…is not this the kind of fast I have chosen:

Fasting is the denial of self to allow us to become more sensitive to God and more passionate towards the things God is passionate towards. And then to act on those things.

Fasting does not change God. Fasting changes us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Recently around a thousand people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.

Most of us are not worried about whether we will eat enough today. In fact, most of us are worried that we will eat too much today.

I know there are hungry people in America, but compared to third world hunger, even hungry Americans have great access to food.

For most third world countries, rice and beans are a delicacy, yet in America, we take these nutritional staples for granted.

Rice and beans may be a step down for us but it is a delicacy in poverty stricken nations.

In Haiti moms have come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

Haitimothersdirtcakes

A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents.

By eating these dirt cakes, patties, Haitian children almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites.

The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a 2 cent de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually, thus drastically stunting a Haitian child’s mental and physical development.

When I shared these facts about Haitian mothers and children, our congregation was humbled and broken.

We handed out a starter pack of rice and beans at the end of every service, with a list of things to pray for during the fast and a list of organizations they could support.

At every meal people prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.

Because rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, we were not really sacrificing too much.

But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught many how to simplify. It taught many to be more thankful.

After the fast was over, many realized how much food Americans waste, and how we should and could eat more simply.

wastedfood

Since that week of fasting, grocery bills have been less, because people learned they could still eat well, with a smaller budget.

Since that week, a 20 thousand square foot organic garden was started on our churches property by people who are passionate about people eating healthy food.

It was interesting how children led the way.

One family was going to fast one meal a day, on rice and beans, until their 8 year old son, broke down and told them in tears that if they were really going to be like people who are hungry, they needed to eat rice and beans for all three meals. The family followed his lead.

One woman during the “fast” realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion International.

That one week has made our church more compassionate towards the things God is compassionate for.

The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That one week taught us that true fasting is always “accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”

We are doing a better job of following the words of Mother Teresa, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

I would challenge churches to try this “beans and rice” fast. It will change you and bless you..

——————————————————————————————————————————–
This is the information we handed out with the starter pack of rice and beans:

“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families:

>One person in seven battles hunger every day.

>More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year, and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

>About 5.6 million deaths of children worldwide are related to under-nutrition. This accounts for 53 percent of the total deaths for children under 5. Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

       >923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year.

Sources: http://www.wfp.org, http://www.unicef.org, http://www.who.int, http://www.un.org

WHAT CAN I DO?
>Fast and Pray for those who are hungry (Join us for a 5 day fast of eating rice and beans, while praying for the hungry and discussing ways to solve hunger with family and friends. Let us know about your conversations and how the fast has affected you by posting your experiences on GVCC’s facebook page. Remember, rice and beans are a delicacy in third world countries.)
>Sponsor a child through Compassion International. (Sponsored children and their families are given proper nutrition through education and balanced meals. For more information go to Compassion.com)
>Tithe and get involved with GVCC’s Saturday Morning Café. (GVCC is able to buy groceries for our Saturday morning giveaway for 10 cents on the dollar. Your tithe allows us the buying power to have adequate amounts of food. Plus volunteering in the Café will help you see and understand the face of hunger.)
>Volunteer and help support GVCC’s organic garden. (This garden will help supply the hungry of El Dorado county with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Food that is not often available to the hungry.)
>Be a voice for the voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8 says to be a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who cannot be heard. The hungry need more voices to speak up for them.)

Fractured

fractured

My heart has been broken with the recent tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.

Words are hard to come by and emotions are hard to control.

I am holding on to this promise for them that, “God is close to the broken hearted and he lifts up those who are crushed in spirit.”

The closest way I can explain how I am feeling is what Jeremiah recorded in the ninth chapter of his book: “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

I told my church over the weekend that I was thankful for them because we could grieve and pray together, in community, for the families, leaders and people of  Newtown.

It really struck me how important being a part of a healthy community is.

The Apostle Paul gave this wisdom to the Romans when he said, “Rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Mourn with those who are mourning.”

We stay in dark places when we grieve alone.

Something supernatural and healing happens when we grieve in community. It is hard to explain, but I felt it this weekend.

Many in Newtown have expressed how knowing the nation and the world is grieving and praying with and for them has helped their wounded, stunned hearts.

But there is something else about being a part of a healthy community that is very important.

The healthier the community, the less of these kinds of tragedies will happen.

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity has stated that, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”

Yet, many communities are not whole or healthy.

While people are more concerned about their own “bottom line” and cities wanting the “homeless” to go somewhere else, communities will not be whole or healthy.

While the media continues to exploit children with violence and sex and the philosophy of the day is to incarcerate rather than rehabilitate, communities will not be whole or healthy.

With the low prioritization of the mentally ill and the ignorance the impact that broken families have on social and economic health, communities will not be whole or healthy.

If we keep thinking that technology is the answer while people have never been more isolated and lonely, communities will not be whole or healthy.

And if we continue to be a nation of “survival of the fittest”, even though the scriptures tell us to “love the least of these”, communities will not be whole or healthy.

Charles Dickens said a long time ago, “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”

There is a lot of discussion about what “laws” do we need to change to make sure this never happens again.

We don’t need more laws, we need face to face “soul encouragers” helping those in their community who are hurting and struggling to be “brave and true.”

Laws divide and polarize and keep us from getting to the heart.

Jesus didn’t come to change laws, he came to change hearts.

I don’t have any problem debating whether we need better, more or less gun laws. I like a good debate and I think they can be enlightening for both sides.

But thinking laws will solve this complicated, multi-layered issue is like talking about what size of rain gutters should I get while a category 5 hurricane is approaching my house.

This is also not about trying to go back to the ‘good old’ days.

The rhetoric of going back to the ‘good old’ days is a weak argument, since the ‘good old’ days were full of racial bigotry and women having few rights.

This is not about going back, but rather moving forward.

This is about moving forward towards different priorities.

This is about a high level commitment and understanding how important community is. To paraphrase William James, “A community is only as strong as its weakest link and life, after all, is all about community.”

We cannot continue to live in our locked up homes, thinking that if we don’t look out our window, then we are safe and not responsible for what we do not see.

This is a dangerous lifestyle and it compromises healthy communities. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We must move forward committing our lives to the greater whole.

We must move forward to a new way of living.

Where a child’s protection will trump a companies profits.

Where a forgotten senior citizen is remembered and celebrated.

Where the homeless are befriended and empowered.

Where the rich learn from the poor.

Where the single mom is valued and lifted out of poverty.

Where the addict is embraced and equipped towards recovery.

Where the mentally ill are understood and assisted.

Where broken families are given tools to help them repair.

Where everyone in the community is treated equally, with deep respect.

Where everyone is on “common ground.”

It is what the scriptures call JUSTICE.

We must move forward.

“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.” Isaiah 58:12

A Prodigal’s Progress

ArtRembrandtSon2

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

Isaiah 58

BurkinaFaso2009 031

‎”God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.” Bono

Listen to the message this weekend from Ken Burkey about being an Isaiah 58 church.

http://www.gvcconline.com/files/audio/07%20The%20Power%20Of%20Immersion.mp3

Isaiah 58 (NLT)
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.