I and about 27 friends decided to launch our own “experimental mutiny against excess,” doing each of Jen Hatmaker’s 7 fasts for 7 days (instead of a month as she did). Each week I’ll post my thoughts from the previous week, Jen-style, not because I’m trying to be like her but because I’m trying to be like Jesus and her books encourage me to that in new ways.
Day before we began: I have decided on my 7 foods, and this was harder than I thought it would be! It wouldn’t be that much of a fast for me if I could still eat bread (a moment of silence, please, especially since I will still have to MAKE and SMELL bread for my family.) Although avocados would be good for me, they have been cut, along with potatoes (cheese is just too important to me). So here is my list:
I’ve almost finished the book, too … I’m looking forward to going through it more slowly with everyone, but I devoured it the first time around. (I’m a tad bit obsessive … wait, I think I hear my husband and mother laughing at my use of the phrase “a tad bit.”)
Day 1: I love this quote from 7: “If a fast doesn’t include any sacrifices, then it’s not a fast. The discomfort is where the magic happens. Life zips along, unchecked and automatic. We default to our lifestyle, enjoying our privileges tra la la, but a fast interrupts that rote trajectory. Jesus gets a fresh platform in the empty space where indulgence resided.”
I’m getting ready to make myself an omelet with spinach and goat cheese and what’s striking me already is how this is SO not a sacrifice. I’m limiting my choices and trying to be more aware of God’s presence and voice, and as I crave sugar or wish I could have coffee this week, I will remember that I want Him even more. I can’t help thinking of the millions around the globe who would love to have my 7 foods … those who are on the brink of starvation … those who will die today because they lack the food and clean water I take for granted. Lord, make us aware of “the least of these,” and show us what you would have us do to make a difference in our world.
Day 2: My kids are making sure I don’t eat anything that’s not on “the list.” Tonight they said my dinner looked so good that it should be “on the news.” (That would be a pile of chicken, carrots, and cheese with a side of apple.) Here are a couple of other favorites: goat cheese and spinach omelet and spinach salad with egg, almonds, carrots, and cheese. The food part isn’t really that hard and sure makes meal prep easy, but making time to hear from God and make sure I’m getting out of this what He wants is more challenging. I don’t want to miss the point and am praying the same for each of my friends who are participating.
Day 4: My friend Ami pointed out that we should be encouraged because we are past the first couple days of logistics and headaches that go with a fast, as Jen mentions in the book. She also talks about how fasts in Scripture were not one day but 3, 7, 10, or 40 days. The longer we persevere, the more we can hear from God and offer ourselves to Him. Here’s to the beginning of 7 fasts for 7 weeks!
“If eggs and apples, bread [cheese for me] and spinach, sweet potatoes [carrots] and chicken, avacados [almonds] and water can help Jesus over come me, then so be it.” – pg. 29 AMEN and AMEN!
* * *
I got home from an essential oils class last night at midnight, and my husband had to work early today. I was thinking a cup of coffee sure sounded good this morning, but I decided to find my “pick-me-up” in the Word and my study books. I opened up Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson and read this: “In ancient Jewish culture, formal education began at six years of age. Jewish boys enrolled in their local synagogue school called ‘bet sefer’ (house of the book). On the first day of class, according to tradition, the rabbi would cover their slates with honey. Honey was the symbol of God’s favor. Then the rabbi would instruct his students to lick the honey off their slate while reciting from Psalm 119: ‘How sweet are Your Words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.’ It was their first lesson and their most important lesson. It taught the students that nothing is sweeter than the Word of God.” May His Word be the sweetness of my life and His presence be stronger than my sugar cravings today!
“One of the surest ways to get into the presence of God is to get into the Word of God. If we get into God’s Word, God’s Word will get into us. … It’s those who spend the most time in God’s presence that God can use the most because they are the people He can trust the most.” –Mark Batterson
Day 5: I decided to do a 24-hour, water-only fast in the middle of my 7 foods fast. It started as I made myself (another) dinner of cooked carrots, chicken, and cheese piled up on a plate along with a side of sauteed spinach. My husband took our boys out to dinner (our weekly eating-out excursion), which gave me some time to myself and spared me the torture of trying to eat in a restaurant while only eating 7 specific foods. They were gone longer than I expected, giving me the opportunity to read, pray, and even pull out my flute for some worship music as I began my 24 hours.
