I don't often take the time to read e-mails from Sojourners, a Christian magazine focusing on living our lives for Christ through politics, social justice, culture, etc. I simply haven't had to time to open much besides personal e-mails lately.
But I'm really glad I opened today's e-mail from Sojourners, written by Jim Wallis.
Inside was a reference to one of my favorite Christian books, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. And the oh-so-timely topic: fasting.
I am fasting from certain foods during this Lent, and it has not been easy. Right now a bag of Tostitos are calling to me from the pantry. Eating no grains and no sugars is not easy in our culture, and this last weekends' mini-vacation provided a significant challenge that I did not rise to successfully.
I have certainly not walked this Lent without falling on my face a few times, thanks to Peppermint Jojos last weekend and a tall Java-Chip frap (no whip skinny at least) yesterday at Starbucks.
But through fasting and failing and fasting again, I have been seeing God working in and though me. Instead of relying on food for comfort, I am relying more (not relying totally, as I should be, mind you) on God instead. Wow. That's a significant shift for me.
During this Lent, I watch spellbound with surprise and joy as Christ (my friend, partner, Saviour) punches holes in one of my (many) idols, causing its hold on me to weaken a little more every day. Thanks be to God!
And the e-mail I opened a few moments ago reminded me of the progress Christ is making in my spirit as I read a list of quotations from the "Fasting" chapter of Celebration of Discipline. And although I usually share quotations on Sundays, I simply can't wait that long to share these wonderful quotations from this chapter of Foster's excellent book with you all:
"Fasting must forever center on God. … If our fasting is not unto God we have failed" (54, 55).So as I continue through Lent, fasting and praying, I also remember the conversation I had with my wise chiropractor yesterday, Dr. Charles Burns. He was telling me about some changes he wants to make in his practice, and he mentioned that chiropractic and other natural modalities were simply aspects that can open us up to the healing power of God. And I noted that the practice of spiritual disciplines, including living the Christian Year in celebrating Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Passiontide, etc., have no power in themselves; they merely open our spirits to the power of God.
"More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us" (55).
"We cover up whatever is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface" (55).
"Fasting reminds us that we are sustained 'by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' (Matt. 4.4). Food does not sustain us, God sustains us" (55).
"Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting!" (55).
"Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them" (56).
"This is not excessive asceticism; it is discipline and discipline brings freedom" (56).
"In many ways the stomach is like a spoiled child, and a spoiled child does not need indulgence, but needs discipline. … You are to be the master of your stomach, not its slave" (57).
That's a profound truth, one that Foster mentions in several of his books.
The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, practicing Lent, etc., have no intrinsic power in and of themselves; rather, they are ways in which we may open our spirits to see God working in and through us. God is always at work; it's up to us to see Him at work, glorifying Him for Who He is: our Father Who loves and cares for us; His only Son Who sacrificed Himself for us; His Spirit Who lives and breathes in and through us.
When we open ourselves to the workings of God through these disciplines, we are soooo blessed as we join God in His delighted work.
And then the difficult disciplines that force us to put aside flesh in order to allow Spirit to shine are transformed into joy-bringers and glory-givers. And we exult in the blossoming of His Spirit within us.
All thanks and praise be to our Lord God, the One Who daily, daily, daily loads us with His blessings!
Walking the path of joy-filled discipline,