golden nuggets from Sirach (7)


Every few days I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I read through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus). Here’s the latest batch of gleanings.

Have you been seated at a magnificent table? Don’t be greedy as you sit there, and don’t say, ‘Look how much food there is!’ Remember, a greedy eye is a bad thing. … Don’t reach out your hand for whatever you see, and don’t crowd your dinner companion by reaching into the same bowl. Put yourself in your companion’s place, and be considerate in everything. (Sirach 31.12-13a,14-15)

If taken in moderation, wine makes people’s lives better. What’s life to those who don’t have wine? It was created from the beginning to bring merriment. The right amount of wine consumed at the right time makes for a joyful heart and a light spirit. Too much wine drunk in the midst of strife and conflict makes for a bitter spirit. (Sirach 31.27-29)

A well-advised person won’t overlook an intelligent thought; the stranger and the arrogant won’t cower out of fear. (Sirach 32.18)

Don’t overburden a person made of flesh, and don’t do anything without exercising good judgment. (Sirach 33.30b)

Those who pay attention to dreams are just like people who grasp at a shadow or pursue the wind. … Unless the Most High sends a dream by means of a visitation, don’t pay any attention to it. Dreams have misled many, and those who have placed hope in them have fallen. (Sirach 34.1-2,6-7)

this went thru my mind


Christ, Ephesians 5, marriage & the church: Is Marriage Really an Illustration of Christ & the Church? by Kristen Rosser [required reading]

“… the specific picture/illustration given them to imitate is not one of authority and leadership, but of giving and sacrifice. Husbands were told to love their wives the way Christ loved the church when He gave Himself up for her—gave up His power and position to come down to the level of a servant— so that He could raise the church up to His holiness. Husbands’ imitation of this picture of Christ would not involve holding onto their society-given rights and powers, but emptying themselves of them.”

Community, food & social class: Pay-as-You-Can Restaurants Dish Up Dignity in Denver [fascinating!]

“Going out for a meal tends to segregate age, race, and social class, based on one’s ability to pay. At Café 180, the serrated knife that separates wealthy and poor is laid down next to plate, fork, and spoon on the table of fellowship. Here is a radical culinary experiment in dignity and community. … as I pull out my wallet, the employee asks an odd question, one that stays with me all afternoon: ‘What would you like to donate today?’”

Drugs: Have We Lost the War on Drugs?

“After more than four decades of a failed experiment, the human cost has become too high. It is time to consider the decriminalization of drug use and the drug market.”

Les Miserables: The New Testament Parable that is Les Miserables by Marta Layton

“… the conflict between the two main characters – Jean Valjean and Javert – resembles a problem central to Christian morality: the tension between mercy and the law.”

Ministry: Jim Martin: An Interview about Life and Work [required reading]

“Who are the people who have influenced you in the way you both do and think about ministry? … How do you keep abreast of contemporary events, cultural shifts, etc.? … If you could visit with one of your favorite authors who is now deceased, who might that be? … How do you organize your life/ministry for the week? What seems to be beneficial? … What do you do intentionally to keep your soul alive? … What about your ministry brings you joy?”

Writing: On Writing by Joshua Graves

” … writing won’t change your life. … Writing is hard work … Your goal should not be to “publish” … Writing is an act of faith and discovery. … Writing is always merely an extension of your life. … Writing is a communal experience. … Writing is confession. Writing is about telling the truth as you see the truth.”

imagine you, on food stamps (9)


Now I know you’re curious as to what exactly I plan to eat in January so, let me just go ahead and tell you while explaining some of the rationale behind my purchasing choices. I refuse to bore you with a daily “journal” of what I ate, so do let me bore you here in a single post with the details of the lion’s share of my eating plan.

CerealFirst, I’m a breakfast person. If I could eat only one meal a day, it would be breakfast. And so for the sake of that meal, I’m willing to make some sacrifices elsewhere through the course of the day’s menu. What that means in practical terms is that I’ll stick with my normal diet for breakfast in January. What is that? Nothing exciting, to be sure – and quite likely to be viewed as “boring” or just plain “nasty” to some of you reading this – but here it is: (1) a bowl of Kashi GoLean cereal (50 cents) with (2) a splash of Silk Pure Almond “milk” (40 cents) and (3) either a banana (25 cents) or a single Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax granola bar (25 cents). This is what I eat for breakfast probably 360 days out of the year and have done so for the past two or three years. Such has served me well, providing me with a healthy start to the day that gives me energy without weighing me down. By the way, if I go the granola bar route instead of the banana, that works out to 255 calories with 16 1/2 grams of protein and virtually zero grams of saturated fat. Healthy.

