Fasting, Worship, and a Winner

Tuesday, January 15, 2019  ::   3 important comments

Last week, I wrote about books I enjoyed last year and hosted a little book giveaway. I'm happy to announce Tia Edwards won the giveaway! I'll get your books to you soon, Tia.

And, because I want to and I can, I drew one more name for Storm-Tossed Family. Erin Anderelli, it will be coming your way!
Since I have you here already, I want to share some thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain lately.

This past Sunday, Chad spoke about fasting. If you haven't heard the message, please do so. A friend of mine told me they thought it was very helpful and dynamic. This link will provide years' worth of fasting messages if you want to learn even more.

Second Mile has engaged in a week of prayer and fasting since it's conception. Our first one was in January of 2005. If you've participated for years or this is your first one, I hope you will ask God how he wants to to engage in the coming week.
All of our beautiful booklets
I'm a practical girl, so I want to share some things I've learned over the years with you. I hope you enjoy my bullet points.

  • There are no rules when you fast. Chad will say this again this coming Sunday, but it can't be emphasized enough. There. Are. No. Rules. This causes a struggle for those of us who like rules to define our boundaries. In fasting, if you bind yourself up in any self-conceived rules, you may miss a lesson Jesus has for you, not to mention you'll be miserable trying to figure out/keep the rules. On Sunday, I told a college student I had never done a water only fast. He seemed genuinely surprised. The main reason I haven't engaged in that way is because I know my tendency towards legalism. So, liquid fasts, including juice, have been my process. We shall see how the Holy Spirit leads me this year. 
  • If you drink coffee every day, start weaning now. Seriously. Constipation, headache, and even muscle aches genuinely suck when you are also hungry. Just consider it your pre-fast. 
  • If you are thinking you can't fast because you have young kids, you're wrong. You can. It's just difficult. I do feel your pain and can empathize. My kids were little, needy, and always hungry, too. (They are still always hungry.) This specific aspect of discipline will give you an opportunity to be reminded that we are in the world, but not of the world. You will have your hands all up in your kids' peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they may even shove it in your face to offer a bite... just like the world. But, the Holy Spirit enables us to say no to the temptations of the world, and he will give you the ability to say no thank you to the peanut butter. And if you forget and accidentally take a bite (speaking from experience), remember there are no rules, so just laugh at yourself, thank God for his good grace and mercy, and keep going. 
  • Don't go to Costco during sample time. Seriously. It's the worst. 
  • You're going to have to pee. A lot. But you must keep drinking water so your body can regulate and flush out all the gunky stuff that's stuck to your insides.  
  • You're going to be cold. I read about the cause once. The answer satisfied me, but I can't remember it. So if you want to know why, just google it. 
  • My favorite: this week of not eating makes me feel really weird when I'm walking around Tucson. I sometimes imagine how the people I see at the store or at school drop-off would react if I told them I hadn't eat in ____ number of days. They would certainly freak. You may even have family members tell you how unhealthy or unsafe this process is. It could feel isolating, but remember, we are part of the body of Christ. One thing that gives me great comfort throughout the week of fasting is knowing that I am not alone. My Second Mile brothers and sisters in Christ are engaging, too. Even the few times I was unable to fast for whatever reason, I disciplined myself to remember that I am part of the whole, that we all carry one another. I will think about the togetherness every day which leads me to think about it more consistently throughout the year. And, if I know anything about women, I know almost all of us struggle with loneliness from time to time. This week is an excellent reminder that we are not alone. We have the good gift of the Holy Spirit living inside us AND we have the body of Christ, the global Church, and our own local churches. For me, it is my beloved Second Mile family. 
I could say much more, but I should stop for now. 

Every year I'm nervous/excited about the Week of Prayer and Fasting. I'm genuinely excited to walk in obedience by fasting, but I'm nervous because I really like to eat. I wrote this post way back in 2011. It's an old one, but it may still be useful to some of you. 

This is a packed post, but I want to offer a few more thoughts on worship as you consider how you will fast and pray next week. 

