Things We Lost In The Fast (Conclusion)
To say Fasting can change your life is an over simplification. When I first wrote about the fast, I expressed that I was looking for something to happen. I was not sure what it was going to be. I mentioned breaking through spiritual plateaus, overcoming feelings of worthlessness and just being still and listening to God. Truthfully, I broke through plateaus I did not even realize were present.
I have been blessed during the fast. Yes, there have been hiccups. Some of those hiccups are funny anecdotes, others are personal victories and losses. I have learned so much in this short amount of time. Not only growing my relationship with God but the Spirit has revealed things to me about myself.
Closer In, Higher Up
I’m not sure which pastor uttered these words in prayer service this past Tuesday, but they have stuck with me. We were guided through prayer points, but praying independently. If you have ever been to a prayer service or even a regular church service, you know some people pray loud and clear, while others in small voices. I pray out loud, though quietly. You think that’s weird, well a lot of time I read my Bible out loud too. There is something definitively different in prayer and bible study when you speak out.
During prayer I heard that cluster of words very clearly…almost as if they were being spoke into my ear. I have been pressing in but there was something for me in “closer in, higher up”. It resonated in my entire being. It turns over in my head throughout the day. (Kind of like a musical ear worm…just can’t get it out of my head). I only made two out of the four prayer services. Hindsight, I wish I would have been there for al of them. They were powerful, spiritual times. I cannot describe in words the calm, peace, determination and clarity I found in those times of focused prayer.
Since Tuesday “Higher Ground” has been on my mind. The hymn, not Stevie Wonder’s version; although, now I’m humming that in my head too.
What is the connection? The first phrase of “The Upward Way” or in our hymnal it was always “Higher Ground” says, “I’m pressing on the upward way. New heights I’m gaining everyday. Still praying as I onward bound, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” By pressing in, we go higher up. I am on higher ground than I was a month ago. Higher ground gives us a different perspective, we are not seeing things as we once did. The closer in and higher up we move, the more we are able to see God’s vision…to hear his voice. That is what I took from this.
Then Sunday service came (September 4th if you want to check it out on Livestream) and the pastor talked about us being a City on a Hill. Truth be told that phrase always got lost in the shuffle, probably because it had been picked like fruit of a tree when presented. The pastor discussed that a City on a Hill cannot be hidden. He also discussed the concept of tactical advantage. It finally clicked in my head about being a City on a Hill. (Cue “Higher Ground” and it has not left my head.) Please check out Centerbranch.org and listen to the sermon, he does a better job explaining than I.
No I Am Not Crazy
Saying I’m not crazy…isn’t that usually the first sign you are, in fact, crazy? I confess, if you ever see me driving around, I will either be singing or it will appear that I am talking to myself. (These days, we can blame it on Bluetooth. If I do not look frustrated and do not appear to be yelling…it is not the Bluetooth.) Many times I am talking to God, praying or discussing things…out loud. To someone without a relationship to God, this sounds crazy. I hope those who read this that are Saved and Spirit filled can relate. More recently, I seem to have developed a bit of a mantra. As things arise it is either “closer in, higher up” or “mustard seeds”. I’ve been saying and moving a lot more in faith, so “mustard seeds” is something I say to myself throughout the day. It focuses me and reminds me, God really does not need much from me to be able to get things done. I’m not saying that to get myself off the hook. It is reassuring to me. I do not feel like a pillar of faith. (You immediately thought of a person when I said that. Yeah them, I’m not there yet.) Make no mistake my faith is growing immensely, but reminding myself it only takes a tiny measure of faith comforts me. God sees us move incrementally. He sees us press in. He knows the desires and yearning of our souls to be closer to Him. Let me put it this way, I did not become overweight, overnight. It took time. Guess what, losing the weight is not going to happen overnight either. There is a process. I believe God uses the process to prune us, to shape us into the instruments we are meant to be. My faith was not going to be equal to Jesus or an Apostle overnight, I need the journey. In our humanity, we cannot process something so unfathomable instantly. That is why the Holy Spirit is with us, He is our helper or counselor. He is our coach, reminding us to get back in there when things fall apart or we are tired of the fight or any other excuse we come up with.
Mustard seeds…closer in, higher up (Try it…it helps)
What Did I Lose In The Fast
Expectations were dropped week one, but they continued to crumble through the process. No one expects perfection all the time. Improvement, living a more Godly life and working out my salvation are the tasks at hand. I’m guilty of people pleasing, I want people to be happy. I want people to like me. I want productive experiences. God is making a way for so many things in my life. I lost my expectations because the bar was set really low. God always has a better plan. AMEN.
