Are We There Yet?

A few months ago, my family and I moved from Connecticut to Texas because God called me to be the Worship Pastor at a church here in Amarillo. God likes to shake things up in my life and do a lot of work through changes that take place in my life. And on the road trip here (to Texas), He did some work on my heart. Here’s what happened:

The bulk of day one on the road was spent in a U-Haul with my father-in-law, whom I shall now, henceforth, refer to as the “Marathon Driver”. No seriously–––the man is a machine.

Anywho, as the Marathon Driver and I were chuggin’ along, I found myself periodically looking at the little blinking dot on my iPhone maps that tells me where we are presently located. Okay, I checked it more than periodically, and some people would consider the time I have spent with my GPS map as obsessive, but who’s counting right? As I kept checking, the daunting thought of how much farther we had to go kept creeping into my head. And as the day dragged on, even with the Marathon Driver at the wheel and my professional backseat driving hard at work, somehow, we still got tired. As I got tired, the thought of how far we still had to go became a heavier reality to shoulder.

Strangely enough, right around the time we were about to stop for the night, something hit me. All at once a question tugged at my curiosity…

“What if I looked at how far we’ve come?”

As I scrolled back through the map and looked over the many miles we had traveled, the result was quite satisfying. We’d passed through western Connecticut, then crossed over to New York. We were in New York for approximately 47 seconds, or so it seemed, but the state that followed took an eternity to get through. I think I watched The Hunger Games (the whole movie) twice. That is, as we made our way through Pennsylvania and into Ohio.

Oops. Did I say The Hunger Games? I meant The Last of the Mohicans. Sure. That’s more manly. Right.

In Ohio we stopped at a Pilot, and since our U-Haul was too big to park with the cars, we had to park it in the back with the ‘Big Trucks’ (if you know what I mean). We were like a sapling in the midst of a giant redwood forest. I’ve never felt so wimpy in all my life. A couple of truckers were chatting when we drove up and then they stopped and stared at us, as if to say, “Get your wimpy U-Haul out of here and don’t come back ’till you get a real truck.” And as much as I just wanted to drive on, my stomach was ‘a-growlin’ so I gritted my teeth, swallowed my pride, and got a delicious burger with curly fries from Arby’s.

Then we crossed over into Indiana. Our goal was to make it over the Missouri border before we slept, but once 3am rolled around, it was too risky to proceed with such heavy eyes. So we stopped for the night in Cloverdale, Indiana…

Point being, when I looked back, we had come a long way from where we started. We covered five states and around 850 miles.

Sometimes our relationship with God can be the same way.

We can get discouraged by getting caught up with focusing on all our faults and how far we have to grow. This of course, is when its important to find encouragement in a couple foundational truths.

1. We should recognize that it is by God’s grace alone that growth can be achieved. He can and will help us, if we seek Him for it.

2. It is always important to remember that perfection is NOT the goal. Living fully for His glory, by the grace He provides is our goal.

3. When we feel discouraged about the long distance we still have to go (spiritually), it is a great encouragement to see how far God has brought us. Even if we have only been fighting the fight of faith for months, we will still be able to tell a difference between where we started, and where God has brought us.

Think back with me, to a sin in the past that used to rule over you. Then you started to seek God for help, and over time, He allowed you victory over the sin. This is encouraging because if we believe in God’s promises, then there is no sin that can stand against God’s power over sin in our lives. Our victory is found in Him. And just as He has conquered the sins of our past. So will He conquer the sins and shames of our present. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Let us focus more on His inevitable victories in our lives, and less on our weakness. It is then that, as John Piper says, “God gets the glory, and we get the joy.”

 

Photo: michaelgoodin, CC

Air India Sticks it to the Poor

Over the past eight days, I boarded thirteen separate flights as I hopped across the Asian continent. I spent the most time in India. Actually, I spent time in “both Indias,” a phrase my Indian colleagues used. I visited the skyscraper-heavy financial district in Mumbai and met families in slums nearby. I drove past the most expensive house in the world and walked through one of the world’s poorest shantytowns. Both Indias.

