A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - The Reason We Fast After Fat Tuesday

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Perhaps I should have sued my mother. I could have called it reckless endangerment. Many knew her as this kind, loving woman. But I now know better.

Yesterday was Fastnacht Day. For those of you not of German heritage, it means the night before the fast. The day prior to the beginning of Lent. A time to enjoy some final tasty treats, a time to clear the kitchen of flour and sugar before the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. As I came to work this past Monday, I was overwhelmed immediately by the smell of grease. The memories of childhood began to flood back.

When I was a child, this seemingly sensible, caring woman would bring home these doughy pastries called fastnachts, on the day before Ash Wednesday. She would then place them on the kitchen table. Then she would crouch and watch, like a cat waiting for the mice to take the bait. I thought fastnachts were just funny looking donuts. Little did I know that they were the kiss of death.

As I entered my place of employment yesterday, I realized that someone was making fastnachts in anticipation of Fat Tuesday. The stench was overwhelming. You know a kitchen has become a haz mat site when the bakers are wearing face masks in order to breathe though the haze of grease. You know grandma's fruitcake has been trumped, when you see a potato based dough ball being dumped into boiling lard. I went on the internet and did a little research on these bad boys.

The numbers horrified me. For each one of those fastnachts that slips down your throat, add 1215 calories. For those of you who shriek at the sight of a gravy boat, tack on 33.5 grams of fat. For those watching sodium intake, ring up 883 mg of sodium as you feel your blood vessels constrict. And for you south beach carb watchers, meet your worst nightmare as you calculate in 185 grams of carbs in just a few bites. Do not pass go.....do not collect $200.......just go directly to the fat farm. It ain't called Fat Tuesday for nothing.

You could eat 2 of your favorite fast food biggie burgers with all the toppings as an equivalent march to death. And remember fettuccine Alfredo, the heart attack on a plate? You might as well call it Lean Cuisine compared to these death balls. Eve could have had twenty of those forbidden apples before she began to approach the calorie count of one fastnacht.

To work off the effects of this sugary pill of dough, try bicycling at 12 mph for 178 minutes, or maybe you have 166 spare minutes to walk at 4 mph, or just take a 2.5 hour lunch break and substitute it with 146 minutes of swimming at 50 yards a minute.

Back to my mother. This is the mother who thought I should spend winter afternoons on the couch eating snacks and watching movies, because she thought that skiing might be too dangerous a hobby. This is the mother who thought I might catch a cold because my winter jacket wasn't heavy enough, after I had slept the previous night in an UNHEATED bedroom. Call me crazy, but this woman who could have easily passed for "Mother of the Year" had it out for me, as she said with a motherly smile, "Have another fastnacht!"

There are things in life that just look good, that smell good, that just taste so good. but are not good for us, particularly when taken out of a healthy balance. Food and drink when consumed beyond moderation, finances, when they begin to own us, rather then us managing them, work, when it becomes obsessive and compulsive, sexuality, when expressed outside the Lord's boundaries, hobbies that become addictive rather than re-creative. Sometimes, they seem to come from the safest sources. Eve thought so, and often, so do we, if we are not listening to the Father who truly wishes the best for us.

You have your fastnachts, I have mine. Lent is a time for naming our fastnachts, for surrendering them to God, and inviting Him to fill us instead with those things that bring abundant life....... Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control....... The next time someone comes around with a plate of those deep fried delicacy disasters, I think I'll just say, "Thanks but no thanks" and go climb Mount Everest instead. An endorphin rush and time alone on the mount with God........ now that's a far healthier way to spend Lent! Call it some re-adjusted motherly advice......

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." - Galatians 5:22-25.

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