What God delivered in my Daniel Fast

I began the Daniel Fast on January 8th for two reasons: to know what God wanted to accomplish through me, and to ask Him to spread His wide hand of healing through a family that has been on my heart.

At the end of last week, I was feeling antsy, disappointed, and unsettled.  I was not feeling the same deep personal connection with God during this fast as I did last year, I wasn’t really hearing anything from Him about what He wanted to accomplish through me, and I confess I had growing doubts that healing was happening or would happen for the family I was praying for during my fast.  I have to acknowledge that God had certainly done alot with personal relationships in my life the past few weeks, but that’s not what I was going for.  Did you ever just feel like saying to God “Nice, but that wasn’t the question!”?

Saturday morning I got so worked up about a voice mail message from Pat at Verizon Wireless.  I had submitted an online contact form 2 days earlier explaining that I had not received an electronic copy of my Verizon statement for the last two months, and asked that someone look into it and reinstate it.  Well Pat left a message saying that she was following up on the email contact form I submitted, however she could not assist me because I did not provide the account password in my email.  Seriously? If they wanted the password, they should have asked for it – even required it, on the submit form, right?

I was already annoyed, but Pat had left the 800 customer service telephone number as well as her direct line for me, so I decided to call her right back and get the issue taken care of.  I dialed her number and it immediately went to voice mail, and it didn’t even give the courtesy “I’m assisting another customer …” message – it sounded like she wasn’t even planning on answering at that number.  Well, I just flipped out.  Seriously, that triggered something in me, that just set me off in an uncontrollable rant.  And in my mind I heard a voice saying Don’t do it, but I couldn’t stop myself from leaving an angry voice mail message.  I tried to soften the blow of my wrath by starting, “I’m sure it’s not your fault” … but even that was lost in what followed, “if a password is needed to assist me, the contact submit form should have stated that, and by the way, I didn’t get the response within the 24 hrs.  promised, so I’m a little frustrated that I’ve waited two days, and I wasn’t expecting to get your voice mail when I called right back, I didn’t change anything on my account to stop the electronic bill from coming, so now I’m at the same place as I was before I contacted you online.”

I ended the call, steam coming out of my ears by then I’m sure, and an email notification popped up on my phone – guess who?  That’s right – Pat from Verizon sent me a confirming email that she had attempted to reach me but could not assist me with my account because I did not provide the password, so she suggested I resubmit the contact form.  I was livid, so angry at being dismissed without the issue being resolved – I had to calm down.  There is nothing worse than being all jacked up about something and knowing at the same time that you are being totally irrational.

How do I spell relief? FOOD! I went to the kitchen to stuff down the rage and self-comfort with something to eat, but big problem – I’m on the Daniel Fast so there is absolutely no chocolate in the house!  Like a prowling cat, I opened cabinets, the frig, scanned the countertops – nothing sweet, nothing naughty, only fruits, vegetables, boring whole grains & nuts, …. I was beside myself!  I mean you have to get the irony of this moment – I am fasting to hear from God about what He wants to accomplish through me.  I have pledged obedience, I have said “I will make disciples of all the nations, I will go to the ends of the earth for You” … and then “but please don’t make me deal with the incompetence of Verizon Wireless!”

I plopped in my green chair and wrote in my journal LORD, SHOW ME, WHY AM I SO UPSET?  With everything (food) stripped away, sitting alone with my anger before God, I BECAME that wounded 10 year old girl, the middle of 5 kids when my mom died, who lost any consistent connection with an adult in my life, and I felt small, overlooked, unseen, insignificant.  And then I BECAME the wounded 40-year old woman and wife who felt like my opinion didn’t count, like I didn’t matter, when my husband took a job in Boston against my will, and I isolated and became disconnected from friends because I was ashamed that I didn’t want to follow my husband to Boston.  God brought me then to just a month ago when I BECAME that 58-year old Community Group leader feeling unimportant, not valued, and abandoned by members who attended small group regularly last year but hadn’t made it a priority this year.

So with Pat from Verizon Wireless, I responded and did what I did with every other relationship over the years when people weren’t available to me as I wanted them to be – I got mad, and I decided “If you don’t need me, I will not need you either.  I will find someone else who will value me.” And I shut them out, made them wrong for letting me down, for making their attention inaccessible to me.

I don’t know what God wants to accomplish through me on a grand scale or in the days ahead, but I do know this for today:  God often wants to do something IN us before He will do something THROUGH us or even FOR us.

Maybe you’ve been fasting and feeling discouraged, too, if you haven’t heard from God.  Or maybe you feel like your prayers are not being answered, or even heard.  I can assure you, dear one, that with His tender heart and craving for you to draw close, He is listening, He is longing to heal you, to grow you into all He designed you to be.

Is there something God wants to do IN you before He can do something THROUGH you or FOR you?

We must remember that the enemy hates our prayers and fasting, and wants nothing more than to distract us from our growing relationship with God by planting doubt and lies where we are most vulnerable.  The chorus from Demi Lovato’s hit “Skyscraper” runs through my mind in response, and reminds me that our victory is in Christ – that is the truth for which there is no doubt.

You can take everything I have, you can break everything I am, like I’m made of glass, like I”m made of paper.  Go on and try to tear me down, I will be rising from the ground, like a skyscraper, like a skyscraper!

What can you eat on the Daniel Fast?