As a connoisseur  of fine airlines (e.g., Southwest, my favorite), India’s airlines impressed me. I flew Jet Airways several times and they did everything right: Prompt departures, quick boarding, no fees, and friendly service. It was hard to believe this upstart airline didn’t exist just seven years ago. Actually, seven years ago, there was only one airline in the country: Air India.

Air India – Source: iFreshNews

Until 2005, the Indian government held a monopolistic stranglehold on the aviation industry. Air India was the only show in town. And it was a really bad show. Prices were sky-high, service was terribly low and Air India consistently lagged in innovation. It is a classic story of government-intervention-gone-wrong.

The real victim of Air India’s failure, however, was the poor. Not only could they not afford to fly, but they also were continually forced to bail out the floundering “business.” As taxpayers, they were on the hook for Air India’s failure. Created under the auspices of “protecting the Indian people,” Air India did exactly the opposite. The vitriol for the company by the people of India is apparent. On my final flight home, I thumbed through the pages of The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper. The editorial title about the airline summarized the country’s sentiment: “A long, sordid and pathetic tale of failure.”

Riddled with inefficiencies and waste, Air India was actually crippled while I was in the country. The entire staff has gone two months without salaries and they were on strike last week. The editorial reviled in the failures of the airline, noting for example, that they recently purchased new planes without doing any price negotiation whatsoever with the manufacturers.

Jet Airways and a handful of other upstart airlines like IndiGo and Spicejet are charting a different and refreshing course, however. Led by aggressive Indian entrepreneurs, these budget airlines deliver on their promise to customers. And, they bring abounding opportunity to the poor. The data doesn’t lie: Since 2005, air traffic in India has tripled, fare prices have dropped dramatically and the quality of service has increased.

 

I’m an admitted believer in the power of entrepreneurship and the free markets.

While not without its warts, I’ve argued that capitalism is the “best broken system” for the most vulnerable in our world. There is a role for government in helping the poor, but Air India illuminates that sometimes the best social service they can do for the poor is unleash the Indian entrepreneur to be the solution. Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet are up for the challenge; and the world is opening up to low-income Indians as a result. SpiceJet’s motto says it all, “Flying for Everyone.”

 Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

Five Things I Love About Texas

After spending two full days in the Lone Star State, I love with everything Texas has to offer. Here are five reasons why, in countdown order:

5. Texas exits.

If you’ve been on a Texas highway, you’re familiar with the Texas exit. This is when a driver decides to make their own freeway exit, cutting through the grass and onto the frontage road. This devil-may-care driver’s attitude is refreshing and it just screams Texas: I’m a man (or lady). I have a giant cowboy hat and an F-250. I don’t use off ramps, I make my own. They’re everywhere. Some iterations are now full dirt paths, while others barely show the semblance of a single car’s passing. Each set of tracks relays a uniqueness that is found in Texas and Texas alone. The independence matters.

4. The people.

I met some great people in the state of Texas. They are some of the most warm, inviting, hospitable people I’ve ever met; it was very refreshing. In general, people from Texas seem to have a generally rosier disposition. Maybe it’s the I-have-a-big-state syndrome and they’re more confident. Who knows. What I know is this: it makes a difference. If I am cheery and nice to you, chances are, you’ll be cheery and nice to somebody else. Call it compounding happiness. (And I love it.)

3. The San Antonio Riverwalk

America’s best kept secret? Definitely. The San Antonio Riverwalk is a downtown cut of the San Antonio River, completely walkable and sandwiched in between hotels, attractions, and restaurants. It’s Venice meets Texas in every sense of the word. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I do not surprise my future wife with a trip to the Riverwalk. Baby, if you’re reading this, don’t act like you won’t be surprised. You might know it’s happening… but good luck getting excited every weekend in hopes of taking a trip to Texas! Hah.

