Monday, January 29, 2007

Eat Food

Unhappy Meals. That's the title of an article I just stumbled across at the New York Times website. Apart from the fact that in my opinion the Times is the very best newspaper in the world today, albeit with a journalistic bias slightly different than my own, I love the way many of its journalists jump right to the bottom line.

Michael Pollan, who wrote that piece, begins with an incredibly succinct opening paragraph,

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

His second paragraph?

"That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat."

Not bad for a stab at summarizing an article that continues for ten more pages...!

Don't worry. I'm not about to go off on a food "rant." About the only thing I know for sure about nutrition and health is that I feel a whole lot better since I lost twenty pounds. The interesting thing, though? I haven't finished reading Michael's article, but I sure intend to. Prose like his has a way of "hooking" me, particularly if I am already interested in the author’s subject. With forty-seven staring me in the face next week and two small children at home to raise, I find myself increasingly motivated to learn everything I can about how to live a long and healthy life.

Coming across those great lines made me wonder, "What is the simplest, clearest thing I could say to someone I was speaking to about Jesus for the very first time? How could I draw them in to further conversation? What felt need could I speak to in their heart that would cause them to want to know more?

Jesus was a master at great "one-liners." He seemed to know exactly what to say in every situation. Like when he spoke to the Samaritan woman by the well of Sychar.

If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.[1]

I would have never thought of saying that. Or ever imagined it would be an effective approach. A single sentence, though, resulted in a conversation that changed a woman’s life and profoundly impacted an entire village.

Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.[2]

Jesus told his disciples very clearly what his secret was in such situations,

I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say.[3]

I write these words sitting in a Starbucks near the place where my son is in speech therapy. Seated at the table across from me is a young couple I just met from Poland, a country I have visited many times. They are students down the street at UTD. We’ve exchanged a few pleasantries; I even dusted off the few phrases I know in their language. They are studying intensely, quietly, as I pray in my heart, “Father, give me the right words to say…”

Now it's time to pick up my son and head into the appointments I have for the day. Would you join me in breathing a prayer for this precious couple, that wherever they are on their spiritual journey, God would help them take the next step?


P.S. Just chatted some more and found out they are mathematics professors, not students. No wonder they are so serious...!

[1]Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), Jn 4:10.

[2]Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), Jn 4:28.

[3]Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), Jn 12:49.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! And thought provoking question. Once while sitting in a bar, actually at the bar, with my wife while watching some random game show and eating dinner, I started chatting with the gentleman next to me. After some time he found out I am a believer, and he stated that he'd never found anybody would could explain Christianity to him in a way that made sense.

    I felt the Lord prompt me to say, "I can. And I can do it in less than a minute." He dared me to try.

    I took out a napkin and began making notes on it as I talked. I told him, "When you found out your daughter was sleeping with a man and doing drugs under your roof, you kicked her out, right?" (He'd just told me about this.) He nodded. "Yet, you took her back in, under certain conditions, right?" Another nod. "And you loved her the entire time, and it broke your heart to send her packing, and you were overjoyed when she returned." Yes.

    "What you did is exactly what God has done. When he created mankind, we were his children. But we started doing the drug of sin, disobedience, and rebellion. As a result, we were invited to leave the protection of the Garden of Eden, and our relationship and intimacy with God was severed. But, he provided a way for us to come back under his roof. In fact, he paid the price himself, and the only condition is that we ask his forgiveness and live in obedience."

    There were probably more words than this, and more points, but that's the gist of it. He was stunned — as was I. I have no idea where that man is now, but I hope the seed took root.