inviting us to join the party.

Look for the light. Open yourself to epiphanies of faith. Bring your gifts to serve and honor the One who conquers the dark. You are welcome with the wise, the marginalized, the foolish, and faithful; there’s room for everyone.

Blessings on the journey.

Here’s a lovely version of the hymn “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell. It’s a wonderful hymn–not only for Epiphany but for every day.

Photo by FeedMyStarvingChildren. Thanks!

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