Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections on Chris Seay's "A Place at the Table"

This year I decided to read Chris Seay's devotional A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor during Lent. As I wrote last year, Lent is not something I grew up observing, and the idea is still new to me. But I love the idea of building up holidays into extended seasons of deeper, enduring reflection and prayer.

Seay's devotional contains thoughtful reflections on Moses as both a slave and as the one called to lead the Israelite's out of their life of slavery. He also includes a prayer and a brief profile of a child that lives in a village served by Compassion or Living Water. I've really, really enjoyed these little vignettes and find that some of my prayers for these children have taken on a life of their own.

As for the actual fast, Seay proposes making justice a centerpiece, based on Isaiah 58:6-7, in which God desires a fast that frees the oppressed and shares food and shelter with the hungry and homeless. Practically, Seay's recommended fast permits a nutritious but narrow diet of staple foods to help his well-off American readers to identify with the majority of earth's population, the poor. If readers sponsor a child or missionary family in a developing nation, Seay suggests they fast by eating a diet restricted to that nation's staples: beans, corn, rice and vegetables. The money saved, he proposes, can be donated to a charity readers have confidence will make a tangible contribution to helping the poor locally or abroad.

This vision of fasting is so inspiring to me. I honestly wrestled with trying this diet myself, but in the end I feared I would be overly consumed with trying to prepare "normal" meals for my three kids and husband while also trying to eat a limited diet that was not going to affect my health. I already eat a lot of veggies and limit processed foods, so I opted for cutting out desserts, added sugar and, my food idol, chocolate. This seemed like the best way to take my focus off cooking and eating (two things that definitely take up a large portion of my daydreams) and place it squarely in the realm of getting into God's heart for His many suffering children. As for giving leftover funds (there haven't been any) to the poor, I've focused on cooking meals for others and taking a leap to be more involved with my neighborhood's Challenge House.

I'd love to hear from some others on this. How do you observe Lent? How do you view fasting?

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