Saturday, November 30, 2019

Unnatural Ease

Yesterday I said something about how eating and drinking often keep me going, and I speculated that my dependence on those sorts of "stimulations" to keep me going might be classified as addictions, but tonight, as I think about it more, I wonder if that's true. Maybe it's that we're not typically moving around enough as 20th and 21st century Americans to be stimulated a different way, that is, by physical activity. As I think I mentioned before, it's hardest for me to keep going on tasks that don't involve physical movement, and writing this is one of those tasks.

I know I'm more aware of my physical activity, or lack of it, than others are. There are several people I'm close to in my life who don't seem to mind sitting for extended periods of time. That's certainly true with lots of bus drivers. I think they do turn to snacks to keep themselves awake and alert, but I'm not sure they're aware of what they're doing.

So maybe my "need" to eat or drink something to stay alert and productive is tied more with just not being active at those times, more than I could fairly describe as an addiction.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Fasting & Addiction

It's the day after Thanksgiving. Yesterday we were at my sister's place in Plymouth. We ate a lot of very good food. And I am thankful -- for family, for food, and for a warm place to be on this cold morning. We're not having as full a morning as we thought it would be. One of the kids is sick, so the rest decided not to get together. So I can write a bit more. Sort of on the same subject as yesterday.

Yesterday morning, before we went to my sister's for a midday feast, I had chosen not to eat. I had done something that I've heard called "intermittent fasting" before Toni and I went on our European tour in the early fall, so this wasn't strange. (You may not know anything about this if we haven't talked or if you're not on facebook. I'd be glad to share with anyone who asks.) It was hard, though, because when I'm fasting it's difficult to keep mentally focused on non-essential or non-physical tasks. The other times I did fasted from night until noon was before going on my trip, and during those days I was working. Yesterday I wasn't. I did manage to write a little during the fasting time, but it wasn't easy at all. I finished writing yesterday's post after we got home from my sisters in the early evening.

I've been reminded about how much I depend upon the stimulation of eating and drinking to keep myself moving since I started my periodic fasting. I'm guessing that that "dependence" could be classified as a kind of addiction. I'm guessing, too, that most of our lives, that is, among those of us who have enough food and drink, are driven by addictions of some sort. And I think taking time to fast is helpful to uncover those addictions, and, perhaps, to begin learning to depend directly upon the Lord. I'm often not very good at that. But I'll take it on as a challenge today.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Alone with God

Blogging, which I used to do a lot, is not social media, at least not in the way we think of social media in the mid to late 2010s. Blogging is a more solitary pursuit. At least that's true in my case. It's been almost a decade since I turned to blogging as a way of interacting with others. It was, back in the day, far more social than the once a month columns I would write as a parish pastor. It would get out to the people quicker, more people could theoretically read it, and, most importantly for me, people could comment!

As I was up jotting that previous paragraph before 3 AM this morning, and now as I resume writing shortly after 7, I know it's challenging for me to write alone. And not only writing. It's hard to do much of anything alone. That's not to say that I don't. I do. But it's easier for me to do "whatever," that is, something that is worthwhile (Colossians 3:17) if I think there's some kind of community out there that might notice, even if after the fact, even if they really don't care what I'm doing or might even laugh disparagingly. That might be strange, but it's true.

Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, addresses this in the Sermon on the Mount. Two of the "whatever you dos" mentioned there are prayer and fasting. Another is giving to those in need. Jesus begins this section by telling to avoid doing those good things so that others will notice. When you give to those in need, says Jesus, do it quietly. When you pray, do it in secret. When you choose not to eat (when you "fast"), don't let others know. Why? I don't think it's because God wants us to always be alone when you do good things. The warning, in Matthew 6, is against the temptation to put on a show for others. If that's what you're doing, if that's your purpose, God isn't involved. It's just public relations. It's just seeking attention. It's not "real." It's a show.

I don't think this is just about giving or praying or fasting. I think the principle can be applied to any good thing you or I do. If we're doing it for show, or to build up our reputation, then it's not really a positive thing in terms of our "soul" or our life with God. But I don't think it means we should always be doing everything spiritually good in private. The scripture story of Jesus, for example, makes it clear that others noticed when he would get up early to spend time with his Father. On Jesus last evening before his trial and execution he asked his disciples to stay awake and not too far away while he prayed. And Jesus' teaching prayer, the "Our Father," assumes a community of pray-ers. So the point isn't to be completely alone. Just don't do it to show off.

Personally I appreciate the encouragement of others. There are many other places in scripture, at least in the New Testament, where we're told to encourage and warn others in various ways. (It'd probably be good if I'd cite examples but I'll skip that because I still haven't gotten to my main point.) If spiritual life was intended to be entirely private there'd be no way we could know when encouragement or admonition was needed, and we'd never receive it when we were the most in need. And I need it because on my own I lose energy for my spiritual life, and any of the semi-spiritual good things that would be good for me to do.

I think blogging is one of those things that are good. There are lots of other things too. And though this is not "in secret," it's not in a place where very many people see it. I'll say that's okay because just doing the work, with the Lord, gets me into His Word and spending this personal time with Him.

That's enough for now.

Have a good night. It's 9 PM now.