Fasting, it's not for the weak, or the food obsessed. I am both of these. Yet, the yearning I have to draw near the heart of God compels me to step outside my comfort zone as I learn new ways to connect with Him. Fasting was one of those connectors and it was mind-blowing in its intensity. I've had a heart for fasting since many years ago when I went on a spiritual retreat, my first ever. I got to my remote destination to discover that I had accidently left all the food I had packed for the trip at home. Oopsies. I felt in my soul that this didn't happen on accident. I mean really does anything happen accidentally when God is involved? I felt this urge to fast for the two-ish days that I was to be on my spiritual retreat. I didn't follow the urging then. Nope, I found the nearest Subway and proceeded to chow down on a $5 footlong. There were some things that happened on that trip that go beyond the realm of the physical and there were some very dark battles that ensued, I hope to share all about that trip in a later post. But this post is about fasting, it's benefits and it's many hardships. I often wonder if I would've followed the prompting on that trip what might have happened. Flash forward to a few short months ago, before I had completed my book. I felt the urge again to fast. This time I followed it. I spoke to a few trusted sources about fasting and then bought a book called, appropriately enough, Fasting by Jentezen Franklin. I was only half way through reading the book before I was so motivated that I decided I need to do this now. I planned on fasting for one day. I told just a few people, one being my husband because obvi he would need to know and the other was my sister, for prayer support. Well, let me tell you, it was MISERABLE. That first day ended with a headache so bad I literally laid in my bed from about 6:30PM on crying and curled in the fetal position. I've discovered that this is normal for fasting and it's actually a good sign. This is toxins leaving the body. Jentezen Franklin said that the worse the headache is is a sign of how badly your body needed a fast. But, that information doesn't make the headache suck any less. The next day I felt better and I made a decision to continue my fast. I just felt I needed to fast for a full week. When I told my husband this he responded with "Why?" probably because he had seen how miserable I was that first day. I told him this "What else can I offer God that He doesn't already have?" That was it. That's why I needed to do this. I needed to sacrifice something to God that could only come from me. My mantra that week was "I don't want to be hungry for God, I want to be starving for Him." And I was. I spent so much time in prayer and meditation, scripture and singing, any way I could connect I did. It wasn't all great though. Oh no, not all great. The spiritual battles I encountered that week were terrifying. The weakness, the nausea, the hunger were the likes of which I'd never experienced before. But I loved it. I loved the weakness, the need I felt because it made me rely more heavily on God. Every time I'd pray I'd ask God to sustain me. I also loved the support it gained from my family. Even my kids said they wanted to fast some day. I fell in love with the fast, even through the agony of it. On my seventh day, my last day, I made it a point to clear my schedule and focus only on God. I worried that I'd get bored but I didn't. I'd never felt so dependent on God in all my life and He sustained me. I didn't want it to end but I knew that it must. I was worried that I'd lose that dependency that fasting had provided but I didn't. I just gained a new tool with which to connect. That fast was what led me to take my road trip to Alabama to finish the book. A road trip that I video journaled and inspired so many people. A road trip that drew me even closer to God. A road trip that although I prayed for only 30 more church signs, God gave me about 50 and I was able to finish my book. I'm now on my third fast. My second fast was a three day fast in preparation for the arrival of Maybe It's a Sign... and my kids and husband also did partial fasts. My husband ate only one meal a day and my kids fasted from all snacks. The support was amazing. I'm on the second day of my third fast. It's a three day fast and the focus is clarity. I'm trying to hear God tell me where to go next with this ministry. I will tell you that this has been the hardest fast for me thus far. So hard in fact that I cheated and ate a banana last night and a banana and coffee with creamer today. Last night I was in so much pain that I called out to God "Why do you have to make it so hard to sacrifice to you!" I've been beating myself up all day because of two darn bananas but this is what I learned and this is what I hope you take from all this jabber. God loves our sacrifice any way it comes. Just coming to Him in a quick two minute prayer or spending time in the Word or using our God given abilities to serve. Any sacrifice of our time and our talents that we offer up to God, I promise He receives with such love that it would literally blow your mind. I said literally and I can't stand that word but it's relevant here. So, as I was beating myself up over the two bananas today and apologizing over and over again to God for how weak I was this time around He just loved me and in that love I felt his absolute appreciation for the sacrifice I was making. His appreciation for my sacrifice? Isn't this the same God who sent his only son to die for me? Yet he appreciates my half-hearted sacrifice of a three day fast in which I cheated? Yes. The answer is, was and always will be yes. Now, let me leave you with this point to ponder: What is the one thing that only you can give to God? The one sacrifice that only you can offer? I encourage you to find it and offer it up and even if it's not perfect God will love it.
