Tag Archives: Fasting

What I learned in week four

28 Jan

I’m tired. I don’t look terribly well. But much more than that, I’m hungry.

As I write this, I’m 23 and a half hours into a one-day fast, during which the plan was to allow nothing apart from tap water to pass my lips. About two hours in, I realised that my life and work are almost entirely propped up by my regular morning caffeine hit, and so I had to change the rules to prevent myself from slipping into a coma. But coffee apart, I’ve done it. The end is in sight.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, this morning started to feel more and more like a cosmic joke. When I arrived at my London train terminal, I was greeted by the astonishing sight of a band of people handing out free doughnuts (trust me: that’s never happened before). When I arrived at work, I was quickly met by the sight of the most delicious looking cake I’ve ever seen, baked for a colleague’s birthday. And when another colleague broke open a huge box of chocolates, I felt certain that someone, somewhere was having a laugh at my expense.

I’d chosen to fast as this week’s God52 challenge; and having heard so many other people’s stories of struggle and endeavour with the task, I knew that this wasn’t going to be one that I could ‘accidentally’ fail by default. I had a deeper motivation than that too; there’s a specific area of my life in which I long for breakthrough: a person dear to me who I desperately want to see experience the love and relationship offered by God. So today, instead of eating, I prayed for that person.

This wasn’t anything like as easy as I’d imagined. You would think, from reading Richard Foster, that fasting enables and eases focused prayer. As a novice, I can only report that the opposite seemed true. My rumbling stomach became a distraction from midday onwards. My prayers were much briefer; much more desperate than I’d hoped. Yet my mind did build a quick and meaningful connection between my physical hunger, and my urgency for God to move. I felt the pain of that situation much more keenly; felt more compelled to cry out more loudly about it.

At the same time, my mind drifted a little. I found myself thanking God that this hunger I felt would only be temporary (I cannot tell you, dear reader, how appetising the as-yet-untoasted bagel on my kitchen sideboard looks right now). For millions upon millions around the world, agonising hunger is a daily fact of life. That trite sentiment feels a little less heard-it-all-before when the pit of your stomach is crying out to be fed. Today, I felt just a little more compassion, because in some small way, I forced myself to ‘suffer with’ those who go without every day. I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to be able to call a halt to this hunger (and of course, that was within my power all along).

There’s been something else, something almost unquantifiable, about today though. At little moments – unexpected ones – I have felt closer to the presence of God than I can remember. He has been on the tip of my tongue all day; I have wanted to talk to him, and about him, far more than would usually be the case. The absence of the physical food that I take for granted has created a sort of vacuum into which He has moved. I don’t pretend to understand that; I don’t really understand the mystery of fasting when it’s described in the Bible. But I did experience it. And guess what? I’m hungry for more of that, in spite of the painful cost.

I’m tired. So very tired. Someone told me tonight that I look a little pale. And above all, I’m hungry. While in a moment, I intend to break my fast, I hope in one sense at least, that hunger remains.

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Fasting: I failed! by Matt Stewart

28 Jan

A final guest post on this week’s fasting challenge, sneaking in just at the end of another tricky God52 week. And in a burst of honesty, Matt Stewart wants to admit… he just couldn’t do it.

matt stewartSo in short I failed. Yep, failed… I attempted to fast and the temptation of eating got too much. I now feel weak and, well, a bit rubbish, even if my stomach feels satisfied! Ashamed, useless… you name it – I prayed and tried really hard, and I desperately wanted more of the spirit!

But let’s look this properly. What does this really make me? I would hate it if someone said this made me “less of a Christian”, especially as I’m meant to be an example for young people!! I really did get down about this but then I thought, who am I to judge that?, surely it can only be God!

So I prayed, basically just saying sorry. Then I got reminded of the way He works! Wow! He still loves me, just like He loves everyone else! What I feel He was telling me is that it was good that I attempted it – just like the other things this journey on God52 have been already.

I attempted the fasting to get closer to God and you know what, I have got closer to Him! Doing this reminded me that Jesus was telling us to live our lives by this standard, by fasting, but he was saying it to imperfect people like you & me!

