Archive for February, 2010

Lenten Reflections, Pt. 1

February 24, 2010

Thanks for tuning in to Mitch Roper’s Lenten Discipline: bearing the burden of his material waste.

What that symbolic phrase translates to in practical terms is that, for the duration of Lent, I am carrying with me the accumulation of trash I produce that cannot be recycled or composted.  In other words, if it is headed for the landfill, and I have “consumed” it, then it is staying with me for 40+ days before it goes off to the landfill for only God knows how many years.

So far I have managed to keep my burden light, although this past weekend presented me with some major snags and tough decisions.  I was staying at the Rock Eagle 4-H Camp and Conference Center with a bunch of my EpiscoPals for the Vocare #19 weekend, a retreat for young adults focusing on discerning God’s calling in our lives.  Well, not only did we have a variety of candy and snacks for our pilgrims and staff (each one individually wrapped for easy, on-the-go use and disposal), but the Dining Hall there also employed the use of individually-packaged servings of butter, jelly, mustard, ketchup, and other condiments of this  kind.  I found myself eating an ascetic’s breakfast when the thought of carrying around an empty single-serving jelly container for the next month and a half caused me to put it back in the basket instead of enjoying it on my toast one morning.  Similar situation with a baked potato I had for lunch one day; luckily the sour cream was in a big serving bowl on the line and I was able to enjoy a big spoonful without worry over the packaging I might have to keep with me.  I chose to turn down ice cream at lunch too, because it came in one of those “convenient” styrofoam containers with the little peel-off lid.

An especially idiotic moment on Saturday evening found me chowing down on some delicious Doritos in one of those fun-sized bags, only to realize halfway through the single-serving that I really had better savor them, since I would be toting that little bag with me until I am able to shout “The Lord is risen in indeed, Alleluia!”

What I am already coming to realize, in a much more visceral, ever-present-with-me sort of way than I’ve ever had before, is just how geared-toward-wastefulness our on-the-go society is.  Take those fun-sized snacks for example, or the single-serving containers of condiments we use and dispose of so thoughtlessly at restaurants and dining halls.  All of this packaging is going straight to the landfill. I’ve never thought of getting a regular ketchup bottle as “buying in bulk” until this very moment.  I am thankful, too, that I am already used to a mostly vegetarian diet, because I don’t think there is a single recyclable piece of packaging that comes from Chick-Fil-A, and that being the case, there will be no “Jesus-chicken” (or even “Jesus-milkshakes” for that matter) for me this Lenten season.

As I write this, I have just discovered that the modestly-sized bag in which I am carrying all of my trash has a couple of small holes.  I was hoping that I could keep my waste confined to this small bag to use as little extra waste (in the form of the trash bag) as I could, but it appears that even if I can I will at least need to use another trash bag–another piece of plastic–to keep it from opening up and spilling out.  Ah well, c’est la vie.

I am leaving tomorrow to fly to Colorado where I will help my best buddy Dan pack his car and move his life back to Atlanta.  There is a lot that I am looking forward to about this trip; what I am definitely not looking forward to are the temptations and sacrifices I will be pulled between, both on the plane and across the country as we drive, to not eat this or to carry that around with me for the next several weeks.  It will be hard, but my will and my wisdom are both slowly growing.

I will say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for revealing these truths to me in this Lenten season, and simply ask for more wisdom as I bear this burden of penitence.


Remember you are trash, and to the landfill you shall return.

February 18, 2010

Ash Wednesday has come and with it the liturgical/spiritual season of Lent, during which Christians are encouraged either to give something up or to take something on, a spiritual discipline leading to contemplation and penitence of heart in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  This year for Lent, I have decided to take on the challenge of carrying all of my personally-produced trash with me wherever I go for the next 46 days; sounds CRAZY, I know.  The significance of this symbolic act is to give me a veritable physical burden of my own material waste; whatever I cannot recycle or compost will remain with me for the next 46 days before I thoughtlessly send it to the landfill for only God knows how many years.

It is my hope, as a by-product perhaps, since surely my endeavor will draw questions and even criticism from some, that in bearing this burden I might challenge that misinformed paradigm in the minds of others that their trash just disappears when the garbage man comes to collect each week, but to be sure, my goal is simply my own edification in this reality, since that is the only result of which I can perhaps be assured.  And to give credit where credit is due, this idea came to me from without; I first heard of a blogger over a year ago who did this for a month, unconnected with Lent, and this was also undertaken by a Canadian family for a period of three months in a documentary called “Garbage! the Movie,” during which they kept their accumulated garbage and recyclables (separated) in their garage for the duration of the time.

I will be updating my journey toward Easter perhaps as frequently as once a week, so check back in from time to time, if you are so inclined. May God bless you in the meantime, and may Her Spirit rest with you and give you peace, love and understanding during this season of contemplation.