Sunday, January 11, 2009

A word from Simon

I had dinner with Simon tonight at his house. It was an honor being invited; he calls me his American brother. We had all the Ethiopian delicacies, and of course some weren't exactly matched to my American tastes, but I ate. Later over a glass of wine the conversation took an odd turn. He said, "I like American food better than most of this really. But this food reminds me of home, so that's why I enjoy it."

He said, "You know, it's a funny thing? In Ethiopia lots of people are starving. It wouldn't be so bad if not for stupid rules and just, habits. Look at this bread here?
My people think they have to have it every meal, it's tradition. This bread costs maybe twenty times the price of the rice it takes to make it. So why don't we just eat the rice instead? Culture, tradition. And you know we take our dietary laws from the Bible, but we go too far. In things we won't eat, we've tried over centuries to improve on the laws of God. I don't understand why we do that, but there are hungry people in Ethiopia, obeying rules of men with their bellys empty."

I asked for an example, and he laughed. "I don't have to take you to Ethiopia for that my brother! Like, what is that eating place named after a fish?"

After some sorting, I realized he was talking about Red Lobster. "Yes, that is the place! I took some Ethiopian friends there, and they would only eat chicken. I told them try the lobster, but they insisted it was against the rules. I asked them where in the Bible the word lobster is mentioned? Circle talk is all I got, it is unclean because this or that verse kind of talks about something like lobsters. Silly, stubborn empty stomachs obeying rules of men. Funny in America, not funny in Ethiopia."

After a sip of wine he said, "Can I tell you what I think? There are many of us on this Earth, and many are hungry. God's holy laws about what we should eat are enough. People should eat the rice and forget about the bread. People should not try to improve on the laws of God in these matters. It's habit, culture, tradition. Funny in America, not funny in Ethiopia, India, or other places."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sorting out Blessings

"Count your many blessings see what God has done."

It's a good hymn, and I think it's in the key of F, but it ain't nothing but pablum for sleep walkers. Look, here's the deal?

Easy to count your blessings, so count the things that don't appear to be blessings. Except in the rarest of cases, everything that goes on in your life is easily understood as a blessing, if you'll think about it.

House burned down? Well yeah, God knows about it. Also God knows you left a pizza in the oven when you took Junior to Soccer practice. What's God supposed to do, text you or something? God DID give you a brain, and the hand that turned the oven to 350 degrees. That hand of yours by the way, is a marvel of engineering. One fourth of all the bones in the human body are in the hands. Those hands can strangle other humans, play musical instruments, perform life saving surgeries, and yes pick your nose. Though probably not all at the same time.

That amazing hand of yours that set the oven on 350 is blessing enough. Count not just your blessings, but things that seem to your pitiful tiny brain like curses. Because they are blessings too. Go farther than sleep walking in the key of F. Find something annoying in your life and think (like you didn't think about the pizza in the oven) until you realize it's a blessing.

I'll go first. I'm kind of losing my hair. Given the tens of millions spent each year by men seeking to avoid such a fate, that may be considered a calamity, I guess. Some opt on the "Hair club for men" which I briefly joined once long ago. Turned out they didn't have meetings, or a secret handshake or anything! Some club.

So how can being bald be a blessing? Oh, that one's easy. Here's the top five:
1.) Impossible to ever have a bad hair day.
2.) Intellectually challenging not to dispense too much shampoo.
3.) Everyone can tell immediately, you've never had brain surgery.
4.) Easy for people to describe you to strangers.
5.) Grey hair not a big issue.

We need to stop sleep walking in the key of F. We need to accept that we're being taken some place, often against our will, but it'll be fine once we get there. We need to accept the very breath we use is a precious gift, while we use it to complain, which we do like about ALL the time. Your turn.