Jesus told us to do these things to get closer to God, but its not always the success that gets you there. I have Cerebral Palsy; it makes me who I am. I have to try that bit harder sometimes to get where I want to go and on many occasions I have failed the first step but that’s given me a far better understanding of the second… (sometimes I mean that very literally!!)

One of my favourite phrases is “it’s not always about the destination but the journey you go on to get there” which for me sums up this whole experience of joining with you guys on God52. Im really looking forward to seeing what I learn about myself and God throughout the next 48 weeks!

Matt Stewart is a 20 year old youth worker at Cornerstone URC in Hythe, just outside Southampton. He’s currently also at Moorlands College studying for a youth work degree and blogs at http://mattstew92.blogspot.co.uk Follow him on Twitter @CHURC_SYW 

Whisky with a good friend, by Thomas Creedy

26 Jan

Another great post on this week’s challenge subject of fasting, from writer and single malt whisky aficionado Thomas Creedy.

thomascreedyI don’t really like fasting. It’s irritating, impacts on my life, and means I can’t enjoy some of the things I like all of the time.

really like food. Good food, bad food, free food, all the food. Its not, I don’t think, an idol, but I really like eating it. And drinking things. Especially really nice whisky, which I can’t really afford. But when I have some, when I’m given some; when I can scrape together the pennies for another malt, its great. And sometimes I have to fast the things I like, for the sake of my relationship with Jesus.

For me, though, recently, it was the opposite of fasting that really demonstrated my need to re-engage with it, and think again about my attitude to food, drink, and Jesus.

On New Years Eve, a friend (who was coming with his family to celebrate with mine) texted me asking my favourite whisky. I duly responded, and he brought a bottle to the party. I sipped it with him, watching some comedy at about 4am, and really enjoyed sharing his whisky.

The following day he got on a train, having said good bye. He left the whisky behind. I was confused! But I texted him, thinking (given that we only live an hour away from each other) that we could easily sort this out.

His response was pure grace.

Its yours, enjoy it.

Wow.

So, actually, as I write it, I’m sipping a wee drop of it, and reflecting on the kindness of my friend.

A kindness that echoes the kindness of God, a kindness both he and I are enjoying.

A kindness that will echo through eternity.

And so, as a response, sort of and carefully, I want to learn to fast again. Of the whisky I now have through someone else’s kindness. For the sake of reconnecting with the kindness of our King. It won’t be easy, it might be frustrating, it will be awkward sometimes. But I think its worth it. Its a tiny part of my response to his kindness.

And next year, I’m getting him a bottle. Not Jesus; my friend. And hopefully we can share it as we share stories of what God has done in 2013.

Thomas Creedy is doing a discipleship year at Trent Vineyard. He blogs at http://admiralcreedy.blogspot.com, and you can follow him on twitter @thomascreedy

Nigel Freeman: Is it foolish NOT to fast?

25 Jan

In today’s guest blog on fasting, writer and IT professional Nigel Freeman takes a light-hearted look at a serious question – is fasting too important to ignore?

NigelFreemanThree things fasting always seems to be associated with: grumpiness, halitosis – & hunger!

But is this really right?! Jesus didn’t say much about fasting but when he did, in Matthew 9, it wasn’t in a context of unpleasant discipline. Bizarrely, he presented it as a proof of love, of the believer’s longing for their beloved’s presence, of a heart-felt loss being given physical expression. What if it’s meant to be bound up with intimacy and affection?

Maybe this is getting a bit too much like an early Valentine’s Day blog on romance! But, like romance, fasting can often be awkward & confusing – like should I tell someone that I’m fasting if they offer me lunch? Or will letting on invalidate my ‘reward’? Does fasting count if I drink coffee as well as water? And what if it’s only black coffee? – but then what if I have it with sugar?!

It’s almost comical how such small questions can occupy our minds – especially when we are actually fasting! Perhaps this is part of the reason we can stay away from it – like love, it’s something too exotic, too unknown. But Jesus spoke of it as one of the three natural practices we would all follow as disciples, along with giving of money & prayer.

Perhaps, if I am honest, Jesus gently confronts me in this with a brutal truth & a wonderful vision.

