“Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee or chocolate. I asked you to surrender your life.” – God

A friend of mine shared this post with me the other day. Initially, I balked at the title. Then I realized that Eugene Cho was saying exactly what I was feeling…how I had been wrestling with the idea of fasting during Lent. I encourage you to read his words.
~Janet

EUGENE CHO

We are now in the Lenten season and let me begin by sharing initially the conclusion of my post first in case you have an attention span of a 2-year-old:

Lent isn’t about you or about what you’re giving up.

But we’ll get to that soon.

For those that might not be familiar with Lent, it is the 40 day period (not including Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday that has traditionally been a time of preparation for those who were preparing for baptism and later expanded to include the larger Christian community.  It marks a time of prayer, penance, repentance,  humility, self-denial, and soul searching as one draws closer to the Passion of Christ and ultimately, culminating in the celebration of the Resurrection. You can check out my sermon (above) to get a crash course on the history of Lent – and how it started (likely) as a 2-3…

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In The Wee Hours: The Kind Of Fasting He Has Chosen

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–

    when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
  Isaiah 58: 6-7

I mentioned in my post Wednesday, that, while this was my first time participating in Ash Wednesday, it isn’t my first time participating in Lent. I’m not really sure what ultimately prompted me to start observing it in the first place. It was never part of my spiritual upbringing, nor do I see it mandated anywhere in scripture. Many of my friends, and some of my family participate in Lent. It may have been a desire to fit in, if I’m honest…at least the first time. The second year was different. I may talk about that at another time.

Last year was also different. As Lent approached, I felt the desire to fast grow less and less. Not for the reason you might think. I just didn’t see the point. Truly. I had already proven that I could grit my teeth and do something very hard, but I didn’t feel like that benefitted me or my relationship with Jesus. I really struggled with how eating in a certain way mattered. I wound up not “giving up” per se, but rather “taking up” a new practice. I found this much more difficult and was not very successful. Still, it was an excerise that felt more…authentic…in furthering my walk.

This year, I was once again faced with what to do for Lent, and the same futility of fasting that I sensed last year. My mind was drawn back to the book I read/used during my second Lent.

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In A Place At The Table, Chris Seay leads the reader on a 40-day journey of fasting by eating what the Poor eat, for example eating staples from a certain region of the world or what one may be able to purchase with food stamps. But the fast doesn’t end there. In the first chapter, Chris quotes The Shepherd of Hermas:

“…having reckoned upon the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want, and thus you will exhibit humility of mind, so that he who has received from your humility may fill his own soul, and pray for you to the Lord.”

And this from Saint Augustine:

“Break your bread for those who are hungry, said Isaiah, do not believe that fasting suffices. Fasting chastises you, but it does not refresh the other. Your privations shall bear fruit if you give generously to another.”

“In other words,” Chris says. “If you pass on dinner, don’t simply leave your plate in the cupboard; give your portion to someone who has none.”

Aha! Now that I can get behind! It harkens right back to the passage in Isaiah that I quoted. Denying yourself in order to feed others…the kind of fasting God chose. Admittedly, I didn’t do this the year I went through the book. I had no idea how much eating differently was saving (or not saving) me. But this year, I know exactly how much my utter reliance on boxed carb sources is costing me! Actually, it was a bit of a shock when I added it all up. By breaking that habit, I’ll be saving myself a lot of money. I just won’t be keeping it.

Are you fasting this Lent? How can your fast be the kind of fasting He has chosen? Let me challenge you to let your self-denial benefit someone else.

Blessings,

Janet

WIP Wednesday: Lilacs and Ashes

Greetings to you on this Ash Wednesday. In a few short hours, I’ll be joining the throngs headed to nearby churches to receive a smudge of ashes upon my brow. It will be the first time for me, though I’ve participated independently in Lent for the last few years. I will probably address that in a blog post tonight. In the mean time, it’s time for my weekly progress update, the link up at Ginny’s Yarn Along, and perhaps a poem.

Here’s what I’m working on:

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The Books

On top of my stack is the latest release (as in yesterday) by one of my favorite authors, Laurie R. King. Dreaming Spies is the latest book in her “Mary Russell” series, which follows the adventures of a young woman named Mary and the greatest detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes.  I’d recommend these books to anyone, even if you don’t think you’re a fan of Mystery or Sherlock Holmes. The books are cleverly written in Mary’s exquisitely intelligent and witty voice. I just love them! Obviously I can’t vouch for this one yet, having only bought it yesterday, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. There are now 13 books in the series and, if you are interested, I would definitely begin at the beginning with Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I even would (and have) reccomend that book for older children (6th grade) who are very high readers and need a challenge without some of the themes and subject matter books at their level might contain.

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The second book in my stack is the book I’ve chosen for Lent this year, God For Us. It’s the companion to God With Us, the book I spoke of during Advent. Both books feature daily readings supplemented with gorgeous art and both contain history readings on the different feast and fast days associated with their season. I found the latter part the most appealing this season since many of the feasts and fasts are brand new to me. Also, did I mention the art?

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Speaking of fasting, that brings me to the book on the bottom of my stack. I decided for Lent this year to break my reliance on most store-bought, prepackaged carbs…which I hate to admit are a staple of my diet. This would include most bread. I have tried to make my own, and failed dismally. However, Monday night I was catching up on a blog I follow (eroosje), and came across her recent post about the master recipe from a bread book. The next morning found me at Barnes & Noble buying the book and Cost Plus World Market buying a peel! I can’t wait to get started! I’m sure I’ll be blogging my successes and failures in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!

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It might seem a little decadent for baking my own bread to be my Lenten practice, but I see it as a return to simplicity and being mindful (dare I say a little ritualistic?) of “my daily bread” and from Whom it comes.

The Needles

One year ago, I knit a bloom.

The prettiest you ever did see.

‘Twas for Lexie, my friends’ little lass,

And is half as lovely as she!

Now eleven months old, and quite a bit bigger

The dress now a shirt, you can see

She’s really outgrown it

‘Tis time for another

I think that you all will agree!

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On my needles is Lexie’s new “bloom.” It is the same color and yarn, but DK vs Fingering weight. It should fit her for a few years to come.

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Have a blessed Ash Wednesday. If you wander back in here in a few hours, I may add a photo of my smudged forehead.

~Janet