Ash Wednesday

And so starts the fast. It’s Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian year that marks the start of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for Easter. I announced a while ago, that I was planning on fasting from food for Lent, and will be getting sustenance from a beer I made at Amsterdam, as well as clear liquids.  It’s kind of crazy, I know.

My Lenten breakfast (and every other meal)

Breakfast; there’s oatmeal in there, I swear.

Yes, part of this is to be able to write about the experience, for the sake of this blog and likely in some other places too. But it also a practice of spiritual discipline.  While Christianity (and particularly Anglicanism, the flavour of church I worship in) doesn’t require full fasts like this, some form of fasting (be it giving up TV, packing your lunch instead of buying, etc) is encouraged for Lent. The idea is that by intentionally choosing to “inconvenience” yourself, you can focus your energy on spiritual growth, whether that’s through prayer, reading the Bible, doing good works, etc. So, for example, you could brown-bag your lunch, and donate the money you save to a local soup kitchen.

Already today, I’m finding food to be this enormous mental drain. By 11am (read, I’d only missed one meal) I was already obsessing about food. Mind you, I’m staring down the barrel of 40 days without it, but still, I was shocked at how quickly my mind went there. So in my case, I’m trying to “train” myself to reflect the energy I would spend thinking about the awesomeness of food, to reflective prayer on things in my life that are blessings. Trying to reshape my desire into thankfulness.

After a breakfast of beer (just one), I attended the 10:30 mass at my church, to take communion, and to be marked with the ashes.

Non-Christian note: Marking believers with ashes is a symbolic ritual that many (though not all) Christians practice on Ash Wednesday. It’s full of different symbols, from the ancient practice of putting ashes on oneself in an act of mourning/penitence (in this case, reflecting our sinful nature); juxtaposing the oil cross that many believers anoint newly baptized believers with, as well as for people seeking healing; the fact that the ashes are often the dried and burned palm leaves that were used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations; to the reminder that we, as humans are mortal, and will return to dust. If you see people walking around today with a smudge on their forehead, that’s what it’s about. They’re not just messy.

Lenten ashes

Not messy

During the service I was struck by something. While I know that God generally provides for my needs in actual physical things gotten in normal/mundane ways (food, clothes, work etc), I’m also promised and provided with miraculous things. I was standing reciting the start of the communion text, and I realized that I was super hungry, and really wanted to eat something. And in a moment of clarity, I realized that I was about to eat something: a little, mostly tasteless, wafer (I’m still eating those). And that it was enough. True, I couldn’t live for long on just communion wafers (barring a miracle, which isn’t out of the question, but I’m not banking on it), but it was a reminder that my needs are provided for, both in terms of physical things, as well as spiritual ones.

I’m honestly very nervous about the upcoming 40 days. I actually started writing this sentence, and was listing reasons why I need not worry, then realized that I don’t really have any tangible reasons to actually worry, other than my own personal discomfort. But I’m aware that I’m pretty selfish, and I like being comfortable nearly as much as I like eating. So I need these reminders that even when I’m not comfortable, I can trust that I will be provided for. And that maybe that provision will be miraculous, and maybe it will just be “normal”, like getting an awesome beer — that will literally keep me alive — from a dear friend.

If you’re the praying kind I’d love it if you could pray for me. Specifically: peace and patience for me and Erika, Ben, and Grace. As I get into “synch” with less calories, blood sugar swings (which are maneagble, but are bound to happen) and less energy, I don’t want to compromise what kind of a father and husband I am. I need to stay involved and keep my cool, even when I’m feeling frazzled, and I need their patience and love when I fail. Also pray that I can have my eyes, ears and heart open to see the blessings each day, both the miraculous and the mundane.

If prayer isn’t your thing but you want to support me, I’ll take all the love, good vibes, and kind words you’ve got.

Oh, and I’ll review Brewmaster’s Tithe, as we named my life-line beer, tomorrow. Complete with details on how we made it, how we nearly ruined it, who blessed it, and who got cut for 4 stitches.

5 Comments

  1. Posted March 6, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Great thoughts Chris, thanks for sharing, really appreciated them. I was wanting to do a similar fast but Jill told me I was an idiot, and I can’t brew beer! Look forward to reading a post lent reflection.

  2. chris
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks bro, I read your post on observing Lent too. Realizing that a lot of folks in your denomination maybe don’t “do” Lent, I was well happy to see you encouraging it.

    As far as doing a similar fast, there’s always next year 😉 I can supply the beer; just did my first home brew last week…….

    • Posted March 7, 2014 at 4:02 am | Permalink

      Thanks and I’m down got next year! If we ever hang out again I got an idea I want to swing by you about beer and god

  3. chris
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Well okay! Do we have to hang out, or could we, like Google Hangout? Cause that is like a real hang out……

  4. LorryMarie
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    OK – I’m in – will agree with you in prayer for what you are seeking

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