Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, poet, and peace activist has said that the United States is a land of "hungry ghosts." These are mythic creatures who have huge bellys and pinhole mouths; they can never satisfy their desires.  Their cravings.  Their hunger.

Today is Day 13 of my first long-term all-juice fast.  (And it's 18 days since I last had fast food, soda, processed foods, red meat, sugar, and wheat!)  I'm learning something about hunger.  About craving.

As I cook dinner for my family I suddenly realize that whatever it is that I'm cooking -- last night it was rotissery chicken, alfredo noodles, and salad -- is my all-time favorite food in the world and that without a little taste of it I will dissolve into nothingness like the Wicked Witch when faced with water.

And when I'm getting ready to leave a nighttime meeting at church I become accutely aware of how delicious the Quarter Pound Big Bite hot dogs taste at the 7-11 I pass on the way home.  There is no finer cuisine on the planet, and my body is telling me that I desperately need something from the oversized, overprocessed meat-like food group in order to maintain optimum health.

One of the things I keep trying to teach my kids -- now 10 and 8 -- is the difference between "needs" and "wants."  "I need a new beyblade," one will say.  "No," I'll reply, "you want a new beyblade.  You need food, clothing, shelter, and love."  I think it's part of my parental duty to pass on such important information.

And yet I am discovering anew just how much I need to take my own life lessons to heart.  In this immediate instance it's food -- I need some crackers!  I need something to chew on!  But it's becoming clear to me (again) how often I make the same mistake my kids do.
  • I need more financial security.
  • I need this or that person's respect.
  • I need to attain this or that level of professional achievement.
  • I need . . .
Through the process of this juice fast I am learning to differentiate between my food needs and my food wants.  And when I'm able to do this I'm also able to see that I actually want to be healthy more than I want the taste of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.  Needs must be attended to; wants can be weighted against other wants and decisions can be made.  We have at least some measure of control over our wants.

This is one of the great gifts of fasting -- whether it be a food fast, a media fast, a fast from negative-thoughts.  It can help us remember the difference between wants and needs, and help us (re)gain control of our living.

In Gassho,


Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Lessons


I haven't yet watched this film myself, but it's definitely going on my list. Should it be on yours?

In Gassho,


PS -- two nights ago I finally watched Supersize Me.  If you've ever eaten at McD's . . . a lot . . . you should watch it too.

Seemingly As If . . .

Here's another reflection prompted by my Lenten reading:

Folks on the so-called Religious Right claim that the United States was founded by Christians on Christian principles. They say that it was in intent -- and is now in it's history -- a "Christian Nation." They say that our country should be governed with Biblical values.

The wonderful Steven Colbert named the conundrum quite clearly a while back:
 “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” 
 That seems pretty straightforward to me.  And seems to pretty much sum up the options.  Yet in case a modern comedian isn't convincing enough, how about the words of God (as declared by the prophet Isaiah)?
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
   Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
   and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
   they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
   and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
   and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
   ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
   and you have not noticed?’
   “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
   and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
   and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
   and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
   only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
   and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
   a day acceptable to the LORD?
 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
   and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
   he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
   and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
   like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
   Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
   and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
   and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
   and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
   and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
   and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Seems pretty straightforward too.  (That's Isaiah 58, by the way.)
Day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  They . . . seem eager for God to come near them.  [Yet] is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 

Is anybody on the Religious Right reading this stuff?

In Gassho,


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Learning Something Every Day

About a month ago my doctor suggested that I watch a movie.  It was called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and it may well have been the catalyst for changing my life.  (I am currently on day seven of what I hope to be a thirty day "fast" of only freshly made vegetable and fruit juice.)

As part of my regimen to keep me inspired I've been watching other movies as well:
Each of these films has its own strengths and weaknesses.  I am sure that people who know more about nutrition and molecular science can quibble about various specific aspects.  (I have a feeling that that'd be especially true in Food Matters.)  Yet all of them together confirm what seems to me to be a very important message --

The food we eat today is literally different from the food we ate 50 or 100 years ago.  And I don't just mean the kinds of foods, I mean that the foods themselves have changed.  The nutritional quality has changed.  In some cases the molecular make up has changed.  And these changes have not been for the better.  The food we eat today is not as healthy for us -- and in many cases is now seriously unhealthy.  At the most extreme, the food we eat today is poisoning us.

And, so, all four of these films calls us to a different way of eating -- a whole foods, plant based diet.  The science is pretty convincing, so why aren't more people responding?

In Gassho,


Friday, April 20, 2012

Why has it gotten so complicated?

Maybe you've seen the bumper sticker -- "God bless everybody. No exceptions." 

It seems to me that that's more or less the same sentiment that's being expressed in this recent find on FaceBook.  (I just love the FB group The Christian Left.)

How did things get so complicated? 

During my recent Lenten Bible studies I came across this passage (Mark 6:12) --
"So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God."
I was struck by its simplicity.  Apparently Jesus didn't instruct his disciples -- his first ministers -- to tell people anything about how he was of one substance with the Father.  Nor, it seems, did he want them to say anything about how he, himself, was the one and only way to God.  In fact, it appears from this rather clear passage that the original message of the very first "Christian" missionaries -- and Jesus' closest companions -- had nothing  to do with Jesus at all.  "Repent of your sins and turn to God."

Why did things get so complicated?

I know the socio-political and pyschological reasons, of course.  I'm really just asking a rhetorical question here.  Still, it does give me pause to consider how simple it seems the message of Jesus and his earliest followers really was.

In Gassho,


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Separating the Gold from the Dross

The so-called religious right often makes much of the fact that the Founders of the United States were Christian and, as it's told today, imagined this as a Christian Nation.  Yet not all were "Christian" in the same way.

Thomas Jefferson, for instance, while President began the project of cutting his Bible into pieces and then glueing some of those pieces into another notebook.  He explained this exercise in these terms:
"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.  I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, a roguery of others, of his disciples."
The Jefferson Bible is currently on display in a marvelous exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.  (It's also available for sale from, among other places, the UUA Bookstore.)

Here's a little more to whet your interest:

In Gassho,