It wasn’t hard to fast this morning as I was running just on time for church and didn’t have a moment to spare for breakfast. We came home, and I made lunch for my family, which was only slightly torturous. I focused on how this time of emptying myself gives me the chance to identify with and be filled up by Jesus. During my reading and meditating this afternoon, I became very sad at the thought of how wrapped up I am in myself while there is a world full of people quite literally dying, starving, and hurting all around me. We took a walk as a family on this gorgeous fall day, and while my stomach gnawed with hunger, I couldn’t help thinking about how many mothers in the world don’t have the choice to sacrifice food. What little they can find feeds the stomachs of their babies, and tonight some of them will die but with the hope that their children will live another day. At home, I peeled potatoes and garlic cloves to make garlic mashed potatoes that I would not eat. The thought crossed my mind that I am like those potatoes and garlic cloves: I have layers of excess that He is working patiently to peel away through these 7 weeks that have just begun.
As I prepared chicken for my husband to grill and carrots to roast, I realized how much I will miss the emptiness in my stomach. Today has been a peaceful, contemplative, joyful day. The emptiness has caused me to say, “I want You more, Lord,” many times. As I ate my spinach salad, chicken, apples, and carrots this evening, I found myself relieved that we still have more than 6 weeks of various fasts to help keep me on this path of praying, thinking, thanking God, and allowing Him to peel away my excess. I know He is launching me out to reach others and spread the Good News of His kingdom in new ways. He is opening my eyes to so much, so quickly, and I have a sense of urgency, and yet I sense that I am in preparation time when I must wait, listen, be still, learn, and grow. The Bible study I’m facilitating, the conversation I had today with Cre8’s homeless member, the bridge I’m building with a friend, and the simplifying of food and schedules are just the beginning. My belly is full again tonight, and so is my heart. My silent plea goes something like this: “Don’t stop revealing Your truth to me, Lord; don’t stop speaking. I never want to feel so dry again. Empty me, pour me out, and fill me just to do it all over again. I always want to feel this alive!” Life is a vapor, and as I enter that time we call “middle aged,” I feel in the depths of my soul how important it is to hear my Lord and follow all the way. He will not say, “Well thought!” or “Well said!” or “Well intentioned!” when my earthly life has evaporated. By his grace and mercy, I am saved. With all my heart, I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” — not for my own benefit or glory but because nothing else will matter.
Day 6: I want my kids to grow up being thankful for what we have, too. So often they ask if we can just go out to eat because the hundreds of items in our fridge, freezer, and pantry just don’t sound good. We generally eat out only one time per week, and they know that’s the rule. Now I would like for all of us to be more grateful, too.
I wanted chocolate to the point of distraction tonight. I was getting grumpy and having a hard time focusing because of it. My husband has eaten some right in front of me for a few days in a row. Am I really feeling sorry for myself over chocolate (and bread)? No wonder my kids whine about snacks and dessert. I’ve been quite an example to them. Lord, help me find balance between thanking You for the provision of food and taking it for granted, even wasting food because there is always more.
Day 7: My friend Lindsay posted this today: “Heavenly Father, as I so closely limit the foods I take in today, let me also filter the words and ideas I let into my heart and soul. Help me be ever-vigilant to guard what takes up residence in my heart.” What a wonderful thought. I will keep this in mind as we continue ridding the excess in our lives for the next 6 weeks.
I’ve learned a few things about myself regarding food this week: I like simple. I do enjoy cooking once in a while, but if I lived by myself I would only cook about once a week. (I would still bake fresh bed regularly.) I would be completely fine with a protein, fruit, vegetable, bread, and water, and I wouldn’t care if what I ate today was exactly as what I had eaten the day before. Maybe that’s one reason I’ve always adjusted easily and well on the mission field. I don’t miss spices all that much. I like hot apple cider better than coffee. In fact, I would give up a lot of foods before I would give up apples, applesauce, and apple cider — something my parents have known about me since I was 3. It’s a good thing my husband will be home a lot more very soon. He enjoys cooking and loves lots of flavor. I like cooking but like having time to do other things even more.
By the way, I didn’t have to make bread for my family. I ended up buying some for them from the bakery at our nearest grocery store. (They actually make real sourdough bread with 4 ingredients, just like I do at home.)
I’m not gonna lie: I’m looking forward to adding to my 7 foods list tomorrow. I will be much more grateful for those foods, though, and I will reintroduce slowly as I like the physical changes that come with healthy habits. Now to pick my 7 items of clothing …