A Word About Fasting

7eWavS1442934673My husband is at a monastery for a few days this week. Those who know him would find this comical: he’s a long-haired, tattooed hippie with a disreputable past who loves his motorcycle and ragged jeans. Even so, when I talked to him last night, he said the monastery felt familiar. The reason for this is that Kenny spent a handful of years as a missionary in Nashville, during which he lived in a windowless room that he dubbed “the cave,” and fasting was commonplace. The monastery, designed to exemplify the virtues of fasting, silence, and poverty, has tiny dorm rooms, a Daniel fast diet (no meat, sweets, or other luxuries), and many no-speaking areas.

That got me thinking: there are elements of the Christian life that were meant to be commonplace for believers that have become completely foreign to most of the Church. But I’m not here to reprimand anyone—rather, I’m here to say that we’re missing out. Granted, I don’t want to live my whole life in a single, windowless room, but living simply, as unattached to the world and possessions as possible, allows for great freedom. I’ve experienced just one speech fast, which was intense and beautiful; I’ve been longing to do it again. As for fasting food, that’s almost never easy. In fact, I cringe at the thought. And yet there’s nothing like that spiritual buzz, which tends to set in after a few days as your perspective shifts. The emphasis we Americans place on food (and it’s far more than you’d think) suddenly seems ludicrous. The spirit wakes up and takes center stage. What’s truly important becomes important once again, and what’s irrelevant finally becomes irrelevant.

Here are a few paragraphs from my journal during a liquids-only fast:

I’ve been kinda living in the supernatural lately, and I don’t want it to stop. It’s Day 19 of a 40-day liquids-only fast. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. A mug of pureed veggie soup feels like a feast. I’ve been spending an hour in my prayer closet every morning, sometimes more, and it feels like ten minutes. I’m eating the book of Romans.

There are plenty of days lately when I’m nearly giddy “for no reason”—even right in the middle of working. Laughter comes easily. Hours go by and I forget to have my soup. I’m forgetting what it’s like to eat. I never want this to end.

Silhouette the girl jumping over the gap at sunsetI have energy, energy, late into the night. Mental alertness and productivity. Patience. Spiritual sensitivity. Contentment. Creativity, hope, and confidence. Affection. Groundedness. The absence of stress and anxiety.

Thank You, Father, thank You. I love You so much. I can’t for a moment wrap my mind around what it would be like to live without You. How would I survive a single day if I didn’t belong to You? To extract myself from Your grip, if that were even possible, would leave me with nothing. There is no me without You.

Why has the Church allowed fasting and other disciplines to go the way of the dinosaurs? Is it simply that they’re difficult for the flesh, or is it more than that? What do you think?

 

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The Trouble with Hoarding

One of the things that the Old Testament manna represents is the basic necessities of life, which God provides when we seek Him above and beyond anything else. The Message puts it this way: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Mt 6:33).

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 2.09.58 PMManna constituted the Israelites’ daily food; they would have literally died without it. To say it was a crucial part of their lives is an understatement, yet they disobeyed God’s instructions concerning it. His mouthpiece, Moses, charged them to make sure they didn’t keep the manna from one day to the next, yet they still tried to hoard it. It’s human nature to hoard, to make sure we have our “fair share.” We don’t like it when someone else has more than we do. Or perhaps the Israelites were lazy—hoping to avoid having to gather the manna the next day.

Or maybe they simply didn’t believe God, who promised to provide daily.

We’re a lot like the Israelites: we want our pantries and bank accounts and clothes closets full—and yet they’re quite never full enough to satisfy us, are they? We want our “safety nets,” our safeguards against not having what we want, when we want it. We loathe the thought of God stripping us of those safety nets because then we’ll have no recourse but to trust Him for each day’s provision, and that’s scary. And inconvenient. And uncomfortable.

And so we hoard.

When we fail to trust God for our basic needs, we fret and worry. We amass more than we need. We fail to abide in the heart of God and instead work so many hours that we become strangers to peace and rest. Worst of all, we miss out on the lovely, exhilarating sensation of belonging completely to Him. We forget that He is responsible and that we’re at His mercy. We turn our backs on His offer of sweet, fresh manna: “No thanks, I’m afraid You’ll shortchange me. Besides, I can manage on my own.”

Our culture insists that amassing wealth and possessions is synonymous with being a responsible adult. Are you brave enough to see that this challenges everything Jesus exemplified? Are you bold enough to trust that God will send the manna day by day?

To the Christian Woman with a Secret Sin

Silhouette illustration of a woman hand grabbing an appleI wish that we, as Christian women, were exempt from struggles with sin. But we’re not. I’ve vowed to be transparent with my readers, so I’m here to confess that not that long ago, the Lord spoke to me about a certain behavior I’d been making excuses for for too long—and He didn’t pull any punches. By the end of our conversation, I had truly walked away from my sin, and the result was pure joy and fresh fire. What follows is the gist of what He said. I’m sharing it in the hope that if you’re like me—prone to wander and in need of the extravagant love and forgiveness of Jesus—you’ll realize that this message is for you as well.

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“I’m sorry,” you say. But you don’t really mean it.

Through your actions, you’ve testified that I’m not worth the sacrifice of laying down your sin. You’ve implied that I don’t understand your life and what you need… that you can’t be happy without your golden calf… that I’m not quite enough… that you might enjoy My presence, but you’re not desperate for it.

You’ve been willing to trade My presence for what you want.

You used to give your absolute allegiance to Me. I want you to be that girl again. You used to err on the side of obedience, but now you err on the side of sin. You used to be quick to say, “Yes, Sir.” But now you scramble for loopholes: “I’ll cut back,” or “I’ll stop for a month,” or “Next Monday I’ll turn over a new leaf.” Even as you pledge to stop, you search for a loophole, an escape route, a light at the end of the tunnel, a promise of reprieve to give you hope.

But
I am your hope.

Are you willing to gamble your friendship with Me?

You’ve convinced yourself again and again that that still small voice isn’t really Me. That you’re just being legalistic. That there’s nothing wrong with bestowing My grace upon yourself as you see fit even though that used to be My job.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Woman pulls pack page and reveals sunset.