2. Everything’s bigger in Texas.

The nachos. The freeways. The cattle. Although I did not see one giant foam cowboy hat (seriously–––what gives?), everything’s bigger and it’s humorously better. In Texas, I’ve seen some of the biggest freeway interchanges in my life. You can practically see Cowboys Stadium from space. The food is bigger and portions heftier. All in all, you can very easily become accustomed to the sense of grandeur accompanying the state. If Texas were to secede (which could be a real possibility after November 6th), it would be the 15th largest economy in the world. See what I mean?

1. Everything is more authentic, too.

This is the striking contrast that I have found in just about every city in comparison to Palm Beach–––everything is more real. It’s not fake history, it’s actual history (and that matters). In fact, it’s the best part of Texas. On the whole, Texans know themselves well. Dallas is city; Fort Worth is country. San Antonio is all picante (I don’t really know what this means, but it fits) and Austin is a good college town. There’s no faking here. Texas says, ‘we are what we are, like us or not.’ And that’s why I love Texas so much. Sound Off: What’s your favorite thing about Texas? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: nan palmero

#RoadTrip12: Walking in Memphis

#RoadTrip12: Quick Update

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

Alex and I arrived in the land of the Delta Blues yesterday, as Marc Cohn once sang. And P.S.–––I was positive that Bruce Springsteen wrote “Walking in Memphis.”

Who knew?

In fact… ask anybody who sings that song and nine times out of ten, they’ll answer “The Boss.” How misleading.

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Two things immediately stuck out about our time in Memphis. First, the smells are ridiculous… in a good way. Barbecue, barbecue, barbecue everywhere. And second, it is hotter than a mug in that city. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun/interesting/the sunset over the Mississippi was great, but I’m not sure I ever want to go back.

Is that wrong?

On top of that, we found late yesterday that Alex’s wallet was lost/stolen. We made the discovery sometime after dinner and it was crazytown from that point out. We didn’t find it (and all of his cards are cancelled, you crazies).

Needless to say, our Memphis leg was not the best portion of the trip yet, but God is still 100% in charge and we can rest in that.

#RoadTrip12: Moving on from Atlanta

The Atlanta leg of our trip is over and I have great news.

I have found one of the best burgers in the entire country. I know that’s a big statement, but a serious burger calls for serious praise. On Thursday, Alex and I (and two other friends) ventured over to The Vortex in Little 5 Points for some good food and fellowship.

The atmosphere was interesting to say the least, but it matched the character of the neighborhood (very raw and artsy, but eclectic). We were presented with a lengthy menu of burgers and other dive bar staples, but it was the special that caught my eye–––a burger with pepper jack cheese, deep-fried jalapeños, guacamole, and a spicy mayo (in addition to the usual tomato, lettuce, etc.).

Typically, I’m not one to venture out when it comes to a hamburger (why mess with a good thing?), but I have a singular response:

Wow.

It’s tough to put into words, but this burger was everything I had hoped it would be and more: a juicy burger with a kick that was just right. If you’re looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat, head over to The Vortex (they have a location in Midtown besides Little 5 Points).

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Overall, our 2+ days in ATL were great. Besides the fact that Atlanta is just a fun city by itself, we had a great time venturing to places old and new.

On Thursday morning, we made our way to the popular Octane Coffee in Midtown West. Alex had a chai latte and I had a tea that couldn’t pronounce, all while we rubbed elbows with the hippest of hipsters. Following that, we headed over to the World of Coca-Cola and met up with some West Palm Beach friends that happened to be in town as well.

It’s possible that I found it more entertaining because I’ve never been, but I thought the World of Coke was great. It might’ve also been my caffeinated buzz from the Coca-Cola tasting room, but I can’t tell. Here’s what I do know, though: Coca-Cola tastes better when they tell you that you’re the secret ingredient… and when they give you glass-bottled Cokes at the end.

On Friday, we continued our galavanting in the Buckhead area, visiting the Lenox Square Mall, a three-story Dick’s Sporting Goods, and the beautiful traffic on 400 North.

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Alex and I are currently en route to Memphis via Birmingham and Tupelo, Mississippi. We’ll be there by early afternoon… and you know you can expect a “Walking in Memphis” post soon.

