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    The Lenten Experience
    lent_2015“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” – Luke 4:1-2.
    "We are indeed mortal – we are dust, and to dust we shall return" - Genesis 3:19. The Church now calls us back once again to the graces of our baptism, to do penance, and amend our lives.

    Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable Fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter. It can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, or spring, the time of year when the days begin to lengthen.

    This year Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with services, February 18 and ends on Holy Saturday, April 4, the day before Easter Sunday. The day before Lent begins, some churches will hold Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners, following the Lenten tradition of using up all the butter, eggs and yeast in the kitchen before Lent actually begins.

    Lent is a season of repentance, self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

    Most people are quite familiar with the practice of giving up something desirable for Lent. This discipline is meant to foster a stronger will, one that intentionally chooses to make room for God amidst all the competing distractions. Say no to these desires so that we can say yes to God. The journey through Lent follows Christ to the cross, the tomb, and resurrection. Believers gain a better understanding of their own frailties and the Lenten season nurtures an enhanced knowledge and love of Christ.

    Some denominations practice the wearing of ashes on the forehead in the sign of a cross on Ash Wednesday. Ashes symbolize true heartfelt repentance. More important than the outward symbol of ashes is the inner reality of a contrite heart. God promises: “I will give you beauty for ashes” - Isaiah 61:3.

    The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21. To learn more about Wednesday Lenten services, contact your local church. Lent is generally celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Baptist and Mennonite congregations.

    For a great Lenten read, see Leesburg Patch article, “Invitation to a Holy Lent”, by Rector Clancy Nixon, Church of the Holy Spirit – Leesburg.

    Calendar of Dates for Lent and Easter 2015 (United Methodist Church)

    Ash Wednesday - February 18, 2015

    First Sunday in Lent - February 22, 2015

    Second Sunday in Lent - March 1, 2015

    Third Sunday in Lent - March 8, 2015

    Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 15, 2015

    Fifth Sunday in Lent- March 22, 2015

    Liturgy of the Palms - March 29, 2015
    Sixth Sunday in Lent

    Liturgy of the Passion - March 29, 2015
    Sixth Sunday in Lent

    Easter Sunday - April 5, 2015

    Mark Gunderman
    Sterling Park, Va.
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    Big Bad Drama presents The Little Town of Christmas
    Big Bad Drama Company Presents The Little Town of Christmas. Big Bad Drama was established in 2002 and the Troupes logo was designed by one of their own. The theater group goals and objectives are based on New Testament Acts 20:35, ‘...It is more blessed to give than to receive...' Students and senior citizens provide family-friendly entertainment to local schools, restaurants, nursing homes, churches, and community centers. This performance is Free, but it is suggested that everyone bring a non-perishable food item or a toy to support various charities.
    The Little Town of Christmas is comprised of twelve yuletide sketches entertaining audiences with such old favorites as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “A Christmas Caro." Also included are interviews with the elves and reindeer and even an interview with Mrs. Santa Claus. Of course there will be some singing and Santa will get a Pop Quiz. The play was written by Pat Cook.

    The Troupes vision based on Acts 20:35 is to provide high school, middle school and senior citizens with opportunities to use their time, talents and treasures to serve their community, while learning about teamwork and gaining new dramatic skills in a loving, happy and fun-filled environment. Big Bad Drama Company is comprised of 17 teens who have been practicing every Saturday for 3 months. The majority of these kids travel from Leesburg, Hamilton and Purcellville to practice in Lovettsville. The Troupe presents at sites around the community and this reflects the talent of the kids as they are able to adapt to each different venue without having practiced on each "stage" space.

    Big Bad Drama representative Lisa Moen said, "the most treasured comment that we had last year was from a senior citizen at the Madison House who said she did not think that she was going to have Christmas that year but we brought it to her." The Troupe seeks out places that will donate space to stage a play and then solicits food or toy donations in lieu of a ticket fee. The Troupe also reaches out and presents in locations where some people would not otherwise be able to attend or afford the price of a ticket.

    Previously Big Bad Drama has preformed at The Carver Center in Purcellville, Dominion Academy in Leesburg, Providence Academy in Leesburg, The Madison House in Leesburg, INOVA Loudoun Nursing and Rehab in Leesburg, Morningside House in Leesburg, Sunrise Assisted Living in Leesburg and a "Dinner Theater" at the Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville.