What is it about the human mind that always goes to that negative place,  to what we can’t have?  Whenever I tell someone about the Daniel Fast,  I always lead with the restriction “no meat, no dairy, no sweeteners, no processed foods, no solid fats, no beverages except water”.  Sure, I am quick to follow with what foods are included: all fruits and vegetables, all whole grains, all nuts & seeds, all legumes, all quality oils.  But the best most can conjure up from merging these two pieces – what’s in, what’s out –  is a picture of consuming large quantities of raw vegetables, bananas, apples & the staple of all restrictive eating plans – the salad.

The question I’m asked more than any other is:  So what CAN you eat on the fast?  Let me give you a few ideas,  and share some recipes that go a long way to get you through a fast week.

Staples that I keep in the house: olive oil, vegetable broth, variety of nuts, apples

Favorite snacks: Sage Valley Lite Organic Popcorn, peanuts, almonds, SPIKES Salsa & Scoops, celery with peanut butter or almond butter, peanut butter on warm (microwaved) whole wheat tortilla.  REMEMBER TO READ LABELS – you will be amazed that there is sugar in almost everything!

Favorite Meals

Breakfast – Quaker Oats Old Fashioned Oatmeal made with cinnamon, ground flax, dash of sea salt, & walnuts.  Sometimes I add chopped apple to the mix.

Lunch – I take a lunch to work where there is a microwave available, so one of my favs is Black Bean Chili (recipe below) with Scoops.  I love to make a pot of the chili over the weekend, so it’s available to pack for lunch or have for a quick dinner throughout the week.

Dinner – any kind of vegetable oven roasted with olive oil & sea salt is probably my #1 choice: eggplant, brussels sprouts, potatoes, asparagus, or a mix of potatoes, yams, mushrooms, carrots.

Other dinner ideas –

  • Barley & Mushroom Pilaf – recipe below
  • Stir fry of broccoli, cherry tomatoes, garlic & olive oil over whole grain shell pasta
  • Baked potato – white or sweet with mix of vegetables oven roasted with vegetable broth added over the top

Favorite Treat – baked apples with cinnamon and chopped pecans

Black Bean Chili Recipe

Using 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, saute the following ingredients together until softened:

  • Red onion, chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Red & green bell pepper
  • Whole kernel corn (bag of frozen corn)
  • Portabella mushrooms diced
  • Can of petite diced tomatoes
  • Chili powder
  • 1 tsp. chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

After sauteing the vegetables, move them to a large saucepan and add 1 can (150z size) of Goya black beans – blue label.

Add 1 or 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth or water, and salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer on low to medium heat for a minimum of 15-20 minutes – the longer you allow the chili to simmer over low heat, the more flavorful it will be.

Serve with tortilla chips, or over brown rice.

Barley & Mushroom Pilaf Recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 cup fresh sliced mushrooms, 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 cup pearl barley, 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 tbsp. chopped green onions (scallions), 1/4 tsp crushed dried rosemary, 1/4 cup pine nuts

Heat olive oil in a saucepan; add mushrooms and saute until limp. Add barley, vegetable broth, green onion, and rosemary.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Bon appetit!  Be blessed in your fast!

TOP 10 Ways to Prepare for the Daniel Fast

Whether you have committed to the Daniel Fast as part of a corporate fast with literally tens of thousands of men and women joining in the January movement, or you have decided to “give it a go” on your own, there are countless online resources available to help you understand the basis for this 21-day spiritual fast, and provide everything from study tools to recipes to equip you for a successful fast.  Preparation is essential!  Think about it … we’ve just come out of the season of Advent, having prepared for 4 weeks to receive again the birth of our Lord & Savior.  Doesn’t it make sense that we should prepare fully to receive the birth of something magnificent God wants to do in our lives through the fast?  May I share with you my TOP 10 list of important ways to prepare for the Daniel Fast?

  1. Decide on a purpose for your fast – actually,  I’d like to suggest that you come up with a dual purpose – a reason for fasting for yourself, and a purpose in fasting  for someone else.  Do you have a specific need, situation, or decision that you want to hear about from the Lord?  Are you seeking wisdom, discernment, revelation of God’s will in a particular area of your life? Are you, or someone close to you, struggling with a physical or emotional health issue that you desperately want God to heal?  What keeps you up at night?  What do you go to bed thinking about and wake up with still on your mind?  Take some time to boldly consider what you would most like God to to do in your life and in the life of someone else – that is your purpose for the fast.
  2. Examine your heart to see if there is anything standing in the way of God responding – do you believe that God can and will perform miraculous healing, that He speaks to us today, that He does answer prayer, blesses obedience … ?  If you have any doubts, meditate on Mark 9:24 and ask God to help you overcome your unbelief.  Is there a broken relationship you have not tended to, a grudge you are holding on to, are you living outside of God’s will in your daily life?  Matthew 5:34 says “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Share your purpose in fasting for someone else with that person. Let the person know when you will begin, how long the fast will last, specifically how you will be asking God to intervene in their life.  Depending on your relationship with the person, you may want to check their level of belief that God will answer your fasting prayer for them.  This may be an opportunity to share your reasons for believing that our God can do what seems impossible and ask the person to trust you in this fast even if they are not up to trusting God yet in their life.
  3. Become familiar with Daniel Fast food guidelines, and “customize”- determine what foods you will include and exclude in your fasting eating plan.  There are many sources of information for The Daniel Fast Food List, but here are the basics: Foods to include in your diet during the Daniel Fast – all fruits, all vegetables, all whole grains, all nuts & seeds, all legumes, all quality oils.  Foods to avoid on the Daniel Fast – all meat & animal products, all dairy products, all sweeteners, all leavened bread, all refined and processed food products, all deep fried foods, all solid fats, all beverages except water.  Ask yourself which Daniel Fast food guidelines you can commit to and follow without legitimately compromising your health or your ability to work, serve, or relate to others in a God-honoring way. For example, I attempted to do my first Daniel Fast by adopting all of the standard food guidelines associated with the 21-day fast, including no caffeine.  I am a regular morning coffee drinker, having 2 full mugs of coffee during my “freestyle prayer” in my quiet time with God, and the absence of the caffeine burst washing over me brought on a whopping, debilitating headache by Day 2 of the fast.  I felt seriously handicapped, I could not focus on my purpose for the fast during my prayer time, I was muddle headed at work, indecisive about what to do when I got home, and was ready to “go off” on anybody at the smallest infraction or hint of incompetence.  It was clearly not working for me to eliminate caffeine no matter how badly I wanted to do the fast perfectly.  When I made the decision to reduce instead of eliminate, allowing myself one mug of coffee in the morning the first week, then cut that further to 3/4 of a mug week 2, and 1/2 a mug the final week, I experienced the restrictive discipline of fasting along with the freedom to notice and claim what God had for me in the fast.  Remember that the goal of fasting is not just to do without food – it is to draw closer to God, and while there should be some level of discomfort in the abstinence you choose, different fasting combinations work better for different people.

