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Daniel Fast Recap…What I have learned

9 Jun

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During the past 21 days, I have diligently followed the guidelines of the fast originally undertaken by the prophet Daniel. I have had no meat, animal products (dairy), sugar or oils. Along the way, I have learned a lot about my spirituality, my body and health, and my life.

Health Lessons Learned: 

  1. I have one body during this lifetime and it is my responsibility to take care of it.
  2. There is no excuse for making poor food choices. A few minutes of planning can go a long way.
  3. No matter what anyone says, it is important to know where our food comes from and what is in it.
  4. It’s not rocket science: eating healthier makes us feel and live better.
  5. By eating healthier foods, I am setting a better example for my children and husband who were also motivated during my fast.
  6. Trying to meet our emotional and spiritual needs with food does not work.
  7. Controlling the food that we put in our mouth is a conscious decision and it makes making other conscious decisions a little bit easier.
  8. If I am fat, un-healthy or not as healthy as I could/should be, then it is no one’s fault but my own.

Spiritual Lessons Learned: 

  1. I am called to treat my body like a temple so that God can use me for service.
  2. A spiritual fast must be called by God if you want Him to give you strength.
  3. Little temptations can lead to bigger ones and usually lead to sin.
  4. Confession must come before supplication. In other words, if you want God’s help, confess and repent first.
  5. The more disciplined we become in our bodies, the more disciplined our spirit becomes too.
  6. If we aren’t careful, we can turn something good into something self-serving.
  7. God sometimes surprises those who are faithful.
  8. Fasting is not about food. It is about service to God. Not I Lord, but YOU.

 

 

Beginning next week, I am going to embark upon another journey. This one will be 30 days in length, and I am going to call it the “Great Clean-Up.” I am going to focus on the “possessions” portion of the book “7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”  I will be focusing on reducing the “things” that clutter my life, my home and my mind by cleaning, organizing and donating. It is going to be an exciting journey, and I am super excited!

If you would like to join me on the “Great Clean-Up,” just leave a comment and we can begin together on Monday.

 

 

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Daniel Fast Day 18… “Hanging” out with Absalom

7 Jun

This week, I am wrapping up my study of David from the book of 2 Samuel. Prior to this study the only thing that I knew about David was that he was a king, he knocked out Goliath when he was a boy with a slingshot and he danced through the streets. I have learned however, that his life was so much more than that.

Yesterday, I finished reading about the story of David and his son Absalom. I read Faulkner’s “Absalom! Absalom!” back in a college literature class and I vaguely knew that it was related to the biblical story, but Faulkner’s writing (run-ons anyone) was difficult to make it through and I didn’t really study the parallels.

Absalom Absalom

However, as I read the story…I became captivated. David’s life was better than reality tv and the story of him and his son was so full of conflict, emotion and action that I literally thought to myself “you can’t make this stuff up.”

Here is how the story goes… (short version of course):

Amnon and Absalom, were two of David’s sons. They had a beautiful sister named Tamar. Amnon was in love with his own sister and raped her. Absalom, being the protective brother that he was, was horrified at his sister’s victimization. He allowed Tamar to move in with him and even named one of his own daughter’s after her.

David found out about the rape, and he was furious that this happened. However, he did nothing about it. So, Absalom let his anger over-take him and he killed his own brother and fled. A couple of years went by before David saw his son Absalom again, but he did eventually receive him and hug him after Absalom devised every way possible to get his father’s attention.

Absalom’s bitterness toward his father continued to multiply until he finally decided to take his father’s throne. He turned some of David’s people against him and David and his men literally left town.

When Absalom’s men came after David’s men, David instructed his soldiers to not harm and ‘be gentle’ with Absalom because he was his son. As Absalom was riding in to the battle on a mule, his hair got caught in a tree and he was left hanging trying to get free (I told you that you can’t make this stuff up!) and in his anger Joab, the leader of David’s men, killed Absalom while he was still hanging.

Absalom Hair Caught

David, as Absalom’s father, was of course devastated. He wept and mourned the loss of his son even though his son was guilty of treason and murder. Before he died, Absalom had built amonument to himself which you can visit today (maybe not the same monument, but tradition has it that it is in the same location). 

Absaloms Monument

What I really liked about this story, and what really ‘spoke to me,’ during this time of fasting, was how Absalom took something that was good (his protection of Tamar, his disbelief that his father refused to punish the crime) and turned it into something bad.

  • How easy is it for us to do the exact same thing?
  • How easy would it be for me to turn this time of fasting into just another weight loss attempt?
  • How easy to turn my interpretation of right and wrong into judgement of someone else?
  • How easy to give ourselves credit for God’s work?

