Fasting Together

Good afternoon. I said I would be back, and here I am. We’ll see how this goes.

Today is “Bad Poetry Day.”

Rather than try to write some, I will direct your attention to this, a Vogon Poetry Generator. The Vogons must be excited that today is “Bad Poetry Day.” I wonder if there is any significance to the fact that today’s Woot! shirt features the answer to, “What is the meaning of life?” in ASCII symbols.

It was an interesting morning. We were supposed to cut my hair last night, but forgot. So Christi wanted to do it this morning. The hair and beard had been getting rather scraggly, so I agreed to got ahead and do it this morning, even though it would mean probably not having time to do my blog. Then the clippers weren’t quite working right, so it took longer than usual. By the time we finished, there definitely was not time, as I had only about fifteen minutes left after my shower, before it was time to leave. So here I sit, blogging in the afternoon. Sounds like a song.

Blogging, blogging,
Blogging in the morning,
Blogging at the noontime,
Blogging, blogging,
Blogging when the sun goes down.

Speaking of “Bad Poetry!”

We had a good morning at church, though. After a shaky rehearsal with the band, things came together, and the service went pretty well. Good worship, and Jacob’s message on “Loving God,” was tremendous. He began a series today that will examine the motto of our church, which is, “Love God. Follow Jesus. Share the Kingdom.” At some point over the next few days, if you feel so inclined, you will be able to listen to it HERE. It won’t be up today, though, probably. Actually, I’m not sure when they get those podcasts up.

So, now, Christi is out and about, picking up another cookie cake (this one just for Stephanie, which we will take with us to Mineral Wells tomorrow), and getting some new clothes for. . . well, I can’t tell you what for, yet, can I? It’s a secret.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1227 a man died at the age of 65; a man who had created the “greatest land empire in history through his great generalship and utter, barbaric ruthlessness;” a man whose given name was “Temujin;” a man who was born “holding a clot of blood in his hand, a sure sign of great military prowess.” This man’s name was Genghis Khan. Legend has it that you could smell Kahn’s cavalry coming , “its pungent stench [signalling] the approach of death even before you could see the dust or hear the drumming of hooves.” It is said that his warriors could fire an arrow, with deadly accuracy, from 200 yards away. His title, the name we know him by, was given him by the conquered Mongol tribes in 1206, and probably means “universal leader.” Once, at Herat in Afghanistan, his army is said to have slaughtered 1.6 million people in a week. By the time he died, he had “destroyed the Chin dynasty of China and his empire extended from Peking to the Caspian Sea.”

Today’s birthday is Regine Chassagne, born on this date in 1977. Regine is one of the founding members of the Grammy-award-winning group Arcade Fire. She plays multiple instruments and also sings in the group. She is featured in this clip of their song, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”

Honorable mentions go to Patrick Swayze, 1952-2009, Edward Norton, 44, Robert Redford, 77, Roberto Clemente, 1934-1972, Christian Slater, 44, Shelley Winters, 1920-2006, Meriwether Lewis, 1774-1809, Martin Mull, 70, Madeleine Stowe, 55, and Rosalynn Carter, 86.


Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!Psalm 135:3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. Psalm 67:1
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. Psalm 86:9

Father, as I look into your word, now, I pray that you show me something that will keep me looking to you for grace, all the days of my life.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “A Communal Fast.” The scripture reading is Esther 4:1-3.

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

When the Jewish people heard of the king’s edict that meant their extinction, they fasted as one. This, however, was a “public and communal fast.” There might be times in our culture when we might find it necessary to fast as a group, especially in times of mourning, or perhaps when the church might be seeking God’s direction in a certain, very important matter. The modern, western, church doesn’t appear to take a positive attitude toward fasting at all, much less communal fasting, as I have never, in my 55 years, been encouraged to participate in a group fast. Not that I can remember, anyway. As I’ve stated before, I think that fasting is a discipline that is much understood, and, perhaps, much undervalued in our society. We don’t tend to gravitate toward giving stuff up.

Examining this discipline can tell us a lot about our attitudes toward more than just food. What is my attitude toward all this stuff that I’ve accumulated? What is my attitude toward anything that I am considering doing without for a period of time? It’s very telling.

Father, as this study on the discipline of fasting continues, I pray for resolve to complete the challenge at hand. The fast that I have chosen is not difficult, or at least shouldn’t be. But it can prove to heighten my sense of intimacy with you at certain times of the day. And that’s what I pray for as I go through this. May you be glorified in everything.

I have to cut this short, as I have just gotten a call from Christi. It seems she has locked her keys in the car. Ah, well. Off to the rescue!

Grace and peace, friends.

Sell All You Have

And it’s Saturday! Today is August 18, 2012. Today is “National Bad Poetry Day.” I follow a few poets on WordPress. I don’t think they will be participating. I’ll try one.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
This is a bad poem
I wrote it for you.

(If you don’t want to try bad poetry, it’s also “National Soft Ice Cream Day,” so you could always go to Dairy Queen or Sonic for a cone.)

On this date in 1940, Walter P. Chrysler died at the age of 65. I bet you can guess what he did. On this date in 1227 (a couple years earlier), Genghis Khan died. Several centuries later, he opened a restaurant. On this date in 1590, the famous Roanoke colony was found completely deserted by John White, who had been away on a supply trip to England. No trace was ever found of the inhabitants of the colony. Only the single word, “CROATOAN,” was found carved into the palisade around that was built around the colony. A palisade is a fence made from posts. On this date in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. On this date in 1933, Roman Polanski was born. On this date in 1958, Vladamir Nabokov’s book, Lolita was published. Does anyone else find that ironic? (Those last two items, I mean…look it up.) And on this date in 1941, Hitler suspended the systematic slaughtering of mentally ill and handicapped people because of protests in Germany. Lest anyone think he had a sudden case of conscience, he later revived the program in Poland.

