Today, I was making a meal for a dear friend, and congregant who has been out due to a knee replacement. I decided to make one of my signature dishes, Eggplant Parmesan. It was the first dish I ever made with Eggplant and it was this dish that made me love eggplant. So as I began to prep and get everything ready, I was tempted to take little bites here and there.
When I cook in the kitchen, I usually would eat bits and pieces of the meal that I am making. If I’m making meatloaf, I’ll sample some of the beef, and onions. If I’m making grilled cheese, I’ll take a pinch of the shredded cheese and eat it. So when it came time to make the eggplant, I wanted to eat it. take a sample of the finished eggplant product to eat, eat a sample of fresh mozzarella, and the fresh grated Parmesan.
The thing that really tempted me was the smell. It was that smell that really wanted to dive right into it or make another batch for myself. It was in that moment that I began to really pray hard. Not praying for myself to not dive into the meal, but I began to pray for people, the church, wisdom, direction. But the main thing I prayed for was to be still and wait. As I mentioned earlier in this journey I am a bit impulsive, and waiting is not my strong suit. But waiting is a discipline that must be mastered to wait on the Lord.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
I went on my very first prayer walk around the downtown section of the City of Staunton. At first, I debate on doing it, because of the temperature being in the low to mid-teens. Since the purpose of my fast is spiritual, I decided to brave the temperature and do the walk. I parked my car at the library and began to walk towards downtown. At first, it was cold but after a few minutes I warmed up. The walk was amazing as I would continue to pray to the Lord for his wisdom and insight to what he wanted me and my congregation to do to make a Kingdom impact on the community.
As I walked I only made three stops. My first stop was on the steps of the courthouse to pray for God’s justice, mercy, and grace through the judicial system. My second stop was on top of the Stonewall Jackson parking garage. It was a great site to pray as it was quiet, windy, and I can overlook a good part of the city. It seemed like a long time I was up there, by myself, praying over the city. The final stop was at an abandoned restaurant. Since 2015, I have felt an impulse to investigate the property. I have a prayer for the building every time I walked by it, but this time there was purpose on the possibilities on what this site could be.
I then made my journey back to my vehicle. It was on that journey that I ran into a homeless person. The guy’s clothes were in tatters, he was very timid, and when he asked for money, he just simply asked if I had any change to spare. I went and gave him a few bucks, which his reply was very shocked. He kept trying to give me back the amount, but I told him, no, to take it and maybe get something warm to drink at the few shops around. When I made it back to my vehicle, I checked the time and was out for almost an hour and a half. I believe that the more consistent I am in my prayer walk, the more clarity from the Lord, I will receive.
The challenge with any fast is not always the change of food or not eating for a certain about of time; it is communication. It is important that when one starts a fast, that you communicate your reasons, your structure for your fast, and your end date. If not, then it can cause a lot of friction within your family.
It was this day, where a lot of challenges came to a head. My wife was upset about my fast. She didn’t like that we were eating at different times, she did not like that when she bought food for me I did not eat it because it had eggs, milk, yeast, etc. The big thing was she felt like she could not complain about it because I was doing it for God. My first reaction to her complaint was, “How dare you tell me to quit my fast?” “Do you know that I am doing it to be a better leader, husband, father, etc.?”
Once the kids were down to bed, we were able to talk and I explained the reason for my fast. To pray for the church during difficult times, to have the Lord help me with spiritual insight, and to reveal bad habits that need to be repented and changed so I can be the best pastor, husband, and father I can be. Once I told her the purpose, she was appreciative of my fast and understood. She also decided to plan a big celebration once my fast is over with (my wife is a planner so any reason for her to plan something, she will do it). From then one she has been an encouragement to my fast and help me continue to stay focus.
