Jan 3, 2012

One year later

2011 has come to a close, and I have been reflecting on the ways God has answered the prayers for which I fasted. My main purpose for fasting was to discover God's direction for my life. I believe salvation is more important to God than career choice, and that He will guide me to the best career path for me and in which I may glorify Him. Moreover, I believe God has shown me the best career path for me, and that is writing.

I feel as though God has surged the culmination of the prayer and fasting at the beginning to the final part of the year 2011. That is because I now have more specifics from prayer as to which direction the Lord has for me. I also feel this way because my family, who fasted with me, are having their prayers answered. Truly, this has been our best year yet.

As we look to 2012, I can look toward more spiritual refreshment as my church and I begin the Daniel fast again on Jan. 9. Although my flesh is crying out "Not again!" my spirit longs for this refreshing. Happy New Year!

Feb 4, 2011

Update on Sudan

The report has just come in from Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse: Southern Sudan has seceded from Sudan. I want to thank everyone who prayed for them. The Islamic people of Southern Sudan who desire to forcibly institute Islamic law over this country have no means to do so. However, much unrest remains in this country just south of Egypt, for demonstrations have arisen in its capital city, Khartoum. Continued prayer is needed to strengthen the Christians that remain in Northern Sudan.

Jan 22, 2011

The After Effects

I was not sure how today would play out now that I am free to eat anything I want. Rather surprisingly, my first urge was not to pounce upon everything I've missed since I started. Contrary to what one might think, all that self-restraint one builds up for twenty-one days does not just evaporate when freedom comes. I see all these foods before me and think, "Yes, I could eat these cookies, but I would rather not lose my new physical stamina." Or, "Yes, I could have an egg, toast, and a glass of milk, but who knows how they may affect me if I have them all at once?" I have decided to ease back into my previous menu, rather than diving right into it.

It was interesting shopping with a broadened menu through the kitchen this morning. A bowl of sugar and cinnamon sat on the counter. I thought, "No, can't have that. Oh wait. Yes I can." Then a jar of peanut butter beckoned to me. The thoughts repeated. This process has been going on all day. When I first began I didn't realize how thoroughly this fast would permeate my life, but it has rooted itself deep into my daily routine. I would say. The foods I missed the most were the ones that crunch, namely, crackers, chips, cornmeal, and grains. I love the taste of zuchinni and onions, but all the veggies were soft or starchy, and never quite satisfied that desire for a crunchy snack. Oddly enough, the first thing I ate today was a tiny tiny nibble of dodol susu, an Indonesian sweet much like a tootsie roll. Even with that small bite, the flavor was overpowering. I made that my sweet for the day. For breakfast, I finally decided on an egg with cheese on top, along with a grapefruit and cranberries. For lunch, I brought a plain baked potato to work as it was already cooked, healthy, filling, and available. For a snack, I chose to eat a banana. The biggest most delightful change of pace came at supper time. I bathed my long awaited spaggetti noodles in a delectable meatless sauce. I relished those grain-based tubular ingredients. It has been an interesting process between what I can now have and what I could not, and the two are gradually but uniquely intertwining themselves back into my menu.

Jan 21, 2011

Day 21: Conclusion

I've learned a lot in this fast: both physically and spiritually.
healthy body
hear God's voice more clearly
Fasting takes an effort to be more than a diet
sugarless, natural sweetness is tasteable
it was a delicious culinary adventure
I lost 5 pounds
I've found better means of entertainment
The daniel fast is good for the environment as it is renewable waste
Jesus is stronger than me
I gave up things and got benefits

disconnect world and connect to God-disconnect yes, connect maybe
spiritually dry-overall no, but today yes
direction-its a process
in christ-yes

These past twenty-one days have taught me many things spiritually and physically. On the spiritual side, I went into this fast desiring to recharge my spiritual zeal. Although I gained a number of benefits, I feel as though I would have received more from this fast if I had sought God more. Even though I kept the dietary end of it, overall I let my devotion time remain the same. I feel as though my spirit grew in knowledge as steadily as if I was not fasting. However, I have noticed God's voice becoming clearer to me in small ways, ways that will train me to distinguish his leading from that of others, as I continue on my journey to follow Christ. I believe he is telling me things in smaller matters before he begins to show me the larger ones. Most of my revelation came during the three-days fast when I set apart that time to solely seek Him. Although I did not receive everything I would have liked to from this fast, I have received spiritual guidance and a better understanding of who I am in Christ.

Fasting is not only about connecting to God, but also about disconnecting from the world. I have found this part refreshing. Refreshing, because my brain is less polluted with this world's garbage--the profanity and vanity in movies, the unending gossip and disrespect for authority of tabloids, and other junk I can do without. It has given me a chance to draw away from the tube and draw toward smaller tubes, namely, beads. Not only have I returned to my hobbies, I have found that playing various games and puzzles has brought my family together. The fellowship around a puzzle is clean fun just as relaxing as television.

This fast has had a cleansing effect on my body as well as my spirit. My muscles have more endurance and flexibility than before. Despite generous portions, I have lost five pounds, whereas I was estimating I might lose three pounds.

I would say the high point of this fast was the new menu. Necessity is the mother of innovation, and I ate a lot of unique, colorful, tasty dishes. Now that my tongue has not tasted sugar cane products for three weeks, fruits that once tasted sour, such as grapefruit and frozen strawberries, actually taste sweet. It is so nice to be able to enjoy the natural sugar without mixing it with other sugar to bring up the taste. All these fruits and vegetables have also made for a much more environmentally responsible waste basket, our garden compost bowl. If eating new food was the easiest, then the part about not-eating was something entirely different.

The hardest part, but not the low point, was definitely the three days fast. I never want to do something like that again, but I may be willing to if necessary. Jesus' love for me has taken on a whole new depth after that experience. I admire Jesus for going the whole forty days. It's invigorating to think that the same Spirit that empowered him now lives in me.

Overall, this fast has blessed me, both spirit and body. If I decide to participate next year, I am going to need to make a firmer effort to seek God more.

Tomorrow, I'm sure, will present new challenges. What will it be like to go back? Already it almost feels wrong to eat a slice of toast with sugared jam on top. Still, I look forward to it with anticipation. What will I do? Will I keep going on? Will I not? Will I be able to enjoy these foods again? How will my body react?

Only time will tell . . .

Jan 20, 2011

Day 20: Rediscovering my hobby

As I've said before, the media fast has driven me to find other means of recreation. After years of collecting dust, I've decided to break out the beads and create jewelry again.

One of my favorite shops in all Grand Rapids is Little Bohemia. They carried beads, fashion clothing, incense sticks, and unique global home decor. Unfortunately, I've been so busy that I have not made time to visit it in quite a while. I walked there the other day, only to find realty signs posted over empty windows. I felt very sad and slightly guilty for not having stopped by more often.

Still somewhat disappointed, I hopped onto Google to see what other beads stores might be in the area. There, only a few blocks further, tucked into a corner I should have noticed by now, was a shop called Bohemia Too. It had to be the same shop! Delighted, I rushed to it so fast I forgot to check the hours. When I got there, I was an hour early. Oh well. I decided to come back after I finished my classes.

Finally, the hour came. I stepped nervously up to the door of the shop. Pushing open the wooden door, I was encompassed by the beloved familiar atmosphere. The fashion clothing still draped from the racks. The decorations inspired by ethnic cultures around the world still sat charmingly on display.

"Hello," I greeted the cashier, whom I suspected was the owner, "I went to your other store only to find it had closed."

"We moved two years ago. You should have come back," the cashier replied with a hint of disappointed, as if to say, we really could have used your help. It was sort of a cold welcome but I shrugged it off. Nothing was going to undermine my joy in rediscovering this long-lost shop.

The beads were downstairs that made the shop bigger than one would assume from outside. Table after table were filled with cartons of beads and charms. I spent an hour inspecting them and gathering ideas. This seemed like a lot of time, but it was time I would otherwise spend watching tv.

I selected about a tablespoon of beads altogether, themed around my passion to travel. Tonight, I strung them together into the necklace I had envisioned while I was shopping. I would say the most challenging but most enjoyable part of the whole process was designing how the necklace was going to look.

It may be a slightly expensive new hobby, but it has brought to memory the creativity and fun of crafting. In fact, I have another idea for a necklace that I can't wait to go back to try out. Most importantly, I want to continue some form of the media fast after it ends tomorrow. I am not going to stay away from tv completely, but I am going to reduce my intake so I can focus on more creative works.

Jan 19, 2011

Day 19: Gorging on veggies, healthy habit or transformed addiction?

There is a trend I've been noticing in my eating habits, which can be illustrated by the meals I've had over the past two days. At 3pm today, I ate my first meal, a banana. For supper, I filled myself with a banana, yam steak fries, hummus, salad, an apple, and vegetable broth. Yesterday was similar. I ate green lentil soup for breakfast and again at school for lunch. I imagine to the other students it must have appeared most unappetizing, but there was a lot of zest hiding in that greenish muck. When I came home that day, there was on the table were set a large bowl of colorful corn salad and a gigantic pot of mashed potatoes. I relished that feast and even pumped down a healthy dessert. I've been finding myself consuming small portions during the day and then enjoying piles of delicious vegetables in the evenings. I believe this is some form of my desire for evening snacking resurfacing. However, as they are all healthy foods, I don't believe this is going to be a problem. If it is a habit I will want to break, I'm going to need to do something different, because, as this case shows, old habits do not die easily. They may just take on new forms.

Jan 18, 2011

Day 18: Lessons from a sheep

God has been teaching me a lot about personal finance as of late, especially from Proverbs. One of those lessons comes from the most unintelligent animal: the sheep. I was lead to read Proverbs 27:23-27, which speaks about diligence in taking care of one's own financial situation. Verse 23 says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." While reading several commentaries on this passage, I found an amusing section about the sheep. John Phillips' book, Exploring Proverbs: An Expository Commentary, is particularly interesting. Renowned New Zealand sheep rancher Walter Bowen, who has contributed greatly to the sheep industry, reflected on the animals. He says although sheep are very valuable, they are the riskiest of all investments because they are the most susceptible to self-inflicted danger. Sheep are useful for food, clothing, fertilizer, and raw material (their lanolin can be used in cosmetics, ointments, and soaps). Summarizing Bowen, Phillips says:

A sheep needs constant care. It is the only animal that can get lost within sight of its own home. Within its own range it has adequate skills, but once it wanders beyond that range it has no orientation whatsoever. It will wander around in circles, often calling continually to advertise its panic. . . . Weak-spirited, a sheep is soon demoralized by pain. It will not fight back when attacked, and when it is only slightly wounded, it will lie down and await death (425).

Sheep take a lot management due to their lack of smarts and their ease to panic. The lesson I learned here is that whatever provides my food, clothing, and products of sale, usually a business in our American culture, needs to be looked after with care. I cannot be lazy and put it off, as the foolish son who did not gather crops in summer (Prov 10:5), but, like the ant (Prov 6:6), to take advantage of business opportunities when they are present. I will recognize them as they appear in season. Without care, I might let my expensive investments wander into danger while I am unaware. However, like sheep, businesses will provide a great return if for those who properly care for them.