Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Blizzard of '78

I'm still rooting for a 3" snow down here in the Rocket City; Linda's Post from the snowy Hoosierland made me all homesick for just one good Indiana snow. And, she happened to mention the Blizzard of '78, so I dug out an album and found a couple of photos from that memorable event.

I was a freshman at the University of Evansville at the time, and I well remember the thunderstorm we had that turned into snow with thunder that eventually left about a foot of snow on Indiana's toe (More in the rest of the state...). At that time, Evansville didn't handle a bunch of snow much better than it would get handled here in North Alabama, and the town shut down for a week; we missed at least a couple of days of school. I was one of a bunch of folks from the IVCF group on campus who went out in front of Morton Hall (my dorm) and built a snow sculpture; it was supposed to mean 'One Way'. Wouldn't you know, sometime that night some joker tried to move the finger from the first to the second knuckle, which failed utterly and just left a fist on the lawn until it melted. But our intentions were good.

Of course, there's only a vague suggestion that the blurry shapes in this 31-year-old 110-instamatic photo are even actual humans, but I am the one in the second row on the left with the white hat.

The snow was still around when we went on spring break a couple of weeks later, and you can see that the fence between my folk's back yard and the pasture behind the house was totally overwhelmed.

Incidentally, not only did I photograph phenomenal snowfall on that 'spring break', I visited my BFF at Purdue (they were not on spring break) and she introduced me to a tall blond engineering student from Elkhart who later became my husband.

Altogether a pivotal event. ;)

I'd take a picture of the weather outside my house now, but it's really boring. Clear sunset and 42 degrees F....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Fasting as Submission

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time

I thought my little acronym-plan would give me some structure to work with on this study, since I was basically just going on a rough idea. Finding words dealing with fasting that start w/the letters F, A, S and T was tricky, and today's word, submission may be the most difficult.

First, I need to delineate why fasting in submission is different than the 'fasting in faith' I wrote about on the first week. In some ways, it is not different at all...the fast is in response to a directive from authority. But the faith fasts...those specific extreme fasts...were individual fasts, called by God, for the individual to separate himself from *everything* else so as to deal directly with the supernatural. The authority is God, and He is calling individuals.

The fast of submission I want to look at today is the call to corporate fasting coming through humans in authority. Now, these folks are expected to be calling the fast in response to the leadership of God, but the majority of the folks who will be doing the fasting will not have heard that call themselves.

Sometimes the fast is also a fast that seeks answers, as in the fasting of Jehoshaphat and Judah that we looked at last week, but often this fast is called for alignment...a time for the people to reflect on their individual lives and see what needs to change in them. As individuals focus on lining up with God's purpose, the corporate body lines up with God's purpose and then we see what God can do with people who are in agreement. This is the kind of fast we just came off of in our church.

So, what are the Biblical examples of this type of fasting? A declared fast, if you will?

The first declared fast that came to mind was the fast declared for the Day of Atonement; I remember years ago I had a Jewish acquaintance who told me that he had to fast on that day, so I decided I'd look for the instruction regarding fasting on the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament.

I discovered that the word used there, adab, is a word that implies more than just going without food. Some of the meanings given are abase, deal hardly with, humble (self), submit (self). Probably the best translation to get the idea of what is instructed is in the Amplified version:

It shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month [nearly October], on the tenth day of that month, you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting with penitence and humiliation]; it is a statute forever. -- Lev. 16:29, AMP

That makes sense...fasting, introspection, repentance...all necessary for the nation to remain pure, set apart, in accordance with God's statutes.

