Most Christians never question where the palms on Palm Sunday come from. It never occurred to me, until my first year pastoring, that someone had to get the palms (and order them well in advance). But as we approach Palm Sunday, we ought to reexamine our theology of palms.
Traditional (read: conventionally harvested) palms are shipped from a handful of countries including Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. But because palm harvesters are paid by the number of palms, not the quality of them, the most efficient way to get palms is also the most destructive. Cutting as many leaves as possible from each tree damages the trees and the long-term sustainability of palm trees. Not only that, but palm trees grow in the shade of forests, and so sustainably-harvested palms support both the palms and the wider forest preservation efforts. Such noble organizations as the Rainforest Alliance have promoted the eco-palm movement.
What I like about eggs is making them. A single egg, cracked over a hot skillet, a minute thirty on the first side, a minute on the flip. What I dislike about eggs is eating them. They’re uninspired. Still plain, in spite of my efforts, dressing it with kale, tomatoes, and garlic from my own garden. But simple. And unlike my homey carb-seeking impulse for muffins or zucchini bread for breakfast, I can eat it one setting. I plan my muffin baking around potlucks–or commit to eating four a day in order to finish them. Such suffering is life.
As I approached the one year anniversary of my Simply Seasoned Challenge–to finish the remaining three-quarters of the book’s recipes in three years–I indulged my compulsive perfectionist and counted what percent of the book I’d completed. It should have been roundly 50%. I’ve since deliberately forgotten the exact number, but it was crawling toward 46%. That left me about an extra 14 recipes to fit into the coming year, in addition to this year’s 50 recipes.
Have you tried to eat a whole recipe of Oven Fries by yourself? I have. (Fail)
Why the failure? Skimming through the unmade summer recipes, I searched for where I’d gone wrong, quickly discovering the obvious: I was single. I’d kept a steady pace through the fall while I dated and dropped off in the spring when my relationship had–telling myself, at the time, that it was because the rhubarb and carrot thinnings came up so slowly (which is equally true). Cooking for and with someone gave me incentive. Cooking alone gave me a strong urge for a second glass of wine. Continue reading
There’s something crazy that happens when you’re standing in a crowd of hundreds listening to a fiery activist on a crackling portable microphone: you learn something. Often, I talk to people who say: “I don’t feel like I can go to the rally because I don’t know enough about [insert cause]. My response is: “That’s exactly why I go!”
My first impression on entering Daly Plaza was the sage I smelled half a block away. But this was my second impression.
The best education is showing up. I barely skimmed Mennonite Central Committee Central States’ statement on the Dakota Access Pipeline this morning. Mostly what I knew about the something-something-dog-bites-children-newsfeed and big-oil-destroying-hundred-year-old-native-burial-sites. Best believe I was image-searching #NoDAPL protest signs because I wasn’t sure “Sacred Sites are Not for Sale” was on-message enough (I went with “No More Broken Treaties” instead). I went to march against the Dakota Access Pipeline because I believed I could learn more from being with the people affected than Googling articles from a distance.
I learned that Water is Life. And Water is reason enough to defend something.
When I stand in the middle of a rally, I often feel like I’m somewhere inside the pages of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of America, gathered in an unlikely diverse crowd, students and retirees, Muslims and Catholic workers, indigenous people representing tribes across the continent… and it floors me that in a 6-minute speech I learn more than in a 50-minute classroom lecture. A rally is an educational tool–to hear half-dozen indigenous people who have been to the Sacred Stone Camp is learning. To hear a 14-year-old Lakota boy from Chicago talk about watching private security forces harass children is education. Protest is education. Continue reading
Today I shoveled the neighbors’ driveway. Not because they’re disabled (they’re not), or because I’m especially good or kind (I’m average kind), but because I believe in snow shovels. Every time I hear the roar of a snowblower or smell the gasoline drifting across the still earth, the irony makes me cringe. Our fossil-fuel solutions to a snowy inconvenience is, after all, only going to contribute to a more extreme snow next time around. Solving climate with climate change makes no sense to me.
There are several families in our congregation who refuse to buy snowblowers. The reasoning is that this is the simple life—like our theological cousins, the Amish, the question these families have asked themselves is, “Will this new technology help or hurt our relationships with each other and with God?” Snowblowers don’t build relationships, as thoughtful as it is when the neighbors blow my sidewalk. In fact, the noise and the speed of the clunky thing rarely gives me even less opportunity to thank them. On some winter mornings, I’ve seen a half dozen neighbors out, each with their own snowblower, never speaking to each other. What an embodiment of excess and private ownership, for each of us to own our own machine to clear our own 10 feet of sidewalk! Continue reading
This week, I preached on Numbers 11:1-10, notable because it contains the only reference to cucumbers in the Bible. And God is pretty harsh on the cucumbers. Is God come down as anti-produce? Why is God getting so judgy about the Israelites wanting more vitamin C in their diet?