    4. Assemble a prayer team – 3 people to pray for one week each about your purpose, and 3 people to pray for one week each about your purpose for fasting for someone else. You’ll want to share your purpose for fasting and be very specific about what you are asking God to do, so be sure to select prayer warriors that will keep your fasting purpose for someone else in the strictest confidence. Ask those you’ve chosen to pray specifically for your fasting purpose on set dates for weeks 1, 2, & 3 so you are covered in prayer for the entire fast.
    5. Make a grocery list of Daniel Fast foods you will include in your eating plan. Research recipes from websites and blogs about the Daniel Fast, or do a google search of vegan recipes and eliminate any ingredients to be avoided in the fast. Add ingredients for any recipes to your grocery list. If you work during the day, be sure to plan for meals and snacks you can take to work, and put those items on your grocery list. Wait to shop until 1 or 2 days before your fast begins so fruits & vegetables are fresh.
    6. Cut down your food intake and start weaning yourself off of sweeteners, dairy products, meats, and other non-fast foods you usually consume a large quantity of in the 3 to 5 days before your fast start date. Use the foods in your refrigerator and cabinet that will be on lock-down once the fast begins. You may find that you don’t have a desire for these foods any longer after the fast ends.
    7. Decide on and gather your quiet time prayer and study tools. Plan what time and where you will meet with God daily. Purchase a journal or download a fasting prayer journal from one of the Daniel Fast blogs or websites. You will want to chronicle all that God reveals to you in this journey so find a way to capture it in print. You may have an amazing testimony to share when it comes time to break your fast.
    8. 1 Day before your fast begins, make a pot of vegetarian chili, vegetable soup, mushroom barley pilaf or other dish so something is available for a quick meal to get you started eating the right foods, or to have on hand when you can’t think of anything to eat and you’re hungry. I was surprised how often I craved roasted vegetables upon awakening (remember you can have olive oil so roast away!) and often had them for breakfast the last time I did the fast.
    9. Take inventory – a “BEFORE” picture of your physical and spiritual health. Spend some time in your journal crafting your “before” picture … physically – how much do you weigh? how much energy do you have? how do you feel? what physical limitations do you have? what health concerns do you have? what medications do you take regularly? does your physical health support all you want to do in life, what God is asking you to do? what about stress? do you feel convicted to get more sleep, drink less alcohol, stop smoking, eat healthier foods, get some exercise, or change other habits to honor the body God gave you? … spiritually – do you have a daily discipline of prayer and time in the Word? do you involve God in the decisions you make? do you call upon God throughout the day in even the smallest of matters? are you growing in your spiritual journey or stalled out at the same place as you were last year? how do you live out your faith in your family, at work, with friends? do you seek revelation of God’s will or move forward with your own agenda? are you connected with other believers? can you see evidence of God working in your life? are you pursuing a deeper relationship with God continually? are you serving God by serving others? do you take seriously and act on the charge to make disciples of all the nations?
    10. Pray for this period of preparation. Father, I want to draw closer to You. I want to know You and experience You. In a few days I will start on the Daniel Fast. I ask now that You open my heart. Prepare me. Show me the things You want me to see about myself. Teach me more about You and Your Word. Help me to see Your wisdom, Your grace, and Your purpose for my life. Amen. (From Susan Gregory’s “The Daniel Fast for the Body, Soul and Spirit”). Pray a Prayer of Dedication on your fast start date. Father, I am starting the Daniel Fast today and dedicate this time to You. Your word says that if I will draw near to You, that You will in turn draw near to me. Father, I want to experience You. I want to increase in my relationship with You. I want to learn more about how I can delight in You and submit to You more than ever. I want You to be Lord over all my life. I thank You for bringing me to this very moment, and I look forward to being with You each and every day during this consecrated fasting time. Amen. (Also from Susan Gregory’s “The Daniel Fast for the Body, Soul and Spirit”).

    I pray that each of you will hear from God in mighty and miraculous ways during your fast, and that this will be a time of unparallelled intimacy with Him. Be blessed and nourished by El Shaddai, All Sufficient! He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Day 21 – O Wisdom Where Art Thou?