Let us remember that nothing we have is of our own doing, but everything is a gift from God. Let us not let bitterness, ego and self-righteousness drive our decisions, lest we too be left hanging by our hair from a tree.

Not I, Lord, but YOU.

I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

(Psalm 30:1-3)

Daniel Fast Day 17…on Sin and Cupcakes

6 Jun

I have never stuck to a diet, an exercise regime, even a plan to wash my face every night before bed. This is the first time in my life, that I have actually made a commitment to a lifestyle change and stuck it out….

Almost.

I work full-time Wednesday through Sunday which leaves my days off as Monday at Tuesday. Tuesday morning, me and my little bug (4-year-old daughter) went out on the town to celebrate the last day of 3-year-old preschool. We had a girls day, complete with manicures and pedicures.

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After being out in the Houston heat all day (95 degrees!!), and still being about a 45 minute drive from home, we decided to stop by Barnes & Noble. Immediately, I was captivated by the smell of coffee, and if you remember from the beginning of my fast–there is nothing I love more than a grande white mocha with extra whipped cream, nothing I tell you!

Now, I know that I am fasting and at that point I had made it past 2 weeks without so much as cheating even a little bit. But, my daughter wasn’t fasting….

“Hey baby bug, would you like to have a snack from the café?”

“Sure Mommy! Let’s go!”

So off we went to the café. I was resolved. I was determined. I was not going to cheat even though I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and we were going on 2 o’clock.

Then she ordered a cupcake. Not just any cupcake either. A strawberry cupcake with cream cheese filling.

Oh. My. Heavens.

I ordered a nice bottle of Fiji water and then took a bite of that cupcake.

“Would you like to share with me Mommy?”

Who can say no to that?

I ate half a cup cake, right there in the Barnes & Noble café. Yes I did.

And it was not nearly as good as I had hoped. Afterwards, I was sad and I had a stomach ache. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let myself and God down. I felt awful.

Which led me to this post. Everything that happened was a perfect example of the Christian struggle with sin:

  • We do not prepare to face temptation or occasions of sin.

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Luke 22:46

  • We are tempted.
  • We do not turn to God when we are tempted and ask for help.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38

  • We put ourselves in a situation which is a near occasion of sin.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

  • We rationalize, use other people and look for reasons that what we are doing is okay. (I am hungry, she ordered it-not me.)
  • We try to minimize our sin.

Taking this one step further, we then have two options:

1.) Confess and acknowledge our wrong doing and turn away from future sins.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

2.) Feel ashamed, embarrassed or even afraid of God. Refuse to acknowledge the sin and keep on sinning.

God, help me to choose the first. Help me to recognize my sins when I commit them so that I am aware and can turn to you instead. Hopefully, if I can overcome the small with your help, then the big things will be easy too.

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9

Daniel Fast Day 8…Jesus served, but do I have to?

29 May

I am over a week into my Daniel Fast, and so far I feel great. I have not cheated a single time, and though I have been tempted (by the rotisserie chicken that I picked up for my family which filled my car with it’s chicken-y goodness smell) I have yet to cave in. Like I said before, if God calls the fast then He provides the strength to get through it.

When I began the fast, I knew that food would at first be central but as my body adjusted it would become less of a focus as God filled the hole left by the food with His own agenda. At first, I contemplated the food choices that I have made in the past for myself and my family. I became more aware of myself as a consumer of food in the world and what that means for the environment and I weighed the merits of veganism.

As the days progressed, began to look into God’s word to see what it is that He wants from a fast. I came across Isaiah 58 which says that fasting is supposed to be an act of service.

Lesson 7: You cannot serve God without serving others.

If you haven’t noticed already, I love contemporary Christian music. The new Matthew West album (Into the Light) has a song that practically screamed out at me the first time I heard it. It’s called “Do Something,” and the lyrics say:

Children sold into slavery

The thought disgusted me

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

(For More, read the story behind the song.)

If Jesus was here to serve (“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28), and we are called to live a life like His, then I too am called to serve.

Lesson 8: When a cup is full, it overflows. God has filled my life with so many blessings so that I may pour them out and bless others.

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As I began to look for volunteer opportunities, I prayed that God would show me how I could be of service in my very own community. There are 2 primary types of Christian servitude:

    1. Charity: This is the type of service that most of us think about when we conjure up Chrisitian service. It is giving a direct service that will provide temporary results. Meals on Wheels, visiting prisoners or the elderly, and providing Christmas gifts are all examples of Charity.-
    2. Justice: This is the type of service that empowers people to help themselves. Examples of justice as Christian service include: providing job education, social/legal activism such as minimum wage laws, or providing short term loans.

