Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bruised Apples and Local Character

The post below is from my friend Tracey Bianchi, author of “Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.” She is the mother of three and an author, speaker, and women’s ministry director. You can find more of her musings on life, faith and sustainability here and purchase her book here.

Our local farmer's market is a hub of activity every week. Lettuce, jelly, strawberries, nuns who bake bread. The old Greek guy selling olives is definitely my favorite. He takes plump, oval, gorgeous olives and crams them with soft bleu cheese. I don't even like bleu cheese but his olives have made me a devotee.

The family that hauls heirloom apples up from the southern part of my state is another treasure. By late summer they truck in over two dozen varieties of apples. Brown Snout, Adina, Prairie Spy, Akane, Pink Pearl, Chisel Jersey. Did you know apples had these names?

My apple exposure comes from the pile at my local grocer. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Maybe on a daring day I dabble in a Jonathan Gold.

Grocery store apples are perfectly smooth, no bruises and quite hard. I arrive home and they don't taste as stellar as they looked. Mealy and lackluster. These apples come from fabulously far away places like Washington State or New Zealand. I find this odd given the multiple apple orchards near my home. None of the apples in our stores actually come from these orchards (a common occurrence in food life).

Commercial apples are often plucked from the trees long before they are ripe, stealing their sweetness and color. A green apple at your grocer might actually, if left on the tree, become a yellow apple! And sweeter than the one in your cart.
On a recent trip to the farmer’s market my two youngest children were running from bin to bin picking their apples by yanking whatever looked tasty from the heirloom varieties.

Then they scurried over the the stroller where a canvas bag received their selections. At first they gently set the apples into the bag. It was perfectly idyllic. I was the uber eco-mom with the gentle kids and the awesome apples. But the moment quickly changed as competition and adrenaline suddenly took over.
They began racing back and forth, grabbing armloads of apples and throwing them into my bag. Beautiful apples bouncing around and bruising one another. I managed to stop the chaos for a moment so my 2.5 year old said "okay mommy, then let's go buy our apples."

Before I could harness his ambition he darted over to the stroller, grabbed the handle on our bag and yanked it with such force that the bag tipped and apples flew then bounced across the market lot. "Oops. Mommy?"

As we tucked them back into the bag I noticed, beyond our bruises, that each apple had such character. Traits you don't see in stores. Odd colors, lumps, freckles and spots. Each had a story to tell. An heirloom apple's worth of history, seeds from France, family secrets from Germany, local color from Illinois. These apples were ripe with more than flavor.

We relaxed enough to pay the farmer (who smiled and kindly said "happens all the time") and I felt embarrassed of course. But, I also felt joy and history swelling through my little suburban veins. A small moment of triumph over the commercial food industry, victory for my kitchen.

I had a bag of odd shaped character and it felt a little bit like my life. Freckled, bruised and filled with stories. Like the lives of my children as well.

So I beg you to get in touch with your local growers this summer. Not as an act of hatred against grocery chains but a way learning and of growing. To put your hands on freckled apples is to realize that you are connected to the same bizarre, bruised world as our farmers and our food.

A way of living into the reality that we are all connected to our land, God’s land. Our food and ultimately to one another. May you find an odd shaped apple this summer that fills your heart and your stomach with a glimpse of God’s love and grace for this world and for your very soul.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

This is what 100 years old should look like

This is 100 year old Vorese Fisher. This awesome woman of God is the only remaining family member and aunt of Tracy Kennedy. She is affectionately known to many of as "Aunt Vo." Tracy had a photo shoot for Aunt Vo a few days before her 100th Birthday. Oh yes, she is 100 years young!

Aunt Vo gets her rest. She loves the Perry Mason TV show. She cooks delicious homemade rolls. She is still mobile and enjoying riding her stationery exercise bike to stay healthy. This woman of tremendous poise, grace, and beauty is still in her "right mind". If you ask Aunt Vo what was her secret to longevity she would say , "Jesus in the morning. Jesus in the afternoon and Jesus at night keeps me in peace." Aunt Vo revealed her secret for health is simply moderation. Nothing overdone...nothing overdone. Aunt Vo retired from being in sales at the Bullocks Wilshire store in 1975. She is an avid reader. She learned how to endure the struggles and hardships of being a woman of color and so happy to have lived to received White House birthday greetings from President and Michelle Obama. (via Tracey Turner)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

May God Bless You With Discomfort

Thanks to John Deacon from Toronto for sending this quote to me...
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe you can make a difference in the world, so you can do what others claim cannot be done.
--Franciscan Prayer

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Caring for the poor is not an option for Christians

Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion looks out on the world.”

While those words sound beautiful, many of us in the body of Christ struggle with how to care for broken people. Compassion comes easily for people who are like us, but what about people on the margins of society. How can we be the hands and feet of Christ to people who are struggling in the downward spiral of poverty and isolation?

A woman sent me a note asking me to please stop sending her newsletters about our ministries’ work with the homeless in Chicago. “I don’t want to have anything to do with those people”, she wrote. “I let a homeless woman stay with me and she stole from me.”

“I’m afraid to get too involved with people who have such desperate needs,” Toni told me. “I know that if I get personally involved it’s going to get messy. I had an experience once where I was taken advantage of. I felt like an idiot. I was angry. That’s what I get scared of, that I’m just being foolish.”

None of us enjoys being duped. After experiencing two or three of these unfortunate confrontations, it is understandable that some would rather just avoid dealing with people in need. After all, aren’t there government programs that take care of the legitimately poor and the unemployed? Why should we be bothered and chance contributing to someone’s addiction or being taken advantage of?

Yet Jesus was very clear in his teaching that Christians don’t have the option not to care for the down and out.

The Good Samaritan crossed the road and was moved by compassion for the mugged man. He got involved by bandaging his wounds and then took him to the nearest rehab center and paid for his rehabilitation.

What we do for the least of these, Jesus said, is what we do for him. The list included providing food and clothing, looking after people in prison, caring for the sick and taking in strangers.

Compassionate care for the poor is central to the teaching of Scripture. Ultimately the power to overcome poverty lies in learning to live the Jesus way, to follow him in how he interacted with the poor and the marginalized, and to be willing—like Jesus, to lay down our self-centered, materialistic lives to take up the cross of loving generosity, gentle kindness, and tenacious advocacy for the rights of the poor and the oppressed.

The needs of the poor are often complicated. Generations of social castaways are plagued with inadequate education, dilapidated housing and few employable skills.

What can the church do find and serve the least of these?

As I have walked for the past eighteen years alongside thousands of men and women who have become homeless in the city of Chicago, and as I have visited impoverished communities throughout the world, I have discovered good news. We actually can, in very practical ways, find sustainable, manageable ways to make a difference in the lives of the poor.

Caring for the poor is something we do together. In the body of Christ, we each have a role to play. God raises up leaders who start movements, ministries and organizations that are feeding and clothing the homeless, providing shelter, caring for the sick and ministering to those in prison. Each of us can join these movements in some way through giving and volunteering.

When was the last time you shared a meal or had a meaningful conversation with a poor person? Find a ministry in your community that is caring for people in need and find out how you can get involved. It will change your life.

The Christian church is the largest grassroots movement on earth. How we respond to the poor is central to the life and teachings of Jesus and to what it means for us to follow Christ. Together we can make a profound impact on poverty. Indeed, I believe we are called by God to do so.