Category Archives: Creation

Eating with less science and more joy

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If someone ever told me that some day I’d write anything involving science, I would have done that look-over-my-shoulder thing and assume they must be talking to someone else.

But we’re doing it today. Sort of.

In the context of what we eat, sometimes I think science can get in our way.

I’m not trying to discount science’s place in our lives—especially when it comes to food/nutrition—it is inarguably substantial. Science has brought many blessings to this earth (and is no enemy to Christianity in my opinion).

However, we want it to explain everything. We reduce everything to expiration dates. Calories. Ingredient lists. We want science to tell us so we don’t have to use our instincts or really have to think about what food we’re putting into our bodies.  We want to buy the snack pack of 100 calories because no matter what’s in that bag, we know it’s 100 calories and we’ve been told that’s good.

I hate to bring it up, but 100 calories of Oreos are still just Oreos.

We’ve been told: if you eat more than X calories a day, you’ll gain weight. If you eat less than X calories, you’ll lose weight.

Yes, but doesn’t that sound awful? No wonder our country is one big diet disaster.

I love this quote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan:

“The problem is that once science has reduced a complex phenomenon to a couple of variables, however important they may be, the natural tendency is to overlook everything else, to assume that what you can measure is all there is, or at least all that really matters. “ (pgs. 147-148)

I would hate if someone reduced me to science:

Some hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and one scientific anomaly: an early riser.

Technically it’s correct (more or less) but the description wouldn’t help you know what I’d want for my birthday (the answer: sweet cooking tools/gadgets). Or, it doesn’t explain that I daydream about excuses for Bryan and I to live in Spain for a year. Or, that ice cream is the way to my heart.

So why do we want everything to boil down to science? It provides answers, but it takes the joy out of things sometimes, don’t you think?

How about knowing our food, so that we use our experience, our feel, to know a tomato is ripe? Using smells, sight, touch, so we know when something has gone bad. (For the sake of safety, let’s not use taste.)

Just because we’ve figured out how to make food shelf-stable (scientifically speaking) for months on end, should we eat it?

Shouldn’t we trust the food God created and intended for us to eat? Shouldn’t we have a relationship with food and the land that isn’t about calories and ingredient lists?

If the food is straight from the earth, it’s likely pretty good fuel for our bodies.

Science backs that up. But don’t reduce what you eat to science.

You’ll only rob yourself of the joy of eating fresh, simple ingredients from God’s creation.

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What Would (Ancient) Egypt Do?

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

My memories about what I learned at church about Israel and Egypt in Biblical times goes something like this:

Egypt is bad, and Israel is good.

We talk a lot more about Israel than Egypt. God has to keep reminding Israel to follow Him.  He forgives them, but they need a lot of reminding.

The Israelites even wander in the wilderness for 40 years, where God only provided manna and quail for them to eat. Ellen F. Davis says the following about the Exodus in her book “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: an Agrarian Reading of the Bible”:

“…this story makes it clear that manna is both a gift and a test, like the land of Canaan itself. It is given on certain conditions and thus is meant to reveal whether Israel will walk by God’s teaching or not.”

Davis echoes in that passage what God said to Moses in Exodus 16:4 about testing the Israelites in this way. Davis discusses that God wanted Israel to live in direct contrast to how Egypt lived; a huge part of that goes back to how and what the Israelites ate.

“These were highly stratified, strongly militarized societies in which the whole land belonged (at least in name) to the monarch. In practical terms, that meant the wealth of the land flowed upward, away from the small farmers, serfs, and slaves who composed the overwhelming majority of the population, to the large landowners, the nobility, the great temples, and the crown.”

Sound familiar?

Egypt had such an abundance of resources they stored up food in huge silos. Egypt had one harvest per year, but they had such a surplus they traded on the international market, which just put more money in Pharaoh’s pocket.

We see Israel in ourselves; we feel like the oppressed.  We never want to think of ourselves as big, bad Egypt, throwing our weight around on the international market and becoming so wealthy, we think we don’t need any help from God. That we’re doing just fine on our own. But in America, we need to face the truth.

Egypt is exactly who we are.