    Some of the other productions Big Bad Drama has presented are: The Three Fractured Pigs by Chris Stiles published by Brooklyn Publishers, The Christmas Cafe by Burton Bumgarner published by Brooklyn Publishers, Good Cop, Bad Cop by Ian McWethy and Jason Pizzarello published by Brooklyn Publishers and Sonoma White by Vin Morreale Jr. published by Eldridge Publishing Company.

    Big Bad Drama will be preforming on the Following Dates:

    Dec 12, 2014 6:30 pm at the Lovettsville Firehouse 12837 Berlin Turnpike, Lovettsville, Va. Tickets: We are requesting an unwrapped toy to benefit Toys for Tots and/or a non-perishable food item for the Lovettsville Food Pantry.

    Dec 13, 2014 6:30 pm at Destiny Church 37 Catoctin Circle Leesburg, Va. Tickets: We are requesting donations for Interfaith Relief.

    Dec 14, 2014 2:00 pm at the Carver Center 200 Willie Palmer Way, Purcellville, Va. Tickets: We are requesting donations for the Tree of Life Ministries

    Dec 20, 2014 2:00 pm at the Madison House 25 Monroe Street, Leesburg, Va. Tickets: We are requesting a donation to any of the above charities.

    Lisa Moen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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    Gleaning in the 21st Century
    broccoliVolunteers gleaning from a field of Broccoli. “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God” - Leviticus 19:9-10.
    God was very concerned for all the people in Israel, but took special interest in the poor and the vanquished. In the Old Testament, He commanded that farmers were not to “gather the gleanings,” or harvest all the way to the edges of their fields, but to leave whatever they dropped for the poor and the immigrant in their midst.

    Gleaning is the second harvesting of the land’s produce by the poor and those who had no land of their own. The crucial premise underlying this double command is Israel’s understanding that the land belonged to Yahweh. No one in Israel was a landowner in the modern sense. Each tribe and clan had its own “portion in Yahweh,” the piece of land that represented its share in the covenant with God. The land was Yahweh’s to distribute.

    Allowing others to glean on the Israelite farmer’s property was the fruit of holiness. Landowners had an obligation to provide poor and marginalized people access to the means of production (the land, in Leviticus) and to work it themselves. In this sense, it was much more like a tax than a charitable contribution. Also unlike charity, it was not given to the poor as a transfer payment. Through gleaning, the poor earned their living the same way as the landowners did, by working the fields with their own labors. It was simply a command that everyone had a right to access the means of provision created by God.

    Notice the difference from our more contemporary way of thinking. The Israelite farmer did not “allow” gleaning by the poor; Yahweh God commanded it. There is no charity involved, no hand out. The poor are not to be regarded as beggars or freeloaders. They are valid members of the covenant community, and they have as much right to glean as the farmer has to harvest the crops. I believe these commands regarding gleaning give us plenty to consider if we think about our own society’s attitudes toward ownership, consumption, acquisition, benevolence, and welfare.

    Gleaning used to be common practice across Europe in the Middle Ages. Landowners would invite the poor onto their land to gather up whatever had been left un-harvested. In 18th century England, the sexton would often ring a church bell at 8 o'clock in the morning and again at 7 in the evening to alert needy families when they were invited to collect crops.

    Fast forward to a period of austerity and increasing reliance on food banks in 21st century America. Food banks are struggling to keep up with demand. Times again are tough for thousands of families who can’t afford a steady diet of fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables. Yet an estimated 27 percent of all food crops go un-harvested in our nation — billions of kilograms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most are discarded because of cosmetic blemishes, harvesting schedule issues or unstable market prices. There has never been a better time to revive gleaning.

    Farmers and their Local Communities Rely on Each Other

    Gleaning benefits every community. People need food, particularly healthy food, and farmers usually have a surplus. Fruits and vegetables help restore health, help kids do better in school and get people to cook it in their homes to improve their overall diets in the fight against obesity. Farmers will box up and donate food that doesn’t sell at the stand or allow gleaners to pick in the fields. Consumers don’t want food that isn’t cosmetically perfect, so farmers always have products that aren’t good for sale that can be donated.

