The Popcorn Crisis

He ate my popcorn.

That’s what started it.

A ridiculous argument over puffed up corn kernels.

And it wasn’t even the dripping with butter, salty-goodness, sit through a two-hour movie with a giant bucket of theatre-worthy fare.

It was just plain ole’ popping corn, popped in oil with a scant sprinkling of salt.

Any other time I wouldn’t have even bothered to stick my hand in that bland bowl. But I was on Day 6 of a 21-day Daniel Fast and that popcorn was like taste bud gold to me.

During a Daniel Fast certain foods are denied as an act of worship and devotion to God. During this three-week period I had committed to eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and drinking only water. Dairy, meat, sugar, white flour, caffeine and basically anything that tastes remotely pleasurable were literally off the table. However, the fast is not supposed to be about your need for certain foods, but more about realizing your need for God.

And in every fast I’ve ever done I have encountered God in a very real and powerful way. It has been a blessing beyond measure. But this time on Day 6, I was feeling a little bit edgy. I had spent the first two days of the fast with severe caffeine and sugar withdrawal headaches. It was taking my body a few days to adjust to this basically vegan-diet-on-steroids and I was feeling physically and emotionally drained. Plus I had a sinus infection.

Since my husband had embarked on this fasting journey with me, we had visited the Whole Foods store several times to stock up on organic produce and grains. The last time we were there we’d bought two bags of Skinny Pop, a permissible snack for the fast. In my naiveté I assumed he would eat one bag and I would have the other.

Cue the popcorn crisis.

I got about a handful from the first bag. No problem. There was a second bag waiting for me.

When I found out that he had eaten the entire second bag of popcorn I am sorry to say that I was not very Christ-like in my response.

As I look back on it now, the argument that ensued was so stupid it’s embarrassing.

Me:  (in my best victim’s voice) “How could you eat all that popcorn? You knew I said I was going to have it for a snack at school!!”

Husband: (sheepishly) “I thought you said you already took a bag to school.”

Me: (misguided righteous indignation) “How could I have taken a bag to school when we only bought two bags?” Dat-dat-dum…

It got worse. I couldn’t find the date paste in the fridge and accused him of throwing it away. Oh the horror of eating unsweetened oatmeal!

O.K., Clearly Not My Best Moment.

However it also highlighted something very important for me.

It showed how much I need Jesus.

Without Jesus, I am self-absorbed. Without Jesus, minor irritants distract me from God’s bigger plan for my life. Without Jesus, my wants supersede someone else’s needs.

I don’t ever want to be without Jesus.

Thankfully, Romans 8:31-39  from the Message Bible tells me that absolutely nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus. “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Not even Skinny Pop.

 

The best intentions

Today was the day I had originally slated to begin a juice fast. With the advent of the new year I had decided to set aside some special time to fast and pray. However, winter blew in a ferocious snowstorm which landed my younger daughter, her husband and their dog at our doorstep. So I made chicken and dumplings instead.

Oh, and I also may have baked a loaf of molasses wheat bread, too.

And about four dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Not exactly what I had planned, but you seriously can’t expect a household of people which includes a pregnant woman (my daughter, not me) to exist on a diet of juice and water when it is -17 degrees outside. We’re used to cold winter weather in the Midwest, but yesterday the temperature was actually warmer in Alaska than it was in Indiana. The land of igloos and sled dogs would have been balmy compared to what it felt like outside my front door.

So instead of fasting, I feasted. There’s something about a houseful of family that beckons me to the kitchen. A homemaker at heart, I love to cook from scratch and serve up heaping portions to whomever gathers around our big dining room table. I can’t help it. It’s like it’s programmed into my DNA.

But then, of course, I know that I was designed by an awesome God who put me together just the way He wanted. He is the One who placed the desire in my heart to love and care for others. And He is the one who taught me that by serving others I can show His love for them. So I’m not going to guilt trip myself into feeling bad about not beginning my fast today. The year is still young and there will be another day soon to devote to fasting.

Just as soon as those cookies are gone.

Hungering for God

Every day for the past two weeks my kitchen has looked as if an explosion has taken place in it. I have always been an enthusiastic cooking-from-scratch-kind-of-chef, but since engaging in a Daniel fast for the last fifteen days my methods of cooking have drastically altered. The Daniel fast is a completely plant-based diet, but also restricts caffeine, sugar and any sort of processed food. Things like milk, butter and eggs have gone by the wayside and my pantry has been stocked with all sorts of new and exotic organic foodstuffs.

Before I go any farther I want to say that I know that the fast is not about the food. The real principle of fasting is to develop your spiritual hunger for God and to grow closer to Him. These past two weeks have been a remarkable time of spiritual growth for me as I prepare to speak at a women’s conference in October. As I have quieted myself before the LORD, he has poured out His love over me and I have been incredibly blessed.

