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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Christmas Addictions

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.

Every journey starts with a 1st step,
and fortunately for me,
so does every addiction.

When the calendar turns to November,
most of us realize that we are in for a battle that we cannot win.

Weeks upon weeks of parties, receptions, dinners……
add on assortments of gift cookie platters, 
more mugs of cocoa with extra mini-marshmallows than one cares to count,
and Christmas tins overflowing with decadent holiday yummies….

By January 2nd,
most of us are raising the surrender flag
and running as far from the scales as possible.

For me,
once I start, I cannot stop.
All those holiday sweets are simply addictive.

And so I am here to confess my addiction.
Call it the first step in my 12 step recovery program.

Let’s all sit down in a circle of chairs please.

“Hi, my name is David and I am an addict”
“Hi David.”

“It began a bit earlier than usual in the month of November.
Perhaps I should blame it on
all the Halloween candy from the previous week.
Hey, maybe that’s the problem, 
I am blaming it on everything but myself.

I awoke early that day, around 5:15am.

That in itself is not unusual.
The dogs normally wake me to let me know that their day is starting.
Usually, I open the door, let them scamper outside,
and go back for another hour of blissful sleep.

Not that day.
I felt the urge.
It was an urge that I could not resist.
I needed it.

Normally I wait till the afternoon to imbibe,
but in the early quiet before the sun had risen,
I went out to the kitchen and reached for……..

the car keys.

I began to drive.
As I was driving,
I said to myself,
‘You shouldn’t be doing this.
You should be in bed getting that extra hour of sleep.
This is not good for you!’

For all the reasons I came up with as to why I should turn around,
I kept driving,
because I wanted it so badly.

I drove past the convenience store that has shelf after shelf of candy,
past the grocery store with the amazing donuts,
past that famous coffee place with all those luscious aromas
and instead pulled into ……

the gym.

I have a friend who recently told me 
how she did her workout before the crack of dawn
She told me how good it made her feel,
how she couldn’t get through her day without it.
She was the one who enticed me.

There I go again blaming everyone but myself.

She was right.
It did make me feel great.
After a 40 minute pre-dawn workout,
I was having an mid-morning endorphin rush 
when normally all I wanted was a pastry.

The problem was,
I normally would go home at lunchtime to do my regular workout.
Well I wouldn’t need to do that now, I rationalized……
except that by noon,
my buzz had worn off.
I wanted more.

And so I caved….
I went home and jumped into
my 40 minute cardio workout.
By mid-afternoon,
I was on my buzz again, loving life.

By early evening though,
I was crashing.
I could barely keep my eyes open.
When I  normally would be enjoying Monday Night Football with the dogs,
midway through the 2nd quarter, I was instead crawling into bed. 

Well certainly, I had learned my lesson.
Or do addicts ever learn their lessons?
Next morning 5:15am  dog wakeup
and within minutes I was driving back to my need.
Morning, afternoon…..
all I cared about was my endorphin fix.

Days, weeks passed.
My addiction left its trail of victims……..
Dogs sent to bed early because Master needed sleep,
TV shows left unwatched because they didn’t air before 9pm
Christmas cookies bypassed because I wanted endorphins more that I wanted sugar…..

I knew that I had hit rock bottom
when I looked at the candy dish of Christmas M&Ms……


My name is David, 
and I am addicted to endorphins.”

“Thank you for sharing David. That took a lot of courage”

We are all addicted to something. After all,
We are created to depend on something other than ourselves.

Food, alcohol, work, nicotine, gambling, sex, 
video gaming, and drug easily come to mind.

Think those are the only ones??
Try smart phones, exercise, shopping, internet, 
work, body image, sports, religious piety, and eating disorders.

Even love can be an addiction
if it is driven by an unhealthy need for emotional intimacy.

We are in the midst of a season 
where we are encouraged to be excessive.

Herod the King certainly was.
He slayed hundreds, maybe even thousands of young children that first Christmas.

That’s a subject we’d rather not talk about at Christmas.
Somehow it dampens the warm fuzzy of a cultural Christmas.

But for as crazy and addicted to power as Herod was,
perhaps he understood Christmas
better than we do.

For all that we do at Christmastime,
Herod knew that it meant the rightful King was coming
and that coming demands a response from each of us.

As we get close to another celebration,
the question persists,
do we continue with our addictions that we choose as kings of our lives
or do we give up being the little king and let Him be our King.

If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine,
perhaps you don’t understand what’s being asked.

Christmas isn’t the coming of just the king, 
It’s the coming of your king.

Be ready,
when He asks you to take up your cross,
you are going to need to lay those addictions down.
Are you willing to admit that being addicted to God 
is the best way to live?

Let every heart,
prepare Him room.

It always starts with the first step.
That’s the mark of a true wise man.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men 
from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews/
For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
                              Matthew 2: 11-3

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