Organic Christianity

Organic Christianity: A fluid term used to describe a new movement among Christians away from “programs” and toward more simple, natural methods of ministry. The focus is less on institutional maintenance, more on people and mission.

Since we’re being honest, I suppose I’ll tell you that I love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. And not even just the regular kind – I love the marketing-ploy kind with the Cars– or SpongeBob-shaped pasta. It’s something about the noodle-to-pretend-cheese ratio.

I know that nothing good can come of powdered cheese that is electric orange. I know that it’s not so much pasta as “enriched macaroni product,” but this does not seem to stop me. Neither of my kids will eat it, and still I pick up a box or two. For me.

I love the idea of a hearty loaf of seed bread, of whole wheat flour, of flax seed and whole grains. But given the choice, I will always pick the white, fluffy stuff: golden crusts and the smoothness of all that refined flour.

I try to keep my Diet Coke intake to one can a day, but I’ve been known to drink as many as three. (Okay, four.)

But every year around this time, the stores fill up with seeds and trowels and the soil is rich and black. The farmers’ markets begin opening up, wooden stands set up in parking lots, pick-up trucks filled with vegetables on the sides of roads. And it’s so colorful and beautiful that I almost want to give up my Kraft and Diet Coke and live exclusively on home-grown lettuce and root vegetables.

I never get inspired enough to dig an actual vegetable patch, but every year I buy a tomato plant from outside Festival Foods. I make infrequent trips to the Tuesday afternoon Andover farmers’ market so I can buy bundles of fresh herbs to make my own bruschetta.

And when I think about how I want it to be with God, with faith, with people, organic feels like the right word. Like rain and earth and slow, natural growth. When I think Bread of Life, I think hearty, grainy, fill-you-all-the-way-up kind of bread. I think of fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes and homemade salsa and peppers still dirty from the soil.

To me, organic faith looks less like a tidy, three-minute testimony and more like seeds strewn across so much time. It is less about inviting my neighbor to church, more about inviting her over for coffee. It’s not really about sending my kids off to Sunday School class, but rather standing with them in the rain as it falls, telling them, God is here! He’s giving the plants a drink of water. Isn’t that cool?

It is watching, tending, tireless. It looks for the needs, the holes, the pain and it goes to those places with baskets of muffins, offers of babysitting, long telephone conversations. It grows up naturally, quietly, this kind of faith, and brings life and color and beauty to the world.

Of course, it’s never as simple as all that, and somewhere in my life, I got used to pretend, fluorescent-orange-powder cheese instead of the real stuff. I got used to the ease of it, the taste of it, learned to crave what is not good for me.

Somewhere I learned to serve a white-bread God, refined by platitude and cliché and stunted language. A preservative-filled God, concocted by food-scientists somewhere, filled with little “extra” things to make him go down easier.

But it’s May now, and from the front window, I can see my neighbors working in their yard. Her garden is expansive, her vegetables award-winning. They will hand us the excess of their harvest when we cross the street to get our mail. I will take the zucchini and cut it up, stir fry it with carrots and peppers. I will choose it, one night, instead of frozen pizza.

Slowly, slowly, I am learning to love what is good for me. To let go of what’s not. Today, the honey wheat instead of the white bread. Today, more listening, less talking. More questions, less answers. The hard, quiet work of real love. And grace over all of it like so much rain.

32 thoughts on “Organic Christianity

  1. I’m glad you’re hitting on some terms that the more progressive folks use as well. Good thoughts here.

    As an organic gardener, the one thing I can tell you about anything “organic” is there’s crap everywhere. We work rabbit manure into our soil. We buy fancy manure from a place that gets “compost” from the zoo. I make my own fertilizer by “brewing” rabbit manure in a 5 gallon bucket for a week. Organic is “natural” and free from chemicals, but it also means getting animal poop under your finger nails.

    The results are amazing. We have huge heads of lettuce, a wall of peas, and a bunch of other plants that are well on their way. However, the “organic” process is not glamorous. I don’t just buy a bag of powdered fertilizer and spread it on my tomatoes. I need to haul a 5 gallon bucket of sticky “manure tea” to my tomato plants each weekend and pinch my nose while fertilizing them. Thankfully, I won’t have to pinch my nose when I slice into our first tomato…

    1. Wow. Great metaphor, but admittedly, it does not make me want to take the plunge into the organic farming lifestyle. We have enough poop around here already with the potty-training that will not end…

  2. As always, good thoughts.

    A white-bread preservative-filled God can be a bit constipating. A less processed, less manipulated God might not go down as easy (you still might want to add some herbs and spices to make it taste better), but the outcome is usually better.

  3. Oh my word, Addie! You’ve done it again. I could write pages in response but it could probably be summed up with this: Learning to love does come down to simple choices. Seeing what is, in fact, good for us and how to differentiate between where we are and where we’d like to be. Remembering how we’d want to be treated, were the situation in reverse. Making sure we’re not adding to the noise and opening our eyes to what God has before us.

