Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Seven Fast

Last week we reflected a bit on the Narrow Road. I was so encouraged by “you are not alone” comments from many of you. I’m glad to know we’re in this together – as the road gets smaller and more difficult, we’ll need each other more than ever. I imagine at some parts along the journey the road will be so tiny that we’ll have to give one another piggyback rides so no one falls off the path! (I promise not to be 9 months pregnant before I jump on anyone’s back!)

I’m in the middle of a fast with some good friends who are even more committed to the Narrow Road then I will ever be. You may have heard of the fast – Seven, by Jen Hatmaker. It started out as “an experimental mutiny against excess” which eventually turned into a book. The idea is that you fast from something, something different for each month, for seven months. Her book guides you and chronicles what she did. I’ve been following along as closely as I can although making adjustments to fit our circumstances and family. Month one was to eat only seven foods...for the entire month. Think chicken, beans, spinach, peanut butter, etc. I did not do this since I’m quite pregnant and I didn’t think it would be safe. However, my family gave up eating out for the month saving over $500! That extra money was used in ways we wouldn’t have been able to give otherwise. It was hard at times – especially since we traveled for 10 days (we packed dinners for the airport, looked weird when catching up with friends at restaurants but not eating, and even had a slip up when the temptation of a Sonic burger just became too much!)

This month is to fast from clothes – this means I’ve been wearing the same seven (or so!) articles of clothes since March 1st. There have been times where I’ve definitely NOT wanted to put on the same white t-shirt and jeans again. Today I’m wearing a dress that has seen better days – since it’s dry clean only (bad choice on my part) it’s a bit sticky and crusty. And I’m totally self-conscience of what I wear to church since I see so many people and I just KNOW they are keeping track of what I’m wearing! I’m also quite aware of how HUGE I am and I desperately want to dress up/attempt to hide this big and bloated belly. But I’m sticking to the fast because I said I would. And admittedly, I am getting something out of it. Here are my top two lessons from month two:

One of my dear friends is doing this with me (or me with her...she introduced me to it.) One of her seven clothing articles is this super cute purple-stripped sweater. I’ve probably seen her in it five times now. And every time I do, I get overjoyed! I know that she is doing this fast for the same reasons as me – to get closer to Jesus. She wants to cut out excess in her own life and live with a more eternal perspective. Her purple sweater represents that to me. It’s an outward reminder of where her heart is. It also tells me I have a friend on the narrow road.

Second lesson – God desires a fast of my heart, not my clothes. This particular fast will end on March 31st (and a new will start on April 1!) and I’ll go about wearing my too-many-clothes-in-my-over-stuffed-closet. But where will my heart be? Isaiah 58:6-7 speaks to the kind of fast the Lord desires from us:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

It’s not about what I give up. It’s about what I do. While on the narrow road, God is asking us to:
loose the chains of injustice
untie the cords of the yoke
set the oppressed free
break every yoke
share your food with the hungry
provide the poor with shelter
clothe the naked
not turn away your own flesh and blood

I don’t think He cares what I’m wearing as long as I’m active in pursing the things above. And as I’ve learned this month, the more I pursue the things above, the less I care what I’m wearing.

If you’re looking for a good challenge in your life, look into this fast for yourself. Grab some friends and do it together. You just never know how much joy you’ll find from a purple-stripped sweater that you do not even own!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Managed Life

After attending a conference this past weekend at our church, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of a managed life. At first glance, it sounds like something you want to attain – a managed life is a woman who has things under control. She is strategic about how she spends her time, she keeps up with her house, her work, her ministry. She serves her husband and she disciples her kids. Her friends love her and strangers admire her. She kind of has it all together...she is the CEO of her Managed Life.

As much as I strive to be this woman at times, I received a bit of freedom this weekend when Dr. Larry Crabb explained exactly why a managed life is not the goal at all. In fact, if we sense that we are living a managed life, we should take caution and do some self-evaluation.

Dr. Crabb charged those of us at the conference to live on the narrow road rather than the managed life. The narrow road, as defined by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, leads to life and only few find it.

 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” This road is difficult and according to Dr. Crabb, the further down we get on the narrow road, the less people will be there.

So if this road that we are to travel is (1) narrow, (2) difficult and (3) sparsely populated, then what tools do we need on this journey to survive? I’m not immediately drawn to this way of life and curious if I’m going to be able to handle it! But just when you start to ask these questions, Jesus reminds us that it leads to life! Although a managed life is well structured and sweetly manicured, it does not lead to life. I only see it leading to organized drawers and a lengthy to-do list (because a managed life can’t afford to get behind!)

The difference between the managed life and the narrow road comes down to this: dependence. A woman who lives a managed life is dependent on her schedule and her comfort zone. She doesn’t venture out much of what she can control. Her dependence is in her own ability to master her destiny and the lives she’s responsible for. But it’s the woman who travels the narrow road that is dependent on Jesus. This woman surrenders her desire for control and admits that her efforts are in vain. She is authentic. She is teachable, she is humble, and she’s aware of her inabilities. The woman who travels the narrow road is sometimes misunderstood and not in the popular crowd but she is living the abundant life. She is not deceived by the enticements of the world that only lead to destruction. She laughs at herself when she tries to accomplish a managed life once again but is quick to return to the narrow road – because abundant life will always fulfill her soul.

At times I feel like I’m hunting for the narrow road and find myself on the highway by accident. But, as Dr. Crabb put it, your thirst for God will sustain you on the narrow road. If I’m not thirsting for Jesus and completely dependent on Him to get me through each day, then I know I’ve wondered off and it’s time to get back on the path – no matter how small it is becoming. 

I've got my walking shoes on!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Book Club!

Resolutions are tough, no doubt.  The initial will for most to succeed is usually met with the reality of failure.  How then can one actually achieve a resolution? Welcome, The Resolution for Women.

This is the feature book for the Women’s Ministry spring book club.  It was written in partnership with “Courageous,” the now famous movie that prompted men to take a stand for their God-given roles in life.  And so this book addresses the same charge for the opposite sex.  However, it’s not a boring list of rules and regulations.   The author is on the journey with us, and beautifully mixes real life stories, Scripture and practical-yet-profound ideas on how we can embrace biblical womanhood with passion and conviction.  Whether you play the role of helpmate, mother, co-worker, friend, college student, citizen, or whatever you embody, the goal is to be in relationship with God and glorify Him through our lives on earth.  

Being resolute, while exciting and challenging, comes with one tiny catch: being content.  The author notes that, “Contentment keeps your mind clear. Peaceful. Settled. Undisturbed.  Happy to be here, and when God determines, happy to be there.” My initial thought was, “Wow. Sounds great, but it’s not likely to happen.” Life is so busy and crazy, and I often find myself wanting to be there instead of here, pining over silly issues and being a little baffled at the way life turned out.  Let me back up: I have a beautiful life and nothing to complain about.  But in all honesty, I struggle at times with being content.  Do you?

Come join us as we have an open discussion on the topics of defining yourself, your value and honoring God in your current life role. We’ll screen the movie, “Courageous” beforehand, and then meet to discuss the book’s three-part theme, “This is Who I Am,” “This is What I Have,” and “This is What Matters to Me.” Yes, we’ll even sign these resolutions with the help of the Holy Spirit. 

As the author puts it, let’s start a “resolution revolution” together.  The living Word of God plus a resolute heart is where all the fun is anyway.  (Stay tuned for details on the Women's Ministry website.)

See you in April! 
Lisa Schluchter