Posted in Faith

Spiritual Starvation

Have you ever come out of an especially dark season and been surprised by joy? Or been released from an extended period of fear and tension, to finally collapse into the warmth and rest of safety? Has a load ever been lifted, that left you feeling lighter and freer than you ever thought you could feel?

Or, on the other end of the spectrum – have you gone without something for so long, that you acclimatized to the gnawing pains of hunger within you?

Have you become accustomed to starvation?

This is the question that has been winding around my brain over the past couple of weeks – ever since I participated in a three-day food fast along with my church. Now, I really suck at fasting. I’ve never been able to do the full three days, as many people are able to do. This time around, I fasted from breakfast and lunch for two days, and that was as far as I got.

But it always amazes me, even with the partial fast, how I notice such an intense difference in my body as soon as I begin to eat normally again. With my first meal, I can literally feel my energy being renewed. Minute by minute, my alertness and strength return in fuller and fuller measure. It is as if I am a depleted gas tank, and fuel is being poured into me – from my head, to my stomach, and into my limbs, fingertips, and toes.

The first day after my most recent fast, when I again ate a full three meals, I felt almost euphoric. That afternoon, I went out skating with my boys in the crisp air for a good hour and a half. Then as I was in the kitchen making supper after returning home, I felt positively light, awake, and even…bouncy! I asked myself, “My goodness, why do I feel so good?” And then I remembered: I had eaten that day!

It was as if, even in that very short amount of time, I had forgotten what it felt like to be full.

And it caused me to ask myself another question: How am I doing spiritually? Am I walking around full of the Holy Spirit? Or am I hungry? Depleted? Wasting away, and trying to fill the emptiness with all kinds of silly things that have no nutrition – no staying power?

How many of us – even Christians, in the Church, are bored? Tired? Longing? Famished?

And if so, are we even aware of our state? Or have we become accustomed to spiritual starvation?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If I reflect on my years of following Jesus, there have been a few precious times when He has jolted me awake with a shock of His love. For example – an unexpected affirmation, deep in my spirit, that comes out of nowhere and leaves me amazed at His goodness. Or a precise and immediate snipping of some kind of tie that had kept me bound for years. Or an overflowing of love for God and other people that I’m not capable of on my own.

But let me be honest – these moments are the exception, not the rule.

And though they leave me feeling full when they happen – sometimes, for days; the effect generally does wear off.

I get hungry.

And that is when I need to return and let His Spirit fill me again. Like having three square meals a day: if I don’t keep up the habit, I run out of steam.

No, it’s not always a feast that I can live off of for days to come. (Maybe this is intentional, because He wants us to keep coming back!) But it’s regular, solid nutrition, that keeps me grounded in Him and gives me the stamina to persevere from day to day.

And as I get into the habit of filling my spiritual stomach with what it needs – the Word, meditation, and conversing with God – it becomes the thing I reach for, without even a second thought.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6 NIV

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8 NIV

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Psalm 34:10 NIV

Dear Lord:

It saddens and surprises me that I could be starving spiritually, without even knowing it. Help us, as your Church, to learn what it means to be full. To not grow so accustomed to pangs of hunger that we fail to acknowledge they’re even there, or attribute them to something else. We need you, Lord – like water, like food. Fill us anew and give us grace to face what you have for us today, and in the coming days.

Thank you, Jesus. We love you, Lord.

Amen.

Are you hungry for more of God? Can I pray for you? Leave any prayer requests you may have in the comments.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

(Featured image is a photo by Monstera from Pexels)

Posted in Faith, Mental health, Parenting

Decluttering, Prayer & Fasting, and Emotional Wounds: A January Update

It’s been a long time since I just wrote about what’s been happening in my life. And honestly, I am not feeling very inspired when it comes to writing blog posts! I don’t have any big ideas to share, and the things that I would want to write about, I wonder if anyone would be interested in except myself. (Maybe I’ll end up writing about them anyway.)

A big focus for me lately has been decluttering my home. This is one of the things I may write about in a future blog post. It’s been a slow process, because I get sentimental about objects and agonize over each thing that I try to get rid of. But between selling things online, donating them, and using the trash bin once in a while I am gradually getting the house to where I want it to be. The exciting part, for me, is seeing a space that was previously cluttered with junk now open and available, and making it pretty with objects that I actually want to look at each day. My husband got me an Ikea gift card for Christmas, so I am planning to use that to buy some fake plants or a new piece of furniture as a sort of reward for getting rid of so much stuff.

