Fasting: [Always] Coming Soon

Now that we are three weeks into the Advent fast, it’s about time we ask ourselves: Am I fasting the way I’m actually supposed to?

Let’s have a look at what true fasting is supposed to look like, shall we?

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
– Isaiah 58:6-7

This here is true fasting. It isn’t about reading every ingredient on every box or bottle. It isn’t about nitpicking or these minute details. True fasting is about giving what you have – your food, your money, your time, your prayer – to the suffering. It’s about neglecting your flesh, neglecting your own body and own earthly desires, and instead focusing on the heavenly and on the will of the Heavenly. And what is this will? It’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and it’s loving His children with that same love.

And believe it or not, by putting others and putting God before myself I gain so much! As we continue to the chapter, we find 10 promises that the Lord grants us when we fast the true, godly fast:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,

The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– vv. 6-14

Let’s break it down:

  1. You will be able “To loose the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the heavy burdens,
    To let the oppressed go free,
    And that you break every yoke” (v. 6)
  2. “Your light shall break forth like the morning” (v. 8)
  3. “Your healing shall spring forth speedily” (v. 8)
  4. “Your righteousness shall go before you” (v. 8)
  5. “The glory of God shall be your rear guard” (V. 8)
  6.  …you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (v. 9)
  7.  The Lord will guide you continually,
    And satisfy your soul in drought,
    And strengthen your bones;
    You shall be like a watered garden,
    And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (v. 11)
  8. “…you
    Shall build the old waste places;
    You shall raise up the foundations of many generations” (v. 12)
  9. “…you shall delight yourself in the Lord” (v. 14)
  10. And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
    And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (v. 14)

Therefore let us examine the rest of our fast, and see to it that we fast the way God intended so that we may receive the blessings of these promises.

And in honor of the fast, here is my all-time favorite Fasting Trailer, courtesy of St. Mary’s Church in Toronto:

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What Is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me

And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”…And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
(Judges 16:16-17, 20)

samson

There’s something I never understood about Samson: Delilah was so obviously against him! Every time he told her he might “lose his strength” she tried it! What kind of woman tries to weaken the man she loves?! What part of this situation could Samson justify? Bro! She’s trying to take your strength! Are you crazy? How could he not see that Delilah was conning him? It’s frustrating. It’s like watching a horror movie, and the girl decides to go out into the woods to figure out what the rustling noise is, and you’re yelling at her, “Stop! He’s going to kill you! Don’t go in the woods, and just call the cops already!” Samson is that stupid girl. For whatever reason he kept Delilah around despite her suspicious behavior. And she kept nagging him! Every day she “pestered him” until he was “vexed to death”! Why are you keeping her around, man?!

So frustrating, right?

And yet, sometimes I’m Samson. Sometimes I’m the stupid girl running into the woods. Going back earlier in the chapter it says, “Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (v. 4). How many times have I compromised my standards or my beliefs in the name of “love”? Emotions make things messy. Nothing is simple when emotions are involved. Sometimes I know that a relationship isn’t right or is harming me rather than edifying me as a good relationship should. But what do I do? I hold on to it because of “love”.

They say love is blind, but it really shouldn’t be.

If God is love, then love is light as He is light, and if I am being blinded by what I think is love, it really isn’t love. 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” So if there is no darkness in God, then there is no darkness in love. Love should shine bright in a relationship, keeping us accountable, so that we see our true selves and continually examine ourselves.

I need to stop being Samson because once I blind myself I begin to compromise who I am, and once that happens I will find myself far away from God before I even realize what happened. Just like Samson.

So it’s time now to look for the true, real love, the love that is pure and full of light.

There Is A Crack In The Door Filled With Light

IMG_8577
“The biggest and most disastrous moments  in a person’s life can be the most defining of a person’s character , and a person’s heart.” – David Willard

This month I’m hanging out in Joplin, Missouri for one of my rotations. My new roommates took me to this park across the street that is a memorial for the volunteers and those who were affected by the tornado in 2011. The entire park was beautiful and there were many great quotes and aspects, but one in particular caught my attention. That quote is the one above.

What happened in Joplin was devastating. 161 lives were lost. Homes, businesses, safe havens were all destroyed. Everyone in town lost something. Everyone in town was affected. And out of the devastation, they overcame. Out of the ashes, they rose.
The park is Joplin’s beauty.
The park is Joplin’s strength.

This park–this quote–helped to put things in perspective.

