Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beginning Lent

We are just over a week into Lent; the holy season of preparation through which we make ourselves ready for the celebration of Easter.  Ten days have passed since we put ashes on our head.  Probably just as many have past that I have broken my Lenten fast in one way or another.

Lent is meant to be a somber season.  We remember Jesus’ humanity as we fully experience our own.  We study the disciples’ disappointing attempts at faithfulness and find their story written in us. We take one step closer to comprehending Jesus’ sacrifice as we try - and often fail – to make sacrifices ourselves.   When we arrive at the day of Resurrection, we can feel its full joy after having known some of its cost.

So we fast for Lent.  We give things up.  This is a part of our reflection and learning.  We learn the spiritual discipline of doing without, of making the choice not to give ourselves something we want.  Our culture and environment don’t prepare us well for these kinds of decisions.  We also, more importantly, learn about our own failure and God’s abundant grace.  We practice the crucial disciplines of confession, of acknowledging our own mistakes and perceiving our need for God’s forgiveness.

There are a lot of reasons we fail to keep our fast.  Peer pressure is one.  It would be ungrateful of me, after all, not to enjoy that funnel cake my husband sweetly bought me.  As I ingest the fried dough and powdered sugar, I think how easy it is to stray from the path just to go along with the tide.

Brain chemistry isn’t always on our side, either.  Sugar is addictive.  Its strength is that it has a greater hold on me than I am aware of.  It finds its way into my body when I am stressed or tired or bored or any other number of reasons.  When I imagine that my own will power alone will be adequate, or that by myself and without God’s help I can follow the path laid out for me, I open myself to bigger missteps, worse stumbles than I might have had if my eyes were really open.

We fail out of a fear of loss.  As I was contemplating the delicious box of Valentines Day candy that my dear husband – who clearly wants a cuddly wife – presented to me, I felt a strange queasy sense of panic at the thought of losing the opportunity that had been given.  Was I reacting to some strange evolutionary instinct of self-preservation or am I just way too hooked on chocolate?

There are countless reasons that we might break a Lenten fast.  Every single one teaches us a lesson about our own humanity.  We would do well to pay attention.  Breaking a fast isn’t a sin.  Giving something up is a self-imposed discipline, a choice that we make to further our own spiritual good.  Failure isn’t the breaking of a commandment, but a stumble that gives us a better chance to learn the terrain and secure our footing.

The Lenten fast shouldn’t become an idol.  It isn’t an end in itself.  While we shouldn’t intentionally try to mess up, the goal isn’t perfection either; only the perfecting of hearts in love, a process known in Wesleyan circles as sanctification.

Work on a fast in this season.  Whether you think you will do it well or poorly, take on the challenge and learn the lessons it will teach.  Whether you give something up, or take something on, whether it requires a lot of your time or a little, when Easter arrives, you will be all the more ready to celebrate.

Blessed eating!

May this recipe not break your fast.

Blueberry Muffins
2 eggs                   ½ cup shortening
1 c. sugar             2 c.s.r. flour
1 c. milk                1 c. blueberries
Mix together. I use the paper muffin cups in my muffin pan.  Bake until brown. – Joyce Bass

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I like to put different things together.   It doesn’t always work.  Mexican food is great, not only because of my cilantro addiction or my reverence for pico de gallo.  Everthing about what is traditionally known as Mexican food can be mixed together and still be great!  Most food pairings aren’t so easy, though.  When it comes to wine and food, there are even classes in it.

Pairings are important because of the obvious, but often overlooked, reality that things are different.  Sometimes when things are different, they go together really well.  One aspect of one food will bring out and highlight an aspect in the other.  Both are better for the two being together.   

A few of these we know well.  We know that catsup is marvelous on french fries and cheeseburgers.  Coffee is amazing with chocolate.  Salt is (unfortunately) good with everything.  More often, though it takes some thought to find the right foods that blend together.  We know the endeavor is worth it and the results can be delicious, though sadly our efforts often stop at our plate.

In our political life, we find less and less room to put more than one idea together.  Every side behaves as if it is the only one, that there are no benefits to others, and the only solution is all or nothing.  Though I doubt our representatives are thinking very theologically about this, this does represent a strange way to understand God.  For whatever unfathomable reason, God made us all different.  And not just a little.  We have vastly different perspectives and leanings.  

Surely this isn't an accident.  It must be that we were meant to go together, to temper each other’s ideas, to bring out the best in each other.  We can choose to create a greater sum or to cancel each other out.

I’ve never heard of a class in this kind of pairing, but maybe there ought to be.  I found it interesting that its homonym, “paring” means something opposite; to cut down or reduce.  I suppose we can choose to spend our time doing one or the other.  Which would you rather do? 

Blessed eating!


Here is a recipe in which many things go together well. 

Tijuana Torte
1 lb ground beef (or turkey)                        1 onion, chopped
16oz can stewed tomatoes                          8 oz can tomato sauce
4 oz can green chilies (diced)                      1 pk taco seasoning
1 pk flour Tortillas                                            1 c sour cream
1 lb Mexican Blend grated cheese 

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown beef & onion.  Add other ingredients except tortillas, cheese and sour cream.  Simmer 10-15.  Place ¼ c. mixture in 9x13 baking dish.  Layer with tortillas.  Layer meat mixture and cover with cheese.  Repeat about 3 layers to the top of dish then spread sour cream on top and add more cheese. Bake at 350o for 25 minutes. – Jerral Taylor