Posted in Rambles

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 Rambles

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

Posted in Rambles

5 Sanity-Savers for the Month of January

Well, here we go – out of the freeze, and into the deep freeze.  Or in other words – out of December, and into January.  January and February may not be longer than any other two month block, but sometimes they feel like they go on forever.

On the plus side, our winter thus far in Manitoba has been fairly mild.  There was about a week in December when the temperature scarcely rose above -20 degrees Celsius.  But other than that it has been very bearable, with not too much snow.  Over Christmas time it has been about -5 or -6 during the day, so I’ve even been able to steal a few moments outside with the kids.  If I can be opportunistic about getting outside when it’s warmer, the winter doesn’t feel nearly as long.

Nonetheless, keeping a positive outlook this time of year can be a challenge for me.  So rather than plug my ears, close my eyes, and pretend it’s not coming, I may as well face it head-on!  Here are some things I’m planning to do in the upcoming month, to give myself something to look forward to and stay in my best possible health – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

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1. Prayer and fasting

This is a tradition in my church for January of each year, and something we focus on as a community all month long.  At first, to be honest, I thought it was kind of a bummer.  But after participating in it for a few years now, I have come to look forward to it.  It’s a great way to “detoxify” from all of the excess and noise that may accompany Christmas time.  And I think there’s no better way to begin the year, than by focusing deliberately and intentionally on prayer and intimacy with God.

Fasting may take many shapes and forms, and may be done for a variety of spiritual and physical reasons.  I have some thoughts about it, which I’m planning to share on the blog sometime in the coming month.

2. Exercise

I’m not a fitness buff by any stretch of the imagination.  But I have to put this one on the list because if I don’t make a point of it, I simply won’t do it – especially in winter.  And I know how much better I feel when I do exercise.

In the town where I used to live, there was a sign outside a physiotherapist’s office that said “Exercise is medicine.”  I drove by it several times per week, and I suppose the message has been imprinted on my mind.  Because that’s exactly what I tell myself, each time I get on the treadmill: “Time to take my medicine!”  If I think about it that way, I don’t go overboard with expectations of bodily changes, or requirements to do more and more each time.  “It’s just my medicine.”  I want to feel good, stay as healthy as I can, be strong to take care of my family, and maybe even do some other things too.  If 30 minutes per day at a brisk walk can help with all that, well…it’s definitely worth it!

3. Salad, salad, and more salad

I really love salads.  All kinds of salads.  And in January, I try to trick myself into thinking it’s summer by filling my shopping cart with several types of green leaves.  Sometimes I even indulge in things I wouldn’t normally have on hand to put in my salads: avocados, kale, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, etc.

This kind of goes along with the fasting thing, because I don’t often do a complete and total food fast for very long.  It doesn’t agree with me…I feel ill, headachy, and faint…or, perhaps, I’m just a wimp.  Either way, I usually end up doing a partial fast, like eating only fruits and vegetables for a time.  We sometimes call this a “Daniel fast” because it’s similar to how the Bible says Daniel ate when he was taken to Babylon (see Daniel chapter 1).  Salads come in really handy if I decide to do this kind of fasting.

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4. This blog

This blog is a huge sanity saver for me.  It is my creative outlet, and what I do for a break from housekeeping, cooking, and taking care of kids.  It gives me a chance to slow down, process my thoughts and feelings, and create something from them.  It’s a platform from which I can find people with whom I have things in common.  I can learn from and enjoy the posts of others.  And I just love it when someone puts into words exactly what I have been feeling or experiencing!  I’m not alone, I’m not the only one!

As I mentioned before, I’ll probably put up a few posts in January on the topic of fasting.  In February, I have a post entitled “Groundhog Day” that some may find a little dark, but hey – we all have dark moments.  A couple of poems, perhaps, including one for Valentine’s Day.  Otherwise, there will be some room for sponaneity: those topics that spring up, seemingly out of the blue, and keep me up at night until I write them down.  Realistically, I may miss a week from time to time, but I feel like I have enough of a plan for the next two months to keep me reasonably on track.  It will be a great distraction from the long winter.

5. Trying something new

I’ll be starting a new music therapy contract in January, which will also be a great thing to occupy my thoughts and energy.  I haven’t done music therapy in a few years now, but this contract is small, so it’s a good way to get my feet wet again.  It’s also in a school!  This has me over the moon, because it’s been my goal from the beginning to work in schools.  Those jobs, however, are hard to come by.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

All things considered, I think I have a lot to look forward to as we move into January.  No matter how cold it may get!

What are the next two months looking like for you?  Do you have specific plans for your blog, or for yourself?  What’s the weather been like where you live?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes for an excellent 2020!

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

I Asked God for a Friend

It came like a jab in the face, as it often does – when God speaks unexpectedly.  Though not as dramatic or life-altering as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus, I was, as he likely was, not looking for a word from God right at that moment.  God does things that way, once in a while.  Perhaps to remind us that our ability to hear Him is not a result of all our straining to listen, but it is of grace: undeserved, and impossible to earn.

Something my husband said, in passing, as I sat at the table with him after dinner one day.  I cannot even remember the topic of discussion, or the words that were spoken.  But in an instant God had seized them, launched them like little pointy arrows, and used them to pierce me with a deep longing.  A yearning, aching one, that had been folded up and tucked away, along with other childish, impossible things.  It rang in my ears, and vibrated in my chest, like the startled feeling you have after the shattering of glass.

