CQ…Clark Here

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Archive for the category “Fasting”

Lessons from the fast.

Our week of fasting was interesting.  I am not naturally inclined toward fasting, it is not something toward which I am drawn.  The fact is, I like food.  I like the smell, the taste, the texture.  There is very little that I do not like about food.  Beth and I have fasted in the past, including two Daniel fasts in conjunction with our church, and the infrequent day of fasting through the years.  So I am somewhat familiar with fasting, at least to some degree, but I do not look forward to the times I go without food.

I think I was looking for some sort of “breakthrough” moments like I experience during our week-long missions trip to the Dominican Republic.  That was not a mountaintop experience, but more of a consistent, gradual healing of my spirit, one that I have needed for some time.

But that was not what I experienced during the fast.  That fact alone was a bit disconcerting, which is my fault for setting up expectations and not just waiting for the week to unfold.

The hunger was a great reminder to pray, and I did.  I prayed a lot through the week, on a variety of topics: family, friends, my wife, myself.  I seriously prayed a lot over the week, and that was very good.  Further, my daily readings in the Bible were also very good, very nourishing, if you will.  I found a real enjoyment in the reading, in the praying, and in the closeness that I felt with God.

And there were several other good things through the week.

For quite a while I was a Facebook junkie.  Keeping up with friends and family was very enjoyable, as was posting my opinions on topics and the give and take  with people who had different opinions or political persuasions.  It was a good opportunity to reconnect with childhood friends as well.  One of which was an acquaintance from high school.  I can’t guarantee this, but I believe he had friended me.  We weren’t really close way back when, but going to a small school we knew each other, and he was ok as far as I was concerned.  I remember him as a good-natured guy, easygoing, rather quick-witted and fun to be around.  However, something changed.  I noticed that on FB he was frequently acerbic, and rather taunting in his posts on my page, both with me as well as with others who posted on my comments.  I tried using humor to tone down his anger and pointed posts, but apparently my efforts were not appreciated.  It culminated in a post I made on a very controversial topic.  I posted what I thought I was simply a throwaway line on a topic that I am very passionate about.  In retrospect, I should have known what a backlash this would generate, but at the time I was caught completely by surprise.  What a firestorm!  A friend of my daughter questioned my Christianity, and would not dialogue.  Others blasted me as well, including my high school acquaintance.  Here’s what he wrote:

“It must be comforting in your black and white world, clark. One victim is obviously too many…you think you know me because we went to high school a long time ago…you don’t. I don’t know anything about you since then either…this is not a jibe, a bait or even sarcastic humor….it is adios. I have better things to do in this short life than read your self-rightous bullshit…good luck….”  (I’m not sure he really meant the “good luck part”)

In and of itself not that big a deal, but combined with his sarcasm and rather mean replies to my friends, it was a bit much.  He then un-friended me.  I attempted dialogue, but he refused.

This type of issue is very difficult for me.  I do my best to get along, and much prefer reconciliation to discord.  And for him to act in this manner was disconcerting to say the least.  It has been very difficult to let go of this, and it has been bothering me to some degree since around mid-January.

This has all been background for me to explain how huge it was that God laid it on my heart to let go of this whole thing during our week of fasting.  I noticed that early in the fast I seemed focused on this incident, and it seemed to be affecting my spiritual life.  I had no peace, just a jangled sense of disturbance, and it seemed to focus on my old acquaintance.  I realized (yeah, I can be a bit of a slow learner sometimes) that I needed to let the incident, as well as my acquaintance, go.  I’m not certain I was able to do so one-hundred percent, but I am much, much closer than I was before the fast.  And boy does that feel good!

Further,  as I had stated in an earlier post on this blogsite, I experienced some fairly intense kidney pain right around day three through day four or five of the fast.  I thought it would dissipate quickly, but it lingered, and prevented sleep for a couple of nights.  I had intended to take no analgesics at all for the duration of the fast, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and so on.  However, with the pain I experienced, not only did I need some pain relief, I loaded up.  I was quite disappointed in myself for that.  Also, I was at a local shop about mid-way through the fast, and they always have a small bowl of Hershey’s kisses for the customers.  I always have one or two, and without thinking, I picked one up, unwrapped it, and popped it in my mouth.  Enjoyed it, too.  It wasn’t until later that I realized I had unthinkingly broken my fast.  And that frustrated me as well.

But as the week went on, I kind of changed my thoughts on this.  I think I’m kind of grateful that I did “fail” in those regards.  I could easily become a bit proud of the fact that I completed the fast, and that I did so to the very smallest detail or requirement that I had set for myself.  Which, of course, would have been completely contrary to the entire intent of the fast itself.  So I wound up being thankful that I had not had the “perfect” fast.

Various other insights were also given to me through the week.  I will describe just a couple here.

As part of his Sunday message on March 4th, Pastor Bob Klecan shared a text he had gotten from a friend, talking about the fast we had just begun.  The text said, “Do you think this week of fasting is causing people to realize that they’re actually not replacing food with a fast but rather that they’re actually replacing food with a feast?”  I found that to be profound, and this thought was echoed through the week with my reading in the Word.  One example is from Phillipians 1: 9-11.  It says, “9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

This passage calls to me.  This is exactly what I want my life to look like.  This is exactly what I want to be.

In the end, the week of fasting was not a spiritual rocket taking off.  If anything that “liftoff” was what I gained from our week in the Dominican Republic.  The week of fasting was instead, a booster attached to that rocket.  The fasting did not give me liftoff, but it kept me going.  I am grateful for the lessons learned, and for the spiritual applications I gained.  In fact, as unbelievable as this is to me, it is likely that Beth and I will be much more regular with fasting.  We have discussed making this a quarterly event, with our next one as early as sometime in June.  And for someone who loves food as I do, that’s a miracle in and of itself.

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Ok, not so fast.

-Look, the pun was unintentional this time, ok?-

This post is intended to look at the physical effects of our week-long fast.  My next post will be about my spiritual thoughts on the fast.

I guess I was a bit premature with the kidney pain.  Sunday before church I was feeling them pretty keenly.  I often allow myself to dehydrate a bit on Sunday mornings so I don’t have really uncomfortable urges during church.  I guess this time it wasn’t such a good idea.  I drank extra water  just before the service started, and during the service I intermittently drank a juice cocktail from a thermos we often take with us.  (This thermos is great, by the way.  The ones we got are for cold only, and have a locking lid so it will not spill, and it keeps liquids cold for hours, even in brutal heat.)  By afternoon, they were manageable and I thought I was ok.  However, by bedtime, my kidneys were really ramping up the pain, even though I had three glasses of water just before bedtime.   I finally got up and migrated to the living room and crashed on the sofa.  I didn’t get much sleep Sunday night, but it did give me cause to pray a lot.  Not just for the pain, in case that was implied.  I did pray for outside concerns, so I guess the time wasn’t really wasted.

Monday night was pretty much the same.  The pain wasn’t as intense, but really uncomfortable, so I got up earlier than I had on Sunday and went to the spare room.  I think Beth and I both slept better than the night before, as I wasn’t tossing and turning for a few hours before I decided to sleep elsewhere.  I woke up a couple of hours before it was time to get up, and the pain was lessened, so I was able to crawl back into bed with my wife for a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, I am prone to kidney stones.  Normally I drink a ton of water, in fact I figured it out one time, and on an average day I drink close to one hundred ounces of water.  So I’m not unaccustomed to kidney pain, and I do what I can to minimize the probability.  I guess I goofed up a little with the fast.  Saturday and Sunday we added fruit and vegetable juices to the water which constituted our entire diet on Friday.  I drank a ton of tomato juice and fruit juices, but I think in retrospect I substituted them for the water that I normally drink.  I probably figured that liquid is liquid, so I skimped on the water.  Small tactical error, there, and I paid a bit of a penalty for it.  Last night was not so bad, so hopefully we’re on the downhill side of that particular issue.

