March Round-Up: The Lenten Reads, pt 2 (Year of Plenty, Hiking Through)

My 30 before 30 Project continues.

Recap: I split the March Round-Up into two posts. I focused on spiritual personal narratives for the month of Lent. I explained some of what Lent means in my last post, but quick definition:  It’s a time of fasting. This year, I’m on a specific spending fast: no new books, clothes, or crafts. (I’ve struggled with not buying crafts the entire month. I’m starting to make my list of books I will get April 1, so not buying books is hard, but I already have a lot and, ya know, there’s  the library. I’m actually purging my closet, though, so YAY.)  I’m limiting my facebook and pinterest time for weekends. That along with morning prayer is how I’m observing this year. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to bring church out of… church. It’s really hard to mesh religion with the every day. The books I chose all had several common themes to them, even though it wasn’t obvious to me when I chose them.

1) Loneliness and/or need for community.
2) Dissatisfaction with how things are, and a desire to make sense of things/change things.
3) Finding God in the ordinary.
4) Maybe because this has been on my mind lately, but my preacher’s theme for Lent has been “Plenty.”  This seemed to thread through my book choices as well.
5) They were immediately absorbing– I read all of these within two days, if not twenty-four hours.

My wonderful mother-in-law, who gives us awesome and meaningful Christmas gifts, gave us The Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin.   After feeling overwhelmed and troubled by the holiday season, the Goodwins decided they were going to limit their consumption for a year– about three days before the New Year.  Here’s their link to explain it a little better, but essentially, they became locavores. When I say “locavores,” I mean, they even found relatively local producer of toilet paper.  Even though Craig is a pastor, he didn’t set out to change the world or even have a spiritual experience; as he said, he was just out to save himself.  He wasn’t even expecting to affect his neighbors. But the Goodwins, by living intentionally, ended up changing the way they interacted with their community and the world around them.

I really enjoyed this book and was inspired by it. I pin on pinterest all the time about becoming self-sufficient/frugal.  Last summer, I frequented our city’s farmers’ market and I  love interacting with awesome people, and I love that you will never have a dull experience. (I once was stopped by a man who was chopping fruit with a Japanese machete from WWII, and he told me about the history of his machete.  Seriously!  I’ve even bought a purple pepper. I could go to Kroger today and not have to interact with anyone, much less buy unique produce or have a fun story to share. Farmers’ markets are an experience worth having.) My husband, who grew up on a retired farm, wants a half-acre and chickens in our next home. In saying that, I have recognized for a long time the value of going “back to the land,” but I underestimated it.

Much of our church discussion in the past year has been about building community. I think this book brings home that point: to be a community, you have to think less on getting new (cheap) stuff and instead focus on the people around you and building relationships with them.

Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Stutzman has been on my reading list for a while.  I live in East Tennessee, where I can easily go on a day hike on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). (By the way, if you mispronounce “Appalachia” in these parts, we throw an “apple- at-‘cha.” It may be safer to call it the A.T., actually.)  Paul’s journey begins when his wife of thirty-plus years got a cancer diagnosis.  He ended up visiting a stop on the A.T. and got interested in hiking it the whole way– Georgia to Maine.  In 2008 (two years after his wife died),  he quit his job and he began his hike.  He went by the trail name Apostle Paul (apostle meaning “one sent forth on a special mission”, and, ya know, Paul) and met lots of folk along the way. He noticed more of what was happening around him, and the long, rambling trail led to reflections on what’s important in life.

Once again, I let a week or two go by before blogging about the book. Since I’m on a slight deadline (I’m leaving for the in-laws, who don’t have internet), let me summarize by saying: the A.T. was a life-changing experience. Paul saw how God was working in his life and he found peace on the trail. He met great people and learned more about pushing his limits. As someone who does day hikes, I didn’t know there was a difference between the white or blue blazes (or, for that matter, the “yellow blazes”… the highway), but he pushed himself to be a purist and walk every mile of the white blaze.

Again, I was struck by the sense of community in this book. He made connections with many, many people.  The idea of “trail magic”– where people leave treats/food for the thru-hikers– people offering their home for random, stinky strangers to give them a shower, meal, and a mattress– well, you know there’s a biblical idea of entertaining strangers, for you may be entertaining angels? Yeah. That sums it up!

What I got out of these books for Lent (in short):

When we become part of each other’s lives, whether it be buying local or offering hospitality, we show Jesus better than we can by wearing t-shirts or religious facebook statuses. So, let’s quit with the vitriol– we don’t need it. Give a hug, share a meal… do a simple act of kindness. Build relationships. Love one another. See God in the ordinary. 

 Happy Easter. 

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Filed under 30 Before 30 (Themed Monthly Updates), Religious discussion

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