The Greatest Wisdom From the Desert Christians - In One Line

I was sitting in my office the other day reading and trying to discover what the heck God would have for me to say on a Sunday morning, when a church member walked in and offered me a homemade blueberry scone. I accepted the gift, but stated I consumed a large breakfast about fifteen minutes just before. The young woman's face turned a bit downward as she realized that I was not planning on enjoying her gift. 

As she left I turned back to my reading material (The Wisdom of the Desert by James O. Hannay) and read: "So far as the advice of the greatest Fathers can be said to form a rule, it may be expressed in the words -- "Do not eat to satiety."

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

This is one of the few times that I sort of understood what the heck the desert mothers/fathers were talking about: Eating to your fill is unhealthy, but not because of the calories but because it denies hospitality. 

In not eating the scone, because I was full, I denied the hospitality of the young woman. I was not able to, because my stomach was full, to accept any more from another.

Clergy have been told that self care is important because you can only give what you yourself have. If you are empty, then you have nothing to give. 

This truth also holds not just if we are empty but also if we are too full. When we eat (or live) to satiety, then we are too full to accept anything else. This is an old truth but one that I often forget. 

Do not eat/live to satiety - you never know when Christ calls you to accept a new thing.

Free Cookbook for those on American food assistance (made by Canadian)

Every month while in college I was given an allowance from my parents: $100. Granted they also paid for a lot of other things for me at school - books, much of tuition, rent - but I also had a job and was responsible for a good portion of my bills as well. My job in university ministry was not high paying and so most of my money went to the bills that I was responsible for. And when the first of the month hit and I had an additional $100 in my account, I felt like a king. 

A lot of my college days were also spent eating not only Ramen but bowls of white rice and pinto beans. I also would join my friends in the campus eateries and eat off their plates when they went to the bathroom or were not looking. I would snag a few french fries here and there and even get the last half of a sandwich if my friends were done. I never ate from the trash, but it was tempting at times. 

I felt too guilty to ask for more money from my parents at the time and so I kept on keeping on. I do not resent them and I really never felt like I went hungry. I am eternally thankful for my parents taking on such a huge financial load for me to attend a private school that I just did not think asking for more money would be the right thing to do. I managed to learn to eat on less than $4 a day. 

Eating on $4 a day or less is a situation that many Americans live with all the time. And when I was doing it for 3 years I never thought I could afford to eat more than rice, beans and Ramen. Recently, Leanne Brown created a cookbook for those who eat on $4 a day or less. Those who are on the SNAP program here in America are who she has in mind when she made this book

Not only is this a free cookbook, but also one that actually looks amazing. 

This is the sort of change and cultural artifact that I desire to be associated with. My next step is to find a way to get funds to print this off and have free copies available for people at my local food pantry: Community Link Mission

Anyone interested in helping fund this?

How our reluctance to fast from food exposes our addiction

Every Lent comes around and the conversation in Christian circles that observe Lent talk about fasting. Specifically about what we are "giving up for Lent". There there are others who talk about not giving up something for Lent but taking something additional on (such as a prayer practice). The thing I have noticed in the conversations about fasting that I have been involved in is the there is an overwhelming resistance to fast from food. 

Concerning Abba Arsenios, Abba Daniel told us that ‘the Elder stayed with us for so many year, and we would give him only one basket of wheat for the entire year; we, too, ate from it when we went to his cell.’

I am not saying that we all should fast from food like the desert fathers or that fasting from other things (such as Facebook or television) are not worthy disciplines. What I am saying is that perhaps our resistance to give up food for a period of time exposes for us that we are addicted to food. 

The life of the Christian is one that is disciplined. Yes, we (I) mess up and fail at fulfilling the discipline. But the disciplined life teaches us how to Love. Fasting is a critical discipline toward learning how to Love. Can you imagine a doctor learning how to heal people without a stethoscope? Or a judge learning how to administer justice without deliberation? Fasting, specifically fasting from food, breaks our addition to food and leads us to love more fully. 

Christians do things that Jesus did and commands us to do. We pray, we wash feet, we baptize, we teach, we love, we share, but for some reason we in the USA are not big on fasting from food - even though Jesus did this and expected it of his disciples. 


Perhaps the great irony is that today many American Christians have an abundance of food and yet we are still unable, unwilling or uninterested in fasting from food. Is it not a sign of addition that even if you have an abundance you still cannot get enough?

So may we all prayerfully consider the ancient practice of fasting from food for a period of time. Pray. Rejoice. Give thanks and may we learn to Love as Christ Loves.