The hunger has been interesting.  Not unmanageable, but consistently present.  Believe me, that tomato juice on Saturday was like heaven.  I totally loved the juices we had on Saturday and Sunday after only water the day before.  And then came Sunday evening.

The “fasting days” go from 6:00 PM on one day to 6:00 PM the next day.  Sunday evening at 6:00 PM we had our first solid food since Thursday.  Now that was heaven.  Understand, I am not a veggie kind of guy, but after three days of nothing at all, Sunday dinner was a feast!  Beth fixed lentil soup (no bacon, but I got over it) and a veggie tray.  Homemade hummus and peanut butter with crackers and apples finished off the meal.  Heaven!  Monday night Beth sautéed some mushrooms and onions, fixed home fries in olive oil and herbs, and some sort of bean salad.  Man!  I tore into that like a starving dog on a t-bone steak.  Not being a veggie kind of guy, the irony of the situation hit me about  half-way through the meal.  I looked at Beth and said, “What is happening to me???  I’m scared!!”  But I gotta tell you, that moment didn’t stop me for long.  Last night was ratatouille.  What a great meal!  In fact, during supper we talked, and I remarked that I wouldn’t mind “meatless meals” a couple of times a week.  This is a bit disconcerting to an unrepentant and avowed carnivore, so I’m in uncharted territory here.

Coffee I miss.  I love the flavor, the smell, I love everything about a good cup of joe.  But even with that I noticed that I don’t mind not having that first cup of steaming goodness when I roll out of bed.  I need to evaluate that as well.  Cut back and drink less?  Mix a higher percentage of decaf?  Just not sure what to do here.

I also miss my beer and cigars.  I don’t slug down a ton of brews at a time, but with certain meals and evenings, a cold one is very nice.  And the cigars!  I only have one now and then, but the past few days have been mostly desire.

But, once again, the fast has included these things, and all in all I have been very pleased with this fast.  As I expected, the first few days were difficult, but relatively smooth sailing after that initial time period.  We have today and tomorrow, with tomorrow evening being the breaking of the fast.  I have to admit, I am really, really looking forward to tasting the “good stuff” again.  But until then, I am devoting this time to God, and praying.  A lot.

The next post will look at the spiritual thoughts and lessons throughout this week.

So far, just a mixed bag.

(For those interested, First Baptist Church in North East, PA has put up a blog regarding this week-long fast.  Although they used a somewhat, ahem, inferior blog site, they can be found at: http://breakthroughfbcne.blogspot.com/2012/03/preparing-for-change.html).  It’s a great devotional to use while fasting, and has encouraging thoughts to go along with the day’s post.

Regarding our fast, Beth and I each noticed Friday (Day One: water only) that our own breath was pretty bad.  I suspect it is related to the fast, and I’m thinking that by not chewing food, we are not cleansing our mouths of the bacteria that likes to live there, but that’s just a guess.  It reminded me of some information I had heard of Gandhi.  Gandhi, as most people know, was instrumental in the independence of India from England.  What I heard was that due to his walking everywhere, he had massive calluses on his feet, and that due to his fasting so often, he was inclined to poor health.  Further, his religion wasn’t strictly Hindu, but there was a bit of mysticism thrown in there as well.  And the part that reminded me of this story is that he suffered from chronic bad breath.  The story concluded with the thought that Gandhi was a super-callused, fragile mystic, plagued with halitosis.  (Anyone not catching that right away, see the note at the end of this post.)

