Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 days of water

The season of Lent begins this week.
(Wait- didn't we just celebrate the New Year?  How can we be forty days from Easter already?!?!!)
Growing up in a non-catholic church, there was never too big of a emphasis on Lent... we always touched on it, and I do remember a few seasons of doing an actual "40 days" with the church, but never really any big deal.

As I've grown older, I like the idea of observing Lent more and more, but struggle with how it's often become just a trendy "40 days to break a habit" thing.  While I believe its true the Lord desires us to give up things that are not necessarily good for us (soda, alcohol, desserts, daytime soaps)(not that the soaps example is a personal experience or anything ;) ), I don't think it's correct to turn this season into An Excuse to cut out the sugar so we can lose those extra ten pounds.  And I especially don't like going through the season hearing the complaining of the "having to go without", especially when it's a clear case of just doing it because someone "has" to, with no spiritual connection at all.
I don't totally get the idea of Lent being solely a "penance" thing... that it's just a punishment of sorts and we have to bide our time til the forty days are up.
To me, that seems a self centered sacrifice.  I feel the sacrifice is supposed to be the reminder... to not be thinking of our wants and needs, but the nudge to spend more time with God, to pray when you're tempted or to replace those bad habits with Godly ones.
Fasting, abstaining from meat, or choosing other abstinences for Lent should more than a practice of developing self-control. It is supposed to be a direction to prayer or reflection, as "the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God". And the traditional first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesday gives us another important point of fasting... that fasting without changing our behavior is not what God wants. "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own" (Is 58:6-7).
Fasting and/or abstinence should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to go without because of their poverty.  Or those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political situations.  Or those who are in need for any reason. We have the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those in need. Fasting or giving up a luxury or a habit can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should prompt us to greater efforts to the ways in which we can help alleviate that suffering.
That is why the church has the meat abstinence... to help us make a connection to those less fortunate, who couldn't afford meat for their meals. To remember part of the purpose of abstinence in this season and see it as a link to those whose diets (and lives) are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves if we are abstaining from meat—a sparse and simple meal. Avoiding meat while eating lobster or indulging in a large delicious fish fry complete with beer and wine, usually, sadly, misses the whole point.
-this paragraph on fasting taken roughly from CatholicOnline

I do believe the celebration of Lent should bring with it a contemplation on the sacrifice as well as the simple practice of the sacrifice.
And that's a big challenge to take seriously.

Anyway, all that to say, in thinking of Lent this year, I really felt like I wanted to steer clear of any simply Habit Breaking ideas or things to help me with my diet. ;)  And if I wanted to do anything, I wanted something that could correlate directly with something I'd like to make a difference in... and not just in myself, but helping me look outside of myself.
Last year I saw blood : water mission's idea to take the 40 days of Lent and use it for good that way.  And it's stuck with me all year, so I decided that's the concept I'd use to observe Lent this year.
To use this season of sacrifice and combine it with their mission of bringing clean water to the over 800 million people who do not have access to it.
Unlike war and terrorism, the global water crisis does not make media headlines, despite the fact that it claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. Unlike natural disasters, it does not rally concerted international action, despite the fact that more people die each year from not enough water or drinking dirty water than from the all of the world’s hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes combined.
You can find just a skimming of sobering worldwide water facts here if you're interested.

So this project, this idea, this "sacrifice", is to only drink water during Lent, and the money that I would have used to purchase soda, milk, beer, juice, etc. will be given to a mission’s fund to build clean water wells around the world.

"We’re just asking you to ditch the morning coffee and o.j., leave out the lunchtime soda, and turn down the evening beverage in lieu of clean [convenient, easy-to-take-for-granted] water from the tap. By sacrificing your daily routine, you will make a difference in the daily routine of a person in Africa"

In addition to a little money adding up for water for others, I can use this to take some time every time I drink to pray.  We drink all day long.  That's a lot of reminder for prayer.  Prayer for those missions, for those countries, for those people.  The people who would give anything for the amount of clean water we waste daily.  And for my own awareness of not taking things for granted and being a good steward of my resources.

