It Ain’t Easy

For sometime now I have been writing about my vegetarian journey it has been fun to laugh, joke, and commiserate with you all, however on a more serious not I’m not sure I can call this a journey anymore, it now feels like a pilgrimage. I’ve learned a lot about myself for the past few weeks, I have a new found respect and meaning for the words like temptation, strengthen and weakness to name a few. As I reflected on the past month and all of the change it has brought while driving back from Raleigh a few days ago, see I tend to get my deep thinking done while driving, and this was the perfect car ride to reflect on change as the leaves are changing and the days become colder.

I’ve been challenged and wanted to eat meat several times over the course of the past month however this past weekend really tested me in ways I couldn’t imagine nor did I know how to handle them. Like most God fearing North Carolinians I love barbecue – the vinegar, the spices, the pork – YUM – I can’t think of a better meal, until I went vegetarian. Barbecue is spiritual in my mind – I loved it and could never pass up the opportunity to eat it, but this weekend I attended a wedding and the reception was true to the couples North Carolina roots on the menu was barbecue straight from a hog on the cooker, potatoes, coleslaw, baked beans and green beans. Sounds good, right? I’m getting hungry as I type. I enjoyed a plate with every on it minus the pig and coleslaw (yuck). As I sat down to eat with my friend I realized how different this vegetarian lifestyle is, I was the only one not enjoying meat at this event, of course my minds was flooded with questions “maybe I can eat a little bit, what if people think I’m a snob, I hope I don’t offend the bride and groom” these questions are trivial but real and I imagine this is how most vegetarians feel at events where there isn’t anything for us to really eat.

I’ll say this past weekend was the first time I’ve felt different since beginning this pilgrimage and realizing isolating it can feel. While I’m grateful for my restraint and not caving in to enjoy some delicious NC barbecue, I’m also grateful for good health and friends who encourage me when I’m feeling down about this whole vegetarian thing. Once we left the wedding my friend said, “Well, we need to get you some food, I guess…” Thank God for Regina being an understanding voice in that moment because I felt weak and isolated, but she understood.

Following this weekends trip I saw this post by BuzzFeed that was encouraging:

Lesson from this weekend, stay strong encouragement comes in many different forms.

A Journey Sermon

Monday night I had the opportunity to lead in worship with the Baptist Student Fellowship at Western Carolina University. When I have the opportunity to preach or lead a bible study I always hope I say something worth listening to and helpful to those listening.

As we begin our time tonight I invite you ask yourself the following questions in a spirit of prayer and reflection:

What is my private reality?
What am I looking for?
Why am I you looking for it?
Who would I like to be?

Pray: Ask audience to put their hands out in front of them. God hold our hand. Amen.

Those are some tough questions to ask and I’ll admit I’ve had some trouble with them as prepared for our time together. I think out good friend Paul drops the hammer pretty good in Romans; he talks about having an inner conflict, being confused about what to do, looking for something.

Read Romans 7:14-25
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

…That’s a mouthful and maybe even more confusing, huh? Here’s what I would dare to say he’s hinting at, we know what we should do yet most of the time we decide not to do it. I quote “But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” Verses 17-18

This positions us in a way at which we should take time to ask ourselves what we are doing and why are we doing it, well for one flesh and spirit don’t tend to get along often, why? Sometimes we act in the moment and don’t have in mind what will happen in the days to come. Can we agree that’s a fair statement? We have to remember we are on a journey and the hope is that we will not spend time bogged down in the details and realize that we wont have answers to the questions because we may not learn them today but we will learn the answers to questions somewhere along the journey and thanks be to God for that. I think it makes life easier and allows us to see the value of journey and faith in a different light.

Retired Episcopal Priest Barbara Brown – Taylor has this to say about how we experience God along the way in her book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith I think they’re words for us to hold onto as we journey through life,
“People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness. God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes, and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay. Whoever wrote this stuff believed that people could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture. What is true is what happens, even if what happens is not always right. People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.”

Now for the questions again, spend sometime asking reviewing these questions again, we will listen to a song, and then close in prayer.

What is my private reality?
What am I looking for?
Why am I you looking for it?
Who would I like to be?

Song: Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2

Pray:
God,
We would love to have your eyes to see what you see among us; your ears to hear what you hear; give us your heart to share your compassion. Fill us with your spirit, grace, love and wisdom.

The Journey Continues…

Well I’m on week three of being vegetarian! I have so much energy and feel great! I will admit it is becoming rather challenging when I go to restaurants – salads and pasta can get old pretty darn quick.

Here are something’s I learned this past week:
– Kale is good.
– Salads are always a good go to food option.
– Black bean quesadillas are always good!
– Cheese pizza has a lot more value.

And the journey continues….