You can love everyone, but you can’t love them all the same way! Jesus did relationships in a way that gave life to all the people around him without being burned out or exhausted. Organize your friendships like he did and you’ll be able to do the same!
Fasting: never been my favorite spiritual discipline. Simply put – fasting is refraining from eating food for a spiritual purpose: it’s not a physical diet (down with diet culture!). It’s something we are given the privilege of doing as a follower of Jesus in order to grow in intimacy with our Father and to see spiritual breakthrough. As someone who’s trying to not just read the Bible, but actually DO its words, I have to admit that Jesus assumed fasting would be a part of the DO-ing of our faith. For Jesus it was a “duh, of course” you will. In Matthew 6, Jesus laid out three practices that he assumed were occurring in the life of every one of his followers: He said “When you give..When you pray…When you fast.” WHEN you fast.
Truth is, I knew I didn’t practice these words with any kind of diligence and deep commitment. So when my mentor texted me on New Year’s Eve with an invitation to join into her annual New Year’s fast, I immediately felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to say yes. I sat there with champagne in one hand and a cookie in the other and agreed to start the next day with them. I thought I was going to hate it. Three weeks is a long time. But instead I began 2021 feeling very close to Jesus.
Also – I still don’t like to fast.
I did a variety of types: some days were only liquids. There were a handful of categories I gave up for the entire period (breads, sweets, alcohol – all for spiritual, symbolic purposes that mean something between me & God). Other days I’d fast certain meals to focus on certain prayers. I read a great book on fasting during these weeks to stay encouraged (find the Amazon link on my book reco page!) and we had a group text to share prayers and pick each other up on bad days. Each of us had chosen certain themes or focus areas for our entire 3 weeks of prayer. We often prayed for each other’s issues. (Bonus; fasting as a group builds deeper relationships).
I finished feeling sure that God would release blessing of all kinds into my life:
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Fasting is seeking the Lord over top the other things we crave for ourselves. It goes on the pile of evidence-that-God-really-does-come-first-in-your-life. Instead of starting the year praying only for what I wanted to happen in 2021 (which certainly isn’t bad!), I started the year actually seeking God first. It felt good. But here’s the thing I have to report back 6 months later;
I’m still waiting.
Almost none of the tangible things I prayed for has come to pass. Is 6 months a long time? Not with eternity in view, but there are days it feels long to me.
Fasting is not a way to manipulate God to give you what you want, but it does come with a promise of reward.
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
There’s a tension here, and there’s no way to resolve it. Jesus calls us to fast in obedience and then also says we will be rewarded. Fasting in scripture is CLEARLY part of significant breakthrough and direction. We can absolutely enter a fast with an expectant heart, but we cannot dictate the conditions, the timing, the manner or the methods of God’s breakthrough and blessing. We fast in trust. And then we wait. Even as I sit here not yet seeing the things I have asked of God…
I will obey.
I will believe there are and will continue to be all kinds of spiritual realities impacted by this fast in my life.
I will remind myself that faith always includes the tension of things I don’t yet see.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
I’ve put off writing this because – truth be told – I wanted to report back with an update that I’d seen all the things I have asked for! Truth is, I’ve seen some movements here and there in a few directions but no major breakthroughs. Truth is, some days I cry because things don’t seem to be going where I thought God was leading. Truth is, I have days I doubt the fast mattered. But I keep going back to something the book I was reading reminded me of:
God highly prizes – and never, ever forgets- true faithfulness.
Months – even years- after a fast, God will see me down on my knees in front of my pantry saying to Him “I want you more than I want food. As hungry as I am, I am hungrier for your hand on my life and your mercy, guidance and love. I want YOU more than any of this.” His memory doesn’t fade, and his concept of time is not like mine. God never forgets.
Fasting is definitely one of the things I’d put in the column of “easier read than done,” but I believe it is worth it. Our Lord is true to his Word. So while today I haven’t seen breakthrough, the reality is that I just haven’t seen it YET.
