Our year of exploring Christian food practices hasn't unfolded exactly according to plan. Life circumstances have made it challenging but I'm back in the saddle this month with another immersion experience of faithful food practices.

So far our family has observed the Orthodox Advent and Lenten fasts. We followed Kosher food laws for a month, and now I'm a week into observing the Ramadan fasting ritual of abstaining from all food and drink from dawn to sunset for 30 days.

You may have noticed the other experiences were family efforts, whereas this one is a solo venture. When I proposed observing the Ramadan fast to Nancy and the girls they were a little baffled. Nancy said, “I thought we were learning about Christian food practices. What does Ramadan have to do with that?”

This is a great question and it's hard to anticipate what the lessons might be, but when it comes to spiritual food practices, Ramadan is the most prominent and most practiced of them all. It intrigues me that of the religious traditions that have a common origin in Abraham, Jews have the kosher food laws, Muslims have Ramadan and Halal, but the Christian faith of today has little left of its historic food practices. I hope that exploring and experiencing the Ramadan fast might help me uncover my own faith's food rules. Go here for more on my little thesis about Christian food practices or to this CNN Belief Blog article that has more background on our family's journey.

Along with wondering about faith connections, Nancy also pointed out that this is the best time of year to feast on garden vegetables and abundant fruits at the farmers' market and with sunrise at 5:30 a.m. and sunset at 8:30 a.m. in Spokane, it's about the worst time of year to try out such a rigorous fast. She's got a point but I've decided to venture out anyway. I'm aware of the inconvenient timing of it all, but I figure I've got it easy compared to the folks in Fairbanks, Alaska where the sun will set tonight at 11:19 p.m..

Here are some observations so far:

I can't emphasize enough that the Ramadan fast is rigorous. During the whole Orthodox Lenten fast there where a few days in which we refrained from food and drink all day until we received the sacrament at the evening service at 7:00 p.m.. I remember those as long and difficult but Ramadan is 30 straight days of this most rigorous practice. The first few days were a major shock to the system.

The hardest part is not the waiting till 8:33 p.m. to eat, it's trying to get up before 5:21. I keep setting my alarm clock to 4:30 a.m. with the hopes that I can eat something to start the day, but so far my desire for sleep is winning out over my desire for food.I have a new respect for Muslims who observe it year after year. It is an expression of great commitment and restraint.

I have a new appreciation for the prohibition against public eating during the day in most Muslim countries. Watching the rest of the family eat greasy french fries, ketchup covered cheeseburgers, finished off with huckleberry ice cream at the Ram in Deer Park has to be low point for me so far.

This fast is different from any I've attempted because it doesn't have any restrictions on what can be eaten, it just specifies when the food can be eaten. This lends itself to a feast and famine rhythm that's taken some getting used to, mostly on the feasting side of the equation. For example, I ate three Creamsicles the other night for dessert which has led to a new Craig Goodwin life rule: two Creamsicles is more than enough. (Also, please don't tell my daughters I ate three Creamsicles. They tend to be a little possessive of anything in our freezer that you can buy from an ice-cream truck).

I stepped on the scale this morning, just curious about the effects of this fast on my weight, and I was shocked to see that I've lost 10 pounds. I guess if this doesn't work out as a spiritual practice it may have some health benefits.

I'm just starting to learn about Ramadan, but I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with weight loss and Creamsicles. I'm hopeful that I'll learn some great lessons along the way, especially on my planned trips to the local Islamic Center in Spokane Valley for their Saturday evening community meals. If you're in Spokane I'd love to have you join me for the visits.

8 Comments

  1. Tracy Simmons

    Craig, you’ve inspired me. Every year as Ramadan approaches I tell myself I’m going to fast with my Muslim brothers and sisters, and the I shy away from the idea….

  2. Rabia Chaudry

    Sending love and support your way from across the country! As a Muslim I’m humbled that our brothers and sisters of other faiths will voluntarily enter this journey in solidarity, or to understand, our spiritual traditions. May our fasting elevate our spirits over our bodies, and our bodily hunger and thirst transform to a hunger and thirst for the Divine!

    All the best and warm regards,

    Rabia

  3. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    I am very happy to see someone from a different faith joining us in our spiritual journey, your story is a real boost to the muslim community in Spokane in this blessed month! Please also join us for the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan.

  4. Craig, as far as Christian dietary beliefs, are you considering those of the Seventh Day Adventists, or the LDS faith? (LDS = no alcohol, coffee, tea (herbal is OK), tobacco; emphasize consuming herbs, fruit, grain; eat meat sparingly; once a month fast two meals and donate the money not spent on those meals to the poor/needy – fast also for spiritual purposes.)

  5. Diane,

    Yes, we have plans to experience and explore the Seventh Day Adventist practices as well. I know less about the LDS, but I think that’s worth looking into. One of my core questions going into this is how do Christians who don’t have a strong tradition of food practices, which at this point is most, navigate issues around food through the lens of faith, and take advantage of the powerful role that food choices can make in spiritual formation. I’m interested in any food and faith practices that are active and alive in faith communities.

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