The vision first – that I can be so in love with him that I will brave the social awkwardness & inner confusion of fasting from food because my love for him overrides them all, that I will rather live in this difficult place with more of him manifestly present in my life than in an easier spot without him. Awesome!

So what of the brutal truth – when I don’t fast it is because I don’t really mourn for more of Jesus in my life – I am sufficiently content with physical things, so satisfied with what is seen, that I feel no need to deny myself the physical in order to win him in the spirit & in the heart – or at least, not enough of a need to brave the challenges a few hours without food would present.

I wouldn’t dare not to give money. I wouldn’t dare not to pray. Is it foolish to dare not to fast?

Nigel Freeman works three jobs, for an IT start-up, some urban charity prayer rooms & an exciting publishing venture for new writers: www.instantapostle.com 

He has never been snowboarding but, finding faith in Jesus to be full of fun-filled intensity, he hopes to find God challenging him on the slopes of the Alps someday soon!

Getting honest about fasting, by Lindsay Bruce

24 Jan

In our second guest blog on fasting, writer Lindsay Bruce confesses that fasting is hard, but worth it.

lindsayI’d love to be one of those people. You know, the kind who just ooze God.

When I’m praying that my husband will read my mind and make me a cup of tea, I imagine them to be up with fervour seeking the Lord on behalf of the nations.

When I am ‘meditating’ on all the things I have yet to buy, cook or eat before the day is out, they are simply waiting and listening for that still small voice.

When they are hungry for more of the Holy Spirit, I am just hungry.

You’re probably starting to see a pattern developing.

Now forgive me for being ever so slightly self-deprecating. In reality, I love Jesus with my whole heart and have spent the last two decades serving Him in whatever way I can. But if I’m being completely honest, my relationship with food often comes a close second.

And so when the subject of fasting arises I have to wrestle with a few thought processes.

Why am I doing it?

Is it to somehow twist God’s arm up his back by showing him I love Him more than even the food I yearn?

Is it, in alignment with scripture, to see a resolution to a problem which may be so deep-rooted in spiritual issues that it can only be resolved by prayer and fasting?(Matt 17)

Is it because I know my jeans will fit me better after I’m done? (Sorry – again, forgive me. But I know I’m not the only one who has ever had incorrect motives!)

Or is it something else?

On the first Sunday of the year my church fasted. I stood up as their pastor and simply explained, and this is my other passion – true discipleship , that there is a cost to following Jesus. There’s a denial of self (Luke 9:23) required to give your all to the one who gave himself in his entirety for you.

So on that day there was no food. And far from the lack of it dominating my every thought, it was in fact Christ who permeated my mind. As the flesh started rumbling I was at peace, all be it weak and shaky, with the fact that if I could hand over my ‘self’ and it’s cravings for food – I could, as it says in Romans 12 (Msg) handover my ‘everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.’

I can’t lie though. Breaking the fast with a bacon roll was sweet joy indeed.

Former tabloid journalist Lindsay Bruce is passionate about telling stories. A committed Christian and pastor, she is a passionate communicator of the gospel with a heart and voice for social justice issues. She now works for A Way Out. Find out more at:  www.awayout.co.uk

The pangs that draw us closer, by Claire Musters

23 Jan

This is the first guest blog inspired by this week’s God52 challenge – to fast for a day. If you’d like to write a guest blog on this subject, please read the guidelines here, then email me.

clairemustersI am fasting as I write this. Feeling slightly light-headed and sick, I’m ignoring the fact that my husband and son are about to tuck into their wholesome lunch (although I’m very thankful they chose noodles today as I don’t like them – the waft that is coming up the stairs is adding to my feeling of sickness).

I have been praying during my fast, which is, of course, the point of it, but I wanted to write this while I am still going without food, at one of the trickiest parts of the day, so that I can capture what it is really like. There is such an intensity to it – the mind begins to feel dense and heavy and longs to wander, but the growling and pangs in the stomach really do focus you in a way nothing else does. Praying through the pain is quite an experience – not an easy one but one that does indeed draw us closer to God in quite a unique way.

