Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fasting Day Twenty-Seven: Losing Hope

Starting to re-think the
"fruit juice only"diet.

Reminder: these posts aren't in real time. My fast is over, all is well, I am healthy and doing fine. But that's not how I felt on day 27 of the fast....

Today was the worst I've felt in a long, long time. I felt terrible today. Nothing felt good. I woke up feeling unpleasant, and was immediately unhappy with the people around me (which meant, of course, my family). I lacked any strength whatsoever, and the thought of taking an extra step or reaching across a table made me feel a fatigue bordering on despair. 

On the way to school the kids and I basically inherited a little lost kitten, which in some ways made the day better in that I stayed home trying to find the kitten’s home instead of going to work. But I slept HARD when the baby went down for her nap and woke not feeling well.

I told Krista tonight that I had felt awful all day and she said, “you look awful” and that I was starting to look “a little bony.” We’re headed into that unhealthy look now… and almost two weeks still to go. Fasting doesn't feel like something helpful, or spiritually enhancing, or healthy or useful today. It feels like something dangerous. It feels like lying still in bed and wondering what it would be like to never have to get up.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fasting Day Twenty-Six: A feast during the fast

Mmmmm, salmon!

Today’s big event is a bbq for Nurse Shasta and her nephew Jacob who has come to visit her. I’m basically in charge of dinner, and we’ve bought fresh rogue river copper salmon and it’s red and gorgeous, and fresh snap peas from the farmer’s market and we’re making risotto and then for dessert it will be Oregon strawberries and fresh cooked short bread cookies. It’s going to be an amazing meal, and I’m really excited for it, even though I don’t get to eat it! I’m looking forward to everyone else enjoying it.

Today at the grocery, I felt really terrible for a minute… I wasn't sure I was going to make it out of the store. I had to lean up against cart and use it to stand. I felt really weak and awful, but it passed in a few moments....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fasting Day Twenty-Five: culture shock

Am I meant to eat this?

I had this weird moment today when I passed Burgerville and saw the drive-through menu. I could see all the burgers arrayed in their glory and in a split-second I thought, "What would you do with those anyway? Why would you want them?” It had a feeling of culture shock. I had this realization that there's something everyone else is doing that I’m not and, at least at this moment, it didn't make sense to me.

For me, food has become fruit juice, I guess. Today I drank some weird tasting white grape juice. I suspect it’s actually white/peach/mango juice that had been mislabeled. I wasn't sure, though, so I poured it out and went to drink some apple juice I've left in the pantry to keep it at room temperature (I don't like drinking things cold right now... I'm cold enough already). But the apple juice had molded. Disgusting. And I think I drank some yesterday. 

At church tonight Pastor Jim told Krista that pretty soon I would need a walker. He was joking (I think) and saying that I look weak and tired. I asked Krista if that's true, wondering if I'm starting to look really bad... last time I fasted for a longer period people were really concerned for me by the end. But she said I look great compared to that time, so I'm not too worried.

At dinner tonight, Krista apologized for talking about all the different times in the day when she’s hungry… I told her that I'm not hungry anyway, and I realize that it's true. I'm hungrier when I'm eating than when I'm fasting. 

The Campus Crusade for Christ name change

We had been told a change was coming. Many of our staff -- including Dr. Bill Bright, our founder -- had been debating for years whether to change our name from Campus Crusade for Christ to, well, something else. And this year is our 60th anniversary... sixty years since Bill and Vonette Bright decided that if they could reach the university campuses for Christ today, they could reach the world tomorrow.

But tonight, July 19th, 2011, we were going to finally hear the new name. It had been two years since Steve Sellers,  CCC's vice President of the Americas, had told us that this moment would come, and it was finally here. The energy in the room was high, and as Steve started out his presentation you could practically hear the projected thoughts of thousands of staff filling the gym at Colorado State University: JUST TELL US THE NEW NAME.  

Steve went on, explaining the reasoning behind the name change, the research, the compelling need to change it if we were going to be effective in our mission to tell people about Christ. Follow this link to watch that moment, and Steve's whole talk.

When he said the name, I was surprised that people clapped. Not everyone, of course, but there was applause. I was surprised because change is difficult and I thought any name would be met with skepticism. But there was, at least for some of us, enthusiasm. Some of us liked the name right away, some will get used to it in time, some will always dislike it. That's not a change... some of us disliked our current name. But I'm hopeful that overall we'll all come to embrace "Cru."

In the midst of change, there's likely to be misunderstanding, excitement, hurt feelings, elation, mourning for the past, optimism for the future and a thousand other feelings. But, as our leadership has pointed out over and over again in this process THERE'S ONE THING THAT WON'T EVER CHANGE. We can all take comfort in that.

