Friday, February 19, 2010

Dealing with Temptation

In thinking about this week's text from Luke of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness I'm reminded of some of my favorite temptations...foood.

In fact, I just had a nice conversation with one of our church's bulletin folders about how my biggest dietary no-no that is so hard to resist is late-night snacking. You know, I'll get to thinking that a handful of Hershey's kisses wouldn't be too bad. But then half an hour later I wonder if a handful of chex-mix wouldn't balance out all of that sweet of the previous handful with a little saltiness. And then before you know it I've found something that's somewhere between the sugary, chocolaty, sweetness and the crunchy saltiness to finish off the night of snacking and before you know it I've consumed just as many calories as dinner without any of the nutritional value.

And then I'm reminded of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and the millions and billions of people around the globe who know true hunger after days and weeks without proper nutrients. And when I remember such things I am ashamed. I am also reminded how easily we can excuse away our temptations. You know, thinking things like, "who is it going to hurt if I have one more handful of whatever?"

And its not that there's anything wrong with snacking or being grateful for the overwhelming abundance with which we live in throughout our comfortable middle American lives, but we should pause once in a while and reflect on what it means to have so much when the rest of the world has so little. And if we can get to that point where we really get it; where we really see how fortunate we really are; might we not be led to think of some of our choices as giving in to temptation?

Somewhere along these lines I'm reminded of some of the words that precede that glorious Psalm of deliverance, Psalm 23. They are words that so few of us have ever experienced in our abundant lives, but they are words that hopefully will make us pause as we remember Jesus' temptations in the wilderness as well as our own temptations in a land of anything but wilderness, a land flowing with Costco, Supermarkets, and fast food chains:
For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:16-18)
As you ponder these words, may you thank God for all you have been given and think about what it might mean to live more responsibly with temptation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trust in God No Matter What

Today is the second day of Lent. How are you doing with your Lenten disciplines, you know, those things you've chosen to give up or those practices you've chosen to take on for the forty days of Lent? As for me, I'm hoping to read the daily lectionary, dedicate more time to daily prayer and read the Mission Yearbook, along with blogging.

In today's lectionary reading from the prophet Habakuk, we find these words:
Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. (3:17-18)

As I read those words and as I read the Mission Yearbook's description of a Presbyterian Mission school in a war-torn section of Ethiopia where children make music out of discarded oil tins from UN refugee camps and practice art by sculpting giraffes and elephants out of mud, I was struck by how many people are able to praise God and participate in God's creative love even while living far removed from the comfortable lives of just about anyone who might be able to access and read this blog.

And so when I think about maintaining daily disciplines like reading scripture, dedicating myself to prayer and recording my thoughts online it is with a sense of deep gratitude and humbleness, for there are billions of my fellow brothers and sisters whose lives are far more complicated and desolate whose dedication to God is inspiring.

May you in your efforts at observing daily Lenten disciplines be strengthened in your journey with the knowledge that no matter what, God walks by our side.