Lent Pictures–Lent Thoughts

Through the season of Lent I posted over thirty pictures to social media with quotations over the spiritual themes of Lent. It all started by accident. I wrote out in a red marker a quote I was reading from St. Augustine, and then the next day I wrote out another one not he white board and posted, and then a trend set in.

By that first weekend I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I outlined a pattern of Fridays being Bible verses, Saturdays would be song references, Thursdays would be inspiring quotes of Christian content, Tuesdays would be pop culture and literature references and Monday’s would be primarily theological in nature.

My method was to create the quote in an analogy way. Yes, it would be delivered digitally in the photograph, but I wanted it to be real items like paper, chalk, ink, wood. For the most part I succeeded in this. The one exception was to get a typewriter font I used my Mac, but it is actually printed on paper.

There were some quotes I intended to use but never did. For example, I intended to use a Brene Brown quote where she says, ‘Sometimes the bravest and most most important thing you can do is just show up.” I love the quote and have taught my children for yeas that 90% of success is just showing up. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis when we are encouraging people to stay home I decided that might send the wrong message and people might misunderstand that I was one of those misinformed and misguided people who think social distancing is a bunch of bunk. By contrast, I am a historian. I know full well the danger of a pandemic.

I also wanted to use a Stephen King quote I like — “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” It is a good quote for Lent, but I just never got to it. Another one I wanted to use was “You can’t fight in the war room” from Dr. Strangelove but alas, it didn’t happen. I wanted to put up one day one of my favorite thoughts on Lent — “Why do they call it a fast when it goes so slow?”

Brene Brown, Anne Lamott, and James the Brother of Jesus got the most comments and likes.

I must admit I was surprised most of these didn’t get more attention. But who knows how the FB algorithms work, right? I’ll probably reuse them again next year, with perhaps a few more added in. Until then they are posted here for you to peruse, or if you want swipe them and post them to your page. I don’t care. These were my arts and crafts projects for the spring.

The Lentiest–A Meditation for Palm Sunday 2020

This is the lentiest Lent that I ever lented.

Today is Palm Sunday — the paradoxical day when we cry out in joy “Hosanna” but also cringe at the cross looming on Friday. It is the last Sunday of Lent, but also the beginning of Easter week.

Ash Wednesday seems like a whole other universe, that cold winter’s night when we gathered and spoke of our own mortality — ‘From ashes you came, to ashes you shall return’ and promised to follow Jesus on the lonely path of prayer and devotion. We started our fast by faith, not knowing where it would lead us.

There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to get your attention on the issues of mortality. People’s lives are in jeopardy. Medical supplies are running out. The world is shut down. People are afraid. This new reality focuses our prayers. We started praying for Wuhan. Then we prayed for Italy. Then Spain. Some of us prayed for Iran because the news looked like they got hit harder than admitted. Then we prayed for Washington State — that hit close to home. Now we pray for New York, where doctors, nurses, and all hospital personnel put their own lives at risk everyday to save others. And bodies are being stored in cooling trucks because there is no room in the morgue.

We are driven to ours knees in prayer for our communities for the virus to pass without fatalities, and that it passover us.

From ashes we came. To ashes we return.

Lentish in the extreme.

The question of Lent is how do we fill our lives with meaning between the ashes.

The quest of Lent is to live a life dedicated to God in such a way that makes the world better. This is what we will be judged on in eternity. This is the call of Lent — to draw closer to God in Christ because the world we live in, though important, is not the place where we find ultimate meaning. We are passing through. Our citizenship is elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is here in this place where we learn the secrets to the next: the fulfillment of sacrifice, the work of love, the joy of service, the power of truth, and meaning of hope.

Lent calls us to fast — depriving our body and our minds of normal, everyday comforts so we can focus upon Christ. This fasting is not a punishment but a process for controlling our appetites with discipline. Normally we do this by depriving our body of sugar, chocolate, bread, entertainment or something banal. This year, the fasting was abrupt and involuntary; fasting was hoisted upon faithful and faithless alike.

