Is it just me or does everyone feel unsettled right now?
It is easy to feel that life will go on as usual indefinitely. Indeed, it’s not possible to live assuming or predicting major change around every corner. We are creatures of habit who thrive on routine–even those of us who score high on the Myers Briggs as adventurous need to know there is a home to come back to.
Right now, it just feels like the world is ready to turn upside down.
There are more refugees and displaced people than at any time since post-World War II. I think of WWII as the epitome of displaced and unsettled. It’s unsettling to hear that for 65 million people (as of June 2016, almost 1% of the world’s population) it is just like that, right now.
The political climate is uncertain. It’s unknown what details of our lives in the US will be changed. Will prices go up because of treaty and tariff wars? Is the cost of health care going to go up or down? One thing’s certain: I really hope the cost of prescription medications does not go any higher.
Life transitions are looming on the horizon for a couple of my children who either are adults or really close. Major life transitions for me are only a few years away, as well.
Other long-term unknowns are making me realize that this life I live right here, right now, did not come with a guarantee. Usually it rolls along in the expected manner. But there was never any promise it would be safe.
I know I’m not alone in this sensation.
I just don’t like it.
If there is one word that goes with broken, it is humble.
(See my last blog here at https://swanatbagend.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/broken.)
One leads to the other, as surely as night follows day and water flows downhill. It could be humble first, leading to a willingness to be broken and to see what’s broken.
Often, it is broken first. This leads naturally to humility because if you are broken and acknowledge that you are, you realize that you don’t have the power to fix it. You realize while there are many steps you can take to bring healing, to ask forgiveness, to renew what has been damaged, you don’t have the ultimate power or authority to make renewal come to pass.
It makes you humble.
This is your new reality. Not a sense of self-flagellation or an endless reviewing of past trespasses.
Humble is just being in touch with reality–the reality of who you are and what you can and cannot do.
Humble is, I think, actually quite freeing.
What’s one of the most distressing events that can happen to a child?
Something they love gets broken.
And mom and dad cannot fix it.
I have memories of something lovely getting irreparably damaged, and how distressed and grieved that made me as a child. We had Christmas ornaments of blown glass, colored globes surrounded by extremely thin spiraled wires. Even the bracket at the top of the ornament was a work of art, all fine silver made of tiny detailed patterns. When one of those broke, because they were already old by the time I was old enough to love them, it was painful.
That’s an ornament, a thing of beauty, but nonetheless just some heated and blown sand.
How much more distressing it is when things of more importance are broken. And how distressing it is to find that one continues to break things on a regular basis.
It seems to be inescapable. I once thought that if I just tried hard enough, I would always and only be a force for good in the world. I thought that somehow I would have the ability and the will and the power to always do the right thing. Knowledge was power, and I knew what was right. It was my goal in life when I graduated from high school to love and be loved and be happy. I had no idea how truly difficult that would be.
Despite my best efforts, I damage and destroy what is good. How is it possible to be aware of the beauty, of the import, of the good in people and the world, and still be the cause of damage?
I realize that I too am broken, and that my brokenness damages others on a regular basis.
I’m not saying that I never do anything right. Like you, I work hard to be a good friend, a good parent, a person whose heart is attuned to God so that I can spread the love around. I want to love others well. Most of the time, I do a pretty decent job.
But, some of the time my brokenness rises to the top, and that is what other people get from me.
Thank God that he has made peace with me and covered me with his righteousness. I was far away from him. I am still farther than I want to be. However, my distance and brokenness does not stop him from pulling me closer. Because of Christ, he has brought me into his presence and I stand before him redeemed. He is transforming me.
He is transforming me, and it starts right here, from the point of my acknowledgement that I am broken.
As those of you who know me well know, I love to cook, and I love to eat. Over the years due to health problems experienced by various members of the family, I have learned a good bit about a variety of different diets. When your nose runs every time you sit down to a meal, you start to do some homework. In the course of this journey, I have learned to always read ingredient labels.
