My wife, Shelly, and I have started a 40 day fast in conjunction with a pilot project our church is doing. From November 15 through December 24, 2006, we are intentionally engaging together in a program of prayers, action, and fasting. The guidelines from the church on this include:
- For 40 days, pray daily, accomplish an action to glorify God (pick up trash, help someone… something big or small), and fast (give something up for God of worldly worth)
- Record for no more than two minutes a day (less is ok) and include your prayer and an up-to-date status on your actions and fasting.
- For video purposes, talk to the camera like you would talk to God. If you feel uncomfortable with the camera, you can put the lens cap on and just use the audio.
- Pray for an action during the day to glorify God and/or reflect on your actions of the day before (be specific in the action)
- Pray about your fast and how God can help you.
- Pray for something specific in your life that you have been struggling with or need help with. Ask for God’s guidance and wisdom.
- Be as animated as you want to be… you can walk around, scream, yell, hug the camera, etc.
- Before you start recording, write on a piece of paper or white board the day number and date. e.g. Day 1, Wednesday November 14th.
I don’t think we’ve been too animated yet and we haven’t hugged the camera, but we are three days into the “fast” and already this is proving to be a very good activity for us as a couple. I’m debating whether or not to post our short video clips online to YouTube or just turn them all in to the church and see what the editor comes up with when he pieces all these together. I think there are about 5 other couples or individuals doing this “fast.” Our church youth leadership team is in charge of putting this together, I think for Lent next year as they discuss fasting and focus.
I have had friends who have fasted for short periods of time (generally fasting by not eating during the day) and have found it to be very worthwhile in terms of helping them focus and renew their commitment to something. For me personally, I knew that what I needed to give up in my fast was computer use during the evenings. I love to read, write, podcast, etc., but technology use in the evening has also become an obstacle to other things that I need and want to do– spending time in conversation with my wife after the kids are in bed, reading books, just being quiet and still and enjoying a cup of hot tea.
Another thing that is immediately apparent is that this fast is going (and has already) gotten Shelly and I praying together regularly each evening. We’ve been married for 11 years and have known that we need to pray together regularly– we do at meals, but the efforts we’ve made in the past to pray together at night have not been sustained. Generally I go to bed later, we are both quite tired at the end of the day… the reasons go on and on. It is wonderful to be connecting with each other in the evenings now and being more in touch with what is going on in each other’s lives to a much greater degree.
Shelly commented last night that time like this together each evening is what she thinks she wanted more than anything in the first year when we were married. Perhaps this is what every bride wants. It really is great. I realized last night that part of what this is teaching me (and we’re just 3 days into the fast) is to be happy with doing less. Simplifying life means REMOVING things so that the things which are “left” are important and worthy of valuation. I think this is true for material objects as well as activities. So, even though I have a ton of podcasts to publish from the recent conference I attended, and lots of blog entries I want to write… I am having to do more prioritization and just be content not “doing” so much.
Another big benefit is that I am getting and will be getting a lot more sleep. Interestingly I have noticed the last two nights already that I am remembering more dreams– I don’t know if this is a function of sleeping deeper or what. I rarely ever remember dreaming at night– so it will be interesting to see how this (or if this) continues.
The fact that we have a wood-burning fireplace here in our Oklahoma house makes evening time even better. I LOVE making and enjoying wood fires. Now that it is cold at night, the combination of a wood fire, a hot cup of tea and my wife to converse with is a great combination. I am very glad we are participating in this “fasting” for 40 days project, and look forward to learning and growing even more as the project continues.