Tag Archives: Blogging

Meanwhile…

Well, I am certainly missing the lifestyle we enjoyed in Charagua, Bolivia that allowed me to read and write so prolifically. These days I struggle just to find balance between work, more work, family and community. Welcome home to the United States and North American culture!

I am now working in the technology department for the local school district, exploring my inner geek (which is more and more becoming my outer geek). I am also continuing to try and grow my small business, Edible Lawns, which is as much about education as installing raised bed gardens, compost and rainwater systems.

For a couple months now my third job has been working on buying a house (without a realtor and with extra work getting assistance from the city and a community development corporation). Now that that process is complete life is slowing down slightly. Even though I have a long list of plans to make my lawn more edible, perhaps things have slowed down enough that I might be able to read and write some more.

I have a long list of posts that I started in the last year or so, that I can pick up and I’m still excited about the Food in the Bible series. However, I might spend some time first, processing what we have been going through and dealing with in our own lives first. So, here’s some things you might read about in the near future:

“How to Start a Business When You Don’t Believe in Capitalism” or

“Reconciliation: Something We Do or Something God Does?” or

“Adventures in Avoiding Real Community” or

“The Gospel of Unschooling and Dreadlocks”

Hopefully that whets your appetite and hopefully I will have time to satisfy it with some thoughtful, provocative posts.

Living in Limbo

I’m not unemployed or underemployed like some of the people protesting at various Occupy gatherings across the US, but I am in limbo. When we were deported from Bolivia, I thought our time at home would be a vacation while we visited family and waited to hear from MCC and figure out what to do next. We have visited family and friends all over Texas from Waco to San Antonio, Kingsland and Fredericksburg to San Angelo. It’s been good to see everyone again, especially my new niece which I couldn’t visit for a while because of a case of shingles.

Shingles comes from the chicken pox virus that lies dormant in your spine. It can be triggered by stress and comes out in your nerves which is often very painful. My case was pretty mild, but it definitely got me thinking about stress and how I was really feeling about our situation. Since we’ve had a lot of down time, I’ve also been following the Occupy Wall Street movement pretty closely. Democracy Now! in their coverage of the movement interviewed Dr. Gabor Maté who was at the Wall Street encampment. Maté makes some interesting connections between the protests, economic crisis, stress and our health:

“50 percent of American adults have a chronic medical illness, and much of that has to do with stress. And if you look at the literature on what causes stress, it’s uncertainty and lack of information and loss of control and lack of expression of self. And the uncertainty that has been forced upon the American population by the recent economic crisis, the loss of control as power has flown into the hands of very, very few people, and the absolute powerlessness of the many in the face of all that, and the lack of expression through the ordinary political process, people are totally disempowered and deprived of their voice. This protest addresses all those issues. So I can only say that this is an extraordinarily healthy thing to happen. People who participate here will be healthier for it as a result, and maybe society, in general, as well.”

Uncertainty, lack of information and lack of control describes our lives over the last few months pretty well. It’s hard to thrive in these circumstances. There’s nobody to blame except the Bolivian government for our situation, but it is clear from this experience that we are not meant to live in an extended state of limbo without job, purpose, productive work or direction. In this period we have also lacked the kind of community we enjoy as a part of Hope Fellowship in Waco.

I’ve written before about this tension we feel in our culture between jobs and community defining and ordering our lives (Looking for a Job in the Kingdom). The thing is that while my life is in limbo, community can provide more certainty, stability, purpose and maybe most importantly a place to express myself. We have not been living in that community and that has made life extra stressful. We’ve visited a couple times and it has helped us remember what life in community provides in circumstances like ours.

I have also missed the time that I had in Bolivia to read and write a lot. Last week marked the end of what I wrote while we were in Bolivia. It also marked the end of our time away from our community. We are now back in Waco. I hope that this will be a time of renewed life with our beloved community and also a renewed energy for the writing and reading I have left off in the last few months. If posts are more sporadic and infrequent bear with me as we make yet another transition to some sort of new norm.

My prayer is that you and I find ourselves in a place and with people that will allow us to freely express ourselves in the midst of a sick society. Raise your voice. According to at least one doctor, it’s the healthiest thing you can do. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to make a better world.

Begging the Question

So, the idea for this blog came out of my quest for what to do with my life after seminary. The title is just a clever and catchy way to get at the main theme of this blog, food and theology. As I have unpacked this silly little question it seems to have sometimes taken me far afield. Lately I write a lot about economics, anti-civilization, collapse and consumerism. In my mind, of course, they are all interrelated and connected, but maybe these connections are not always obvious. I try to tie it back in to this question “What Would Jesus Eat?” that’s really about making ethical choices in a very complicated world and helping us navigate these murky waters.

Well, my primary purpose for this blog is to be a place where I can process out loud my own thoughts about these issues from my own reading, experience and thinking and hopefully get some feedback from the few friends and readers that occasionally read and comment. The secondary hope is that some of this will be helpful to other people. Sometimes I think that this secondary purpose would help give more clarity to my thoughts and writing. If I delve into ideas about civilization collapsing, how does that help you understand and live in the world more faithfully? If I go on about economic theories or obscure aspects of finance that I don’t even understand, how does that answer the ethical questions we face about what to eat and what to buy?

In some ways my recent excursions have subverted (or at least criticized) the big question always on the top of this website. The question assumes a certain stance towards the world concerning what we eat and buy. It presupposes that we are consumers and the question of utmost importance is how to choose the ethically correct (or least ambiguous) products on the shelves of our local big box store. I use to have a relatively simple formula for answering this question.

  1. Buy local.
  2. Buy sustainable/organic.
  3. What you can’t buy local try to get fair trade.

It is perhaps still a helpful start in some ways, but it misses the deeper issues that we face. It does not question the assumption that consumption is the answer to the question of making ethical decisions about how we participate in the world through economics and in particular through what we eat. Nevertheless the goofy question that started this ball rolling still haunts me. What do average people living in the world today do to make the most ethical decisions given the world as it is? How does faith, Jesus and the Bible speak to the kinds of ethical dilemmas that plague us? What are practical things that people can do?

I don’t expect everyone to become some kind of radical anarchist, join an intentional community, protest, grow all their own food, forage, dumpster dive, make everything they need, somehow drop out of the economic system and in the end move to a developing country just like me. I’m certainly not as radical as I like to think I am. I depend on the food system and other conveniences of civilization that all of us do. So, in some ways the questions for me are not that different than the questions for the guy working in a cubicle.

So, as I’m coming down off of a reading, writing and thinking binge, I would like to return to this basic question about Jesus and what he might have to say about food and our choices, including issues around consumerism, agriculture, environment, economics. However, I would like to keep in front of us where some of these things really hit the ground, like building and maintaining a composting toilet system which is something I experience every day. I’ve often said I want to get back to the Food in the Bible series for numerous reasons, but I think it fits in with returning to some of the reasons why I write and what I hope for. I’m not making any promises, commitments, resolutions or covenants. As usual, I’m just thinking out loud.

If anyone is out there, I would love to hear some ideas, thoughts or suggestions about what would be helpful to you for me to explore. Here are some questions I’d love to hear answers:

  • What are your questions when walking down the aisles of your supermarket?
  • Where do you face ethical dilemmas or questions about food or consumption that don’t have easy answers?
  • Where do you find your economic life in conflict with your life of faith?
  • What practical skills or knowledge would help with growing your own food, living more simply or living off the grid?

I really look forward to hearing your responses and hope they can spark some new conversations.

Old is the New New

A quote from the introduction to the book Affluenza recently caught my attention.

Little in this book is truly new information, yet the issue in this “information age” isn’t more information. It’s how to make sense of what we already know. (8)

I often feel like my new method of blogging is somehow antiquated and out of touch. Mostly I’m reading books, most of which are at least 20 years old, if not more, and commenting on them. Otherwise I’m commenting on connections between a book that is thousands of years old and our modern world. I remember when I first started blogging (way back in 2002 or so at a blog called My Four Walls) it seemed like blogging was all about keeping up with the virtual Joneses. I was always trying to find something others hadn’t linked to, but making sure that I linked to what everyone else was linking. It was a vicious cycle that really didn’t involve a lot of critical thinking and was mostly consumed with what the latest thing was online or in the news.