I lost worthlessness. The night I received the Holy Spirit, worthlessness left the building. There was no longer a place for it to make itself at home. For a moment I thought I felt its presence, but it was a lack of confidence which is very different. Worthlessness hangs like an anchor around you and prevents you from accomplishing things. Being freed of worthlessness, opens doors in every facet of my life. When I am tempted to give in and pick that worthless feeling up, a little bit of prayer and knowing God would steer the ship were all I needed.
I lost fear. As much as I love to write this blog, there was a fear that I was being judged. There were fears that what I wrote was frivolous and of no real substance to others. Time after time in the last few weeks (during the fast) I have had experiences that confirm writing this blog is a type of ministry. Sharing my struggles, triumphs and yes even those defeats, let’s people know they are not alone. Every once in a while I am taking aback when someone mentions they read the blog. There is often a moment of panic. If you read this, you know a lot of deeply personal things about me. That vulnerability in that moment can be overwhelming. Every time, something positive has been said to me. Words of encouragement, words of confirmation and a deepening of personal connections with others. God is holding on to me and I to Him, I have nothing to fear.
I have lost a lot of doubt. It is my nature to ask “why” and when you ask “why” a lot, doubt is certain to show its head. I am learning to talk with others about my doubts. I am over coming doubts with actionable faith. The more I press in, the less time doubt has to cloud mind.
All of these things individually are huge for me, but the most important is this: I am losing my hang ups with Church. The more bible study I engage in, the more sermons I hear and the more I listen to Joyce Meyer and others…I am finding that I learned a lot of things wrong. In some cases it was bad teaching of God’s word or my understanding of what had been presented to me. I spent a lot of time dealing with what people thought, how they acted and so on. If you do that, you end up feeling worthless, betrayed and you can’t grow. I spent a great deal of my life being good soil that had weeds choking everything out that blossomed. Through prayer (lots and lots of prayer) and learning God’s word I have been able to let the Holy Spirit tend the garden of my soul. He pulls the weeds of doubt, worthlessness and fear. He plows the garden to prepare me to receive more from God. He prunes, so that I may grow fuller in my faith. In focusing on God, I am worried about my own garden, not trying to pull the weeds from someone else’s. I’ve stopped comparing my walk, actions, etc with others. We are each in different places. We each have different temptations to overcome. I have to resist the temptation to fall back into worthlessness, fear, doubt and Oreos (or any other thing not good for my body). You may be dealing with anger, drugs, alcohol or some of the same issues I battle…it doesn’t matter what the temptation is; God will strengthen you and the Holy Spirit will guide you. You just have to ask and you have to mean it.
This will not be the last time I Fast. Too much spiritual ground was gained through this process. Bonds of fellowship deepened, the desire to serve expanded and things started making sense. Things that confused me for years have been given clarity. I also learned to let go and let God. (not just a bumper sticker saying for my anymore.)
What next? I am going to lead a connect group at my church. I am a little anxious and excited. I had not planned on doing this until after the new year, but God lead me in a different direction. Once the Festival of Life is over, I am going to schedule time weekly to work on the book. I’m going to prioritize my time to focus on the tasks before me. It may sound odd to some, but I am praying before I pay my bills. I am starting to pray over my schedule as I put it together. I am working toward trusting Him with all of it…even those things I think I can still control.
If you are reading this, you are probably searching for something as well. Do not worry about what others think in regards to your relationship with God. Countless times…I do mean countless, I have avoided an altar call because I was worried what someone would think. It is a hang up from my youth and young adulthood in church. I was within ear shot of some of the gossips that seemed to be busy comparing notes about other congregants lives. Don’t worry about what they think, if they are gossiping about you…they need to be at that altar too. I should probably show up at the altar more often, not to be saved, I am saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit; however, there are still issues in my life I need God to handle. So when you see someone come to the altar, do not assume they have fallen away. If they have, praise God they are pressing in. If you are not at the altar, praise God for those who are. Pray for them, but do not gossip about them.
I will close with this: Do Not Be The Stumbling Block in Anyone’s Walk With God. Some have not yet reached a level of spiritual maturity to look past what you do and completely focus on God. Remember you may be the only Jesus some people ever see. It is a responsibility…one not to be taken lightly. What an honor to praise and serve our Heavenly Father. Shine your light for the world to see…just like that City on a Hill.
Reference Scitptures: Matthew 5:13-14 and Isaiah 58 (actually read all of Matthew 5 – good stuff)
Check out my home church at http://www.centerbranch.org/livestream/