I wanted a friend.

Not just any friend.  But the kind that, for someone like me, only comes around once or twice in a lifetime.  If that.  A ‘kindred spirit,’ as Anne would say.

The acknowledgement of this longing came with an invitation – I believe, from God Himself – to pray for its fulfillment.  It had the feel, to me, of a promise.  Like something He already had.  Something that He was eagerly waiting to give to me.

My eyes stung with tears, as my husband continued to talk.  I blinked them back, swallowed the lump in my throat, and discretely put the rush of emotion aside to be dealt with later on.  (I’m getting better at that sort of thing.  Though I’m not sure if I am fooling anyone.)

How long has it been, since I have had a friend like that?  Someone who gets me.  Who truly loves me and doesn’t hang out with me because she feels like she has to, or out of pity, or even Christian servanthood.  Somebody I can waste hours with, and it feels like no time at all.  A person with whom conversation and laughter flow, like water.

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I’ve been blessed to have at least two friendships like that, in my lifetime.  The one ended as swiftly and unexpectedly as it began.  I still don’t know why she dropped me.  It was a bit like a summer fling, but without the element of romance.

The other has been longer lasting, but geography and circumstances have kept us apart for several years.  She lives on another continent.  And although people can, to a degree, keep in touch electronically, it’s just not the same as sharing life together.

Although I’m sad when friendships end or grow apart, I treasure the memories that I have from them.  I’m thankful for the joy I was able to share with these people.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become a little hardened.  Not wanting to feel the pain of loss or rejection again, I close myself off.  I’m friendly, but I hold others at an arm’s length.

And at my age, is anyone even still looking for friends?  It seems to me that the women I meet are already quite well-connected, and not looking for more friendships than what they already have.

I’ve also noticed that other people are quicker and more adept at forming true and lasting bonds than I am.  I can know women for just as long as they know each other, and watch them grow into very close friends, while I remain on the outside.

I’m not sure why this is.  My introverted nature probably has something to do with it.  I ask myself on a regular basis: am I being nice enough?  Do others see me as grouchy or down in the dumps?  Do they not know what to do with me, because of my intense emotional reactions to things?  If my personality were funnier, or bubblier, or happier…would they like me then?

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Whatever the case, I think that becoming aware that I actually do want and need a close friend, is progress in and of itself.  And now, I have a word.  A promise.  An acknowledgement: God sees my pain.  I don’t think He wants me to shelve my desire for true friendship or bury it in some kind of broken-dream-graveyard.  He wants this for me.  He has it for me.  And I just need to wait, and watch.

How about you?  Is it easy for you to make friends, or difficult?  Have you ever had a best friend?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

The Night the Sky had Eyes

“Has eyes,” he said to me in his lispy, somewhat garbled, 2-year-old speech.  I leaned on the side of his air mattress and peered up through the screened ceiling of our tent, trying to gain his perspective.  Tree branches arched overtop, and twilit sky shone through their leaves, producing a mottled effect.  Two or three stars began to wink as the daylight faded.

“What has eyes, honey?  The sky?  The trees?  The stars?  No, they don’t have eyes.  I have eyes, see?  And you do.  But they don’t.”

“Has eyes,” he repeated in a whisper, tilting his head.

Whatever it was that ‘had eyes,’ it was sufficiently worrisome to prevent him from going to sleep.  And so it was decided, between my husband and I, to head outside and put the fly over the tent.  The air may have been perfect for a breeze, and the sky for gazing, but we would sacrifice them to avoid having to deal with a sleep-deprived toddler in the morning.

Throughout the camping trip, it was apparent that our young son had a decidedly unique way of viewing his experiences.  On the way to the campground, the old Ukrainian orthodox churches we passed, with their onion-shaped steeples, were ‘castles.’  The distant silhouette of trees against the horizon, appearing to move backwards as we drove past, was a ‘train.’

And perhaps the most surprising event came later on, at the beach.  I was pulling him to the shore after holding him up in the deeper water, when his feet brushed against the sandy bottom of the shallows.  He immediately flew into hysterics, screaming loudly and pulling his knees to his chest.  His facial expression and the calibre of his voice portrayed a terror that could not have been simulated.

“It’s okay, put your feet down!  That’s just the shore!” I called above the clamour he was making.  However, my words, to him, were empty.  The squishy, yet firm and somewhat slimy surface he had bumped into was most assuredly, in his mind, some horrific entity.  A giant fish, perhaps.  Or a sea creature.  It was going to eat him…or worse.

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We couldn’t help but laugh about our son’s reaction to something as harmless as a sandy shore.  And yet, I wonder if I am much different.

Like a scared child, I bump up against things I don’t understand.  I imagine things that aren’t there.  I over-estimate the power that they have.

Life is terrifying.  Am I the only one who thinks that?

But a voice, like a parent, calls above my chaotic thoughts.  Though I can’t always hear Him above my own screams, He holds me up when I’m too afraid to put my feet down.

I reach for this presence, when I cannot see the end of some enormous threat.  His sight is clear, and His demeanor is calm.  He doesn’t fault me for my silliness, weakness, or even my lack of trust.  He won’t drop me, just because I act like the toddler that I am.

Who or what do you reach for when you’re afraid?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa