Let's look at a few more Ash Wednesday stories. Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette explores the meaning of Lenten discipline by focusing on a group of Presbyterians who are fasting. The story features the Rev. Elizabeth McCormick of First Presbyterian Church of Frostburg, Md., who is encouraging her congregation to fast. McCormick and her husband used to be missionaries in Sudan. She taught at a seminary in Khartoum and he was a financial adviser for the Presbyterian Church of Sudan:
Many of her students were among 2.5 million refugees from the south living in camps in the desert outside the city. For many the single meal served at the seminary was their only food. She was often invited to preach in the camps.
"I saw firsthand the children who were malnourished, with extended bellies and orange hair, and the very thin, emaciated women," she said.
"What was most difficult was that their sense of hospitality is so overwhelming that they would still provide food for their guests, even if it meant their family didn't eat that day."
Their faith deepened her own, she said. Despite their hunger, they fasted regularly.
"The Sudanese see their suffering as their being united to Christ Jesus in his suffering. So, for them, fasting is a way to show that they intentionally want to be united with Christ in his suffering for the world," she said.
Good quotes and information. Julia Duin of the Washington Times looked at books about fasting for her piece in Sunday's paper. As my family embarks on our 40 days of fasting, I am reminded of how easy it was to fast before I had a husband or children -- to say nothing of figuring out a proper dietary discipline while pregnant or nursing. Let's just say it takes a lot more intentionality than I recall from my single days. So I was elated to see that one of the books reviewed is a vegan cookbook for intensive fasts:
Aided by her mother, a gourmet cook, ["The Daniel's Fast Cookbook" author Grace Bass] began to develop recipes -- using only whole grains, water, vegetables and fruits -- for people, such as diabetics, who want to go on multiday fasts but cannot subsist on merely water. Others had families who rebelled at nonstop vegetarian fare in place of their prepackaged pizzas.
Still others could not figure out how to cook enough meals for such a project.
"Many people were quitting their commitment to the fast," she said. "I really had a burden to help them."
It's a great hook for a Lenten story and helpful to readers as well. I also have a brief personal entry -- nothing newsy about it! -- in a symposium on Ash Wednesday over at National Review Online.