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OceanTrying to make God happy is like standing on the beach, collecting the waves in a child’s bucket and pouring the water back into the surf in an effort to get the ocean wet.

Militant Monk

The problem with doing battle with yourself is that one of you wins.

Isaiah 61

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

I’ve been doing pretty well with my fast (eating only raw veggies, fruit and nuts).  Since the end of September, I’ve managed to stay away from alcohol, caffeine and meat.  I have bent the rules by eating steamed veggies, hummus and cooked nuts.

During this time, I’ve been focusing on experiencing my neediness without my usual means of distraction and assuaging the discomfort of that experience.  I’ve noticed that during my extended fast, the inability to look forward to feeding the cravings of my flesh in the near future has served to focus me on the present…present need and present satisfaction in the food and provision I do have.  It’s been good.

Then, my Grandpa died.  Since Friday morning, I’ve been experiencing my neediness related to his passing.  There is a unique helplessness in the face of the loss of a loved one.  That fact is no excuse for what I’m about to tell you, it’s simply my experience.

With visions of my relatives gathering in Wisconsin for the funeral and everything that means…sadness, the challenging personalities of certain family members (turned up to 11 as they deal with major loss), lots of food, drinking, more sadness…with the prospect of all of that swirling in my head, I started making plans to end my fast early.

My parents bought me a first-class ticket to Wisconsin and that pretty much settled it.  I decided that I would have my fill of free drinks on the plane and be done with feeling my neediness.

My eyes fill with tears as I write this from a hotel room in Wisconsin.  I had my free drinks last night and for a few hours, the pain was gone.  Now it’s back and more is on the way.  The funeral is in a few hours.

I’m off the fast until I return to Florida.  Father, please perfect your strength in my weakness.  Have mercy on me a sinner.

Octoberfast

We’re continuing our spiritual experimentation this month with the discipline of fasting. Here are some words from my friend Aaron about the practice…

Like so many of the disciplines, fasting is a practice that spans numerous cultures and unknown thousands of years. In light of its rich history, it should come as no surprise that numerous variations of the practice have developed with as many different ends in mind. I will briefly list a few purposes that could motivate one’s fast.

Discipline: Denying one’s self a craving as fundamental as food can be a very effective exercise in reigning in the impulse to give into other cravings that easily control a weak will.

Empathy: When living in comfort it can be difficult to relate to or even care about those who suffer. Experiencing the unpleasant pangs of hunger can develop a healthy awareness of what it means to suffer.

Solidarity: Similar to empathy, the shared experience of hunger can form a strong bond.

Clarity: Many find that through fasting they experience an enhanced ability to make difficult decisions and understand abstract or obscure knowledge.

Balance: Understanding a human as an integrated whole (body and spirit), occasionally starving the body can theoretically serve to balance the body spirit relationship.

Health: A fast is believed by many to benefit not only spiritual health, but physical health as well by, among other things, cleansing the body of toxins and other undesirables.

If you join us in experimenting with fasting this month, share your experiences in the comments of this post.

I finally got a free moment to post about the disciplines. Work, family, school, Aikido, have all been keeping me busy. Good stuff, just a full schedule.

Anyway, first up…an update on my month of service. I did it. That’s about all I have to say about that. I served. Sometimes I was aware of serving Christ in those served and sometimes I just served. Either way, the serving got done and blessed the recipients of the service. I will say this, I’m pretty sure I did more dishes than usual. I’ll say this too, since the month of service, I’m more attentive to opportunities to serve and more willing to act. Don’t get the wrong idea, I still have a bad attitude much of the time, but I’m sure that my neighborhood doesn’t care much about that as long as the garbage gets picked up. One other thing, I didn’t end up hitting the streets for a day of Spirit guided service. I may still do that. I’ll let you know if I do.

Second up, I’m really happy to announce that fasting is the discipline for October. Let’s call it Octoberfast. Since Lent, I’ve been eating and drinking whatever (and as much as) I want. My lack of discipline has led to dullness, lethargy and tight pants.

Fasting is one of the disciplines I’m most attracted to. I’ve done some all juice fasts. For the past few Lenten seasons, I’ve sworn off all alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, animal products, and cooked food…I basically eat just fruits, vegetables and nuts the way they come out of the ground. It’s hard at times, but invigorating. I feel great physically, mentally and spiritually. Then I go back to fried chicken, burritos and beer for some reason.

Here’s some of why I think fasting is important.

First, from what I’ve read, the digestive system (stomach, intestines, etc.) contains what amounts to a second nervous system that matches the spinal cord, brain, etc., in the amount of nerve endings. This second nervous system apparently affects our feelings and sense of well being and is the seat of our emotions. Kinda makes sense when you think about “where” you feel what you feel. Stress and nervousness are certainly “gut feelings” and the feeling of love is experienced in the same place one gets heartburn. The kinds of things you feed this system affect your moods, etc., and the occasional flush and pure diet optimize the system.

Second, I’m not a dualist. I don’t believe that humans are souls trapped in bodies (or something similar). I believe that we are spiritual and physical beings, but that we are a unified whole. As a result, what we do with our bodies affects our spirits and the power of our spirits being united with God’s Spirit affects our bodies.

Put those two things together and fasting sticks out to me as a pretty important tool for not only physical and emotional health, but spiritual transformation as well.

I don’t do it to get noticed by God or to move His hand. I don’t do it for some kind of reward in Heaven. I do it, 1) because Jesus did it and He must of had a good reason, and 2) to exercise control over a body that is more prone to be given over to spirits rather than The Spirit.

So, for Octoberfast I’m going raw again…just fruits, veggies, and nuts. I’d also like to see how long I can do only vegetable and fruit juice to continue working up to 40 days of just liquid.

P.S. I’ve been going since Oct. 1 and I’ve blown it with some steamed veggies, hummus, and peanut butter, but beyond that, I’m in. I’ve gotten past the caffeine withdrawal headaches and I’m feeling really good. Plus, the bowel movements are spectacular!

Thoughts on Service

As we continue our spiritual experimentation, my friend Aaron had this to say about service…

The significance of service is clearly displayed in both the words and actions of Jesus. According to him, greatness in God’s kingdom is becoming a “servant of all”. Contained in this servant of all idea is a global and local calling. While not all of us are capable of having a global reach, none of us can avoid a local affect. Whether we are behaving as a servant of all, servant of some or servant of self, we are affecting our surroundings. The question to keep before us is, how can we be a servant in all that we do?

As we’re walking down the street – how are we a servant?

When planning our career path – how are we a servant?

While out shopping – how are we a servant?

With roomates or spouses – how are we a servant?

With neighbors and coworkers – how are we a servant?

To our partners and antagonists – how are we a servant?

In the twenty fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, there is an account of Jesus speaking about a day coming when the righteous and the wicked are separated to go to their reward. There are two striking aspects of the parable that are pertinent to this subject of servant hood. First, the criterion upon which the righteous are distinguished from the wicked are exclusively acts of service – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. Second, the acts of service directed toward “the least of these brothers” of the king are done for the king himself. This means the dishes you do for your family, you do for our Lord himself. The driver you let over in traffic may be our Lord. The neighborhood kids you take under your wing, the future generations you consider with your environmental and economic practices, the client and coworker you put first may not be the only ones experiencing your acts of service.

Let us set out to allow our roll as servant to shape our every action and interaction.

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