Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Giving it up for Lent

I have been thinking about the discipline of Lent-- or rather, the default decision to give up chocolate for forty days each year by millions of people around the world. It's gotten so bad that a chocolatier that I know says that he hates it when Valentine's Day falls within Lent, because his sales are a fraction of what they are when Valentine's Day doesn't run smack dab into a season of religious deprivation.

It's interesting that we set ourselves up this way in the bleak midwinter. How many of us commit to New Year's resolutions with no hope of actually carrying them out for the long term? Then along comes Lent, and we get another chance to deprive ourselves, but this time within a more manageable timeframe. And, we get to brag about it every time we smugly pass up the chocolate-- along with half of the population, apparently.

My priest preached about this on Ash Wednesday. Instead of giving up something for 40 days, why not think about giving up something that is bad for you permanently, using Lent simply to start you on the path.

This year, I have decided that I am going to try to give up carbonated drinks--even the diet versions aren't good for you, and let's face it, I chugged those babies FOR the sugar and the caffeine. I have started drinking more tea and water. Since I have been addicted to Pepsi since I was about 12, I think about the discipline I am subjecting myself to every time I pass a pop machine-- which is often, because I work in a high school.

But I'd like to take it to the next level. I have also decided that I am going to try to take ON some things that would help out those around me. I want to do it quietly, secretly if I can, without grandstanding.

Ann at what the tide brings in sums it up so nicely from a post from 2005:
I have always thought the Ash Wednesay Gospel was odd for the imposition of Ashes. We hear that we should not practice our piety in public but perhaps we take this so seriously we become afraid of practicing any piety before others and yet...
The prophet, Joel, calls to us -- “Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast and why -- so people will not ask “where is their God?” Let us show forth the holiness of our creator, so people will know that we are a holy people - commited to God and followers of Jesus Christ.
How might we do this? I suggest we move beyond chocolate to declare our own fast ---
Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on praise
Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience
Fast from evil, Feast on kindness
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
What will be your fast? What will be your feast?

Amen. Amen.

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