I had registered a new business the day I unregistered from Big Village back in February, but it was just this weekend that I pressed PUBLISH on the site and made it known that I’d be jumping back in the game of looking for customers. I’m an entrepreneur once more. How appropriate since its Small Business Week in Canada! I’m inclined to thank Canada, or more specifically BDC, for the grand welcome.
It’s early in the morning. I got up specifically to write this post out of a mix of obligation and inspiration (oblispiration?). Those are the times when you wake up and say to yourself, You should probably write this down.
Of course I had to check Twitter first and was encouraged to get off Twitter and back to the blog by Anne Lamott‘s 140-character plea to, Seize and steal time to write, however & wherever you can–it’s a debt of honor.
There is something about this compulsion to write. It’s so strange how God places this fervor in you to observe the world around you and then find words for what you see. It’s a bit of a madness. For instance, while J-M and the girls were planning what is to be a fun-filled long weekend, complete with beach days, BBQs and baseball, I was thinking to myself, I sure hope I get time to write. Where oh where was this drive in high school English?
And to those who checked in yesterday, I’m sorry I didn’t post on Day 40. My excuse is that Day 40 had to happen first before I “reported back.” But the truth is, my family hijacked my plans and took me out to have fun instead. I’m not complaining, just redirecting the blame.
So allow to me recap. I’ve been praying for direction consistently for 40 days. During those 40 days, I have not eaten after 2 p.m., except for Fridays and three
cheats celebration dinners. An undefined, but persistent desire to go deeper in ministry is what drove me to this fast, hoping to hear exactly what the “deeper in ministry” part was to look like.
I am happy to say that God was faithful and answered my prayers.
I didn’t write that sentence easily. I want to be sure I’m not conjuring up a “happy ending” to this fast, something to please me and you that this was worth the effort. Of course it was, in a kajillion ways, but I would not say God sent lightning bolts from the sky or a great heavenly finger to write on my kitchen wall. In any case, I don’t believe he speaks that way. If he had sent the finger, I might, in my sinfulness, ask him why then he hasn’t spoken up more about my Dad’s MS or a friend’s heartache or poverty and all the injustice in the world?
I believe God does speak clearly, consistently and powerfully. He speaks through scripture, his word, which is a plumb line for discerning his will in this life and the next.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
I encourage you to read the rest of that, about how we can increase our participation in that divine nature. Amazing, spine-tingling stuff.
A word should also be said here about handling scripture with reverence, in the company of believers, guided by the Holy Spirit. But in short, we have access to God’s answers for all our questions.
God also speaks through others and this has been my experience throughout this fast. I have been given tons of advice and encouragement – some conflicting! Again, I returned to scripture to measure the words I received. If they line up with what scripture says, I accept – and wholeheartedly. And God bless you for saying so!
Throughout the fast, God spoke clearly, like portions of food, replacing what I wasn’t physically eating. I received his word in bits and pieces. Every bite from him was full of spiritual nourishment established by the peace he gave me when I digested it.
For my questions, I received the answers either no/not yet or keep going.
Let me start with the no/not yet.
God has made it very clear to me that “deeper into ministry” does not mean bigger. I’d had some suggestions from people, that perhaps my role was being broadened from just working within my congregation to ministering on a larger scale with an outreach to others beyond our church. I don’t doubt that God can move in mysterious ways and use the things one does on a small scale to reach out to others in areas or ways you could never anticipate. But to change my focus at this time is out of the question.
First of all, I am very green – I have spent just one year leading the women of our church – this ministry alone extends my abilities to the max. Beyond this, is the focus of our ministry. Over the past year we’ve been purposeful about getting away from the common trappings of women’s ministry (fundraisers and friendly gossip, to name a couple). We’ve been diligent to make sure that our focus is to grow closer to Jesus and to each other. For the upcoming year, I believe we are to add to that by reaching out to others in our community. That means finding the lonely, the needy, the desperate who hide behind closed doors, in our own neighbourhood. I think it’s all this growing closer to Jesus business. We’ve found out that’s where he’s always heading and we want to go with him. This call is clear and so my personal pursuits cannot be any different. I’m staying local.
As for the keep going message:
I have received an overwhelming response to this blog in the past 40 days. No one would say that I write well – and neither would I – but what joy to hear from others that they have been moved, challenged, affected, or convicted by something I’ve written! I am not deceived – I may have a specific demographic who doesn’t mind the frivolous chit-chat mixed in with an exhortation, and a couple of typos for good measure. But the few who respond to it, who see Jesus in it? Well that means this madness isn’t for nothing. It’s for something.
