Tuesday, 26 November 2013

How I Ate More Than Rice This Week

I am about to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Before I get into the details of why this is worth blogging about, I'd like to put out a "I'm Not Advocating Works-Righteousness" and a "Sorry Mom/ Other Mother but You're Not Going to Like This" disclaimer for the following post.

This past semester, I've been part of a discussion group that has been looking at "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. I read it a few years ago, and it challenged me to live more simply and responsibly in the ways that I use food, clothing, possessions, etc. A main point of the book is that what we have is meant to be shared and given away, in a loving community that takes care of each other.Claiborne, who has lived and been a part of communities from the leper colony in Calcutta to the inner city America, has experienced God's "upside-down" kingdom in real ways that he relates to give us a glimpse of what Christ-centered living can look like in a Capitalistic context. Getting to discuss the book with a group has opened up new ideas and challenges, and I've loved getting to be a part of the conversation.

Now that there's a bit of context, back to the peanut butter and jam sandwich. In the book, Claiborne talks about when he first started hanging out in the inner city: he and some buddies from college would go downtown, and even sleep there overnight out on the streets. Sometimes when they woke up, there would be food next to them. This idea, of God providing through people, really stuck in my mind. So when our discussion leader challenged us to do something during the break between our weekly discussions, I decided to give up food for a week.

Okay, not entirely. You know 30 hour famine, where you can eat rice? I ate oatmeal for breakfast and rice (mixed with tuna and salsa for some extra vitamins or whatever) interspersed throughout the day, and tea and coffee. Besides that, I only ate what other people gave me (unasked for). Crazy, and probably not very healthy, I know. But, just hear me out.

Wednesday, this began because...I forgot to bring my rice. I had a thermos of tea with me though, and had eaten a fair portion of oatmeal for breakfast. In my morning class, a colleague offered me a cookie. Around 12 when I was on my way to the library, I came upon a free chili luncheon that was being put on by the school for their 50th anniversary celebration. I returned shortly after bringing with me a friend because there were also roasted chestnuts and we had never had roast chestnuts before. In my afternoon class, two people had brought candy to share with the class. I ate an apple later on in the day that I had picked up at the free luncheon. That evening was our book discussion, where coffee and timbits were served. And there was a whole container of rice waiting for me when I got home. So, I ate pretty well on Wednesday.

Thursday after breakfast, I met up with a friend at a cafe to do some paper writing. She had brought lunch for both of us, unasked for, and so delicious. After rice and tea for the rest of the day, a friend asked if I wanted to come over for Sherlock, and she had put out chips and made hot chocolate for us.

On Friday, there were cookies in class. One of my office mates shared a chocolate bar.

Saturday, my friend bought me a coffee.

Every Sunday, there's a young adult lunch at the church I go to. There was pulled pork and salad and coffee. A friend gave me a pack of rockets, half of which I gave away. That evening, a friend hosted a dinner where there was lasagna, salad, bread, wine, pie, ice cream, tea, and wonderful company.

On Monday, the same office mate gave me a cookie. Another passing by gave me a handful of candy corn.

Today, the last day, I ate rice and oatmeal and drank tea. During our seminar, one of my classmates gave me a cookie.

And now I am at home, about to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Before I do, though, I feel like I should clear up a couple things. Firstly, food is great, and healthy eating is great, I am not advocating giving up food at all.  What I did was for a short period of time. Secondly, nobody knew that I was doing this: all of the random food offerings were exactly that. As the week went on, I noticed that my desire to eat something as distraction or for taste faded out: I mean, rice gets old pretty quickly. I was consuming not so much out of boredom or to take my mind off of the papers I was supposed to write, but rather as a way to take care of my body, or to share a bonding experience in a community or with a friend. Also, I noticed and appreciated food more, especially when it was from other people, but I felt less anxiety about it. Sometimes as a grad student there's this fear of not being able to feed yourself or have enough money to pay the rent: I think something that I learned (again) from this experience is that if God provides for the birds, for the fields, he's definitely thinking about us and providing for our needs too. Not that this "experiment" in depending on Providence was meant as a way of "testing" God. I knew I wasn't going to starve: I had rice and oatmeal, don't forget. I wanted to try not worrying about food for a while, and let God take care of those things that I worry about. Also, as the week went on it became easier to share food with others, not even kidding. You know how it feels not to have something and you don't want other people to feel that way, you want them to experience what you've been given too.

As a side note, we don't think too much about fasting in our culture, as North America is so caught up with constant consumption. This week, I've been thinking more about this concept, why we don't talk about it very much when it's in the Bible - I suppose there's always the danger of something like that (or like what I've described above) becoming legalistic, something that comes out of ritual or a sense of self-righteousness as opposed to authentic spirituality. But I don't think that means we can write it off entirely. Something else that seems to be lacking in our culture is the idea of self-control. I know for me, learning self-discipline has been a tedious process (this week included), but the idea of training the body - not punishing it or making it suffer - so that we can focus more clearly on God I think is an important one.

Thank you to everyone who unknowingly supported me this week. Just for the record, I'm going to return to eating regularly now. I think, too, that I'm going to bring cookies to class more, carry extra granola bars or apples in my backpack for people, take someone who's hungry out for lunch - and not because I'm trying to be a good person, or even because I know what it's like, but because God has given me something to share and support others in the community with. Jesus says that whenever we feed those, clothe those, visit those, and care for those around us, it's really him that we do these things for, which is a beautiful thought: that loving others brings us all closer in our relationship with God.

So, I'm going to go eat this sandwich now. If you have any thoughts or questions about this post, feel free to open up conversation! Peace.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Faith Like A Child

Hey, check out page 13 of the Nov/ Dec Issue of Reborn Lantern, you may see an article I wrote about Charles Dickens!