Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Daniel Fast Experience

I just finished the best Nutty Bar that I've ever eaten.  You may be wondering...what makes this Nutty Bar so special?  It was the first thing I ate this morning following a 21-day Daniel Fast.  Chocolate and peanut butter never tasted so good!  I will not be indulging myself all day long, but I had to start my morning off right :)

As you may remember, I reviewed a book about the Daniel Fast recently (that you can read here) and wanted to give it a try sometime.  So when my husband was asked and agreed to go on a juice fast during January, it became the perfect time for me to fast as well.  Now I want to share with you my experience...

The Daniel Fast excludes all animal products, fried foods, sweeteners, processed foods, leavening agents, and beverages other than water.  What did I eat?  While there are many recipes available that fit in these guidelines (especially if you don't mind going the tofu and soy milk route), I wanted to keep things simple....spend less time meal planning and cooking in the kitchen.  I still had to cook for my boys of course, but kept their meals simple too.  For breakfast I would have fruit, fruit smoothies (fruit/OJ/ice), muesli (hot cereal made of rolled oats, sesame seeds, and dried fruit), or dry Kashi cereal (which is not fast-approved, but close).  Snacks may consist of fruit, veggies, nuts, or plain air-popped popcorn.  Meals were normally vegetarian chili, veggie stir-fry, roasted sweet potatoes, or whole wheat spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce.  I drank water with lemon and fruit juice.  I tried making unleavened bread, but the recipe I used had a really strong olive oil after-taste, so I tossed that.

I didn't go through this process perfectly. For example, one day I popped a bowl of air-popped popcorn that should have been 3 servings. Instead of taking out the amount I planned to eat, I just set the whole bowl on my lap and began to read, thinking I'd just eat a third. But before I knew it the popcorn was gone! Oops. From then on I measured out my portions.

Physically speaking, this type of fast was much easier than I had anticipated.  A few days before the fast I started cutting out sweets and caffeine.  I was also reducing my portions and tendency to snack between meals.  During the fast I was surprised that the small amount of food I was eating (compared to normal) was satisfying my body!  I didn't experience any of the physical symptoms I had been cautioned about (it may have helped that I'm not a regular coffee drinker).  The one symptom I did experience part way through is a weird sensation in my tongue (like it had been burnt at the tip) that could be due to a vitamin deficiency.  But the multi-vitamin I tried to take made me light-headed, so I stopped.  I lost about 6 pounds, which is just one benefit of eating healthier...but now my pants are too loose...good problem to have I suppose :)

Mentally, fasting is really hard.  I realized that most of the time I eat it's because I WANT to, not because I need to.  I would see and smell things that I really wanted, but had to make the choice not to eat them.  I still had to cook for my kids (throwing away instead of eating their leftovers was difficult).  I had company come in from out of town that I cooked for.  Yet even this became easier over time.  The focus changes to thinking of others first and serving them, knowing that I won't benefit by getting to eat the food also. 

Emotionally, there were a few days I would have thrown in the towel if it had been merely a diet.  My hormones were acting up and I wanted some chocolate or a cappachino badly.  I am an emotional eater, and not being able to comfort myself that way was hard.  I really wanted to quit, but I had made this commitment to God, and I knew I had to be faithful to that.

Spiritually, this has been good for me.  I didn't choose to fast because these was a major challenge in my life that I needed to hear from God about.  I don't expect him to reward me in some way.  I simply wanted to show Him that I love Him more than I love food.  It was an offering.  In the Daniel Fast book, Susan Gregory says "Are we willing to do what Daniel did in order to have what Daniel had?...Daniel didn't start cramming his heart with Scriptures when he found out he was going to be thrown in the lions' den.  And he didn't sit inside the cave crying and begging God to save him.  No, Daniel had the faith he needed before his enemies ever started conspiring against him.  He had his armor on - and he kept it on all the time."  I know that troubles will arise in my life and I simply want to build my faith through spiritual disciplines so that I will already be prepared when they do.

While I'm no expert, I certainly have learned a lot about fasting this past month, especially with my husband doing the juice fast.  (Maybe I can talk him into doing a guest post about his experience soon!) I am also very thankful for the varieties of food God has made available to us, that I am now able to enjoy!!!

"For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions.  These are not from the Father.  They are from this evil world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves." - 1 John 2:16-17

Monday, January 23, 2012

Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald

Going Deep is a fictional story that attempts to answer a serious question many Christian leaders are asking do we develop spiritually mature people?  Or using the books terminology, how might a church go about cultivating deep people who will become future leaders in their churches and communities?  The story follows a pastor as he is seeking the answer to this question and developing a plan of action.  He then forms a group called CDP (Cultivating Deep People) and starts intentionally training the younger generation.

I agree with other reviewers that this book is too long.  The first half especially is repetitive and slow reading.  With that being said, there are also many good ideas presented!  Basically, the pastor and his wife lead a small group of people who have been specifically chosen for their potential for growth and leadership.  Over the course of the year, the group meets weekly to focus on how to pray, study biblical leadership, learn about their personalities and spiritual gifts, share their stories, and support one another.  Each person/couple is also paired up with an older mentor couple to meet with during this time.  The story presents how a group like this could work and impact everyone involved.  My initial reaction...I want to be a part of a CDP group!  The Bible instructs the older generation to train up the younger and I think there's a real benefit to that.  This book is a tool someone could use to get ideas for this intentional training.  Presenting these ideas as a fictional story is an interesting twist.

The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Story Behind the Music

I have liked Jeremy Camp's music for a long time.  His lyrics and style really resonate with me.  So when I saw that he wrote a book about his story, I requested it from the library right away, and I wasn't disappointed. 

