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This has been the year of the church calendar for me. I have been encouraged as I remembered the lives of former believers on All Saints Day, and I have rejoiced as I remembered the coming of our Lord. Now the season of fasting is quickly coming, and though I am not one for giving up food, I am actually looking forward to it. My first Lent. Most of my fellow Protestant friends do not observe this season of the year, and I grew up thinking that it was something only Catholics did, not Presbyterians. This year, it’s for me.

So I am learning about Lent, a forty-day (excluding Sundays) season of fasting, reflection, and repentance in preparation for the observation of Easter. The practice of fasting before Easter is apparently very old, for Irenaeus (late 2nd century, early 3rd) indicated that a one to two day fast had been going on since “the time of our forefathers” (Catholic Education Resource Center). In the fourth century, the forty-day fast was becoming regularized, and in the fifth, Pope St. Leo insisted upon it.

ChurchYear.Net has a nice summary of the purpose of Lenten season:

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent […] can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius aptly describes as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.”

So what am I going to do? I plan on fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, spending more time in prayer and scripture reading, reflecting on the crucifiction and resurrection, and giving up something that I tend to overdo–sugar. I know it sounds trite to give up sweets, but as my wife can testify, it really is something that I value and look forward to. Maybe I will give up eating meat on Friday, but perhaps I should take it easy on my first Lent. The main goal, of course, is spiritual reflection on self and on Christ.

What about you? Do you have any particular Lenten experiences or traditions that you would like to share?

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Two Sundays ago, I was at Kroger shopping for a few last minute items in preparation for the Saints game. Some friends were coming over, and I decided to grab a few beers. But alas! I had forgotten. No beer sales on Sunday.

Does anyone understand the logic behind blue laws? Why is alcohol singled out and restricted? Is it more sinful to drink on Sunday than on any other day of the week? If these laws are religiously motivated (and I know they originally were), is it not a violation of church and state to keep them? Why is the government interfering with my personal choices? And what about the rationale behind the prohibition of hard liquor and wine in some counties? Why does the grocery store in other counties have to have a separate store for selling wine and liquor?

So there you go. A lot of questions about some silly laws that I wish my neck of Mississippi would get rid of. Come on, Mississippi. Let’s repeal.

When I first started to read about how faith and evolution relate to one another, I found a book by Darrell R. Falk called Coming To Peace With Science:  Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Science. This was one of the most readable books I discovered when it came to presenting the laymen with evidence for evolution, and it was there that I came across one of the most convincing proofs for evolution that helped me embrace common descent.

The unique mammals of Australia are almost exclusively marsupial, i.e., they give birth to their offspring early and incubate them in pouches. At the time that Australia broke away from Antarctica and South America, the small mammals that existed were marsupials, according to the fossil record from that time, which is admittedly pretty scarce. The fossil record from South America indicates that most animals were placental, and today all species there, with the exception of possums, are placental.

What is interesting is that in Australia, there is an animal called Mymecobius uniquely fit for finding and eating ants. It has a long snout, strong paws for digging through mounds, and flat teeth suited to chewing ants. South America has the anteater, of course, with similar features but no pouch.

    

Australia has the marsupial wombat; South America the placental groundhog. Australia has marsupial squirrel-like animals, some that fly. Australia has been home to the Tasmanian wolf (now exstinct), a marsupial; rabbit-like marsupials; marsupial mice and moles; and at one time, it even had a marsupial cat. The rest of the world has these animals, of course, but they are placental.

     

(Wombat)                                                                                                      (Hedgehog)

Common descent explains this situation. As the original marsupial mammals met a specific environment, they changed to adapt, but they remained marsupial. Conversely, as the original placentals of South America or North America met similar environments, they also changed to adapt, many of them turning out to have very similar bodies to their counterparts in Australia, but they remained placental.

Now, if not evolution, then what? Am I to honestly believe that God made one wolf in North America with a placenta and another wolf in Australia with a pouch? Or that god made the wolf “kind” capable of developing pouches? Does anyone have more patience than I to search Answers In Genesis to get a reply?

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