To be clear, I do not wish to “be published” other than to click that button on the blog, but just to be faithful to write it all down.
I have the additional blessing of being paid to write. My position as Social Media Journalist (decoded: blogger) for the Free Methodist Church in Canada, although part-time, is a huge privilege. I want to fill the parameters I’ve been given to full capacity, “Telling our Stories” about God’s faithfulness within our churches.
Another part of the keep going message is my being available. I love that I have been able to offer my time for what would otherwise be considered interruptions. What a gift to know that when someone wants to go for coffee to chat, I can say yes, how about today! Or if someone wants to meet to pray, yes, how about right now! I have able to volunteer at a friend’s store for a few days over the past two weeks because she really needed the help. I have been able to do stand up for another friend’s impromptu wedding. If God can use me during this time of unemployment, I will not say no to that.
I will write more about this 40-day experience. For one, what about this problem of bringing home a regular wage? Just a quick preview on this – Mom’s wise words that if God calls you to something, he will certainly provide the means to fulfill your calling. We’ve known that well in our lives before, and I claim it now. You can be praying for J-M to be receptive to this also. His suggestion? To add a “Donate Now” button to this blog. Also to my t-shirt.
There has been so much jam-packed into the last 40 days. I’ve been looking through my journal, comments and e-mails from others received since May 22 when this all started. The picture is clear. God speaks through all of it.
I watched my family eat the perfect summer meal tonight: hot dogs, chips, and fresh veggies. The smoky smell made my tummy rumble and I had a small temptation when Sophia enthusiastically enjoyed her first taste experience with snow peas from the Farmer’s Market… and Mallory didn’t want hers. I normally would have snagged Mal’s up. Yes! Mine! Called it!
Not this time. No, I won’t play food sports tonight. I’m a really good food athlete too, so that smarts.
Today’s the second last day of my fast. But really it’s my last day, since tomorrow’s Friday and I get to eat on Fridays, remember? (Hey, they’re my rules to make!) Strangely enough, as I wished to be eating with my family, I also thought, I’m going to miss this.
I’m going to miss this purposeful pursuit! I feel very blessed over these past few weeks because God has been so kind to give me insights into how he is working his will in my life. He has given me peace that he is in control even if I can’t see this visibly yet. Every time I open my Bible, he has entrusted me with new understanding about how His kingdom operates here on earth. All powerful answers to my prayers on this 40-day fast.
More than anything else I have wanted wisdom from God. He promises it to those who ask! In fact, this is a prayer I’ve been praying since I was a young girl and first read about King Solomon.
…the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
I’ve played this game before! I wish for a million more wishes!
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
When I read this, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Solomon had asked for the right thing. What would God say?
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.
How wonderful! Wisdom plus plus! But I paused, thinking wisdom was way too easy to get! What an awesome gift to have and all we have to do is ask?
In the book of James, it says, when facing trials and temptations, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Yes! Mine! Called it!
I’m excited to share the specifics, but I just rested my eyes for a minute and 10 slipped by unnoticed. I probably should go to bed instead of writing 1,000 more words. That would be wise.
Till Day 40 then.
Day 31 of my fast and I feasted. J-M brought home some really delicious grapes last night, crunchy and sweet. I was good and waited till morning and then I ate almost all of them, a whole bag’s worth. Then I had a giant bowl of Mini Wheats, which he’d also bought last night and I was also thrilled to eat this morning. But I felt stuffed and all through lunch too. I don’t like this feeling anymore. It used to be a common occurrence. The fast has shown me that being over-full is worse than hunger pangs (and lasts longer and has a lot of unnecessary guilt associated with it). I was actually looking forward to that hungry place I reach every night now. But in the afternoon, J-M reminded me that the pastors families were invited to a BBQ potluck put on by one of the small groups from our church.
“But I can’t eat!” I whined.
“Don’t eat Friday, then” he said.
“But I wasn’t eating Friday anyway because I was reserving Thursday for my Women’s Ministry Team Appreciation Dinner!”
Then he didn’t say anything.
This is why I’m glad the fast will be over in just nine days.
No more navigating social functions. No more bending the rules, which confuses the issue for me. I thought I’d just stick to the fast for the remaining eight days, but Mallory has her Grade 8 graduation banquet and John-Mark, his birthday. I’m thinking that for the rest of this fast I may be doing a lot of eating. Eating rhymes with cheating.
