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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day One of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 

Today is my unofficial first Lent. Or official first Lent. Depends on how you look at it as I'm not officially a Catholic, yet am very much involved in Catholic things. I inhabit a weird gray area that probably doesn't see a lot of action most years.

As I sit here and write about my reflections, behind me a Mass is going on. Don't think I'm some sort of heathen, I did Mass at noon today where I was Lector #2 (and got the much shorter of the readings, thankfully). Reading before a group of 40-50 people was nerve-wracking, but I managed it. Truthfully, I think I can get much better at it if I have the time to develop the skill ... assuming I live long enough.

Today, I was introduced to the Catholic form of fasting which breaks down as two small meals and a big meal. That works for me though I did want (and assume) that fasting was fasting, period: no food and all that. But I ate around 2 p.m., a nice meal of shrimp with rice (no meat minus fish on Ash Wednesday, every Friday during Lent and Good Friday), some potatoes and a few brownies. Not a bad haul for a big meal.

I got ashes placed on my head, which was cool and didn't cause any sort of allergic reaction (I half-thought it might just because it would be my luck). I easily imagined myself with a puffed up face the rest of Mass but thankfully that didn't come to pass.

I was also given a book after Mass that's sort of a guidebook on Lent and there was a phrase in it that I found particularly truthful: "Lent is more than about losing weight."

That one struck home for me. It amused me and was quite pointed because, during the next 40 or so odd days, I do want to trim down the winter weight and get into fighting shape for the summer. During Lent, one is supposed to give up something ... some sort of vice from my understanding.

I went through a few things that I could probably give up but most were pretty non-substantial. As I searched the Internet today for a deeper understanding of things on what Lent was (and what exactly I was supposed to do because I'm a noob) I stumbled upon something (that was later reflected in the Homily): what you give up for Lent should bring you closer to God.

That hit home for me. What I should give up should allow me to get closer to God. I had to do a quick analysis this afternoon on what I could give up that would allow me to spend more time getting closer to God.

I'm not a bible-thumper. I don't know verses back and forth. I don't know how to recite passages or proper pronunciations of old-school words. I pray every night (most of the time, easily six out of the seven days a week) and my prayers follow a similar pattern. I don't imagine this is different for most people.

That in mind, with the question of what I should give for Lent to bring me closer to God, I've come to the conclusion that I should give up cheat foods.

Thereby making the "Lent is more than about losing weight" thing true, in an ironic sort of way. Since the new year has turned I've added about ten pounds more than I'd want. I've indulged in cheat foods like nachos, cookies, brownies and more that I shouldn't have. Mainly because those foods give me a short-term satisfaction.

A comfort, if you will. I regret it the next day when I step on the scale but that doesn't stop me from doing it. The new year has been all right for me, but for the people I love around me it's been rough. Health issues, job issues, school issues, family issues, car issues, life issues ... things seem to be hitting a lot of people I care about.

And I can't seem to do a blasted thing about it. Which frustrates the living hell out of me. I want to do something about it. I have, in my mind, the ability to save everyone. I can do it all if I can just be there. Problem: I can't always be there.

Which frustrates me beyond all end. Usually that sends me to the cheat/comfort foods to allow me to feel better. Which usually adds to the scale and pisses me off in the morning.

So, for this Lent, I'm dedicating myself to giving up cheat/comfort foods and instead of going towards those things, picking up the food for my soul: the Bible. I could turn to just about any passage and find meaning. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I can also research more in-depth certain phrases/contexts that I want more of an understanding on.

Sure, this seems like a "give up crappy food to lose weight" thing, but it's not. The weight loss may or may not come, but using the time I waste eating cheat/comfort food to study the word, to pray over it, to discern certain things (discernment requires some focus I have yet to get and I'm not quite sure how to, but I guess it takes practice?) seems like a good use of Lent.

Yes, I did have brownies today but as the guidebook I have says: "The more functional obligation is to make Lent a penitential season, choosing practices that are adapted to one's own circumstances."

Which I think means "Do the best you can and don't stress to badly if you mess up, but do really try." So, I messed up today. I won't the rest of Lent. Promise.

By giving up those cheat/comfort foods and using the time to grow my understanding, I think I'll be able to better trust in God's plan. Because, folks, I got issues with God's plan ... number one being I don't know what it is and I keep trying to guess and keep guessing wrong, which bugs me. A lot.

I hate being wrong. Not as much as I hate ketchup (I REALLY hate ketchup) but being wrong gets tiresome after awhile. Especially as often as I am about where I think God's leading me and where God is leading other people in my life, whom I love dearly.

It'd be great if he sent out text message updates or a weekly email, just as a head's up about what he's thinking. Sadly, it's not that easy.

But if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth doing really. Too often in life I've found that the easy things are usually the wrong things. Having sex before marriage? Easy. Cheating? Easy. Lying? Easy. Sitting around and letting your body suffer? Easy. Being lazy? Easy. Eating as much as you want? Easy. Letting others do the hard stuff? Easy.

You know what easy got me before? Misery.

The hard stuff has led to much better things in my life and will, hopefully, continue to do so as I progress in my life. I do better doing the hard things anyway. I suck at the simple stuff (me and can openers have a lot of blood spilled between us).

So, I'm going to try and grow my faith this Lent. Try and grow my trust in the Lord this Lent.

And if I lose a few pounds one the way, all the better.

At the very least, I'll learn something.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.

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