This week you should try eating…

Chia Seeds!

Yes, you have heard of them.

Remember those terra cotta animals that you spread magic goo over that then sprouted plant fur? Chia Pets! And then later, the slightly disturbing but still amusing, Chia Heads (I remember the Jerry Garcia one… which one did you have?)

Who knew that that crazy fun fur/hair was actually the product of (another) Maya/Aztec superfood?

Chia seeds are a tiny little bundle of health that you may or may not have seen at the store, depending on where you shop. While the granola set and athletes have known about chia seeds for a while, the general population is just beginning to get on the chia-wagon. Unlike flax seeds, they do not go rancid easily, do not need to be ground up, and can be stored unrefrigerated. I don’t want to overreact, but they could just be the perfect food. (Or at least a really good one to add to your diet…)

Chia seeds (salvia hispanica) are actually a member of the mint family, and is a native plant of Mexico. They are little black and white seeds with a kind of pop-y crunch to them. These curious little babies are hugely high in omega-3 oil, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Hello, vegetarians! And if you’ve got diabetes, heart/cholesterol problems, or tend to stub your toes, this is an exciting food for you:

-       Research has shown potency for shielding humans against clogging of arterial walls and other cardiovascular threats.

-       Chia seeds are know to boost the activity of (good) HDL cholesterol and diminish the influence of triglycerides and bad cholesteral levels.

-       They are anti-carcinogenic.

Convinced?

There are lots of ways to prepare chia seeds, the easiest of which is to open the bag and throw them into/onto something such as cereal or a salad. But beware: chia seeds absorb 9X their body weight in water. If you’re going to use them with something like yogurt or a smoothie, be prepared. They get gooey. You get used to it, and even come to like it, but it’s best to be prepared for it before you dive in.

A very popular way to use them is to turn them gooey on purpose, then use it as a healthy substiute in cooking/baking. Start here:

Chia Goo

1-2 Tablespoons of chia seeds

1 cup liquid – you can use water, fruit juice, milk, sauces, soups, dressings, etc…

Mix together and let sit for 30 minutes.

Chia Seed Omelet with Asparagus

Chia Coconut Pudding

Pumpkin Chia Seed Muffins

BONUS: Chia seeds were known as “Indian running food” because Mayan messengers would carry a tiny purse of the seeds to boost their energy levels when delivering an urgent message. Also, they’re featured in Born To Run – they story of the amazing Mexican runners.  I haven’t read it, but Google doesn’t lie, right?

Modern translation: If you’re a runner or biker or long-distance anything-er, you’re probably aware of the existence of an expensive athletic GU you can buy at the bike shop for a few bucks a pouch that is supposed to rehydrate you better than water. Chia goo is a great and natural substitute for all of those chemicals that I can’t pronounce that you’re getting along with that hydration.

Basic GU recipe: Combine chia with lime juice, some honey to taste, and a bit of water. (Thanks AirForce Ted on Runnersworld.com…)

If you have more time on your hands, here’s a much more complex version.

In summary, chia seeds are your friend. And they’re super easy to incorporate into your diet. I eat a few tablespoons on my yogurt every day. I haven’t tried baking with them yet, mostly because I rarely bake. But dive in, and let me know what your experiences with chia seeds are!

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“The Dishonest Manager”?

I think one reason we get hung up on difficult biblical passages is that we read the subtitles. I wrestled with this passage a LOT last week, and in retrospect I would have preferred not to go into it with the preconceived idea that this was a story about a dishonest manager. It limits original thought from happening… But with the help of the NIB and lots of Facebook discussions, here is what I ultimately came up with:

16Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Well, who’s confused? I think that if we took a vote, this parable would be chosen as one of the hardest stories in this entire book to understand. When you hear it read, it’s confusing, isn’t it? I mean, at first blush, this story seems to tell us that God wants us to cheat in our business dealings in order to win favor with folks and ingratiate ourselves to others. This seems pretty antithetical to the Christian message, and thankfully, this is not what this story is advocating.

The reason we may think at first that this is what Luke is saying is because we’re used to reading the Bible a certain way. We try to substitute God and Jesus and us into the story as the different characters to make it an allegory. We then interpret the parallel meanings of what happens in the story into our own lives. Generally, this method of reading scripture is helpful, and even encouraged. In fact, this method of reading the Bible allegorically is by far the most common method of interpretation.

But today we have stumbled into a great example of the dangers of always reading our Bibles this way. It’s hard to switch gears, though – Luke has just done this 3 times right in a row – used allegory to teach us about God’s relationship to us. We’ve just learned about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son – the prodigal one. We’re being set up for today’s lesson by learning the core values that we need to understand it.

What do those other 3 stories teach us? That we are each and every one of us precious to God. They are about table fellowship and how everyone is invited to be an insider – the socially marginalized, the poor in wealth, the poor in spirit, all of us. That’s an important value for us to learn. And I think we can all agree that sounds very Christian, right? Very important to our lives. Love your neighbor and all of that.

Well, the problem with learning purely allegorical lessons is that we don’t always know how to apply them. They’re great theories, but when it comes to living our actual lives, we don’t always follow through because sometimes they’re hard to translate into our day-to-day lives. But lucky you, that’s what sermons are for!

I was taught in seminary that every sermon should have at least 1 real life application. Well, apparently, Luke went to my school before he wrote his gospel, because here it is.

Chapter 16 is one big real- life application. Jesus ripped this one right from the headlines of his day. And while it at first may appear to be an Enron-type headline, let me reframe it for you a bit – think Robin Hood. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Criminal? Perhaps by the government’s legal standards – but there’s a reason why there are 20 different Robin Hood movie remakes. Deep down, we not only understand it, we also kind of like it don’t we?