A few Sundays ago, I was struggling. I felt hard-pressed on every side, so I chose to stand and sing as loud as I could. I needed to acknowledge that God is bigger than my problems and even bigger than the problems of the world. I wanted to focus on his righteousness, holiness, and love. Through the simple act of standing, singing loudly, and opening my hands to God symbolizing releasing my grip, I felt stronger in him. My problems, and certainly, the world's problems didn't go away, but God was glorified above it all. And, bonus, I let the enemy know to Whom I belong and where my affection lies. 

Let me encourage you, next time you are in your car listening to your favorite worship songs or next time you are at a gathering of people where you get to worship Jesus through music, sing with gusto. It doesn't have to be loud, but your heart needs to mean what you sing. If you can, raise your hands as an act of surrender. As you grow in not caring what anyone thinks (including yourself), allow your heart, mind, and body to engage in worshipping Jesus. Worship, to me, is also and act of defiance to our enemy and to remind him that he is doomed. When you think of the power of worshipping the Most High God, your whole self will want to engage. 

"Our exuberant worship of God -- our get-up-out-of-the-chair-and-lift-our-hands-and-raise-our-voices-to-heaven worship of God -- is an act of audacious defiance against the spirt of this present age relentlessly, successfully, and daily indoctrinating us in nauseating self-praise." ~Beth Moore 

I'm praying for each of you as you consider how you will participate in the Week of Prayer and Fasting. Send me a message or leave a comment if you have more thoughts and/or questions. I love hearing from you. 

Do you have any questions about fasting? What is your experience with musical worship? How and why do you engage? 

Various Finishings

Thursday, January 03, 2019  ::   19 important comments

One of the first books I read in 2018 was Jon Acuff's book, Finish. In the book, he lines out tools people can use to, well, finish stuff, mostly writing projects. I 'finished' the book inspired and decided it should be my word for 2018.

I was going to finish house projects, finish reading a long list of books, but mostly finish a writing project I've worked on/thought about for three years now. Ok fine, mostly just thought about.

However, writing was my nemesis this past year. I couldn't find the words in my head or heart. I tried many times and wrote many (not great) paragraphs, but there would be no finishing of said project in 2018. Good news: I don't feel guilty, like a failure, or any other negative burden that often comes when I don't accomplish what I set out to accomplish. The project will happen when it's time.

But there is good news to share! The skies still proclaim God's glory and I finished other plans in 2018.
Taken on Reddington Pass east of Tucson. No filter needed or added. Pure bliss. 
Here are a few of my finished projects of 2018:

Chad and I finished several house projects, from building the shed Second Mile gave him for a graduation gift to painting our dingy hallway doors. I'm confident we will always have house projects to work on, but I'm happy we crossed a few off the list.
I set out to chronologically read through the Bible this year. Last year I enjoyed a slow, deep dive of 3 or 4 chapters, so the fire hose effect of taking it all in was quite different and incredibly enjoyable. I read the last chapter of Revelation with tears of gratitude and awe. Reading the whole Bible changed me. If you know me, you know this is a big statement: I love the Bible more than ever. It truly is God-breathed and able to teach, correct, rebuke, equip and train us for righteousness. What a gift! If you need a reading plan this year, check out this link. It isn't too late to find a plan and start.
One of the surprises 2018 held for me was how many books I was able to finish. I shocked myself and feel very accomplished. Many of you hear me often quote Harry S. Truman. "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." Reading helps leaders better understand people, learn different perspectives, cultivate creativity, strengthen communication, and so, so much more.

Reading is an important discipline that I take very seriously. Please know, I'm a slow reader. Many paragraphs required multiple readings, but setting regular time aside to read a few pages at a time helped me reach some goals. If a book captured me, I read it quickly. Some of my more academic book choices challenged the heck out of me and I practically crawled through each chapter. But, I finished more books in a year than ever before, by a long shot. Here are a few of my favorites and recommendations:

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson
In this book, Jared uses Scripture and anecdotes I related to, probably because we are the same age and have been in ministry about the same amount of time. He effectively shares that following Jesus isn't for the super-spiritual who have it all together, but is for all of us. Jared's humility and wisdom challenged me to remember basic, valuable, spiritual disciplines.

