asceticI thought Jesus the Radical was hard. At least I didn’t fast from solid food and alcohol, give away half of my stuff or sit in the lotus position until my legs fell asleep.

In March I’m working with mentor Reba Riley, author of “Post Traumatic Church Syndrome,” as she guides me through my month of learning some new ascetic practices. These include mindfulness, contemplation, embodiment, simplicity and even self care, in some new and (maybe to some people) weird ways.

Reba is a great mentor for this month, as she took part in thirty different religious practices and communities before her thirtieth year, in an effort to better understand her faith identity, spiritual identity and who she was and wanted to be after extricating herself from a fairly troublesome evangelical Christian background. Also, as someone diagnosed with a pretty severe case of Celiac Disease, Reba knowns a whole lot more than I do about food-related discipline.

For starters, I’m realizing that some of my months will bleed over, one into the other. Though I’ve engaged Christian anarchism in a few ways, I have more yet to work on. Yeah, I know. I’m not supposed to cling to some kind of to-do list during this year, and sometimes, the best practice is to work on letting go and moving on. But I have some pretty exciting things planned with my fellow Christian Anarchists, so it’s more of a “want to” than a “have to.”

For this month, though, I have several pretty big challenges. First, I’m going to abstain from eating solid foods. The plan is for the entire month, though I’ve promised my doctor and my wife that I’ll stop either if my health is a concern, or if I become too insufferable to live with. Given I’m already a naturally difficult person, the second one is more likely, I think. I’m also abstaining from alcohol which, for an avid homebrewer, is quite a shift. I’m working with some of the juice and smoothie recipes offered by Joe Cross, the focus of the film, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”

I do want to be clear that the point of this is not some weird starvation diet. I’m not trying to go hungry, and if I can blend it into a smoothie, I’m likely to try by month’s end. Rather, the point is to really think more about what I’m putting into my body, as well as how much of our culture is built around eating and drinking, and how we relate to it. I’m also not advocating that anyone else try this the way I am, especially without the guidance of a physician and dietician.

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Reba Riley, Author of “Post Traumatic Church Syndrome”

I’m more than a little nervous about it, but I’m also strangely excited. My wife family has decided they’re doing their own versions of this as an act of solidarity; my kids are (at least in theory) abstaining from all processed sugar, and my wife is eating only whole, unprocessed foods. My friend and mentor for April, Slim Moon, also plans to fast with me. I’m a firm believer that any challenge is made a little lighter with company, and I gladly welcome their support and that of others.

I’m also taking inventory of my material possessions and giving at least half of them away. This is tricky, since I’m not sure how to measure it. After all, if I have a thousand baseball cards, does that count as one thing, or a thousand? If one is more valuable than another, does it count for more? Are we talking monetary value, sentimental value, or just straight quantity? Maybe by volume? You get the idea. The point, though, isn’t to get hung up on the little details; it’s about realizing how incredibly abundant my life is, while also letting go of a lot of it to help others.

The world around us tells us the way we feel complete is by getting more. But what if the truth is actually just the reverse?

Reba will also guide me through a new spiritual practice each week to help me hone my contemplative skills. As long as she doesn’t make me do headstands in some kind of guru-underwear thingy in the middle of the Park Blocks downtown, I’m good.

Finally, I’m going to keep spreading the word about our collective effort to feed at least 5,000 people. Click on the link here to find out more about it, and to see how we have already turned six books into a $9,000 timeshare.

I can’t do this without your help. And I’m not doing all of this just for myself. The goal is to inspire and entire community to find, in their own ways,  more intentional, embodied and real-life ways to follow the life, teaching and example of Jesus in prayer, study and action. Join us at the My Jesus Project website, see what others are doing, add your thoughts and tell us what you do to try and follow Jesus. You can also search Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag “#MyJesusProject”