We are now entering week 3 of our Month of Dedication! This week is all about being alive to generosity and growing in trust in God for our needs. The verse for the week is Isaiah 58:7 “Is fasting not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him?” So this week if you follow our reading and reflection prompts, it is going to be about our attitudes toward “stuff” and giving to others.

If you are following the graduated fasting plan, then week 3 is basically a “Daniel Fast.” In a church I used to attend we did a graduated fast, and for the themes for the four phases, they all had this nifty rhyming quality, of “No Sweets, no meats, no leeks, no eats.” But I wanted to look again at the book of Daniel and make a few observations to you. This is not scholarly research or official liturgy here, but just some thoughts to consider this week.

Daniel chapter one is where it first talks about a sort of partial fast that Daniel and his friends observed. They had just been carried into exile from Israel to Babylon, but had been observed as “exceptional” and were put into the King’s training program to become officials in his land. They were given many privileges, “rich foods and wines” (1:8, 16) being among them. Only it seems that a lot of this food was not allowed in the Jewish dietary laws. So, David and his friends petitioned to be able to just eat “a diet of vegetables and water” (1:12). Apparently, this is all that was available in the new land that was kosher, and it was important to honor God in his eating, which is actually a really healthy way to live.

The second place I see mentioning a special diet, which is actually described as a fast, is 10:3 “All that time I had eaten no rich food or meat, had drunk no wine, and had used no fragrant oils.” Now, like I said, I haven’t researched the typical diet of Babylon at the time, or looked at the Hebrew word for “vegetables” to see what all that might include, but I do know that some translations say “savory” food instead of rich food, and I think that is where the “no leeks” idea comes from, because leeks are sort of like an onion, and they make other foods taste better. So, my pastor before, when I did this kind of fast with another church community, steered us toward basically cutting out seasonings, along with “rich” foods and the sweets and meats we already were fasting. In my personal opinion, leeks are definitely a vegetable, so they ought to be allowed on a “Daniel fast,” along with onions, and herbs, and so on. It leaves us lacking a nice rhyme if we can actually eat leeks, but I don’t think “no leeks” is truly a Daniel fast. However, if you want to stick with the no leeks idea, then be my guest. You can do “no leeks” and I can do a Daniel fast, because we each get to decide with Jesus on our own.

As I look at my third week of the fast, this is how I am choosing to observe a Daniel Fast for me right now. I am not prescribing this for you, just sharing! As I said before, I am still nursing my baby, so I am not totally cutting out dairy and meat. However, I am going to focus my eating around things that grow from the ground (like vegetables), and I am definitely going to cut out things like ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch, cream cheese and other “richer” dairy, and I am going to continue to avoid sweets, alcohol, junk food, and all meats except fish and chicken (i.e. pork, beef, other seafood, and, you know, bats and stuff the Old Testament said to avoid (Lev 11:19)… which I also just found out is a good way to not get ebola. Win-win!) Basically, it seems to me that the heart of the Daniel Fast is that we eat to live, not live to eat. We eat things in a natural state, as God made them, unprocessed, and unadorned. Cooked, fine, but fried? Not for me. And, a big one for me, this week I am cutting out bread, cereal, crackers, and that kind of thing. Yikes! I’ll eat potatoes, quinoa, rice and oatmeal, but not pasta and things made with flour.

One of the reasons I am choosing this, is because I want to keep in mind the theme for the week, which is turning toward the needy. I know in many parts of the world, a bowl of rice and beans might be all someone gets for dinner. People grow their food, raise their chickens, catch their fish, and that is what they eat. They walk far to get their water from a well, and they appreciate that water. They don’t complain that their water doesn’t taste as good as soda. They don’t worry if the fruit is bruised, or if they got the dark meat instead of the white. They don’t dip their carrots in ranch, or drown their food in sauces. They eat to live, and they are thankful.

I want to be thankful, too. And I want to be mindful of those who happily live on less… or who painfully live on less. Maybe when I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kids this week, I will still make one for me, but instead of eating it, I’ll give it to the guy asking for donations on the street corner.

Why? Because I want Jesus more than I want anything else, and if I give to another, it is like I give to Jesus. I’d make a sandwich for Jesus any day, wouldn’t you?

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