The second declared fast that I thought of is no doubt due to the fact that one of my favorite CD's has a song titled 'Holy Visitation' that is very reminiscent of the call to national fasting in Joel:
Declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing...Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar.... Joel 1:14, 2:12-13, 15-17a, NIV

A corporate fast of repentance...which, by implication, invokes the promise given in 2 Chron. 7:14 -- If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NIV)

The third fast that comes to mind almost is a different creature altogether...the people called the fast. In Nehemiah, when the walls of the city were built and Ezra the priest stood and read the Law in the assembly for the first time, many of the people were convicted and began weeping. Their response to the Word was to fast and grieve. Nehemiah, however, pointed out to them that this was a joyous time and instructed them that they were to 'eat the fat and drink the sweet' (I've a confession of my own...that verse always makes me smile just a little), and that there would be another day for fasting. About three weeks later, the people did come together: On the twenty-fourth day of that same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. - Neh. 9:1 - 3 . Then the Israelites declared their intention to live by the decrees and statutes of God...spelling out what they would not do, and what they would be sure to do. They didn't keep their promises entirely, but it is historically true that Israel as a nation never again fell into the worship of foreign gods.

So what I am seeing in these declared fasts is that it was not a time to seek God's direction for an individual was a time to inspect one's life in light of the community. Am I a stumbling block? Am I aligned with the direction God has declared to the body? This was not a time that leadership condemned the people; the people sought God as individuals and came together in corporate repentance. It was not only an exercise in submitting to the authority in participating in the fast, it was an exercise in submitting one's self to the whole body; being part of the corporate.

That may be elementary observation to some, but to me it is a revelation. I *haven't* treated the declared fasts as a time for me to submit to the body of Christ; I have been seeking direction for *me*, as an individual. So now I'm confessing before God and all my readers that that's selfish. Oh, I realize that my direction is connected with proper submission to the body, but I've got the cart before the horse. I think if I consider the body part in it will be more obvious.

So, closing thoughts: What do I need to adjust in my thinking so that I am properly submitted to God, to the leadership He has placed over me, and to other members of His body? How can I train myself to recognize 'selfish' thinking, so that I don't fall into that habit? Even at home on a day-to-day basis, recognizing that the part of the body that I am most responsible to is my own family?

(ouch... ;) )

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jubilee Monday #23 Trusting...again

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The very first application I wrote about regarding a Jubilee year is that, in Jubilee, God is absolutely trusted for provision. There is no active cultivation of fields, no collecting of harvest for days ahead. The folks were expected to live day-to-day on what God provided.

And, yes, God is taking me through that in more ways than one. But I'm determined to get the lesson from my head (of course I know it) through my heart (where I believe it...Lord, help my unbelief!) into my spirit (where I want it to be the rock-solid foundation for life): God can be trusted. Period.

Of course it's scary to look and not know what's coming...but at the same time, it's kind of exciting to expect to see God do something unexpected at the most critical moment.

He's done it before, He'll do it again. It's His modus operendi (the spellchecker doesn't like that...I hope it's spelled right. I need to find a Latin spellchecker! ;))

Maybe we all have to walk through the time of desperately relying on His provision, so when we enter a time of plenty we know it's really not ours?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Fasting Seeking Answers

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time

It's pretty obvious that this is not any kind of a comprehensive look at fasting; my goodness, folks much more learned than I have researched it extensively and written books on the subject; how could I expect to do something significant in four little blog posts?

Just in case you were wondering, of course.

Actually, the more I look into this the more out of my depth I feel here. Still, in trying to stick to the 'who-how-why' questions, today's look is at people who fasted because they were desperate to get an answer from God.

All of them went about their fasting in different ways. I don't think I'm going to get to touch on all of them, but I'll try to get a good smattering of examples:

David, who, in 2 Samuel 12, fasted in intercession for the life of the son conceived in adultery with Bathsheba;

Jehoshaphat and the entire nation of Judah fasted in 2 Chronicles 20 to seek God's protection/guidance against the army that was poised to obliterate them;

In Esther 4, the exiled Jews fasted for God's intervention after learning Haman had managed to manipulate the king into issuing an edict calling for their extermination;

Nehemiah 1 records Nehemiah's fasting, prayer and repentance and ultimate request for favor with the King to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem;

Daniel fasted twice; once, recorded in Dan. 9, in the first year of the reign of King Darius when Daniel understood the prophecies of Jeremiah pertaining to the length of Judah's exile; the second is found in Dan. 10 and happened in the third year of Cyrus's reign when Daniel fasted and mourned for 21 days, seeking understanding.

