A question about fasting.

Some people asked Jesus, “John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, so why don’t your disciples do the same?”

Jesus answered “Would the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them? They will fast when he is taken away from them.”

To illustrate his point, Jesus said “Nobody uses a piece of unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment, because the new patch will tear the hole even bigger. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins, else the old wineskin will burst and spill all of the wine. Instead, they should put new wine into new wineskins. But nobody wants new wine after drinking old wine, because he says ‘The old is better.'”

MT 9:14-17, MK 2:18-22, LK 5:33-39

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Our minds are like puppies.

Our minds are like puppies. If we don’t train them they will go everywhere. It is like the difference between the German words “fressen” and “essen”. One is like how an animal eats, the other is like how humans eat. Both are satisfying your needs, but one is civilized and under control.

What is helping me gain control of my mind is prayer. Just like how prayer helps me be mindful and focus before a meal, it is helping me before everything else.

God is the potter and I am the clay. Clay is only useful to the potter if it is flexible and pliable. Then it is fired – a hard process on the clay, to be sure. Then it becomes a vessel, able to hold what is necessary.

We all need water but it is the cup that holds it. The cup does not nourish or refresh but it carries what does. Likewise, we are merely vessels for the love of God. We are to carry it to others and share it.

Sure I slip in my routine. I forget how important discipline (being a disciple) is. Then I have to return to my routine, my order, to become civilized again. I repent (return). With some parts of my routine I slip daily, even hourly. I am not fully in alignment.

The mustard seed idea helps me. The fact that I desire to do it means that (a) God wants me to do it and (b) it is possible. So sometimes I jump a few steps ahead, saying if God wills it then I’m already there. Not that I believe it could possibly one day occur but that it is a reality that I just haven’t lived into yet.

You know how you plan to go on a trip, and you pack and prepare for it? You have a goal in mind and you work towards that goal. All your efforts are directed there – you buy your tickets, pack, and read up on the place you are going for ideas of things to do when you get there. You might save up money in the months before the trip. Everything you do is directed towards that goal. You aren’t there yet but you know you are going. Then one day you are there. It didn’t just happen. Any life goal is the same.

What will they think?

Worried about what other people think about you? Constantly obsessed about how your every action will be judged? Do you second and third guess what you want to wear, say, or do, afraid that someone will decide you are lesser than them?

Don’t be.

Here’s the sad part.

You don’t have to worry about what other people are thinking about you because they aren’t thinking about you. At all. They are too worried about themselves, and what others think about them. They don’t have time to even notice you and what you are doing.

Being paranoid about what other people think is the worst form of narcissism. It assumes they care about you. They don’t even notice you.

This may sound mean and dismissive, but that is narcissism rearing its ugly head again. It isn’t about you at all. So go on, living your life free of worry about what other people think.

In the rare case that someone does say something negative about you, think of it this way – they noticed you. So instead of being an attack, it is an affirmation. You affected them. In the big picture, it is a complement to be noticed.

Plus, they are most likely jealous of how unique and special you are. They wish they had the chutzpah you do to stand out and do their own thing.

People who try to knock you down often do it because you simply aren’t them. If you aren’t doing things their way, they think that either you, or they, are wrong. This is a dilemma for them, because it is important for their choices to be right. They will then decide that this means you must be wrong in order to keep their pride intact.

What they don’t get is that you both can be right. Your way, different from their way, is valid for you, and their way is valid for them. Neither one is wrong.

Seeing people as trees.

I once read a story about a man who had decided to compare people to trees. When he walked into a forest, he saw different trees – some tall and strong, and some bent or stunted. The stunted ones had suffered – their light had been blocked by the bigger trees, or they had grown up in poor soil with not enough nutrients. He realized that the smaller trees were that way because of their environment.

When he went among a crowd of people, he started to see them the same way – some had better upbringings than others and were stronger. He decided to have compassion on the smaller trees and the weaker people in the same way.

Now, this doesn’t mean that it is his responsibility to “fix” the trees or the people. It isn’t his job to cut down a larger, nearby tree to get more light to the smaller tree. Likewise, if you encounter someone who is stunted emotionally – because their caregiver abused or neglected them for instance, have compassion for them.

This also doesn’t mean you have to try to fix them. That is the route of codependency, and steals a person’s power from them. Each person has the responsibility of their own live to take care of. We are each to help each other, certainly, but we are not to take away power from someone by doing everything for them. That will stunt their growth even more.

Homemade

I just realized something. I didn’t even know I was missing these pieces, this peace. I had dinner at a friend’s house and got a little overwhelmed. She invited us over for a home-cooked meal and it nourished me in my soul as well as my body.

