Skip to main content

saying no

As part of a call to prayer that our faith community is involved in, I am fasting this week. This means that I give something up (usually food) for a set time for a spiritual purpose. Fasting and prayer are ancient spiritual practices, often done in tandem, but their link is not always understood. Basically, I see it as two sides of the same discipline: fasting is saying no to myself and praying is saying yes to Jesus. One is meant to fuel the other.

A few years ago I heard somewhere that a square of dark chocolate a day is good for you, so I thought I would buy some and have it on hand so that I could nibble on a piece now and then. I also discovered the yumminess of Chai tea a few years ago, so now it seemed natural to have a piece of chocolate with my tea. While doing schoolwork or working on a writing project, I go through numerous cups of tea a day, and it became a habit that after I made my cup of tea, I would reach in the cupboard for the chocolate. What had begun as an occasional treat soon became a regular habit that I did without thinking. Feeling a bit hungry? Grab some chocolate! Need an energy boost? Grab some chocolate! Finished with your meal? Grab some chocolate! And then it came time for a fast. I decided to say no to all sweets in general and also late night snacking (I am notorious for not eating meals and snacking my way through life). The habits were not amused. They let me know that it would be better if we went back to the old way! They didn't appreciate being interrupted and put on hold. But my mind and my body and my spirit breathed in deeply and appreciated the open space.

So much of our lives are filled with actions that we do automatically. What started out as something we had to think about has now become ingrained in many cases. This can either work for us or against us. When I leave my house, I automatically put on my coat, then my boots, check for my gloves, put my phone in my purse, and lock the door. I usually don't have to think about it much. I also try to rise in the morning and fall asleep with thanksgiving and gratitude on my lips. I miss these things when I don't do them, and that's good! But if do something on an impulse (I think I'll put off my homework and go out with friends instead), it can easily become a habit. It might be good to evaluate where this might lead and see if it is indeed serving us or we are serving it.

Fasting is a great way of breaking out of the everyday habits we have accumulated over the months and years and checking to see whether they are hampering our spirits, weighing us down, or helping us say yes to Jesus. Let my YES continue to get bigger and bigger!

I took a photo of this piece of chocolate and then put it back in the cupboard. I will eat it next week...maybe.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

theology from the margins: God of Hagar

Our contexts have major implications for how we live our lives and engage with our world, that much is obvious. However, we sometimes overlook how much they inform our concepts of God. For those of us occupying the central or dominant demographic in society, we often associate God with power and truth. As a result, our theology is characterized by confidence, certainty, and an expectation that others should be accommodating. For those of us living on the margins of society, our sense of belonging stranded in ambiguity, God is seen as an advocate for the powerless. Our theology leans more toward inclusivity, and we talk less about divine holiness and righteousness and more about a God who suffers. On the margins, the priority is merciful and just action, not correct beliefs. 
There are significant theological incongruences between Christians who occupy the mainstream segment of society and those who exist on the margins. The world of theology has been dominated by Western male thought…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…