These fasts were all for different reasons, of different durations and quite possibly involved different aspects of denial. Some were individual, some were corporate. But they all had a common element and a common time frame: They were desperate to hear from God, and they fasted until the answer came...and do note that, in David's case, the answer was not what he desired. Yet he broke the fast all the same, accepting what was patently God's plan over his own desire.

I looked up the Hebrew words to see if I could tell what was and drink, food only, some foods only...and really didn't get much help. David's fast employed a word, lechem, which meant 'food, especially breads/grains', but most of the references were for the word tsuwm, which just means...'fast'. No particulars.

Daniel was kind enough to describe the fasting he did for 21 days in Dan. 10:3 -- 'I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all...' Hence the label 'Daniel Fast', applied to a fast that is based on vegetables. Nehemiah may very well have done a similar fast, as his fast certainly lasted a number of days. But the fasts for survival, I suspect, were more intense and may have been water-only or some other highly restricted fast.

Of course, that's not surprising. In the one or two episodes so far in my life which were gut-wrenchingly tough, I found I had no appetite at all and basically fasted as a result of the turmoil I was walking through. But it wasn't a decision to fast...I couldn't do anything else at that point.

So, given the restrictions of a blog post, what are the lessons for us in these examples?
I see that this kind of fast is not God-initiated as the 'Faith' fasts we looked at last week. These fasts are born out of a desperate heart.

I see that these fasts were not set for a specific time period...these people fasted until the answer came. In Daniel's case, the answer was delayed, but Daniel kept his fast going until the answer came.

Some of these fasts were very in the fast of Jehoshaphat and Judah, when business stopped and All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. (2 Chron. 20:13), while others were carried out while life went on, as Nehemiah going about his business until the king was moved to ask what sorrow was on his heart (Neh. 2:2).

I think the point is that there is not a set, prescribed way to make a cry out to God. It is going to be different, depending upon the individual, the request, the urgency of the request...different factors. We tend to want a formula, a list of things not to eat or do, considering that if we do it *that way*, God will answer us. The truth is, our focus is not to be on what we eat or don't eat, but in seeking God's heart and not giving up until we have our answer. To forget about food for a while, eating to simply survive, as we pour our hearts out to God.

Because the answer is coming. It might be 'no', it might be delayed...but it *is* coming.

Closing Thoughts: When have I been so desperate to get an answer from God I'm willing to forget about food/satisfying an appetite in order to press in to get that answer? What motivates me to seek Him on that level? My survival... or, as Daniel, understanding? How can I keep the motivation to keep pressing in until the answer comes?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Limited Access Week

For anyone who hasn't been hanging around here long, I gotta 'fess up to something:

Um, housekeeping is not my long suit.

Every once in a while, I need to clamp down on myself so I can do some catch up; I finally decided the easiest way to to do that would be just to give myself an 'at home, off the 'net week' once every three months, in which I would do my best not to schedule any outside-the-house obligations and stay off the internet for anything other than email and checking the weather. ;)

I picked the third weeks of January, April, July and October for my 'at home' weeks and just put it on the calendar.

I didn't do so good this time; I've scheduled my second 'fasting' Bible Study for Tuesday, and I have two chiropractor appointments this week, plus I agreed to help with the mammoth task of stuffing yearly contribution records into envelopes at church. So I'm already at only about half time for this week.

But I've got some things that are *seriously* behind and I do really, really need to focus on some catch up, so, except for Tuesday's post I'm outta here for a week.

Catch ya on the flip-flop (yeah, once upon a time, I had a CB radio...) Y'all have a blessed week!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beaned by a Nugget

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I debated for a while about whether or to make this a blog post or a Facebook note, but after reading Sarah's post, I decided to go ahead and put it out there for everyone.

