“Awake, O Sleeper”


I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today.

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty.

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue.

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there.

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit.

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor.

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine!

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft.

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation.

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.


Daniel Fast Revisited


The most popular blog entry ever at Over 50, Still Kickin’ has been the one on the Daniel Fast.  In it, I joshed about my daughter thinking a potato chip counted as a veggie and our insane indulgence the day after the fast was finished.  It was meant to be fun, although I guess it was informative, too.

I am amazed at the number of people who are still reading that post, and I am really amused at the search engine terms they use to find it:  “Can I eat potato chips on a Daniel Fast?”  “Is cheese pizza acceptable on the Daniel Fast?”  “How much weight can I lose on the Daniel Fast?”  (I also think it’s pretty funny that people type whole questions into the search terms box, rather than just key words, but hey, I guess it works!)

It didn’t take me too long to figure out that all the people fixated on Daniel’s fast were not intensely spiritually-minded types.  I predicted to my family, right around Christmas time, “Watch.  As soon as Christmas is over, people will be swarming to this blog, looking for another diet to overcome the extra Christmas poundage.”  And sure enough, that’s the way it was.  New Year’s, with all its resolutions to reshape the bod into movie star likeness, brought in another wave of seekers.

So, I thought it might be a good time to poke a little fun at everybody, and also do a little educating about the Daniel Fast.  It is a biblical fast, and it had nothing to do with Daniel feeling he needed to lose some excess baggage around the middle.  Let’s look again at what it says in the Bible:

In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.  I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine into my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all [the equivalent of modern-day hygiene tasks], until three whole weeks were fulfilled.  — Daniel 10:2, 3

At the end of twenty-one days of fasting as mentioned above, an angel came to Daniel, and said this:

… Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself [afflict yourself by fasting and skipping the hygiene tasks] before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words [prayers].  — Daniel 10:12

So there you have it.  Daniel was praying, seeking the face of the Lord, not trying to lose weight.  He was not concerned about what he could get away with eating and still make the fast “count.”  He was going after God with all his heart, praying for his beloved nation of Israel.  And God answered by sending an angel, which Daniel saw with his physical eyes.  The angel went on to tell Daniel a whole lot about future events, some of which are still to transpire.

I don’t think any of us probably want to quit taking care of our personal appearance and cleanliness for twenty-one days.  I haven’t heard that even one Daniel Fast expert is suggesting such a thing, but it was a common component of fasting in Old Testament times.  King David did it, too.  People meant business with God back then, when they fasted.  I wonder how popular the Daniel Fast would be, if not “anointing oneself” were a requirement?  Maybe everyone would just do the South Beach Diet instead, and call it a fast!

So there you have it — my little attempt to put the whole Daniel Fast fad in perspective.  Happy cheese pizzas and potato chips to you!

For just a little bit more on the Daniel Fast, see my post, Weird Search Terms #4. (Scroll to the bottom of the post.)


Please Don’t Make Me Write Anything!


The retired mailman continues to do a good job of looking convincingly busy.  I don’t know what he does all day, but whatever it is must be impressive — or else he is an extremely fine actor.  He is so busy that I cannot seem to get him to do what I think is important.

Some mailmen bag groceries to avoid boredom once they retire.  Mine, to my great delight, is going to enroll in the River Church School of Ministry (RCSM).  They used to call him Pastor Paul and Parson Paul at the P.O.  Now he’s apparently going after the real thing.

I had been bugging him for days to get his application for RCSM done, since it is due tonight.  He couldn’t see what the rush was until, GASP! we noticed he had to write a 250 to 300 word testimony as part of the application.  Last night he finally worked up enough gumption to get it done.  I heard a whining sound, like unto what a humongous disgruntled mosquito would make, coming from the direction of Paul’s chair.

“What’s the matter?”
“I think they are being awful hard on us, expecting us to write all this!”   Whiiiine!
“Paul, 250 words is not ‘all this.’  It’s a very little bit of writing.”
“I don’t know.  I haven’t got that much to tell.”
“Well, talk about what a great inspiration your wife has been to you in your Christian walk, then.”

I encouraged him to do it in Word on the main computer.  He insisted on doing it in Wordpad on his laptop, and then copying and pasting it into his e-mail, and sending it to himself, and then opening his e-mail on the main computer.  From there, he pasted it into Word.  Of course it did not come out the way it was supposed to.  Too much paste will turn anything funky-looking.  I sat down to fix it for him, knowing he would not have the first idea how to make it look right.  The word count — 495 words!  This, from the man who was sure he wouldn’t be able to come up with 250.  (I knew it!)

I proceeded to hack at it to get it down in size. Acid-free paper is always best.  This would not be an acid-free paper, as the editor-wife was being quite caustic. All the poetic phraseology had to go — including the flickering candles in the military chapel where he gave his life to Jesus.  Description of the guitar-playing lady who led him to the Lord — hack.  Explanation of his search for God through Eastern religion — hack.  How long his hippie-looking fellow converts’ hair was — hack.  Paul likening himself to the Apostle Paul in his religious good intentions previous to conversion — hack, hack, hack!  My husband, the budding Charles Dickens.  It wasn’t a testimony; it was an epic saga!

The testimony is ready to go now — respectable, likely to qualify him for inclusion in the school, and not nearly as interesting without the Apostle Paul thrown in for color.  At least we know that Paul will have no trouble whatsoever completing the required five-page term papers.


