Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Real!

This week started off pretty poorly when I heard the news of the Taco Bell lawsuit claiming that their ground beef really only contained 33% beef.  I thought back to all of the tacos and burritos that I've consumed at "the Bell" with disgust.  But thankfully, the record has been set straight.  It turns out that Taco Bell officials assert that the lawsuit is unmerited, as the beef used at Taco Bell is 88% beef.

That sure did make me feel better, knowing that instead of 67% filler and other stuff, I had only been eating 12% filler and other stuff.  In all seriousness, after reading an ingredient list, it really doesn't seem that the Taco Bell meat is full of nastiness that you would be afraid to eat, but it does lead one to question again just how our food gets from pasture to table.  To think that an animals meat can be processed and repackaged to the point where when we finally eat it more than ten percent is actually something other than meat is an unsavory thought.  I reviewed the Omnivore's Dilemma in a post a few months back, and a story like this makes me appreciate the book even more.

On a side note, apparently Taco Bell has been proactive in deflecting criticism.  Here is a commercial from their new add campaign.  Click the link to find more related videos on YouTube if you find it entertaining, but honestly, you could probably catch the drift and figure out where it's going in about thirty seconds.  More after the break:

Just a few weeks ago, I rediscovered "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" on Netflix with my children.  I shared the discovery with a few co-workers.  We marveled at how the show resembled a Public Service Announcement more than entertainment.  When I remember the cartoons of my childhood, I appreciate the positive message that so many of them conveyed.  I learned positive social interactions from Albert and the Gang; grammar, math, science and history from School House Rocks, and even G.I. Joe reminded us that "knowing is half the battle."

This add campaign seems to hearken back to those days.  Unfortunately, its purpose is to mask the seriousness of a message that needs to become a part of the public dialogue.  It also serves to further manipulate the public into a false sense of dependence on the corporate machine that so drives the American economy and culture today.

To be fair, Taco Bell does not appear to be acting in an unreasonable or unlawful manner, nor does their product seem to be unsafe for consumption.  They do not appear to be misleading in their response to the accusation.  But I still have this nagging desire to move my diet away from the corporate/factory model of food production and consumption so ubiquitous in our world today.

Thinking of this post in terms of my blog title, it is so easy to take the quick and convenient route to our sustenance.  But if we truly see our bodies as the temple of our Lord we should certainly take more care in what we put in it; and if we see ourselves as caretakers of God's creation we should be more mindful of how our choices in consumption affect that role.

Monday, January 24, 2011

West, Colbert, and a Fresh Perspective on Love

I ran across this video of an interview with Cornel West by Stephen Colbert.  I don't watch very much Colbert, and I've only heard of Cornel West.  After watching this, I'm inclined to learn a little more about Dr. West.  The clip is well worth the watch, and just under seven minutes long.  I've paraphrased some of my favorite quotes below.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cornel West
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>Video Archive

West says I don't want social engineering, I want social justice.  Social justice is allowing for the love to flow so that poor people have the same dignity as investment bankers.
-How many people vilify the poor who live off the government but somehow think it's ok to bailout failed businesses.  What is the difference in a beggar who chooses to make a living off of handouts and an unscrupulous businessman/woman who chooses to make a living by exploiting others.  It seems that one is honest about his or her intentions while the other succeeds in wearing a veneer of respectability.

Colbert summarizes a point of West's book, Hope on a Tightrope saying "I hope things will get better, but I have no proof.  Optimism is evidence-based."
-This is a beautiful description of hope and how it leads us to strive to make things better.  Too much optimism leads to complacency-- hope drives us to action.

I'm a militant for tenderness.  Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what it looks like in private.  Love is a steadfast commitment to the well-being of others.
-We've bought the lie about love.  We've grown to think love is something self-serving and self-gratifying.  We love because of what we get out of it and when we stop getting, we fall out of love.  We think love is a feeling and forget that it is wrapped up in expression.  No wonder we're left empty when the feeling is forgotten.  Without the expression, the feeling has no power.  We've forgotten what love is.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
 1 Corinthians 13
 I don't know what kind of a person Cornel West is, but in seven minutes he's made an impression that will last.  May he find the path of God's blessing and spread the message of love to the world.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Prayer for the Church (and the ordination of servants)

Dear God,

We pray that you bless our gathering. We know that we can’t just keep on doing our own thing and hoping that you’ll approve. Give us the heart and mind to seek you and your will for our lives and our communities that we might follow the path of blessing that you’ve set before us. May our gathering be blessed because we’re on this kingdom path.

We give you thanks for bringing us here today, for all the simple things that we take for granted. From the air, food, and water that keeps our bodies alive to your Holy Spirit, scripture, and Christian community that keeps our souls alive. We thank you today for your church and our small part of it. We thank you for the blessing of friendship, guidance, and support provided by this family. We also thank you for the opportunities offered through this body to spread your blessing to the world. We ask that you continue to fill our cups and fill our cups and fill our cups so that we can spill out all over the world because your love will not be contained.

We give you thanks also for the Christian men and women of your church who bear the blessing of call. For those who hear and respond to your call of service we give you thanks.

Please keep us honest and true God. We may think we speak the truth with our lips, but we come today with lips proclaiming love for you. May we not make ourselves liars by ignoring the plight of the poor. Help us to stay true to you by serving others and worrying less about whether we’re getting our fair share. Because we love you God, may we not forget the prisoners and assume that handcuffs and manacles are always the just reward and Christian answer for errant behavior. God we pray that we learn to take a break from trying to get ahead so that we can push others toward your kingdom.

As we deal with each other God may we lift in all that we do. I pray that we never serve as an obstacle or stumbling block toward each other. Give us the words to encourage, the actions to support, and the courage to hold accountable in ways that would bring glory and honor to you.

Today we set apart a few of our own. Through your call, they take on the role of servant. They choose not to set themselves above, but to dedicate themselves to you in service to your church. We know that you can do great things through people, and we pray that you would do great things through these people that we lift up to you today.

You are our creator and provider, and we owe all we are to you. May we all be your people in word and deed.  Please hear our prayers to you.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


I just finished my first book of 2011, a book called Room by Emma Donoghue.  I appreciate books that disturb.  Some books lead you down a dark trail, but manage to make everything sunshine and rainbows by the end as if every story has a happy ending.  Other books just delve into depravity and offer no signs of redemption to bring value to the story.  I hate both of these types of books.

In Room, Donoghue avoids both of these traps.  By this point, you may have a clue about the plot of this story, but if you don't, I would prefer not to ruin the experience for you.  Often while reading this book I teetered between hopefulness that something good could come out of this and fear that the end would be tragic. At times I even felt a sense of guilt, feeling that the author had gone too far in inviting the reader into this depraved situation.

Room: A NovelUsually I would only find value in a book like this if some sort of redemption plays out by the end, but even that is a little ambiguous.  What I truly appreciate from this book is the view of how resilient the human psyche can be and the question of how we create reality from the circumstances of our environment.

I actually finished the book and began this post two weeks ago, but the impact of this book cannot be truly appreciated in just a few days.  I'm sure that I'll be processing this one for quite some time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stopping To Grieve

Today I was able to mourn with a friend.  We never look forward to death or funerals, but the denial of death is unhealthy.  Like it or not, it is a part of life.  This doesn't mean that it is to be celebrated or masked as some happy or normal occasion.  Death is an abberation.  This is why we mourn; to recognize the reality that the only certain part of life is ugly and painful.

It hit me because of this:  the funeral was in my hometown.  It isn't a busy place.  Some may call it backward, I wouldn't go that far.  My son was with me.  We were a part of the procession from the funeral to the graveside.  My son (eleven years old) had a hard time understanding all of the cars along the way that stopped for us.  Not only at intersections without a police directing them, but oncoming traffic, stopping simply out of respect for our procession.

I told him that sometimes in the face of death, the only appropriate response is to stop.  After all, that's what death is-- ceasing to exist in this world.  We stop to recognize it.  We can't continue our lives in the moment and go on being normal to deal with it.  If the realization of death doesn't stop us in our tracks, at least for the moment, I don't think that we are adequately considering it.  Not to be morbid, or to live in dread, but to recognize that at some point we too will move from this life into the next.  Whether approached with hope or dread, that point will be the most significant point of our lives.

So I grieve for my friend who has lost a parent, but I give thanks for the moment to reflect on the beauty and fragility of human life.