My church is having its annual prayer and fasting month, a topic that I wrote about more in-depth last year. It’s been quite meaningful for me thus far, and I’ve been keeping track of insights and how the Lord is guiding me in my journal. One of my main personal prayer requests is a direction for my career in the future. But in response to all my petitions God has really pressed upon my heart the huge value of making my boys my priority right now, loving on them as much as I can while I have the chance. I get a very heavy impression that this time in their lives is pivotal in the spiritual sense and will impact their futures in countless ways. This realization has renewed my strength, focus, and dedication to be what they need in a mom. It is still difficult some days, as I often wrestle with inner struggles, fatigue, boredom, and frustration.

To expand on that last word – frustration – we have reached nearly two months here in Manitoba of being under extreme restrictions due to the pandemic. I haven’t been able to see family or friends, even during Christmas, aside from a few brief curbside visits; large portions of stores are completely blocked off so that we only buy essential items; and pretty much everything else is closed. I could go on but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I am holding out for the day that I am able to go out and buy a “non-essential” 2021 calendar! I love paper calendars, I hate using the one on my phone, and I need to keep track of meals and other events somehow. I’m running out of space on the bottom of the December 2020 page…

My messy meal plan

Moving back to prayer and fasting – another topic that has come up (somewhat unexpectedly) is relationship struggles. I feel that God has shown me I have a severe wound of rejection that hinders me from being able to connect with people the way that I desire to. This wound has come from a variety of situations throughout my life. If not for God, it would have been a fatal wound. The picture that comes to mind is of several swords in my mid-section, which is cut completely open. I’m sorry if this is a disturbing image but quite honestly, I have had great peace in this realization. God is like that. He sees not only my mistakes and sins, but the pain that lies behind them, and He desires to heal me.

And if there ever were a time to practice not taking things personally, not bearing grudges, and behaving decently despite differences of opinion – it would be now!

I know there is a very real possibility of things continuing to shift and change in 2021, both worldwide and in my personal life. This sometimes causes me to fear. However, I am encouraged by another picture that came to mind during my prayer and fasting time: an earthquake, causing fractures along fault lines that were actually all there in the first place, though we may have been unaware of them. I think this has been a time of adjusting, exposing, breaking, shaking away excess, and re-considering. I know that some not-so-nice areas of myself have been revealed lately, and shown for what they are. Now, I can fight them off through prayer with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I pray that you will stay strong in the Lord this year, and I look forward to reading the posts of all my favorite bloggers as I am able to do so in the coming months.

With warmest wishes and love,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 2: My Blogging Fast

Two Fridays ago, I shared about my first fast, which had nothing to do with food.  Click here to read about it.

I also made two main points:

  1. Fasting is a personal thing, and may take many different forms.
  2. Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from things we rely on too heavily, and focus on God instead.

Another type of fast that has become quite popular (and often, necessary) is to fast from social media.  Experience has taught me, as yours probably has too, that the perils of this medium are many.  Facebook was particularly bad for me – so bad, in fact, that I’m fasting from it…well, permanently.  (That’s another story, for, perhaps, another time.)  Today, however, I would like to focus on blogging.

Many of my current readers may not be aware of my blogging history, up until this point.  I am a fairly new blogger, as you may have guessed, but this is not my first blog.  I began in 2017 with a blog entitled Little Moment Meditations.  I couldn’t believe my luck, when I started blogging – not because my blog was all that successful, but because I enjoyed it SO much!  Finally, I had found a creative outlet that was not only extremely satisfying, but also allowed me to connect and dialogue with other writers.

However, after a few months, things had gotten a little out of balance.  The amount of time and energy I was spending on my blog left me with too little of either to spend on my husband and kids.  I also noticed that I was reacting emotionally to the likes or dislikes of others concerning my writing.  Views on my stats, likes or shares on my posts, and even the exhilaration of receiving inspirations to write became ‘highs’ that I was chasing.  Behaving like an addict, my feelings spiked or plummeted sharply depending on how people were reacting to my writing, and on whether I had my next idea or not.  I knew this wasn’t healthy.  And confusing the issue, for me, was the fact that I partly viewed my blog as a ministry.  But was I actually doing it for God?  Or was I doing it for myself?

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It was the book “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge that enlightened this question for me.  In chapter 45, entitled “The Secret of Intimacy First,” he explains that even ministry can be like ‘wine’ when the pleasures of serving God become more important to us than our relationship with Him.  Serving God should happen as a natural response to His love.  It isn’t supposed to be about chasing the intoxication of His anointing, the accolades of people, or a ‘fix’ to help us feel worthy and valuable.  God loves us just as we are, before we’ve done anything for Him.  That’s the funny thing about God; the thing we don’t tend to expect.  He’s more interested in us, in ourselves, and in relating to us, than He is in our efforts and our work.  I am so thankful for that!