We were deprived of our social interactions and forced to face ourselves and our families. Do you think the Lord might be teaching us something spiritual here?

We were deprived of basic material goods we take for granted. No longer were people clamoring for the latest gadget but the most important thing on people’s minds was toilet paper. Is it possible there is something spiritual the Lord is teaching us?

Milk, rationed; the meat aisle was depleted. There is no flour on the baking aisle, either. So very lenty.

I don’t mean to be too over-the-top, but you’ll pardon me for thinking the Lord said to all of us, ‘Yeah, you could do without for a little while.’

The lentiest Lent that I ever lented.

The Lenten/Easter cycle is always in parallel with the Exodus/Passover narratives both theologically and temporarily, as they fall about the same time. Anyone who ever doubted God could bring the powerful Egyptian Empire to its knees by controlling the water, the livestock and the weather should observe how the world has buckled. I am not saying God brought about COVID-19 as a plague. I am saying life teaches lessons about reality.

Lent is about the power of God and spiritual strength. Though these times are hard, and this Lenten season is unique and will forever in our lives be remembered as the year without Easter, perhaps it will be the most significant and spiritually meaningful Easter. The reason is simple. Lent is that wonderful annual remembrance to prioritize what matters and to cut away those things which do not.

The lentiest Lent I ever lented will produce the easteriest Easter I ever eastered. Amen.

YOU KNOW YOU WANT SOME YUMMY FRIED CATFISH AND COLE SLAW

Fish is a traditional Lenten dish.

FISH AND SLAW SANDWICH
FISH AND SLAW SANDWICH

I went to the grocery store yesterday to get fish.  The halibut looked good, but it was $27.00 a pound.  I’m a little too thrifty for that.  The catfish, which is the fish du jour for the Texas Hill Country, was $6.50.  We were having catfish.

Some people batter up their catfish in buttermilk.  I understand that, and use buttermilk for my fried chicken, but have found it tends to alter the savory fish flavor of the catfish so I don’t use it.  Others use beer, and that is good on cod or halibut, but not on catfish.  At least, not in my personal opinion.

Procedure

1.  Cut the catfish filets into the sizes you want.  Clean with cold water and let set in cold water.

2.  Mix yellow cornmeal and flour in a 2 parts to 1 part ratio.  How much you need will depend upon how much fish you fry.

3.  Drain the fish, but leave it in the bowl.  Dash in salt, pepper, lemon pepper, and paprika.  You could also add some oregano or basil, but I like to keep my catfish a little simpler.  I do, however, if I have it, like to throw in some ‘fish rub’ spices that you can get most anywhere.  The one exception I would add is stay clear of Cajun seasoning, unless you are intending to make Cajun styled food.

4.  Mix up the fish and the spices well with your hands.

5.  Heat up a frying pan filled about 1/3  high with canola oil.  When the oil is hot enough, begin to dip the fish filets into the dry mix.  Make certain every inch of the fish is covered and then drop them into the hot oil.

6.  Cook the fish filets for about 5-6 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden underneath.  Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.  When both sides are golden brown with slight fl3cks of dark brown on the crust, take them out and cover with foil.  Do not overcook the catfish, it will make it gummy.

You can fry multiple batches, as the fish will stay plenty warm under the foil.

Now, I served my catfish with homemade cole slaw.  It turned our delish.  Make the slaw about an hour before you are going to fry the fish.

Cole Slaw

1.  Grate 3-4 peeled and cleaned carrot sticks, put in a large bowl.

2.  Dice one half of a red onion.  Put it in the same bowl as the carrots.

3.  Cut up a half head of cabbage in the bite size portions you want.  You can dice it or julienne it, whatever you desire.  Put it in the same bowl.

4.  Salt and pepper it, and throw in about four tablespoons of sugar.

5.  Pour in 3 teaspoons of vinegar.

6.  Add about a half a cup of Miracle Whip.  You can start small with the Miracle Whip and add more as you like.  It is all a matter of taste.  Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take any out once you’ve put it in.

7.  Wash your hands thoroughly and mix the slaw up with your hand.  A spoon just will not do what a hand will do.

Refrigerate for about an hour before you serve it.

Now, the way I liked to serve this dish is to put it all between buns.  I top the catfish filet with cole slaw right on top and then squeeze the buns together.  No ketchup or tartar sauce needed.  Yum.

 

ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT

Why are Lent and Ash Wednesday a good idea? 

This is a post from a previous year that I am re-posting today because, obviously, it is Ash Wednesday that, for me, helps answer some of that question.   

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This is the week that we Christians who follow a liturgical pattern of the year mark the journey through Lent and toward Easter.  It all begins on Ash Wednesday.  I consistently find that when I take the ash and observe Lent my experience of Easter is much richer and therefore more meaningful to me.  I did not grow up in a church which practiced Lent and Ash Wednesday, so when I learned about it as an adult I was skeptical.  However, as I dug around and realized that sin, prayer, confession and death with eternal judgment were all major themes, I knew I was all in.  What kind of Baptist doesn’t get excited about that!  But over the years as I have led my church to practice and observe Ash Wednesday and Lent I have encountered some objections to the practice.

1.  Lent is only for Roman Catholics.

There is a certain amount of truth to that claim.  Catholics do observe Lent and Ash Wednesday.  However, the counter is true as well.  Catholics also baptize and preach.  Does that mean I should not baptize and preach?  No, certainly not.  The best answer to this argument though, is that the roots of Lent and Ash Wednesday go way back to a time way before there were any distinctions such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists.  Much of Catholic history and tradition is also my tradition—we have a shared origin in Christ and the early church.  Besides, some of the greatest Christians I’ve ever met, studied, read, or learned about have been Roman Catholics.  It is time we put such prejudices and biases away.

2.  Ash Wednesday and Lent are too negative.

Yes, I suppose that is the way it might seem.  The major themes of Ash Wednesday are death, dust, mortality, sin, confession, fasting and contrition.  Lent, if done correctly, will be very uncomfortable and sometimes a downer.  People from traditions which emphasize the “Jesus makes me happy all the time” might be a little put off by such ‘negativism.’  The thing, though, is that the Scriptures call us to contemplate such.  I should be painfully aware of my own mortality.  “From dust I came and to dust I shall return” is a powerful thought.  Our culture likes to pretend death isn’t real, but it is and therefore I must confront my sin and deal with it in this life.  I should get my appetites under control and bring my body into discipline.  Ash Wednesday and Lent help us do that with a focus and the help of our community.

3.  We should always pray and fast and confess, not just one season a year.

I so agree.  I try and make prayer and confession a part of my daily routine.  Fasting is the kind of thing I’ve done in various ways throughout the year.  I especially encourage fasting before making big decisions.  It clears the mind.  But again, I bring the counter argument to this objection by saying if we should always be doing it, then how can it be wrong to be doing it now, at Lent, when millions, if not billions of people around the world are also engaged in it.  By fasting, praying, and confessing at the same time the Christian community is bound by a common experience which might have a powerful impact on the world.

I also ask, if you do not fast during Lent, then when do you fast?  The New Testament seems to expect it of Christ-followers and if you’re not going to do it now, then when do you plan on it?  Why not now?

Before I bring this to a close, I want folks to understand I am not trying to convince anyone they have to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent to be a good Christian or even for Easter to be significant.  Many good, wonderful, Jesus-loving Christ-followers never follow Lent and are great people whom I admire.  What I am arguing is that the practice of it is not inherently wrong or misguided, and that many people might actually be stirred by the practice in positive ways.  It can’t hurt and it just might change your perspective for the better.

If you’re interested, but don’t really know where to start, check out Suggested Guidelines for Lent.  It is a good place to start.