Priests and Prophets… and Eating Paleo

In January, we almost mostly completed a Whole 30 reset together as a family. We’ve been here before, a couple of times, and although there were fewer bad habits to break this time, it’s always good to reassess and begin better habits over again. Looking back on these various endeavors, I think my most favorite advice to myself from 9 years ago is to “stop idolizing food,” which I probably should have listened to the next year when I developed a bout of food anxiety

Here are my takeaways from this go-around:

  • Everything works better when I don’t eat cheese or ice cream
  • It’s a lot more expensive to eat without pasta and rice in your diet
  • Yes, you can get tired of mashed potatoes, no matter how much you think you love them
  • Alcohol gives me headaches and it’s dumb for me to drink it

It’s good to know these things. My hope, moving into February and onward with the rest of the year, is to remember these things and to make smart choices based on these observations. We’ll probably try to maintain some semblance of the Paleo diet we used to adhere to a decade ago, except with a lot more rice.

Sometimes, I will eat ice cream. Sometimes, I will have a glass of wine. Sometimes, I will eat cheese. And maybe, just maybe, I will make mashed potatoes again someday.

In other news, I started last year with a plan to read all of the prophets in Robert Alter’s beautiful translation of the Hebrew Bible, but it turned out Alter begins his translation of the prophets alllll the way back with Joshua and Judges, the Samuels and the Kings.

Viewing these books as prophetic literature revolutionized the way I read these confusing and mostly terrible tales. I finally finished the last of 2 Kings with its laundry list of kings who did evil in the eyes of the Lord and made the turn into what I had long considered the beginning of the prophetic books—Isaiah—at the start of the year, and Lo and Behold, Richard Rohr is calling for 2023 to be the year of the prophet. Would ya look at that. It’s the Year of the Prophet everywhere.

The other day, Lydia was watching the show A Series of Unfortunate Events. I listened from the other room to a lot of the dialogue. It seems to me that Joshua, Judges, the Samuels and the Kings (that’s my new band name) are a very long and ancient series of unfortunate events. They are tales and histories filled with warnings about what happens when people move away from love of God and love of neighbor and instead do whatever they want. These, for the most part, are not people or behaviors to emulate, especially when held up to the Light of Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The prophets are earth shakers and doomsdayers who aim to wake up the slumbering. Wake up! There are injustices, there are prejudices, there are sins wreaking havoc on people’s hearts and bodies and souls. What are you going to do about it? How are you going to move? Where is there need, and how will you address it?

I read somewhere, probably in Richard Rohr’s emails, that it is difficult to be priest and prophet simultaneously. Priests are the keepers of the peace, the managers of organized religion, the Professional Christians. They count on a tithe and an offering for their wellbeing. But prophets are wild-haired, wild-eyed, carefree seers who are most notably unemployed by the church. I don’t think you can have a Professional Prophet. The power of our need to be sustained is too great to challenge the status quo, and really, is that the role of the priest/pastor/minister/father/shepherd anyway? The priest is supposed to care for its flock, nurture and lead it, ideally away from harm and into the shelter and refuge of the Father.

The prophets challenge the priests. It’s what they did in the Old Testament and New, and it’s what they do today. The prophets hold the priests accountable to their mission so that the allure of riches, comfort, and contentment don’t poison their ministry and kill their flock. Unfortunately, most people don’t really like prophets. Prophets challenge people to walk closer to God and care for others and stop hoarding cash and ignoring widows and making orphans, etc., which, let’s be honest, if you’re doing just fine thankyouverymuch you don’t want someone to come up in your business with all of that senseless grace, just mercy, and divine love.

Being a prophet sounds exhausting.

I love to read and discuss what I’m reading with other people, so I decided to start a book club at church this year, and what I’m realizing, two books in, is that I’ve chosen books by modern prophets. 

Our first book was How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby. It generated a lot of excellent ideas and healthy dialogue among those who participated, especially about how those of us who live and interact in a community that is so white can make our non-white friends and neighbors feel welcome. It’s easier to maintain the status quo and assume everything is just fine, but is it really? Shouldn’t we examine our history, our culture, and our community to see where people are suffering and how we can make it better?

If you’re interested, the book club meets online the last Monday of every month, and everyone is welcome to join. February’s book is The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr, and it’s already rocking my world.

Join the Facebook group and future online discussions here.

Who are your modern-day prophets? What are you reading, and how is it challenging you, entertaining you, encouraging you, or inspiring you? And, most importantly, what is the one delectable dish I must eat now that I can eat all things again?

Photo by Ray Bilcliff

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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