I wanted to be able to help people in a real and tangible way in both of these areas. But, I am busy. I work full time outside of the home. I have two children with school projects, friends, extra-curricular activities and needs of their own. And I have a husband who occasionally likes to spend time with me too.

How am I supposed to find time to serve when I barely have time for myself?!

So here is what I did to find the best charitable opportunities for me, my family and my schedule:

  1. I prayed about it, “God you show me where you want me to be.” After all, if it is His will, then He will help me make a way.
  2. I made a list of ’causes’ I was interested in: refugees, feeding the hungry, women and children.
  3. I found a local charity that offers services to all of those, I filled out a volunteer application and I went for my interview today.

In other words…I did it anyway.

Yes, my schedule is busy.

Yes, there may be times when I just don’t feel like it.

But guess what?

It’s not about me.

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As it turns out, I am not the only busy/working/mother/wife/wanna be volunteer out there. There are a ton of opportunities for me to serve that will work in my schedule. Some I can do with my kids (wrap presents for Christmas, serve in a food bank) and some that I never thought of (use my professional skills in mortgages to teach families about home ownership).

I also looked through the church bulletin–and low and behold–they are in need of people to make sandwiches on Tuesdays which just happen to be my day off.

Daniel Fast Day 6…Revival is Never a Coincidence

26 May

Around the time that I began to hear God calling me toward a fast, my local radio station (KSBJ) began to play a song called “Starts with Me,” by a singer I had never heard before. His name was Tim Timmons, and in an interview, he said that he too had been diagnosed with Cancer. As I began my fasting, Tim’s song became somewhat of a ‘theme song’ for the background of my life.

You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak You’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Oh, it starts with me

tim timmons

Do you remember when I told you a few days ago that someone close to me had been diagnosed with cancer? That ‘someone’ was my husband. He is 33 years old, we have 2 young children, and after months of my nagging gentle urging he decided to visit the doctor.  Three days after his initial visit, we found out that he had Clarks stageIV malignant melanoma. After multiple trips to MD Anderson Cancer Center and one surgery to ‘cut out’ the tissue around the original tumour and remove some lymph nodes as well, we were worried.

God called me to this fast then, as a way to petition Him for the healing of my husband. Early on, God showed my that my obedience was seen and rewarded.

Today, He did it again.

This evening, my family and I went to mass at 5:15. As the priest was speaking, I began to pray silently that God would use the words of the homily to reach my husband. I prayed that my husband would be comforted and that …

In the middle of my prayer (no exaggeration here!), the priest began to talk about a young man (Zach Sobiech) who had a video called Clouds about his battle with cancer and how he wanted to make sure that he spent his days making people smile. Click here to see the video of Zach.

At the word ‘cancer,’ I saw my husband sit up a little straighter and I knew that the message was for him. God answered my prayer while I was still praying it.

After the homily, we all went up to receive communion and then after everyone was back  in the pews the music began to play. I’ll give you one guess what they played. You got it….”It Starts with Me”

This week has been amazing for me. God has made himself real and apparent. He has shown that He does answer prayers, even the smallest. I have never seen His work so apparent and so immediate in my life, and I praise Him for giving me the grace to recognize it.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”-Mattheww 17:20

Daniel Fast Day 5…I’ve Gotten it all Wrong

25 May

Today is the 5th day of my Daniel Fast, and I realize that not even one week into it, I’ve gotten it all wrong. It’s a good thing that there are 16 days left. During this first week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about food. What should I buy? What should I eat? What should I not eat? Am I hungry? I began to notice a trend. I was focused on the “I” not on “Him.”  So today, at His nudging, I opened up my study that goes along with 7,called Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess and it immediately directed me to Isaiah 58.

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Isaiah 58 is God’s response to people who were fasting and asking why they were not hearing from God. Isaiah 58: 2-3 says:

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

God’s response to them was that their fasting was not enough. It is not enough to fast, to pray and to seek God if we do not seek to do what is righteous in His eyes. You can read the rest of Isaiah 58 here.

God replied with a very specific list of things that He wanted and did not want His people to do.

God did NOT wanted His people to:

  • Do as they please
  • Exploit their workers
  • Quarrel, strike one another
  • Turn away from their own flesh and blood

During a fast, God wants us to be kind. He wants us to treat other people well and rid ourselves of anger and resentment. Those emotions take us away from God. They do not draw us nearer to him. Isaiah 58:4-5 says,

You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

I should not be spending my fast in leisure time: browsing the Internet, watching the latest episodes of Revenge and catching up on Facebook. I should not consume foods or products that come from places where slaves were utilized to manufacture, grow or produce goods for my consumption. I should not allow my change in diet to affect my attitude with my spouse, children or co-workers. I should mend relationships with family members whom I bear a grudge against.

