18 Dec

Food Wizard

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“Just a minute  Lord!  Before you serve that fish, let me dress it up with  a sprig of these wild herbs from this bush.  And oh yes, be sure to hone your knife before you cut those loaves. You don’t want to cut your finger!”

And that’s how Jesus ended up feeding five thousand instead of his motley crew.

Mikey Raney is –or was–one of the head cooks at JPUSA. Lord only knows why he was here.

Stooping over his magic pots with a long beard  and wired framed glasses, Mikey reminds me of a food wizard  that can transform a few spices and donated food scraps into magical meals.

His specialties are recipes gathered from the Silk Road, including aromatic curries and lentils , paprika rich goulash and  flavorful Basmati rice along with Creole favorites such as collards and cornbread. All made with the help of Christi, his wife and sous chef.

Yes, this food sorcerer took a wrong turn in Tibet and ended up in Uptown, Chicago.

While cooking, Mikey would select music to play as carefully as a wine to inspire the kitchen help.

But Mikey and Christy are making their way back to Florida. I will miss them, the residents of JPUSA will miss them.

Here is a video of our taste-buds saying goodbye.

 

 

26 Nov

Catch of the Day

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While most wills leave loved ones big estates, bank accounts or cars, I was left something bigger than I could ever imagine.

A seven foot marlin.

 

Julie and eyed the eighty four inch fish, reeled in by my four foot eleven Aunt and bequeathed to me.

 

It was hanging over her king size bed, the blue wash board fin larger than the headboard. She was helping me pick up “Marley” along with some other belongings that my Uncle Jack insisted I’d have.

Considering that the only possession of value that I owned was a wok, I was grateful for any handouts, including the two swivel chairs from the seventies, perfectly preserved in plastic covers.

“It’s all yours,” my Uncle Jack beamed, his bald head perfectly round. My eyes zoned in on the scab that’s been on his nose since the last time I saw him.

“Thanks Uncle Jack,” I smiled. “My thighs remember sticking to those chairs.”

He shuffled over to a bookshelf. “Don’t forget these.” Jack piled onto my booty three new books my Aunt wrote on nursing. They never made the New York Times best sellers list, but were translated in Chinese and Spanish nonetheless.

“Or this.” His stubby old hands picked up a flowered suitcase. The sight of the petite canvas suitcase unzipped a boatload of memories.

“What’s inside?”

“You’ll find out.” He smiled.

I gave my uncle a big hug, his flannel shirt dwarfing his shrinking body, then loaded the van.

The nose of the fish almost reached the radio, making changing stations difficult. We listened to a static-laden WXRT as we made it to Chicago, the marlin’s open mouth giving the impression it was singing to the Beatles.

As we pulled into the front of our building, the Friendly Towers, I scratched my head. “Okay Julie, now that I got the fish, how do I get it on the wall?”

Julie threw on her flashers. “Ben will help you.”

“Who?”

“Ben. He’s tall, with a straggly beard.” She turned on her flashers. “Sorta looks like Jesus.”

“All of the guys at Jesus People look like Jesus,” I grunted, “even the crust punkers.” “But Ben doesn’t have tattoos or a nose ring.” She popped open the back door. “Just a real  deep voice.”

Julie’s description helped. After we unpacked the van and managed to get the marlin into the lobby, I snooped around the dining hall for a tall, non pierced version of Christ and saw Ben, lurching over the fruit bowl with a banana in his back pocket. I asked him if he’d help me with the fish.

“Whoah, let me get me drill.” Julie wasn’t kidding. Ben’s voice was smoother than a baritone sax.

As Smooth Jazz Jesus put the fish on my wall, I surveyed my booty, placing the preserved chairs in the room and the pristine books on my bookshelf. I anxiously unzipped the flowered suitcase, wondering what was inside.

I was hit with a blast from the past– the smell of my Aunt’s face cream–which powered the musty smell of the other treasures. Letters from her brother during WWII. A tattered report card from elementary school. A faded Baptism certificate. Coral earrings and cocktail rings. Yellowing news clippings of my Aunt in various hair styles and eye frames, receiving accolades for her work.

Ben packed up his drill and nodded. “This fish ain’t going nowhere.”

“Thanks Ben.”

So there I was, in my fishbowl size room with one heck of a large roommate. Next to its nose, I hung up a two inch clipping, Local Girl Gets Post at Illinois U and smiled.

