Cultivating enjoyment…

Cultivating enjoyment… September 1, 2011

As we enter September, and schedules change, I offer a few words about being intentional in our cultivation of that which will nourish.  Enjoy. 

It happened between graduating from high school and starting college.  I was working at a camp and the staff went out one night for pizza.  It was one of the those places that hide all the ingredients under the cheese.  When the pizza came, I took a big, unexamined bite.

“Wow!  That’s tremendous!  What’s on this pizza?”

“Pepperoni, Sausage, and mushrooms” came the answer from across the table.  And that’s how mushrooms moved from a source of fear, disgust, and disdain, to a source of pleasure in my life. They snuck in, covert, under cover of cheese.

Now that we’re adults, less things sneak into our lives.  We’ve the freedom to make choices regarding food, time use, entertainment, recreation, spiritual life.  We’re free, but if we’re not careful, we’ll make the same choices over and over, and create deep grooves of habit, which will stunt our growth.  The way to avoid these ditches of habit is simple:

Intentionally Cultivate Enjoyment of “the good”.  Here’s what I mean:

1. Enjoy good food, and by good food I mean real food, because most of the prefab food you buy that comes in boxes with a list of chemicals on the side will not, in the end, help you live better.  Why not, instead, learn to like food more like the food of old, which is to say, real.  Find some meat that’s grass fed, and keep your veggies and fruits as fresh and organic as possible.  Expensive?  Compare a banana (about 20 cents) at Trader Joe’s, to a bag of chips.  The expense, it turns out, is time.  Try making kale chips.  They’re amazing.

2. Read books.  The real world of economics, politics, family values, and how we navigate through it all in a meaningful way, comes from ideas, and ideas come from books, which is why reading is important.  The River Why will challenge your notions of work, the environment, and consumerism.  Biographies will challenge your values, priorities and moral courage.  NT Wright will challenge your notions of orthodoxy, even while articulating profoundly orthodox Christianity.  Malcom Gladwell will challenge your notions of why some people succeed.  Shakespeare will expose the glory and tragedy of the human soul.  Start small, perhaps, but those who cultivate an enjoyment of reading books will be richly rewarded.

3. Conversation.  This often ties back to the good food part above, because when the candles burn low after a good meal, it means that there’s a good conversation going on, perhaps with good tea, or wine, or coffee. Good conversations, though, don’t happen as much these days, as the virtual world has come to displace face to face encounter.  If it’s any help though, perhaps think of a conversation as a long string of status updates, and responses to other’s status updates.

4. Prayer.  I don’t know how it works for you, but I find it helpful to keep a journal, right here on my computer, in which I write my prayers in the morning.  I’ve grown to enjoy this discipline because committing the day ahead to Christ gives me a sense of confidence that the day is, indeed, His.  This time reminds me that God has given me all the riches of Christ, which is a good reminder on days when I feel overwhelmed.

5. Movement.  We need to find ways, in our sedentary world, to make sure we’re moving around.  Some of my favorite fitness resources (and food thoughts too) are found here, but whatever you do, do something!

6. Service.  The point of it all is to let our lights shine, to be a blessing in our world, in some very real and practical ways, and everything else we do, the reading, eating, moving, loses value unless we’re strengthened to bless and serve in our world.

I’m learning to enjoy new facets of these areas, little by little.  I’ll close by saying that, when my life begins spinning out of control, I can usually look back and find that one of these areas has become dormant.

What “good” are you cultivating, enjoying, learning to enjoy?  Please share.


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  • Valerie

    Thanks for bringing me a laugh this morning, Richard, with this line, “If it’s any help though, perhaps think of a conversation as a long string of status updates, and responses to other’s status updates.” 🙂

  • Walks around the neighborhood with my wife and toddler, playing (non-virtual) Scrabble with music in the background. Always beats spending the night in front of TV or iPad. Great reminder…thanks for this!

  • Graham C.

    My wife and I have been enjoying fresh salads a lot this summer, especially after planting cherry tomatoes and some herbs in our back yard. I strongly suggest making your own salad dressing. We bought a cheap “dressing bottle” at ikea for said purpose.

    Crush above 6 garlic cloves and add some red pepper flakes to some good balsamic vinegar, let “marinate” for a bit while you make your salad (don’t worry it mellows out the garlic and pepper). Then add 2 parts olive oil to 1 part of the balsamic and add some salt and pepper and fresh basil.

    Try above dressing with a caprese salad (sliced tomatoe and buffalo mozzarella a bit more fresh basil) or with vegitable of choice (cherry tomatoes or sliced red pepper and either feta or goat cheese +/- avacado…amazing).

    OR if you are feeling extra adventurous you can take one or two canned anchovy, crush with fork and add to dressing. Get some fresh green lettuce, add crutons (if you can make some in the oven with bread pieces and olive oil all the better) and shaved parmesean (we just take a vegetable peeler to a wedge). Best Ceasar salad ever.

    We just make a big batch of the dressing and leave it stopped on the counter to use through out the week.

    Other food ideas: delivered milk that isn’t designed to be shelf stable

    We bought a quarter cow from these folks; grass fed beef at $3/lb. You can split it between a few families if you don’t have freezer space.

  • Ryan

    These books have recently challenged my faith and helped me to reexamine the way I look at the world:

    Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas
    My wife bought this book for me after you mentioned Bonhoeffer in a sermon for the umpteenth time. The way he structured his life and his complete submission to God’s will while still enjoying the humanity that God created during one of the darkest times in history completely blew my mind and theology.

    The Last Lecture, By Randy Pausch
    A biography and life lessons book by a man diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I think this book goes along well with Richard’s most recent post “32 years” where he talks about dreams and how they are modified. Filled with anecdotes and great quotes. Even convinced me, an English teacher, that cliches can be useful.

    Oh, and on the foods point, if you like edamame, this seasoning recipe tastes very similar to the one found at Roy’s restaurant.

    Thanks for the meat tip, Graham. Unfortunately, Smith Bros. doesn’t deliver to our condo.

    Thanks for keeping us thinking, Richard.