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren 
I've followed Tish on social media for awhile now, reading almost every article she writes and resonating with her theology and worldview. Picking up this book was a no-brainer for me simply based on the fact that I truly enjoy reading her words. The book did not disappoint. Her ability to connect spiritual truth with every day life demonstrates her deep soul and love for Jesus. So much of life is monotonous and it is easy to disregard sacredness even in bed making or sitting in traffic, but this book reminds us to think about Jesus in all aspects of our days.

A Peculiar Glory by John Piper
Reading John Piper books is not for the faint of heart. And please, spare me the social media arguments you may have read against him. He isn't perfect, but the man loves Jesus and Scripture. Every book he writes is saturated with the Bible. And this particular book is about the Bible. Dream come true for me. In it he describes the Bible as one of the windows through which we view God's glory (the sky being the other one) and tells us to smush our faces against the glass to get the best possible view we can. This book deepened my love and understanding of Scripture. If you've never read one of his books, what are you waiting for?

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Several national leaders I respect recommended this book, so I finally bought it. The authors argue that structures don't grow ministries, but growing people who invest in other people grow ministries. Seems like a duh statement, but it it is obviously more involved than it sounds. I finished the book encouraged to continue doing what I was taught to do: More time spent with fewer people equals greater lasting impact for the Kingdom. (Thanks, David.)

Letters to the Church by Francis Chan
So much yes to this one! In fact, it may be one of the books we ask all leaders at Second Mile to read. It's no secret that I love my church. It is en vogue to hate churches and lament "evangelicals"; I read the news and understand. Francis strips down all the crap that has become American church culture and challenges us all to get back to loving and serving people. Thank God I get to be part of a church like this. We are absolutely not perfect, but we truly desire to be the church Jesus desires us to be. This book pressed me into deeper love for the Global Church and for my local church.

Faith Among the Faithless by Mike Cosper
Speaking of the news and evangelicalism and craziness, I picked up this book based on the subtitle: Learning from Esther in a World Gone Mad. It did not disappoint. If you feel frustrated by the state of our country and have a deep desire to live your life to the glory of God then read this. I would be interested in talking about it with you. If I'm not careful, politics make me despair. This book was one of many reminders this year that my hope lies in Jesus Christ alone.

The Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore
Favorite, favorite book of the year. Chad and I will be giving this as a wedding gift (along with our traditional wok, of course) for years to come. If you know me, you will know that I am a huge Russell Moore fan. He's one of the prophets we need in our current generation. In this book he writes with personal stories, expertise, and Scripture to show us how our lives are to be shaped by the cross of Jesus. I believe this book is a guide book for our lives in singleness, marriage, parenting, aging, and everything in between. I've already given two copies away. Maybe you'll receive the next.

I could go on and on about the books I read this year. I only hated one book and couldn't finish it. I'm not skeptical when I read, but I'm also not naive taking in every thought thrown my way. Being a weak-willed woman in my reading isn't an option, so I work to measure it against Scripture and through community. The combination of Scripture and reading other books increased my gratitude this year. I'm not exactly sure how or why, but I trust God works in us through various means to make us more like him. My reading list for 2019 isn't quite curated, but I'm hopeful to continue to be challenged, to change wrong thinking, to strengthen right thinking, and to keep growing. God forbid I stay the same. Books help me change.
A Peculiar Glory not shown 
To help you in your process, I'm going to give away three books from this list in a little giveaway: The Storm-tossed Family, Liturgy of the Ordinary, and The Imperfect Disciple. (If you win and already have one of these books, we will negotiate a trade.) All you have to do is comment on this post or on the Facebook post advertising this giveaway. Share what book you would like to read from my list and/or a book you really loved this year. I'll draw a name in about a week. Feel free to share this post to spread the word.

Happy 2019 to each of you! Be disciplined this year and watch God change and grow you in unsearchable ways.

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

What are you reading? What are you looking forward to reading? What is a different project you finished this year?