Now I am in no position to keep up that pace. My sources of news (radio and old newspapers sent from Santa Cruz) are primarily in Spanish, in which I am not fluent enough yet to understand everything. My access to the internet amounts to about 1 hour a week at a very slow internet café, which means I can almost read and respond to all my email for work and friends. This has been a hard transition for a former news junkie. I do feel like I am out of touch with what’s going on in the world. The jokes on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me are often lost on me now (someone named Snookie wrote a book and I’m not sure why that’s funny, except for the obvious).

Yet the truth is I am only out of touch with a part of the world. I am now much more in touch with another part of the world. I know more about what’s happening in Bolivian politics and life than anyone I know back home. What’s more I know more than any other Americans (there are some Canadians and other foreigners here, but no other Americans) about what’s happening in the municipality of Charagua. I might know more than most Bolivians what is going on in my little corner of Charagua Estación. I know more about my neighbors than the people who live across town. I know more about my own garden, composting toilet system and family than anyone else in the entire world.

While I still think it’s important to know what is going on in the world, there is no way to keep up with all the news everywhere. Our “information age” keeps up the illusion that we really can keep up with everything that’s going on. If reading books is too much you can just read a blog. If that’s too much like actual reading you can settle for 140 characters or less on twitter. It’s not just that there is more information available, but now there are more and more tools, like twitter, and tools to manage and keep up with those tools, like tweet deck, which all promise that we will be able to consume more information than is really possible or necessary.

This is where we must take a deep breath and step back… Go ahead…Take as much time as you need… No, really, go ahead…

The lie is that whatever is important to know about is happening somewhere else, unless you live in New York. Then again, even the New York Times spends more ink on things other than local New York affairs. The other lie is that the only things worth knowing or reading are things that happened or were published as close to the present as possible. The hard part is that the present seems to always recede into the past, making it difficult for something new to stay new. The nice part about old things is that they stay old. They get older, but it’s more like a good vintage wine that grows better with age than a plastic bauble that only disintegrates.

I was gently chided not that long ago that something I had read and was writing about on this blog was “outdated”. The comment came from a fellow Christian, which makes it all the more ironic, since we both consider an ancient text the most important in our lives. It is interesting that the comment that something is “outdated” is a way of instantly dismissing it. The criteria for approving of or dismissing of ideas must certainly be more than the date of publication. Calling something “outdated” does not deal with the content, only the age, of a particular text. Numbers, figures and statistics change over time and they are an important part of understanding the world, especially as it changes so rapidly. Perhaps, as often is the case, it is a question of where we find balance between being obsessed with the latest and greatest and pining for a nostalgic era of ignorant bliss. It takes a concerted effort in our day (unless of course you move somewhere that forces you to change) to strike this balance.

The critical problem we face is “how to make sense of what we already know”. More information or new information is not going to help us make sense of the world or move forward. It may be that the wisdom culled over time is what is crucial for dealing with the problems we face today. Any limit is arbitrary, but it seems that 20 years is enough time for the chaff to blow away and the wheat to settle in your threshing basket. I only wonder if in a world of commodification, “old” would be co-opted and somehow transmogrified into an elderly version of the new.

Hasta Luego!

Well, tomorrow we move to Charagua and will not have internet while we are living there. This means I will probably not be able to engage in conversation and dialogue in the comments, facebook or elsewhere for a long time. Hopefully my ideas will not just get farther and farther out there without my conversation partners to hold me accountable, but it’s certainly possible. I’ll be doing more reading, praying and even some working which will keep me connected to the place where these ideas and theories meet the messiness of reality.

I’m also hoping that this will lead me to focus more on the Food in the Bible series, which I will post when I am in the city scheduling them over time (about two posts a week). There may be some gaps with a lot of silence around here. That’s just me enjoying the birds, planting some seeds, building a compost pile or clearing a pasture. Feel free to be quiet with me or visit some other lonely corner of the internet. I’ll be back when I can. It’s hard for extroverts like myself, desperate for the approval of others, to listen, learn and pray for it’s own sake. So, I pray that my time spent in Scripture, prayer, reading, planting, harvesting, talking, listening and learning will be fruitful.