Why I’m Drinking Only Water for 31 Days

A lot of people start off the new year with a cleanse or fast or some sort – you know, to flush out the excess of the holidays and to start a new year refreshed and renewed physically and emotionally.

Personally, I’m not a fan.

I hate fasting (not that anyone loves it), and you won’t catch me with a colon-cleansing product on this side of the century.

With that said, I approached the new year’s fasting season with a fresh idea … at least for me. Instead of just going without, I’m going without so I can give.

As an editor, I have read a lot about social justice organizations that focus on giving access to clean water to developing countries. I’ve heard that it only takes a dollar to provide this clean water – the most basic necessity of human survival – to one person for an entire year. The problem? There are a billion people who need it, and many of those live on less than a dollar a day.

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The Thing that Will Destroy the Evangelical Church

“The thing that will destroy the Evangelical Church in the next 25 years, and it will, is the decision to be comfortable with our consumerist society. We are raising our children to be consumers, not people who are concerned about the will of God in this world.” – Dr. Tony Campolo from Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

Have you checked out Advent Conspiracy, an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption? http://www.adventconspiracy.org.

To Seek the Quiet

It’s 11:09 p.m. Thursday night. Finally all is quiet, except for some gurgling from my refrigerator and the quiet whirr of the ceiling fan. After a day filled with trilling phones, competing music from three different offices, and chattering voices over the roar of air conditioning, my ears are still ringing. But now, I can slow down. I can sit in silence. I can think.

We live in a world filled with noise—and distraction. It’s a rare moment we’re allowed to steal away to somewhere quiet where our minds can rest and be refreshed. In fact, our bodies even fight it. Since constant stimulation is as close as a flip of a radio knob or buttons on a remote or cell phone, many of us give in to the temptation to keep our minds buzzing and our thoughts tightly-wound.

It’s not uncommon to look to your left and right at an intersection and see your neighbors with cell phones glued to their ears. As soon as they step into their cars, the silence compels them to grab the phone and “make use” of the time—although the calls are actually used to “pass the time.” I’m so guilty of this too.
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First Reactions to Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

The quote I have posted on my Conversant Life profile reads: "[True happiness] is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." (Helen Keller) ... I thought it was just a nice quote to post on my profile, until I read Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Now I know it's painfully true.

Let me preface this short musing about Don's new book by saying I never read Blue Like Jazz. I'll admit it. So many other people had (or it seemed like it) that book become part of the cultural consciousness for Christians. Whether you had read it or not, you knew what it was about, and how it articulated an entire worldview for an entire generation. I tried to read one of his other books after that, but couldn't get into it.

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Pocket Guide to the Hilarious

Jason Boyett is hilarious. If you met him in person, you'd never know it; he's quiet and unassuming, which I assume is rare for a Texan. But his pen packs a punch. I first met Jason over email as he was one of the original writers who contributed to RELEVANT magazine. When I worked there, RELEVANT launched a line of books, and we knew we needed Jason on our roster. Thankfully, he took us up on our offer and has been writing books ever since.

His newest endeavor is a trinity of titles packaged by Jossey-Bass: Pocket Guide to the Bible, Pocket Guide to the Afterlife and Pocket Guide to Sainthood. If you're a fan of religious humor at all, you'll appreciate Jason's witty insights into a variety of topics like near-death experiences, saintly fashion and old-fashioned smitings. 

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Leaving a Legacy

Cory was my first crush. Given the circumstances under which we were introduced, it was somewhat inevitable. I was nine years old and just discovering that boys existed. My oldest cousin was marrying the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen and they had asked me to be a junior bridesmaid in their wedding. It was the first wedding I had ever been asked to be part of, and I met Cory, who was just months older than me, the weekend of the wedding. We were being paired to walk down the aisle together.

The women gathered in the fellowship hall to make final preparations for the wedding. Careful not to catch my curls, Mom zipped up my teal green satin bridesmaid’s dress. It had puffy sleeves, a full skirt, a heart-shaped neckline and matching satin roses on the sides of the neckline that were still being sewed on just minutes before the wedding began. At the time, it was the single most glamorous stitch of fabric ever to grace my chunky, underdeveloped adolescent body.

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What do you pray for?

