Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Pathway to Strength

This blog deals mainly with matters of mental health, family life, and related matters. Awhile back I wrote about SAD, seasonal affective disorder. On a day like today when the clouds have closed in and rain and wind lash the streets it might be in order to discuss another pathway to strength; one which is ignored by the majority of Christians.

Take some deep breaths first and make youself promise to read all of this article, not turning off your brain when you see this word..... fasting.

I know the knee jerk responses. I've heard them all. People jump to state that Jesus never commanded us to fast. You're right. He assumed that we would fast ("...and when you fast..."). Others will say that when we fast we aren't supposed to let others know about it. No.... we aren't supposed to trumpet it about and brag about it like the Pharisees. Sometimes fasting is easier when others join you -- a fasting clug for mutual strength and service.

What is a fast and why does it help us? Fasting can be going without all food and just drinking water. It can also be going without food and drinking juices (lots of health benefits for that one). Fasting can also be giving up one particular food -- a favorite food -- for a season (many do this during Lent). When we read Isaiah 58 (go ahead. I'll wait. Back already?) we see that fasting can be the laying aside of self-centeredness and selfishness in order to bring grace, justice, and fairness into the world.

Fasting helps us in many ways. The first way is that it teaches us how to look at something we may have, that God created for us, and saying "no." The word "no" is such a powerful word. We want to tell others "no" but rarely tell ourselves as often as we should. We can fast from going to the mall, from buying online, from TV and the internet, from cursing, from driving too fast or too much... the list goes on forever. And the fast is a time that we give ourselves over to the Lord, to pray, to serve, and to reach out to others.

I fast daily. You see, I was an angry, bitter man who felt that I was called by God to enforce the purity of church doctrine at any cost -- up to an including splitting churches and tossing out the nonconformers. I shudder to think of how morally corrupt I was while at the same time I attacked others for this or that doctrine. When I finally realized what I was doing and how sinful it was (long story), I knew I needed a sign, a daily reminder that I was no longer a predator in God's flock. I stopped eating meat (yes, that includes chicken. I will eat seafood once or twice a month). Understand this: I love meat. I miss it everyday. There are times I go hungry because I'm on the road and there isn't much available that isn't meat-based. But that's good for me. It makes me remember my vow to God. It gives me time to think of those who truly experience hunger -- physical, emotional, or spiritual hunger. It reminds me that this world isn't about me.

There are other reasons to fast. Those who saw Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" saw a quick interview with an MD who talked about the addictive ingredients in some fast food. I know it is easy to pooh-pooh that idea, but it is true. In fact, most foods can become addictive if consumed in great enough quantities over a long period of time, but some fats are especially addictive. The doctor uses one example of using a drug usually reserved for treating treat heroin and morphine addicts treat their cravings on people who are craving chocolate or fast food... and seeing their cravings stop. Through the use of PET scans we can see the same centers of the brain lighting up in the addict and the fast foodie! Why feed the addiction?

Consider doing something like this: two days a month, go on a juice fast. One week a month, do without a favorite food or activity. One meal a month, take the money you would have spent on that meal (ingredients, cost of preparation, cleanup) and give it to the church or to a local charity or mission. Get out your planners and do it now. Then, fast as in Isaiah 58 -- chose a mission, charity, or matter of justice and get involved in it in the Name of the Lord. When the dark days come -- and they DO come -- make yourself get up and serve anyway, pray anyway, fast anyway for it is not about you -- it is "unto the Lord", it is your sacrifice on His altar.

And you will gain strength as He pulls alongside of you and blesses your covenant. Warning: fasting can be very unpleasant at first. Stay with it and you will see a wonderful, wonderful power grow in you. Be strong.


At 10/17/2006 04:22:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Every time you post on this subject I am sure you are talking directly to me. At any rate God is using your words to reach me.

I can't say when or what or how...but I will be fasting. I will update you.

At 10/17/2006 05:09:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently fasting from the news media, Specifically news radio. I am now a reformed radio junkie. I cut out all of the evening news years ago after my son was born, I could not sleep after watching those. Now the news I get is whatever comes up on the first page of foxnews.com. Occasionally I will read the entire article but normally I just scan through the headlines and I am done.

I have been on a Coke fast for about 4 months. I feel so much better, I don't get headaches nearly as often. If you knew me you would know this was a very hard thing for me to give up. But of course with the Lords help I can pick a few more things to let go of. By the way, when I have had a few sips of Coke I found I don't even like it anymore.

At 10/17/2006 06:36:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I find it interesting that there are not comments here, as yet, Patrick.