That being said, living a vegan lifestyle has been an adjustment for me. For instance, I made some Daniel fast approved “oatmeal raisin cookies.”As I pulled them from the oven I quickly found that the bumpy brown circles of oat flour bore no resemblance to my regular oatmeal cookie recipe. I’m sure Keebler never put anything like them on the shelf. Of course, had the recipe been more truthfully titled such as “lumpy oatmeal blobs” I guess I wouldn’t have tried it. My mantra has now been “keep your taste bud expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.” (Don’t judge – I promise you I said it with a smile.)

I am really not trying to be negative here, just realistic. Eating a restricted diet is a spiritual discipline that I am using to worship and honor God. So no matter what I try to whip up in the kitchen, it isn’t going to taste like anything I am used to eating and I have decided that it’s OK.

On the positive side, I have had some really nice culinary discoveries like quinoa. Who knew that a tiny seed that looks like something I would put in my bird feeder could be so tasty? And dates! Those plump little fruits are incredibly sweet and sumptuous, especially to someone who has been without processed sugar for a few days. And thankfully without refined sugars, my palette has adjusted and fruits taste so much sweeter than they used to.

And I have also found that as my daily dependence on God has increased, the time we spend together has become so much sweeter. His words to me are clearer, my purpose in life has been redefined and my desire to work for His glory has been reignited. The small things that I have given up during the 21 days of fasting in no way compares to what He gave up for me. He stepped down out of heaven to dwell among men so that we could have life eternal. He gave His life for me because of his great love for me. And now each day I have the opportunity to draw near to Him and gain instruction for the journey He has prepared for me.

I’ve had a few people ask me if I am going to continue my vegan diet after I break my fast. Honestly, I don’t know how much of the diet I am going to continue. I like not being addicted to sugar and caffeine. Physically I feel much better without them in my life. But one thing I know that I am going to continue is my desire to seek a closer relationship with Jesus. I went into the fast seeking more of Him and I that’s what I got. And that is something I would never be willing to give up.

Living in the Fast Lane

Lately, I’ve been considering what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. I’ve thought about what it takes to be someone who isn’t just playing church, but is wholeheartedly sold out for God. And as I have been thinking and praying, God has been patiently, lovingly nudging me toward the idea of fasting.

And in my usual stubborn way I have been trying to dodge the issue. Putting it off because the time was not right, my life was too hectic, or I was just too afraid to face the fact that I might be too selfish to give up my favorite foods. Socially acceptable seasons of fasting like Lent would come and go with only the smallest effort of sacrifice on my part.

Honestly, the thought of any kind of fast was petrifying. How in the world would I make it through the day without the three major food groups – Coffee, Diet Pepsi, and Chocolate? To be truthful, I could live without meat – but dairy and bread? Come on, Lord – I’m a midwestern girl!  You know those two groups make an appearance at every meal. 

And so I quietly resisted. Assuming that fasting was intended for someone much holier than me. Continuing to pretend as if I didn’t hear the call.

Until now.

On Saturday, I began my journey on a 21 day Daniel fast. It will be three weeks without dairy, meat, bread, sugar, caffeine or processed foods. In addition to that, the Lord has called me to a deeper fellowship time with Him that does not include TV or social media. (So to all my Facebook friends, except for publishing my blog, I won’t see you again until October.)

This past week as I prepared for my fast, I cut down on my sugar and caffeine intake and tried to eat as organically as possible. Still, on Friday morning I had an unexpected major meltdown. I was on my way out to school and was stopped at a red light when I started crying. Of course, there were other cars on both sides of me. Their passengers gawking at me probably wondering if the little blonde woman in the car next to them was having a mid-life crisis. As I wrestled a napkin from my lunch to catch the waterworks I was wondering why didn’t I listen to my mother about always carrying a Kleenex in my purse!!

It had begun because I’d been thinking about the fast. Suddenly I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of fear and guilt. Fear of not being able to go through with it. Guilt over the fact that if I was considering backing out then I was obviously addicted to food. But even in that panicked moment I felt God’s comforting presence. I began to pray and I remembered that in God there is no fear and no guilt. Those are schemes of the enemy. I spoke God’s Word over my anxiety and allowed Him to replace my fear and guilt with love and mercy.

And so off I go into the land that is not flowing with milk and honey. But I go knowing I am not alone. Only when I am willing to totally surrender my life can He can take away the things that separate me from Him. And in my state of physical hunger I will wait for Him to satisfy my spiritual hunger. I am ready now, Lord. Ready to encounter the loving God who wants to pour out His heart to me.