Tuesday, January 8, 2008

40-Day Fast::Prelude

Okay, it's been almost forever since I've talked to you. Sorry. Christmas really kicked my rear. I hope I can say that without sounding completely bah-humbug, because I'm not scroogey in the least. I love Christmas, truly, I do.

In fact, my tree is still up and lit. Yeah, I'll probably take it down sometime this week, but I don't think I was really able to enjoy it with my full schedule until after Christmas was finished. The mom for whose two children I babysit took last week off from work, so HURRAY, I actually got a bit of a break! The kids and I basically spent the whole week recovering from merry-making.

I do have one bit of SAD news concerning Christmas: Seth erased every single one of my Christmas pictures from our digital camera! I was, and still am, devestated; but then again, I'm the ding dong who put off uploading them from the disk to our computer. Arg. I did get our family's present-time recorded on the video recorder, but it's a little hard to scrap book video. If only I had caught up with him and the camera two minutes earlier. Ah, well, nothing to be done about that now.

So, back to today's entry title.

Rob and I are at a crossroads in our ministry here in Dowagiac. When God moved us up here three and a half years ago, we knew that we would be taking a risk. Many factors contributed: the church was a realtively new church plant with few footholds in the community; they couldn't afford to pay our growing family a full-time salary, so Rob would need to keep his appraisal business; and they had no permanant meeting place. But God saw us through so many of those obstacles. We were excited about building a church from the ground up. In fact, in the year preceeding our move, we felt God pulling our hearts toward church-planting. This church was basically a restart. Secondly, Rob's business was still strong, and the flexibility of self-employment allowed for him to work full time in the minsitry uncompromisingly. And thirdly, we were able, with some help from the district, to finish the inside of the pole building on our property into a lovely church building, small but totally charming and completely adequate.

It would seem that God was clearing the path before us and the church, and we were so excited about what He might have planned for this ministry.

Fast-forward to today. We've spent three and a half years building friendships and connections and involving ourselves in the community, but don't have nearly as much to show for it as we would like. We have a couple of families that attend because of our seed-planting, but we've lost more families than we've gained, putting our church in an even more challenging situation, finacially and otherwise. It's hard to attract people to a small church! There's certainly no blending into the pews at Pathway! (Especially since we don't have pews...) Secondly, to say that the real estate market has plummeted would be a gross understatement. Every year that we've been here, Rob has done half the business of the year before. This year, he has taken on several other odd jobs, but the total income still does not make ends meet...and he's running in many different directions, making it seemingly impossible to meet all of the demands of family and ministry all the while trying to earn enough survive. So what's the point??? There's a lot riding on our shoulders, you know, carrying the mortgage that allows our church to have a meeting place.

So here we are. We've prayed. A lot. We've searched scriptures. We've sought wise counsel. God has been cryptically silent. We have got to have some answers and direction. God must intervene lest everything around us crumbles. Yet, through all this, neither of us feel released from this ministry. We're exhausted, yes. But both of us feel like God is not going to send us AWAY from this unless He's sending us TO something else. I hope the meaning of that comes across in my flat writing. We don't feel like he is going to send us away defeated. Neither of us is panicking, either. Last year, at this time, we were. And we're still here. God has strengthened our faith, so that today's desert journey has not scourched our souls to the point of despair.

I'm making myself, and my family, very vulnerable right now. Humility is about all we have left. All we want to do is make a difference in this community for Christ.

The year before we came to Pathway, Rob and I embarked on 40-Day fast. We both felt compelled to do this, to prepare our hearts for whatever ministry He was calling us to, to seek His direction whole-heartedly. I brought it up a few weeks ago, that maybe we should do another extended fast, and Rob had been thinking the same thing. There's nothing magical about a fast, certainly nothing formulaic about it. We don't serve a formulaic God. But for some reason, fasting does get God's attention, and it absolutely gets our attention.

We need God's hand of blessing! If He has moved it, we must move, too. If something...us or the enemy...is creating a wall between our family and God's blessing, we must remove that wall.

So, today is day 1 of our 40 day fast. I'm telling you all this so that:

::you can pray for us! We are completely desperate for the prayers of other believers.

::you can hold us accountable. It's a little harder to cheat if others know about it.

::I can share with you the way God is reaching out to sustain us and best of all speak to us.

Since we've done this before, we know a lot of what to expect. For example, the hardest days of the fast are days 2 thru 4. Your body is figuring out, hey, something's going on here...FEED ME! Lots of stomach cramps, crabbiness, weakness. After about the 4th day, your body has figured out that no amount of complaining is going to work, and so it stops asking for food. You really just stop getting hungry. We're also prepared to be FREEZING (our last fast also fell in January) as well as dealing with severely itchy and dry skin. At about day 38 or 39, the body starts to go into starvation, and you feel hunger again. It's important to listen to those cues and resume eating...slowly easing back into solid foods.

Those are just some of the physical aspects.

The spiritual rewards are great throughout. God really does speak. He really does want to be found by true seekers. I'll go into more about all this as I reflect on this daily.

Please don't worry about us. We are keeping completely hydrated. We are allowing ourselves to have some fruit and vegetable juice throughout the day, and we're taking vitamins.

I hope to walk away from this refreshed in my spirit from having spent so much intentional time with my Lord, and I pray that He will shed a light on this darkening path before us.

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