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I’ve wanted to write a bit about the season of Lent that begins tomorrow, but I haven’t carved out the time I really need to write intentionally.  I will say a few things though.  I never grew up in a church or community that practices Lent (or any church calender, for that matter).  It wasn’t until I was in my early-mid twenties (it’s kinda weird that I can say that) that I found an interest in participating.  The first few years I gave up things that now feel like “typical evangelical” things to give up: coffee, soda, desserts.  Looking back on this initial experience of Lent, I realized that I allowed the practice of Lent to be built up with some form of legalism.  I gave up coffee for 40 days, but I found other methods to dull the caffeine headaches that followed.  I gave up soda, and found myself drinking a lot of Brisk ice tea.  I established my own Lent Laws, and quickly found ways to subvert them, like drinking a lot of caffeine-rich tea instead of coffee.  I think I completely missed the point when I did that.  It would be like giving up watching TV for Lent, when all the shows are still available on the internet.

I was thinking about writing about what I think Lent means and how I want to approach it this year, but I found some words that are much more eloquent than what I could write.  I’ve never met this guy, but by the looks of his picture I’m sure we’d get along just fine.  He looks bad ass.  Kester writes, toward the end of the post, about what it means to not just deprive yourself of something for Lent, but to make sure to fill the space back in with something good.

What happens then is that we begin to experience resurrection. Not just resurrection in our own minds and hearts, but resurrection that pours out into our families and friendships. Resurrection that pours out into our workplace. Resurrection that pours out into our neighborhoods. Our communities can be forever changed if we treat Lent as an opportunity not just to rid ourselves of something old, but to begin something new.

You should take the time to read his whole post.  It’s good.  Really good.

Another post that I want to link to pointed me to some Lenten resources that look very helpful.  If you aren’t familiar with The Jesus Manifesto, you should be.  Even if you disagree with everything that they write about, they write in such a honest, compassionate, thought-out way that cannot be dismissed easily.  Apart from the suggested resources, Mark wrote a sentence early on in his post that brought to light how so often, it’s easy to have ulterior motives when we are deciding what we will give up for Lent.  It’s good.

The last link that I want to share is to a guy named Jason.  I met him and his wife last August and a Justice Kitchen get together.  I recently found his blog and recently he had a post entitled, “What do you Believe.” You should read it.  It, too, is good.  Reading Jason’s thoughts in this post and in others gives me hope in people who call themselves followers of Jesus.  It wont take long in poking around on his blog, and you will see his heart for living out the gospel of Jesus in a physical way.

So, that’s that.  I pray that if you are participating in this Lenten season that your heart will remain focused on the reason you are giving something up.  May you find peace in the difficult moments ahead.

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When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, “Long live gravity!  Long live
stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!”  I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.
-from Some Further Words by Wendell Berry

I’ve been mulling these words over for the past week.  These words are abrupt and forceful, yet I find them captivating.  What do you think?

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manufactured in a facility that uses wheat, milk, eggs, soy, and tree nuts.

I’ll give you a dollar if you know what I had for breakfast.

Here we are in the middle of February.  I think it’s time to offer a bit of an update on how I’m moving along with my New Year’s Resolutions.  What has stood out to me most is that I find myself working on these resolutions without thinking that I “need to be checking these things off of my list.”  Perhaps this means that the things that I set for myself are too much like who I already am, or maybe on a more positive perspective, perhaps it means that I am at a place where I am becoming the person I want to become without having to force myself into it.

I have been making conscious choice to continue to slow down.  I’ve enjoyed having a bit of extra time between classes to sit and read the newspaper or a book.  I’ve walked to school a few day and have enjoyed the slowness of that.  I’ve tried to shut the computer off and remind myself that most of my life was spent without the technology available to be today.  I should clarify that my purpose in slowing down and shutting things off is not an attempt at becoming a Luddite.  I don’t like the feeling of being “hooked” on something, and forcing myself to think about these things has even caused me to be more aware of the amount of coffee I had been drinking.  The purpose of trying to slow down was not to remove technology from my life, it was to force me to think about the things that I was doing and question whether or not they are things that I really want to do.

