Monthly Archives: February 2009

What to give up?

As we know Lent is a time of penitence and fasting.  My little goof ball brain has wrestled with this ever since coming into a Catholic tradition back in the mid-1990s.  As someone who grew up pretty ecumenical and culturally Protestant it was a hard transition.  Getting to a Anglican and then more Catholic theological viewpoint in seminary and the years following was easy.  “Head stuff” and academics come easy to me.  I live in that world and I love that world.  Developing spiritual disciplines are harder, be they prayer, fasting, meditating on Scripture, or anything.  Like I said, studying is easy for me. Likewise I think for a lot of folks who grew up or came to faith in the Evangelical Protestant tradition (regardless of the denominational brand) that things like Bible study, theology and other intellectual or program oriented activities come easier then things like fasting.  They are deeply imbedded in the Evangelical tradition.  It is not that fasting is not part of the Evangelical tradition, but it play a different role and for most it is not a routine part of spiritual life.  In the churches I grew up in fasting or abstinance were both voluntary and for most not a part of church life.  There are exceptions to this. Some churches take on 40 days of fasting programs, but these are usually just another part of the churches program for a particular time and not continued on a regular basis.  So for me this did not come naturally and as a result I struggled with Lent and never looked forward to it.  I’ve mentioned some of my struggles in previous posts so I won’t rehash them.

Yet, fasting and abstinence can be very beneficial in developing spiritual disciplines.  I struggled and still do sometimes, when I focus what I am giving up, versus trying to use this is a means to develop and my own spiritual disciplines I fail miserably.  It’s like New Year’s resolutions.  I suck at them and this year decided not even to make one of those.  To be honest I’m still working on these disciplines, I figure I will be doing so the rest of my life as old habits die hard.

My own journey in learning to “survive” Lent is to let go.  If these things impede and frustrate me then I need to let go of them and focus on what will actually build me up spiritually.  This year I decided to reduce the amount of time I spent watching all the talking heads on TV news and listening to the incessant drumbeat of talk radio.  When I did this I noticed a radical shift, I was not long spun up about all the apocalyptic invective on both the right and the left.  I began to be able to relax and actually let God’s grace begin to work in me, especially because of what I went through coming back from Iraq.  It worked so well that I have expanded it in Lent, I’m not watching or listening to any of them. I have more time for spiritual disciplines, I am able to write again after not being able to for a year and I’m able to laugh.   One thing that helped me was reading Andrew Greeley’s “Bishop Blackie Ryan” mystery novels.  They are so full of the grace of God and numerous times have touched my very soul.  Likewise it is easier for me to see people of all viewpoints as people who God loves and not enemies of me or the unnamed political party to which I may or may not belong.  I think I am now a confirmed Indepublicratarian.

I think for me these two things are helping me this Lent. I’ve let go to to a lot of stuff, but I’ve gained more. For the first time since before Iraq the Daily Office and Mass are becoming spiritual experiences for me and not just being done out of duty and obedience.   If I miss something or foul it up I figure that God probably still loves me anyway and if that is the case for me maybe I can reflect it in all my relationships, maybe even in my view of the Evil Dodgers.

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Today’s Spring Training results for my teams

A bad day for my teams, hope at least one does better than last year.

Florida 3 O’s 2

Milwaukee 8 A’s 5

Royals 6 Giants 1

And the Evil Dodgers are embroiled in contract negotiations with Manny “Yes I like my hair” Ramirez.  Manny is a great player but I would like to see him sign and as a condition of the contract have Joe Torre give him a high and tight and make him wear a uniform that fits.

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My favorite Foods for Fridays in Lent: Being faithful without it being sucky

In my running commentary about Lent and my struggles with it over the years I have noted that I really don’t do fish, a staple of Lenten cuisine. Fish is so prevalent on Lenten menus that some calendars have a little fish superimposed on Fridays and sometimes Wednesdays. This is not a Jesus fish, it is a fish….this symbolizes no cow, no buffalo, no chicken, no lamb or mutton, no pig, not even Spam, which I don’t know if can be truly categorized as a meat.  When I first saw fish on a liturgical calendar I wanted to throw up.  I’ve had people suggest variations on fish, as I noted I did suffer one year deployed on ship eating meaty Alaskan King Crab and Lobster and patently avoiding the “turf” side of our surf and turf Friday menu.