[box_success]Sound Off: We’re headed to Memphis, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio next. Where should we go and what should we do?[/box_success]

A Change of Pace, Place, and Perspective

The 2012 Quarterlife Ultimate Road Trip is officially underway.

Alex and I are currently on the MegaBus–––a double decker, low-cost express bus service–––riding around the country. The company travels to most major American cities east of Texas and we are hitching a ride. In total, it will be 24 states in 23 days.

Crazy, huh?

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While interning at a church in college, our youth pastor once said this: “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change in perspective.”

I agree one million percent.

There is power in culture shock.

I grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan, but my formative years are not like what you’d think. In my area, there were more Starbucks than black people. Case in point: I went to school with two dark-looking Indian girls and the popular black kid in the grade above me was gay––––so he acted like all of us anyway. Upon graduating high school, none of us were experts in anything other than what we knew–––our white selves.

In 2006, I moved down to Palm Beach for college, but things didn’t really improve. Sure, South Florida turned out to be the veritable mixing pot I pictured in my head, but I stayed with what was familiar. Instead of venturing out, I clung to the innards of my predominantly white, private Christian school and associated with the excessive wealth instead of the extravagant poverty.

Sometimes, you need to change of pace.

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If we, the Quarterlife Generation, want to change this culture, we need to see it first.

If we really want to be in tune with what 18-29 year old men and women need, we need to get out there and see them for ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but as a nimble twenty-something, I feel like I am wasting my gift of mobility by sitting in a Starbucks all day creating a magazine. There is so much of the world to see, and nothing but time to do it.

I am fairly blessed. I own a fledging corporation/ministry/magazine; I can travel on a moment’s notice; I’m single. The circumstances are never greater for a trip like this. We are truly free (well… except Alex, who is not single–––sorry ladies).

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So this is the trip.

Meeting people. Praying over people. Loving others. Seeing the country.

It’s time for a change in perspective, twenty-somethings. Are you ready?

[box_help]Sound Off: Tell us your thoughts about the Quarterlife Ultimate Road Trip and tell us if we’re coming to your town! Go here for more information.[/box_help]

The Luxury of Working at Taco Bell

Photo: mikebaird

A few months ago, the Denver Post featured an article on the expiration of unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits were bolstered because nearly ten percent of Americans are still unemployed, with no prospects of that number declining significantly anytime soon.

One quote from the article was especially telling. Dianne, a 47-year old human resources professional, shared her own challenge in finding a job. She searched for a job for nine months without finding a position in human resources:

I’m nervous. It means that maybe I’ll have to go down to the local Taco Bell for a job. Maybe I can get food there too.

I understand her nervousness and recognize that it can be frustrating to not find a job directly in your professional sweet spot or educational training. But, Diane’s comment continues to hang with me and agitate me for the following reasons:

  1. The slap-in-the-face she gives to all employees at fast food restaurants, as if their work is “beneath” someone like Diane.

  2. The corrosive cultural shift in our country which neglects to acknowledge that job choice is a luxury.

Reading this comment, I think about my friends in “blue collar” positions, those working in restaurants, construction sites and factories. How would they feel when reading Dianne’s comments? I think about the history of our nation. It is only within the past fifty years that (many) Americans have had the luxury of choosing their career. In the early and mid 20th century, the vast majority of Americans worked wherever they could find a job. The concept of “vocational calling” would have been a reality for only the most elite. If your dad owned a farm — you farmed. If the factory had a job opening — you applied. Job choice in our country has always been a luxury, not a right.

From a global perspective, simply having a stable job, of any sort, is a luxury as well. I think about the hundreds of millions of people around the world who would sacrifice anything for the opportunity to work at Taco Bell. A consistent paycheck, well-lit working conditions, discounted food — that would be one of a highly-coveted job in many places around the world.

Dianne made a simple comment — and one similar to comments I have undoubtedly made in the past. I also recognize I am working in a “dream vocation” currently and I do not want to undermine the challenges job layoffs and unemployment present. It’s brutal. Unemployment is rough and it would be tough for me to leave my cushy office position to go back to working in the concrete business like I did in college. But, I hope that one of the silver linings of this recession is a reminder of what “normal” looks like in the scope of the world and our nation’s history.