“It’s easy for us to pray for safety, comfort, health and wealth. But are we willing to pray for anything that will bring us closer to Christ? Even if it includes suffering?” –David Wenzel, cancer patient

Know someone facing cancer? Check out John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Cancer."

Why I Won’t Watch John & Kate Plus Eight

Shortly after my daughter Madilyn was born I heard about the wildly popular “John & Kate Plus Eight” Show. I loved watching and catching up on episodes as I played with my own baby and watched her grow. It seemed really cool to me that their twins Cara and Madelyn, were also close to our names (even Cara’s middle name is the same as mine: Nicole). I even thought about writing in to tell them about it. I got their Zondervan book for Christmas as a gift from my mom, and I shared it with my sister-in-law, who had watched the show. I liked their subtle Christian witness, and most of all, I just enjoyed watching those beautiful kids and seeing how their parents juggled the chaos.

Now, along with the rest of America, I’m aware of the controversy surrounding the show and its players. I’m saddened for what it’s become, and I’ve made a decision not to watch the show anymore. And it’s not because I’m too good, or that I think they’re bad. The fact is simply that the show is no longer what it once was. And it didn’t get that way overnight. I remember watching last season and feeling of uncomfortable. I should have been discerning enough to realize things were going downhill fast. My personality tends to avoid conflict, and as this family deals with their demons in front of all of America, I’m content with sticking to taped episodes of “Ace of Cakes” and cartoons on Noggin. I just don’t want to be part of the problem. Some of my friends are praying for this family, and I commend them for that.

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Proving God

ChristianityToday.com writers Gregory Fung and Christopher Fung explore results from a prayer study released a couple of years ago and their implications as it deals with faith and prayer. The study, along with others like them, attempt to measure differing results from a group of heart patients who receive prayer and a control group which doesn’t.

The study found that the prayed-for group actually fared worse than the control group. The CT article, “What Do Prayer Studies Prove?,” draws some positive analysis from the study’s findings, including:

  • The study actually supports the Christian worldview, the writers say. “The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God's blessings. In other words, God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers.”
  • God appears inclined to heal and bless as many as possible and supernaturally intervenes and disrupts the nature of the universe to do it, whether they acknowledge it or not. 
  • Our obsession with whether prayer works is the wrong question. “We know prayer works,” the writers say. “The real question is, are we prepared for God's answer?”
  • God is eager to answer our prayers, and it has little to do with how correctly we say them or how fine-tuned our orthodoxy is. “This ought to give us confidence to act, believe, and work alongside the good and generous King, who calls us to advance his kingdom, bring healing to the world, and pray.”
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7 Ways to Expand Your Perspective

Part of pursuing a focused life of purpose may include an expansion of your perspective. Expanding your worldview may help you find your niche. Here are some ways to make your world a little larger.

Host a foreign exchange student. Not only will you help make someone’s dream come true, you and your family will learn just as much as your host student, as you learn to communicate with each other and learn about his/her country’s customs.

Eat local. Eat at a restaurant that offers locally grown food, or start to grow your own. The average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles, according to CleanOurAir.com. Eating locally not only has health benefits, but will also take you one step closer to understanding the affect our choices have on the world around us.

Visit a different church. It’s hard to grow in your own faith without discovering it for yourself. Part of that journey is to discover what others believe and how they practice it. Visiting another’s place of worship might shed light not only on what you believe, but how it feels to be a visitor. Are you aware of visitors to your own congregation? How are they treated?

Volunteer. Nothing puts your problems in perspective faster than helping another with his/her problems. Volunteering is on the rise since the recession, and with the mounting economic needs, opportunities abound to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Read the BBC. While it doesn’t have to be the BBC, reading a non-American source of news can help put our own news in context. Make sure the news you consume doesn’t only deal with what’s happening on our home turf, but the world around us.

Hang out with people who don’t look like you. Many of us find it more comfortable to talk with and hang out with people who are like us – and look like us. If you don’t have a regular opportunity to befriend or at least have conversations with others who are from different ethnic backgrounds than yours, put yourself in situations that will. Take a free class from the library or visit a lecture or community event.

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Cara Davis is a writer, editor and the former editorial director for Relevant Media Group. During the past year she has been on a journey of finding a renewed focus for her faith and her life.

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