Daniel Fast Day 9…Ice Cream dreams and Prayer Reminders

29 May

Last night I dreamed about ice cream. It wasn’t just any ice cream though, it was creamy and covered with chocolate syrup. I woke up *convinced* that I am having sugar and dairy withdrawal and that my body is trying to tell me that I am deficient in some way. Then, it occurred to me: I am deficient in the ‘prayer’ way .

I admit it. I am blogging about God and the Bible and fasting, but I am not good at praying. I typically fall asleep, get distracted, fail to find time….well you get the idea.

However, those days are behind me..I have a solution! The other day, while browsing my local Lifeway Christian Store, I came across this little ‘notepad to go’:

front veiw

Not impressed? Just wait. The minute second I saw it, I knew that I could use this.

And the best part? It was only $3.50!

back veiw

How many times have you heard that someone was having a rough time and you offered to pray for them?

Now, how many times have you actually sat down and intentionally made that prayer request? Be honest.

That’s what I thought.

This simple binder ring binds together about 200 or so papers that I can use to write prayer requests on. It is small enough that I can take it with me wherever I go.

So, after paying for my new ‘notepad to go’ I pulled out my handy Sharpie box (I really do carry this with me, because you just never know when you might need a purple or green sharpie) and began to work on my new prayer cards.

Sharpies

There are so many things that I want to talk to God about or pray for, but my daily needs get in the way. For instance, Memorial Day just recently passed, but I have rarely ever really prayed for our men and women in the service unless I knew them personally. I often get so busy ‘asking’ God for things, that I forget to praise Him. These cards will serve as a reminder so that whenever I have ‘just a minute’ I can truly pray for those things.

Here are some ideas that I have for what I will be putting on each page:

  1. The names of people I want to remember to pray for .
  2. Specific prayer requests that I have.
  3. Bible verses to meditate on.
  4. Traditional prayers for times of need.
  5. Things that I am grateful for.
  6. Prayers for those who have passed before me.
  7. Causes in the world. (Ex: hunger)
  8. Prayers for our civic, church and community leaders.
  9. Praise and adoration.
  10. ….many more!

Strength          Gram

I predict that the opportunities to use these will be great. For example, I can use them when:

  • Waiting at the doctor’s office
  • Sitting in the car wash
  • When my kids are bored and need something to do (ask them to make a card with a special request, ask them to pray)
  • During down time at work
  • While I’m eating a meal

As I make each card, I am offering that prayer up. As I come back to each card, I have the opportunity to be reminded of the prayers He has already answered.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

What do you do to help you remember to pray? Do you have a prayer routine? Feel free to share your comments!

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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.

004-jesus-washes-feet

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.

Catholic-Charities_web_logo

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.

7

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.

Isaiah-58-11

What changes do you feel God calling you to make?

Daniel Fast Day 4…”Little” Temptations Every Day

24 May

Before I began my Daniel Fast, I fully expected to suffer for the first week or so from cravings galore, but so far that has not been my experience. The nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables have been leaving me plenty satisfied and all of the water I am drinking seems to help as well. I have tried ‘diets’ before and failed miserably, but what I am learning is that a fast is not a diet at all. Yes, there is food (and lack of) involved, but I am finding more and more that the needs I was satisfying with food before (boredom, stress, anxiety, hunger) are now being satisfied by God.

Lesson 5: When God calls the fast instead of the individual, He will provide the strength to get through it and fulfill all of your needs.

Because I haven’t been tempted by food as much as I thought I would be, I have begun to think more about temptation in my life in general. Restricting my food, focusing on God and scripture has made me keenly aware of the everyday temptations that I face.

temptation

In any given day, there are so many encounters with temptation that I have. I may not consider all of them ‘sins,’ per se, but they do make me less self disciplined and less able to focus my attention on God and my place in His creation:

Temptation to…

1. Hit the snooze button repeatedly and not get out of bed on time.

 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”-Mark 1:35

snooze

2.  Rush, yell at or otherwise become impatient with my children as they get ready for school.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

3. Dress in a way that draws attention to me or worry excessively about the way I look to others.

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”-1 Timothy 2:9

4. Drive too fast, text, talk on the phone or have my attention on anything other than the road in front of me, therefore putting myself and others at risk.