Robin Hood’s a hero! I mean have any of us ever really found ourselves cheering for the Sherriff of Nottingham? Probably not. The Sherriff isn’t helping folks –he’s hurting them for his own gain. And while what he’s doing may be legal, it’s certainly not moral.

So Jesus has been teaching us about what IS moral, and now he’s showing us how to BE moral. The moral choices we’re faced with are rarely cut and dry – they’re difficult decisions, and they’re not always going to be popular ones.

It’s true that Jesus talks about money more than any other single topic. Here is no different. Here he is grounding what we’ve learned previously about gracious welcome into his teaching about money and possessions – real life. He’s saying that possessions are to be used to welcome people to the table. That we need to use all of the resources at our disposal to carry out our God-given mission of radical hospitality. Even if it’s out of the mainstream ideal of the norm. Even if it’s outside OUR ideal of the norm!

Christianity is by definition counter-cultural, so it’s inevitable that when we make a decision to live our lives for God we’re going to be faced with some tough choices, and some of those choices will be judged by society as weird. Volunteering at a soup kitchen instead of going to the game. Tithing to your church instead of upgrading your car.

These choices are nonsensical from society’s perspective, but it’s what Jesus is challenging us to do here. We’re not ultimately talking about our pocketbooks, bank accounts, and cars. We’re talking about being faithful stewards of that which God has given us. Money, yes, but also opportunities, relationships, and life itself.

It sounds like a big responsibility, and it is. But God trusts us with it, because we’ve learned our lessons well. Luke reminds us that whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much. We don’t have to be Robin Hood – we don’t have to be Jesus Christ – but we each have been given something – some resource in our lives to reach out to people with. To invite people to the table with. To share God’s radical love with.

Beloved preacher Fred Craddock writes, “Most of us will not this week christen a ship, write a book, end a war, appoint a cabinet, dine with a queen, convert a nation, or be burned at the stake. More likely the week will present no more than a chance to give a cup of water, write a note, visit a nursing home, vote for a county commissioner, teach a Sunday School class, share a meal, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, and feed the neighbor’s cat. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much”.

We are called to create a community dedicated not to wealth and accumulation for ourselves, but dedicated to faithfully using our resources to support each other and those outside our walls: to offer hope and grace and kindness to those who have none. We are called to live our faith in real and tangible ways that shape and change our actual daily lives. It is in this way we experience our faith in ways that bring joy, transform our lives in ways that we cannot accomplish alone, and share the joy of serving God with those who have yet to be welcomed into the experience of having true riches.

God has made us perfectly and wonderfully. We can’t be unloved, and God’s grace is always available to all of us. We are not the same, thank God, but we are all called to be somebody. We are limited only by our imaginations and our courage to embody the love of Jesus Christ. God has called each of us to faithful service in this way. Whoever we are, we are called to serve with what we have. So who will you share this joy with today?

Let’s pray:

Holy God, we give you thanks for the joy of knowing that we are your beloved children. Help us accept this fact wholeheartedly, and to even have the gall to ask for more from you. We have been tasked with sharing this love you have given us, and sometimes that happens in very unorthodox ways. Help us to find the opportunities to touch, even in small ways, the hearts of those we encounter every day, so that through us they too may experience the joy of being loved, known, and called by you. Amen.

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Here we go!

There’s a lot rattling around in this head of mine… Mostly half-baked ideas, creative energy, and a desire to write. But there’s also a desire to pray. As an extrovert, I see this blog as a place of prayer – a place to put my thoughts and feelings out into the universe for God and everyone. Sort of the embodiment of an ‘active’ prayer-life…

The desire to blog really solidified for me one afternoon in the Spring of 2010. I was driving home from work through a not-so-nice neighborhood, and I noticed a woman crossing the street in front of me. She was carrying three or four bags out of the gas station and across the street to the run-down apartments there. I realized in that moment that she was not grabbing a snack, filling up her tank, or even getting an emergency gallon of milk. She was carrying groceries. This woman had just gone grocery shopping at the gas station.

That got me to thinking… what can you buy at the gas station? Well, you can buy milk, bread, cereal, cans of soup and beanie weenies, possibly even some Kraft mac and cheese or  lunchables from the refrigerator. There may be a basket of apples, oranges and bananas to select from, but I’ve been to this gas station, and it’s $1.50 per piece for fruit. I’m not thinking those made it into the bag.

I suppose it would be possible to create one or two relatively well-balanced meals from the gas station – it’s probably even been a challenge on one of those food network shows from time to time. But day in and day out, this woman and her family are eating gas station meals, and that’s not healthy.

My heart breaks when I think about this cycle. It’s not cost effective for grocery stores to set up shop in low-income areas where many of their customers will be using food stamps. Groceries operate on a razor thin margin as it is. So poor folks are forced to eat crappy gas station food. Then their kids are (a sad irony) obese and malnourished. They are made fun of at school for their weight and don’t do well academically. (Read Paulo Freire for more about the link between nutrition and brain function). They grow up, get a minimum wage job, become the working poor themselves, and the cycle repeats.

I don’t know what to do about this problem, but I know that we’re probably not educating the right people. Yes, kids and parents absolutely need to know about nutrition and health and where their food comes from… but all of us (who are in charge of the grocery stores the zoning, voting in the politicians, and the public transportation routes) also need to be educated about this issue. Until we start asking questions, this problem isn’t going anywhere. (And neither is childhood obesity!)

I almost cried when I saw that woman crossing the street. I felt helpless, and I felt as though I had personally let her down. But now I’ve told her story, and now you’ve read it, and now you know her, too. Maybe together we can do something about it?

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