Just got off the phone with a church. The woman was rude at best. I explained who I was and that I was looking for support from all my local churches. I told her that I was serving Huron County for now and she said well we're in Erie. Like, wait a minute. You don't want to support getting the Word of God to people outside of your own community? She then instructed me to send an email but never gave me her name or an email address. The anger and hurt took my breath away. I cried, a lot. Yesterday, I met with two amazing women who are doing the tough work of feeding their community and they, like I, have found little to no support from the church. I've reached out to hundreds, possibly over a thousand churches, since beginning this mission with about a 1% response. At first, I was just asking for church sign pictures. No commitment, no money, just a picture of their church sign. Crickets. Then I reached out to one local, non-profit not associated with the church and within one hour they had replied back to me and within one week they had met with me, encouraged me and offered support. When I began this journey I was hoping to prove the opposite. I was hoping to prove that the church would come together to support someone who was trying to bring the Good News to her community. That the church cared for more than just donors and putting butts in pews. I fear that the opposite is being proved and for one brief second, it even made me doubt God. This is my darn blog and I'm keeping it real. I doubted because I wondered how people who claim to know God and serve God could turn their backs on those in need and those trying to serve the needy. I reminded God of what He did to the Israelites in the Old Testament when they denied Him and lived outside His will. I said "I'm ready for the wrath of God. Maybe that's what we need." So, today in the prayer chair, I asked Jesus: Would you do it again? When you look down and see the mess we've made of Your church, would you do it again. Would You go through the betrayal, the denials, the pain, the suffering, the mocking, the torture and the agonizing death for this church? As I sat there in the chair, with that question on my lips He showed me a vision of myself. Busting my butt to try to get His faith, His hope, His love to my community. He showed me all I've done so far and all I hope to do. With that vision He reminded me that I am the church and He would do it again for me. Jesus, You are worth every single one of my tears. Every single phone call I make that ends in frustration or hurt. You are worth it all and just as you'd do it again for me, I will keep doing it for you.
We all have them right? Those things in our lives that seem unmovable. Those things we feel even God himself can't help us with. My mountain comes in the form of about 2000 Maybe It's a Sign.. books still taking up room in the garage. Every time I walk by them I kind of give a look to heaven like "Really dad? I thought you said you had this." My mountain, however, is a lot more than just the books in the garage. Those books are just the form my mountain is taking in this season. My true mountain, the mountain I try to climb daily, often failing in the process, that mountain has a name and it's name is doubt. Doubt in myself. Doubt in my calling. Doubt if my heart is in the right place. Doubt if I'm good enough, if this is going to mean anything, if I have enough strength to continue to face the rejections. And if we're being real honest, doubt in the power of God. The same God who brought me from the brink of insanity and restored me. The same God who whispered my name to me. The same God who has brought my husband into a deep faith and has healed our marriage. The same God who always slips in at that moment, that breaking point I'm gonna lose my darn mind moment, and always, always, always provides a miracle. Yep, I doubt that Guy. My brother, Jesus, said "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to this mountain move and it will move." I don't think that Jesus was talking about literal mountains here, although even that is not outside the realm of possibilities for our great God. I believe He was talking about our own personal mountains. Doubt, fear, addiction, homelessness, unemployment, broken homes, abuse, failing marriages. Those, my friends, are the mountains. And faith the size of a mustard seed? Shoot, we all got that right? Wrong. Faith, my friends, is not something you have. Faith is something you feel from the pit of your stomach all the way to your soul. Faith is what connects us to heaven. I know when I'm praying with faith because it feels different. Praying with faith causes me to shake and cry and laugh and dance and never want to stop praying. And it makes me believe. BELIEVE. The thing about faith though, the real funny thing, is that when you can reach that true, deep, unshakable faith in your prayer life, you find that you no longer want to pray about those mountains that seem so unmovable. Because when you're praying with faith you see those darn mountains for what they really are. Those mountains are your gifts from God. Those mountains will continue to draw you closer to His heart. Those mountains will make you stronger than you ever thought possible and provide you with opportunities that you would have never seen coming. Those mountains will ensure your journey is filled with beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring stories. Stories that some day might just inspire others to get in touch with their own mountain moving (or should I say embracing) faith. So yesterday, I went to God with faith and I spent forever in the prayer chair with Him. I had so many other things pressing at me, things I needed to do but I just didn't want to leave because in that place with tears streaming down my face as I cried out to God in faith, my mountain no longer seemed like a mountain. It seemed like a beautiful adventure. So, I went out to my garage, slightly weakened from that prayer session, and I had a talk with those darn books. I laid my hands on them and I called them out. I called out DOUBT. I let them know that MY GOD IS BIGGER. And as I stand there in my garage, crying, with my hands on those stacks of books, looking like a total nut job I looked up to heaven and I spoke to God "Move. This. Mountain." Hey, let me be real honest here, those books didn't suddenly, magically disappear and thousands of dollars appear in The Love Bus bank account. Nope that totally did not happen. But, my brothers and sisters, my doubt, my fear and my worry did disappear. So, I invite you to comment here and share your mountains with me. Let's climb them together with the love of Christ and the strength of the Almighty.
Listen, I was a lost soul. I was all in for myself and I didn't care who I had to hurt or what I had to do. I just wanted to be happy. I had a great job, my dream job, a big house, a loving husband and beautiful, healthy twin babies. If that can't bring a person happiness what can? Well turns out happiness is cheap and fleeting. On the outside, it was hunky dunky dory but on the inside I was discontent and even bitter. My marriage was rocky, at best, I drank to relieve stress from the job I loved, I was racking up credit card debt taking care of my big house and my favorite part of parenting was putting the kids to bed so I could sneak out to the garage and smoke a joint. Oh yeah, I was happy alright. I was empty and lost and lonely. I didn't realize then but I was trying to fill a void in my life with everything I possibly could except for the one thing that could actually relieve the pain and loneliness. That one thing was Jesus. Now, I live to serve Him because he brought me out of darkness, literally. This blog is all about my love for the Lord and the struggles that come with being a Christian and having faith, because no matter what you might have heard, if you're doing it right faith ain't easy. So, I invite you to read about my journey and I pray that you are encouraged to share your own stories. I believe this is how we gain insight and wisdom. We were never meant to travel this road alone. That's why God put so many of us, each with our own insights, on this earth. To learn, to grow, to share and to love. After all, we will be sharing eternity together so we may as well learn to get along now. So this is my story and this is me sharing my wisdom and my love for the Lord.