Care to join me??

Some great clean water missions and info:
Living Water International
Charity: water
blood : water mission
Water Missions

p.s. blood:water even has a mobile site so you can track the beverages you're not drinking throughout the day to tally them up on your phone.


Mom said...

That was quite a post. I would like to join you...hope I am up for the challenge.I am going to need a LOT of encouragement.And reminders too... XOXOX

Erin said...

I love this idea! I think I'll tweak it a little bit, though. I'm going to figure out how to turn this into my own passion - orphan care. Something like every time I get a hug/kiss from Ella, I'll drop a quarter in a pot for the orphans. I need to think about it, because I want it to be doable and not just an "in theory" thing where I just write a random check on Easter.

heather said...

love it Erin! let me know what you come up with!!

Kelly said...

I think that your idea for almsgiving is nice and the water crisis is so daunting when you look at the facts.

It is funny because I had just read that same section on yesterday. I recognized the passages that made up your post (

The one thing that I would say is that fasting and sacrifice is personal and individual experience. What may be a sacrifice for one person, such as coffee, ice cream or video games may not be to another person.

As a Catholic I have always been taught that within the pillar of fasting the purpose is to show appreciation for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and to experience a loss of pleasure and enjoyment.

But it is true that fasting is only one pillar of lent and that prayer and almsgiving should not be forgotten.

The most important thing that I would like to say is that as we strive to be closer to God during lent in preparation for Easter we should not forget God's other teachings. Thus we can not stand in judgement of other's lenten practices.

The focus of lent should be on fasting, prayer and almsgiving. No good will come from trying to gauge other's relationship with God by standing in judgement of how others choose to observe lent. When we assume that we know someone's motivations for giving up Starbucks we loose sight of the true meaning of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:29- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

heather said...

Kelly- (and I only hope you might come back to this and see, as I don't have an email connected to your comment!)

Thank you for your thoughts on this. I feel I owe you an apology, as even though your comment was very gracious, I feel there was a more of an inference of judgement than I intended in my post. I in no way meant that... and do not want to specifically judge anyone's spiritual practices or relationship. I do not mean to dismiss ANY acts of Lenten worship that are sincere. And you are right in that I have no place to try and put a feel on what is "real" or not. Or where in the spectrum of worship it is coming from.

I do not mean to discount the giving up of certain things (i.e. starbucks, tv, etc)... God has used those things for me and my "giving up pleasure" and drawing closer to Him as well. I was just meaning to casually remark on how often I hear it (usually admittedly) taken so lightly and jokingly and lead into why I wrote much of this for MYSELF a reminder of why I might hold Lent important.
I grew up with some Catholic family and had plenty of Catholic friends and I do know first hand that it means different things to different people (and congregations).
That being said, having come freshly from our last community being heavily "Catholic" (with well known heavy emphasis on the quotation marks, in their own remarks) and having many close friends there and being immersed in the conversations surrounding Lent, I do know it has often -or at least sometimes- become just a Thing To Do... and I'm talking as well in the entirety of our culture, not in putting down the Catholic faith. I do know many who take Lent very seriously, but I do also know those who use it as I spoke of... just to do it. Maybe even more so NOT in the Catholic faith.
And I admit, as I said, I did not grow up with instruction of Lent or a very deep understanding of it. Most of what I know -or choose to take as my own- of it has just come from reading myself the last few years.
I am not at all meaning to judge individuals and where they stand with what they say in this season. I apologize if it sounds as if I said people were doing it "wrong". I truly meant it in a generalization of our culture and how things like this can become more of a "fad" of sorts and also in trying to figure out how to put more emphasis on it in my life.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know (I hope) that I more often than not put my foot in my mouth when speaking of religious/political topics. And it is always in innocence. Or ignorance I guess some might say. And I do not mean to offend... usually it's just a verbal mess of trying to get my own personal thoughts organized. I really, really, really do not want to offend anyone. And I'm sorry if that happened.

K.M.L said...

I'm in :)

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