The Fast Seemed Slow

This week at church the teenage youth had a combined activity. It wasn’t going to be anything out of the ordinary…they get together once a month for activities.

The idea for this particular activity was decided on back in January, long before I was asked to be one of the youth organization leaders. However the actual plans for what would be done were never put into place. That was something I had to do.

The theme for the activity was “Fast and Feast”, with the idea being that we would ask the youth, the youth leaders, and any parents that had a desire to participate, to fast for 24 hours and then have dinner together.

Let me just say up front: kudos to all that participated.

There are about 50 youth ages 12-18, (along with 17 youth leaders) in the congregation and about 40 of them decided to participate. I should say that many participated in the feast. I don’t know how many of them actually fasted because we didn’t ask them to account for it. It was supposed to be a personal thing.

Normally we fast from Saturday until Sunday, which doesn’t seem so bad. I figure that being at church makes it easier. So the true test of dedication was going to be due to the fact that we were fasting from Tuesday to Wednesday…a time period when everyone would be interacting with friends and colleagues at work and school. We would be around food. It would be a temptation.

It was bound to be a long day.

When we were ready to sit down together and have our feast, I delayed a little and teased a little about being hungry. But it was only a little bit of teasing because, well, I was hungry too.

We had begun our fast the night before as a group, kneeling in prayer, asking our Father in Heaven to bless us as we fasted. Before eating, we knelt again in prayer and thanked Him for sustaining us and blessing us with a wonderful meal and answers to our prayers. (I wouldn’t be surprised if some prayers were for a good feast, while others might have prayed for time to go by quickly.)

After the prayer we all say down to eat. This all happened one week before Thanksgiving but if you could see what we ate you would think it was a Thanksgiving celebration.

But it was.

After we ate we gave anyone that wanted to, a chance to share any thoughts that they had about their experience of fasting. If they wanted to share a testimony they could.

Although some of the youth said that it was hard, especially with food so readily accessible at work and school and with friends eating in front of them, everyone that spoke said it was worth it. Why? Because they were blessed for remaining strong.

That was the true feast. Yes it was nice to eat the yummy dinner that had been prepared. It was great to see the youth socializing. But the best part was hearing the feelings put into words to describe how they were each influenced by the Holy Ghost. They felt God’s love for them. That is more filling than any food, which is why the Savior is the bread of life.

If you have never tried fasting you should. But do it with a purpose. Otherwise you will just be starving yourself. It is amazing how you can be spiritually touched by doing so. I know I was. I could see that these youth were.

And those 24 hours didn’t last as long, or feel any longer, than I thought they would.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

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Cloud of Uncertainty and Conflict

“For Tom, life went on as usual except for the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over his home and neighborhood.” For me, 70 years later, another cloud of uncertainty and conflict are hanging over my home and neighborhood.

For Tom, it was World War 2. For me…

This is the point where I leave you guessing for a minute about what comes next.  Given the economic status of our country, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty for me is economical.  Given the political unrest in parts of the world, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around another war.  Given the outcome of the latest elections, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around the status of our country.  But no, it isn’t any of this.

It’s Black Friday.

So many stores, so many sales, so many choices.  What to do, where to go, how to pay for it?

At the beginning of this week I knew that I would not be participating in Black Friday sales this year.  I wanted to avoid the stress and chaos that I have felt the last few years.  So guess what happened?

No, I didn’t go shopping on Black Friday (in fact, it is almost Noon and I am still in my PJ’s).

On Wednesday my mother-in-law picked up a paper with all of the Black Friday ads included.  I rummaged around and searched every page of every ad.  Yes, there were some deals that I just couldn’t pass up…yet I still didn’t want to go out and shop at 5:00 am in the cold.  Then I saw the Walmart ad.

Gray Thursday!  Starting at 8:00 pm…and they had some things I wanted to get.

What is the justification for going?  I was feeling bad earlier in the week for all of those retail employees that would have to work on Thanksgiving because their employer wanted to get a head start on the sales.  Now I was going to have to compromise my feelings for their plight and instead offer a theoretical “too bad, so sad” attitude when I walked in the store.

Could my conscience handle it?  Was my integrity at stake?

You can see the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  Tom only had to worry about war.  I had to worry about post-Thanksgiving retail crowds. I think some of the battles in Walmart, specifically in the electronics section, have been worse than some of the combat skirmishes in the Europe.  And no, I am not making light of a war in which many people have died.

In fact, I am making a statement on the fall of humanity in the name of saving a buck in the pocket and making big bucks in the cash register.  And I participated in it.

There is one thing that helps me feel a little bit better about it.

On the way out the door at Walmart, a Marine stood sentry to a box.  The box was labeled “Toys for Tots“.  In his hand was a can with a slot in the lid for money to be donated.  And one of my children was with me.

The same military that has risked their lives for me to be able to participate in all this retail foolishness was passively asking us to sacrifice a little to help those children who are less fortunate and may not be receiving much for Christmas this year.  And it seemed that 95% of the people just walked by without even noticing…or caring if they did notice.

I made it past the front door and into the parking lot and didn’t feel very bad.  I didn’t have a toy to donate and I didn’t have cash on hand.  But I only made it 50 feet.  I paused, opened my wallet, and saw a $5 bill.  It couldn’t sit there, especially after I had just spent hundreds on gifts for family members.  It was all the cash I could donate, but I could still donate it.  Or save it to pay for lunch one day next week.

There was another cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  But I was able to rationalize the shopping.  It should be much easier to rationalize the donation of a small amount of money.

I took the money out of my wallet and gave it to my daughter.  I asked her to run back in and give it to the Marine inside the door.  I don’t know how she felt doing it, and I don’t know who will benefit from it.  But the Marine said “thank you” and I felt good for giving.

As my daughter and I walked to the car, I told her that if she ever has an opportunity to give when someone else is truly in need, she needs to give.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be money.  It could be food, it could be service, it could be time.

We are all faced with uncertainty in life and we all face some form of conflict, even if it is only internal.  But when we have a difference to make, will we make it?  Will we see the selfish follies of life and forget about the needs of others?

Tom saw the uncertainty and conflict of his time.  People were in need…their lives were at stake.  Tom joined the Navy and served the USA during World War 2.  Since then he has given his life in service to his community, his nation, his planet, and his God.

I think I can do better.  I think if I do, the uncertainty and conflict will leave…or at least greatly diminish.

Can you?

Just another view from a palmtree.