When we are hurt, broken, scared, lonely, or emotionally exhausted, what we want most is deliverance, but God says that what we need most is wisdom.

Who is the wisest person you know, or have ever known?  I would have to say it is my brother.  He was not the smartest one in our family in our elementary years, not the high achiever or the one who brought home the glowing grade reports, but one of the simple lessons I acquired during this fast is that there is a difference between being smart and being wise.  My brother has the ability to reduce the drama and banter of a personal struggle to the core issue, to see the reality and truth of the underpinnings – he has an eye for what’s going on beneath the surface, the heart-of-the-matter moment that escapes most of us.

Early on in the fast,  I noticed that so many prayer requests on my list revolved around relationships – even one relationship that was just beginning.   My wise friend asked me to pray for continued blessing in his relationship of just 2 months … I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for a relationship that wasn’t in trouble, except to thank God for blessed relationships in my life.  What new or “good” relationships can you be praying over for blessing without being asked?

The rest of the many relationships on my prayer list were all hurting and broken relationships – some at a standoff, some actively pursuing help, some limping through days of silence or existing barely under a foreboding cloud, still others having bridged the great divide, but in need of continued healing … a mother’s relationship with her adult daughter, and her husband, a young couple’s strained relationship with her sister and brother-in-law, a young divorced mother of an 8-year old special needs child in need of financial help from her unwilling ex-husband, a friend’s relationship with a co-worker and her boss – the co-worker invited to ride the heels of her boss’ promotion while my friend was left behind, bruised, overlooked and hurt, to work for the new guy coming in, and my brother trying to discover what’s missing in their 10-year marriage to bridge the gap somehow, with the help of a counselor.

Checking in with my brother last week about how things were going, he shared some of the wisest, most profound things in his perspective on the struggling marriage that I believe are at the heart of all troubled relationships.

  1. First, he asked me to pray for acceptance of who each of them is at this point in their life and in this time in their marriage.
  2. He acknowledged that he knew some things about him were disappointing to his wife, but he prayed alot about it and resolved he’s gonna be “who I am”.
  3. He confidently stated he has some real strengths and some real weaknesses, and that he thinks that it’s difficult for his wife to live with his weaknesses, & hard for her to recognize his strengths.
  4. As they try to get to the bottom of “what’s missing” between them, he said it’s hard because they don’t have a common language and don’t even define intimacy the same way.

I began to measure the other broken relationships on my prayer list up against these 4 points – did each person in the relationship accept the other person for who they were, or did they want or need them to be different?  Had each person taken their disappointments in the other to the Throne of Grace in prayer and have a clear understanding of who God designed them to be, and resolve to stay true to His design, even when it could cost them the relationship?  Was there willingness to live with the other’s weaknesses because they saw their strengths in a greater light, or did the weaknesses overshadow the strengths?  Was there a common language to begin the dialogue and cast a vision for a transformed relationship?  And the big question that I can’t get out of my mind … how do I define intimacy?

If you need wisdom, ask your generous God, and he will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking.  But when you ask him, be sure your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  – James 1:5-7

I think of how many times I have repeatedly asked God for wisdom during this 21-day fast, and listened intently for His response.  Mark Buchanan in “Spiritual Rhythm” talks about the plowing of springtime as a discipline of deeper attentiveness as we move out of a winter spiritual season, and says this:

Ears to hear doesn’t mean, always, a mind to grasp.  It means you listen.  You lean in. You wait, you pester, you dig.  You hang on to God, and wrestle him all night if you must, and refuse to let go until he blesses you.

At day’s end, spend time in prayerful reflection on your day: your comings and goings, routines and disruptions, work and play, discoveries and disappointments.  think about who you met, or missed.  Think about your moments of aloneness.  In all, ask two questions: when was I most alive, most present, most filled and fulfilled today?  And when was I most taxed, stressed, distracted, depleted today?  A simpler, and more spiritually focused, version of those questions: when did I feel closest to God, and when farthest?

A pattern will emerge over the course of several examens.  (It will be helpful to keep a journal.) From the pattern will emerge a portrait.  The portrait will be of you.  It will reveal to you your own heart, its passions and quirks and aversions.  Where it leaps, where it sinks, where it feels safe or imperiled, where it just beats in steady contented rhythm.  All that will guide you.

I pray each of you – and me, begin the process of wrestling with God, hanging on and refusing to let go until He blesses us in all our relationships.  And in His blessing that we come to share a common language of what true intimacy really is.

Day 19 – Some things are worth keeping

I received an email from Susan Gregory, the Daniel Fast Blogger, the other day about completing the Daniel Fast this week and what to do coming off the fast.

Dear Susie,

This is an exciting week for those who started their Daniel Fast a few weeks ago. In just a few days they will reach their 21st day and celebrate the amazing blessings and experiences of their consecrated time of prayer and fasting. Congratulations. My hope is that this experience has been life-changing and richly blessed.

ENDING THE FAST:  I do want to caution everyone about ending the fast. You will need to be careful during the first couple days of “ordinary eating.” To keep your body from rebelling loudly, reintroduce foods slowly. This is especially important when resuming coffee and caffeine, meat, dairy products and sweets. Small portions are better and easing back into consumption of these foods is advised.

Also, when you end your fast, reflect on the lessons you learned during your fasting period. I know many have learned valuable lessons about healthy eating and want to carry those lessons into their future. Perhaps you have gained new and positive habits for prayer and daily Bible reading.

