Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I give up! (it's not what you think...)

I give up…12 things actually. Well, it’s technically it's EVERYTHING BUT 12 categories of things. My wife Cathy and I are doing a shopping fast during Lent for a bunch of reasons: spiritual-we always need to grow & combat our materialistic tendencies; practical-we have way too much stuff; and financial-we want to cut back and trim our spending. We got the idea from my friend Julie Bullock, who did a much more restricted six-month shopping fast a couple years ago and had this to say:
“Why do a shopping fast? I came to appreciate three reasons: Discipline; Resourcefulness; and Opportunities for Generosity.” (for more on this, go to Julie's article posted on Generous Church)

Back to the fast Cathy and I are doing. Here’s what we ‘negotiated’ together as the ONLY items we can buy: 1)fruits; 2)vegetables; 3)bread/bagels/pasta/rice; 4)meat/cheese/eggs; 5)mustard/ketchup/salsa; 6)breakfast bars; 7)basic cleaning supplies; 8)basic toiletries; 9)cat food/litter; 10)milk & ½&½; 11)coffee; 12)gas & oil for cars. (okay, so we lumped some things together – hey, it’s our fast!)

So that means no clothing; no buying coffee out; no beer or wine (as a church leader can I say that?); no new furniture; no movies out; no eating out; the list goes on. Sorry Sam’s Club and Target and Kohl’s and Caribou…we won’t be frequenting you much in March and April.

But why do a fast? In addition to, or combined with what Julie had to say above? Probably the biggest reason is because it’s a primary spiritual discipline and a great catalyst for intentional spiritual growth. Stuck in your faith walk? Fast. Confused about things? Fast. Can’t sleep because you’re worried about money? Fast. As Richard Foster says:

“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” - from Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

And when the disciples had difficulty casting out a spirit, Jesus said:
‘So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”’ (Mark 9:29)

And there are countless other references to fasting in the Bible. It’s a good thing to do and one that will help you in your spiritual growth.

But there are other things you could do during Lent, as it’s a great time to reflect; pause; dig deeper; and connect with the spirit of the Lenten season as you seek to draw closer to God. Here are a few: 1)Use the “Generosity” devotional by Gordon McDonald; 2)Read “Making Room For Life” by Randy Frazee and seek to slow down the pace of your life; 3)do your own shopping fast; 4) fast from something else that, for you, tends to get in the way of following God.

Most of all, be intentional, and take advantage of Lent for restoration and renewal. God wants us to spend more time with him and listen for his voice. He loves us beyond anything we can imagine. I give up. And so can you!

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