When tragedy hits, when disaster strikes, how do I react? Am I down and out or will I get up and find my strength?
How I react to the disasters in my life will define my character and my heart. It’s not easy to get back up when a storm knocks you down, physically or metaphorically, but if you can do it, you will come out that much stronger.

I’m in the process of getting myself back up. There are days I don’t want to get up in the morning. There are nights anger and sadness overwhelm me. And on my own I will never get up.
That’s where the beauty of grace comes in: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor 12:9).
When I place my trust in God, when I rely fully on Him, He will take my weakness, my inability to get back up, and He will lift me to heights I’ve never reached.

What you are going through is very real.
But you are not alone.
And this too shall pass.

I will leave you with a song that has comforted me the last couple weeks:

Muscle Man

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How encouraging! How incredibly relieving it is to hear this message! Because I am weak. I screw up. I’m human. How often that gets me down. How often I think to myself that God can’t use me, God can’t work through me, because I’m too much of a mess up, I’m too much of a weakling.

But God says, “No! Your weakness isn’t going to hold Me back. My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” He doesn’t say, “Meh. I guess I could do something with the mess that’s going on here.” His strength is made perfect through weakness. So then St. Paul has the totally right idea–he’s like great! Bring on the infirmities! Bring on the persecutions and the struggles! Because he knows that that’s how God is going to work.

When did God ever use the big guy? He always picks the underdog!

Look at Moses–God refused to use him while he was son of pharaoh. Once Moses fled Egypt and became a shepherd, God said, “okay, time to use you!”

Look at Joseph–he was the baby of the family, he was cast away by his own brothers. He became a slave and prisoner, and God used him to save Egypt and Israel from the famine!

Look at the three saintly youth–they looked like they might just be the weakest ones there. I mean, VEGGIES? Who are they kidding, right? But God made them stronger than any of the other young men.

Look at Esther–a young orphaned Jewish girl who became chosen by the king and who saved the Israelites from being wiped out!

Look at Ruth–a widowed Gentile who took on God as her god and followed Naomi, another widow, without a clue of what was in store, a girl who became a part of the lineage of Christ!

Look at Peter–the man with his foot chronically in his mouth, the man who fought by the sword, the man who denied Christ three times. But who did Christ specifically visit so that he may tend His flock? Peter! And who converted three thousand souls to Christ with just one sermon? Peter!

The list can go on and on! So St. Paul says, “Yeah! I’m weak! But I don’t want my own strength; I want God’s. I’ve seen what it can do, and I won’t settle for human strength.”

So I too will say, bring on the earthly weakness! Bring on the persecutions and infirmities and reproaches if it means I’ll have the strength of God! Will you join me?

Conversational

A slightly edited version of my journal post while in Nairobi, Kenya.
(For simplicity’s sake, bolded words are the responses I received from God)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. – Psalm 46:1-3

Papa, You are supposed to be my refuge and my strength, my help when I am in trouble. Well, I am. I don’t understand what’s going on inside of me, but I need a refuge. I need a safe place. I need to be steadfast no matter what disaster comes my way. There isn’t even a disaster right now, and yet I’m freaking out inside. I don’t know if it’s sleep deprivation, or thinking about leaving this place, or all my uncertainty, but I feel shaken. I need a rock to hold onto. I need a refuge so I can lay my head down in peace.

Papa, I need You to hold me right now like You did six years ago. I need You to calm the storm inside of me, stop the internal tears that are flooding my heart.

Be still, and know that I am God (v. 10)

I don’t know how. I can’t be still. I want to do, and go, and get things going. I want to stay here. I want to be done. I want to know what will happen, where I will be, so I can just be done waiting and wondering and not knowing. I just want to know.

Know that I am God

Then help me. Help me to know this and only this. That is the only way I will be satisfied, the only way I will obtain the peace I so desperately need. I need You to help me, guide me, because I’m so easily distracted. I am a dumb, dumb sheep, and unless You make sure I’m walking the right road, I will get myself lost and, I’m sure, seriously hurt yet again.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge (v. 11)
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn 
(v. 5)

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I know this is a slightly different kind of post that I normally write, but this quiet time was so important to me, and I felt the need to share. God answers. Whether it’s in the next verse or a year later, God answers. Not only did He answer me in the other verses of the psalms, but He answered me because for the first time in months I was able to have a real, honest, full conversation with Him. He made sure that I knew that He is here with me, beside me, inside me.

I pray that we run straight to the arms of our heavenly Father at the first sign of trouble. I pray that He fills you and guides you, dear friend. I pray that we stand firm in the faith and the hope of our salvation.