Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dead Sea Salt Oatmeal....:)

     Our church is doing the Daniel fast for 3 weeks - it's up to each individual and family to decide what they want to do in the way of fasting, if anything.  Phil and I decided we would do most of the fast with slight alterations  and we wouldn't get hung up on legalism, that we would keep in mind that the whole idea is to draw closer to God, not to lose weight or become nit-picking,  prideful, critical, or even guilt-ridden.
    We are now on day 4 and I've cheated every day.  But not to worry - it hasn't helped much and I'm still hungry much of the time - the Daniel fast is healthy but somehow, not satisfying to a junk-food addict like me.
    Our son is fasting from caffeine but he's also been trying to eat what we eat when he's home because he didn't want to drag out the cheese burgers and Hersey bars in front of us.   He's had a major headache for three days and when he came home yesterday he had some valid questions about fasting - questions that have often entered my mind as well.
    How does fasting help us draw near to the Lord when, as the day creeps by, all you can focus on is food, cokes, chocolate, food, and more chocolate?
    How does fasting help if the change in blood-sugar, etc causes you to be tired, irritable and since we're being honest  - not very nice???

   I don't know if these are partial answers - or even no answers -  but it's what comes to mind as I think about our current experiment.
 A) The first part of a fast is a food-fight, literally, or at least that's how it seems to me.  It's after the fight has been won and victory maintained that something besides a two-liter Coke Icee can flit through your conscious mind.. .ha! (Not to mention Chocolate pudding cake, eggs and bacon, and... hmmm.  Probably best if I quit there...)

 B)  Also, fasts bring the scum to the surface. I think they are meant to do that.  What I mean is this:  the stuff I keep hidden down deep, waaayyy  behind a big smile and a "How are you doing???  Isn't this a beautiful day???" tends to come to the top during a fast. Irritability. Impatience. Selfishness.  Laziness. Pride.  Being judgmental.  Those things are probably always near the surface in my case but doubly so when I don't have my comfort food, I'm quickly finding out!

 C)  Fasts also bring priorities to light.   Take away my fun food and it soon migrates to the top of my list of things that I want, demand, and feel I can't do without.  Yet Jesus Himself is referred to as the bread of life and the Bible as words that are sweeter than honey. But I can skip quiet times frequently and feel no pangs of withdrawal whatsoever.  My priorities are clearly delineated when I try to fast (which I don't do often - trust me on this!)  Food fast?  Bible fast?  I now know which one gets my attention the quickest...

D) Fasting, at least today, has brought me to heartfelt, cut-to-the-chase, on-my-knees-before-God real time prayer. Wasn't prolonged prayer because it didn't need to be. As soon as my knees hit the floor, my heart was aware of His Spirit working deep within me, dredging up sin from the depths within me before leading me to  intercession that, unlike most of my prayers, was, I think, wholly in tune with His.    Monday and Tuesday my prayers were normal - dry toast type of prayers, spiritual laundry lists, formulaic.  Yesterday my mind wandered all over creation, mostly in search of a burger. Today God broke through and business was transacted.  It wasn't the way I normally think prayer should be but when it happened, I knew it was the real thing. Which told me a lot about most of the prayers I normally pray.

E)  Finally, fasting helps me to identify with people in the third world, which I think encompasses billions of people on the planet.

And that leads me to a quote from the book that I'm currently reading,  a book that I highly recommend. It's called Kisses from Katie and it's about a young woman who had everything and left it all because as she puts it, "Jesus ruined my life...":)    She said that as a young girl, about 12 years of age,  she began to really study the Scriptures.  She writes:  "As I read and learned more and more of what Jesus said, I liked the life style I saw around me less... Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth.  I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what He said.... So I quit my life."  (P. XVIII).

She did indeed.

Straight out of high school, she packed up her things and moved from an affluent neighborhood in Tennessee to a small village in ... Uganda.  And I'm reading this book after an evening of complaining about the Daniel Fast.  Coincidence? I don't think so.  At midnight Tuesday night, I'm reading  Katie Davis's description of their main food in the orphanage, which she said tasted a little worse than Elmer's glue, and recalling half-joking complaints I had made earlier that evening about not having the foods that "normal people" eat all the time.  Hmmmm.... I think God got me on that one. What do you think?

Another passage really gripped me:
   People often ask me if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable.  Matthew 10:28 tells us not to  fear things that can destroy the body but things that can destroy the soul.  I am surrounded by things that can destroy the body. I interact almost daily with people who have deadly diseases, and many times I am the only person who can help them. I live in  a country with one of the world's longest-running wars taking place just a few hours away.  Uncertainty is everywhere.  But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of illness or tragedy.  (P. XIX).
After reading that, there wasn't a lot more left to be said.  The very reason I was annoyed over the call to fast was because it disrupted my complacency, my comfort and now, in conjunction with her book, was challenging my ignorance.

But those are actually not the quotes I wanted to share with you:)   This is the passage that riveted me in the wee hours of Tuesday night/Wed. morning, brought tears to my eyes and a deeper understanding of why it pays to fast from everything but Him and His call on your life - as this sweet girl has done.

   The next few weeks [her first weeks of settling into her new home] were full of joy and frustration.  I slowly settled into my room, no bigger than three-by-six feet, in the back of the pastor's house.  His home was on the orphanage compound, where 102 children, ages two to eighteen, lived.
   I can't really explain in words the love I felt for these children or why I felt it.    I think many people would have looked at them and seen only their filthy clothes, the ringworm on their heads, or the mucus that ended up in a crust around their nostrils.  They would have looked around at the dormitories of the orphanage with its smooth, hard  cement floor where rats and cockroaches made themselves at home and been a bit disgusted.  By the grace of God, though, I didn't see those things.
  The truth is, I saw myself in those little faces.  I looked at them and felt this love that was unimaginable and knew that this is the way God sees me.  The children would run to me with gifts of stones or dirt and I saw myself, filthy and broken, offering my life to the God of the universe and begging Him to make it into something beautiful. I sit here in a broken world, small and dirty at His feet, and He who sits so high chooses to commune with me, to love me anyway.  He blinds Himself to my sin and my filth so that He can forge a relationship with me. And this is what He did for me with those precious children. He blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them. I adored them, not because of who I was, but because of who He is.  I just sat right down on that cold, hard floor and snuggled my nose into their dirty necks and kissed their fungus-covered heads and didn't even see it. I was in love.  (P. 7).

And she was. Still is, judging by the joy that emanates from her book and from her face in the pictures.  As she lives the ultimate fast no less.

As I look at my bowl of no-frills tomato soup for lunch, I realize that everything is relative and that until I've lived in a third world country, I really don't know what a fast is.  And maybe, perhaps, I really don't know what complete joy is either.

Just thinking out loud...

By the way, her blog is and her ministry is called Amazima. And the book is truly awesome.

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