Monday, February 19, 2007

calm Sunday

Abstaining is not my strong point. I have healthy appetites. I try to avoid puritanism. But I'm realising that fasting is not about abstaining, it's about making room in my life for the best things in life.

Yesterday was Sunday and I did my machinery fast again. At sundown it's absolute bliss to turn off the computer, the modem, the router, the Telewest box, the washing machine, the oven... Not a single humming machine in earshot. (Persuading my au pair to go without internet access for 24 hours was tricky. I managed to get her to turn the modem off by 10am on Sunday - good thing too as the World Health Organisation knows that low levels of electromagnetic energy are OK, but no one has actually done the research in to what high levels of electromagnetic energy do to the body, and I suspect that it will be as with mobile phones. Personally I make very sure my modem and wireless router are switched off every night, though there's not much I can do about the five wireless networks from neighbouring flats that my computer informs me are circulating my apartment.)

After last week's emergency sheet washing marathon (sick toddler - don't ask), this week was better: I spent the day alone quietly resting and trying to tune in to myself and to God. I went to mass, had a little lunch that I'd prepared the night before and popped in for a chat with a neighbour. It slightly foundered towards the end of the afternoon when I set the dishwasher off and went for a walk via a clothing shop, but on the whole it was pretty restful both for me and my gadgets. Today I feel full of enthusiasm and verve and I can't wait to get on with the day.

Taking a rest is the beautiful key to renewal. If we gave the earth a rest it might have time to renew itself. I do wish I could persuade my neighbours of the value of Keeping Sunday Special though. It was so frustrating to walk down to my local high street and see all the cars tearing about. The noise levels were high, the shops were all open. There were still fewer people on the streets than normal, but other than that it was just like a wan version of any other day. We need to learn to rest.

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day. After that comes Ash Wednesday, and then Lent. It's belt tightening time, when for 40 days Christians give up luxuries and give the money they have saved to the poor. This is the time to seek God within and to defeat the self indulgence instinct. A great meditation tool online is St Ethelburga's are doing a four part Lenten Journey of Reconciliation

Lots of people give up chocolate, but you might give up driving the car, or even clothes shopping. You might give up throwing food out: Try the Cooking by Numbers site to use up what's in the fridge. Given the news this morning that it may be too late to stop the ice caps melting and millions drowning, let's give up polluting the atmosphere for Lent? The Irish bishops are telling their flocks to give up alcohol. The idea is to 'be filled with the Holy Spirit' instead, but I regret to say that of late my sense of being overflowing with the grace of God has been lacking. Hopefully Lent will remedy that.

The money saved could go to The Cardinal Hume Centre and Actionaid. Two excellent charities. The former looks after the homeless of south London and helps them find their way in life, the latter is probably the best of the overseas aid charities. I also greatly admire EIA I don't pay heed to the endless charity begging letters that come through my door. They all, without fail, go in the bin, because I think you can go a little crazy if you start considering each one on it's merits. Nor do I give out money on the street. Street collections are for lazy people who never bother to give to charity and have to be cajoled into it. I think one should put 5% of one's income into direct debits to support two or so chosen charities, and Gift Aid it.

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