Cheating? Decision? Full exposure!

We’ve been doing a team Biggest Loser competition at work for the last two months, with each person on a team of 4 or 5 choosing their own path to coveted weight loss. The winning individual and team will be determined by the highest percentage weight loss on January 31, 2011. Despite the fact that everyone chooses their own eating and exercise plan (or not),  it is interesting how some are held accountable because of their teammates, others having strong conviction to themselves personally because of commitments they made.

We got into a conversation last week after one of our biggest losers thus far said she “cheated”, meaning she ate food that was not on her weight loss plan. I had this stubborn kind of self-righteous, or self-protecting response, that it’s not cheating, it’s a decision – maybe a bad one, but a decision or choice to eat something else at that moment. To view it as cheating takes away, for me, the possibility of maintaining a healthy eating and exercise program once the prize money has been awarded and post-biggest loser days are here.

Fast forward to beginning The Daniel Fast …. as I prepared for the fast physically, I was nervous about the physical withdrawal I could expect from caffeine, sugar, meat – namely headaches and what one person described as severe leg cramps during the night. Reading the Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast clued me in – a little too late! – to the importance of kicking down sugar, caffeine, meat intake for at least a full week before starting …. I didn’t have a week to prepare.

I was actually pretty good on the sugar and processed food, but caffeine and dairy were part of my daily diet – dairy in abundance, caffeine in need. So I made the DECISION that I would follow The Daniel Fast precisely ….. except that I would allow myself 1 cup of coffee in the morning this first week – instead of the normal 2 mugs, then kick it down to 1/2 cup, 1/4, next week and cease completely.

I thought I deserved that decision, it was my right to make it, I am always the good girl that has to do what’s right, follow all the rules … after all, without morning coffee I would not be able to function at work, would not even be clear-headed enough to hear God – my primary motivation for doing the fast. Okay, by now you surely must have picked up on my “other” primary motivation, that I am struggling to move to the background – that is to lose weight during the fast.

So I made the decision to allow myself coffee for a time, and every time I heard whispered doubts in my mind yesterday – you’re not REALLY doing The Daniel Fast because no caffeine is allowed, you should at least try it without coffee (you can always infuse yourself quickly if a headache and muddled thinking overtakes you!), you’re probably not going to hear from God if you need coffee more than you need Him …. I just recounted that biggest loser conversation last week and decided I’m not cheating, I’m making a healthy decision for myself.

Then this morning as I held my mug of coffee in my hands, drew in the warm, satisfying first sip, I opened to today’s devotion – Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” Okay, well my coffee is not really a god … is it? I just need it to get started in the morning and I am going to give it up next week altogether.

Then Psalm 24:3-5 …

3 Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols
and never tell lies.
5 They will receive the LORD‘s blessing
and have a right relationship with God their savior.

Ouch! Only those whose hearts and hands are pure?  Does this coffee in my hand make me unpure?  Not because it’s not part of The Daniel Fast, but because I need it, want it, can’t let go of it completely … not just yet.  Why is this cup so important to me?  What does it represent besides the fear it holds of giving it up?  Is it an idol, something I’m making more important during this fast than stripping away everything so I can hear from God?

I knew in an instant it wasn’t about physical need, it wasn’t even about cheating or making a decision for the fast … it was an outright stubbornness to do it my way, to hold on to some small piece that I would not give over to God.  And as I read the story of God asking Abraham to take his beloved Isaac to a mountain to sacrifice him as a burnt offering, I was ashamed.  Just as it wasn’t wrong for Abraham to love Isaac, it’s not wrong to enjoy a cup of coffee or a delicious chocolate dessert; the problem is when we love someone or something too much it becomes idolatry – and idolatry is destructive to God’s purposes.

The Daniel Fast is my fast of choice when I need direction or refreshment, or desire to hear God’s voice more clearly.  This daily, living sacrifice is a wonderful way to establish a constant awareness that I am reprioritizing my life, putting all idols away, and allowing God to reign in my heart.  God has shown me time and time again that when we bring our appetites and flesh under the direction of his Spirit, he will reward.  I am always touched by how God honors our efforts, no matter how small.  Not because we have to work for his approval but because he is so full of grace and looks for opportunities to bless us.  Fasting is one of those gracious opportunities.   – S.HORD

How about you?  Is there one small thing in your life that you may need to reprioritize?  Is there an idol that needs to be put away to allow God to reign in your heart?

Is there something unpure in your heart’s intent?  Maybe, like me,  you have two “primary” motivations … one that serves God, one that serves yourself.  The question I’m wrestling with today is “Can I make this Daniel Fast solely about ‘God in me’ and what He wants to do in my life,  trusting Him to take care of the weight loss and handle caffeine withdrawal His way?”

I’m praying so.  Can anyone relate to the struggle?

The Daniel Fast Day 1 – panic attack!

I’m beginning The Daniel Fast today – a 21-day biblically based partial fast that is, in diet, primarily vegan with additional restrictions.  I haven’t been awake long enough to eat …. or actually NOT eat anything I would normally have for breakfast, and yet I am already anxious and far too focused on what I am going to have for breakfast – and even lunch after church, and then there is the Packer playoff game against the Eagles this afternoon – I’m actually okay there because I have whole grain Scoops made with no sugar or preservatives.

I am just bugged about how I’m beginning – this was not what I planned.  And I did plan … I subscribed to The Daniel Fast blog which may have been a mistake for someone like myself who can so easily be held captive by fear about even the smallest thing … so much helpful information and ideas about what is okay to eat (of course I would find that helpful since I am having trouble getting beyond the food & diet piece of this), but reading of the physical pain of withdrawal from caffeine, sugar, meat … headaches, leg cramps – oh my, the enemy is having his way with me.

I bought the kindle version of The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola and did alot of the spiritual and physical preparation suggested, but it just doesn’t feel like enough this morning.

So now I imagine myself waving my weak malnourished arms and shouting with my big voice STAND DOWN SATAN – I will reign victorious over these strongholds because I am a daughter of the King of kings, fully expectant to hear from Him these next 3 weeks as I draw closer to my Lord without the distraction of food.

For any of my readers who have done The Daniel Fast, will you share with me how you shed the focus on food to get on with hearing from God?  I covet your prayers and encouragement.

Greetings from Susie

This post is from Susie, chosen by the will of God to be a disciple of Christ Jesus.   I have been sent out to tell women in mid-life about the love, purpose, significance, acceptance, and intimacy He has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.

Don’t you love the way Paul begins his letters with a greeting that acknowledges his identity in Christ,  spells out his audience, identifies his  purpose in writing, and extends grace and peace?

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle, and sent out to preach his Good News.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus … I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.  I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.  I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons.  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.  We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.  May God our Father give you grace and peace.

This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  May God give you grace and peace.

This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.  I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.

So what about you?  If you sat down to write a letter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, how would you identify yourself in relation to Christ? Who specifically would you be writing to? What would be your purpose in writing?  And would you offer grace and peace?

I’d love to hear from you!  Oh, and …. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.