Practical Fasting

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With all that is going on in the world, I think it’s fair to ask what impact fasting can have. With the loss of life and ongoing persecution happening in Ukraine, it feels like futility. But we should persevere in our fasting and doing good. As the verse says, “do not weary in doing good”.

Every time we face a new world crisis, I feel powerless. And perhaps that is part of the grand plan. We recognize that we cannot control world events, or even the events that directly impact us. Not one of us knows how many breaths we have left. Yet we are required to continue to do good.

So we fast and pray and do what we can. It seems to have no impact, but a thousand drops of water compounded will make an ocean, so keep at it!

How do we fast?

In that light, I wanted to talk about fasting itself. I’ve come to recognize that the act of fasting also puts a strain on us as individuals. I joke about my youngest child that she is often “hangry”. Fasting is like a guaranteed one way ticket to hanger. We are guaranteed to be hangry.

The hard part is that it feels justified. Hey, I chose not to eat today because of my desire to impact the world, so everyone ought to acknowledge that. But the key is to understand that fasting is an act of service – it is about empathizing with the pain of another human being. So it is important that we do not use fasting as a license to allow ourselves greater leeway, but to intentionally be even more service oriented in this day.

The main thing..

So my friends, as we fast, we also pray. As we fast, we also serve. As we fast, we also consider those that are impacted around the world today. The focus is not on us, it is on the “other”, the wounded, the weary, the burdened.

So pray together with me today for Ukraine, for all those affected. Let’s focus less on what we need, what we deserve, and more on the other. And lest you ask, what can we do? We hear of refugees of this war. Let me remind you that refugees will be resettled around us. Reach out and understand how you can directly have an impact on those being resettled here.

You can do something! You CAN have an impact.

The priority of starting right..

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

The start to 2022 (honestly I can’t even believe we are in a whole new year) has been hectic for us. We launched our business mid-December and we are starting feel like real business owners now – packaging sample boxes in our living room, turning our office into stacks of boxes, and making USPS drop off runs every day.

Story time – our launch went a little sideways. We were supposed to launch a month earlier (early Nov), but due to some food safety signoffs that got delayed, then some production issues, we ultimately got pushed to mid Dec. We had planned a trip to FL for the holidays (and that was non negotiable), so I was in the weird position of trying to figure out how to fulfill orders while on vacation.

Ultimately this led to me packing an entire suitcase of product that we took to FL with a shipping label printer and started fulfilling orders while on vacation. Not satisfied with that chaos, I was basically given feedback that required a complete ground up rewrite of my site and transition to a new website provider. All while I’m on “vacation”.

Now that we are back it feels even more manic if such a thing is possible. It is in this context that I heard Pastor Colin Smith talk about the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The overwhelming pressure of “things to do”

Specifically at minute 48, he speaks about the people keeping the Feast of Booths upon their return. Now this was when they first arrived, the wall was broken down, the city was in ruins. The Pastor speaks of the people and how they must have been overwhelmed by the number of things to do.

But before all that, and in the face of an overwhelming set of tasks, the first thing they did, was to observe the feast of booths, a unique celebration of remembrance of the wandering of the Israelite people. Also known as the festival of Tabernacles, the Jewish people remember their wandering in the wilderness and celebrate God’s provision through that time by living in tents for a week. This is to remember how the people wandered in the desert living in tents.

Slow down and recenter

It seems odd that when the work is so urgent and pressing, the people took time off to worship. Yet, time and again, research shows us the truth of the old racing axiom :

Go slow to go fast

Anonymous Racer somewhere in the mists of time

I’ve heard that variously quoted as “Slow down to speed up” etc. The core notion is that in order to be more efficient, sometimes you need to slow down and take your time. Assess, reflect and recharge.

The same is true in our work lives. Going 110% for an extended period of time will ultimately just slow you down. A lot of things in life are counter intuitive – this is one of them. The more manic we become, the more we stress, the less effective we are. This is why having a good work life balance ultimately leads to more effective organizations, and why happy employees lead to better business outcomes.

Slow down this week

So we as a family have decided to dedicate some time at the beginning of this year, to fast and pray over some specific requests. In the face of all that needs to be done, it is even more critical that we recenter our lives, breathe, sink deeply into the love of God, and start the year re-energized. “In the face of all that is to be done, take time out to worship”.

I’d like to leave you with this song – its called “Wait on You” by Maverick City. It just resonates with me as I start this year.

And remember friends, go slow to go fast!

Anxiety (Let it go!)

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Hi friends, I’ve been ruminating on anxiety recently, because I’m going through a particularly anxious season. Even taking the time out to write a blog seems like a luxury, because there is so much to do. Launching a startup is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m also a girldad and a fishdad, so I have “life” to deal with as well.

To give you a sense, we are re-launching our website next week, manufacturing our “products” and starting to take orders, packaging the orders and fulfilling the orders (all next week). In the midst of that, I went to close out my pond for the winter (later than usual because of the unseasonably warm fall).