    It is so simple and yet can be so hard to put into practice. My faltering steps speak to progress though and some days it has to be enough.

    1. Thank you Leigh! I love how you summed it up. Love is almost always simple but almost never easy.

  4. You always write such winning stuff. 🙂 Keep it up.

    I am learning all of this stuff myself. And there is *no* shame in loving Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese. It is actually what Jesus ate. 🙂

  5. I am in love with this concept, of living off what we were intended to take in and walking away from the watered down bleached and fake faith and living that we have been marketed as of late.

    Your writing it wheatey for me tonight, grainy with a smear of nutella… just perfect for pre bedtime nourishment.

  6. Beautiful post, Addie. Why do we lean so far toward “easy”?

    I’m a huge Easy Cheese fan, you know, Cheese in a Can. It’s disgusting. And I love it. Why?

    1. Thanks Shawn. By the way: disgusting little fact about Easy Cheese. Did you know that it’s natural color is…clear? There’s just something so wrong about that.

  7. Addie, I am so glad Sarah Bessey linked to this, both because I am a fellow Minnesotan who did NOT know about your blog before (I can’t believe The Force let me down; I should have known about you, yes?) AND because this is beautiful.

    A few years ago, we lived in Southern Minnesota, and for the first time in my life, we had a garden – an honest to goodness, let’s plant things from seed patch in the earth. I learned so much that summer about God and the Christian life and the weediness of my own soul and why there are so many joke about zucchinis. I have to believe humans are agrarian because God planned it that way, so we could learn about ourselves as we earn our daily bread.

    1. Kelly! I love finding other Minnesotans, so I’m so glad you found your way here. Thanks for the great comment. Yes, I think there is much to be unearthed from learning to grow your own food. Maybe one day I’ll attempt it. 🙂

  8. I am normally a bit of a lurker on this blog, but I just had to reply to this particular entry.
    Wow, you expressed so much of what I long for. Thank you!
    I am so often frustrated by this ‘pre-processed’ god that I’m sold, and yet, I find myself settling for that – the quick fix. But everything in me longs for a simple, non-flashy faith in this wild and beautiful God.
    I feel I’m in limbo at the moment. It’s easy to allow negativity to obscure things: to let my frustration with the way things are become more about me and my wants, rather than God himself. I don’t know…
    Anyway, your blog is such a blessing to me! I thank God for your wonderful writing skills. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Clare. I so resonated with this statement: “I am so often frustrated by this pre-processed god, and yet I find myself settling for that.” That’s the tension I find myself in too. Baby steps, I guess. A slow unlearning and relearning.

  9. I know your post here is not really about food, but a ‘pre-packaged’ ‘processed’ God, easy for consumption but somehow bad for us! Great post! Yes, religion is one thing and a walk with Jesus on a daily and on-going basis is most definitely something else. Most nations have tried to make God, or a god, in their image, when we know as Christians that God most certainly made ‘us’ in ‘His’ image! Religion complicates and perhaps constipates, whereas Jesus wants us to approach Him in simplicity and childlike wonder; why do we constantly mess up such a simple thing? Are we all trying to look sophisticated and clever and with-it, when if we’re all honest we are riven with hang-ups and jealousies, we mess up and make mistakes all the time, and we don’t have any real answers to most of the questions we pose.

    As for food, the American and British diets are pound for pound probably the two most unhealthy diets; processed, high salt, fat and sugar and as far from nature as could be; but you know what, sometimes processed cheese is nice, and a burger and fries, or fish and chips is nice, washed down with a coke or two (or even four!).

    Thank for the great post and your ever-wise philosophy Addie!

    1. Thanks for another great comment, Tim. Loved this line: “Most nations have tried to make God, or a god, in their image…” Very insightful. (And for the record, I have a definite weakness for burgers and fries too.)

  10. Hi Addie!
    I just clicked over from your comment on chatting at the sky. What a cool post! I have often felt very little to ‘show’ for my years of walking with Jesus. But there is a wake of lives encouraged behind me. That cup of coffee, that decision made wisely, that marriage saved. There are lots of ways fruit has been born. Just doesn’t look so marketable on a resume… like VBS Director. Life is messy. There are rough edges and our ‘fruit’ may not be polished and perfect, but it is REAL.
    Grace from Congo!

    1. From Congo! Wow. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I agree that maybe the ways that we touch the world most are the invisible, immeasurable ones. Lovely.

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  12. Hi Addie,

    I shifted to an organic diet simply because my body broke down under the old regime. I could no longer keep up with life: fatigue, anxiety, backaches, headaches, depression, frequent colds, complete with trembling pulse.
    What I find interesting is the moment we begin to question one area of life we see life differently else where. Just as I became unsatified with the industrial processed menu, likewise my eyes began to seek a more hearty Christian understanding…

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