Today, the celebrations begin. In a little while, Christi and I will go to the west side of Fort Worth, pick up Grandmother and Don and bring them back to our side of town for lunch at Fogata’s followed by strawberry birthday cake. Later, we will head over the mall (I know…it’s “tax free weekend”) to pick up a cookie cake, which we will take with us to Mineral Wells tomorrow for the celebration with Grandma and Grandpa. So, Grandma, don’t make a cake or anything. If you already have, it’s okay. So, it’s going to be a right busy weekend! But all to celebrate our special girl turning 19! (Stephen King would like that…if you don’t get that, there’s no way I can explain it to you.)

In about thirty minutes, we head to the grocery store, so I don’t have much time, now. We slept in, because we took off from church setup today, in order to get ready for Steph’s birthday stuff. This is her weekend, so we’re putting off some other things that we normally do. Anyway…better get moving.

Father, I pray that you show me a glimpse of you in the time I have left today.

Today I’m reading Psalm 79. This one was written by Asaph, probably after the Babylonians defeated Jerusalem in 586 B.C. It begins rather hopelessly.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.

Asaph then calls on God for vindication.
How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

Forgiveness and compassion are called for, and finally, we should note that Asaph, while crying out for deliverance for Israel, is also asking God to stand up for his own name’s sake.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!

Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!

And fittingly, the psalmist closes out with praise and thanksgiving.
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Even in the face of the massive destruction of Jerusalem, the true servant of God can still give him praise and thanksgiving.

My Utmost For His Highest
But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Luke 18:23

What “things?” If you look were looking at the book, you would see yesterday’s reading right across the page with verse 22 at the top of the page. Jesus had just told this “rich young ruler” to sell all that he had and distribute the proceeds to the poor, then to come follow him. He went away, “expressionless with sorrow.” Chambers asks, “Have you ever been expressionless with sorrow?” There was no debate. He didn’t argue with Jesus; he understood exactly what was said to him. Has the word of God come to us in something that we are very rich in? This can cause great sorrow, for if we are rich in something, we are hard pressed to give it up. He will not chase after us; he did not chase this ruler. He watched him go. But, when we see him again, he will remind us, “If you mean what you say, those are the conditions.”

What is our version of, “Sell all that you have?” Chambers says, “…undress yourself morally before God of everything that might be a possession until you are a mere conscious human being and then give God that.” The battle is fought in the domain the will! “Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Himself?” This is such a very difficult question! “Beware of allowing anything to soften a hard word of Jesus Christ’s.” We rationalize…”Well, what Jesus really means is…” No. What he means is what he says. Now, we must be careful that we don’t read a story like this one and assume that Jesus wants us all to go sell every physical possession we have. That was specific to this person. However, there is much we can learn from the encounter about how much we hold on to both physical possessions and mental ideas.

Consider this: It is possible to be so “rich in poverty” that we become useless to Christ! If we get so caught up in NOT having things that we lose sight of our Lord, it does us no good. “I can be so rich in the consciousness that I am somebody that I shall never be a disciple. Am I willing to be destitute of the sense that I am destitute?” Oh, yeah. He just said that. I cannot love anything more than Jesus, not even my love for Jesus.

This is an amazing reading! It runs circles around my head, making me dizzy, but, yes…it makes perfect sense. Even our devotion to Christ can become an “idol” in our lives. We must guard against any such thing. Jesus is all. And he must be all, or he is nothing.

Father, I pray that nothing ever hinders my walk with Christ. May I forsake all worldly things that would distract me from this walk or tempt me down a different path. May I also guard (or, rather, I ask that your Spirit guard) against idolatry, even with something as important as my devotion to you or my sense of having nothing and being nothing. All of these things can become idols, Lord. Yet, I need not live my life in fear, being afraid at every corner that I have made something an idol. All that is needed is a simple devotion to Christ, fueled by the power of the Spirit, and a love for the Scriptures, by which I gain knowledge and wisdom. Lord, I’ve been reading the beatitudes each day, praying that you would bring these characteristics to life in me. And if that happens, if I gain those qualities, truthfully, then there will be no worries of “worshiping my worship.” Be my all in all, Lord. Be my strength when I am week, be that treasure that I seek. I will seek you as a precious jewel. I will not give up.

I pray for this day, Lord. We have much planned, and I pray that everything will go smoothly, even down to transferring Don from his wheelchair to Christi’s car. May the day be pleasant and peaceful, as we celebrate Stephanie’s birthday. I pray for her, Lord. Be a blessing to her today, and may we be a blessing to her, as well. May your grace flow down into her heart today, and make her feel your love flowing over her. She is your special child, Father.

I also lift up a special prayer this morning, for Rachel and Justin, who have just embarked on a drive to Minnesota. No, I’m not kidding. Give them travel safety, especially Rachel, who will be doing all of the driving. I pray that they have a wonderful time, visiting their friends, Vince and Patrick. May your blessings, grace, and mercy travel with them.

Jesus has not asked me to “sell all you have.” However, he has asked me to be “poor in spirit,” and to be humble. If there is anything that I consider “riches,” I must be willing to consider it nothing for the sake of Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.