November = More Words

This month the fast is words. For the ones who love to talk about themselves, they should talk more about Jesus. For the ones who tend toward silence, they need to talk more.

In November I will fast words by talking more. Seems contrary, but whatever.

Since I live by myself and work from home, I had to make a plan in order for this to happen. So here it is: When I’m in Springfield, I plan to leave my apartment complex at least once each day to have a conversation with at least one person (be they friend or stranger). And for the days that I’m on the road, I will also have at least one conversation with someone who is not Alyssa or Vince (my co-workers/road companions).

Perhaps you find it strange that I have to make a plan to leave my apartment. What you are now learning about me is that I am part hermit. I can go for days without seeing or talking to people and be perfectly happy. So this month becomes about fasting my comfort zone of quiet to feast on divine appointments with people around me. Besides, when I leave Springfield for Dubai, I need to be ready for daily conversations with friends and strangers. This is practice for the future.

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October = No Sweets

The Kingdom Fast last month was sugar. A tough one for a girl with a major sweet tooth. I chose to fast desserts and chocolate.

Like the caffeine fast, I found myself missing chocolate midway through the month. I just wanted something a little sweet. In those moments I started running through Romans 8. “For those who live according to flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things on the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace….”

We fasted sugar to feast on the sweetness of Jesus, and this month I realized the power of memorizing Scripture. When faced with a temptation (or a sweet tooth), I started calling out Romans 8 and regained perspective. Jesus is much sweeter and sustains much longer than any type of refined, processed simple carbohydrate.

I could have done better.

I admit it. I kind of didn’t want to participate in the Kingdom Fast for August.

The fast was Image. It’s meant to keep in check what I look like to concentrate on what Jesus looks like. Some suggested ways to participate are wear one outfit for the month or alternate between two, cover up the mirror, forget the hair appointment, skip the make-up, give extra clothes away, stick to one pair of shoes, etc.

I can tell you I did none of those things for the whole month. I did some of those by accident. With 25 days away from home last month, I wore the clothes and shoes that fit in my carry-on. And working from home often means no make-up. But those were not intentional fasts; they were more like an afterthought. Like “Hey, I’m fasting image right now!”

The goal was to concentrate more on what Jesus looks like. And I feel like, because I didn’t try to fast any of the above for the month, because I was a bit lazy, I missed the chance to feast. I’m the type of person who makes a decision and stubbornly does her best to stick with it, and because I didn’t make a choice to give up something that I encounter daily—like my abundance of clothes, all my shoes or the mirror—I missed the opportunity to create a habit of thinking about what Jesus looks like in those daily moments.

Bummer. I could have done better.

NEXT UP: The September Kingdom Fast is Screens. I have not yet decided what screens I’m fasting for the month, but with these August thoughts fresh on my mind, I know I need to decide ASAP….

Be Gone, Facebook!

I happily gave up Facebook for a month.

The Kingdom Fast in July was the Internet. We were encouraged to give up the extra conveniences of the Internet, like social media, news, sports, online shopping, personal email, etc.

For my fast, I chose to ignore Facebook, at least my personal page. Since I manage social media for the Arab World, staying away from it entirely wasn’t possible. My travels overseas in July with no data plan and limited wifi made it easier to accomplish.

Sigh. How wonderful to ignore Facebook for a month. I often want to get away from Facebook. It can be such a time suck. And it holds such a limited view of present situations and circumstances. I only see what people want me to see.

But it can also be so convenient to log in and check for a birthday or message someone whose email I don’t have. Or when the Spirit brings someone to mind and I wonder, “Where is she or he right now?”

My lesson for the month: Find the balance. Facebook in moderation. Facebook when needed. Facebook when useful. And find the time to see someone’s actual face.

No Fasting, But Lots of Learning

Now that my busy summer is over, I can review a little of what’s happened.

June’s Kingdom Fast was restaurants. The focus was not so much restaurants, but hospitality. I was on the road for nearly the whole month, so I didn’t fast restaurants or open my home for hospitality. My home was barely open in June. Instead I jumped into the Live Dead value of the month—learning. The point of the value is to better understand the culture and worldview of those with whom we work. So I set my sights on learning more about Dubai.

I started with two books on Dubai. The first, A History of Future Cities (Daniel Brook), looked at the story of Dubai in light of the histories of St. Petersburg, Mumbai and Shanghai. With an understanding of what happened in other cities where East met West, what might be the future of Dubai? Not only did I learn something about Dubai, but three other global cities. Now I want to visit St. Petersburg.

Next I read City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism (Jim Krane) about the history of Dubai from fishing village in the 1960s to international city. At the time of publishing (2009), the author Krane had been a longtime reporter in the region. He arrived in Dubai in January 2005. It looked at the emergence of the city-state on the world scene and the “blowback” Dubai and its leader have received. The final section is about the challenges Dubai faces—from the perspective of 2009, right after the financial crisis of 2008.

What I found most interesting in the book is the conversations the author had with people who remember pre-metropolis Dubai and their feelings toward expatriates, non-Emiratis. The feelings were mixed. So when I become one of those expats, that’s good perspective to keep in mind.