On February 1, Daron, Margaret, Mark and I began 40 Days of Prayer & Fasting alongside numerous friends and family members. The purpose was to involve them in helping discern our future. We’ve been praying for direction, both as individuals and as a team, for almost two years and decided it was time to involve others. For me, it was a spectacular time of growth in spirituality and in my relationship with many of those who were also participating. Below is a copy of the email I sent to them.
My Fasting Experience:
February 4 – My first day was really just a day of focusing and renewal. It just helped to get aligned with God and spend a good chunk of time with Him that evening. It was exciting to begin this 40 Days for my part. The fasting experience that day was pretty normal for me, not the most pleasant thing ever but not terrible. One of my chief thoughts on this day was reflecting on the support given to us from all of you over the years and thinking that some of you might be inadvertantly fasting and praying for your own futures if you join in our possible “venture” (whatever that may be) later on. I thought that was pretty cool! And I also prayed for you guys since you were joining in the fast. I wanted to reciprocate the sacrifice.
February 14 – Not sure why no one else signed up for this day! Ha! The only hard part of me fasting that day was that I was sick with a really bad head cold and pretty fuzzy all day. For me, however, it was a really good day to fast because I wanted to focus on God as my first love. I wanted the day to be dedicated to Him in that way. I can have such a divided heart with all that goes on in my life and the things that distract me from Him, so I really wanted to pledge my love to Him again on this day. And as I was doing my “Experiencing God” study and reading Nehemiah, I realized that God confirmed to me that I need to wait on Him. So the frustration was easier to subside at that point!
February 24 – This was the biggest of all my days of fasting. I had just attended a church conference the previous two days so I had a lot of ideas floating around in my head. And evidently, my fast began the night before as I tried to fall asleep. My mind was just kind of flooded from thinking about my fast on this day (actual excitement for it!) and coming off the conference. I’m beginning to really align myself with the word “missionary”. I distinctly remember thinking of myself in those terms when I was freelance for two years. Not sure when I quite thinking about it. But I’m really learning to love “missionary” and “missional community.” Missional community was a concept I heard at the conference that is kind of like small groups to the tenth degree – very authentic, accountable, service and community oriented, etc. I also came to the realization that I am a bi-vocational minister, and always have been. We are all called to minister, but like almost everyone else, I have had to use other means to support myself. This was all the night before!!! Now on to the 24th! That morning I was still deep in thought about all of that stuff and I was just really joyful. After the last couple of days, it was very hard to go back to work, though, but I’m trying to find the positives. On days I fast, I typically keep the radio and media off, too, but I was in such a joyful mood I wanted to sing. So I did that on the way to work. That night I spent a couple hours studying and it was awesome!
First I did Experiencing God, then read more in Nehemiah and then read my book called “Fasting”. In “Experiencing God” he talked about ‘spiritual concentration’ meaning praying about something and being extremely sensitive to the things that happen next. It also talked about asking for one thing and getting something else. We often don’t know what to do with the thing we didn’t ask for, yet it’s always better because God knows best. So, I’m thinking that I’ve asked God for all kinds of things during the two years but He’s given me a mission community instead, something I didn’t outright know to ask for. Next he talked about when God is silent. It either means there is sin there or God is waiting to reveal a deeper understanding of Himself. It asked when I thought God had been silent and I thought about the approximately two years we have been waiting for direction. Over the last few weeks of this study, I have seen God confirming that I should wait but sometimes the last two years have felt like silence. So, I’m anxiously awaiting God to reveal, and I think He has…at least part of it. (more on this in a moment) He then talked about God speaking through circumstances. And he notes that in the difficult times, you must look through the eyes of God not the middle of your own worries because your perspective is limited.
Interpretation thus far…what you’ve been waiting for… I am seriously excited about the idea of a missional community. Put plainly, it’s a group of people who are living deeply on mission together. It’s intimate and accountable. Up to this point, what I’ve sensed is that missional community is what we are looking for in a church but didn’t use those words. It’s Mark’s commune and Daron’s tough conversations and Margaret’s love in action and my relational ministry all mixed up in a bowl with a lot of other good things the four of us have talked about over the last few years. It’s beautiful and it’s hard. It’s complicated and simple. It’s messy and worthy. And it’s a witness beyond words. And I feel it’s what I’m being called into. The conference was such great affirmation to my journey and where I am at this time, I can’t even describe. And that concept absolutely struck me and has been just rolling around in my head and sinking into my heart. And in thinking about the circumstances over the last few days, I feel confirmed in that much.
In my Bible, I read Nehemiah chapters 10-13. Alas, I finished it again. Makes me sad because I love it so much. But in chapter 10 the people have turned back to the Lord, recounted their story and have sworn an oath to be better – together (10:29). I sense God calling me to create an oath/covenant between the people I do this with and God. “We promise TOGETHER not to neglect the temple of our God.” (10:39b) Theirs was to obey God’s word, stay pure, keep the Sabbath and tithe. Good stuff. And he was big on praying which is obviously pretty cool, too.
March 9 – This was my fourth and last day of fasting. Another good one! I was mainly focused on answering the questions of where I should live and if I should sponsor a child though Compassion or World Vision. During my “Experiencing God” time it spoke of Joshua accompanying the people into the Promised Land and God rolling back the Jordan River. This passage has very special meaning to me and I also chose this passage to expand on during my study time. While I was reading, I picked up on the fact that God told them that they should follow the Ark because they were going into a land they didn’t know. This makes me think that I should go to Smyra/Vinings as that area had come up in discussions over the past few months. It spoke over and over again of them crossing the river, and I also looked on Google maps and I would be crossing over the Hooch if I move to that area! However, the point of it was to catalog and look at the spiritual markers in your journey that would help you make a decision by seeing where God has been taking you all along. I am still working on this part, though.
And while I was reading my Bible in the beginning two chapters of Esther, it talks about her being adopted by her cousin. I was also looking up tithe scriptures online today and Compassion was a side banner. So, I will move forward with sponsoring a child. I think this move will be a great witness for social justice and the person of character I want to be as part of a missional community.
………….I’m happy to expand on any of my days or experience with any of you. Some of you I don’t get to talk to very often, though, so I wanted to write it down. And as I told the folks on Saturday night, the topics and depth of conversations I’ve had with several of you during these 40 days has been awesome and made it a very special time as well. It was worth the 40 days just for that!
I can not express how grateful I am for your participation in all of this. If I forget to update you from time-to-time, please ask! Much love.