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Guest Post: Not So Fast

By: Ellen - February 23, 2009

When people ask me what foods I like, I usually say, “the edible kind.” In about 1985 I had some steamed okra that was a little slimy, but that’s the most recent time I had an adverse reaction to a food. Please note, however, that I ate all of that okra.

At my age, I can no longer eat whatever I want without causing damage to my delicate and finely honed vanity. I have become the sorriest – whiniest – partially sunny day between 60 and 70 degrees – runner on the face of the planet simply because I love to eat more than I hate to run.

I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for, let’s see, {finger, finger, finger; hold on, gotta take off my shoes} 89 days. The first time I attended church was a Fast and Testimony meeting. It didn’t seem to end any sooner than it was supposed to, so I figured there was more to this “fast” business than I thought.

Okay, I’m just kidding. I was raised Catholic. I know the score. We had the Friday fasting from meat, the Sunday morning fasting before receiving the Sacrament, and the whole Lent thing (during which my friend Carol’s non-Catholic father faithfully gave up watermelon). But I am not a faster by nature, moi.

This past Sunday our excellent talks were on fasting in support of our missionary effort, and I learned some specifics that were new to me. Begin and end a fast with prayer. Without prayer, it’s just going hungry. Fasting with prayer focuses our attention on communication with Heavenly Father, and our prayers achieve greater power. Our self-control improves, our awareness is enhanced, our character is strengthened. You all know these things already.

Today I am taking my place in the 40-day perpetual fast our ward sponsored in support of the missionary effort. When I signed my name to this day on the calendar, I asked my friend Kaye to split it with me. She smiled kindly and wondered silently why she answered the phone that day I called to ask if I could come visit the church. I had good intentions of making a feast and snarfing it at 12:00:000000000001 a.m. tomorrow morning. I wondered if it would count as a sin if I used daylight saving time.

But today all of that went away. The hunger hasn’t gone away. But every time I feel a pang, it reminds me to say another prayer. I’m hoarse. My stomach rumbles, and small children in nearby schools huddle under their desks and look at their teachers with large, questioning eyes. I’m on my way to the grocery store in a few minutes to get some shrimp and broccoli to roast for my husband’s dinner, and I won’t be sharing it with him tonight. But I trust that my novice efforts on this day will join with those of all the seasoned (yum!) members of my new church to bring more to the fold that I have come so quickly to love so much.



8 Comments »

  1. Great insights into fasting. I think fasting is a principle that we all have to learn. I still dread the first Sunday of the month. Yet, when it’s all said and done, I’m always glad that I had fasted.

    We are trying to teach our older children to fast. This past month I asked my (almost) ten year old if he would fast Sunday breakfast. We chose something we wanted to fast for (a lady in our branch who has given him piano lessons for years). He fasted. The next Sunday, he didn’t eat his pop tarts for breakfast. I asked him why. He said he was fasting again. I told him he only needed to fast once a month. His eyes lit up and he snatched a pop tart and devoured it. I guess there are some things about fasting I still need to teach him and some things about fasting he taught me.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 23, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  2. Great post. Thanks.

    I’ve come to believe that fasting is one of those spiritual gifts like teaching, having faith, bearing testimony, etc. I’ve also come to believe that it is one of those spiritual gifts that I don’t have.

    Comment by Hunter — February 23, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  3. I love this post, Ellen – especially if you are who I think you are. There will be a lot of these lessons over the years, and I’m thankful that they don’t stop even for those of us who’ve been walking the church corridors and going hungry monthly for years. Line upon line, precept upon precept is a wonderful model.

    Congrats (again, I think) on your new journey, and thanks for this post.

    Comment by Ray — February 23, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  4. Very funny – I once had my non-member sister in law ask me why we called it Fast Sunday, when she was sure that the meetings seemed to go EXTRA slow on the days we’re thinking of food.

    I remember watching a particularly good episode of Northern Exposure in which the main character, Dr. Fleischman (Jewish) was trying to fast for Yom Kippur. He’s not usually observant, so the townsfolk are imagining that the second his fast ends he will be in the diner ordering 3 blue plate specials. But sometime during that day, his fast starts to mean something to him, and he stops just complaining or focusing only on what he’s missing. The best scene is of him, sitting alone on a ridge, breaking his fast by simply eating an orange, savoring each section of it, slowly.

    Comment by jeans — February 23, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  5. I had never heard of a “perpetual fast” before this, yet it is exactly the kind of thing that a student or singles ward would likely find intriguing. The whole ward gets to pull together and take interest in a joint project without the burden on any individual being more than reasonable.

    Evocative scene, jeans! I like.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 23, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  6. Your post is motivating me to try to fast this coming Sunday. I’ve had kids (no fasting during pregnancy and nursing) and apparently too many excuses (I forget, my husband isn’t into it, I have to feed the kids).
    Dieting always makes overeating a problem for me, so I manage my weight by not dieting and it is too easy to confuse fasting with dieting. It is, however, something different entirely.

    Comment by anon38 — February 23, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  7. #1 thanks, steve.

    #2 hunter, my homies claim we all have at least one gift and we can aspire to receive more. you have one gift, BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! pray now and we’ll send you a second spiritual gift for only $4.99 in shipping and handling! ;-D

    #3 hi ray! yeah, it’s me. for the record, ray is the one second most responsible (ie. to blame) for bringing me into this church.

    #4 spot on, jeans. for me it was a chocolate covered strawberry left by a friend for no discernible reason.

    #6 imagine, me motivating someone else. thanks, anon38! yes, fasting and dieting are two different things, and that day they felt like two very different things. i wish you well.

    Comment by ellen — February 23, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  8. Thanks for a great post. Effective fasting can turn on such personal things, thoughts and feelings. I am still trying to figure it out.

    My favorite story about a “novice faster”: I baptized a woman on my mission. Shortly thereafter, she decided to fast one Sunday that her team would win World Cup in soccer. Her team lost. She told us, only partially in jest, that she planned to eat double the next Sunday. We asked the Gospel Essentials teacher to cover the topic of fasting carefully.

    Comment by Martin Willey — February 23, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

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