Carob: The food of repentance

Isaiah 1:20 provides a warning in the context of the more familiar phrase in verse 18 — “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”  If the nation would refuse to repent, God says, “you will be devoured by the sword.”  But one passage in the Midrash, a collection of rabbinic writings, translates it quite differently — “if you refuse and resist, carob pods you shall eat.”  James Moffatt apparently was quite impressed with this view of the text and rendered the verse accordingly in his translation, although every other Bible translation I could find reads essentially as the New American Standard Bible does.

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Keys to great leadership -- in the home, in the church, and in life

I have a new favorite eatery in my lunchtime perimeter.  I have been three times now, and every time the same manager was on duty.  And she is amazing.  Let’s be honest, I’m there for the food.  If the food were terrible, I wouldn’t care if Bruce Springsteen, LeBron James and Scarlett Johansson were dishing it up.  As it happens, the food is great.  And I’m prepared to believe this woman gets a lot of the credit.

I figured out why she impresses me so much. 

She is always there. 

She is always knowledgeable. 

She is always busy. 

And she is always smiling.

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Holiday coping mechanisms (some better than others)

Is the holiday season getting you down?  I mean, even more “down” than normal?  Do you instinctively head for the firearms section in your local Walmart when you hear yet another Christmas carol slaughtered by some boy band or country crooner?  Be of good cheer, citizen — there are a variety of remedies on the market.

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Biscuits

In the latest installment of This Week on Facebook, I present a meme: “Just imagine how great life would be if biscuits and gravy made you skinny.”

       Well, sure.  But why stop there?  Let’s wish that video games increased our intelligence, or alcohol improved our driving, or pornography strengthened our marriages.  The only difference is, I’ve heard people actually argue the last three.  Not even kidding.

Here’s the report from planet earth, though: Good choices are frequently painful choices, and indulgent choices are rarely good choices.  I am no stoic, but I must decry the rampant hedonism in our culture that has been sold to us as a tonic for what ails us.

Medicine tastes bad.  Exercise hurts.  Work wears you out.  And yes, tragically, healthy food is less appetizing than fattening, artery-clogging food.  Frankly, we should be highly suspicious when someone tries to tell us different.

But we do have a tendency to believe “information” that supports our indulgences.  Most of my brethren who have tried to get around the clear teaching of Matthew 19:6 and Matthew 19:9, for instance, have a divorce and remarriage situation very close to home.  The truth does not always hurt, granted; however, it doesn’t become less truthful when it does hurt.

God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Our current understanding of it may or may not be truth.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest — painfully honest.  If it means giving up a tasty morsel or two, so be it.

 

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You are what you eat

Perhaps you have heard of “food deserts.”  The term refers to places where people have limited (or less) access to grocery stores and other sources of healthy food.  Now there are “food swamps” — that is, where food is plentiful, just not nourishing.  Food swamps feature lots of gas stations, fast-food joints, and other places that promote obesity and bad eating habits.  No farmer’s markets or kale smoothie shops, though.

Studies differ with regard to whether proximity to grocery stores is actually an indicator of general health.  (They sell Snickers bars at Publix, you know.)  But there’s certainly a case to be made that the food’s quality may be as much a factor as its availability.

“Food” is relative — whether the food is carnal or spiritual.  We can pat ourselves on the back all we want for “going to church” or even “reading the Bible.”  But if we are not nourishing our spirits, what good is any of it?  A preacher who does not “preach the word” (2 Timothy 2:2), substituting human philosophy and personal opinions, may be doing more harm than good.  Reading for five minutes just to say you did it, without an eye for application or contextual understanding, may be feed a sense of “fullness” that is completely misleading.

With that in mind, consider the following spiritual nutrition tips:

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Restaurant

We tried a new restaurant the other evening.  We all disliked pretty much everything.  The place looked like your grandmother’s house — that is, if you are in your 80s and your grandmother was a sharecropper.  The paneling on the walls was ugly.  The décor (if you would even call it that) was worse.  The location was inconvenient.  The menus were cheap.  (Ironically, the prices were expensive.)

The food, however, was outstanding.  Interesting.  Attractive.  Tasty.  The worst thing I could say about it was that there was too much of it.  We will be back.

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