links to 5 helpful articles

1. The Miracle of Jesus [required reading]

“… whatever your view of ‘miracles’ and the “’supernatural, I wonder whether it might not be possible to agree (as Jesus himself seems to have emphasized on occasion) that focusing on signs and wonders actually distracts from the most significant aspects of what was going on in his life and his interactions with other people.”

2. You Want to Feed the Hungry? Lovely. Let’s See Your Permit.

“… who is permitted to help the hungry and how they may do it.”

3. Levels of Literacy in the Ancient Christian World

“… ‘literacy’ was both more diverse and much more widely distributed than some earlier estimates.”

4. Why the Announcement of a Looming White Minority Makes Demographers Nervous

“In a nation preoccupied by race, the moment when white Americans will make up less than half the country’s population has become an object of fascination.”

5. A Biblical Spice Rack

“The Bible reflects an intimate knowledge of herbs and spices …”

picture Bible commentary

Dallas-God-love-homeless-need

Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and you will be healed quickly. (Isaiah 58.6-8a CEB)

links: this went thru my mind

 

Fiction & reading: Why Do We Read Fiction?

“I often hear people say that they struggle to appreciate fiction. Life is short, and they’d rather spend their time on books that are more informative or useful. … fiction allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes.”

Government, hunger, politics & poverty: Why Hasn’t Any President Since Lyndon B. Johnson Made Ending Hunger and Poverty a National Priority?

“Truth is charity–all charity–amounts to only about 5 percent of the food we distribute to folks in need here in the U.S. The federal government’s nutrition programs, such as school lunches, the WIC program or SNAP – formerly known as food stamps –makes up the other 95 percent. Just to put that into context, that’s $96.9 billion from the government compared to $4.1 billion of food distributed by all charities in 2011. That is a huge gap that charities wouldn’t be able to fill if Congress cuts vital programs.  But the best tool to fight hunger is job security with fare wages.”

Judgmentalism: The Subtle Sin of Judgmentalism and How It Works [essential reading; would that every Christian would reflect on this piece!]

“If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.”

Noah & The Great Flood: The Flood Story: Test Your Knowledge

“With the showing of the movie “Noah” in our country and around the world, people are talking about the flood and whether it really happened. In the process, many people who have a meager knowledge of the Bible are writing about Noah and the flood and in the process, they are introducing mistakes into their discussion of the flood.”

Stress: * 3 Ways To Stop Being So Stressed Out; * Indifference is Ideal

* “The key to overcoming stress is not to work harder but to get perspective.”

* “…  in caring less, I grew to care more.”

Violence: Let There Be Violence?

“Many Christians today are critical of the violence they see in other religions — especially Islam — but there’s an inescapable cognitive dissonance if you are appalled by the violence done in the name of one religion but not by the violence done in the name of your own.”

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.

imagine you, on food stamps (7)

 

At MoSt Church we assist, on average, 90-100 families each week for about 49-50 weeks of the year. And we’ve done this for many years. No brag, just fact.

Once a year, around the first or second week of December, we put on what we call The Big One food distribution. On that day, we assist, on average, 400 families with food in one day (actually, within two hours). This year, we were privileged to assist 436 families in The Big One distribution on Dec. 13.

Now folks from our community (Baytown, TX) can receive assistance from our pantry once every thirty days. And this thirty day period corresponds well with my plan to eat for a month on the equivalent of a diet sustained by food stamps. So I said to myself, “Self, food stamps are meant to supplement a family’s pantry, not be the sole source of it, so why don’t you receive from the pantry what folks would receive through it and then supplement that with what you can purchase with the equivalent of SNAP benefits (aka: food stamps), that is about $4.00 per day?

It sounded like a good idea so I took myself up on the suggestion and swiped a random sack from those put together for this year’s Big One food distribution. Now to be fair, let it be understood that folks who came to The Big One this year typically received three sacks: (1) a sack of produce (mainly onions and a watermelon), (2) a sack of meat (some frozen chicken), and (3) a sack of assorted food (primarily canned goods). The sack I swiped was a sack of assorted food (3).

Now I know you’re curious as to what was in my sack so here’s a picture (below) of the sack’s contents. And you should know that starting on Tues., Jan. 1, I plan to live the month of January on what you see below and whatever food I can purchase for $4.00 per day – just like a number of folks do who come to our pantry in Baytown, TX.

Pantry-sack-Dec-2012

No, I haven’t ate Spam in decades and I haven’t ate Vienna sausage in years. I rarely eat beef anymore, so making acquaintance with chili again will be something new and sweet peas aren’t high at all on my list of favorite things. I’ve ate very little pasta the past couple of years, so mac and cheese and Ramen noodles will be a fresh experience, but I love blackeye peas, baked beans, soup, corn, peaches, tuna, cranberry sauce, and cornbread (though preparing the cornbread will require me to purchase milk and eggs) so, all in all, I’m quite pleased with what I discovered in my sack from our pantry. A quick check proved that none of the items were out-of-date and as a bonus, some of the items were low sodium or no salt (a good thing for I have only only very rarely added salt to food the past 20+ years).

Rest assured, I’m not at all surprised by what I found, for the folks who work our pantry do a superb job with what they have to work with week in and week out. Glory be to God for the generosity and labor of love that exists for those in need.