Next week I'm going to do a series of blog posts about our name change. For the last year I've been on a "response team"... a small group of Campus Crusade for Christ staff members who have given input, opinions and feedback to our leadership in the name change process. I thought it might be helpful to get an "insider" point of view. In the meantime, I'll do my best to answer your questions or point you in the direction of someone who can answer your questions. Here are some of the frequently asked questions in the meantime... if you have a question you want me to address next week, feel free to leave a comment or question here on this post!

Have a great weekend! If you want more information to fill the next couple of days, here's a statement from our President, another from our VP, and one from the director of the United States campus ministry.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fasting Day Twenty-Four: Do Over

Yesterday, in my attempt to get time alone with God, I found myself sucked into business and what was meant to be a day with God turned into a few hours of reflection. This is not too big a surprise... this happens often enough. So today, I started over and tried again.

I started the day off by driving up to WSU Vancouver, where I sat in the library and read Isaiah 58, where God talks about what fasting really should be.  It’s not about getting God’s attention or even about trying to get close to him. God says “they seem eager to be know my ways” and “day after day they seek me out” and are baffled why they’re not getting an answer, not getting what they want. And it turns out it’s because fasting and prayer doesn't counter-balance the fact that they’re interested in living their lives their own way. They want to keep mistreating other people and one another and they aren’t interested in doing what is right. And God says, that the best thing to do as part of a fast is to destroy injustice, to break enslaving yokes, to provide for those less fortunate than yourself. It made me think of people like Gandhi and Cesar Chavez, and how for them fasting was a tool to try to bring about justice on the earth. And it made me think that here I am, more than 3 weeks into a fast and I am still doing whatever I want. Thinking about myself, focused on my needs, doing wrong things because I like doing them.

Overall, it was a great day of reflection and prayer, with lots of interesting topics to consider.I spent a good amount of time looking at the story of Jesus' 40 day fast and comparing it to the 40 years in the wilderness for the people of Israel. If you compare the story of Christ's fast with Deuteronomy 6-8 all sorts of strange things come out... for instance, the first temptation to "turn the stones to bread" leads us to "man does not live by bread alone"... Jesus trusts that God will provide in a way that the Israelites did not. Some of the books I read said that we should see Jesus as a "new Israel"... if he can overcome the temptations set before him then he will be allowed to take us all into a new promised land. I'll put up a bibliography soon with some of the books I've been reading. I will say that one of the books (by John Piper) was called (like yesterday's post) "Hungry for God." I think if I ever wrote a book about fasting it would have to be called HUNGRY FOR GOD (AND CHEESEBURGERS).

I ended the day by meeting with Pastor Jim, the executive pastor of our church here in Portland, who said that for him fasting is like speaking in tongues… if God gifts him with it or tells him he has to do it, he’ll do it, but otherwise he’s content to let others do it. That's not all he said, but we had a good time together and it was a nice way to end my day with the Lord. I felt like God met with me and I learned a lot, and I was pleased that the day had gone well and without distraction.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Twenty-Three: Hungry for God

That blindfolded horse makes me think it met its end at a firing squad.

I took a day with the Lord today. It was, to be honest, often interrupted and didn't really translate to a full day spent focused on God. I got a couple phone calls from overseas and basically got distracted by my job. I didn't spend much time in prayer, though I did take a trip down to Western Seminary to get a big pile of books on fasting from the library.

While I was sitting out on the Western Seminary lawn I saw my dear friend Callie Goodman. I haven't seen her much lately, but it was really great to run into her. She asked why I had so many fasting books and I told her that I was actually in the middle of a longer fast and she said "PRAISE JESUS!" I thought that was a funny response. I laughed and asked her why she was having such a strong response, and she said that just that day in her class they'd been talking about how Protestants don't really fast much. Her classmates couldn't come up with any examples among their friends or at their churches of people who fast (or at least, people they were aware of who fasted). We had a long chat after that, and it was a really peaceful, enjoyable time, and felt like a blessing from God that I had run into her.

Awww, look at that tiny little man! So cute!
Today, I was struck by this fact… if I’m really “hungry” for God, if I’m desperate to be with him and thinking about it constantly in the same way that I’m thinking about food all the time… why did it take me 23 days to set aside even a few hours of time with him? My "day with the Lord" worked out to 5 hours, cut short by a variety of things, and less time than I’ve spent at the grocery store and cooking meals and then eating them at plenty of other times. I've spent more time than that watching television plenty of times in my life. I love to say God is the most important person in my life, that he's the biggest priority, but my life sure doesn't show it. Not in my time management, not in my choices in how to spend my free time, not in anything. When we sing songs in church that say "I'm desperate for you" or "You're all that I want" and I sing the words, I am full of it. I'm not desperate for him. He's not all that I want. Not today. I'm not hungry for God. If I wrote a book about myself it would have to be titled "Hungry for God and Cheeseburgers." It's a sobering realization.