The third Tuesday of every month, I have a minister’s meeting where all the ministers in the area get together for some fellowship. As I was getting in my car to go to this meeting, it occurred to me that there is always a meal provided. Would there be anything that I can eat? I get to the meeting and they have a lot of great looking food. Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (Can’t eat), Salad (can eat, but with caution), garlic bread (can’t eat), cookies (Can’t eat) Cheesecake (can’t eat), and cheesecake toppings (can eat the strawberries and blueberries as they are not in a sugary syrup like the cherries).
So I get a salad and a side of fruit. During the salad, I had to combat the chunks of chicken, cheese shavings, and croutons, while I ate the lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and olives. After the meal, the topic to discuss was, “what spiritual disciplines are you participating in?” The hosting pastor knew about my fast and asked me to share my experiences. I talked about everything that I mentioned on Day 8 of my fast. Other pastors talked about vision planning, prayer journaling, and even sitting in silence. As I listen to each pastor share what discipline they are practicing I thought, “Can these other disciplines be heightened during a fast? My goal for this second week is to try a spiritual discipline and see how it goes.
Today is one week into my fast. As I reflect on the fast so far, here are some of the things I have noticed.
- Lost weight
- more energy
- more alert
- less patient
- less impulsive with snacking
- slower eating
- heighten spiritual awareness
- increase the intensity of prayer
- more spontaneous in prayer
- better at discerning situations
Out of all of the things from my fast thus far, I am surprised at having more energy and more spontaneity in prayer. With prayer, I would usually pray when a request comes through email, or at certain times (morning, afternoon, evening). During the fasting period, I would have images of people or situations come to my mind, and instantly drop what I was doing and prayed about it. Not a quick prayer, but one with conviction and intensity.
Having an increase of energy was very surprising to me, mainly because there is a market for having energy via energy drinks, soda pop, coffee, or any other caffeinated beverage. There were some days where I would need to lay down for a bit because I was exhausted and could not function properly without a rest.
Even though I have had some weak moments in the fast, I am at a point where I am seeing some of the benefits of it and liking the changes. Hope this second week will be better as I continue on.
My daily meals were getting low so I needed to make a trip to the grocery store. My wife made an attempt to get food for meals for me as I began my fast but when I would look at the label, I would see words like yeast extract, egg, or the big perpetrator; sugar.
My trip to the grocery store was hell. Not because it was crowded or anything bad happened. It was hell because of two things cost and trying to find items I can eat. Every item I would find that would be in the health food section or anything labeled “vegetarian” would have items that I can’t eat. I would find myself being frustrated trying to find something to eat throughout the week. By the time I got ready to check out, it was floored by the cost of everything that would barely last me a week.
I understand why so many people get frustrated when they try to eat healthy because even when something is labeled health it has “sugar” in it. The cost to eat healthy is also ridiculous. I remember an episode on the Biggest Loser where a contestant told Bob Harper that to eat health was difficult for her family when you can get a whole pizza for $5. Bob said during his aside that he cannot compete with a $5 pizza but what he can do is show the results of a healthy lifestyle. With tax reform, health care reform being hot political topics, I think we need to have food reform to make sure people can eat healthy and make it affordable.
4:00 am. My wife wakes me up because she hears beeping downstairs. A few weeks ago, our Carbon Monoxide detector was defective and I replaced it right before Christmas. My wife thought that the beeping was another defective unit, but in fact, it was warning us that the furnace was producing CO. So I shut off the heat (luckily we were having warmer weather in VA), moved the kids to our bedroom and I got the last few winks on the couch after I called the furnace repair company to send a worker out.
Since the workers would be coming soon, I went and cleaned up the furnace room a tad bit. One of the items was to empty out the trash can downstairs where there was just a bunch of packaging from junk food. As I was looking at each item, I was beginning to think about all the times I had put junk into my body. As the fast has begun to purge my body of any unhealthy eating habits I have partaken in, I began to search my heart and pray for the Spirit’s guidance to remove any bad habits that have been inhibiting me spiritually. As the spirit continued to search my inmost being, I have seen how my attitude, impulses, and anger has to lead to unhealthy choices on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level. It is through revelation that leads to repentance and through repentance is a renewed sense of self.