Don’t leave these gems behind until you fast again. Instead, carry them with you and allow them to affect your everyday life.

Even though the fast has been challenging at times, especially wanting to “milk it for all it’s worth” as the saying goes, I am actually feeling a sense of sadness and anticipated loss at waking up Sunday morning, knowing that the full complement of breakfast choices are open to me once again … I liked the structure of knowing absolutely what the allowable foods were without any wiggle room.  One of my co-workers noted the other day that she had not seen me “cheat” or even appear tempted to deviate from my eating plan on the Daniel Fast, as in other times of dieting.  One of my favorite things about doing Weight Watchers is that it’s all about choices, but it’s a double-edged sword for me because I’m constantly thinking about the next choice – sometimes choosing breakfast based on what I already know I’m having for dinner.

So I’m asking myself 3 questions:

  1. WHAT do I want to keep from the Daniel Fast?
  2. WHO do I want to keep around me after the Daniel Fast?
  3. WHY do I want to keep these things in my life?

Well, I definitely want to keep the weight I lost off, and continue to lose more.  And I want to keep the energy level I experienced during the fast after detoxing from sugar.  So I’d like to try to keep eating mostly the Daniel Fast way, reintroducing limited dairy and occasional leavened bread, but very little meat or sweets.  Let there be no question – caffeine is back in without a doubt!

What I most want to keep to carry into the days ahead, is the “honeymoon with Jesus” – the deep intimacy I’ve felt in these days of the fast, the intentional focus on listening for God to speak to me as I pursued Him with great desire, and the surrendered heart that so willingly called on the power of the Holy Spirit to lead me in these days.  Then it goes without saying – I want to keep all the lessons learned, the answered prayers, all that God showed me about myself and who He created me to be.

Who do I want to keep around me after the Daniel Fast?  Definitely all those I learned from during these fasting days, especially those that shared their thoughts and challenged me to look at things differently by commenting on blog posts.  Another group I want to keep close are the blog readers that never left a comment, but took the time to encourage me, to tell me what they liked or what they found of value in the blog posts.  Then there are my silent partners – friends, co-workers …. non-blog readers who asked me questions about the Daniel Fast and allowed me to share from time to time what I was learning about myself and others through the fast, who gave me the opportunity to explain my motivation for doing a spiritual fast and didn’t freak out when I said I wanted to hear from God on some important matters.  And I want to keep every person on my prayer list near to me, thankful for the honor of praying specifically for their relationship, for their healing, for their salvation, for resolution of a difficult situation – that I may have a word of Knowledge from the Lord to speak into their life for healing, redemption, peace, answers, that I may minister to them or pour into their lives as a sister in Christ who understands the need for His saving grace and redeeming love.   And my community group, who God used in a big way to speak through, they are already a huge part of my life – they are my peeps …. definitely a keeper!

Why do I want to keep these things, these people, in my life?  Because who ever wants a good thing to end?  Because I want to keep learning, growing, listening, seeking, surrendering (well, I’m not crazy about this one but I know the value)  – I don’t want the honeymoon to be over!  I want to know Christ and make Him known to a hurting world.

How about you?  If you think about the last 3 weeks of your life –

  1. WHAT do you want to keep?
  2. WHO do you want to keep around you?
  3. WHY do you want to keep those things in your life?
  4. And one more question for you – What or Who was missing in your life, and will you pursue it in the next 3 weeks?

There is power at the feet of Jesus

I am in the final days of The Daniel Fast, and clearly under attack by the enemy.  I left the house at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, in frigid temps, to meet up with two girlfriends for a women’s ministry event called “Where Is Your Heart?”.  Admittedly I didn’t let the car warm up very long before backing out and heading out of the complex, but how could I have known that my car would suddenly lose all power – power steering, power brakes, engine power, as I turned onto Ridge Rd?  Powerless to do anything with the steering wheel locked and panicked about what was happening as I was halfway into the turn, the car coasted to the snow enbankment cushioning the left lane of the road and gently came to a stop.    I was overcome with relief that I was safely tucked against the snow bank, and not on an uncontrollable ride across the oncoming lane of traffic, through a storefront, or on a demolition run through the parking areas in my complex.  It is only now, in hindsight, that I wish I had thought of Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus Take the Wheel” while I was in full motion, but I had no thoughts of calling on Jesus in prayer or song  – I was trying to control this big hunk of metal traveling a direction all its own, paralyzed in an instant by fear, powerless to control my life or the life of anyone in my path.

Funny thing is, I think Jesus did take the wheel, or actually He took over the road, the entire situation, guiding me to a safe landing against the snow, holding His mighty Hand to stop traffic in a protective stance, allowing only the police officer who passed by on the other side of the road through to circle around and pull up behind me.  Even then my mind was racing about what I needed to do – call my girlfriend and tell her I wasn’t going to make it to the conference, call AAA for a tow, call a friend for a ride home from the auto repair shop … never once, even with the red flashing lights behind me, did I hear Jesus say “I got your back!”.   If the Holy Spirit couldn’t wake me with red flashing lights, you know the theme of the women’s ministry event was already packed up with my notebook and lunch I had brought for the day and mentally put away at home (check, that’s off my things to do – or not do today) in the realization I was not going to the event.   But as I reflect on that now “Where is Your Heart?” …. where WAS my heart in those moments as my car was careening across the road?  It was clearly not in any spiritual realm, not in relationship with Jesus, it wasn’t even in a prideful stance – I knew immediately I was not going to regain control of the car …. there was no power.  My heart was in a place called fear, and there was no room for anyone but me.

