Lent this year

It has now been six days since my Lent/Ash Wednesday reflection post, in which I promised I would post what I am doing for this Lenten season in a day or two. It should surprise no one at this point to hear that, on the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I am a P (this is a constant source of annoyance to my fiancée, who is a J), given the number of things I have intended to post “in a day or two” or “in the near future” that as-yet remain in blog limbo. And so, without further ado, here are my Lenten practices for this season and the reasons why I am doing them.

1. Going vegetarian – I am giving up meat (though not milk, eggs, and other animal products) for the season. It is particularly well-documented that modern industrial agriculture is one of the worst contributors to global warming and also to air, soil, and water pollution in the world, and animal agriculture is particularly bad. I also feel there is a strong injustice in spending so much caloric energy on feeding captive animals (who often live and die in horrendous conditions) when over a billion people around the world are malnourished. The average American consumes over 3600 calories per day, and meat forms a much larger fraction of that number than is in any way healthy. Reflection on the relationship between my life and justice issues (both regarding humans and the rest of creation) is a major theme for me this year.

2. In addition to allowing me to reflect on my environmental footprint and the relationship between food and justice, going vegetarian inherently forces me to change my grocery shopping habits. Since they will be changing anyway, instead of driving my car across town to a large supermarket grocery store I have committed to only shopping at places that are within biking distance. I am not necessarily always biking to these places, due to a number of factors, but I prefer to bike if possible. The place where I am shopping most is the local cooperative grocery which prefers to stock organic and local items as much as possible. So I’m trying to reduce my use of oil-based transportation both for myself and for my food. When I go back to eating meat at the end of the season, I hope to drastically reduce my consumption and to purchase meat at the coop, which gets mainly local, ethically-raised (free-range, grass fed, etc.) animal products. This is part of a larger, longer-time strategy to begin taking more responsibility for the food I consume, which will include more emphasis on gardening (I am a member of a local gardening cooperative as well) and other more direct ways of providing food for myself.

3. I have committed myself to not using my debit card for purchases during Lent, except to buy gas (I get some small rewards when I use my card for gas, and it’s the one thing I’m going to have to buy whether I use my card or cash) and instead going to the ATM to actually, physically get cash. It doesn’t work this way for everyone, but I’ve found that when I have to get cash myself I spend less money than I do when I can just swipe the card. So nearly every purchase that I make will have to be premeditated, and I will only get enough cash to cover what I’m going to get up to the next denomination my ATM will let me get (which is generally in $10 increments). This allows me to be much more intentional and reflective about my consuming habits in general, while still (when I have the leftover change) allowing me to stop in at the coffee shop for an occasional cup, and maybe a bagel. This may actually be something I want to keep doing after Lent, I’ve already noticed a difference.

4. As a Benedictine Oblate, I am committed to praying the Psalms each day (which I do by using the daily offices from the Book of Common Prayer), reading daily from the Rule of Saint Benedict, and practicing lectio divina regularly. To this I have added the daily practice of the Ignatian discipline of examen, a meditative practice focused on examining the inner self, one’s actions and the motivations for those actions, and asking God to bring one’s actions and motivations in line with God’s will. I’ve been reading Robert Muholland’s Invitation to a Journey, and one of the things he emphasizes is that the journey of spiritual formation will differ from person to person based on what he calls “creation gifts”, and one way he discusses creation gifts is in terms of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. It’s not the ONLY factor that should shape one’s spiritual practice, but much of what he says makes good sense to me. I am an ENFP, and so I will naturally gravitate towards practices that reflect those personality preferences. In order to have a more holistic spirituality, I need to consciously nurture the “shadow side”, my opposite type: my inner ISTJ. Practicing examen will help me to nurture my introspective side and give me space to process my day, opening up my self in new ways to be transformed by the work of the Spirit in me. I also plan to continue this practice after Lent is over, but Ash Wednesday seemed a particularly appropriate time to begin it.

This Lent I am particularly taking time to examine my consumptive practices, particularly with regards to food and the way I move money from my account to the merchant’s register, and situating it all with an attempt to foster a greater awareness of my inner motivations. I hope to take many things from this season with me even as I prepare to release more of my self to be nailed to the cross with Christ on Good Friday.

Shalom!

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Thanksgiving

It’s hard to believe, given the association of Thanksgiving with feasting and making merry with family and friends, but Thanksgiving actually grew out of a European tradition of taking days to fast and pray and humble one’s self before God that was carried on by English immigrants to the new colonies (particularly by the Puritans, who observed the practice multiple times a year). There is actually no evidence that the traditional Pilgrim-Indian turkey feast we grew up re-enacting in primary school pageants ever took place, though we do know that in the beginning the Plymouth Rock colony did maintain friendly relation (and the Natives probably saved their bacon more than once – a fine payback we gave to them).

It’s especially hard to believe given the association of Thanksgiving with the day after and the orgy of consumer indulgence that takes place on Black Friday.

I’ve been working on a very traditional Thanksgiving food for the potluck our cooperative houses are having this evening – red beans and rice. It’s-a-spicy!

misc.

The Jesus Radicals conference went very well. If you weren’t able to attend, there will be CDs available of the sessions for a very reasonable price, so check back here and I’ll let you know when they’re available – or, better yet, you could join the discussion on the forums and find out first-hand!

I have been living in a cooperative housing project now for a few months, and it’s really cool. All the people I live with are great. That’s not to say we always get along, but we’re learning how to live together and find common purpose, while at the same time trying to let our relationship dynamic be as anarchistic and free as possible. A couple of us are Christians, and we’ve talked about trying to start a radical Bible study in the house. If you’re ever in Evansville, Indiana, just look up the Grand Old Co-Opry at 1405 S. Grand.

There is at this point a remote possibility I’ll be doing a seminar at Cornerstone next year. I had a nice, long conversation with Loren Abraham, an architect who specializes in developing more environmentally-sustainable projects, about the question of dominion in Genesis 1 and he said he’d recommend me to the dude in charge of seminars for a discussion on that topic. So if any news comes along on that front I’ll let y’all know.

I’m reading a pretty good book right now, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder by Richard A. Horsley. I’ll post some thoughts on it when I’ve finished reading.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the various character-formation devices that exist in our culture. I’ve really been getting into Foucault’s idea of the Panopticon, and the roles of things such as voting, paying taxes, and media consumption as kinds of rituals that remake us into the image of the liberal capitalist societal ideal, and on how participating in the rites of the church can be a form of resistance as we seek to become conformed more and more into the Imago Dei as we were created to be. Perhaps I’ll have something coherent enough to post later, but if anyone would like to meditate on that and maybe send some comments my way that would be cool too.

And along that line, if anyone would be interested in co-authoring this blog with me, I wouldn’t mind sharing space. It would help make content creation a little more regular, and it would also make this site more than just my rants and vents – I think that would be a good thing. So if you’re interested, drop me a line and we’ll talk. I won’t just automatically approve anyone who applies, but at the same time I don’t want to be dictatorial about the whole thing. So let me know if you’re interested!

Good night, and good luck.