I really cannot fast as with a "traditionally" thought of fast due to being diabetic for so long, some 36 1/2 year now. But I do understand fasting in the context of "doing without" and disciplined eating and thinking about eating.

I had not thought about some of the ways you speak of in talking about fasting and want to make it a point to do better about some of the other things. Some of them I think I've already done, but not necessarily as a "Christian" or "Christ ordained" maybe fast.

You are basically saying that we should - must perhaps, would you say - be disciplined in living our lives here on earth. I agree with that and your post inspires me to be more that way. Like I say, I have done some of those things you mention, alrady, some out of necessity and others out of purpose.

I hereby purpose to do better in my "pathway to strength." I agree with you that these things are needed and of utmost importance.

Thanks for the post, Patrick. You say a lot of things here in this one I've never heard before. Thanks!


At 10/17/2006 06:52:00 PM , Blogger Diane said...

It is a very powerful and life changing activity - thanks for bringing it to light.

When I fast, I use the "meal times" to read the Bible & when I feel those hunger pangs or headache pains, I use them as a reminder to pray.

It is amazing how focused we are on food & self - fasting is a great way to break that addiction. The only bad thing about fasting -- bad breath! Keep those tic tacs close by!

Thank you Patrick for your always insightful (& hilarious) posts!

At 10/18/2006 11:27:00 AM , Anonymous Danny Gill said...

We ignore fasting to our peril. I will on occasion choose a day to fast from food and concentrate my prayers on one person or one thing. Sometimes some of my brothers join with me.

Even if we fast only through one meal, if we are fasting toward God, and devoting that time and energy to prayer, it is powerful and effective.

On Quest and HeartQuest we spend one day in fasting, silence, and solitude. I don't know of anyone who has not heard from God on that day.

At 10/18/2006 02:41:00 PM , Blogger jamie riley said...

Thanks for the challenging and encouraging post Patrick. As so many others have said before, (myself included) God has blessed you with a gift of sharing his message so simply and with humor, that it quickly goes from my head to my heart.
You have said so many great things about fasting and the blessings of fasting - thank you - I need reminded often.

There are a couple of thoughts I would like to share, not in addition to your post--you've done quite well on your own. But I really enjoy reading your blog posts, and after reading this I was reminded of a couple of points from the times I've studied fasting.
Fasting gets me and my cravings out of the way, so I can concentrate on God, and hopefully allow Him to become my only craving.
Fasting comes with a promise..."and God, who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
That's awesome! Thanks for the post!

P.S. It was great to visit with you at Round Lake, those opportunities do come around often enough.

You're in my prayers,

At 10/18/2006 10:20:00 PM , Anonymous neal w. said...

Thanks for being an example of what it means to fast everyday...I think that's beautiful.

At 10/20/2006 04:41:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your blog.

Fasting is powerful! Lord, less us revisit this spiritual practise.


At 10/20/2006 10:48:00 AM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

My wife Angi and I fasted when praying for each of our two adopted children. Our prayers were answered.

We fasted when my dad died and was "revived" to live on total life support for the next couple of weeks, never regaining consciousness. Our prayers were answered, but it wasn't, "Yes, I will perform the miracle for you." The answer was, "I will sustain him until you and your sisters and your mom can adjust to the idea that he has gone home with Me and that someday you will, too."

Fasting is a blessing - a dangerous blessing - because in telling God what you really want, He often responds so powerfully by giving you what you really need.

At 10/20/2006 03:46:00 PM , Anonymous John Telgren said...

This is a Spiritual Discipline that has fallen by the wayside. I find it interesting that when Jesus begins the section of the sermon dealing with fasting, he uses the exact same words as when he dealth with prayer and alms giving, "And when you pray..." and "And when you fast..." Like prayer, it is assumed that this is a discipline that we will engage in. So much for the objections. For myself, my "fast" is more meaningful when I get away from the noise and distractions of life that pull me in multiple directions. Fasting and solitude seem to go hand in hand.

At 10/20/2006 10:54:00 PM , Anonymous TinaMarie said...

Wow! I don't know how you do it. Especially with the distance between us. Yea, I do know how you do it. GOD! I have slowly been arriving at the awareness that it is not my job to worry or be concerned about all that is wrong in the body. It is God's job and He knows all much more better than I do. I even prayed, asking God to show me a way to help me remember the lessons I've been learning so that I can try to avoid this valley again. I even tried to get to the computer the other day to read the blog but hadn't arrived to where I am today. God is so actively working and it is Amazing and Powerful. Thank you God for using Patrick and giving him the talent you have given him to say what you want me to learn in such a loving and encouraging way.


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