So the Egypt/Israel/manna story serves as a great reminder that God doesn’t want us to live the way Egypt lived at that time. He felt making that point so important that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. In that time they learned, or were reminded that God sustains us. God provides.

When we don’t trust that, we hoard God’s gifts. Or worse, we waste them. Or, we create an industrial farming system that is unsustainable and damaging to our health in the name of satisfying our wants. What we perceive that we need.

God gave us what we need, especially when it comes to food. We need to keep it simple, and trust that what God provides is enough.

God and Hippie Food

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

With the Boston events still fresh on my mind and on my broken heart, I am always in awe of people whose best moments happen in the worst times.

I hope that someone says that about me one day. Not that I want to be in the middle of a horrible situation where thousands of lives are damaged forever, but because I want to be someone who puts others before myself in those moments no one expects.

If I’m honest with myself, the fear lurking around my mind is that I won’t step up in the big moment; that I’ll end up looking like Jonah.

You know, the guy in the Bible who hides on a boat in his biggest moment, thinking he can run (well, sail) the opposite direction from God and His will.

Spoiler alert: you can’t.

God asks him to do something new, something somewhat crazy: make the people of Nineveh repent.

Jonah flat out doesn’t want to do it and kind of reminds of a seventh grade girl with how he whines about this mission. One thing to his credit, however: he isn’t afraid to claim his faith.

“I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (Jonah 1:9)

Not hard to draw the parallel to today, right? As Christians, we are happy to claim that we are Christians. But when God calls us to something new, something maybe a little crazy, we aren’t eager to learn new tricks (I might add here: especially when we didn’t think of it first) or see something in a new light. We might even whine like a seventh grade girl.

When I talk with people about eating more natural ingredients and cutting back on meat, I inevitably get at least one joke about “hippie food.”

Call it what you want, but if hippie food means eating as many natural foods as possible that have been grown/bred in the way they were designed, that is the way God intended us to use these resources. The way He intended us to eat.

And God didn’t talk much about us eating meat in Genesis 1.

“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’” (verse 29)

I wish it said, “I give you every type of bacon on the face of the earth and every steak that has sauce on it. They will be yours for food.” But alas, it does not.

Let’s face it: God made hippie food.

As a country, we’ve (finally) reached a point where we’re seeing the damage we’ve done to our bodies and the environment by our food choices and by taking what Big Agriculture gives us. We’re trying to find new ways to get back to the old ways.

While the national conversation on food continues to evolve in positive ways, there are forces trying to hinder that, of course.

As Christians, let’s not look at this the way we always have. Let’s be part of leading the way for change in the food industry in this country. The world needs us in this conversation. God’s creation needs us.

Maybe this is our moment to try something new. Something a little crazy. Don’t hide in a boat sailing the opposite direction.

Numbering our Days

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Happy tax day! Just kidding.

This day often brings to mind the eternal line by Benjamin Franklin:

“…but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Amen.

Today, the former is what concerns me, which I know really brightens up the room and gets you excited to read.

That line by Benjamin Franklin remains so famous because we identify with it. We know most of life isn’t certain, but death and taxes are. We know we get one shot here on earth and when it’s over, it’s over.

We may know that undeniable truth in our hearts, but our lives don’t demonstrate to others that we understand.

In Psalm 90:12, we read:”Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

In other words, we gain wisdom when we truly comprehend that we aren’t going to live forever.

Do we live like we know our days our numbered?

We eat like we’re going to live forever. We treat the earth and it’s resources like they will last forever.

We don’t know the hour when Jesus will return to earth, but maybe we’re speeding up the process. Maybe we’re forcing Jesus’s hand.

“More than twenty years ago, we reached a point known as ‘ecological overshoot,’ and now the stress we’re putting on the planet—to feed our consumption and absorb our waste—requires 1.3 planet Earths to accommodate it,” according to Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer.

“In other words, our planet needs a year and four months to regenerate the resources we’re gobbling up each year. (We’re going to need two planets’ worth of resources quite soon, and if the entire world lived the average American lifestyle we would need four planet Earths.)”