A friend at church recommended Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' book Love & Respect, and just before Christmas My Sweet Baboo picked up a copy and began reading it. It's been sitting by his easy chair pretty much since then and on a whim I picked it up last week and began reading.

My initial reaction was that Dr. E. says the same things I have heard before, only in different words. But...y'know, those different words can make a difference. The message got in a little deeper because of his emphasis on a husband's deep need for his wife's respect. Not such a very different concept from what I've heard for ages about appreciating him, encouraging him, etc...but 'respect' seems to nail down something that the other words dance around.

And he is is absolutely essential.

I think I knew that even as a teenager, when I joked that I wouldn't marry anyone who couldn't beat me at chess. My stated reason was that if I was going to be partnered with someone for life, it'd better be someone who could improve my chess game...but, y'know, deep down, the real reason was that I knew I needed someone that I could respect.

It's a rather amusing coincidence that My Sweet Baboo did indeed maneuver my king into checkmate the first time we played.

Now, there are areas in which I have slipped up and we've had our rocky moments, but overall my husband is a man that I deeply respect. To my discredit, I just don't always remember to tell him that.

But...the nugget that beaned me was a little bit about the passage in Titus 2 in which Paul directs Timothy to encourage the older women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands. I've taught this passage before, but never did I bother to look up which Greek word is translated 'love'. It was pretty obvious to me; since virtually all marriages were arranged in that day, a woman wouldn't go into a marriage in love with the man she married...she'd have to learn it. If you had asked me, my top-off-my-head guess would've been agape (sacrificial love) or maybe even the more obvious er* os (physical love, and hopefully that little asterisk and space will keep me out of internet searches...). But Dr. Eggerichs points out that the word there is based on phileo...brotherly love, friendship. Astonished, I pulled out the reference Bibles and concordances and...he's right. Suddenly, a lot of little puzzle pieces fell into place.

A wife really does need to be her hubby's best friend. Or maybe a better way of putting it would be that a man needs his wife to be his best friend.

So...I need to remind my best friend that he is someone that I deeply respect.

On a regular basis. ;)

[Thanks to Sarah for making this post 'A Good Thing'!]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Internal Communication Glitch

I really wish all my brain cells communicated with each other.

Brain cell group number 1 is looking forward to the quarterly 'at home/off the 'net week' next week as a chance to do some serious catch up work.

Brain cell group number 2 was concerned with the Bible study on fasting and how it aligned somewhat with the 21-day fast we're doing at church.

Brain cell group number 3 responded 'Yes, I'll help!' when the annual call went out to stuff contribution records into envelopes so they can be mailed out in time for tax season. The call came on my cell phone while I was out and about and away from my calendar.

Last night, all those groups finally tagged each other and said, "Whoops! I'm supposed to be off the blogs and such next week, and I've committed myself to posting a Bible study on Tuesday, and I just said I'd help stuff envelopes on Tuesday and I'm not even supposed to go anywhere next week!'

Sigh. I did it again....well, at least I can stay *mostly* off the 'net next week; the Bible study post will be IT. Although it will likely be a very late one...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Fasting in Faith

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time

Fasting in Faith

Y'know, I knew I was wandering off the well-worn path of expectation and tradition when I started looking into this, but I didn't expect to have two of my assumptions shot down on the very first foray into the Scripture.

I was going to write today about two men who did extraordinary fasts...what should have been fatal fasts... and look at why and how those happened, and how they survived.

What I found was that my assumptions about who did these very specific fasts were wrong. Firstly, only one of them is specifically recorded as doing it; the second is, I think, *assumed* to have done it, based on the circumstances, but nowhere is it specified that he did exactly that. That was a surprise. The other surprise is that the first one did the extreme fast not once, but twice. In pretty short order.

And in all my years of Bible study...even teaching from these very passages...somehow I had overlooked it. Funny how our expectations can color what we read, even from the Bible itself.