[box_help]Sound Off: Were Diane’s comments off-putting? Do you agree with her? Let us know in the comments.[/box_help]

Quarterlife Fast: Good Friday Celebration!

Photo from diegosalcido.

Update: Fast Completed

(I will be writing periodically to document the Quarterlife Fast/Daniel Fast and how things are going in advance of its’ culmination on Good Friday. Enjoy!)

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IT IS FINISHED! Kidding.

But seriously. We’ve made it. 21 days of intense sacrifice and searching for great spiritual growth. It moved by quickly.

Some thoughts:

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  • The fast was not what I expected. My expectation was that the fast would have me constantly in the presence of God, 24/7. Having never done this before, I was surprised to note that after the first two or three days my relative hunger vanished. From that point onward I wasn’t constantly petitioning God based on my hunger, but I did notice that my spiritual hunger increased regardless. Although the Daniel Fast had become normal, I still noticed that increasing desire for God and to be in His word. So in a way, I received my desired result but without the journey I thought should take me there. Funny how God works sometimes.
  • This random note… Besides drinking nothing but water for 21 days, my urine has been yellow throughout. Normally (and without getting too detailed), I find that the more water I drink, the clearer it is. Would this be some kind of extended detox?
  • Total weight lost: approximately 15 lbs. On day 13, I stepped on a scale inside the Publix in Palm Beach and found myself at 166 pounds. Full disclosure: I don’t typically weigh myself, so I am not sure where I started, but it was somewhere in the 180-185 pound range. In two weeks, I dropped roughly 15 pounds. Pretty nuts… and that’s with average-to-minimal physical exertion (I haven’t worked out in nine days). Also, I haven’t had a chance to weigh myself since day 13, so I will be sure to do that and report back when I post an article about…
  • Doing a modified version of the Daniel Fast immediately. Overall, I feel great. I will now definitely explore the feasibility of cutting out most dairy, limiting red meat to once every week or two, and continuing to feast on a diet of fruits and vegetables. Purely from a dietary perspective, I’m not sure there’s any way I could ever go back to a fried food-centric diet. (Except for when the first Buffalo Wild Wings in the Palm Beaches opens later this year. Oops.) Seriously though, look for a dietary post based off of the Daniel Fast within the next week.
  • I absolutely intend on… going to BurgerFi in Delray Beach tonight to celebrate. I am expecting that I will, a) love it completely, and b) projectile vomit. Tonight should be fun!

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You guys are prayer warriors. I love you, all. It’s awesome knowing that we all have support within the Quarterlife community from those who read, interact, and pray. I want to thank everyone that said they would join me in this journey, and if you didn’t, consider doing a fast yourself. I have a couple friends who will start a 10-day fresh squeezed juice fast next week… all you need to do is to target your fast and ask God for help. It’s that simple.

[box_success]Thanks for reading! If you need prayer, let us know. If you just finished your fast, or are starting a new one, we want to know how that’s going. Expect another fast next year, too, and maybe even another 10-day fast thrown in there too. We want to run after the cross and experience God for everything he’s got.[/box_success]

Quarterlife Fast: Day 13 Update

Photo from diegosalcido.

Update: Day 13

(I will be writing periodically to document the Quarterlife Fast/Daniel Fast and how things are going in advance of its’ culmination on Good Friday. Enjoy!)