Daniel Fast


Our church family just finished a 21-day Daniel fast and time of prayer.  For those of you who may not know, a Daniel fast is patterned after how Daniel in the Bible fasted and prayed:

Daniel 10:2, 3In those days, I Daniel was mourning [probably repentance prayer for his nation] three full weeks.  I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

At the end of the 21 days that Daniel fasted, an angel came with revelation from heaven for Daniel.  His prayers were answered.

It’s amazing what people do with a small passage in the Bible like that.  There are umpteen web sites that will tell you exactly how to do a Daniel fast.  Supposedly, the web site authors have done research, and have discovered exactly what Daniel ate and what he didn’t eat during that time.  But the web sites do not agree with each other, so either several somebodies’ research is faulty, or else they are making it up as they go along.  (Can I say this, and get away with it?)

One web site declares that on a Daniel fast, we must eat all whole-grain bread, fruits and veggies galore, no preservatives, no sugar, no meat, no dairy, no oil of any kind.  Another site allows dairy, including butter (but not margarine).  Another says sugar is bad, but honey is acceptable.  Still another says we cannot eat any bread.

I did not think the verses in the Bible were as hard as all that to understand — No wine and no flesh is pretty straightforward: we weren’t going to be eating meat, and we don’t drink wine anyway.  No pleasant bread tells me just that — the cookies, sweet breads, and goodies of that ilk gotta go.  Some translations say “no pleasant food.”  OK, so fruit is a pleasant food in my book, so shouldn’t that go, too?  (But we ate fruit.  We had to eat something.)

My family obsessed over food for two weeks leading up to the fast.  I never saw my husband and child so preoccupied with their stomachs before!  They were wringing their hands about what in the world they were going to eat.  Now, you have to understand how serious this was to them.  My daughter is a growing teenager, and teenagers need a lot of fuel.  My husband is six feet tall and weighs about 150 pounds on a good day.  He has a high metabolism and a high-energy job.  He eats constantly, just to keep going and maintain weight in the process.  We call him The Hummingbird.  I, on the other hand, do not need more fuel.  Maintaining weight, for me, means not blimping out and breaking the scale.  I saw this fast as a marvelous opportunity to lose a few pounds and not have to cook!

It was very interesting hearing from our church friends how they were doing the fast.  They ran the gamut from hard core fruit-and-veggies-only people to letter-of-the-law types who tried to get as close to the line without stepping over it as possible.  One family in our acquaintance finally decided that cheese pizza would fit the fast criteria, since there wasn’t any meat on it.   They managed to find one with a whole wheat crust.  Hmmm.  Some spent many hours in the kitchen, coming up with gourmet bean delights that were as tasty as any meat dish ever thought of.  I rather thought this might be defeating the purpose.  I thought we were supposed to suffer a little, and use the time we would normally spend preoccupied with eating on prayer.  Well, what do I know?

Several of our people suffered horribly without their Starbucks or Mountain Dew fix.  The caffeine withdrawal was enormous.  My sympathies to them.

My daughter decided she was going to fit into the get-as-close-to-the-line group.  She read all those web sites, and picked the most appealing “acceptable” foods from each.  On the first day of the fast, I caught her eating white bread with honey on it.  I think potato chips (a veggie) would have been next on her agenda, if I hadn’t put my two cents’ worth in.

“This is a fast, after all, Beebee!  It’s supposed to be a little hard for you.  Somehow I don’t think honey bread is fast material.”  I noticed that the next day she was dutifully gagging down the whole grain bread with no sweeties on top.

It was a challenging three weeks.  We were not hardcore.  I would describe our eating patterns as moderate.  We drank milk and ate some butter on our bread.  We popped pounds of popcorn in olive oil.  We ate a few baked potatoes.  We will be paying off the credit card debt for the fruit and veggie grocery bill for the next year!  (Daniel fasts are an expensive way to eat.)  My child refused to eat beans under any circumstances.  We were hungry a lot; the food was just too boring to care about eating it, starved or not.

I reminded my family that things could be much worse.  What if the angel hadn’t come to Daniel at the end of 21 days?  We could have been on this fast for three months, or a year, if the angel had taken that long to get to Daniel!  So, I heard a few thanksgiving prayers from our teenager, “Thank You, Jesus, for not waiting 52 days to send the angel to Daniel!”  It’s amazing the things you can find to be thankful for.

Yesterday was the first day off the fast.  You want to know what we ate, don’t you?  We had been carefully planning the menu for a week, and it was outrageous.  I had a Toaster Strudel for breakfast and potato chips for midmorning snack.  Also part of a chocolate candy bar.  Beebee ate a fat-laden store-bought muffin as big as a softball.  We had milk and an apple, to assuage our consciences. We had Dairy Queen ice cream cake for lunch.  I did not feel well all afternoon.  I prayed my gall bladder would hold up!  This did not stop the excess at suppertime, however.  We indulged in a Little Caesar’s pizza.  We controlled ourselves a teeny bit and did not eat quite the whole thing.

Today, we will climb back out of the abyss of indulgence and eat with more sanity.  The junk we ate yesterday is not typical for us.  I think I’ve bought Toaster Strudels only once before in my whole life, and if the potato chip companies had to depend on people like us, they’d all be bankrupt.  Ditto for Dairy Queen and Little Caesar’s.  It was fun for a day, but will not be a trend.  (And my gall bladder prayers were answered, by the way.)

So yes, thank You Lord, for coming to Daniel after 21 days instead of 60, thank You for the answers to prayer You are sending our way — and thank You for potato chips!

Sequel: Daniel Fast Revisited  
Additional Sequel: Weird Search Terms #4  
(Scroll to bottom) 


%d bloggers like this: