Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Learn: The Not Just for Sunday Fast

Fast Sunday, it is called, not because of any association with speed, but a call to go without food. Fasting means abstaining from food or liquids or both, or abstaining from any other determined object or action.

Purposes for a Fast are many. One purpose is to contribute monies that would have been spent on a meal to people in need. It is not a literal exchange that one tallies up the cost of breakfast, lunch and dinner, the pancakes, vegetables and rice, the jug of milk that would have been consumed. It's common for people who feel blessed to donate much more than the cost of three missed meals. It's as if we had caviar and just-flown-in, fresh picked berries from a California farm for breakfast; a personal Japanese chef prepare sushi for lunch; and an assortment of European cheeses with exquisite, organic greens and vegetables for dinner.

Fasting is a stomach growling reminder of the blessings of food. When we go without, we remember others go without--and not just once a month but maybe for days. Regularly. We are reminded of our blessings and are filled with generosity and compassion to increase our donation. Financially assisting others is a blessing and not a burden or obligation like a tax.

The bigger purpose is to commune with God.
The bigger purpose is to ask for guidance.
The bigger purpose is to ask the Lord to bless a loved one who needs his help--or possibly my help and by Fasting. A Fast may provide guidance in order to know how to accomplish the impossible.

When I am not burdened with feeding my body, I can focus on feeding my soul.

Yet,.......

I approach Fast Sunday with joy and loathing.

Going without food or drink for 24 hours is difficult. Even the slightest mention or thought of food sends my stomach into a tailspin, and mischievous ideas of sneaking food, or justifying a bite or a slurp make me feel weak--and I am--another reason to fast.

Another reason for Fasting--to give the mind and soul more control over the wants of the body.

World wide, the idea of Fasting is on a revered track. It's touted as a way to restore health in both mind and body. So, another reason for the fast may be the health benefits.

Last Sunday was Fast Sunday. I prayed for the welfare of others in need. This takes faith as I will most likely not know if my sacrifice was a benefit. Rarely, will I tell a person if I am drawing on the powers of heaven for his or her sake.

I wrote the above last Sunday, on Fast Sunday. On the Wednesday morning after the Fast, I awoke with an almost impossible task. I had one day to finish my Cold War lecture-discussion with my classes. First period was going to work out fine, but third period was going to be a challenge. The previous day, third period had missed class because we saw Hamlet. On that day, I had 11 pages of notes that I had gotten 1/3 of the way through and it had taken almost 90 minutes.  Wednesday's class required the completion of those notes--for both classes. I would have to accomplish what would take 180 minutes down to 100 minutes for the second class. I had to finish; it was my last day of teaching. I looked at what I could skip over, but it was all important in creating the complete picture.

I loved what I was teaching. I marveled at the miracles of the fall of communism. The lessons were so important; the individual actions all puzzled together helped defeat one of the greatest evils of our time: the suppression of the human spirit. The players were so human, yet united they changed the world: Pope John Paul, Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, The Plastic People of the Universe, Vaclav Havel, Chapter 77, Deng Xiaoping, Soviet dissidents Sakharov, Mikhail Gorbachev, and people like you, me, and my students.

Then I had an idea. Fast. Yes! Why not? Why not Fast this Wednesday morning and ask for help in delivering the impossible? Why not draw upon the powers of heaven for my own purposes? For my students' benefit? Before I left for school, I knelt in prayer and asked for the assistance to teach and to teach without morning sustenance.

With one minute left before the bell rang, I wrote my final words on the board.

I did it. I got through two days of lectures in one. I wasn't sure how it happened. I looked through my notes to see what I'd skipped--nothing. The second class had gotten the full story of the end of communism.

Praise God. Praise the Fast.