So, having the expectations of what I would find and my semi-thought-out direction utterly undone, now I must dig into that and see what the significance of it really is.

It's a little scary, but the truth is I love it when that happens. It usually means something new and fresh is coming....

The extraordinary fast of which I'm speaking is, of course, going 40 days without food or drink. Anyone who knows anything about the human body will tell you that three days w/o drink will result in death by dehydration. Our bodies need water, and lots of it, to function properly. For someone to go without eating or drinking anything for 40 days is beyond possible. It's miraculous.

So who did...and did this miraculous fast?

Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them."
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and nights. -- Ex. 24:13 - 18, NIV

"When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water. The LORD gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the Lord proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of assembly. -- Deut. 9:9-10

Of course, this is the very familiar story of Moses getting the revelation from God up on the mountain. He was directly in the presence of the cloud that concealed the glory of God (see Ex. 33:18) and appeared, from the perspective of the people in the camp below, to be a consuming fire. For forty days and nights he was there, without bread or water, by his own testimony. Small wonder the people despaired of his return. To them, it looked like Moses had gone into a raging inferno. Not an excuse for the idolatry they subsequently fell into, but perhaps an explanation of why those folks said, "As for this fellow Moses, we don't know what has happened to him" (Ex. 32:1)

So, what did happen to Moses?
- He was called into the presence of God
- He obeyed and walked into a supernatural experience. I honestly think Moses was put in a place outside of time for 40 days. I don't think he moved...I think the presence of God moved time away from Moses. All of this is conjecture, of course, but something happened to allow Moses to exist without the necessities of life. I just can't see Moses stopping in the middle of,say, getting all those details about the tabernacle to ask God's permission to wait a moment while he, um, answered nature's call. Somehow, heaven met earth and time fled for a time.

Then God sent him back down the mountain, with the tablets, telling him the people had already rebelled against those commandments. Moses smashed the tablets when he saw what had happened...after all, the people had already broken the covenant. There was judgment at that moment...the Levites slaughtered 3,000 of the people for their idolatry, and God sent a plague. The account in Exodus just states that The next day Moses said to the people,"You have committed a very great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." (Ex. 32:30). But in Deuteronomy, Moses recalls what happened when he went back before God:
"Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD's sight and so provoking him to anger....I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you. I prayed to the LORD...and the LORD listened to me at this time also. It was not his will to destroy you." -- Deut. 9:18,25 & 10:10

Exodus records part of that intercession, in which Moses requests that God blot his name from the book instead of the names of the people who had sinned (Ex. 32:32).

If I'm reading this right, Moses had scarcely a day in between two forty-day total abstinence fasts. This was not just was beyond miraculous.

The first time was in obedience, the second time was in intercession. I think he dared to venture the second because of what had happened in the first. He knew the incredible power of God to defy even natural laws. He was not afraid to enter a place of total abandonment to God. And God somehow gave him extraordinary grace to endure what no other human could withstand.

That's other human. The other famed 40 day fast occurred when the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Matthew and Luke both record details about this event but, to my surprise, neither one mentions that Jesus did not drink. Matthew states After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. -- Mt 4:2. The Greek word translated 'fasting' there, nesteuo, means 'to abstain from food'. Luke writes ...He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.- Lk 4:2b. I looked up 'ate nothing' and found that 'ate' is phago, which translates 'to eat, meat' and ouden, which means 'none, nothing, not any at all, nought.' Clearly, Jesus ate nothing. Also clearly, nothing is mentioned about drinking, despite the fact that I have heard folks say that Jesus neither ate nor drank in all that time. I suppose the inference is that, since he was in the desert, there was no water, but that's not necessarily true. I believe Jesus found enough water here and there to stay alive. I don't think he had the same kind of experience that Moses had.

