Category Archives: cool lent

Is this the fast that I choose?

(This blog was originally published to the New Media Project site as Easter 2012 approached. Found it today – Easter 2013 – and thought it was time to repost.)

Icon panel: St. Anthony Tormented by Demons

Icon panel: St. Anthony Tormented by Demons. The dude was well versed in solitude…

I write this post as the Christian season of Lent is winding down. Just three days until the Hallelujah is proclaimed and Christians everywhere recall the story of Christ’s resurrection.

Lent is the time in the Christian calendar for reflection, repentance, personal sacrifice, and reception of new members into the church. Beginning with Ash Wednesday (or following the bacchanal of Mardi Gras if that’s your thing), Lent spans 40 days until Easter morning.

One of the hallmarks of Lent for many Christians is the idea of fasting or “giving something up.” Modern Catholics are most noted for abstaining from meat, and substituting fish, on Fridays during Lent. Other traditions recommend various forms of fasting – carbon (reducing dependency on oil/coal), coltan (reducing dependency on electronic devices), alcohol, desserts, etc.

Other religions have similar periods or “holy days” for fasting: Yom Kippur for Jews, Ramadan for Muslims, Durga Navami for Hindus, and an extended fast as the first stage of self-realization for Buddhists.

One form of fasting that has been largely lost in the Christian tradition is the fast of solitude. Biblical characters such as Moses, Elijah, and Jesus each spent 40 days alone at one point in their ministries. It was seen as a transformative point of their stories.

A quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh helped inspire this post and may serve to explain the desire for solitude, even in a social-media driven world. It appears as a meditation for the first day of each month in the devotional Celtic Daily Prayer.

“It is a difficult lesson to learn today, to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practise the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. For me, the break is most difficult… And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before!”

Tracking down those fasting from social-media via social-media is not as hard as one might think. Fortunately most of them maintain email contact, even when fasting from Facebook and Twitter. The responses I received were varied and intentional.

Will, a pastor in Toledo, Ohio, says fasting from Facebook has freed up time for prayer and meditation and “to focus on real relationships.” The act of discipline – not regularly checking Facebook – has helped him reconsider what are his “daily necessities.”

Will also says he has learned “the real self, the perceived self and the projected self have much in common, but are also worlds apart,” especially in social-media where “the illusion of intimacy” is facilitated by immediacy.

Anne, who was my professor of pastoral care in seminary, says she has taken up to a month off of Facebook at a time, usually because of relational overload. As an introvert, Anne says she doesn’t “take lightly” the personal interactions that seem flippant to others but are recorded for all time on some server.

“I take it all too seriously, and care too much about what I’ve shared. I would rather invest that kind of attention in the fewer intimate relationships I would maintain anyway if Facebook did not exist,” she says.

Finally, Mick, a musician in Florida, says he primarily uses Facebook for entertainment. Leaving it behind to focus on “increased works of charity and service” is a hallmark of Lent for him.

Learning “what is and isn’t important” has made Mick more aware of how he spends his time online. All his Facebook friends are people he’s met and interacts with, so Mick noted that rather than chatting or commenting on Facebook with these friends, his phone call volume went up.

We live in a connected world. Some of our jobs depend on social-media interactions. Many great world-expanding, justice-seeking, and action-taking messages are relayed though social-media channels – for which we are grateful.

But what would your world look like if sought digital solitude for a day, a week, a month, or 40 days? Would life come rushing back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before?


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Filed under cool lent, faith, justice, social media

Canned What? (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Canned What?

In a nutrition course I took in the early 90s I remember the professor saying something to the effect of “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” Her comment was similar to what the CoolPeople are saying in the above article – take a look at the ingredients before you decide to buy something. All the packaging, branding and advertising in the world can’t hide the fact that preservatives, colorings and flavor additives are chemical substitutes for what God created naturally.

I’m starting to see a lot more press on the link between chemical additives and health. A lot of it is still under research but in some ways it makes sense that processing foreign substances causes added stress to our bodies.

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Filed under cool lent, health

Sleep On It (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Sleep On It

I’ve heard the advice before – give all major purchases a 24 hour waiting period. That is usually more than enough to bring about (pre) buyer’s remorse for something that you may “want” but not actually “need.” There’s no sure fire method, it is obviously very personal…

You could also “sleep over” at the grand opening of a new IKEA store though that is more likely to bring about a fit of consumption rather than offset it!

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Filed under consumerism, cool lent

March Madness (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: March Madness

Along with the other themes mentioned above our family has been getting a handle on where our food comes from. The ADA site has some great advice for eating well.

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Filed under cool lent, health

On the Double (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: On the Double

Looking at the suggestions in the above article (reuse of paper towels, etc.) I have one other suggestions.

Reuse plastic storage/zip-lock bags. These can easily be washed to hold another sandwich or bunch of grapes. One caution, if you intend to put something really wet like watermelon in a reused plastic bag you’ll probably want to check to see if it can hold water first…

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Filed under cool lent, environment

How Sustainable is Your Table? (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: How Sustainable is Your Table?

Since giving my wife Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” we have been considering the extreme cost (human, financial, and environmental) of buying pre-packaged foods and those transported extreme distances.

Aside from Kingsolver’s book the Sustainable Table site mentioned above is a great way to get started buying local and sustainable groceries.

Our locally owned Dorothy Lane grocery chain is our best bet at finding local and sustainable foods. They are often priced 30-70% more than the national chain stores but you’ve got to feel better eating food that is produced more naturally and easier on the environment.

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Filed under cool lent, environment

Twice Worn (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Twice Worn

I have, for some time now, been a twice wearer. Underwear, socks, and workout clothing aside, how dirty do we really get on a daily basis?

Jeans and most shirts (worn over an undershirt) really don’t get dirty/sweaty/oily at all as long as there aren’t “external influences.” Now having a two year old in the house leads to the inevitable food spray that needs to be cleaned daily…

Give your washer and the environment a break. Give those jeans and shirt the sniff test before throwing them in the laundry!

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Filed under cool lent, environment