Monday, February 15, 2010

Launch Into Lent: Fasting

Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines with a long association with Lent. Most people think of giving up food when they hear the word "fasting." Many people assume that when one is fasting, one only drinks water. Most of us assume we could never give up food, not for any length of time--which might be one reason we should attempt it. Fasting has been part of most religious traditions, even if it hasn't been widely used in all of them. It's a powerful tool.

Fasting gives us an opportunity to focus our attention. And if we're fasting for spiritual reasons, we've freed up some time and energy to focus on God.

If we give up food, we also give ourselves an opportunity to viscerally feel how much of the world lives: that nagging hunger in the stomach, that return of one's thoughts to food and how to find it.

Even if we think we can't give up food altogether, we could designate one day a week to be third world eating day. We could eat nothing but a bowl of rice once or twice a day. When we're hungry, we could remind ourselves that even with a diminished diet of rice, we're still getting more calories than much of the world.

And of course, we could undertake fasts of other sorts. Here are some things you could give up, for one day a week or the whole of Lent:



--local television news

--driving above the speed limit


--coffee (or just coffee from a coffee shop, which is SO overpriced)


--fast food

--soda (yes, even diet)

--restaurant food

--fluffy reading

--sending text messages

--excessive Internet use

If you want to be part of a truly ancient tradition, you might choose Friday as your fast day for Lent, as much of the church did for the first 1600-1900 years of church tradition. Or you might want to plan for some sort of three day fast that covers Good Friday to Easter morning.


Scot McKnight's wrote Fasting, part of the Ancient Practices series of books, about which I cannot say enough good things. I haven't read it, but I hear reports that it's wonderful.

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