This is the whole passage:
Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them. The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it. Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased.
This translation is linguistically conservative, avoiding the colorful language and connotations of the Hebrew. So I’ve made my own translation to try to capture the subtitles: Continue reading
There’s something about planting season that fills me with a strong sense of incompetence. Planting consists mostly of taking near-microscopic spheres, putting them in a pile of dirt, throwing water on top of that dirt, and walking away. There’s something divinely incompetent about the whole thing. When we usually say “bury it,” we mean, “throw the thing away.” Forget about it. Planting is a foreign world. I love sowing seeds, but as soon as they are buried, I’m overwhelmed with the anticlimactic adrenaline rush. That’s it? Now I just… stop… doing things?
A pile of dirt.
Today I planted potatoes. Before I planted them, there was a pile of dirt. After I planted them, there was a slightly looser pile of dirt. Sure, I cover cropped last fall and put in manure and worked the soil, but the progress is almost invisible. It’s that act of walking away from the garden that feels so strange.
The best thing I can do is nothing. I wait a few months, and then bam! potatoes. I spend most of my time not doing a thing in order to get a thing. After spending three intense, all-consuming years in graduate school to get a very specific job, it’s difficult for my merit-based mindset to understand. Continue reading
When people come into the office complaining about how terrible the weather is, I’m always tempted to say “Why do you complain about the weather? You can’t by your own will make one hair on your head turn white or black.” It is, in its own way, a pastoral response. But technicalities and modern dyes aside, I hate complaints about the weather. Sorry God didn’t acquiesce to your wishes with this sunrise; what are you going to do, let it ruin your day? I am unsympathetic. I love seasons.
The turning of seasons always makes me a little nostalgic (self-righteous?), and as the days get longer (if not warmer), I don’t mind the longness of winter. It’s been such a flurry of snow and chaos and social activity–from Christmas into the New Year into MLK and Superbowl season, births and funerals and the daily activities around them. There is always so much to do! Sometimes, pastoring requires you to be a professional socialite, flitting from gatherings to fundraisers to dinners. There is always someone to catch up with.
As a millennial who has mastered the art of million-tasking, I love winter for the ability to do one thing at a time. To practice every day the art of looking out of windows at the weather. Continue reading
If you were fussy about my first vegetarian post, steel yourself. We’re getting meatier and feminist-er in this criticism of meat. As I’ve spent more and more time with intersectionality, I’ve learned how meat intersects with concepts of masculinity. Every other time I say my diet, someone says, “Oh, I could never give up meat. It tastes so good.” It’s almost always man. And he doesn’t mean “it tastes so good.”
“It tastes good” is not a reason. Doughnuts taste good; do you eat those 2-3 times a day? There are so many foods and tastes in the world that are delicious. If I said “I’m vegetarian because vegetables just taste good,”it’s true. I believe there are few thing in the world better than a garden fresh heirloom tomato. But that’s not why I’m vegetarian; it’s just a lifestyle perk.
Meat is about much more than taste– that’s clearer when you realize 59% of vegetarians are women. When you look at vegans, the number jumps to 79%. Our culture uses this split as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, vegetarian/vegan diet is a diet, and diets are for women; on the other, real men eat meat. Continue reading
I’ve been vegetarian for almost a decade, but I’ve never been militant about it. My reasons weren’t noble in the first place–I changed because the meat in the college cafeteria tasted bad. In the years since, I’ve created a coherent and sustained ethic of eating, but never a militant ethic.
I chose vegetarianism. The act itself is something that marks me as Christian–choosing an alternative to the mindless, normative structures of the powers and principalities. It is an act that, three times a day, marks me as “in the world but not of the world,” that encourages a conversation about what I believe, that invites people into a dialogue about what it means to let your values shape your life.
What do any of us know about mulberries?, I fumed. We can’t tell a mulberry from a serviceberry. It wasn’t about the mulberries, really. Of course it was. But it was also about hopelessness.
The joy and danger of my work is that I traffic in the good. Not in the way that when I worked at an ice cream shop, I trafficked in the good, scooping cones slightly larger than the 4 oz. regulation size. I traffic in the Moral Good; every aspect of my work translates to the larger philosophical task of Pursuing the Good. And today, I was tired. Of doing good. Of the long, long time and many, many committee meetings it takes to accomplish anything in church. Of the pettiness of human nature and our inability to transcendently love each other. Of our constantly falling short of the Glory of God. Continue reading