Growing in Gratitude and why local eating won't save your soul. Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

On growing grateful and why eating local won’t save your soul Thoughts on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

The other night we gathered round for dinner. Taking our seats I looked down at my plate and gasped. Staring back up at me in my gravy drippings was a story. An edible story to be exact and one with many parts. There was the old friend and his family ranch, the hours he spent putting up fences, digging ditches, and the deer he killed and butchered for us.  And then of our neighbor who this year began her first garden, filled with arugula and carrots which she skeptically tended until it began producing beyond what she could eat.  Then there is the bread, ground from flour using a borrowed mill, and wheat, another gift, which became bread when it mixed with the sourdough that came to me after being  passed on, hand to hand, kitchen to kitchen, for over a century.  As I lifted my fork I saw my connection to the world displayed in my salad dressing, which I mix just like my Yiayia taught me, reminding me of the dirt out of which I was formed, and the people who made me and it tasted good.

Eating local is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Of course it wasn’t always this way, not long ago food was produced in just about every household.  We are beginning to mourn that loss and find ways to help even those with limited resources regain their role as producer. Still, for the moment, local eating requires some combination of either land, time and money.   For many families, who are just scraping by, simply having food on the table, local or not, is something to celebrate.


Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Liturgy of Life Reading Group Discussion Questions


And that’s what it’s all about, however or wherever our food comes from, we have a spirit that longs to celebrate, especially around a full table (if this sounds familiar you might be thinking about the whole premise behind the Thanksgiving Holiday).

Our best living is done when we recognize that all things come from God and when we offer those things back to Him. We need to say, “Thank you,” not for God’s sake but for ours.  Every act of gratitude draws us toward contentment in the midst of a world that always gives us a reason to be miserable and tells us we will never have enough.

Eating local is a privilege. And those of us who can splurge on a $10 bottle of wine or a bar of European chocolate once in a while need to take our privilege seriously. Like it or not, money is power and we are consumers. Our purchases communicate our values to the world.  If we don’t ask where our chocolate comes from we will never know about the Ghanan boy who misses school to wield machetes in the cocoa fields giving us affordable chocolate for the low price of a lost finger or two.

And this isn’t just about food. Everything we purchase from our toothbrush to the paint on our walls come from somewhere and is made of something. If we want to know what we are supporting we need to ask questions.

Still, the worst part of all of this, is that even when we find the answers, even when we make good choices, we can’t save the world or even our own souls.  We will never know if when we stop buying imported chocolate we have helped that boy get back into school or left his family destitute.   There isn’t always a clear answer and my priorities and yours might not be the same.

We can hope that our efforts to shop locally and put money into our own economies will create accountability and do some good in the world, and I think it will.  But even if it doesn’t, purchasing with intention will change us.  It will free us from the allure of the quick and the easy. And it will open our eyes to our connection with the world and teach us to celebrate the story that is already being written on every dinner plate.


This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now are reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We would love for you to join us.


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Cultivating Gratitude

I’ve always been a whiner. If you don’t believe me ask my mother.


As an adult I’ve learned to quiet down, this has mostly meant keeping my mouth shut while my mind continues to dwell on its own misery.

I have made feeble efforts against this mental negativity. I have tried to focus on being positive, pay more attention to my thoughts, or  given myself some positive mantra to repeat.  These efforts did help in the moment but nothing seemed to curb my overall bad attitude.

Unexpectedly, over the past year, I have recently realized that my spirit is increasingly inclined toward gratitude. Throughout the day I find myself overwhelmed with thankfulness.  I still grumble, but notably less and my time spent consciously rejoicing is significantly more.

Now, I’m not facing any major disaster, which probably helps. But still life is not perfect.  To be honest I’m still not sure what all has been involved in this transformation.  Maybe it is simply a sign of growing up. But when I stop and look at my life there are several new practices that I think may have something to do with it. Here are some ideas on, cultivating gratitude



1. Liturgical Prayer: Before I start I want to be clear I have nothing against non-liturgical, there are certainly times when a free-form prayer it is the most appropriate and meaningful way to communicate with God. But for me oftentimes this sort of prayer ended up feeling a lot like complaining or asking God to do things for me which then stirred up a feeling of dissatisfaction when He didn’t do it.