And the problems start..

I looked in, to find that two fish had died, and four were dying (in complete distress). This seems like a little thing to most people, I know – they’re just fish. But you see, my grandmother always taught me that if you keep an animal or fish, their well being is your responsibility – they can’t speak for themselves. That’s farm life. Animals are working as much as you are, but they are your responsibility. I felt like a failure because it was my fault – I’d gotten complacent and not tested the water quality going into winter (water was clear so I assumed it was good).

Literally the same day, my daughter was sent home from school for the week because the classroom was shut. Thankfully we got her tested and she’s clear.

This is all particularly funny, because that same day I read on the Bible app, the verse of the day :

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

It really felt like I was being given the encouragement before the trial. Just to close out the story, I called around to all the pond people in a panic. Eventually, I got in touch with the previous owner of my house (we still keep in touch, story for another day :). He was so kind, and calmed me down, letting me know I was not the only one to lose fish or make such a major mistake. He suggested an immediate water change. Even though it was down in the 20s, I went out and did it, and miracle of miracles, two of the fish revived and the rest look healthier.

Intentional change

I say all that to say this – anxiety (worry about the uncontrollable aspects of our life) doesn’t provide us any action plan. Worry eats away at you and doesn’t let you rest. It fills up your time and mental space so you can’t be a blessing or help to others. Worry is selfish and focused on me.

So I chose to be less anxious, and hope more. Have a little more faith, and exercise that faith muscle.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

Things are now looking up, our business website redesign is nearly complete, the kid has learnt some more math, the fish are doing better. I’m sure tomorrow will bring its share of worries, but again :

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

Getting rid of anxiety is probably an impossible goal, but we can choose to set aside anxiety. Focus instead, on actions you can take – as I’ve taken to saying like a mantra “One problem at a time”. This intentional choice will enable you to move ahead in life and have a greater impact in your life.

I’m taking my own advice. Taking several deep breaths, starting on task 1 on my list and working my way through it. As Elsa would say “Let it gooooo”..

I hope your Friday is filled with action and joy. Speak soon, friends. Remember, one problem at a time!

Intentional Impact

Hi friends, I’m at our production location for my small business, having driven an hour to get here. I was listening to the radio on the way in and the conversation made me think about the intentionality (or lack thereof!) of our lives.

Sometimes, it feels like life is happening to us, like we are just passengers on a train that is out of our control. I’ve been having a few days like this where I feel like I’m hanging on for dear life. This feeling can persist for days or for a lifetime if we allow it. We all have those days, of course. But allowing life to happen to us, also abdicates us of our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.

Last week we talked about making intentional changes. The word “intentional” has long been a favorite of my wife’s. We are very different, my wife and I. I was always a “go with the flow”, relax and enjoy the ride type (classic B type). My wife is a planner and a definite A type. Takes all kinds to make the world go round ;).

This of course, is the reason I assimilated so quickly into life in Malaysia (chaotic, not very rule bound, relaxed society). My wife’s favorite countries are Singapore and Japan (VERY strict social order, and very rule bound). Over the course of our marriage, she has learned to be more flexible and I’ve learned to be more structured.

That is all by the by, because the kind of intentionality I’m referring to (and she refers to) is not a short term, making plans for your vacation kind of intentionality.

The intentional life

When I speak of intentionality, I am talking about the goals for your life, the models that we build our character towards. When I started a garden a couple of years ago, I noticed how much plants grow towards the sun. If you place a potted plant just outside of the sunshine, in a couple of days, you will see the plant lean and grow towards the sun.

That is the intentionality I am referring to. You will grow towards whatever role model you admire or whatever character you desire to grow. Even if you have not sat down and fixed a role model in your head, you will naturally start growing more like your “unintentional” role models.

Now, unfortunately, the role models we see around us in the world are often not ideal. I was watching a few TikToks (haha), and I see many influencers speaking down to the audience. They often demonstrate unkindness, and in some instances outright cruelty with their words. This world will generally elevate the worst among us as experts and worthy of praise, who tell us to live life for our own benefit.

If we desire to have impact in this world, we have to sit down and intentionally look for role models that demonstrate a life of service, a life of impact. Then we need to again, intentionally, grow our lives and our habits towards that destination. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul who said “follow me as I follow Christ”.

We also need to re-examine our lives on a regular basis and, like with a bonsai, prune those habits and behavior that is not in keeping with our end goal. It takes time and energy to sit and think about where you want to go (in career, family life, service). Then it takes energy to change our direction.

But as I said last week, a life of intentional service, will pay exponential dividends, because there are many eyes watching us. Whatever we plant into our lives, will give fruit. Not just over our lifetimes, but generationally as well.

Let’s plant good seed, so that we can grow good fruit. And that the tree of our lives can provide shade and sustenance for others!

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:8

Love you all, and speak next Friday!