I was graced by my girlfriends driving 25 minutes out of the way to pick me up, sacrificing the pre-conference breakfast,  knowing we would be late to the program opening worship and first speaker.  That in itself was a gift to be worthy of their sacrifices so that I could spend the day with them at the women’s ministry event.

The first speaker shared a personal story of riding alone in the back of a crosstown bus in the city, positioned between two men violently shouting at each other.  In her fear, she managed to bring this affirmation to mind – I am the light of the world.  Knowing she had to bring that light into the tense situation, she reverted back to what she knew and courageously began singing  “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me … ” continuing through all three verses to absolute silence in the bus, arriving at her stop unharmed and full of Christ’s peace.  She ended that story with a powerful statement – “When the Kingdom of God becomes present in a dark place, the darkness cannot overcome it.  We must see ourselves as the light of the world.”

Now my situation in the car was different – the only demon I was fighting was my own fear.  But what if I had that same type of affirmation so embedded in my core that it rushed to the surface when my adrenaline started pumping?  What if I had scripture or a song – even Jesus Take the Wheel, so deeply ingrained in my spirit, as familiar as my beating heart, that it kicked in like a back-up generator when my car lost power?

Afternoon worship to restart the program after lunch included Chris Tomlin’s “We Fall Down” and as I sang the words We fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus … something began to well up in me, and then as I imagined myself there at His feet … we cry holy, holy, holy, we cry holy, holy, holy is the lamb … an overpowering feeling brought tears out of the deepest recess of my being, washing over me at the absolute power of being powerless at the feet of Jesus and I was filled with the same peace I have each morning – the peace that comes from first waking thoughts of praise and expectation for what God will do in this new day, the excitement of heading downstairs  to sit at the feet of Jesus, open the Word and read about His love, provision, blessing and purpose for me – my heart is content and open and full, and there are no thoughts of where my power comes from …. I know it’s in the Lord’s presence, at Jesus feet, in the early morning when I have no worries and feel no need to amass power or control of my own.

You Tube – We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin

What scripture or song could you embed in your heart to rely on in times of fear?

When during the day do you feel powerless at the feet of Jesus?

Staged for God’s blessings

When I decided to put my house on the market 3 years ago, my realtor and trusted friend suggested I have my house staged to sell quickly.  Staging makes your house look bigger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, and sets the scene throughout your house to create immediate buyer interest in your property.  It worked – in a very bad market, with several other comparable homes in my town for sale at the same time, and a sizeable inventory of homes that had been on the market for some time despite numerous price reductions, I had a buyer within 2 weeks!

So, what did the Home Stager do?  It started with a consultation and a walk-thru of my home, then a sit-down to talk … kind of like when Jill, The Nanny sits down to talk with parents after observing their unruly, out of control kids behavior for a day before she points out the error of their ways and delivers the plan for turning things around.  I had watched enough HGTV to know that the family pictures were going to go because depersonalizing a home is key to having prospective buyers imagine themselves in it.  And I had already acted on the suggestions my realtor made to replace my “girly” pastel floral bedding with hotel bedding – the going rage, and I had lined up a carpenter to replace all the pine flat interior doors with white 6-panel doors to give the house a bright face-lift.

One of the essential components of home staging is de-cluttering (that even sounds painful doesn’t it?) … anything that begins with “de” usually isn’t good – it’s pretty much the opposite of what you’re doing now.  I’m a pretty organized person so I thought this step might not apply to me, and I did try to negotiate keeping a few items that I thought were essential to have at arms length, but in the end, I trusted Barbara and gave her free reign to de-clutter my home.  Just so you know – a stager does not throw anything away, and one of those Got Junk? trucks does not pull up in front of your house … it’s actually quite a gentle process.  Each night when I came home from work, there would be a pile left out on a table or countertop and my assignment was to find a place to put those things away.

As one of my blog readers pointed out, The Daniel Fast is kind of like a de-cluttering … moving the focus on food out of the way, denying yourself the foods that satisfy and taking in the basic plant foods of the earth our Creator provided as ample nourishment, all to create the space to hear from God – it sets the stage for His blessing.

But just as I needed a team around me to prepare my home for a market launch, God sometimes uses a team of people around us for a spiritual launch, to make His purposes known to us, to answer prayer in a way that can’t happen in our alone time with Him.

So it was on Day 12 of my fast … wanting to hear from God about a ministry opportunity I was asked to consider and not getting any clear direction in my morning quiet time with the Lord, I prayed that He would use my community group or the women’s conference I was attending Sat. to speak to me through others or circumstance.  We were talking about the roles of the Holy Spirit in community group that night – specifically empowerment, spiritual gifts, and unity.

I had created a spiritual gifts exercise, wanting each group member to walk away with a piece of paper that identifed the strongest spiritual gifts they believed they possessed, and the flip side was feedback gathered from the other group members who noted the strongest spiritual gift they had seen evidence of in that person as papers were passed around the room.  While the personal reflection piece resulted in each individual ranking their 3 strongest spiritual gifts in their opinion, the community group feedback only allowed each member to pick one – the strongest gift they had seen in that person.

In my personal assessment piece, Leadership as a gift was my #3 – there were 2 other gifts I felt were stronger, more consistent and used by God in more powerful ways.  But my community group- only able to pick one, with little variation, overwhelmingly cited Leadership as the strongest gift they had seen in me.  Hmmm … funny that the gift most needed in the ministry opportunity I had been praying about for God’s leading is leadership.

