Friday, February 27, 2009

Fasting From Clamor

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I’ve heard if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. During this season of traditional fasting, Ash Wednesday to Easter, I want to fast from junk mail. Sometimes I feel like a tree landed on my home, only it descended in sheets of paper.

Catalogs, credit card applications, political brochures—reams of paper are toted into our home after passing through our mailbox. Perhaps, someone will invent a mailbox with a shredder. Even pricey, I might invest in one.

But junk mail isn’t the only culprit that crowds taxed schedules. Busyness is sometimes self-inflicted when overdoses of entertainment is preferred to productive work or rest. A television, telephone, or a computer has a place in life, but over indulgence can become addictive.

A health and science Web site reports the average household has a television on 6 hours and 47 minutes, and that 66% of families watch television and eat dinner. Annually, a staggering 260 billion hours of TV is watched by Americans.

During Lent many people of faith are fasting, but not all are fasting from food. At the first semester of seminary, a professor asks his students to fast from media for one week. Another professor/mentor recommended that a female student fast from dating for three months. She found that she had time to focus on studies and life direction. She then quarantined herself from dating for an additional three months.

In Lauren F. Winner’s book Mudhouse Sabbath, she tells how she fasted from reading during Lent. Fasting isn’t just denial; it has a purpose. Ms. Winner wrote, “We give up something for Lent to align ourselves with the heart, will, and experience of Jesus.”

Ms. Winner said, “Fasting teaches us that we are not utterly subject to our bodily desires. And in sated and overfed America, fasting reminds us, sharply, of the poor.” Fasting is like walking a tightrope where imbalance is really noticed. For many, denial of self is foreign, but God calls followers to contemplation, meditation, solitude, silence and abstinence, especially in this directive, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Lauren Winner also says about fasting, “It is a necessary tool for rousing us from our day-to-day sleepwalking.” Are we trudging in the trench the world has carved out? Are we in a stupor from cultural demands? Do we feel compelled to answer each time the planet rings our doorbell?

Until Easter, I encourage you to find some way to fast from the clamor. Be quiet. Be still. Know God.

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