We’ve been meeting with these friends like this once a month or so for about a year or so. Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we are lucky to get 24 hours notice that we are invited. I feel a bit awkward that it isn’t reciprocal, these invitations.

Our house is small and messy. Sometimes there isn’t enough room for even two in our house. I bought the house when I was single thinking I’d stay that way. One of the people helping me move ended up moving in. He was the one I’d been waiting for but I didn’t realize it.

While I love him, I don’t love his stuff and it gets in the way of my neatnik tendencies. In short, I’m embarrassed to have people over without a huge push to relocate a lot of stuff. I’m grateful our friends understand and we try to even things out by bringing over food if we can -cooked vegetables, salad fixings, dessert. It never seems like enough. It never seems that we are equal in our contributions. They almost always provide the main dish. They almost always provide more than we are able to. In part it is because of the very impromptu nature of these invitations.

A whim, a new recipe, a realization for a desire for company – whatever the reason, we sometimes don’t have time to prepare something special for four. That, coupled with the fact that these gatherings almost never happen at our house make the relationship a bit lopsided in terms of reciprocity. They clean their house for company, and we can’t.

I felt overwhelmed this evening eating homemade chicken marsala made from scratch. Everything we had was from scratch, like usual. I noticed I was being filled in an unexpected way. It was more than my stomach that was being satisfied – it was my soul as well.

My Mom didn’t cook from scratch unless company came over – and that happened about as often as holidays. It didn’t happen on holidays mind you. This is just to say it was rare to see anyone at the table other than my parents and my brother. Therefore it was rare to see homemade food at the table as well.

Our meals usually were from the freezer, not from scratch. Our basic needs were being met like that – basically. We got enough to get by. Even the environment the food was cooked in was less than ideal when I was growing up. Both my parents smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. That, coupled with the fact that our dog was paper trained – and the papers were in the kitchen – created a less than ideal environment for healthy food production. Secondhand smoke and dog poop aren’t the smells you want wafting in the air intermingling with your dinner entrée.

I realized tonight that I was having a piece of me restored and I didn’t even know I was missing. I’d grown up minus this part I needed without even realizing it.

I was missing the simple honesty of a meal cooked and offered with love. Rather than a meal cooked to fill a need, this meal was extra. It filled more than my daily requirement of the USDA suggested amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin C. There is no place in the nutritional requirements label for love.

Maybe that was the problem. All those meals from boxes were cooked following the instructions but there was no instruction for love. My Mom didn’t learn to put in that ingredient because it wasn’t in the box. And I didn’t know that I grown up deficient in that basic building block. It is like I had rickets or scurvy but it wasn’t vitamin D or C I was missing.

Homemade, made not just in a house but in a home makes the difference. And what makes a home a home? Intention, focus, individuality, being awake are starters. Sure, frozen pizza can be “homemade” with awareness and mindfulness. Add some shredded Parmesan cheese and some Italian herbs and yours is uniquely yours and not the same as every other box pizza. And even “homemade” can be blasé if made without feeling or focus. We have to put a little extra into our food and into everything if we want them to be real.

In Hebrew the word is kavanah, which is a bit like focus, a bit like intention. We need to pray with kavanah at a minimum but really we need to live with it. And that’s part of it. With kavanah, the meal becomes a vehicle for nourishment of the soul. With kavanah, the prayer becomes a vehicle for transforming not just the self but also the world.

Why wait for new?

Monday does not have to be the only day a new week starts. Any day is a good day for January 1. New weeks and New Year’s can happen every moment.

So many people think the day will go bad if the morning goes bad. They want to give up by 10 AM. Does this mean that if you have a bad childhood you have a bad life?

Every day, every moment, is a new one, independent of the others that preceded it. You can start again right then. It never is too late to reform, return, rejuvenate. It never is too late to start over.

You don’t have to wait until you find a new forest to turn over a new leaf.

Whoever is not against us is for us.

Jesus’ disciple John said to him “Teacher, we stopped someone from driving out demons in your name because he isn’t one of us.” Jesus said “Don’t stop him, because if anyone is doing miracles in my name he’ll soon support my message. Whoever is not against us is for us. Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Christ, I assure you he will be rewarded.

Anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me. Anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. Anyone who welcomes the prophet because he speaks for God will receive the same award the prophet receives. Whoever welcomes a righteous person because of his righteousness will receive the reward of the righteous. Furthermore, whoever gives even a cup of cold water to a little child in the name of the disciple is blessed.”

LK 9:49-50, MK 9:38-41, MT 10:40-42