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I don’t know which  was the biggest catch.

23 Nov

A New Door

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Today, I entered a new door.
I moved into Jesus People USA, aka Hippies for Jesus. It’s community style living where the residents serve the poor and homeless in Uptown, Chicago, of which I am one of them. It’s where I’ll be staying until whatever door opens next.
Julie Andrews, the housing director, let me into my new home.
Make that a not so new.
While Julie shares the name of the world’s favorite singing nanny, her voice was closer to Peppermint Patty from Charlie Brown.
She brought me up the elevator of Friendly Towers, the building Jesus People share with an old folks home. My nose took in the smell of cigarettes and drywall.
Julie used her hip to pop open the old door. “Make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable. You’ll be staying here for a few weeks.”
I looked at my new nano-digs, about four hundred square feet of Post modern grunge, complete with a hissing radiator and thirty layers of paint. It reminded m of the apartment you see on a police shows where the detective finds the dead heroin junkie in the Bronx. I pushed away the tattered curtain to peer out the window, trying to ignore the bullet size hole in the thick glass. I smiled when I saw who was outside my window: Christ himself.
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He was glowing on top of local church followed by the words DIED FOR OUR SINS.
“Want to peep the bathroom?” Julie smiled.
“Sure.”
Her hand reached for where the knob on the door should be.
“Where’s the knob?”
“Oh, there’s only one,” she chuckled, “Make sure you keep it on the inside of the bathroom when you are doing your business so you don’t get locked in.”
“You’re kidding.” I looked around the small bathroom. A row of dead plants on the windowsill, the walls screaming lime green.
“No.” She pointed to the community knob on the inside of the door. “So if you don’t bring the knob, bring your phone so you can call for help.” Then she pointed to the other knobless door.
“Or, you could knock on the door of Loretta.”
“Of who?”
“Loretta,” Julie tossed her long hair back. “You’ll be sharing your bathroom with her.” Julie shoved the knob on the door and popped it open, revealing a room that was bride’s maid periwinkle decorated with stuffed animals and butterflies “But don’t worry, she’s as timid as a mouse.”
I crinkled my nose her beanie babies.
“Relax about the knobs. Remember, you can only go thru one door at a time.” Julie placed the brass orb in my hand, the metal cold and smooth. “Call me later if you need anything.”
I looked around and wondered what new adventure I was entering Knowing that the knob-less junkie suite was only my temporary living quarters, I didn’t call HGTV for help. Instead, I placed my Prada boots on the ledge of the loft bunk, stickied a few photos of my mom on the wall, and then, kicked myself for not bringing a toilet warmer from China. The porcelain on the toilet was cold and it wasn’t even December yet.
Finally, I placed the door knob on my book shelf.
Maybe it was good I only had one. I tend to always care about “what’s next” instead of the door that’s directly ahead of me. I looked at my reflection in the brass and wondered what lesson it might hold, like one of those lofty quotes I had to memorize in the 8th grade. Doors to success, opportunity knocking, or a knob without a door trying to find its purpose.
Hmm. Maybe God is trying to teach me a lesson, I smiled.
But when I remembered the dead plants in the bathroom , I realized the true meaning of the one knob.
The building is managed by hippies.

26 Oct

Giving God the Finger

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Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, the blog posting entitled, “Giving God the Finger” has been pulled.

I really admire my niece for the courage she exhibits as a teen with Cerebral Palsy. However, others felt the post was an inaccurate depiction of her.

Hopefully this will not squash Chloe’s desire to be a voice for those with CP, “helping the world not label those who are disabled”.

Thank you

Ginger S. MacDonald

 

 

 

 

 

24 Oct

Breaking Bad

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If you’re in urban ministry, you know someone who is hooked on:

Methcathinone, better known as Crank.

Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, better known as Ecstasy.

Or oxymetazoline hydrochloride, better known as Afrin.

You’re kidding? People are addicted to nose spray?

Nasal decongestants aren’t hip enough for their own TV series, but let me tell you,they are just as addictive.  And  you’re not alone if your nostrils get excited when you pick up  a package featuring the blue silhouette of nasal membrane  at Walgreen’s.

I decided to kick my secret nasal addiction  this past weekend at our family cottage in Northern Michigan with my brother-in law.

 

I realized he too had a problem when I saw a white long spray nozzle peeking out from his central console.