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The days are flying by now. We’re onto day thirteen and the closer I grow to God, the easier this fast becomes. I hope you’re staying strong with whatever you’re fasting from, and if you aren’t, that you would consider it. Some thoughts:

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  • Traveling on a fast is difficult. I was just in Savannah and Charleston for a short period and let me tell you, it’s hard to be “on the go” with an irregular eating habit. Full disclosure: I did bring around a foam cooler full of the essentials… guac, salsa, veggies, and fruits (strawberries, bananas, blueberries, apples). I am being an expert at assembling meals/snacks on the go, though.
  • I have finally arrived at the point where I am comfortable eating fast-related food. Thirteen days in and finally there is some normality in what I eat. For the first week, I struggled to find good food on a regular basis; it was very improvisational. Now, however, I have a pretty good idea of what I can make and what is realistic. Also, remember all of that fruit I bought from Rorabeck’s? I probably ate half of it (attributable to my lessened appetite).
  • The ‘What I’m Doing For God’ side effect. This is a cool side effect: because I am willing to put my body through a very difficult fast for God, I find myself more likely to do other things to get closer to him. This is probably really trivial to most of you, but yesterday I read Psalm 62 and decided to carry a rock in my hand all day. I wanted a tangible reminder that God is the solid rock for which I stand. That’s something I would’ve likely passed on 14 days ago.
  • This fast is making the Lord more famous. I go out to eat or hang out with many of my non-Christian friends on a regular basis. As a result, I am in eating situations, whereby the topic of what I am eating comes up. Although most of them don’t quite understand it at first (assuming that fasting is an eastern religion type of thing), it’s very cool to be able to share why I am fasting and the cool things that God is showing me throughout. I’ve never had any of those people say, “Wow, you’re an idiot,” so that’s a plus. Most were very receptive to the idea.

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Keep, keep, keep praying. When you pray, we begin to see God in ways we haven’t before. Walk with Him constantly and you’ll begin to see him in the leaves, the grass, the dirt…

[box_success]Thanks for reading. Let us know how your fast is going, or if you need prayer. As always, the next entry will be incredibly random, so stay tuned.[/box_success]

Quarterlife Fast: Day 6 Update

Oranges

Photo from nejcbole.

Update: Day 6

(I will be writing periodically to document the Quarterlife Fast/Daniel Fast and how things are going in advance of its’ culmination on Good Friday. Enjoy!)

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Here we are. It’s day six of 21 and I think my body is finally beyond the “adjustment period.” It’s crazy to think that we’re practically one-third of the way through this fast (it seems like we just started). Here’s some more thoughts on the fast so far… albeit unfiltered (and slightly superficial in one area):

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  • You don’t realize how much you eat normally. Outside of the Quarterlife Fast/Daniel Fast, I have the appetite of a seven-year-old girl. Unashamed. Despite not eating a ton already, I still did find my body needing to adjust to what I was eating. Like I said from the top, I think that period of adjustment is over, but I am curious to see whether I plateau or whether my appetite shrinks even more.
  • You don’t realize how poorly you eat normally. As a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), I am honoring God more with these eating choices. Is it more honoring to fast than to not? I don’t think so… but I do believe that the Lord knows our hearts regardless. And to my earlier point, there is just something fulfilling about skipping the greasy fries, buffalo chicken, and deep-fried Twinkies.
  • I can relate more to those who are hungry. Is it the same? No. Those who are less fortunate don’t choose to go hungry, their hand is forced by way of external circumstances (poverty, etc). Again, I’m not saying that what I am doing even comes close, but I am sensing a little more empathy toward those here in America or abroad as a result.
  • This fast and the Spartacus workout are a killer combo. Holy Mackinaw. Despite my unrelenting soreness from Monday, this Spartacus workout is fantastic. So far, I haven’t seen a lack of output based on my eating choices, and the side effects are slim (maybe some I-wanna-projectile-vomit on day one, but that’s it).
  • I have an extra dimple. (On a purely superficial note…) I have noticed an immediate change as a result of fasting + the workout: slightly more abdominal definition. I haven’t been counting, but I can’t possibly be above 1500 calories on a daily basis. That puts me in a decent zone for getting leaner already, not to mention the Spartacus workout as a value-added bonus. Not a bad side effect, I suppose.

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Keep praying. Without prayer, this fast is useless. Pray that God would move in ways we’ve never seen before.

[box_success]Thanks for reading. Let us know how your fast is going, or if you need prayer. As always, the next entry will be incredibly random, so stay tuned.[/box_success]