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.

My nieces made me do it.

The May Kingdom Fast was games. That’s easy for a girl who shies away from board games, card games or most any game of strategy. (Put me into a game of Taboo or Catch Phrase and watch out.)

I blame my brother-in-law Dick. He completely thrashed my siblings and me in Monopoly years ago. I never experienced anyone so ruthless. He showed no mercy. I think I cried. Other than Apples To Apples with the whole family a few Christmases ago and Saboteur with the family in Cairo last spring, I’m not sure I’ve played a game with him since. I usually walk away when he suggests one…and always if he’s making it up on the fly.

So I don’t play games very often, and I don’t currently live in the Arab World with a Live Dead team where game nights happen every few weeks. The extent of my games is some form of solitaire on my iPad while flying (boredom!) or a few runs of Minion Rush after a day in the office with people (introvert time!). Fasting games, no problem.

Until I arrived in Grand Rapids for Memorial Day weekend and faced my beloved nieces. Less than a day in Michigan and my fast was broken. I blame my nieces; their cuteness is irresistible. Before I realized it, they had me chasing them through the front yard in a game of “Flower Tag.” It’s your standard game of tag, except each person is a different flower that takes on human form. Ava was a snapdragon (it pinches while breathing pretend fire), Elizabeth a stinkweed (not really a flower, but a plant that allows her to stick her bum out), and I a tulip (it kisses cute nieces on the head with its two lips). Then there was the Oodles of Doodles at the cabin over the weekend. So much for that fast, but I trust Jesus hears the giggles of little girls and I know it’s OK.

The challenge this month as we fasted games was to fill game time with prayer time for unreached peoples.* My challenge was to fill a time slot that didn’t exist in my life. Like I said, I play games on airplanes and after a day of meetings in the office. Well, I haven’t been in the office much this month (I work from home) and I’ve been on four airplanes total. Since decompression from the office was unnecessary, that left me with flight time. On two of my four flights I fell asleep (oh well). But on the other two I turned off my phone and left my iPad in my bag and prayed my way through Arab World countries from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula. It was a meaningful time as I thought about my friends in those countries and about the cities I’ve visited. Through the exercise I discovered prayer is a more productive use of time than playing Solitaire for an hour (duh).

Resolution: Take at least one flight segment to pray through the Arab World whenever I fly, and perhaps leave the iPad in the bag all the time to engage with the world, even if it’s just the few people sitting around me in the metal cylinder zipping through the sky at 600 miles per hour (use that as a conversation starter with your seat mate).

Next up – Restaurants: June’s Kingdom Fast is restaurants. This is less about saving money from eating out or ordering in. This is about intentionally and lovingly preparing food to share with friends and neighbors in your home. During this fast we want to increase our generosity and hospitality among friends and strangers. I was very excited for this fast until I realized I will only be home for three days in June. I need my creativity to kick in for this one.

*These prayers would be in addition to ones prayed during daily abiding time.

I’m a lazy cheater

This month’s Live Dead Kingdom Fast was produced music. No music for the month. But if one did it right, there shouldn’t have been much silence. This fast was about using our own words to express praise to Jesus. Rather than turning to someone else’s words of praise to Jesus, we were encouraged to sing our own song to Jesus.

What I discovered about myself this month: I’m a lazy cheater.

At first, I sang songs that I could actually remember the words to (my brother-in-law will be pleased to know these were often hymns). But that felt like cheating. I was supposed to be expressing my own words.

So I turned inward to find my own words of praise to Jesus. That wasn’t so hard. I’m a writer. I string words together all the time—for a living. God made a career of it for me. But I found I just thought about them or wrote them down—I was too lazy (and/or self-conscious) to vocalize them.

Not good enough. So I took those words from my thoughts or my notes to sing them. Didn’t matter that no human being was in the same room listening to me—it was awkward at first. But after a few times, it wasn’t so much. It was sweet.

I usually start or end my abiding time by opening Spotify on one of my electrical devices and selecting one of several worship playlists that I’ve created to match my mood or a certain topic. By the end of this month, I discovered how meaningful it was to put my own “random” songs together. It’s another good practice to integrate into my all day abiding with Jesus.

I read this quote two days ago in Live Dead Joy and it’s a good reminder to leave April with: “Let verbal praise be the punctuation of a life that continually magnifies the Lord—out loud!” When I express my praise out loud continually throughout the day, not only does it do my soul good, but others around me also hear the praise of Jesus.

Next up in the Kingdom Fasts: Games
With airport, airplane and road trip time ahead in May, it looks like I’ll have time for more reading or writing or daydreaming or…[gasp] talking to people, instead of playing games on the iPad.

Today I binge on produced music.

Today is the final day of the shopping fast. Tomorrow includes a visit to Target.

Tomorrow begins the produced music fast. Today I binge on Spotify.

At first, I wasn’t really concerned about the April Kingdom Fast of produced music. Anytime between 1998 and 2012, I would have freaked out about it, but since I no longer spend as much time in the music world, I thought, “I got this.”

Then I realized…. I have very long road trips on the calendar in April.

Come on. Seriously? Why couldn’t this fast happen in March when I was home all month? And what are the chances that the one month I would really like to have produced music pumping into my ears to cut through the monotony of the road is the one month I cannot have it?

*shaking my fists at the sky*

Dear planner of the Kingdom Fast schedule (i.e. dear brother-in-law), I blame you. Because I don’t want to blame God for the “coincidence.”

On the bright side, I have wanted to explore the element of silence in my abiding time. Looks like there is no time like the present. Here’s to a quiet April…