Let’s talk about this morning instead. If you have never before met God in the morning, gone outside and had praise and worship service with the birds, if you have never embraced the solitude that feels like time stands still, if you’ve never had an audience with your Heavenly Father with no one and nothing else competing for your attention and Him ready to meet you, if you haven’t felt the sun rays roll over you like a celestial embrace, you are missing out on one of the most inspiring times to commune with our Creator. C’mon, if you get up tomorrow morning, I will share him with you. You won’t regret it.
This morning I talked to God about how I love to write and how I love to send out into cyberspace the words that he gives me. I told him how I love to visit my friends and be available day-by-day to those who need it. I thanked him for the opportunities he’s given me whether they’re about to end or continue on indefinitely. I thanked him for my family (I tell them and God all the time I can’t believe they really exist). I thanked him for you. Yes, you. I have so many wonderful, encouraging people in my life and the fact that you show up, that you’re reading this right now, it makes me thankful enough to get teary-eyed.
Then I read 2 Corinthians 3 in The Message. In this passage, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth saying that the people there are the “letter of endorsement” or success of his ministry, having visibly changed hearts because of Christ’s work in their lives.
Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled in stone, but carved into human lives…
I love that. Paul has nothing to prove, no need to defend his call, because Christ is doing the work of changing hearts.
And you know what? I want to be a letter–better yet, a book–written by Christ himself. Whether by my words or my actions, I want to demonstrate the glory of God and the love of Christ in my life. Every decision, every turn in the road, every idea, every encounter with someone a new page about God’s faithfulness. The outline would look like this:
Chapter 1 – God is faithful
Chapter 2 – The Lord can be trusted
Chapter 3 – God provides
Chapter 4 – He will see you through
Chapter 5 – The Father knows what you need
Chapter 6 – God is still faithful
Chapter 7 – The Lord is watching over you
Chapter 8 – He cares for you
Chapter 9 – God knows you and loves you
Chapter 10 – Our Father calls to you
Chapter 11 – The Lord will see you through
Chapter 12 – God saw what you ate today, but guess what, he’s still faithful even when you’re not
For want of an hour a blog was lost.
I have five posts floating in my head waiting to be fastened to the blog. For now they’ll have to keep floating as I have offered to help a desperate friend with a moving sale at her bead store for the next two weeks. Yesterday was my training day. I said a lot of, “Bear with me, I’m new,” after saying, “Did you know the store is moving locations?” I’m hoping the 10-50 percent off sales will persuade people to put up with all the inconvenient news I’m delivering.
This working for a living is hard stuff. I was on my feet for eight solid hours yesterday. And guess who’s the idiot who wore heels? Plus I used up my word quota within the first two hours. Rookie move, I’d made plans with friends after work. They graciously kept the conversation going while wondering if I was ticked at them for no apparent reason. (Sorry Chels! Sorry Kim! I can move my lips again and not in the sneer I thought was a smile.)
Today, I get to be on my own for the afternoon. It’s actually a lot of fun. I love hearing about this customer’s wedding in October (bridesmaids will be wearing eggplant), and this teacher’s summer plans, and this gal’s creative projects on the go. I forgot how much I love interacting with customers! But keep in mind, today’s Day Two! I may change my tune by sundown.
As for my fast, it’s ongoing and habitual. I’ve found it’s easy now to only eat two meals and to ignore the hunger cravings. Prayer has become reactionary now in most situations, which I’m thrilled about. My one struggle is that I seem to run out of time each day, unable to spend long amounts of time in conversation with God. Whether I’ve been working at the store or for other reasons, my days have become full. I see that I didn’t make it the priority it needed to be each day – first and foremost – and so over the past week it has been bumped off the calendar when other things have “come up.” I must now get up a little earlier to rectify that. I notice the difference – a big one – when I miss that concentrated time with God.
And although some parts are getting “easier,” I miss the struggle of the fast that it was in the beginning. I have all kinds of thoughts about that, about how there is great joy and privilege in wrestling and in struggling when you commit that to him. God blesses you with wisdom and peace in the midst of it.
Right now, though, I have to wrestle on a pair of flats and get my butt out the door. Day Two, here I come!
Remember Day Two? That was only 22 days ago! And just a week ago, it was Day 17 and now it’s Day 24! And I’ve been trying to post this update since Day 21, but WordPress has been a bit wonky… so here we find ourselves three more days into the future which is now the present, which will be in the past shortly.
The pace of time will always, always amaze me. Especially since I’ve discovered that it speeds up the older you get. I’m now one of the annoying ones who tells mothers of young ones to ENJOY. EVERY. MINUTE. I write “Time flies!” consistently on birthday cards because I’m actually in shock that you are one year older, and that I’ve had to buy you another gift already? I just bought you one.
I’m more than halfway through this fast and there are some interesting developments worth mentioning.