In order to let this truth soak into my bones, and to wean myself from the “highs” of blogging, I took an extended break.  About 7 months passed before I published another post.  By then I wanted a fresh start, with a slightly different feel to my blog, and “The Manitoba Mom Blog” was born.  I often visit the topics of God and spirituality, because that’s just a part of who I am.  But I’m not doing it to earn favour with God.  (I already have that…praise Him!)  And because I do have that, the opinions of my readers no longer make or break me.  (Although I appreciate all of your support, of course!)

Since most of my readers are also bloggers, I would love to hear your perspective on this topic.  Have you ever taken an intentional break from blogging?  And why?

And if you would like a more thorough explanation of the Biblical basis for fasting than what I provide here, and some of the reasons/purposes behind it, a pastor at my church has been teaching an excellent series of sermons on the topic.  Here is the link to listen to them:

https://mysouthland.com/messages#Prayer_and_Fasting/Prayer_and_Fasting

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 1: My First Fast

At the church I attend, January of each year is a month of prayer and fasting.  This was new to me a few years ago, but thanks to the teaching and direction the church has provided, it has become something that I look forward to.  There’s still a lot about fasting that I don’t understand.  But today, and in the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and experiences on the topic.

First, I’ll tell you about what I believe was my very first fast.  It may not be what you think, because it had nothing to do with food.  It was a fast from shopping.  Some may find this laughable, but it highlights one of the points I am trying to emphasize: fasting is a personal thing, and takes many different forms.  There aren’t ‘rules,’ and you certainly can’t judge the quality or value of another person’s fast because it may seem ‘easy’ to you.  A fast from shopping, at the time, was hard for me and helped me to grow in my character.  On the other hand, a fast from video games or alcohol would have been a breeze – I don’t really use those things anyway.  But that kind of fast may be difficult for others.

In the same way, one person may fast from food for one or two meals, and another may fast for three or more days.  They are all valid.  Each person knows what will stretch them and cause them to lean on God for strength, and the Holy Spirit will lead you into the type of fast He knows that you need.

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I didn’t actually call it a ‘fast’ when I quit shopping.  I was in my early 20s, and I loved clothes.  I did my best to keep up with the latest trends.  But they come and go very quickly, and if you’re going to stay current, you’ll spend a lot of time and money doing so.  If you purchase the top, you’ll need the pants to go with it.  Which need the shoes, which need the jacket, which need the purse, which need the necklace.  It’s never-ending.  The wardrobe will never be complete!  It’s a brilliant business strategy on the part of clothing designers, isn’t it?

Since I was newly married, and we lived on a miniscule income, I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue like this.  I also didn’t like the way I never felt satisfied with what I had, even though I had lots of clothes.  I thought about clothes more often than I should have, and wondered if it was becoming an obsession.  I knew that the only way to stop my constant craving for material things, would be to avoid going to malls altogether – for a time.  I didn’t know how long it would take, but I made an inner commitment to stay away from them until I felt some freedom from my impulsive wants.

Looking back, I now realize that this was a form of a fast.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says: “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

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Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from the otherwise good things in our lives, that we have come to rely on too heavily.  They monopolize too much of our thoughts, time, or efforts, and they stand in the way of God’s work within us.  This is a form of idolatry.  An idol is anything taking a place that rightfully belongs to God.  When we put limits on these things, or even cut them out entirely, we free up much-needed breathing room in our schedules and often-distracted thoughts.  This may leave a void at first, but if we give our emptiness to the Holy Spirit, pressing into Him through activities such as meditation on scripture, prayer, or worship, we will sharpen our awareness of His movements and His words.  He may even free us from wanting so badly the things that we desired before.

I would say that my shopping fast was successful because, after a few months of avoiding shopping malls, they weren’t such a draw for me any more.  Now, I select clothes very carefully based on my actual needs.  I still want them to look nice and be current, but I choose practical items that suit the way I live, and I don’t spend more than I should on them.  I don’t worry about trying to follow every trend that I see.  What a relief!  This frees up much-needed energy that I can now spend on other things.

I’ve heard of people fasting from all kinds of things besides food.  Social media is a big one – which I’m planning to talk about in an upcoming post.  Anything that occupies a large space in your life can become something to fast from: TV, perhaps, or video games, or other hobbies (like blogging!).  Some people, who really love to exercise, have even fasted from that.  (This wouldn’t be relevant for me…haha!)

If you want to fast from something other than food, you may ask yourself: Is there anything that has a stronger hold on me than I would like it to?  The first thing that pops into your head, may very well be the answer.  How much time, energy, or perhaps even money would be saved by giving it up for a time?  And what would you like to do with the surplus?

Have you ever fasted from something other than food?  What was it?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Until next time, warm wishes, and happy fasting, if you choose to do so!

Lisa