Since I have both experienced the pain of traditional Lenten menus as well as noticed friends who are being faithful but obviously not liking it I have a few suggestions that Judy have come up with.

Vegetarian Pizza: We like things like mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted garlic, banana peppers and onions and I like olives, which go on my side of the pizza because Judy is somewhat allergic to them.

Pasta with some type of spicy sauce and good pasta noodles.  I like Baked Ziti, Baked Spaghetti, Penne and Marinara usually with oodles of garlic and peppers.

Italian specialities such as Stromboli or Calzone with vegetable fillings rather than meat.

Mexican provides some nice options usually based around beans and rice. bean burritos, beans and rice,  flour tortillas and bean chalupas (tostadas in California).

Cajun can work good in some instances, I always like red beans and rice.

Judy has come up with a great recipe for black bean soup which is both filling and zesty which is usually accompanied by some home baked bread.

Since we are only actually having to do these meals on Fridays and Wednesdays during some years, we really don’t need a lot of variation to do this.

I do hope this provides ideas for folks who either struggle with Lent, have food allergies that prevent them from eating fish, or who are new to this.

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Spring Training Giants vs. the Evil Dodgers

Today marks the beginning of this year’s forces of good versus the forces of evil.
Giants vs. Dodgers

For the just normal games we have the O’s vs the Cards and A’s vs the Angels…

Today’s Dundas Scoreboard

Angels 3 A’s 1

O’s 11 Cards 3

Evil Dodgers 16 Giants 7

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Lenten Math: Lent is not as long as you think

Ash Wednesday went very well for me this year. I had a nice Mass working with another Chaplain at the hospital and distributing ashes to folks who could not get to either the Episcopal or Catholic Mass.  So one day down on the countdown.   I noted before how badly I do Lent and that I am going to be happy rather than glum this year, even though I have always thought that Lent is unbearably long.  In light of deciding to be happy I decided to do some Math.

There are 50 calender days until Easter. However the actual Lenten countdown is less as Sundays are always “Feast Days” and though within Lent don’t count the same.  So one day down and since Sundays are feast days we can take them off, which takes us to 43 days. Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday and Easter are not part of Lent so that takes us down to 40.  On the surface 40 days does seem long, in fact 40 days for me feels like an eternity.  Now if we are honest we have to admit that although Mondays are kind of sucky because most of us go back to work, they do tend to go fast.  Since Mondays  are not days of fasting or abstinence and they go fast it’s kind of like they are not part of Lent.  Admittedly for some they may not go fast and actually may be kind of hellish, but in my math they don’t count.  That’s 6 more down, which means we’re down to 34.  St Patrick’s Day falls within Lent and though it belongs in Lent in the USA it is the feast of the Patron Saint of Ireland. Since we are all Irish on St Patrick’s day it takes us down another day which takes us to 33.  Since Fridays are days of abstinence, Thursdays and Saturdays  become default substitutes for Fridays.  This takes us now another 12 days since we tend to be slack on them we are down to 21. Baseball Opening Day certainly counts as a feast day, so were down to 20.  My birthday which almost always falls during Lent is usually given a dispensation which I’ll gladly extend to anyone who is willing to wish me well. Especially if they buy me either presents or a beer.  We’re down to 19.  Tuesdays also tend to go pretty fast and since many people watch American Idol on Tuesday it really doesn’t count. Subtract another 6 days.  This means there are only 13 days of real Lent. I mean like mandatory painful Lent, fasting and abstinence and that sort of thing.  Now if we are actually observing Lent and giving something up there is some sacrifice on the other days, but that is kind of our choice.

So by my count I figure that Lent is really only 13 days.  That’s under two weeks.  Even I can do that. Have a great Lent.

And it gets better, I just remembered that Wednesdays in most traditions are now optional days for fasting or abstinance. So subtract another 6 days.  This means that Lent is only 7 days.  Who can’t do that?

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Hope: Spring Training Games Begin

First day of actual MLB Spring Training Games. My Giants play Cleveland while the A’s play Milwaukee and the O’s play the Mets.

Giants 10 Indians 7

A’s 5 Brewers 5

Mets 9 O’s 3

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Lenten Countdown

It’s Ash Wednesday. My Lenten Coundown Begins. 50 Days until Easter. Today’s thoughts…Mass, Fast, Soup & Bread…let the thrills begin.

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