I may be making people feel uncomfortable. Just yesterday (written on Day 21) my family stopped in at my in-laws for dinner after a full afternoon at the beach. They enjoyed a lovely breakfast-for-supper meal and although the bacon literally called me by my full name – LORELI MAE COCKRAM nee GALBRAITH – when I passed it along the table, I resisted. During the meal, I tried to bring up interesting topics for conversation and drank a heckuvalot, taking small sips and often, to make myself look busy while the rest of the family ate. On the way home I asked how awkward was it for them to be sitting with me at the table . J-M said, “Not at all,” at the exact same time Mallory said, “Very.” Even in our little home with just the three of them plus me, Mallory says she feels bad and has difficulty enjoying her meal when I’m not eating. J-M says, “No guilt here.”
I may accidentally make you feel judged. My father-in-law asked me why I was fasting (J-M warned him earlier that I wouldn’t be eating) and I said something lame like, “I’m listening to God.” I don’t think that I insulted him particularly, but I thought, you know, someone could think that I am saying THIS is the way to listen to God and if they’re not fasting, they’re not listening. It is a way, but not the only way. This is why I should be putting oil in my hair and washing my face each day, so there is no guilt for those who are not fasting.
It’s inevitable that you will find out I’m fasting even if you don’t read this blog. It’s just that almost every single function one can do with a friend involves eating of some sort. Hangouts? Chips. Movie? Popcorn. Summer? BBQ. Church? Potluck. And because you’re my friend, you will ask me why I keep tidying the place and going to the washroom instead of eating and I will admit that I’m fasting and then I’ll tell you, shhh, I’m listening to God. And you’ll tell me you thought I’d lost weight. And I’ll tell you it’s a side effect of fasting. At which point the conversation may digress to bathing suit season.
I’m not good at explaining the progress of my fast. That’s because I don’t know. Once friends find out I’m fasting, they ask “How’s it going?” and I’ve been wondering, what’s the best way to respond? I can easily take 10+ minutes to explain how it’s going, but are they just looking for “1/2 way there!” or “nothing yet!” Because I’m ashamed to say, I’ve said both those things, more than once, yesterday.
Here’s what I can tell you. God is speaking to me in powerful ways through my friends. They’re “iron friends” as my iron friend, Diane, calls them. That’s from Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” These iron friends keep me accountable by raising an eyebrow when I’m looking for a snack after 2 p.m. or checking in on how I’m doing when I don’t blog for a few days. They also make mention of the wonderful ways God is working in my life, ways I don’t always recognize. I am really feeling the love of God through them. Through prayers, phone calls, Facebook messages, tea dates or short notes, I’m hearing from them that I’m on the right track, even when I don’t have an answer.
Day 24 Update – Hosted our Small Group at our home tonight. It was a BBQ/potluck – double-whammy. I had every intention not to eat, but it goes against what I believe about being a hostess – enjoying a meal together is one of the best ways to deep fellowship. So it may just be me and Mallory who feel uncomfortable about the fast… Needless to say, Friday I’ll go supper-less and play a slightly sluggish game of ball.
Thanks, iron friends, for checking in!
“After fasting forty days and forty nights, [Jesus] was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)
You couldn’t accuse the Bible of overstating the facts.
I wonder, when Jesus fasted in the desert (and, like, really fasted – none of this after 2 p.m. stuff), what was Day 16 like? Was it silent? Was he doing all the talking?
I’ve heard some new, interesting testimonials of fasts gone wrong – or even fasts started for the wrong reasons. We do enjoy The Fast in this country. The kind that “melt away your middle” or “flush your flub.” We love to hope in the quick fix for our deeply ingrained, long-term problems. I read Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave last year about “Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food.” Some powerful stuff in there. If you have EVER: grabbed a snack because you were disappointed, sad, or mad; said “I’ll start my diet on Monday”; checked the scale two or more days in a row, this book is for you.
Although I’m not doing this for the physical outcome, I was reminded of this book when I started to feel goooood about this weight loss. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it started to push its way into my mind as a motivation, instead of my original desire to put God first.
It was good to pull out Made to Crave again and see what TerKeurst had to say. She refers to Ephesians 1:17-19 as motivation for pursuing healthy lifestyle changes:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19 emphasis added)
My take-aways from the emphasis added:
- “I keep asking” This isn’t a one-time genie in the bottle type of prayer, this is asking God daily to be at the centre of this. I keep asking not because He’s not listening, but because I need the reminder.
- “So that you may know him better” If there is any other motivation, it will be an empty one. If not to hear from our glorious Father and be in His will, then why?