Something I had not seen clearly in myself – even when I had de-cluttered, created space for the Light, was not made clear until I consulted with others for the “plan” – not to turn things around, but to turn toward the One who had gifted me to serve.

Where can you do some de-cluttering to be staged for God’s blessings?

What’s your plan to create space to meet God in the Word on a consistent daily basis?

And who are the consultants supporting your spiritual launch?

Rethinking my response

As I walked with a good friend yesterday, in the chill of the cold and icy afternoon, she asked me to tell her about The Daniel Fast.  I explained the spiritual basis for the 21-day fast from the Old Testament Book of Daniel Chapters 1 and 10, and shared my 3 motivations for doing the fast – for wisdom in making a decision about a ministry opportunity, to hear from God about His purpose for me this year and specifically what medium He wants me to pursue to share the messages He puts on my heart (speaking, writing, blogging, life coaching, counseling?), and for healing, restoration, & growth in the struggling marriage of someone very close to me.

After explaining the physical aspects of the fast – what foods were included and what was not, how my greatest struggle or “missing” is dairy – eggs, cheese, oatmeal made with milk, yogurt – my friend, who has walked beside me in my spiritual journey for the last 7 years, jumped back to the spiritual piece.  She asked me something like “So do you just concentrate on what you’re praying for and wanting to hear from God on all day long, while you’re at work and whatever you’re doing during your day?”.

I was quick to respond – “Oh no, I just added extra listening time and specific prayer about what I’m wanting God to speak to me about to my morning prayer and devotion time.  I followed one of the recommendations to make a list of prayer requests to pray over daily.  And I also do the daily devotion from The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast … so it’s basically just changed the way I spend my morning prayer time.”

This morning I’m rethinking my response.  SHOULD I be thinking about the spiritual longing piece all day long?  Can I really expect God to speak to me on these 3 critical issues in the hour I have carved out to be with Him in the morning?  Both familiar now and mindful of the allowable foods on the fast, is it enough to just pack up the day’s food to take to work, evidence of my physical preparation for the work day, while leaving my pleas before the Lord on my green overstuffed chair until the next morning?

I was struck by Charles Stanley’s In Touch devotion for today called “Walking with God” and based on Genesis 6 – the story of Noah.

… there is a difference between having salvation and actually walking with the Lord.  Being saved involves the forgiveness of sin and the blessing of eternal security, while walking with God is a privilege that we live out day to day.

A “privilege we live out day to day” – all day long?  I’m guessing so … walking with God, not just sitting with Him mornings for an hour.

And from Genesis 6:9 –

This is the account of Noah and his family.  Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

He walked “in close fellowship with God” – hmm, that doesn’t sound like a relationship built on an hour a day, does it?  That’s not really walking, which has kind of a feel of constancy – what I’m doing is more like skipping from one morning to the next, hoping God will enlighten me before I stick the dismount and move on to the rest of my day.

As I reread Genesis 6 and take in the full measure of disappointment and sorrow the Lord feels at the extent of human wickedness on the earth, His decision to destroy every living thing is understandable, and yet for Noah – who found favor with the Lord, who walked in close fellowship with the Lord, God gives incredibly detailed and specific direction about what Noah is to do in verses 14 – 21.

Could it be that if I were to walk in close fellowship with the Lord all day long that He may give me specific direction about the things I am praying and fasting for?  I am brainstorming all the ways I can carry my morning time with God full force into my work day and beyond …. do you have any ideas to share?

Made for so much more

I was shocked, but not really surprised, to have sexually suggestive comments left on some of my blog posts last night and this morning.  The blog was originally set up for me to approve all comments before they would be published on the blog, but wanting to encourage dialogue between my blog readers, I changed the setting to allow comments to be posted as you submit them without first going through the approval process.  Sadly this morning, I changed it back to have comments submitted held as pending until approved to avoid getting pornographic comments and spam.

It’s amazing isn’t it that something created for a good purpose can so easily be used for evil?  My deepest desire for the Claim God’s Best blog was for it to be a place where we could GO DEEP – be honest with one another, share common struggles, and be transparent in both weak and strong moments, helping us all move closer to Christ.  The idea of going deep as honesty, common struggle, transparency in both weak and strong, is not my own.  It is from “The Tangible Kingdom” by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay, and creating the kind of  incarnational community they talk about has been embraced as a mission of my church.  For a peek at what the book and practice of being missional is all about, check out this video.

You Tube – The Tangible Kingdom

I headed out to buy some bundles of firewood, and stopped at the car wash on the way, thinking as I drove of the many things God created for good that we have somehow felt free to abuse, distort, dishonor and wrongfully use for our own purposes.   I love going to the $5 car wash on the highway – you put your five dollar bill in the slot, the garage door opens, you drive in and the door shuts behind you – voila!  You are hidden away, secluded from everything and everybody outside the four walls –  just you and the radio sitting stationary between the tracks while the sprayer and brushes wash over your car … it feels so safe and yet exciting to be tucked inside the car, like the waters of Baptism washing over you.

So when “Mighty to Save” came on the radio, I became Julia Roberts in the bathtub scene in Pretty Woman, just singing out with wild abandon like no one else was around – I was a rock star there in my car, singing so passionately that I’m sure drivers on the highway were saved as they passed by.  Oh yes, girlfriend, I was the woman He created me to be in that car wash.  When the big dryer rack moved over the car and back and then the door opened, I drove out as a new person – my view was clearer now, I had a momentary insight that gave me a different perspective so I took a chance  being the woman He created me to be as I drove down the highway singing out like I was still in the seclusion of the car wash.

