I've got a week more to go before I can once again reach for that customary cup of morning java.
That's because I dealt myself in on my church's annual, first-of-the-year Daniel fast, which began on Jan. 10 and ends Jan. 31.
With the Daniel fast, we engage in a partial fast for 21 days, eating like the Biblical personality for whom the fast is named ... Daniel, the ancient Israelite prophet who at that time was in Persian captivity. To draw closer to God and be more keen on what God wanted to impart to him, Daniel engaged in an eating regimen free of meat and wine.
Scriptures come from Daniel 1:12 — "'Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,' Daniel said" — and Daniel 10:1-3: "In the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel ... had another vision. He understood that the vision concerned events certain to happen in the future — times of war and great hardship. When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed" (New Living Translation).
On the Daniel fast, fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains and limited oil are allowed. Bread has to be yeast-free. No animal products. No sugar. No refined, processed or deep-fried stuff. No chocolate. And, because Daniel indicated that he drank only water, we can drink only water. No wine or booze or anything fermented.
I can give up the aforementioned. It's the coffee ban that's the toughie. Even decaf is disallowed, according to the Q&A accompanying our fast guide.
I've done several popular eating plans, including Phase I of Dr. Ian Smith's Fat Smash plan. Phase I, similar to the Daniel fast, also outlaws coffee. But I always talked myself into making an exception, happily adding liquid Stevia and sugar-free flavored creamer to that cup of rich brown nectar.
On Jan. 3, I resumed vegan eating, but continued to enjoy coffee until presented with an invitation to partake in the Daniel fast, along with the question: Do you love God more than the food and drink you're being asked to give up?
If the answer is yes, the inevitable response is, "Then you can step back from it for God's sake for 21 days. Get with it, Buttercup!"
But ... but ... coffee is almost synonymous with "journalist." (OK, well, I seem to remember stereotypes of us chain-smoking and keeping whiskey flasks tucked inside our desk drawers in the olden days, but that's out.) We use coffee for clearer heads, to swift-kick ourselves into productivity.
"Of course, there are other benefits to drinking coffee besides boosting your energy," we're informed via an article at lifehack.org. "It can also reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, gallstones, cancer, strokes and other health problems. Plus, caffeine can also make certain pain killers, like aspirin, more effective."
Well, it has its neggies, too. It can elevate blood pressure, and I need elevated blood pressure like the Serenity Prayer needs to be printed on a beer mug. It interrupts sleep patterns, and I already sleep like the princess "sleeping" on the pea in the Hans Christian Andersen story ... without the royal status, without all the mattresses and featherbeds, and the pea about the size and texture of a jackfruit. Coffee can cause dehydration and vitamin loss. It does no favors for my acid reflux. And it "may cause auditory hallucinations," according to that lifehack article. (Dang! No wonder I keep hearing the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol knocking!)
There's no winning: Turning one's back on a coffee habit can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability (which I truly don't need more of), anxiety and depression.
I can do this, I told myself. I can give up the coffee and show it has no power over me. I won't miss that strong, distinctive smell that makes me come alive in the morning when I load ground Folger 1850 coffee into the machine, pour water in and hit the On button. I turn my head when my friend Pam and I go to church on Sunday and they're still serving coffee to the non-Daniel fasters ... including Pam, who is convinced that without coffee, she's straight-up Walking Dead. I can choose not to look at Starbucks whenever I cruise Little Rock's Broadway or North Little Rock's John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
So far so good.
I have also managed not to whine about coffee during prayer. For those of us who pray, refraining from whining is a good start to/major component of an optimum prayer life. Especially in our here-and-now.
Now, Oh Lord, if you could make 25 pounds disappear during this fast ...