A Place at the Table: Days 36-37

Thursday – Mid-afternoon I got hungry. It was nothing like what happened Wednesday evening, but I was hungry enough that, if I wasn’t fasting, I’d have found something to eat.  Instead of having to fight it, though, I pushed through it without a second thought. It was really neat.  My mind registered that I was hungry, made note of it, and moved on without protest or fanfare.  It was sort of like fasting “muscle memory” kicking in.

Friday – Today I got sick (some sort of flu-like thing).  I spent about half the day in bed.  The thought crossed my mind that this thing (whatever it was) was a good excuse to break my fast, if I wanted to.  I decided to stick with it, however.  It doesn’t take too much energy or stamina to make a pb&banana sandwich.  I wished my stir-fry was already made when I forced myself into the kitchen to make it, but standing over the steaming skillet turned out to be good for the sinuses.  I threw in some cayenne pepper and that really helped open things up – at least temporarily.  The one liberty I took was a very small bowl of cereal I ate around 4:30/5:00pm – almost dinner time.  The church preschool’s Easter program was at 6:00pm and it is customary for the pastor to participate.  An extra motivation this year was that my daughters were in the program.  I was trying to get myself pulled together enough to be there and I needed to take some medicine, for which I needed something on my stomach.  So, I ate what amounted to three or four spoonfuls of rice Chex. As I chewed, it dawned on me that here was yet another example of how poverty interferes with something I take for granted.  How many times in life have I grabbed a snack in order to take an aspirin or some other form of medicine because that’s what the directions say to do?  I read it, eat it, take it, and then go – without giving it a second thought.  But if you’re poor and have to wait until later in the day – or even until the next day – to eat, what do you do?  Do you skip the medicine you need?  Or do you chance upsetting your stomach (or even risk ulcers)?

Lord, thank you for once again giving me a peek into the darkness in which others live.  Shine your light in that darkness. Amen.

A Place at the Table: Days 34 and 35

Tuesday – Wednesday: Tuesday was uneventful.  On Wednesday, I broke my fast at lunch – intentionally – after some reflection. Here’s what happened:

I conducted a funeral at church in the morning.  The deceased, Mrs. Bender, was someone I did not know, even though she had been a member of FBCH for a number of years.  She had moved to a nursing home out of town before I became the pastor here.  The service was a small affair, with mostly family in attendance.  Following the service, Mrs. Benders two gracious sons invited everyone to a repast downstairs in the fellowship hall – and they wanted me to be there.  At first, I thought about sitting at the table with everyone but not eating.  However, I knew that would invite questions and, as I was answering those questions in my head, I couldn’t find answers that didn’t ring with self-righteousness.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 kept coming back to me.  So, since everyone else present at the service was invited and since it would not cost me any money but it would afford me the opportunity to continue my ministry to the family, I decided it would be better in this instance to eat than not to eat.  But I determined to  limit myself to one plate of food – no seconds (which is no small challenge at a church potluck).

The meal was classic funeral food: ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mac-n-cheese, salad, fruit, and homemade cake.  Everything was fantastic, and chatting with the family over food was as enjoyable and edifying an experience as I had hoped.  The only thing I wish had been different was the cup of Mountain Dew I had as my beverage.  It was the only thing left when I got to the drinks table.  As far as I can remember, this was my first taste of Mountain Dew in the 21st century – and it is likely to be my last.  It was wretched.  I honestly do not know how (or why) I drunk that stuff in high school.      

The repast broke up between 2:00 and 2:30pm.  I went home to change and then came back to church to work on other things.  I swung by Giant on the way in and spent $2.69 on more half-n-half.  Interestingly enough, I started to become hungrier and hungrier as the afternoon wore on – much hungrier than I normally am, even though the quantity of food on my plate was much greater than what I am normally eating during this fast.  By the time I picked my daughters up from pre-school, my blood sugar was bottoming out.  On the drive home, I started feeling warm, then cold; my stomach was screaming for food.   That has never happened on my pb&banana/stir-fry diet.  I remembered that I had a box of raisins in my backpack (from before the fast started) and I scarfed them down before going into the house just to take the edge off.

This experience takes me straight back to the A Place at the Table film.  It really makes me wonder about the kinds of food we Americans think of as  traditional or even “normal.”.  There was a good bit of protein in the ham, but pretty much everything else on the table at the repast was a processed carb of some kind, no doubt laced with generous  quantities of sodium or sugar (if not both).   It was a very eye-opening evening.    If the goal of this fast is to learn something, then I definitely made the right decision about joining the repast.

Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us. Help us to be attentive students (i.e. disciples).  Amen.

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