“I like the generic brand from Kroger,” he confessed.

“I’m into the industrial strength stuff from China.”I pulled out my stash from my computer bag. “I don’t know what’s in it, since the label is in Mandarin. All I know it that it’s strong enough to combat the air pollution in Beijing.”

 

When we pulled over at a Speedway for a fill up, I googled nose spray addictions and discovered that our schnozes weren’t alone.  By the number of websites and support groups, there appeared to be thousands of people who’d give their first born child before they’d give up their nasal decongestant.

I read tips on how to go cold turkey as Patrick steered, trying to avoid deer. “It only takes seventy six hours to break the addiction.”

“That’s four hours longer than it takes to get to the moon.”

“But at least we don’t have to pee in a bag strapped to our leg”.  I scrolled down posts from bloggers with names such as Proboscis Man, Toucan Sam  and Mouth Breather.

“This guy recommends detoxing one nostril at a time.” I started. “And, if that doesn’t work, he says to rub Wasabi  on your nose hairs.”

Patrick paused. “I wear a CPAP machine. That could get quite messy.”

So when we pulled into  the cabin, we vowed to go cold turkey, miles away from anyplace that sold nasal relief–  even mamby-pamby saline drops.

After three days of mouth breathing, crusty boogers and dry mucas membranes, we successfully kicked our habits. Not only were we able to wake up and smell the falling leaves and skunk musk, our noses caught whiff of a late blooming rose outside our cottage.

“Congratulations, Patrick, we did it.”

So, now that my sinuses are on the nasal spray wagon, am I in better standings with God?

After all, Christians point fingers at active addicts all of the time, thinking they have to be “fixed” before the junkie’s faith is valid. They can’t be a believer because they still shoot up or spray up. Nonsense!

We get so caught up on the recovery, we forget about the healing process.

Jesus hung out with drunks and those who hadn’t “broken bad”.  Not those that had completed a 12 step recovery program for Frankincense & Myrrh snorting. The only sin Jesus regularly slammed was that of  judging others.

So if you work with addicts in your outreach program, remind them God is with them every step of the way— not just at the end –of their recovery journey.

And if you can’t kick Afrin?

Jesus loves, you too.

 

27 Sep

Unsafe at Home

 

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Imagine you sent your only child eight thousand miles away to go to school in Chicago. Not a suburb, but Chicago, the murder capital of America with shootings heard around the world.

You trust your child at a faith based school, spending as much as $40,000 a year to live and study there.

And this is the only thing that separates your child from the headlines.

This door has been an object of contention between myself and uh, my former employer. I am once again homeless, this time due to my plight to stick up for a group of international students studying at a faith based school in Chicago.

While the doors to the school building are modern and of top quality, the door to the boy’s dorm is uh, let’s say, a hooptie.

When I took the position in August, the latch on the side of the door was loose, the screws hanging out.  The school assured me and my husband, the matter would be taken care of.

I had envisioned a door similar in quality to what is standard at dorms housing students, particularly those housing minors.  I thought the school would invest $800 in a door  with a self locking mechanism, possibly a fob for a key-less entry,  or one that was at least up to par with all of the other door locks in the neighborhood.

After all, this is Chicago, not the Little House on the Prairie.

Well, after a month of complaining, emails and “We’ll Get To It” responses, the door knob is still loose, the door found open, and  keys routinely get stuck inside, which was extremely embarrassing in when it happened in front of parents who flew in from the flip-side to check up on their son.

But the school admin assures me that “proper training of these students will keep the dorm safe”.

I am not sure this is the time or neighborhood to check a teen’s responsibility.  But hey, it’s a Christian school and Jesus will send an angel to save them.

Try explaining that to atheist students.

Meanwhile, the adjacent school doors (with no students sleeping behind them), have fumble free, state of the art locks like this.

 

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But now,  I am out the door .

Both the crappy and the nice one.

 

 

 

27 Sep

Guide to Unexpected Teen Pregnancy

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Peeing. Taking a whiz. Draining one’s dragon. Going to the can.

Nothing can give more relief than finding a sparkling clean toilet seat at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. But as much as peeing can make car passengers feel good, peeing on a pregnancy stick can bring fear and stress to the typical teen.

Strolling down that aisle at the drugstore alone, buying not one, but two pregnancy test kits  (just to double check) has been a horribly painful experience for many teen girls.

