Thursday, February 21


Last week I was thankful that we could eat.  I was hungry.  But it wasn't for lack of food.  We had plenty to sustain us though much of it was in a potential rather than prepared state. Some if it was easy: there was shredded bbq beef and rolls for lunch, peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs and bread dough, frozen pizza.  There were snacks such as peanut butter and crackers, cheese, apples, carrots, popcorn.  With a tiny effort we could have black beans and rice, raviolis, salsa and quesadillas, salad, soup and stew with meat.  There were still two kinds of frozen chicken and vegetables too.  There was oatmeal and eggs and bacon for breakfast.  If we ran out of bread, I could bake more.  We had clean water.  We even had milk.

Looking at this list, isn't it enough to last a week?  I saw it all, but it was as if no one else did.  They were staring into the cupboard, into the fridge bemoaning that the shelves were relatively empty because other than what I listed, there were only a few random things besides. I think in their minds they called it scarcity and they became a little afraid.  Their only starvation was from lack of choices.

Before I wrote it down on paper I even found myself wishing for more too.  I found myself saving food so the kids could have enough to choose from.  I optimized what we had, making homemade tortilla chips and even granola bars with that cereal no one would eat.  I baked them Valentine's treats. I could have baked so much more.

In any other week I would have gone to the store to get more bananas, more applesauce, more bread.  But not this one.  Not when you're not spending more than you have. There was food here.  And it was actually much of what they would normally wish for.  Of course they eat their favorite things first when it's all new from the store, piled up on shelves like it's a priceless collection.  As he carries in groceries one son usually remarks, "Now I can feast!"  He's my pickiest.  By week's end there is less, but there isn't nothing.  I think that without a full refrigerator or a bursting cupboard to accent it all they feel confined to the food choices they would have made anyway.

No one likes to feel confined.  Hedged in and boundaried.

I'm reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers.  It's a remarkable work of narrative non-fiction that paints life in a Mumbai slum, high rise hotels just on the perimeter, potential so close and yet so unreachable.  They do what they can with what they have, sorting trash to sell to recyclers and in the slum they are doing well enough.  I can't wrap my mind around that sentence. (I've been to India and walked through it all.)  The thing that's absent in this book is want of food.  In this work poverty and hunger are not synonymous.  Poverty and corruption are.  And corruption takes away choices.

In my Lenten endeavor to grow a little closer to poverty my discipline to "go without" might be off.  I need to lean more into "can't have" or "cheated out of."  I'm not sure how to do that. Willingly.

I'm reading John.  The remarks about food and water in this book are plentiful not just in occurrence but in symbol. Turning water into wine (six huge pots to pass around at the end of the wedding).  Drinking at the Samaritan well (but offering living water to keep her from thirsting ever again).  Feeding the multitudes (it was just fish and bread, but twelve baskets full of leftovers).  And in the middle of all this epicurian excess Jesus says, "I don't need any of it.  I'm not hungry for that.  My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me."  Jesus points to all the wine, all the water, all the fish and bread and says it's not what's most important.  It doesn't make us rich or poor.  It doesn't add to our everlasting life.  What matters is doing the will of God.

In my Lenten season, I'm trying to shrug off the superfluous and take up generosity.  I'm asking to be led into what is most important.  This is the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.  To share bread with the hungry... (Is. 58)  It's all there together.  One just might lead me to the other.

I'm reading A Place at the Table.  The lillies beautiful. The grass thriving. Why do we worry?  "Don't reduce your life to the pursuit of food and drink; don't let your mind be filled with anxiety.  People of the world who don't know God pursue these things, but you have a Father caring for you, a Father who knows all your needs.  Since you don't need to worry -- about security and safety, about food and clothing -- then pursue God's kingdom first and foremost, and these other things will come to you as well." (Lu. 12:2-31).
We busy ourselves with worry not about daily sustenance but most often about status. We do not fear that we will not have enough to eat -- for most of us this is a non-issue.  But we worry and fret over having the right clothes, driving the right car, and living in the right part of town."      -- Chris Seay
But Asha wanted to be a politician, not a low-paid Kindergarten teacher.  To achieve this goal, she thought she'd have to shed her slum ways as she'd shed her village ones. It was a second kind of migration -- of class.          -- Katharine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers.
It's the same in India as it was in Israel as it is here. We have what we need, not always what we want.    Here I am in 21st Century Colorado in this moment thinking I'm driven hardest into poverty when I go without food.  Thinking when I don't have it in abundance then I am poor.  But poverty clings more to position than provision.  Rising up out of poverty is to rise to a new position.  It's to broaden our choices; to move the boundaries.  It's to step in willingly into an unfinished work.

Jesus has that new position waiting freely in hand.  It is given without our scavenger efforts to get it.  The food, yes, it will come.  The needs, of course, will be met.  But when we are looking with the eyes of Jesus at the world waiting to be made right do we ever get so excited about doing that work that we simply can't eat?  He raises us up so that we can see. In the end, engaging in the fast makes me full.

{Giving out of Poverty.  Lent 2013}

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