I think I should try a do-over tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Twenty-Two: Baggy Pants

Pretty sure these guys are fasting.

I took Baby M today and we went to the store to buy some new jeans. Mine have gotten so baggy that they're annoying to wear. I also took a long nap on the couch today. I was so cold that I put a blanket on and pulled my hood on over my head while I slept. One advantage to being so cold all the time is that at long last I can pay my wife back in bed with my ice cold feet. Mooowhahahahaaa!

Also... somehow my count of days is all off and I can’t figure out how. Krista pointed out that I had day 40 on our calendar a day early, and now somehow I’m a day behind where I thought I was, and I have to rearrange everything and push it back a day. Sigh. I can't even count right when I'm fasting. I'm pretty sure my body is trying to trick my brain into eating early. 

Tomorrow I'm doing a day with the Lord (at long last). Should be nice.

Some interesting theological works

I'm teaching a seminar EVEN NOW WHILE YOU READ THIS about moving beyond dry and boring theology into theology that actually reflects the vibrant, fascinating subject of the topic... God Himself. I did a short talk about it this morning which I'll hopefully be able to post eventually.

In the meantime, here's a short list of a few "theological works" that interest me. It's my list, obviously, so it reflects my own interests and ideas. Please feel free to add your own to the comments section! I'm not looking for theological books that everyone has read, I'm looking for really interesting, sort of offbeat things that people might be interested in. COMB THE INTERNETS MY MINIONS!

Anyway, here are a few works for your consideration:


BlanketsBlankets by Craig Thomspon

Creature Tech GNCreature Tech by Doug tenNapel

SONGS (I'll add links soon... in the meantime you can search them out you lazy, lazy blog readers)

“Doubting Thomas” Nickel Creek
“24” by Switchfoot
“The Seer’s Tower” Sufjan Stevens
“Letters from the Sky” by Civil Twilight
“Joy” Page CXVI

SilenceSilence by Shusaku Endo

An amazing book about contextualization, persecution, forgiveness and the voice of God.
The Brothers Karamazov (Signet Classics)The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The best Christian novel ever. So far as I know.  
The Complete StoriesThe Complete Storiesby Flannery O’Connor. Probably the best theological writer and short story writer to come out of these United States of America. Her novels are also excellent. 

Peace Like a RiverPeace Like a River by Leif Enger

by Graham Greene

The Son of LaughterThe Son of Laughter by Frederick Beuchner

Also, if you're interested in some fascinating theology and parables from outside your way of looking at things, check out a guy named Sundar Singh.

Painting/graphic arts

Okay, kids. I showed you mine, now it's your turn. Add some movies in there, too. The only one I could think of was "In Bruges" and since it's rated R and a bit brutal I decided not to add it here for everyone to see. Ooops. Never mind.

Okay... give me something interesting to look at!

Monday, July 25, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Twenty-One: Halfway to maybe... can I make it another 19 days?

I'm not tired, I'm using the mouse with my nose.

I am exhausted. Krista said last night that she can’t see how I can do another 20 days. She's concerned that I am not able to do all the things I would usually do, like stay awake all the way through the day. I mentioned this to Nurse Shasta today, thinking she would side with me and say that it would be fine, but she says that she also is concerned that I am putting myself in a bad situation. Apparently I'm not acting much like myself, what with all the sleeping and slow walking and shivering in the cold.

Nurse Shasta also suggested I talk to a mutual friend who, it turns out, has done multiple of these lengthy fasts and usually seeks medical advice during the process. She said that when I am eventually able to eat I’ll have to very slowly start re-introducing foods… she says it could take as long as the fast itself to get back to a regular diet. I told her that a regular diet would mean a giant pile of nachos, and I asked her when she thought I should start eating like that again. She said, "Never."

Also (potty talk ahead)… my bowels became suddenly active again today, which I found surprising. What on earth is coming out that’s solid now? Must be part of my waist line or something.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Twenty: Are you really fasting?

I was exhausted today. I got up with the baby this morning, and then fell asleep again and slept til 9; and then after church I took a short afternoon nap in the hammock. I think I might have a cold… I couldn’t get hydrated today and felt out of it. I drank a LOT and still felt dry. I'm not looking forward to a cold while fasting. Yuck. Nurse Shasta suggested drinking a bit of lemon to help with my electrolyte balance or some other scientific hocus pocus. It seemed to help quite a bit, actually!
Though they are less good than, say, nachos.