There are several reasons I think this. Nowhere is it mentioned that Moses had any effects from his fast; both accounts specifically say that Jesus was hungry. And the point of Jesus' temptation was that he had to resist that to which humans would not have been the same if he'd been existing in a state of supernatural grace. By resisting the temptations in a highly weakened, fully human state, Jesus more than fulfilled that point...he excelled beyond it to completion.

It goes without saying that his trip into the desert wasn't a vacation...he was led by the Spirit. He went in obedience...and faith... to a place of death and survived. Moreover, when he had resisted the devil until the devil fled, angels came to him and ministered to him...there was a supernatural restoration.

But I want to point out one more thing. Neither Moses nor Jesus set out to fast for 40 days. They fasted until the release came and the victory was won.

Points to ponder: What is God calling me to do that requires absolute faith? What do I need to surrender, give up, quit looking for in order to walk where He is leading? Do I trust Him to either take care of me through the event or restore me afterward? Can I really fast in faith?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jubilee Monday #22: Hope...hope...

Do you ever think of something you'd like to see happen, but fear to speak of it lest it not come to pass?

Sort of like the old saw about not talking about the no-hitter until the last out?

I've mentioned before that it's a Jubilee kind of thing to see dreams come to pass.

For the first time in a long time, I've got a glimmer of a dream that might actually happen.

But, for lots of reasons I'm not going to say too much about it right now... :-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crystalizing Carbon

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I pulled this off my hard drive, mostly because I need to be reminded of it. I don't remember when the revelation hit me, other than it was in a (I think early morning)prayer meeting at church sometime in the past 5 years.

It is heat and pressure that turns a lump of coal into a diamond. When the weight and fiery heat of God’s glory truly comes upon us, we will be transformed. The crystallization process actually puts the carbon atoms into order, just as God puts our hearts and minds into order as we are transformed into His likeness and become ‘living stones’. I think the thing that struck me the most, though, is that a diamond really isn’t beautiful in and of itself; it is beautiful because of the light that passes through it. Cut and ground into the proper shape, it will maximize the light flowing through it and reflecting from it. A really beautiful diamond is almost invisible, due to the dazzling effect of the light.

We have two processes to undergo…the transformation and then the cutting/grinding/polishing…in order to allow that dazzling light to be visible.

I don't know if My Sweet Baboo and I are being heated and pressured into transformation, or if we're being cut and ground...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: A Blogged Bible Study.

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

'Get to Know Him' is the theme for the 21 day corporate fast we are entering at church this week, and I thought I'd take my 'Something Bible Study Related' Tuesday posts and do a little discussion of fasting in general.

See, I grew up in an independent Baptist church in the middle of Indiana farm country. There was a joke going around years ago about a teacher who asked each student to bring in something that symbolized some aspect of his/her faith...and the Catholic child brought a rosary, the Jewish child brought a menorah and the Baptist kid brought a casserole dish. That ain't far from the truth...fasting wasn't something even mentioned in that congregation.

The Southern Baptist church we were in for 20-something years after we moved south did have a few (very few...maybe 2?)fasts in the time we were there...but they were only of the one-day variety.

So fasting as a discipline was not something that I was terribly familiar with when we came to our current church. We've been here for 7 years now, and I'm really just now beginning to get what it's about.

But, one thing I haven't done yet is to do a serious look at fasting in the Bible. So I'm going to have a go at that for the next few weeks...who fasted, why did they fast, how did they fast...I'll be looking for answers to questions like that.

Since this idea just hit me last night, and I've been running errands in the rain all morning and haven't had time to really sit down and work through a syllabus, I'm going to make up a syllabus off the top of my head. It will, therefore, be subject to change, but here's what I'm thinking right now:

Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time

This is even farther out of my comfort zone than the Advent study...maybe because I need it myself?

Should be interesting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jubilee Monday #21 - Forgive us our Debts

A new year sort of gets everyone in the jubilee spirit, I think. Everyone is thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings, which is really what jubilee is about.

I wish the new year started off with all debts canceled...or even that we could cancel debts every 50 years. Especially after the holidays.