As I got closer to the nursery where I buy bundles of firewood, I was thrown off by a detour just a block or two ahead of the nursery where they were doing construction, so I followed the car ahead of me and made a right turn.  I wasn’t sure how to get just a few blocks ahead of the work site on a parallel road to the other side of the nursery – one street led to a dead end, another curved around and turned me around so that I was confused about what direction I wanted to head.  I retraced steps I could remember and chose a different intersection to make a turn, and finally followed signs to get back on a familiar path even though I knew it was going well out of the way.

A full 20 minutes later, I was thankful to see the nursery up ahead on my right … until I spotted the almost vacant parking lot and the sign that said CLOSED MONDAYS on the sign in the driveway.  Are you kidding me?  I’ve been driving around all this time, going out of the way because of a detour set up a block ahead of a nursery that was closed?  Seriously!  So I pulled back out of the driveway, headed toward the work site, only to be waved through by a policeman serving as a flagman alternating traffic from both sides down the one open lane.  Really?  Are you seriously telling me that I followed the guy ahead of me, thinking there was a detour and if I hadn’t I would have been waved down the single lane open by the traffic cop – the one quick way to have discovered the nursery was closed?

As I headed home, I was drawn in and captivated by a song on the radio I know I’ve heard, but probably never really listened to – a song I hadn’t heard enough to sing along, but somehow the words just penetrated my heart and filled me up.  When I heard that song, it made perfect sense that God had led me on a detour simply to hear it, all because I was on a journey for firewood. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.  -Proverbs 19:21

Will you take 3 minutes to listen and watch MercyMe’s “Beautiful”?  I promise you it will change the way you feel about yourself.

You Tube – Beautiful by MercyMe

I don’t feel worthy … Really?

One of the reasons I decided to do The Daniel Fast was to gain knowledge of God’s will concerning a pastoral ministry opportunity that was offered to me.  This may sound a bit bizarre, but I didn’t ask for any details – I came away from the conversation with only the information offered so I know very little about it.  I don’t know much about what would be expected of me, I have no idea how much time the commitment entails, I have no means of evaluating what I may have to give up in my current life in order to fulfill responsibilities in this role … the typical things I would normally ask and know to determine if I should say yes to an opportunity to serve are not available to me.  But I decided that if I truly wanted to know God’s will concerning this, I wanted to go into the fast to pray about it, devoid of any details.  It’s about His will, and I don’t want to do my usual thing of figuring it out on my own and then taking my decision to Him in prayer only to ask for His agreement.

Since there are 3 major things I want to hear from God on during this 21-day fast, the mathematician in me figured the best odds of getting answers from God on all 3 was to target one a week.  So I started getting a little anxious yesterday at the close of week 1 with no clear answers yet and decided to step up my game, you know start moving God along in the process.

I looked up LEADER(S) in my Bible concordance (apparently I had done so before because there were 4 passages in the list highlighted) so I could pray about whether I have what it takes to be a pastoral leader from a biblical perspective.  Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26 – all pretty consistent that a leader must be a servant … well, okay I can do that – no spiritual rocket science there.  Let’s see what Paul has to say  in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 – we are to honor those who are our leaders in the Lord’s work … I think I’m good there, too – I honor, respect, even love my pastors at The Plant.

So no leads there … hmmm, it is definitely an honor to be asked, and it would be nice to be known in that capacity (even though I don’t know what “that capacity” really is), but wait a minute … then I would be one of those leaders that would be honored by others in the Lord’s work according to Paul?  Ooh, that doesn’t feel right at all.  I am not worthy of that, especially since I don’t even know what I’ll be doing if I say yes, so how I can even anticipate doing something worthy?

Feeling a little unsettled and no where to go next with those feelings, I went to read some comments from previous posts – thank you so much girlfriends for those … you can’t know how valuable your take is on some of these things I’m wrestling with; God truly speaks to me most audibly through my sisters’ voices so PLEASE KEEP SHARING – remember we’re already down 1 week and I need you and treasure you journeying with me!

So I read my truth-telling friend’s comment on the Day 3 post – What do I crave?  being valued…love….and being accepted for who I am. And the meltdown began … reading those words touched off something in me so deep, so wounding, and the watershed began.  I do not have the gift of speaking in tongues, but if blubbering through tears would be elevated to a spiritual gift, I would most certainly be anointed.  That is so me, needing to know I’m valued, that I’m worthy – yes me, not what I do, but who I am.  I couldn’t fathom being honored or respected as a leader just for who I am – and soon I was sobbing at the realization that I had to be given an assignment to prove myself worthy of the biblical mandate to respect our leaders.

As I prayed about whether this ministry opportunity was in God’s will, I had no footing, no details to make an informed decision.  When what I could do to make me an asset was taken out of the equation, I was left at the foot of the cross with only who I was, crying, wondering why – when I thought I had handled this issue so many times before, was there still a voice so deep but accessible saying you are not worthy, you do not matter.

In the time it took me to raise a finger to my cheek to wipe a falling tear, I made up my mind that I cannot accept the ministry opportunity unless I hear yes clearly from God, because I DON’T FEEL WORTHY of being asked.

And in the moment that followed I heard His voice “Really?”  “Really, Susie?”

Do you struggle with feelings of unworthiness?  If you shared your feelings with God, would He respond “Really?”