Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Long Fast

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I started reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  I first saw this book mentioned on a website months ago and was intrigued by it.  But my library didn't carry it and I have a thing against buying books that I'm not completely sure I will want to keep forever for reference.  I added the book to my wishlist and went on about my day.

Every so often I checked my library to see if the book was available, every so often I added it to my Amazon cart, and then quickly deleted it.  Finally, right before Christmas, as I was just about to buy it, I checked the library one last time and there it was.  Hallelujah!  I put in my request and impatiently waited for my turn to come up.  I picked it up from the library last week.

The premise of the book is that we live in a world of excess.  Too much food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.  All of this excess is not only bad for us, but also distracts us from God.  The author decided to address each area for four weeks with a fast of seven items (seven foods, seven pieces of clothes, etc).  The first month she chose food.

She picked seven foods that she would eat for the entire month.  Nothing else except salt, pepper, olive oil and water.  She chose chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, whole wheat bread, and apples.

I have been pondering doing a longer fast for a while, and this book presented a method that resonated with me.  I considered doing the Seven method, but ultimately opted against it.  Instead I decided to do a whole foods fast--if it didn't grow from the ground or come from an animal, it's out.  Only fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, unprocessed meat, rice, and simple dairy (cheese, plain yogurt, kefir and milk).

The most important part of a fast is to know why you are fasting, so here are the things I am praying for:

1. That I would love with my actions, not just my words.
2. That I would listen for, and respond to, God's promptings with a "Yes".
3. Repentance for all the times I said "No" when God was calling.

So far it's been a week with three more weeks to go.  I've kept to the fast 100% except for when we've been away from home--we had three dinners at other houses that were not fast-friendly.  Here's what I've learned so far.

1. Fasting is easy the first few days because it's new and exciting.  Once the shine has worn off, it's hard work.  I made chocolate chip cookies for a party this weekend and a bunch of them came back home with us.  The past two nights those cookies have called to me.  I sat on the couch reading a book and all I could think about was those stupid cookies.  I wanted a cookie.  Instead I drank some kefir and ate an apple.  I prayed and prayed through my list, reminding myself why I was fasting.  Today, the cookie draw has passed.

2. I am a wheat eater.  Trying to come up with food choices that don't include wheat is a challenge, especially when I'm hungry but nothing sounds good.

3. I am a snacker.  I want to eat crackers for my evening snack.  While an apple and kefir satisfy my caloric and protein needs, they do little to satisfy my cracker desires.

4. Watching my whole family eat chips at dinner while I take seconds of the black bean salad takes a run through of my prayer list.  It's hard having a house full of processed foods, but the desire to consume said foods is weakening with time.

5. All those diet books that say once you break the sugar habit, your taste buds start noticing the sweetness of real foods were right.  Plain yogurt and kefir taste sweet.  Fruit really does satisfy my sweet cravings.  I ate a piece of cheese cake at my nephew's baptism party and felt a little sick from the sugar.

6. Having my list of things I'm praying for makes all the difference.  It's a lot easier to say no to things when I remember I'm fasting for a reason.  I would not be this successful if I'd decided to just do a whole foods diet because I wanted to lose weight or eat healthier.

If you've never tried an extended fast, you should give it a try.  I thought about waiting until Lent and fasting then, but I just couldn't wait.  But if you are less impatient than me, doing some version of a food fast for Lent would be an excellent idea.  Be sure to make a short list of the things that you are praying about so you can run through them over and over when you are tempted to break your fast.  Be prepared for God to meet you in your fast and speak to you.

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