But, this being the year 2009, that ain't gonna happen. Yet...

Aren't there debts that I need to cancel? Things I feel I'm 'owed' in one way, shape or form? I might not be able to talk VISA into canceling our debt, or the mortgage company into considering our loan paid in full, but I can release folks that 'owe' me something...whether it be an apology, money, recognition, restitution...doesn't matter.

In the year of Jubilee, forgiving debts is not optional. It's mandated.

But it is a fresh start.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hello, '09

Sigh. The clock just keeps on tickin' and the calendar just keeps on flippin', whether I'm ready for it or not.

I'm not a 'New Year's Resolution' maker...I never got the trick of making good ones that actually challenged me to do something specific better. My 'New Year's Resolutions' were usually lists of things I wanted to see happen in the next year, but without any real plan of accomplishing those things. I finally gave it up.

But Sarah at The Cleft of the Rock issued a challenge to her readers: sum up goals for the new year. In. Three. Words.

That intrigued me; three little words would not be something I wished for and failed at, but just something to keep in mind and heart.

So I began to think and reflect: what is God saying to me about the upcoming twelve months?

And, believe it or not, I did come up with three words:

Trust. Time. Sphere.

The first two were from our New Years Eve worship service. 'Trust' was in response to a question that I wrote in my sermon notes book: "What do I need to hear from God for the New Year?' The answer that I wrote to that query was that I need to trust Him and quit worrying and fretting. He has always provided what I've needed when I needed it; I need to actively, intentionally depend on Him...count on do that this year.

In that service, we also were given 3x5 cards and instructed to write on them what we needed to give to God for 2009, then leave that anonymous note on the altar. I struggled a bit with that one before I realized that what I need to give Him is my time. Not that I need to increase my activities, but I need to recognize Him as the Orderer of my Time. I don't need to give Him three more hours, twice a week...I need to acknowledge that He owns my minutes, and what I do with them matters. That should make a huge difference in my life if I really take that to heart and live by it.

Finally, in this morning's service, I realized that the third word was 'Sphere.' I need to be more aware not only of my sphere of influence, but my sphere of responsibility...and what is and is not in those respective spheres. Sarah, I'll ask...any one else have three words for '09?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking Forward

I thought I'd pull out my very first journal (which began in fall of 1984) and write down what I put for my New Year's Resolutions/thoughts that year for the first Friday Flashback of '09. But I was heartily disappointed. Yes, I had resolutions...but they were very superficial. And the whole next six month's worth of entries was one long whine.

It was childish. I guess it was good to see that I *have* (I think -- hopefully?) matured in the last 25 years. But it was a good lesson all the same. One can't go forward while looking back.

Not that I don't need to be reminded of the lessons of the past that I *still* haven't gotten...but I think the Friday Flashback series has run its course and it's time to look forward now.

But I'll be honest... I haven't often felt the kind of chill in my spirit looking at a new year as I have felt this week. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just because this year has my 50th birthday in it. Or maybe it's because I know that life is going to get very, very busy very, very soon and I'm not ready to dive back into it yet. Or maybe it's because we've found we still have a nasty leak in the roof that the DIY home repair effort didn't quite fix and I feel like I'm looking at an unknown financial setback to repair it.

Or maybe it's just of the best parts about being a woman approaching 50 is that almost anything can be blamed on hormones...

So. Instead of looking back, I need to look ahead, and remind myself that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think, and that I can do all things through Him.

In our church, we always start off the new year with an extended fast; this year's 21-day fast begins on Sunday. Believe it or not, I'm glad of it (is *that* ever out of character!). For lots of reasons, this is something I really feel like I need right now. Some reasons I could articulate...some I can't. Not because they're private, but because they're so deep in my spirit that *I'm* not even sure just exactly they are.

But it is those inexpressible reasons that bring tears to my eyes when I consider holding them out to my Father in the urgent pursuit of God that accompanies a true fast.

And THAT is something to look forward to.