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, February 18, 2015

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Are You "Worried" What You Will Give Up for Lent?

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.

My dad used to say,
“If it smells like a skunk, then it is a skunk.”

Every holiday has its own aromas.
Christmas has the smell of pine trees,
Valentines breathes in chocolate and flowers.
Independence Day is filled with the smell of meats on the grill and chlorine.
Thanksgiving wafts with roasting turkeys.

And Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday???

Deep fryer grease.

Grease that smells so thick,
it makes a McDonalds restaurant jealous.

Around these parts,
it is also called Fat Tuesday………. for good reason.
The idea is to clear one’s kitchen of lard, sugar, butter, and eggs 
before the 40 day fasting of Lent
by making Fastnachts, a donut like health bomb.

Those crazy Germans.

Fasting has traditionally been a part of the Lenten journey to Easter.
At its root, it emulates Jesus’ fasting in the desert for 40 days.
For Christians, it is a season to repent, to purify, and to reflect,

Each year, as I enter the church where I serve on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, 
the aroma  of grease hits me in the face like a prizefighter’s right uppercut.

Who needs an I Phone calendar in February
when all  you need to do is inhale?

Shrove Tuesday is the day to get it all out of your system,
because the next day the fast begins.

It’s almost like New Year’s Eve, the sequel,
except without the grease from a deep fat fryer,
and a much deeper spiritual intent.

I am all for the discipline of Lent.
If done in the right spirit,
it can  challenge us to better physical, mental, and spiritual habits.
It reminds us to re-focus on our relationship with God.
It encourages us to think less about self, and more about others.

All good things.
Just be sure they are for the right reasons.

Giving up social media, chocolates, or sodas, or anything else 
in and of itself doesn’t draw one closer to God.
If done for less than sincere reasons,
they can become shallow exercises that celebrate self rather than God.

The heart of giving up something for Lent
is to take on something that makes us love
God and neighbor more than we currently do.

In the past,
I have given up sodas.
I have given up chocolate.
Easter Sunday was more a celebration of what I had accomplished,
rather than what God did to change me.

This year,
I asked the Lord what I should surrender that would truly honor Him.
The answer surprised me.


It would be easier for me to give up brownies for 6 weeks than to give up worrying.
And that is saying a lot.

I worry about lots of things….
how I am going to pay all the bills,
my health, the future, the present,
the weather, the arthritis in my hands,
my job, relationships, loved ones,
the advent of serious illnesses, failure,
the mortgage,  getting everything done in a day.
I even worry about how much I worry.

I am choosing to fast from worrying,
not just for 6 weeks,
but as to become a habit for life.

Worrying is the opposite of trusting.
It is a symptom of a faith that is more shallow than I care to admit.
It is that which keeps me up at night rather than on my knees.

And so, before bedtime, I will choose to meditate, pray, and journal.
I will daily give my worrying to God
so He can build in me a deeper faith.

Each person’s Lenten journey is different.
Each person needs to figure out what will help them get out of the desert
and into the land that God desires for each one of us.

What I know is that at the end of the 40 day fast,
I hope my faith smells a lot better
than the smell of a skunk,
or the grease of Fat Tuesday.

May you find a beautiful aroma at the end of your journey.

The days will come, when the bridegroom (Jesus)
is taken away from them (disciples), and then they will fast in those days.
                                                                                           Luke 5:35

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