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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

What I’m Adding to My Diet During Lent

Last evening after an early Ash Wednesday service at our church, I drove through a local Wendy’s franchise to pick up a salad to take home.

“Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, please.”

“We’re out of those,” a disembodied voice replied.

Stumped for a moment, I studied the large lighted menu and chose a Parmesan Caesar Chicken Salad instead.

“We’re out of those too,” the voice intoned.

Now did I actually want either of those lovely healthy salads? Of course not. Give me a loaded baked potato or a Bacon Double-Stack with a large chocolate Frosty on the side. Give me food that’s hot and filling and smells.

My dilemma last night wasn’t about giving up certain foods for Lent. I wasn’t raised in a tradition that encouraged that, and for me the only value in self-denial is sharpening my focus on spiritual disciplines instead. We give up in order to get. Less of us and more of God.

Rather than eliminating anything from my diet the next 40 days, I’ve added two rich sources of nourishment instead. (Bonus: they’re calorie-free!)

Remember the resolutions that I replaced with revelations this year? Not resolutions to break, but rather revelations to make me intentional about changes I want to see: the need for regular exercise. Making healthy food choices. And most of all, consuming a rich spiritual diet.

I love sharing life-giving resources even more than recipes, so here’s what I’m wolfing down right now.

A brand-new devotional from award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell: Soul-Strong: 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life.

I’ve just started a new fitness regimen at the rec center, but what I crave more than core strength is strength in my very core: being soul-strong.

As McDowell writes, “The faith journey is not one of mere physical perseverance or mental determination. It’s something that goes much deeper. To live vibrantly rests in the soul’s capacity to endure even on the most difficult days.”

I have always viewed sugary treats as a reward at the end of a meal (even breakfast) or a long day. As winter moves into spring this year, though, I’m treating myself instead to McDowell’s vibrant stories and biblical teaching: how to live loved. Be authentic. Dwell deep. Overcome pain. Pray always. Extend kindness. And share stories.

The other significant addition to my diet is Gari Meacham’s Beyond Free, the newest Bible study offered by First Place for Health – the Christ-centered program for weight loss and healthy living. Each day I get a healthy spiritual meal from the Bible study, and once weekly I meet online with a small group of women from across the country for additional teaching, encouragement, and mutual accountability.

As Gari writes, “There’s nothing worse than achieving a goal, then crawling back to where you were (or worse) before the achievement.”

If as followers of Christ we truly believe “It is for freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1), then I’m ready to start living that way, no longer burdened by a yoke of slavery to my impulses, bad habits, and crippling fears of inadequacy.

“Freedom is real because Jesus offered it. He wouldn’t have teased us with it if it weren’t true. Freedom is neither perfection nor permission.” Gari Meacham

And as Soul Strong is reminding me, it’s not about “a perfect life [but] a passionate pursuit.”

As I pulled up to the drive-in window last night, the worker at Wendy’s peered at my face as he gave me my last-choice salad.

“What’s with the cross?” he asked, gesturing to the ashes on my forehead.

“I’m working on living soul-strong,” I explained. “And I find my strength in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

“Oh, cool! Whatever works,” he grinned.

It does work, young friend. It surely does.

“On the day I called you, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” Ps 138:3 ESV

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