GUILTY PLEASURES

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation.

[James 1:12a NRSV]

I love ice cream!

There! I’ve said it.

Now that we’ve established that fact, let me tell you of my predicament.

I know there are far worse addictions, but for the past several years, I, like millions of others, have had an ongoing battle with weight.

In 2014, my doctor told me I was a borderline diabetic. My A1C (blood sugar level) reading was through the roof! The doctor told me that I had two choices. Either begin taking insulin, or try losing weight. I chose the weight reduction route.

He referred me to a nutritionist. Instead of prescribing that I count calories, she simply said cut out all carbs – bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, pastries, and, of course, ICE CREAM.

She may as well have asked me to cut off my right arm!

Now in all fairness, she also said I could reward myself every couple of weeks or so, if I showed some signs of progress.

It was a struggle early on, but after a couple of months, my lifestyle change began paying off. Not only did I lower my A1C reading to manageable levels, but I also lost fifty pounds in the process!

My proudest moment came when we traveled to Germany for a Bishops’ Conference. Every morning the hotel breakfast buffet offered Europe’s most delicious baked delicacies. I was able to avoid them all.

People were amazed. Some thought I was ill. They worried that it was due to the stress of my vocational responsibilities. When I explained to them that it was intentional, they applauded my efforts.

I became my nutritionist’s model patient. I may have even earned her a pay raise. (That’s an exaggeration, of course.)

Shortly after my dramatic transformation began taking place, my favorite ice cream establishment, appropriately named “Almost Heaven,” expanded their hours of operation from summers only, to year-round. My wife thinks it was a direct cause and effect. She jokingly tells people the store needed to recover the lost revenue that I had once so generously supplied.

Prior to my conversion, I was there every weekend, if not more often. While I had my favorite flavors, there was none that my palate would spurn. And it wasn’t just a couple of scoops in a waffle cone. I could down their mammoth banana split in no time flat. Lickety split, you might say.

As is typical in such remarkable makeovers, the temptations eventually became far too plentiful to withstand. I have gained back about twenty of the original pounds lost. Not bad, but a setback nonetheless.

And yes, I’ve returned to the lair of the tempter. I drive by the place nearly every day, stopping in at least once a week. I’ve been able to skip the banana splits, but the double scoops are my weakness.

We’ve become friends with a Lebanese family new to Canton. To acquaint them with some of the area’s culture and customs, we introduced them to our tasty tradition. They are now complicit in my corruptive behavior.

Though we are a long ways away from Lent, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, where Satan relentlessly went at him for forty days. We hear the story every First Sunday in the Lenten season. Each time I shake my head in astonishment. Not only did Jesus avoid ice cream, he ate nothing during all that time.

On a more serious note; as we prepare for Thanksgiving, and the food fests that will be holiday dinners, it also brings to mind the millions worldwide that will have nothing to eat. Here in our country, many will go without, not just at Thanksgiving, but often year round.

Often at this time of the year, agencies involved with feeding the hungry will reach out with requests. I would encourage your support. I realize there are many, and they all do wonderful work. So I’m reluctant to advocate for any one in particular.  Let us simply keep in mind the abundance that each of us has, and how we are called to share those blessings with others.

I leave you with these few words from the book, Grateful, by Diana Butler Bass:

“Gratitude calls us to sit together, to imagine the world as a table of hospitality. To feed one another. To feast, to dance in the streets. To know and to celebrate abundance.” [page 186]

In God’s economy, there is always enough.

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Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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