Have you ever heard of the Slow Food Movement? The organization defines themselves this way: “Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world” (www.slowfood.com).
A couple of years ago this phrase slow food popped up in a book that I was reading. Since then, I've come across the idea a few other times. I have become intrigued by the idea of slowing down not only to consume our food, but also to appreciate food that is made (both in the kitchen and on the farm) carefully and conscientiously and to appreciate those with whom we eat.
Slowness is not often appreciated in our culture. Even now as I search my thesaurus for synonyms to the word slow, I find mostly words that bring to mind negative images: stupid, slothful, sluggish, late. But I have come to appreciate the slow. Many of you who have shared a meal with Rich and me know that the word slow does not do a dinner with my husband justice. I have come to value our precious time at the table to enjoy what the Lord has gifted to us in our food and our family. I recently began baking our own bread. Anyone who's undertaken this task knows that it is slow! Not only does it take time to mix and knead (oh, the kneading!) and wait, it takes time to find a recipe that works for our climate and our family and the ingredients available here. It takes time for your hands to know the texture of dough that's been kneaded just enough and to recognize a loaf that's sufficiently risen. I've spent a few days in the kitchen making bread only pull a hard brown lump out of the oven to eat with our soup at dinner. And I envy those of you with vegetable gardens next to your homes. Not only because you have the opportunity to tenderly care for your veggies, but you can enjoy their beauty as they grow (much like our children). I'm mostly jealous because I've just killed my umpteenth plant on our little outside ledge.
Slow. Living slowly allows us to live life fully, to be present in each moment. As we live slowly we find joy in small things. Like when my basil plant sprouts tiny new leaves (only to shrivel up days later) or when Anna laughs and giggles, jumping off of every curb as we walk to our destination or when one of our young friends on the street sits down next to me so I can read a story from our children's Bible. Living slow also allows our sorrows to linger a little longer, allows us to feel them more deeply as we resist trying to dull the sadness with activity and busyness.
In January we will celebrate five years of living and ministering in Rio. In these five years we have seen that we cannot make things happen. We cannot change people's minds or attitudes or desires. We can only be present, building relationships, speaking truth, and inviting the Holy Spirit to be active among us. We wait for God to begin working in the hearts and lives of our friends and then we have the joy of joining in. We have had the privilege of helping young children grow and learn, helping a family purchase their first home, accompanying friends as they transition out of street life, sharing the truth of God's love with youth on the streets. But we only see this fruit as we are patient, allowing God to work through us without rushing.
I think of ancient Israel as they celebrated the dedication of the temple that Solomon built. Not just years had passed, but generations, since they had been led out of slavery in Egypt to worship God in the desert. I imagine that the families who fled from their masters in Egypt expected to be the ones to build their homes and place of worship in the Promised Land. They didn't expect slow or want slow, but that is what they got. And after almost 500 years of waiting, the Israelites were celebrating a grand homecoming, a final sense of permanence in life and worship. And that was something worth celebrating as the glory of the Lord settled into the Holy Place of the temple. “When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, 'He is good; his love endures forever'” (2 Chronicles 7:3).
May you join us on our journey to eat slowly and live slowly. May we worship God and allow God to work in our lives without rushing. He is good and his love endures forever.
Rich, Rebecca & Anna Nichols
Rua dos Araujos, 66/202
Rio de Janeiro, RJ