I’ve continued to enjoy Peterson’s “Tell It Slant.”  I’m still in the second half of the book now, which isn’t worrisome to me because I knew that my extracurricular reading was going to be slow throughout the school year.  I think that the next book on my list is going to be Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America: Culture and America.” There is a local, independent bookstore that has a year-long book club, and this year they’ve titled it, The Year of the Farm.  Berry’s book will be the book discussed at the end of March.  I’ve been a Wendell Berry fan for several years, but have yet to have the opportunity to participate in a discussion group based of one his books.  I’m looking forward to it.

School has been going very well.  I’ve had either an exam or quiz in all of my classes and my goal of maintaining a 3.5 GPA continues to be well within my sights.  On a recent exam for my Nutrition class I ranked 5th out of 200 students.  This is particularly encouraging to me because for so much of my life I didn’t think that I was smart or a good student.  Returning to college has been an opportunity for myself to correct some of those well-ingrained, self-imposed thoughts that I assumed about my identity.

Lauren and I haven’t taken any small trips yet, but were are thinking of making a pub quiz team for Wednesday nights.  Wanna join?

We haven’t had any other “Slow Food” nights yet, but I continue to think about the implications of how some equate healthy food with elitism.  I continue to say it, but I really do hope to put some thoughts down on the topic.  I have started to attend a group on campus called Crops For Health.  It’s comprised largely of grad students, doctoral research, and faculty, so I felt a bit overwhelmed at the first meeting.  I think that it will be a great place for me to network with people , though.

Well, that’s about it I guess.  1.5 months into the new year.  How are your resolutions going?

God,

I just got home from a benefit concert hosted by Deliver Darfur.  100% of the money raised tonight was going to be donated to the International Rescue Committee.  We watched a short video that explained a bit of the genocide that Darfur is experiencing.  We also listed to some good music; overall it was a good evening.  Here’s the thing, God, I don’t mean to minimize the tragedy that is going on in that country, but I am finding it hard to find a response to that situation that will be in line with how you feel about it.  They are your children that have chosen to pick up weapons against each other.  They are your children left without home or family or food or hope or peace.  I know that you love your children deeply, but I’m having trouble know how I should love them too.  The thing is, so many of your children are hurting and being hurt by other people, and I’m afraid that I don’t have enough compassion for all of them.  But how can I care for all of the honest causes that are shown to me?  I don’t have enough energy or money or love for the genocide in Darfur, the young girls in Thailand sold as sex slaves, the Mexican kids caught up in running drugs and guns, and the millions of people throughout the world that are dying of malnutrition and starvation.  How can I care for all of the people who need help?  It so easy to see why people become numb to the reality of life in most of the world.  What can I do?  Should I pick one thing that pulls at my heart and throw myself completely into it?  Or is it better to spread out my abilities and resources to as many as I hear about?  Is it heartless for me to say that I am sad about what is going on in Darfur but not do anything about it?  But really…what can I do?  Is it really my job to do anything?  I mean, you’re GOD.  You are the creator of the cosmos.  You don’t need me for anything.  But if I’m trying to shape my life after yours then I feel like I should do something about it.  I feel a bit helpless myself.  I don’t want to become the type of person who just tosses some money at a cause expecting that to be all that can be done either.  I realize that in most of these cases money isn’t going to fix the deep-rooted problems, but what else do I have to offer? I know I’m babbeling on here, God, but this is really stuck on my heart right now.  I need help to see where and how to help.  Give me some vision to see what I can do.  I don’t want to become calous to the brokeness around me and the world, but I feel like if I don’t do anything soon my heart will start to grow hard and I’ll just feel overwhelmed by everything.  I’m trying to listen for your voice and I’m sorry for all the crap I listen to before I listen to you.  I need help to shut things down and listen, really listen.  Teach me about compassion.  Show me what it looks like and why you care about it.  I need to know that compassion is really better than numbness, because sometimes I’m not so sure it it.

Less of me, God, more of you. Amen. +

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