True fasting–Isaiah 58

Sometimes we can fall into doing spiritual practices as a way of showing off or competing with others.  I’m thinking that when Isaiah wrote this passage below, spiritual pride must have been running rampant:

18 Lent--week 2--fasting--Isaiah (click on image to enlarge)

This bible passage says it all. What good is eating less if you withhold food from the hungry? What good is being slender and good-looking if you treat others with disdain? What good is fasting if you quarrel and fight and “strike with a wicked fist”?

I suggest you reread what Isaiah has to say, slowly. Write it in a journal, or write it “in your heart.” Consider how to put it into practice in your life. . . at least in one little action each day or each week.

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. Coming up next week:  Lenten practice of almsgiving

Christian purpose of fasting or self-denial

Today’s quote about fasting:

16 Lent--week 2 - fasting--Foster

There are several good reasons why Christians might fast or practice some form of self-denial. One reason is found in these words from Richard Foster, reminding us that when we fast, we are to replace the time and energy we spend on one thing (i.e., preparing and eating food) with something of even greater value.

This makes me think of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. During his desert time, Jesus wasn’t doing active ministry or working in the carpenter shop or even visiting family. Jesus was practicing a kind of self-denial in order to  have some time alone for prayer.  It’s not that ministry, work, family togetherness are bad–they are good things. However, Jesus knew he needed some time to deepen his relationship with God in prayer.

So, when we fast or “give up” something for Lent, it is good to replace it with something even better. If we give up chocolate, we can replace it with fruit or vegetables. If we give up social media, we replace it with prayer or acts of kindness. If we give up a meal, we give the money we would have spent on the food to agencies who feed the hungry.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

Fasting, priorities, and time use

[P.S. FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m eating a chocolate donut while writing about fasting!]

15 Lent--week 2--fasting--Hoste (click on image to enlarge)

I am not very good at fasting–so sometimes I think about other ways to “give up” something in order to have time for the really important things in life. For example, there is nothing wrong with relaxing with a little “screen time” (TV, social media, YouTube, etc.), but most of us would agree, it’s easy to get roped into spending an hour or two with our “screens” than what we originally intended. So sometimes I have given up some television time during Lent–and I find I suddenly have more time on my hands.

It’s not that what we are viewing is wrong (hopefully not), but rather that some of us (myself included) slip into habits involving increasing screen time–and without realizing it, we are saying things like:

  • “I don’t have time to read the bible”
  • “I don’t have time to go to church”
  • “I don’t have time for exercise”
  • “I don’t have time to read a book to my child”
  • “I don’t have time to volunteer”

We live in a time when people are working very hard to make ends meet–I’m not saying it’s easy to find time. Neither am I saying that anyone should feel they have to “earn” God’s love or feel guilty about things (such as TV) that are basically a part of life in our times.

However, it is good during Lent to ponder how we use our time. We humans are limited creatures–we have a limited number of hours in the day, and a limited number of years in our lives. Lent is a good time for us to examine:

  • What are my priorities?
  • What is most important in my life?
  • Is there anything I might want to leave behind in order to do something else of greater value?

Lent is a good time for experimenting with this sort of thing. It gives us a time frame in which to try out something new and see how it works. Some of my past Lenten experiments were of great help to me–and others didn’t work out so well. However, even the ones that “failed” were good learning experiences for me.

God be with you in your Lenten journey.

Until next time,  Amen! 

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

Today I’m reflecting on this quote about fasting:

14 Lent--week 2--fasting--Wallis (click on image to enlarge)

Fasting and prayer go hand in hand. As others have pointed out, “fasting without prayer is simply starvation.”

In the Christian faith tradition, prayer, fasting and almsgiving are a united trio –or ought to be.  For many, this trio of spiritual practices is an emphasized theme during Lent. When people fasted, time was saved in food preparation–and that time could be spent in prayer. The food they saved was given to the hungry. (Monks actually made extra loaves of bread to give to the poor during Lent.)

Thought to ponder:
How do you practice this “spiritual trio” during Lent?

Until next time, Amen!