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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LENT AND THE BOOK WHORE

As always, I approach Lent rather like someone holding out a sharp pointed stick towards a wayward mouse in the corner of the room--poke, retreat, poke, shriek, retreat, poke....you get the picture. Perhaps this is because I grew up in a house where the word "Lent" was never really mentioned.  Not that it was considered a swear word, but it simply had no importance in our house.

That has since changed, as those of you who follow this blog have seen. If you look back in my blog archives to the year 2011 and click on March, you will find my posting, "Lent or Whatever," which chronicles my inability to fast and give up things.  Especially food.

However, this year I am giving a stab again at the fasting thing, having recently read a fascinating piece by Heather King (A former bad-girl, convert to Catholicism) in "Magnificat."  In it she decides that she is going to "fast from criticizing people."  I can get behind that.  I decided to give up judging people for this Lent.  Heather goes on to write, "Ash Wednesday dawned. I waited to be transformed, and within an hour I was mentally nipicking, criticizing, and judging any number of people.....Prayer without fasting is a gesture.  Mercy without fasting is a gesture...Fasting is a consent to be consumed."

Whew.  This makes me sweat, but it also goes straight into my heart, because I so resist this way of "doing" Lent.  Nothing too hard, God, please.  No sacrifices.  Nothing that will remind me of how poor I really am within. Nothing that will remind me of my addictions.

So, I'm on a modified fast today, and haven't broken down sobbing into the corner yet, clutching a piece of wriggly's spearmint gum.  I also, beside trying to get rid of certain snarky personality traits which I won't detail here, have decided to go for an entire MONTH without buying a book, particularly on Amazon.com., my site of favorite book whoredom.  I will give the money I would spend on books to the homeless shelter in Northampton or to the Survival Center.  Let's give OUT with something I am giving UP.  Doesn't that make good sense to you?  Doesn't it even....remind you a tiny bit of the logic ofThomas Aquinas?  No, ok.  How about Dick Nixon and his wife's plain cloth coat?

I read another man's words, Fr. Vincent Nagle, who had spent time in a third-world country with few resources himself.  He writes, "I gained something through this poverty. It made me aware of the essential."  These are heartening and strengthening words for a wussy lady trying to give up 3 snacks a day, plus biggish plates of food. 

I've also discovered another writer/pastor who might appeal to some of you--Jon Swanson.  He's written several books, one of them called, "Lent For Non-Lent People:  33 Things to Give Up For Lent."  I know it sounds rather dreary, but it isn't at all.  It's fairly useful and even contemplative!  Among the items in his list of 33 things you could give up are:  "First place in line..The last word...A quarter-pounder...Three scowls...10 minutes of frantic activity...One argument..." and much more.  It's a fresh look at what we might want to give up, and he encourages us to think of what we might put in the place of the things we offer up.

Hence my title,"Lent and the Book Whore."  I am giving up buying books and giving out the money I save to people who need it far more than I.  This reminds me of what is essential.  This reminds me of my own inner poverty.  And it actually gives something useful to somebody else. 

If you are wondering how much money that might turn out to be (I haven't reached a firm total yet), I estimate it at around $70 per month.  Easily, and that includes a lot of Kindle books.

So, however you decide to observe Lent (which means "spring"), or whether you decide it has no relevance for you whatsoever, you might get a kick out of the list of 33 things, simply because it makes us take a closer look at ourselves. And Jon's website is: http://300wordsaday.com.  Happy Lent!