5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
   and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
   more than watchmen wait for the morning
Psalm 130:5-6

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Opportunity Cost

So that's what has been on my mind for several weeks now-- Opportunity.  Several years ago I read the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  One of his points is that success is a combination of excellence and opportunity.  We easily point the finger of luck toward the successes of others, but often choose to attribute our own to hard work and effort.  But without the opportunity, all of the effort in the world is lost; and without effort, opportunity is wasted.

My third-grade daughter began to prepare for a social studies test before the winter break and the concept of "opportunity cost" was a difficult one for her to get.  It is the idea that some choices have more than a monetary cost, but you give up something else when you make them.  Sometimes we foolishly prepare for opportunities that we don't want to miss (e.g. playing the lottery) but other times, we consider foolish, those who do not prepare for the opportunities that are certain (e.g. health insurance).

The news this week fits well the idea of opportunity.  We discussed the story of Ted Williams, the Man With the Golden Voice earlier in the week in my high school leadership class.  Mr. Williams was given an opportunity when someone with a camera chose to give him help, but if his "God-given talent" was simply "ordinary" he would have been just another panhandler getting a couple of dollars from another stranger.  But Mr. Williams was able and prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.  Now, once again, he is faced with numerous opportunities that are his to take advantage of, or to lose.

In the other major news of the week, opportunity knocked on both sides of the door.  In the tragic shooting that took place in Arizona this weekend, a disturbed young man prepared for an opportunity to add to the depravity of our world.  But even in the midst of this depravity, redemption comes through heroism.  Patricia Maisch and others who followed the lead of this average 61 year old woman made quick work of an opportunity and brought a tragic event to an end.  This tragedy also presents an opportunity for our nation.  An opportunity to honestly discuss the eventual outcome of consistently dehumanizing and objectifying one another in the name of politics.

Tonight in Bible study, we looked at the story of Peter and John healing a lame man from Acts chapter three.  The two men were on their way to the temple for prayer at 3:00.  Probably their normal routine, something they'd done daily for most of their lives.  They crossed a beggar.  Probably one of many, maybe they'd even seen him before.  But today, they stopped.  The Spirit of God was with them.  This lame man just wanted a few bucks.  It would've been easy to avoid him, or toss a few shekels in the cup to make your conscience feel better.  Not today.  Because these two men were prepared for the opportunity by being open and obedient, this lame man stood and walked for the first time in forty years.

I think that would be the best way for us to approach the opportunities of our life, keeping an humble attitude, submissive to God and responsive to our surroundings.  Compare this to the attitude of self-promotion, submissive to no one and responsive only to our own needs.  This is the difference in an opportunity fulfilled and an opportunity defiled.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Pot of Coffee

Maybe not a pot, but at least a cup.  The last three days, my family has been entertained by a coffee maker.  Funny thing is, I'm the only one in the house that drinks coffee.  Last year, I decided to take my coffee maker to work, saving an extra few seconds in the morning by brewing my coffee at work was worth the sacrifice of figuring out a different plan for the weekend.  I managed most Saturdays to cope with a visit to the coffee house or convenience store on the way to football, soccer, etc.  Other Saturdays a cup of Starbucks Via would do the job.  I almost feel guilty about getting my Sunday coffee fix at church.  I find myself very dissapointed when I run a little late and miss out on it.

Keurig B60 Special Edition Gourmet Single-Cup Home-Brewing SystemSo for some reason, my non-coffee drinking wife along with two of my three children arrived home Sunday afternoon with a brand new Keurig coffee maker.  They bought "k-cups" of tea, hot chocolate, and coffee.  But this is the greatest part:  my son spent Sunday evening separating the coffee from the tea and hot chocolate.  He then pulled out all of the decaf and flavored coffee because I don't like them.  When I came home from church on Sunday night, he said "want me to make you a cup of coffee dad?" (and that's not the last time either)

Several years ago I saw an old friend at the movies with his teenage son.  I told my wife then that if I ever have a teenage son willing to go to the movies with his dad I'll be satisfied with life.  I don't think I need for that to happen anymore, because the sound of your child asking unsolicited if he can brew you a cup of coffee, well, that's about one of the best things in the world.