So, not only are we wearing our bodies out that God created just for us, we’re also wearing out creation. We don’t put enough thought or care into the idea that we’re not leaving this earth in a better place for our children. And, we’re not teaching our kids how to take care of the earth either.

We won’t last forever. The earth won’t last forever if we continue at this rate.

So, what can we do about this? There are changes you go home and make tonight, and they would not only improve your health and most likely your overall life expectancy, but would also help the earth. I’d call that a win-win.

Here are five quick suggestions:

1. Eat less meat. “For a family that usually drives a car 12,000 miles a year, switching from eating red meat and dairy to chicken, fish and eggs just one day a week—in terms of greenhouse gas emissions—is the equivalent of driving 760 miles less a year.” Imagine if you did that twice a week. It doesn’t require that drastic of shift in your eating habits to make a huge difference.

2. Eat better meat. If you eat less meat, you’ll save money and be able to spend on higher quality meat. Eating animals that weren’t stuffed with antibiotics and fed a diet of corn and soy that they weren’t designed for is without a doubt better for you, and better for the environment.

3. Buy more local ingredients. If the average American meal has traveled 1,500 miles, the more local you buy, the more you can cut down on fuel costs for food transportation. And, bonus: you will probably be eating healthier too.

4. Cut down on any foods that are packaged or boxed. Again, you would be contributing to less fuel being used to transport food, which means less fuel polluting the atmosphere. And, that means you would be buying fresh ingredients so that you can…

5. Cook your own food. I’m not blinding you with science here; you know the numerous health benefits to cooking your own food. You control what goes into it. Your health will improve. So will your life expectancy.

As the Psalms remind us, our days our numbered. Once we understand that, we gain a heart of wisdom.

I think the world could use a few more of those.

 

The Feel of Food

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere along the way, we lost our connection with food.

Our connection comes only by way of the grocery store. See food. Buy food. Eat food.

We lost our connection with what’s in season.

We want apples in July, we can have them. They’ve been flown in from southern hemisphere; we consume produce picked weeks ago instead of days ago in the name of having what we want when we want it.

We have no idea who is growing the food we eat.

We have lost our connection with God’s creation.

Ellen F. Davis puts it simply in her book “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible”:

“Holiness in Leviticus is not primarily a quality of individuals (“you” is a grammatical plural here); holiness is the character of a community observing a comprehensive pattern of life that is healthful. As we shall see, the Priestly vision of holiness emphatically includes the land, the covenanted community of creatures who prosper along with a people living in accordance with the design of creation—or, alternatively, who suffer when the intended pattern is violated.”

And aren’t we suffering?

In a Mark Bittman column in the New York Times from a couple of years ago, he stated that 90% of heart disease is lifestyle related (read: diet related). Type 2 diabetes is projected to cost us $500 billion a year by the time we hit 2020. We’re suffering physically and as a result, financially. If those two areas of your life are suffering, there’s a good chance your spiritual life is taking a hit too.

I wrote similarly last Thursday about taking something I learned at Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class and applying it to food. Again last night, he said something I think applies here.

Ramsey talks about using cash more and our debit cards less. He said when we use plastic to buy things, we don’t feel the pain of losing our money. When we use cash, the pain sensors in our brain actually go off. We become much more aware of what we’re losing.

Maybe that’s where things went wrong with what we eat. We don’t know our land, and we don’t know what goes in to growing food. To many of us, it just shows up at the grocery store and that’s good enough for us. We don’t know the difference between food grown sustainably and food grown in a way that damages God’s creation.

We lose our health and maybe most importantly to God (it’s up near the top of the list at the very least), we lose our community.

Let’s re-gain our feel of food. For the sake of our health, our community and God’s creation.

(P.S.: if you saw a post from me yesterday about “moving on” I simply published that post on the wrong blog. I’m not that smart; you heard it here first.)

God’s Abundance is not on Aisle 4

My first time buying purple carrots and potatoes at my farmer's market. Also pictured: my coffee cup.

My first time buying purple carrots and potatoes at my farmer’s market. Also pictured: the edge of my coffee cup.

I’m finding less and less of a need—or want—to visit the grocery store these days.

Some items will always require a trip but fortunately for me, I live near some fantastic farmer’s markets.