Second, if I eat nothing else, I eat some vegetables every day and commonly avoid fried foods almost completely. While I realize fresh vegetables are the healthiest way to go, I elected long ago to go the microwave route. I’ve found that the Green Giant “Healthy Weight” offering (sliced carrots, sugar snap peas, black beans, and edamame) appeals to me and I was able to catch these on sale for $1.00 per package early this week at Target and so, I stocked up the freezer. Throw in a little bit of tuna, grilled chicken breast, or whatever and a person has all that’s necessary for a simple, low fat lunch or supper. This meal, along with breakfast, should provide the vast majority of the protein and fiber necessary for each day.

Third, while the preceding will be the foundation for my nutrition in January, the groceries that made up the sack of groceries I received from our church pantry – along with misc. food items I procure along the way over the course of the month – will round out the makings of my month’s meals. This is where the real variety in my eating will happen. If I slightly exceed my $4.00 budget one day, I’ll make up for it by cutting back in some slight fashion the day before and/or the day following.

And having said all of that, let me say one last thing: while you might see a post or two in this series during the month of January, don’t expect for me to break radio silence on this subject until Feb. 1.

Until then … anyone care to join me in this project?

imagine you, on food stamps (8)


Now let it be noted from the start that I fully realize the way I’m going about this “food stamp project” in January is a bit unfair. How so? It is unfair in at least three ways.

First, many who qualify for food stamps are often quite limited in terms of time. No small number of them work two jobs, and in some cases, even three. If they have children living at home, their time once they arrive home is most certainly at a premium. Any and all time spent on food preparation means it’s time that can’t be spent doing something else (i.e. – doing laundry, helping with homework, maintaining a vehicle, etc.). Consequently, for quite a large percentage of folks who receive SNAP benefits, the choices made in terms of what food to acquire boils down primarily to this single question: “What food can I buy that can be prepared in the least possible amount of time with the least amount of attention required in doing so?

Second, transportation for many who receive SNAP benefits is a complicated affair. Many do not have a car and so, they must walk or ride a bicycle wherever they go. On occasion they might be able to hitch a ride with a friend who has some wheels, in which case they are dependent all the more on the choices of others. If they do have a vehicle, due to their limited funds they can’t drive around just anywhere looking for the best prices and deals on food. For some, what funds they have available translates into being able to drive their vehicle only straight to work and back, and precious little, if any, more at all. As a result of any or all of the preceding factors, a great many people on SNAP are forced to make their grocery purchases not on the basis of where the best deals and selections can be had, but on the basis of what is located closest to their residence. Translation: the local convenience store (i.e. – stop-and-rob).

Third, there is a kind, and degree, of temptation that comes only from living in the intersection of limited money, time, and transportation. For many who receive food stamps, life is so full with work, family needs, and all the essentials related to keeping food, clothing, and shelter as happening matters in one’s life, there’s little time for leisure or pleasure. It is in that context that the temptation to maximize the self-pleasure that can be found in life’s moments is most keen. For some, that will be about making food choices not so much with the question “What’s good for me?” in mind, but with this question in view: “What tastes good to me?

And so, all of this adds up to a bit of unfairness in my project. For while I have tried to keep time close to the top as I have made my food selections, time has not always been my sole, or even number one, criteria. Similarly, I have not purchased any of my food at a convenience store close to my residence, but have instead watched for items to go on sale at large businesses and grocery stores. This has given me quite an edge not only in what I can get for the money I spend, but has also enabled me to make some more healthy and/or palatable choices. And in all of this I’ve tried to purchase food more toward the “healthy” end of the spectrum than it is toward the “this gives my taste buds a zing” end of things.

But despite these inherent shortcomings in my project’s composition, I plan to forge ahead, and will if anything by doing so know that I haven’t even begun to taste all of the challenges and difficulties associated with eating on $4.00 per day.