    A number of farmers actually give their "first fruits" – that is, they allot a portion of their crop prior to the harvest. They feel that God has so abundantly blessed them that they want to "give back" to the community. These farmers love to share. It’s a wonderful feeling to give to people and know that they will enjoy it just as much as they do growing it.

    Some farmers feel they have nothing to lose. The motivation has little to do with a biblical command though they are pleased that their surplus will feed the hungry. They will also pocket a tax deduction worth the value of what the farm gives away. All farmers by nature want to see the food they’re growing made accessible to everyone.

    The gleaning system cited in Leviticus does place an obligation on the owners of productive assets to ensure that marginalized people have the opportunity to work for their food. No contemporary individual landowner can provide opportunities for every unemployed or under-employed worker the same as no one farmer in ancient Israel could provide gleanings for the entire district. But corporations are called out to be key players in providing opportunities for work. Perhaps we working people are also called to appreciate the service that business owners perform in their role as job-creators in their respective communities.

    Gleaning Collects Food for Needy and Eliminates Food Waste

    It used to be that gleaning was simply tolerated, that it was legally accepted but had some sort of shame attached. Currently gleaning is becoming more popular because the sheer quantity of the bounty that doesn’t get consumed is incredibly immense. For farmers, it is a matter of reducing waste.

    The statistics reflect that 96 billion pounds of food — this is pre-consumer food — goes to waste in this country. And that food-waste estimate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is increasing, not decreasing. Local non-profit organizations in Loudoun County are trying to build a network that will take food which would not make it to market for a variety of reasons and get it to local agencies that are feeding the hungry. Supply and demand is the first rule of the deal, say farmers. And if you have more supply than you have got demand, then it's going to go to waste.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food leftovers are the single-largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States. Food waste includes uneaten food and food preparation scraps from residences or households, commercial establishments like restaurants, institutional sources like school cafeterias, and industrial sources like factory lunchrooms. Over 12 percent of the total municipal solid waste generated in American households was food scraps and less than three percent was recovered. The rest was thrown away and disposed in landfills or combusted in incinerators.

    Top 6 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer for Gleaning

    1. Get involved in a mission opportunity that will make a big difference in your local community without taking up a lot of your precious free time.
    2. Teach your children about hunger, about our blessings and the importance of becoming involved in serving others.
    3. Establish an opportunity for your family to work together, drawing you closer and providing lots of dinner discussion opportunities.
    4. Provide local families (your neighborhood) in need with fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables at no cost to them. (Food Pantries usually stock only non-perishable items which typically have less vitamins and antioxidants.)
    5. In the process of serving, you will be served. Your heart will be lifted as you know you've made a difference in peoples' lives in your community.
    6. Salvaging unused crops prevents perfectly fine produce from getting plowed under, sent to the local dump site or left to rot.

    Local gardeners wishing to contribute are advised to plan ahead. They can dedicate a row of vegetables or fruit from some trees well in advance. Contact the organization you plan to donate to. They sometimes can send volunteers over to help harvest the produce.

    A note from Julie Brizendine

    In June 2013, 19% of the children attending Loudoun County Public Schools qualified for a free or reduced priced lunch. According to Feeding America statistics, 16,500 people were food insecure in Loudoun County in 2012. 10,180 of those people were children. 29% were eligible for nutrition programs. And yet, we live in one of the most affluent counties in America. So much food is wasted.

    Feed Loudoun Plant-a-Row is a uniquely community-based program designed to assist in feeding the hungry here in Loudoun County. Founded in 2009, we are part of a national grass roots initiative started by the Garden Writers Association in 1995. Feed Loudoun Plant-a-Row donates 100% of the produce collected. To date, we have coordinated the donation of over 90,000 pounds of fresh produce to food pantries in the county! For more information about volunteer gleaning opportunities in the Leesburg area, contact Feed Loudoun's Julia Brizendine at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit
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    About the Blogger
    Mark Gunderman writes and solicits articles that reflect the Church ministries and faith-based organizations' spiritual rhythm and follows the seasons of the Church. The Church and its ministries are relevant for news articles all year round, not just during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Church and the media have many philosophical differences, yet common denominators link them together. Both have a message they want to articulate. An inherent responsibility for both is to communicate successfully.

    "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant to all" (Mark 9:35).


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