Liturgical prayer on the other hand, like a well written song has been created with careful  attention to the thoughts  it expresses. Liturgical prayer helps me put words to the feelings in my heart. At the same time the words are instructive.  They speak truth and direct my thoughts to a place that honors God and respects His will in my life. Liturgical prayer allows me to express myself while at the same time conforming my will to God’s.

I practice liturgical prayer in several forms but the simplest is the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I can’t tell you how many nights I wake up anxious and fitful and end up reciting these words until I can go back to sleep.

To learn more about how to incorporate liturgical prayer into your daily life at home check out


2. Spend time with the poor: If the term “the poor” doesn’t set well with you. What I mean is build into a relationship with someone who has so much less than you that it is impossible not to notice and it makes you feel uncomfortable. It is easy to find organizations who work with the poor, but to truly connect with people who are entirely different in culture, education  or socioeconomic status will not come easily.  Try and find something to do that will truly be helpful but you should know from the beginning that you will most certainly get more out of your new relationships than you put into it and it will change the way you see the world.


3. Write thank you notes. We are grateful to have families all around the world who have given to us or to our ministry. It has become my job to write thank you notes to every one of them.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming but I find that the more I write the more grateful I am.


4.  Ask for and accept help.  I appreciate my own self sufficiency most when I reach the end of it.  In receiving help requires that I accept my own limits and rely on others.  I am never so grateful as when I realize I need help and find that there is someone there who is willing to give it.


5. Be intentional about slowing down.  For me this looks like waking up every morning and chopping fresh ginger into a boiling pan of Chai Tea or stopping at the farm to pick up our produce before we go to the grocery store.  Choosing to do things the long way, makes me pay attention and helps me to notice the pleasure in everyday life.


There may be others, or certainly others will come.  I am just so grateful to be more grateful.

Anyone else, how do you cultivate gratitude?
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Swim Lessons,
Gratitude and
How Our IPhones
Interfere With Both

Gratitude and sacramental living liturgy of life

It’s the last day of swim lessons and I am sitting in a pavilion watching from a distance. All the kids are lined up on the cement taking turns jumping in. The first girl wears a green bikini,  she stands at the edge and slowly steps in, barely leaving a ripple on the water. The next boy does a running cannonball. And then it is Zenie’s turn, she hesitates, stops and insists on wearing her sandals (they aren’t water shoes but she convinces the teacher that she must put them on before she can jump in), then grabbing hold of the lifeguard’s hand she takes a leap. And I swear I can feel the splash all the way  where I’m sitting.

My face is wet but it’s not the pool water, I’m crying, and it is for no good reason except that I’m grateful to be  watching my daughter. It hasn’t been a long day, and there is no recent tragedy or illness to prompt this sentimentality. It’s just that I’m here and I’m a mom and I have a beautiful daughter. My heart is full.

I recently started limiting my time on digital media. I’m still full on with my computer (I said limit not eliminate)  but I’ve cut back on using  internet, facebook, and email on my phone, basically restricting it to the jobs that only a phone can do, mainly  calls and texts (okay and the map and a few other random things but still).  And so on this particular morning I was looking up at the world.

And I had the thought that perhaps the real danger of our age isn’t coming in court decisions or senate rulings.  That maybe it is as St. Ignatius warned us 500 years ago; ingratitude is the deadliest of all sins.

In our modern world we have all become little gods of the worlds we create through our social profiles and then manipulate with our technology.    My Yiayia was visiting recently, “Things have changed,” she said, ” You go out and no one looks at you, everyone’s faces are down.” And why not look down? Inside our phones we have control, our friends are there to boost our egos, they can’t hurt us, they can’t get that close.

As we live ever more in our carefully constructed technology bubbles it becomes easier to ignore the purpose for which we exist. That God gave us the whole world as a gift and we are here to experience Him through every part of it.  We forget that all of life is sacrament and we stop saying “thank you.”

At that last swim lesson I glimpsed what it is to be fully alive.  I Realized again that life is found in experiencing the good and that the good is a person, it is God who loves me. There is nothing better.


I’ll leave you with a song from my friend Kelly Mcrae.

“I am not such a fool,

a fool to miss,

a full cup when it’s raised to my lips.”



I got a bit distracted this week. The thoughts from this posting are prompted from a book I am reading, For The Life of The World. It is dense but probably the best book I’ve ever read on the Christian Life.

But we still have one more week in The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.

We would love to hear from you or have you read and ponder along with us, consider joining our reading group. Thanks for being here.