Today I am standing with a friend who is going through a particularly hard time. I’ve taken to fasting regularly – about once a week – for her, as I find that praying and fasting is the best way to help. Some of the horrific things she has been through in the past petrify me, and so I feel totally out of my depth. So I fast and pray to bring my petitions for her to God – in order to be strengthened and to ask for wisdom for myself so that God can minister to her through me. But I also have periods where there are unplanned fasts – like today, which was a specific milestone in her trying to work through something. Two of us felt at the same time that we needed to fast in order to support her as she undertook a particular therapy exercise at home. And it is so encouraging to hear direct answers to our prayers; while I’ve been writing this she’s texted to say that, while it was hard, she got through it.

Fasting is something that I’ve done periodically on and off over the years. Sometimes I feel that whether I’m engaging with it or not directly correlates to how much effort I am putting into my spiritual walk as a whole (although obviously there are no such ‘rules’). It is very much a part of my life at the moment, but that may well be because I am recognising my dire need for God’s intervention! Not only have our leadership positions in the church grown immensely (my husband is about to become lead pastor), but our church is in the process of trying to buy a building and when we come up against particular obstacles with that we do ask the whole church to join us in prayer and fasting.

If you’ve never fasted, I’d implore you to take up the God52 challenge and do it. I can testify to the fact that it certainly isn’t easy – but that it does focus and empower you in a way that nothing else does. I think that’s why Jesus talked about “when you fast” rather than “if” – and why Acts is full of examples of the disciples praying and fasting when they had major decisions to make (see Acts 13:2 and Acts 14:23 for two). I truly believe it is supposed to be part of the natural pattern of our lives as Christians and often holds the key to unlocking difficult situations.

Claire Musters is a freelance writer and editor, mum of two gorgeous young children, a pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Visit her website, www.clairemusters.com or follow her on twitter @CMusters.

God 52 – Week Four (22/1/13)

22 Jan

cheeseburgerWe’re four weeks in to God52, and in true Anglican style, we’ll begin with the confession. If you’ve failed one or all of the previous three challenges, be absolved. If you’ve joined us late and dislike the messiness of not doing the whole journey, do not worry. For the rest of 2013, a (now quite large) community of people are journeying together, trying our best to get a bit closer to God through these weekly spiritual formation challenges. It really doesn’t matter if you miss a week, or mess one up. It’s not the scouts: we’re not collecting badges here. Enjoy the journey, and do as much as you can.

Right, with that disclaimer out of the way, we’ll move on to the fourth challenge. This week, we’re exploring the ancient Spiritual Discipline of fasting – in the traditional sense meaning abstaining from food in order to focus body and mind on God. In the Bible we see various examples of this, including the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13, and of course, Jesus’ superhuman 40-day fast in the wilderness. In both of these cases there’s an interesting post-script. In Acts 13 we read:

‘The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.’

And in Luke 4, after Jesus has fasted:

‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.’

The experience of the church over 2,000 years tells us that fasting is powerful – even just as an aide to concerted prayer; a grumbling belly does rather focus the mind. But as these passages both suggest, there is also a supernatural element to fasting; in both cases the power of the Holy Spirit was somehow unleashed by that action. And I don’t know about you, but I want some of that. So here’s challenge number four:

4: Fast for a day.

Yep, short and immediately painful sounding. This is going to hurt. The challenge is to spend one day in the next seven living on water alone. Now, if there are medical or health reasons why you can’t participate in this, please again be absolved of any guilt – that’s the last thing we want. If that’s you, please just commit to praying for the rest of us as we struggle with embarrassing gurgling body noises.

But if you can, find a day when no food will pass your lips (and no cheating with meals-in-a-milkshake, it’s water only!). While you’re fasting, and remembering that Biblical dynamic, use the time that you would have spent eating, praying for something or someone. Don’t just choose something small. Pray for breakthrough; pray for that thing you’ve been hoping about for years; that your spouse will come to faith; that your estranged relative will contact you – that kind of thing.

I’ll be honest: I’m not looking forward to this one at all. But I’m hungry to know God better, and to see him move in power in my life and in the lives of those I care about. So I’m going to give this a go. Join me?

If you’d like to write a guest blog on this week’s subject of fasting, please read the guidelines here, then drop me an email. Thanks.