390: Lenten Fuel: Tea, Toast and — Reverence

wanted to try fasting during Lent — really fasting!
    “I thought of taking in nothing at all during the daylight hours like Muslims fast during Ramadan. But I found that was too much. I felt just
ughhhhhhh — exhausted by early afternoon. I knew I couldn’t do that and take care of the things I need to do in my life.”

    This is how Amy Kennedy — a woman I met while visiting a Bible-study group his week — described her high hopes for the Lenten season. Amy reshaped her quest in a creative way and I asked her, when the study circle broke up, if I could share her story with our readers today. She agreed.
    What she’s talking about in this story, really, is “reverence” — in the way Barbara Brown Taylor uses the word “reverence” in her new book “An Altar in the World.”
    Amy also is talking about the kind of spiritual practices that Phyllis Tickle outlined for the special “Our Lent” series that’s running daily in another section of our online magazine.
    If that doesn’t make Amy’s real-life story timely enough — it’s also the theme that Dr. Wayne Baker is exploring all this week at OurValues.org. He’s inviting readers to wrestle with the question: What’s really essential in life?

Here’s the rest of Amy’s story:

     “I wanted to fast,” she said. And Amy knew that many forms of traditional fasting don’t involve total abstinence from food and drink. Sometimes fasting is as simple as avoiding certain common food groups, or skipping an entree in a meal. The point of fasting is a spiritual-physical “whole body” reverence.
    So, here was the idea that shaped Amy’s solution:
    “I remember hearing that in many parts of the world, people eat only tea and toast for their breakfast — not cereal or the kinds of fruits we usually have around the house or other foods. Just tea and toast.
    “And I was looking for a spiritual discipline that I could develop and maintain day after day. I wanted to make a difference in my life. I wanted to do something that would set a limit on my consumption. Too often, we just keep consuming, consuming, consuming — because we can. Foods are all around us.    “So, I decided to experiment by starting my day with only tea and toast.”

    Today is the mid-point in Lent, so Amy did this for weeks in a quiet way, appropriate for a Lenten practice. She kept it private. She just wanted to see …
    “As I would prepare this each morning, I became so much more aware of tea and toast. I remember a retreat leader telling us: Think about your plate as you eat. Think about all the lives that contributed to the foods on your plate.
    “I began to think about the toast: The wheat was planted and harvested by farmers somewhere. Someone transported the wheat. Someone processed it into flour. On and on.
    “And then, if I put a little peach jam on the bread? Who grew those peaches? Who picked them? Who made them into jam? Who transported the jam?
    “And then, if I sprinkled a little cinnamon on my toast? That came all the way around the world to my home!
    “And, tea?”

    Soon, there was a whole new wonderment and reverence in Amy’s home each morning — an awareness of the global community working season by season to provide the bounty that finds its way into her cup of tea and her piece of toast. And then?

    “In my husband’s profession, he sometimes gets to take visitors to dinner in some of the really fancy restaurants — places we wouldn’t normally go to eat,” she said. “The other night, he had to do that. And, when he got home again, I asked him: ‘How was it tonight?'”
    He said: “Expensive.” And he said: “It wasn’t that satisfying, you know?”
    Food — not satisfying?!
    Amy could hardly believe her ears. She told her husband: “Honey, let me tell you all the great things about tea and toast!”

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