Today I went on a hike and had a sweet and incredible experience with my girls and the Lord. It was so fitting because I’ve been reading the book of James for the past week which kept reminding me that our faith must have clear evidences in our real lives…. or it isn’t real faith. That usually comes down to a risk of some sort. Like it did for me today.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
I went on a hike with my girls on some paths I’ve walked many times. I shared a story with them about how a couple years ago I was on the very same path and the woods looked very brown and bare – just like it looked right now. I explained how I’d heard God whisper to me “I’m still here in all my fullness. Just look.” I began to pluck tiny plants or flowers I saw in a few nice colors, and soon I began to wonder whether God could give me the whole rainbow of colors before I left the trail??
I hesitated to believe that the thought was from Him: the woods at first glance truly were brown and lifeless nearly everywhere I looked. But He was impressing on me to believe: to keep picking up each color in the faith that He could deliver all of them on my short walk. I wanted to believe that He was here – in all his fullness- even when it looked barren around me, but am I nuts? Really, God? Where in the world are orange and purple going to come from?
Well, in a short time I’d collected every color except blue. I couldn’t imagine how He’d deliver blue. Blue! But again I felt Him urging me to risk believing it was Him. To risk being disappointed if it wasn’t. To risk looking around expectantly as if He was really going to do it somehow. I actually said out loud “Ok. I believe you. You’re going to give them all to me. I’m going to find the blue somehow.” I came to the end of the trail a little bummed I still didn’t have blue. I stopped at the end of trail, ready to turn back to the car, and I glanced down.
There they were: a tiny cluster of blue belles at my feet! I burst out laughing and got tears in my eyes. He had delivered the whole rainbow! God was there; in all his fullness — even when it didn’t seem like it at first glance.
So today… I told my girls that story and (of course – duh!) they wanted to do the same. Should have seen that one coming. And again I felt my hesitation. I felt protective of my girls young faith. I wanted to protect them from any kind of disappointment in God. I began to think “well, I don’t want them to feel let down by God. What if it doesn’t happen? I don’t want to challenge God or anything. Maybe we shouldn’t.” But I went ahead sensing again this was a risk I should and could and needed to take on God. I know it doesn’t seem like a big risk, but it was. It was a lot for me to think He’d do it again. Why would I think He’d care about this? Why would he?! But I think in the end, He just wants us to risk the real belief…that He’s there, listening, cares…and He’ll use anything to enter that exchange with us.
So I agreed with them; “Ok let’s look!” And soon enough – you guessed it – we had everything except blue.
We got to the end of the same trail and turned back just as I had a couple years ago. We were disappointed. No blue in sight. And my daughter Zoe said to me “Mom we think it’s over, but I wonder if God thinks it is.” I told her that was a great thought to always hold onto about God: When we are done, He’s usually not.
We neared the parking lot. I was having a silent conversation with God telling him how much I wanted my girls to have easy, daily, childlike faith in little things like this. I wanted them to go on walks with Him the same way I liked to do. I wanted them to ask and think He was right there, listening. And truth be told, I was bummed too. I’d wanted him to show Him presence and voice and sweetness to me, too, in this beautiful little way.
No sooner had my doubts been (silently) voiced to God but my daughter, Hope, yelled “Guys! Look!” I turned around just as she opened her cupped hands to show us a beautiful BLUE butterfly!
Given the time of year, it must have been the only one in the entire woods. She reached up and caught it out of thin air.
Tears sprang to my eyes, and we all realized at once what had happened! God sent us our blue! He just did it in a way we didn’t expect. Different than last time. And just as incredible, just as beautiful.
When, oh when, will I stop being the one to the words of James this week were directed….
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
When we read words like this we are prone to underestimate our own doubts and unfaithfulness. We are prone to read “ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find” thinking that we do that all the time. But the truth is most of us don’t. We don’t risk the disappointment. We don’t risk the hope. We don’t risk the impact on our kids. We don’t risk actually putting our faith to work even on a Sunday walk in the woods.
I’m glad I decided to risk it. I’m glad God is so patient with me. Real faith sure is easier to read about than do.
Can Christians do yoga if its based on other spiritual ideas and practices? “Religion” will always tell you to make hard-and-fast rules about things like this, but read this article about how I have tried to live in a “relationship” with Jesus where I’m free to make decisions with Him instead.
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