His story is one of faith, loss, hope, and healing.  I knew before that He had to cope with losing his first wife to cancer, but knowing the whole story brings so much more meaning to lyrics of songs such as "Walk By Faith" and "I Still Believe".  Not only that, but I have a deepened respect for Jeremy as a man of God.  While this book does give insight into his life and music, the real story is the faithfulness of God and how we can find hope and healing in times of darkness.  I highly recommend it.

What I've been listening to lately:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegetarian Chili

I just tried a new recipe for Vegetarian Chili found on page 141 of The Daniel Fast and have found that I really like it...even more than traditional chili with meat!  So I wanted to share my new find with you.

2 medium green peppers, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 T. vegetable oil
1 zucchini, sliced (I slice it lengthwise into quarters and then slice)
1 yellow squash, sliced (I just used a second zucchini)
2 T. chili powder (I only used 1 T. to tone down the spiciness)
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground red pepper (I omitted)
2 c. corn (I used 16 oz frozen)
2 cans (~16oz each) diced tomatoes, including liquid
2 cans (~16oz each) pinto beans, including liquid
2 cans (~16oz each) black beans, including liquid
1 can (4oz) mild green chilies (I omitted)
1 can (4 oz) tomato paste (I used a 6 oz can)

1. Chop and saute the peppers and onion in oil.  Add the zucchini, squash, chili powder, salt, pepper, and corn.

2.  When all the veggies are cooked but still firm, add the tomatoes, beans, chilies and tomato paste.  Stir.

3.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

It is stated to make 6 servings, but I got 8 (about 313 calories).


Sunday, January 8, 2012

What a Son Needs From His Dad by Michael O'Donnell

Even though I'm not a Dad, this small book caught my interest because I have 3 sons and I want them to be prepared for life.  So I read about Michael O'Donnell's advice to other fathers.  He tells dads how to prepare their sons to be disciples of Christ, good citizens, responsible workers, choosers of good friends, able to enjoy life, sexually pure, and lovers of their wives.  There are a few discussion questions at the end of each chapter which would work well guiding a men's small group into a discussion. 

I thought the ideas presented are a good summary of some things dads should strive to teach and model for their sons.  However, some of the book felt more like reading a psychology textbook than conversational in style, which made it difficult to keep my interest.  I would personally liked to have read about more real life stories and practical application than was presented.  Overall, it's a good conversation starter, and may give men some additional insight in how to prepare their sons to succeed in life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge

There are few books that I read more than once, but this is one of them!  Shannon Ethridge's message of purity is presented in an authentic and honest way, and I have yet to read another book or hear a sermon that delves into these issues.  This book has had a profound impact on my life.

Every Woman's Battle is about the battle for purity, especially pertaining to sexual and emotional integrity.  Often times sexual integrity is a message directed only to men, which leaves women feeling very alone in their struggles.  Shannon puts it this way, "Men and women struggle in different ways when it comes to sexual integrity.  While a man's battle begins with what he takes in through his eyes, a woman's begins with her heart and her thoughts.  A man must guard his eyes to maintain sexual integrity, but because God made women to be emotionally and mentally stimulated, we must closely guard our hearts and minds as well as our bodies if we want to experience God's plan for sexual and emotional fulfillment.  A woman's battle is for sexual and emotional integrity."  By sharing her own struggles, the stories of others, and most importantly Scripture, Shannon sets forth to show women how to renew their minds, guard their hearts, control their tongues, set healthy boundaries with the opposite sex, connect with their spouses, and retreat with Jesus.

I would highly recommend this book to any adult woman (there is also Every Young Woman's Battle for teens).  The author isn't afraid to talk about subjects that are normally too embarrassing to bring up in conversation such as impure thoughts/fantasies, masturbation (I am blushing just typing that word!), and emotional affairs.  We need a clear, scripture-based viewpoint on these topics so that we can walk in the purity and integrity God calls us to, knowing that we are not alone in our struggle.  There is also a workbook included at the back of the book.  For each chapter there are questions for personal reflection and discussion questions that can be used in a small group. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  Click here to read the first chapter!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Miracles Are For Real by Garlow & Wall

Is God alive, well, and interested in your life?  Do miracles happen today? Should we believe that a miracle could happen at any moment?  The authors of this book would answer with a resounding "YES!"  The text goes back and forth between sharing modern day accounts of miracles to answering common questions and doubts about miracles that people have today.  The authors have "gone to great lengths to verify the stories presented in this book", which are simply amazing.  They make it clear that there is no formula to follow for a miracle to occur, but they come by God's choosing, for His purposes.  James Garlow also shares a personal glimpse into his own life as his wife is battling with cancer.  While they fully believe that God can perform a miracle in her life, they also understand that it may not be part of His plan, in which case they will choose to love Him anyway.

Since I tend to err on the side of skepticism, I really enjoyed this book.  I have never known anyone to experience a miracle such as those described in this book, but it strengthens my faith to know that they occur.  Some of these stories I would be tempted to doubt if it weren't for medical data and numerous witnesses to back them up.   The authors also did a great job using scripture to answer common questions people have about miracles.

While this book is focused on extraordinary experiences that have no logical or scientific explanation, I really liked a point the authors brought up near the end of the book.  They say "We tend to become so focused on the big thing we're waiting for that we overlook the smaller wonders along the way.  We may get so consumed by our pressing need - often justifiably so - that we miss the miracles around us, surrounding us, every day.  Most of us are prone to dwelling on what we don't have, and frequently that means we fail to savor and celebrate what we do have....Evidence of God's miracles is all around us, if we'll have the eyes to see."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

This is a great devotion, taken from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, to start off the New Year:

"Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed.  A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness.  Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year.  Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you.  I see you with a steady eye, because My attention span is infinite.  I know and understand you completely; My thoughts embrace you in everlasting love.  I also know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence."  Romans 12:2, Jeremiah 29:11