At church today, Pastor Jim asked if I wanted to get together for lunch or breakfast this week. I told him I'd be glad to sit and watch him eat and I would drink some juice, because I'm fasting. He looked at Krista incredulously and asked, “Is he really fasting?”

I'm not sure if that one came about because I am a big joker and he wasn't sure if I was messing with him, or if it's because people don't fast much (and try to keep it a secret when they do). Regardless, I am actually fasting... and I'm halfway done today! Hooray!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Nineteen: Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Mmmmm bacon!

Mmmm nachos!
I had dreams last night that I forgot I was fasting. My friend Roland from Flying Colors (where I worked right toward the end of college and afterwards) provided me with a big plate of nachos. When I finished with the nachos I started working on a BLT and was about halfway through it when I realized that I WAS FASTING and I ran to the sink and spit my bite of BLT out. But the most important thing is that MY IMAGINATION IS WORKING AGAIN! Not an oyster cracker to be found. Yay! 

Today I listened to Luke 12 and 13. In this section, fasting is compared to feasting, and a familiar motto, “Eat, drink and be merry” is trotted out... and, in context, seen as something evil (because the man who says this is planning on spending all his wealth on himself and is not "rich toward God"). Interestingly, this is probably the best slogan for U.S. culture that I can think of. And somewhere along the way, someone has even added to the slogan to say, "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die." One point of Jesus' parable appears to be that "Eat, drink and be merry" is an insufficient life philosophy in the light of our too-soon-approaching death. So it's doubly strange that this modified version even exists. 

Anyway, here's the story for those who are interested (from Luke 12)

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’   18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’   20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’   21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Eighteen: WE DEMAND MORE POPCORN!

Lost my snorkel!

When I was six years old, I got invited to go with my (adult) neighbor Robin to some fair that she was in charge of. It was basically like going to that island in the Pinnoccio story where you get whatever you want. Because she was in charge of the fair, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted while I was there for FREE. I don't remember what exactly I did, other than the fact that I kept asking for more popcorn. I kept going back and asking her to hook me up with another bag, and another and another and it was amazing. After my fifth bag, I felt like the salt had sapped every bit of liquid out of my body, my fingers were swollen and buttery and no doubt my shirt had been used as a napkin one too many times. I couldn't eat another bite. But I went to Robin and asked her for bag number six. She looked at me in disbelief and said, "I think you've had enough." I was relieved. I didn't even want another bag, I just needed someone to tell me I was done. 

When I like a certain food, this is how I am. No self control. Fasting is a great "all or nothing" tool for me to hopefully develop some discipline. If I can say no to food for forty days, I should be able to stop after one bag of popcorn, right? Or maybe just two bags.... three at the very most. 

Krista and I took Z, A and M to the school fair today, and Baby M wolfed down a bag of popcorn without stopping for breath or to lick her fngers. For a kid who refuses to eat most of the time, it was awfully impressive. 

I've been listening to the Bible on CD on my way to work the last few days, just listening to stories of Jesus on the way there and back. Today I heard the part where he says, “When the bridegroom leaves, then they will fast." I was just thinking about that yesterday! I'll be taking a full day with the Lord soon...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

40 Day Fast Day Seventeen: Reacting and Overreacting

You're nuts!
Gauging my emotional responses is difficult after two weeks with no food. Undoubtedly, there have been some rough things going on today... I'm in the middle of two international crises with work, and I had a pretty big fight with a close friend and co-worker, someone I rarely even disagree with. All of this works out to a big emotional mess (ironic given yesterday's post about feeling overly relaxed). The big question is: am I overreacting? The fact is that I have no way to tell. My current reactions feel completely justified and "normal." But I have this sneaking suspicion that if I were eating I wouldn't be reacting so strongly.

Fasting has this way of bringing out the "true me." Maybe I could hold it together and act like everything is fine if I were fat and happy, full of food, rested, rich and young. But I'm not, and not-so-deep-down I'm having an emotional crisis in response to my current situation. I don't think it's going to be alright. I don't think all will be wonderful in a few days (okay, to be honest, even in the midst of all this I'm still an optimist and I actually DO think it's all going to be alright... but I don't FEEL like it's going to be alright).

My lovely wife, as always, has an excellent suggestion: she said I need a day with the Lord. She often suggests this when I'm having a rough time, probably because experience shows that it helps!

And, lastly, I'm making a lunch appointment with someone I don't know, and it is awkward deciding whether to tell him that I'm fasting. I hate to come across like it's a big deal, and I hate to even mention it. But it's sort of one of those things that I need to do before the fast is over... sigh. I'm sure it will be fine. Because everything is always fine eventually. Right? Right? Am I right?