So far this has been interesting.  Speaking first about the physical issues, I find that the hunger hasn’t been as all-consuming as I had feared.  Yeah, I’m hungry, but that’s ok.  What I had been concerned about was the caffeine withdrawal.  God is good, no terrible headaches this time.  Bit of a headache Friday and Saturday, but manageable.  Same with the kidneys.  I remember my kidneys aching badly for four days the first year, and maybe the second year as well.  So far this year, not so bad.  Still achy a bit, but not crushing me.

Mentally, it has been a bit frustrating.  I have felt a bit “fuzzy,” not really as sharp as I would like.  I notice a difference with my thought processes, I feel like I’m lagging about a half of a second behind stuff going on around me.  I know there are those that would ask me what the difference is from usual, and that they believe this to be the norm for me.  I would dispute that.  I think they’re just jealous. 🙂

Spiritually, I must confess its been a mixed bag.  I have remembered to pray when I felt the hunger, so I have prayed often.  That’s a good thing.  And mostly, it’s been positive, thanking God for His goodness, praising Him for who he is, thanking Him for being able to fast for Him.  Friends and family have been getting prayed for, too.  The down side is that I have been a bit cranky from time to time.  I’m pretty sure it’s due to low blood sugar, which I have a tendency toward anyhow.  It’s weird.  in times past, I will come home, or be around the house, and apparently acting crabby.  Beth will ask when I last had something to something, and I will crank out an answer, usually something like, “I don’t know, leave me alone.  I’m not hungry.”  To which she replies not with words, but gets of a bit of cheese or something from the fridge, and stuffs it in my mouth.  The effects usually don’t take long to notice, I can usually feel it in a couple of minutes.  It feels like there’s pressure behind my eyes, and as the food begins digestion, it feels like the pressure is letting up.  I feel lighter somehow.  And less crabby.  Which pleases Beth no end.

So I have been snapping a bit more than I like the past few days.  God has been good in that as well, I have recognized crankiness faster than usual, and have prayed about that also, letting go sooner than is often the case.

The fast hasn’t really disrupted my routine too badly, either.  I spent Friday and Saturday doing my normal routine.  Friday was a regular day at work, doing “boss” stuff, keeping up with paperwork and email.  The smell of coffee and others having lunch was a bit disconcerting, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.  Around noon, my two Lieutenants went for lunch.  They invited me along for Chinese, and I had to decline.  Angela asked if I were dieting, and I told her, “kinda,” to which she looked puzzled and asked how one “kind of” diets.  I then told her I was fasting.  She got that, and turned to leave.  Eric, however, laughed himself silly.  He gets it, too, but has a sense of humor that is a bit, uh, tilted?  (And yes, this is the pot calling the kettle black)  Like most guys, if he finds something a bit different, he’ll “bust chops” about it forever.  He knows my faith, though, and I don’t think this’ll be that kind of topic.  Even if it is, no biggie.  He makes me laugh, so I don’t anticipate this being any different.

So Beth and I are adjusting, and using this time to praise God and pray.  I want to do this for the correct reasons, and not just because I love a challenge.  I love God more, and even though this has been a bit difficult, I am grateful for the opportunity to devote the time to He who gives all good things.

Now as I promised earlier, if you didn’t catch the reference at the beginning of this post, watch this: http://youtu.be/WSX9ms04mhA.  Ok, if you just insert the words, “Super-callused fragile mystic plagued with halitosis.”  Yep, I love it.  And as punners around the world know,other peoples’ groans are but music to my ears…

It begins.

Day One of my Punishment Detail.

It’s been twelve hours, twenty-two minutes and seventeen seconds since I had a bite of food in my mouth.  Only two and a half days to go.  I can feel myself weakening.  Almost fell down the stairs.  No strength.  I think my ribs are sticking out.  How can I keep going?  Not even a cup of coffee to comfort me.  So…tired…camt fele teh kaybrod…goin daaarrrrkkkk…eajfaliiooooeeeeeeeeee jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj  jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj  jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

   …NOT!!!  I don’t quite have enough fat to live as long as a polar bear through the winter, but I bet I could go a couple of weeks minus calories.