Well…in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that I haven’t learned to do this, because I don’t always read ingredient labels. For one thing, product ingredients can change. You think you’re on top of what is in something, and don’t bother checking, and then once you get it home you notice there is something in it that you should not eat. That’s usually what I run into.
Also, there are surprises, ingredients you don’t expect, usually because it makes no sense for them to be in the product you’re buying in the first place.
There are quite a few additives in most foods in the grocery store, and if you want to avoid them, you’re going to need to read labels and buy fresh foods, not prepared ones. Oh, and did I mention reading the labels?
Here are a few surprises we had lately.
We enjoyed pancake and muffin mix from family as a Christmas gift. It is organic and non-GMO. The pancakes were delicious for sure, but the pancakes included organic malt extract and natural flavoring. If the flavor of organic pancakes is so fantastic, why do they need flavor enhancers?
I was looking at baby shampoo, which of course you don’t eat, but your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, so thinking along these lines for a gentle safe soap for babies, I was thrilled to see that–no whoops, I mean confused to see that baby shampoo has, among about 15 other ingredients that I couldn’t identify, two kinds of yellow food coloring. Slather it on! I’m sure that will have health benefits for your baby.
You’ve heard that if you want to eat healthy, just buy your food from the areas around the outside edge of the grocery store, thus avoiding the processed, packaged foods that make up the majority of the center aisles. I think in general that is a good idea. But, even with fresh food, don’t stop reading those labels. You still have to look for additives. I recently discovered that conventional ground beef has natural flavoring in it.
Why does plain ol’ meat need natural flavoring? Honestly, what is wrong with its flavor alone that requires additional support? I asked the meat guy about this and he told me it’s been in there for years, basically industry standard, and if you want meat that does not have natural flavoring in it, you have to buy organic.
I have to say, that’s the dumbest, wrongest thing I have heard at the grocery store in a long time! Meat. That is all it is supposed to be. But, if your family, like mine, reacts to food additives and flavor enhancers, you are going to have to find an alternative to grocery store meat.
This in itself is wrong.
In a perfect world, you would not have to read every label and get the life story of the food you want to purchase. But here we are, in a culture where as long as it’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) it can be in your food. Why not add another stabilizer, another thickener, another flavor enhancer to this product? must be what the companies are thinking. What’s one more? the public already takes in hundreds of substances that are not actually food, but that are allowed in substances that used to be food. It must have started somewhere. Sometime, natural flavoring was the only additive in your food, and you only ate it once or twice a week. But just a little at a time, more and more preservatives and flavor enhancers and food colorings were added, and you ate more and more of the prepared and processed foods.
And here we are with a grocery store full of substances that I cannot honestly call food.
And people who don’t make a lot of money and can’t afford to buy organic meat are forced to take in all these substances that aren’t needed in the first place.
And we are pondering why we are chronically ill.
What are you eating?
Don’t let the church ever be New York City for Crocodile Dundee. Remember the scene where, newly imported from Australia, he’s walking the sidewalk saying “G’day, mate” to every person he passes? If anyone looks at him, it’s in the sense of wondering if he’s grown another head. Where did he come from?
Contemporary culture seems to demand that we remain in our own little space, in our own yard, on our own block. This is the exact opposite of what the church should be. Even a big church.
There’s enough of that going around already. There’s enough of us pretending we don’t see our neighbors when we are outside in the yard. There’s enough of us staring intently at our phones in waiting rooms and restaurants. There’s enough of us walking past people we know as if we are busily on our way to a much more important destination.
I’m sure part of this perspective is just me. I love talking to people, and I enjoy people. So, this morning when I was in the greeting card section at the store, I actually liked it when a friendly looking woman asked me if I knew what a pug looked like. “Is this one?” she asked, holding up a card with a funny looking little dog on it.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“Shoot, I’m trying to find a card for someone who loves pugs….what about this one?”
“I don’t think that’s one either,” I said, “but I don’t know what it is. I know I’d know a pug if I saw one.”