Instead, God DID want His people to:

  • Loose the chains of injustice
  • Set the oppressed free
  • Share food with the hungry
  • Provide shelter to the wanderer
  • Clothe the poor
  • Do away with malicious talk
  • Honor the Sabbath

If I use these verses as my guidelines, then I have a lot of work ahead of me for the next 16 days. He has called me to charitable work, that in my own selfish desire for things and ‘personal time,’ I have pushed to the way side. He wants me to speak well of Him and others. He wants me to go to church and honor the day that He has set aside as Holy.

Lesson 5: If God has called you to fast, and He must be the one to tell you what to do and what not to do during this time.

Then, when I do these things in a spirit of fasting toward Him, he has promised:

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

He has given me the strength I need for the past 5 days to endure the discomfort of a change in eating, but now He calls me to a change in action.

Lesson 6: God will satisfy all of your needs if you wait in obedience.

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What changes do you feel God calling you to make?

Daniel Fast Day 3….Vegans May be on to Something

23 May

When I first began my journey through 7, my goal was to eliminate some of the abundance in my life in order to make more room for myself, other people and God. Today, on day 3 of my Daniel Fast, I have already noticed a change in the way I feel. I usually hit the snooze button 2 or 3 times, and then drag out of bed. This morning, I woke up and jumped out of bed straight into the shower before my alarm even went off. That was a nice change. Now that I have more energy, I want to use some of it to learn about the food that I eat, where it comes from and make conscious decisions about the food I put into my mouth. Where does it come from? What does God want me to be eating? Can the food choices I make affect the world and make it a better place.

Let me begin by saying that I live in the South. More specifically, I live in Texas. Growing up, one boy actually brought venison to show n’ tell. (That’s deer meat for those of y’all who don’t know.) One of my friends literally becomes a widow every hunting season because her husband lives to hunt animals. Miranda Lambert, another Texas Girl, is part of a band called Pistol Annies, and they have a song called The Hunter’s Wife which says, “I’m married to a shot-gun carrying, tobacco chewing, no good blue tick hound.” In other words, in Texas, we like our meat.

The Daniel Fast eliminates not only meat, but also animal products. No milk, no cheese, no eggs, nada. During my first grocery store trip, I had to pay special attention to labels. I noticed that on many food labels, especially of the organic or health food variety, that it would say specifically on the label. “Vegan,” and some foods were even ‘certified.’

certified vegan

 Before I began the fast, the only thing I knew about Veganism was that people who practiced it were ‘extreme vegetarians.’ I had a notion that they were all crazy feminists, dying of malnutrition or the type of people who show up to political rallies holding “Save the Cows,” or something.

Today, I decided it was time to better educate myself about veganism, and I was surprised at what I learned.  I came across a documentary entitled, “Vegucated.” It follows a group of people as they learn about veganism and most importantly where the food that they eat comes from. The video shows some of the harsh treatment that animals are subjected to so that they can be mass-produced into food for us. Heart wrenching scenes were shown in the movie: A newborn calf being literally dragged away from its mother and then the mother cow being artificially inseminated so that she can have another calf, and another….so that we can have milk.  Newly hatched male chickens literally being tossed into the garbage because only the females lay eggs. Castrating and branding without any anesthesia.

I ‘knew’ in the back of my mind that sometimes animals are treated poorly so that we can have food. But, I reasoned, if I’m not the one doing it then how am I responsible? Besides, we all need to eat, right?

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While it is true that we do need to eat, I think that it is important that we do not eat mindlessly. We need to eat in way that respects the people, the environment and the animals that God created.  In the beginning, God commanded people to eat plant-based food:

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If God created that food for me to eat, then I should make an effort to make it a part of my diet. According to the film, only 4% of the American diet is currently unrefined plant-based food. If the amount of Dr.Pepper, fast food and junk that I put into my mouth everyday is any indication, then that number sounds about accurate.

But is living Vegan realistic? Is it possible amidst the hustle and bustle of modern America?

Apparently, there is a whole dimension of Vegan people living all around me, and  I had no idea. For instance, you can buy Vegan shoes…and some of them are even cute! Don’t believe me? Check out MooShoes. There are restaurants that offer only Vegan food or just partial Vegan menus. There are entire sections of the grocery store dedicated to it: the produce section anyone?

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So, after my Daniel Fast is over, will I continue veganism? Probably not. However, I will be more cognizant of what I eat, where the food I choose comes from and how I can work to make sure that my eating habits are making God’s planet a little bit better.