Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which means we are officially in the season of Lent. Here in my corner of Arkansas it's also looking a whole lot like spring; at least we're getting a break from the cold and damp of the last month or so. It's hard to feel penitent when it's 70 degrees outside with a warm sun. But I'm doing my best.

I've been reading blogs this morning and realizing how out of fashion "giving things up for Lent" has become. Instead I read about people who are already overscheduled and overworked taking on "something more," whether it's reading or meditation or whatever. It seems to be part and parcel of our American thinking that refuses to acknowledge limits or that we cannot have everything. I hope these people will be able to carry through what they resolve, and that it's not just another attempt at "New Year's resolutions" in February, with predictable results.

As for me and my small flocks, we are actually fasting this year. I have had the audacity to suggest to them that doing without might be a good thing, that recognizing limits may have spiritual benefits. So I have given them a program to follow, with guidelines for choosing what they will abstain from for the next 6+ weeks. I will be interested to see how they fare with it.

I myself have given up two things, one of which is far more significant than the other. The foods that I have chosen are bottled water and shellfish. Part of the goal for our Lenten fast is to learn a bit about how poor people live by living with their kind of limitations. Bottled water is expensive, not to mention the waste of plastic. So I've given it up. Since I don't drink sodas, dealing with road trips will require some preplanning in order to have something to drink that is even more expensive and less healthy. Shellfish are a regular part of my diet, since I limit meat consumption to one day a week, but they are a luxury. So I will stick to fish, being careful about the kinds that have unhealthy things in them like mercury.

The more significant abstinance is not a food, but an activity, but one that can take away a large portion of the day if I'm not careful. That is computer games. I love them, of all kinds. The online ones are the most fun, but I have several others that I've bought and downloaded for those times when I can't get on the net. I've given them up until after Easter. And this one is going to be tough. I eat my meals while playing games. I get my brain going in the morning with games. When I need a break I play games. When I'm bored I play games. This is not going to be easy.

But I guess that's what it's all about. If it were easy, there would be no point in doing it. But when our lives are full, there's no room for God. It's only by emptying our hands, our bellies, our time, our selves that we make room for God to work in and through us.

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