When we moved to Lancaster County, PA six years ago, we were welcomed with some interesting local sayings from the heavy PA Dutch influence here, and a whole new day of celebration we had never heard of – Fastnacht Day!
My husband works for a large farm equipment dealer in the area, so he really does rub shoulders with the people who have lived in this region all their lives, some families living and farming on homesteads dating back to revolutionary times. He came home our first year here with hole-less donuts and explained the tradition to me.
For those never hearing of the term, it’s actually Donut Day! Well, donut day with a purpose. Fastnacht Day occurs the day before Lent begins. In order to prepare for the beginning of Lent and so as not to waste anything, the day before Lent women would make hole-less donuts called fastnachts to use all the lard, shortening, etc. that they would be ‘giving up’ for Lent.
So, I am sitting here today eating my fastnacht, not because I’m giving up lard or shortening for Lent, but because it’s tradition. But it does get me to thinking what I might give up in this 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Some say it’s not a necessary thing to give anything up, that it’s all tradition, but I think it’s a good spiritual discipline to observe. We live in a culture where we have everything we need or want and then some. It seems good to deny ourselves of a few things or one big thing that we really like in order to draw our minds to Jesus and what He denied himself of for us.
Happy Fastnacht Day and why not take a few moments today and do a little soul-searching. Make a plan to give something up for Lent this year. Then let whatever you give up be a reminder to pray or read the Bible or a devotional. It might just draw you closer to Jesus and prepare you for a great Easter celebration.
I’m a foodie and I can attribute my borderline obsession with food to my husband. He comes from a long line of amazing home cooks and has picked up all the ‘tricks of the trade’ by observing his mother and memere (grandmother) in the kitchen. Out of hundreds of meals produced by his hands, I can only count on one hand the number of meals that I haven’t liked. Some of my favorites are his chicken saltimbocca, ‘milkshake’ chili (and no, there’s not actually milk in it), asparagus and shrimp risotto, and Texas burger (with fried egg on top).
It only makes sense that one of our favorite tv shows to watch together would be food-related. We enjoy watching Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives, Good Eats, Kitchen Nightmare, Lidia’s Italy, but our all-time favorite show would have to be Chopped. If you’re not familiar with the show, let me take a minute and explain. Four professional chefs are each given a basket of the same 4 very random mystery ingredients and have a set amount of time to create a course of a meal incorporating all of the given ingredients. Three judges decide the chefs’ fate and after each course is tasted and critiqued, a contestant is chopped and sent home. After the appetizer round, it’s down to three contestants, after the entree round, two, and finally, the dessert round determines the winner. The winner receives $10,000 and the coveted title of Chopped Champion.
Last week, I was watching an episode where it came down to two very competent chefs. One was a French woman who so badly wanted to use her prize money to visit her grandmother who raised her who still lived in Europe. She was super driven and relentless, to the point where she decided to stay in the competition after suffering serious burns on her legs as a result of accidentally spilling a pot of boiling water after falling in the kitchen. The other contestant was a man who didn’t really give details as to how he would spend his money and he made it quite clear that he really wasn’t expecting to win. He was an outspoken Christian and during his interview clips which were woven sporadically through the program, he made it clear how accepting Christ into his life had really changed him for the good. He viewed cooking not only as his occupation, but as a way to serve and minister to people. Anyway, before the winner was announced, it showed the two talking in the back room. He told her how great she did and stated that she deserved to win. To his surprise, he was the one chosen as the winner! The French chef was chopped and was on her way out when he yelled ‘Wait!’ She turned around with a bewildered expression on her face. He told her that he didn’t expect to win and wanted to buy her ticket to go see her grandmother. She broke down in tears and threw her arms around him, so grateful for the selfless gift. I sat there watching with tears in my eyes…even the judges had tears in their eyes! It was such a beautiful expression of love and service! This man not only preached about his faith, but he lived it out with such grace and humility.
A few weeks ago on my way home from work, I couldn’t help but notice the most beautiful bright shining moon. I pulled into the driveway, shut the car door and decided to get the mail. My arms were full, but I thought I could handle a few more items. I proceeded to walk down the driveway with my eyes pinned to that moon, mesmerized by how radiant it looked in the night sky. Before I knew it, I went from vertical to horizontal…I did a nose dive smack into the green grass in my yard. I had ventured off of my driveway, twisted my ankle off the side of the pavement and had no time to react before doing a face plant. I got up confused at how that could have happened. I thought I knew where I needed to walk without looking…boy was I wrong!
I think that’s how we can be sometimes with God. We get so distracted by things that look so enticing and bright and beautiful that we’re not watching and focused on where we really need to be going. We can get so caught up in things that really have no meaning in life and that take our focus from God. A painful face plant into truth is sometimes needed to bring everything back into focus after which we need to get back up, ask God to mend our cuts and scrapes and hop back onto the right path.
‘God bless you.’ I’ve said that to people, have you? What do we mean when we say that? I think I’ve meant – ‘may everything go your way’.
But some of the ways Jesus described blessing in the Bible seem to be a little different. In Matthew 5, in what is called the Beatitudes, Jesus refers to a whole range of people being blessed that I wouldn’t think of having a blessing —-
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are you when people insult you…because of me
Jesus puts us in a topsy-turvy world with these words. Maybe blessing will bring about circumstances that humble us, so that we are poor in spirit. Maybe to be blessed will bring about mourning, so we can understand comfort. Maybe to be blessed will bring about strife, so we can learn to be peacemakers.
Our self-centeredness makes us want exactly what we want. What God is about is having a close relationship with Him and making us more like Him Sometimes that means having the opposite of what we think will be a blessing occur to us so that the blessing can follow.
So, when you are going through troubles it might just be God blessing you, you just haven’t seen the end results yet.
Last year while living in Columbia, I had the great privilege of attending a Bible study led by Stacy, a very Godly woman in my church. What I loved most about the way that she taught was seeing the genuineness and realness of her relationship with the Lord. He really was living and present in every aspect of her day. I enjoyed hearing her pray because she talked to Jesus like He was so many people rolled into one. Sometimes it sounded like she was communicating with her father, sometimes to her best friend, other times to her trusted counselor, and there were even times where if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought she was speaking adoringly to her husband!
In the beginning of Matthew 22, Jesus states that the greatest commandment in all the Law is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Through Stacy’s teachings, through her passionate prayers, through her caring spirit directed towards every lady at those meetings, and through the way she adored her Lord, I got a glimpse as to what that commandment looks like when it’s lived out in daily life.
We’re so stuck on our outward appearance. Watching TV and movies, you’d think
that’s all there is to life. But there is this great dichotomy happening within
and without each of us. Do you feel it? Paul, the writer of the 2nd letter to
the Corinthian church years ago, understood it. Listen to this from the 4th
chapter of his letter – he says in verse 16 Even though on the outside it
often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is
making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
He understood the feeling and he correctly diagnosed it. Outwardly we are wasting
away, coming up against all sorts of things – physcially and emotionally. BUT
God is working at the same time in the deep places of our being. He’s working
to make us a new being – one that ‘looks’ like Hm, more like his love, his
compassion, his peace, his joy, his wisdom and so much more.
That is the great awakening that we Christians must realize. When culture and our human
nature beckon us to focus on the immediate, the physical, the unfairness of it
all, the outward we need to catch ourselves. We need to become concsious of
what we are thinking and change that thinking to focus on the inward. Seek God
and ask how Him how he wants to use this immediate situation, whatever it is, to
make us more like him.