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90: 12

crazy driver

5. Cuss or use mean language when I am upset about something

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

cussing

6. Fail to complete my work to the best of my ability or waste time at work.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23

7. Talk down to or just generally argue with my spouse.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” 1 Peter 3:1

8. Choosing to spend my money on myself for immediate wants instead of being a good steward of the gifts God has bestowed upon me.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

9. Failing to make time for service.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

10. Not ensuring that I get enough sleep to be ready to be the wife, mother, servant and employee that God has called me to be.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—    for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2

zzz

There is a song by Francesca Batistelli that perfectly addresses the way these ‘little things,’ little frustrations, little temptations and decisions are able to separate us from God. Oh! But then there is the good part. Nothing is too little for God, there is nothing that He cannot use. Batistelli sings,

 This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I’ve gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing
Might not be what I would choose
But this the stuff You use
So break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations

 

 What about you, dear reader? What are the ‘little temptations and frustrations’ that you face every day and how has God used those to draw you near to Him?

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?

ved

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:

gen 1 29

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?

moo

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.

Daniel Fast Day 2…I wasn’t expecting a miracle

22 May

Day one of the Daniel Fast came and went without a hitch. I was a little sleepy and had some stomache growling, but nothing too serious. As the day drew to a close, I crawled in my bed for my evening prayer and scripture study. Before I began, I prayed that God would make Himself apparent to me during this time of fasting and prayer and that my doubts would be erased.I was not expecting the answer (miracle?!) that I got. Read to the end of this post to see how God works in amazing ways when we just confess and ask.

Then, I picked up the study that I am currently working through by Beth Moore entitled David:Seeking a Heart Like His.

David

To be perfectly honest with you, I love Beth Moore bible studies, but this one wasn’t really ‘speaking’ to me lately. Well, last night we finally got into the good stuff! David and Bathsheba. Here is a man who is the King. He has everything he could possibly want, but he is not satisfied with that. (Sound familiar?) He spies someone else’s wife and he wants that instead of the bazillion other wives and concubines that he has. He brings her to himself and not only sleeps with her, but he gets her pregnant as well. Then, he sends for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and tries to trick him into sleeping with Bathsheba so that he can pass the unborn child off as his. When that doesn’t work, he has Uriah killed. Read the story yourself in 2 Samuel 11.

Most of us have heard this story before, but what I loved about the lesson was the fact that God gave David multiple opportunities to confess, repent and stop sinning already. Moore writes:

After he committed the act of adultery, even though the consequences of the pregnancy were already at work, David could have fallen on his face before God, repented, asked for mercy and begged God to help clean up the mess he had made. Throughout his encounters with Uriah, he had many opportunities to consider his actions and recant. He didn’t.

How many times have I been in the midst of sin and just decided not to confess, not to repent, and not to stop sinning already? Too many. I put my Bible away, lay in bed and began to make my confessions to God.

That should be the end of the story right? Confess, God forgives, the end? Apparently God’s ways are bigger than that. Keep reading…

Do you see those sleeping guys at the bottom of the picture? That is what happens to me when I pray in bed. Something like, “Dear God…I confess…zzzzzzzz…”

sleep prayer

Well, tonight on just Day 1 of the Daniel Fast, God was NOT having it. He had bigger plans for me that I expected.

At 3:28 am, I was sound asleep. At 3:29 am, a strange sound woke me up. It sounded like our new beagle puppy, Chloe, had somehow escaped and was scratching on the front door. So, I ventured to the front door…then the back door….only to find a beagle puppy sound asleep on the kitchen floor. On my way back to bed I felt the nudging of the spirit, “You didn’t finish praying and you have been tired. I wanted to spend time with you, so I woke you up.” 

Alrighty then….I lay back down, wide awake and began my prayers. First confession, then thanksgiving, and then a special prayer for someone very close to me who was recently diagnosed with cancer and needs healing. 

In the darkness, I heard my husband’s voice, “What time is it?” he asked.

“About 3:40,” I said. “What are you doing awake?”

“I can’t sleep,” said the man who could literally sleep through the bombing of Hiroshima.

“I think God woke me up. He was asking me to pray.” I said.

“Hmmm….” he got out of bed and went to the living room where he later told me that he spent some time with God too.

Before you think that we are these especially dedicated people (or just weird insomniacs), let me assure you that is not the ‘normal’ case. I haven’t been wakened in the night since my youngest (going on 5 years old now) was a baby and even then it was just to make sure she was okay and go quickly back to sleep. I do not wake up early unless I have to, and I certainly do not forsake sleep for …. well, anything.

Skip ahead five hours. I just dropped my son off at school when the phone rang. An excited voice on the other line said, “I just got a call from MD Anderson. My lymphnodes are clear. The cancer has not spread. There is no evidence of disease.”

Praise be to God. Not only did he answer my prayer, but he woke me up and reminded me to pray. Speechless.

Lesson 4: If you are open to God and make yourself available, He will surprise you with his faithfulness.

CANCERFREE-01