Archive for November, 2016

The Fasting Paradox

Nothing says gorge like a modern American Thanksgiving. Which makes it a good time to state the not so obvious: Less is more.

Taking a break from something can bring better results than doubling down one’s practice of it. This fact doesn’t sit well with my Protestant work ethic, but I have found it to be true nevertheless.

If it’s true for many of life’s activities, it is certainly true for eating.

Like other spiritual disciplines, fasting is a challenge for contemporary Americans. Among vending machines, convenience stores and “quick service” restaurants, money is the only obstacle between me and a bite when the first growl hits.

And with big food companies’ driving down the cost of high fat, high carb, high calorie consumables, money is less of an obstacle than ever.

To quote the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, my god is often in my stomach. As long as it’s full, I don’t have to confront the underlying pain and unrest of my own soul.

Hence, the invitation to fast. Author Richard Foster notes that in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say “if” but “when” you fast.

Saying no to constant physical comfort means saying yes to much more. When we fast, longings surface, misplaced priorities get exposed and self-control builds.

“Human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels,” Foster wrote in Celebration of Discipline.

When one fasts, he depends on a higher source for a livelihood he can’t deliver with his own grasping hands.

In fasting, there is release. We release control of the things that are actually controlling us. We find real freedom that’s different from the first world freedom to snack at a moment’s notice.

The Apostle Peter helps us navigate the bounty around us: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”

For the spiritual, Foster says fasting is not just abstaining; it’s actually feasting on the word of God.

For the secular, a periodic break for a hard working digestive system certainly benefits the human body. Nutrition supplement stores offer various cleansing aids to maximize the gastrointestinal advantages of a fast.

Of course, fasting from food is one of many potential fasts. We should probably fast from anything we believe, deep down, we can’t live without. Taking breaks from media, telephones, advertising, our consumer culture – all these would do our souls well.

Saying “no” to Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football might lead to saying yes to a more fulfilling pastime, or at least some stronger relationships. Likewise, foregoing a “can’t miss” sale may spark a more special homespun gift idea.

Please hear me: Thanksgiving Day is not the time to fast from food or football. But it is a good time to contemplate a long lost practice.

Though esoteric today, fasting was not always so uncommon. In fact, it was once prominent enough to name one of our three daily meals for it: break-fast.

Perhaps it’s time to give fasting a seat at the table again. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wounded Warrior Saves a Game

The last time the three of us went ninety miles per hour en route to a hospital, his mom was the one in pain. This time, our ten-year-old son was in pain.

Fifteen minutes prior, his tackle football team, the Warriors, faced its fifth loss in six games. That is, until this now-wounded Warrior spun down an end zone-bound opponent at the one yard line. In the process, our son landed awkwardly on his left forearm.

“Dr. Stahl, we need you!” came the call from the field. I was sitting next to Dr. Stahl in the stands, discussing football injury statistics, I’m sure.

The seriousness of a sports injury is inversely related to the amount of time before medical personnel is called. In this case, an assistant coach made the diagnosis within seconds of the fall. “We’ve got a broken arm here!”

That’s when I quit walking toward the field and began sprinting toward the parking lot, keys in hand.

By the time Dr. Stahl splinted my son’s crooked arm, a stadium maintenance crewman unlocked two fieldside gates to let a grimacing free safety lumber through to my amateur ambulance, his mom by his side.

You know you have great friends when you can leave your three uninjured children in tears along a chain link fence while you leave with their injured brother. We knew they were in good hands.

Other good hands retrieved an insurance card and a change of clothes from our house. Still more good hands would bring a condolence tray of Chik-fil-A nuggets before day’s end.

Upon doctor’s orders, we bypassed the ER in Boerne and bolted straight for the operating rooms of Methodist Children’s Hospital. Every bump seemed to jolt the dislocated bones.

“When are we going to get there?” the ballplayer cried every few miles in between groans. “Is that it?” he asked as we passed by the The Center for Athletes located on Spurs Lane. One would think, especially one still in full pads.

Once stabilized at Children’s, other questions arose during the five hour wait for surgery. “Can I have a Krispy Kreme doughnut?” No, son, I’m sorry. “How about a sip of water?” No, I’m so sorry.

All common hydration knowledge goes out the window when an anesthesiologist is around.

The wait gave us plenty of time to be thankful. For as bad as this day was, it was our first ER visit in 43 childhood years of parenting, 37 of which were boy years.

The wait also gave us time to quiz the pediatric ER nurses. It turns out their slowest times are during Spurs and Cowboys games, while their busiest times are the two hours following Spurs and Cowboys games.

Evidently, a lot of parents put off their kids’ emergency medical treatment until after the big game. Maybe I should have stayed for the final minute of the Warriors’ game.

A goal line stand and a “pick six” interception runback gave the Warriors their second win of the season, and some redemption for their first casualty.

A day later, his teammates delivered a signed game ball along with cookies and a multi-tooled pocket knife from The Alamo gift shop. “Tough Guy” was engraved on the side.

It was clearly the thought that counted. Have you ever tried opening a pocket knife with one hand?

Can Trump Pull It Off?

The early voting line at my elections department stretched down the sidewalk and around the building last week.

“I feel for people in the neighborhood,” one friend commented. “People were parked everywhere.”

I would like to postulate who these people might be by resurrecting an acronym from 2008. Remember the ABC voters?

“Anybody But Clinton.” In 2008, ABCs swept the Democrat base to thwart a Hillary Clinton coronation. They anointed instead a first-term U.S. senator with an uncommon name and an eloquent tongue. I think the ABCs are back, though perhaps in a slightly different form.

“American democracy is offering a choice between a crook and a clown,” wrote historian Andrew Roberts in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. Record numbers of early voters may be choosing the clown.

With all the talk about the American Dream dissipating and the country heading in the wrong direction, I can’t see droves of people getting out early to vote for a relic of America’s political past.

America may hunker down with the known quantity Clinton in the end, but my hunch is Trump, for all his improprieties and insanity, has an early lead – because of the ABCs.

Many ABCs don’t want a pervert in the White House. They prefer interviews with Sean Hannity, not Howard Stern.

But they also don’t want more of the same: debt, spending, regulation, executive orders, selective application of the law, identity-based political correctness, reverse discrimination.

If there’s anything the deluge of concerning stories from the Clinton State Department, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign reinforce, it’s this: Bill and Hillary Clinton are no Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Clintons’ commingling of money, power and charity makes one wonder about their altruism. Helping the weak doesn’t seem to be their ultimate goal. Power seems to be their goal.

So, given the choice between a candidate who needs the power and a candidate who needs the fame, many will take the latter. Credit may not get shared, but there’s still a good chance some good will be done, they’ll figure.

Late last week, I turned on the conservative Joe Pags talk show on my way home. A man was talking. He sounded like a passionate pundit or an articulate reporter. He had a grasp on the issues and, more importantly, a grip on the discontent Americans feel toward their small-G governors.

It was Eric Trump, second son of presidential candidate Donald Trump. He spoke as one on a mission to restore something great, as cliche as his father’s campaign slogan sounds. “We have to take the country back from the politicians.”

More than a fight for a party or a philosophy, Donald Trump is trying to bring a fight for the people – or at least a fight against the politicians.

You can’t get more politician or politics-as-usual than Hillary Clinton.

Trump is the antithesis. With his tweets and earned media appearances, Trump has turned political campaigning on its side, if not its head. Can he also turn American politics on its head?

Judging from the early voting lines and the drip drip drip of Clinton corruption tales, he may yet pull it off.


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