We went back and forth laughing at the dog cards and our general lack of knowledge of dog breeds. I loved that some woman in the greeting cards actually initiated a conversation with me. It was fun.
So, keeping that in mind, it may be my idea of what interactions would be normal are a bit skewed.
However, I am also certain that our culture’s definition of “normal human interaction” has gotten a bit skewed lately.
So imagine Crocodile Dundee, especially in a big church. Don’t walk past him.
I’ve been forced to examine this question over the past months as I have been doing the GAPS introduction diet. The diet’s aim is to heal the digestive tract and it requires you to prepare basic foods from scratch, including yogurt, clarified butter, salted and toasted nuts, and many others.
At the same time, while my family has been doing most of their own cooking, since they are not following the GAPS intro diet, I have been managing the schedule of what they are eating as well, shopping for their food in addition to mine, and supervising the cooking and preparation to some extent.
And of course, all four of us have been dealing with the mounds of dirty dishes that are created by cooking meat stock and making three meals a day (times two!) from scratch.
I have realized that I have internalized the advertising and ideas in our culture, even though in general I fight to resist that.
I personally think that cooking should be pleasant and enjoyable. Food should be nutritious and appetizing. But honestly, looking at flyers from the grocery, TV commercials, and product packaging, it’s not hard to conclude that really, the main thing you need to know about food preparation is that it should be convenient.
Recently, I got an email from Kroger advertising their Clicklist service, which is apparently now improved so that you can place your order online and then pick it up within hours, instead of having to wait until the next day. The email conveys the view that not only should you not have to cook, you shouldn’t even have to shop. All you have to do is place your order online, and then relax while store employees get it ready. You drive up to Kroger and they load it straight into your car! All this is normal, right? This is what you deserve. This is how things should be.
Procuring food and preparing it should be convenient–because you can’t afford to waste your valuable time actually cooking real food.
That seems to be the message. But I wonder if this view is not realistic. Or perhaps it’s one of those ideas which allow you to get the consequences of your choices. I doubt that any advertising is going to tell you what those might be.
What is it that we are doing that is so important that we can’t raise, purchase or prepare nutritious fresh vegetables and fruits, locally raised meats, eggs, bread? So pressing that we can’t cook these foods ourselves, but we must outsource almost all of the preparation of what we intake to sustain our bodies and our lives to large companies who don’t even know us?
I’m not saying that you are a moral failure if you don’t cook every meal from scratch. I believe in outsourcing any food preparation that doesn’t drive my cost too high and that doesn’t require me to feed myself or my family ingredients that will cause us mental or physical health problems (substances marketed as “food” that do cause mental and physical health problems abound, but that is another blog post). Also I like to cook and many other people don’t. So if you don’t like to cook, that’s fine.
What I object to is our culture’s view that cooking is a waste of time.
When did other responsibilities become more important that sustaining and nourishing our bodies?
What is so important about our activity that we cannot utilize real foods to heal our illnesses?
When did our lives become so full that there is no time to prepare a meal and eat it together?
Why is convenience more important than just about every other quality of food that you could mention?
Cooking is not an obstacle keeping you from a better life.
Do you have anything in your life like this?
If you’re like me, I’m sure you do. No matter what it may be, it is something that does not diminish with time. It’s something that does not seem to have a packaged, straightforward treatment. It does not go to the doctor, come home with medication for pain and an antibiotic, then three days later go back to school/work.
It might be a disease. It might be a habit you have wrestled with for years. It may be a person you’re connected to who is difficult but whom you can’t abandon. It might be money worries. It might be the mess in your garage, or the yard work that never really gets done, or the pile of dirty laundry that completely covers your cracked cement basement floor.
Whatever it is, it’s chronic. It’s not fixable today or this week.
You know what I mean?
Reflecting on my own life at the beginning of a new year, and wondering what will become of the chronic situations in my life during the course of the months to come, something else came to mind.
There’s all of this stuff, but, whatever else may be chronic, thank God that He is chronically good.