Feelings of loneliness, fear and remorse and that’s even before the baby is born, which will bring another wave of unexpected emotions.

If you are dealing with teen pregnancy at your church, Christian ministry or youth group, you’ll be dealing with these emotions, too. They are  not easy stuff. Along with the baby comes a new bundle of emotions for the teen mom. Learn more about the 3motions of Teen Pregnancy.

22 Sep

About TastyFaith

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In 2001, TastyFaith  was created to equip urban youth workers with materials that cut the mustard with at-risk youth. Ginger Sinsabaugh MacDonald was a volunteer urban youth worker in Chicago who made it her mission to create lessons that were culturally relevant to city youth, hoping that they’d put down a gun and pick up a bible. These lessons were first used at an outreach program in Chicago ‘s Cabrini Green Projects called SLAM! While the outreach program evolved into GripYouth,   SLAM! lessons for urban outreach continued to be developed, meeting a greater need around the world.

TastyFaith expanded to offer more materials for urban teen outreach. Shortie Pages were developed for younger kids, as well as LIFE AFTER BIRTH for teen moms.

Creating a Craving for Something Better.
TastyFaith resources for urban ministry connect biblical truths to the reality urban youth face in lower economic communities. They also reinforce reading and writing skills.

The legendary Cookie Butt Logo

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The TastyFaith cookie butt logo was considered pornographic material by the United States Post office and was not allowed on mailing envelopes.

The TastyFaith name in China

In 2013, I was pestered by lawyers in China about using theTastyFaith name. S I told them I’d be willing to sell it for a hundred gazillion dollars, but they  put their nose up at my offer. Why? Just like toilets seats, copyrights aren’t necessary in China . So don’t be surprised if you see the TastyFaith name  on bottle of  gutter oil.

TastyFaith is a registered Trademark, serial number 86331852.

 

 

 

 

 

22 Sep

Ginger Sinsabaugh MacDonald

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 Ginger Sinsabaugh MacDonald

I grew up in a small farm town in Southwestern Michigan that had more cows than people. After college, I moved to Chicago and worked at an ad agency with more employees than my home town had cows .I lived with him in a small studio apartment with a foam rubber Buddha until he was reincarnated into throw pillows.

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Over the years, I wrote a lot, traveled a lot, laughed a lot and lived a lot, including in fun places like London and China.

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I have also experienced a lot of tears.

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That’s because I cut onions at Jesus People USA, where I currently live with Marlie.  When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m working on my next book at everyone’s coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Sep

Every 7 Seconds: teen thoughts on sex

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While being a classroom teacher in China, I kept in mind that every seven seconds, those boys were not thinking about English grammar but scantily dressed Victoria Secret models. Honestly, how could a power point presentation on diphthongs possible compete with  butt thongs?

But that popular seven second stat has about as much validity as Big Foot.

According to an article in Psychology Today, men think of sex anywhere between 1-388 times a day, which is far less than the popular stat.

Smart Sex?

The onset of smart phones has changed intimacy with teens. Portable porn for some has made the statistic go up; texting for others has replaced face to face communication.

The 2013  movie DonJon deals with an internet porn addiction. And yes I watched it. In China, you watch any and everything english you can get your hands on.

But in Japan, boys and girls aren’t thinking of sex at all.

The avoidance of human intimacy in Japan hasn’t helped their negative birth rate. According to the  Japan Family Planning Association 45% of females aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”.

So, are  American urban teens “turning Japanese”?

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy,   teen pregnancy is on the decline in the America. That’s because of our abstinence programs provided by secular resources. They include websites and programming giving teens an insight into what motherhood is all about. It’s also due to  better birth control.  Condoms are more readily available and  or because teens are in an intimate relationships with their electronic  and uh, battery operated devices?

Personally, I think it’s because of Cinnabons, where fantasizing about a hot fudge sundae has taken priority s to fantasizing about the classroom stud or prom queen. Sweat suits, McBellies and Butt crack don’t do much for one’s libido.

However,  I am wrong. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, obese teens are just as likely to engage in high risk behaviors as their slimmer classmates.

Anyway, regardless of what the researchers in white lab coats say, teen parent support groups is the cornerstone of today’s urban youth programs.

If you want resources to navigate through this issue, you can check out Life After Birth, as endorsed by Urban Ministry.org.

Or, take a youth Leader pregnancy test yourself.