A quick fast to make a point (and, hopefully, change a life)

WOW! It’s been far too long since I last posted anything here. It’s been a long, strange winter here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, with record snowfalls, weeks of school closures, and just a general disruption of life’s routines.

So I return to my little corner of the blogosphere today, not with a rant or a ramble about some nugget of spirituality, but with a sense of worship for the little things we can do to make a big difference in the world.

Today and tomorrow (March 19 & 20), our youth group at FUMC Williamstown, along with some friends from other churches in the community and our unofficial “sister church,” Harmony-Zelienople UMC from Zelienople, PA (c’mon, “Zelienople” is a FUN name for a town!) is participating in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine.

The main point of 30-Hour Famine is to raise money for World Vision (each $30 feeds one person for one month) and to raise awareness about the issues of hunger and poverty, and the circumstancial and systemic forces that reduce so many of our fellow inhabitants of this planet to a desparation most of us will never even begin to fathom.

Beyond and beneath that focus, though, lies the ancient and sacred spiritual practice of fasting. As I mentioned in my 30-Hour Famine blog post last year, fasting is not something we modern Western/American church-goers do or talk about much these days. We’ve almost reduced it to little more than a gimmick at best, or a feeble cry for attention at worst.

And so what happens is we enter into an event like 30-Hour Famine, fast for a day and a quarter, and spend that time either feeling proud for our “sacrifice,” or focusing on that magic hour when we are once again allowed to indulge ourselves freely.

In one of those moments of conviction which are becoming all too common in my life the more I get to know Jesus and seek to follow Him, I caught myself this morning going over, once again, my “strategy” for this year’s 30-hour fast: carbo-load at dinner the night before, late-night fiber snack, then a reasonably large breakfast for a caloric stockpile to carry me through my self-imposed ordeal.

And it struck me, that I was taking something so potentially meaningful and beautiful, and trying to possess it. I was completely focused on my own efforts, what it would take to get “me” through this next 30 hours. It’s not that I wasn’t thinking about the real reason for participating. It’s just that I had really, without even realizing it, made it about “me.” How “I” was going to survive it. As if, somehow, I might not.

Then I remembered the kids in Africa and India and South America and Appalachia and Chicago and Williamstown who don’t have the luxury of “strategizing” how they’ll prepare themselves for a relatively brief period of time between entitled indulgences. I remembered (or, more accurately, I was reminded), that I get to make a CHOICE to go without food for a little over a day. I have a full pantry and a full fridge that allows me to stockpile calories before this fast and refill my belly as soon as it’s over. I won’t suffer from dehydration or malnutrition, atrophying muscles or intestinal cramping for the next 30 hours. To be honest, I really won’t even experience any kind of discomfort.

Participating in an event like 30-Hour Famine is a noble thing. It provides tangible help to people who need it. Fasting for 30 hours can be an intense spiritual experience. But only if it is properly focused. Only if it is connecting us with Jesus, with his heart, with his spirit. With his love for the unloved, the hungry, the sick, the impoverished, the marginalized. If we are doing it to prove to ourselves or to someone else that we can endure it, we are missing the point.

The real point is to draw attention to people in need, and, more importantly connect our hearts and minds with the One who can use his people to do something about it. And through that attention, bring others to some realization that we are being invited into a better reality through him. Here, now, in this time, on this planet, in this life. On earth as it is in Heaven.

I invite you to follow our little band of sojourners on this journey for the next couple of days. You can follow us on our Facebook Fan Page at www.facebook.com/ihsyouth or our Twitter feeds at www.twitter.com/ihsyouth. Throughout the event, our youth will also be blogging about their experiences on the IHS Youth Blog site here.

And please, pray for the people whose lives can be changed by people who follow Jesus into the wilderness, even if just for a few hours.

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