It’s kind of interesting, last night I found myself kind of perversely looking forward to this week of fasting.  It’s a challenge, and I am all about that.  Nor really feeling the hunger yet, but I do miss my coffee.  However, Beth and I were talking, and you know what?  We both want to do this correctly.  I really want to focus on God during this time, so that when I feel the hunger I am pointed toward Him.  I want this to be a time of prayer and focus; spiritual awareness.  Hunger and I are not friends, so this is definitely out of my comfort zone.

In times past when we did the Daniel fast, I remember having a caffeine headache for two days, and my kidneys ached for four.  Interestingly, no headache today.  We have cut back on caffeine intake, so hopefully we’ll be relatively ok with that.  I am a bit hungry, but that’ll change; I expect that I’ll be real hungry later on.  I find myself tired, but that I expect will improve.  During our last Daniel fast I missed the coffee for a few days, but then not so badly.

And I tried to convince my wife last night that hops and malt should be allowed on this diet.  They’re grains, right?  She didn’t buy it.

Next spiritual adventure coming up…fast!!

Ok, that’s a bit corny, but I couldn’t stop myself.

Our church leaders have called for a week-long fast starting at 6:00 PM on March 1, 2012.  I have fasted in the past, usually for a day, consisting of water only, or water and Gatorade.  Beth and I have also done the “Daniel fast” for ten days during Lent.

The Daniel fast is based on the book of Daniel in the Bible, in which Daniel and his companions ate only vegetables for a time period.  The fast consists of fruits and vegetables only; no meat of any kind, no dairy.  No processed anything.  No processed flour (white or whole), no baked goods.  In my viewpoint, if it tastes good, you can’t have it.  No coffee, no tea, no soda pop, no milk, no juice.  Just water and veggies.  Basically, if it grows in the ground or on a tree it’s fair game.  Other than that, forget it.

Ok, I’m not a big veggie fan, I take multi-vitamins so I don’t have to eat veggies.  So a ten-day period of time in which that’s all I eat is not exactly something I’m going to jump up and down for.  The Daniel fast is basically a vegan diet, only more restrictive.  Joy, rapture.  How about instead of the fast, I just give myself a papercut and squirt some lemon juice on it?  It’d be kind of painful, and over more quickly.  No, I guess not.

This year the fast being planned is a bit different.  It’s only a week-long, so that’s a bit more palatable (pun intended).  However, it’s not precisely like the Daniel fast.  Here’s the schedule for this year’s fast: Day one is water only.  Day two and three is water and juice only, and the juices are 100% fruit juices only, no preservatives or additives of any kind.  Day three through seven are then Daniel fast oriented.

From a physiological perspective, I know that this will be good for me.  There are all kinds of physical benefits from a fast such as this.  Spiritually, I know this will be good for me as well.  Fasting is a spiritual sacrament that is assumed.  In other words, the Bible doesn’t say, “If you fast,” but it says “When you fast.”  It is assumed that we will fast.  Just as it is assumed that we will pray.  The fact is, I don’t fast enough.  Not that I’m looking for a regular schedule for it…

See, I’m not just fond of food, I love food.  I love the taste, the texture, the smell, the appearance, everything.  I’m certainly no gourmand.  I love all kinds of food, from hot dogs and beans to a nice roast and boiled potatoes to squab and asparagus.  If you need to get classified information from me, there’s no need for torture.  Just set me down in front of an “everything” pizza and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.

With that as background, I think it is easy to see that I am not looking forward to this fast.  I am really, really, not looking forward to it.  But.  I have committed.  And I know God is here.  And God uses situations that appear to be unsavory (another food reference, there) in huge ways.  As an example, I seem to remember reading something about a missions trip to the Dominican Republic.  This is going to be interesting.

(for more information on the Daniel fast, check it out at http://danielfast.wordpress.com/)

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