The step of visiting the farmer’s market puts me more in touch with the land. No, I’m not tilling the land or plucking any oranges from their trees. It’s helped me learn what’s in season and when, something I truly had no concept of until a couple of years ago.

God designed us to be in touch with the land. Think back to Adam and Eve. When they violated their covenant with God and subsequently got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Man was then cursed with working difficult land. When the Jews violated their covenant with God, their land was often taken from them. When things were good in their relationship with God, the land was good.

How many of us really understand the land immediately around us? How many of us know the people who are supplying us what we eat?

In Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Vegetable Miracle, her husband Steven Hopp (who has his Ph.D in animal behavior) wrote a small sidebar on how “oily” our food is. In his estimation, each food item on an American plate has traveled an average of 1500 miles. That’s the average.

We don’t know who our food comes from and worse, we don’t care.

God designed us to know the land, to work the land and to be in community with each other.

Pushing your cart down aisle 4 won’t do any of that for you.

You know what else it won’t do for you? Show you God’s abundance.

How many of us when we think of tomatoes, we think of the Roma variety? Or, you don’t even know what they are called. But most of us have one picture in our mind of what tomatoes look like. It’s not like those varieties are bad,  but the Romas just aren’t very exciting when you consider the thousands of varieties out there. Our grocery stores of trained us to think of just one or two types of tomatoes exist.

Same with carrots. And potatoes. Thousands and thousands of different varieties and we know of and have tried maybe half dozen between those two vegetables.

We’re missing out on some of the best of God’s creation because we only take what the grocery store gives us.

Who ever said vegetables are boring?

God didn’t intend them to be.

Seeds of Arrogance

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Pride isn’t really a controversial issue.

People aren’t posting passive aggressive Facebook statues arguing for or against hubris.Whether you go to church or not, most people agree: pride is dangerous, and can be taken too far.

We’re all on the same page there.

If you do go to church, chances are you hear it discussed all the time. How our pride gets in the way of our relationship with God. How it leads to bad choices. Choices where we try to be God.

Yet, we often fail to see the connection between our pride and our food choices.

We eat items loaded with artificial preservatives that prevent our bodies from operating the way God designed, all in the name of not having the time to make better choices. Or because we flat out don’t want to make a choice that is better for the body God gave us.

When we’re deficient in some vitamin, we don’t seek out foods that God created containing those vitamins. Instead, we take pills or drink some powder/shake situation “that doesn’t taste too bad” and that way we don’t have to change what we’re eating.

This takes me back old school to Genesis 11. The Tower of Babel. The story is short and simple: people got together and said, “hey, let’s make a name for ourselves and build a tower to the Heavens.” God said something that roughly translated to: “Oh no you didn’t!” Then He mixed up their languages (they had just one when they started the tower) and spread those arrogant people throughout the earth.

Our lesson: don’t try to be God. Don’t think you’re smart enough and/or worthy enough to “reach” God by your own volition.

As Christians, the same logic should apply to how we eat. Don’t we believe what God created is enough?   Do we truly believe that He provides for us? Do we believe that the plants and animals we eat serve a nutritional purpose so that our bodies replenish and function the way God designed them?

Or, do we eat like we know better than God?

Most of us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are doing just that.

In the US, if you’re buying seeds to grow food, it’s likely coming from a handful of large corporations. Most of these companies genetically modify seeds to do everything from resisting bugs to becoming sterile after the first generation so that farmers/gardeners have to buy a new set of seeds each year.

This of course, can be costly for farmers, and net a huge profit for these corporations. Not to mention, it significantly impacts those in many parts of the world who might not have the money to buy seeds every year, but can save their seeds year after year and thus feed their families. As a result, these new “developments” seriously impact hunger around the world; a problem that is only getting worse despite estimations that plenty of food exists to feed everyone in the world.

We aren’t glorifying creation with our food choices; we’re telling God His work needs improvement.

What’s the definition of hubris again?

“(in a Greek tragedy) an excess of ambition, pride, etc ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin.”

Greek tragedy or Tower of Babel, call it what you want. But we might be writing our own tragedy.