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Following Faith
Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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For me, it's Ramadan Round II — more food for the soul (if not the belly)

It's afternoon on the first day of Ramadan, and I'm already parched and hungry, having started my fast at sunrise.

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It makes me realize yet again how impressive it is that millions of Muslims worldwide can forgo food and drink from dawn to dusk on some of the longest days of the year. Even some Olympic athletes are willing to let faith trump performance in London.

I am neither an athlete nor a Muslim, but have experienced just a few of the spiritual benefits that come from this Islamic pillar after following my own little Ramadan experiment in January (when the days were much, much shorter).

Out of solidarity with my Muslim friends and my own stubborn determination, I am going try yet again (gulp) to follow some of the practices throughout this month.

Here's my plan:

• I will fast from sunup (which is about 6 a.m.) until 5 p.m. on all of the 30 days and until sunset at least once a week. (I already have a couple of days where I will have a conflict, but will make those up later as Muslims do.)

• Pray fives times a day.

• Read the Quran nightly (in January, I read nearly half; I hope to finish the rest this time).

• Give to the poor.

* Do good deeds.

• Avoid anger, irritation, grumbling or otherwise negative emotions and interactions.

As I mentioned last time I tried this, that last requirement was among the most life-changing. For one month, I didn't have a single fight with my husband or kids (some close calls, but I was able to pull back). What I discovered then was that, by some spiritual alchemy, I didn’t have to work at controlling my anger. I didn’t even feel it.

Sadly, just like most New Year's resolutions, changing patterns and habits permanently is nearly impossible. Since then, I have had a less-than-perfect score in that area.

So here I am again, trying to draw strength and faith from my Muslim mentors.

I am not alone.

"I’m an Anglo-Mohammedan, a Christian who believes in the [Quran]," Bruce Lawrence, an acclaimed Islamic scholar, told my fellow religion writer, Douglas Todd, at the Vancouver Sun. "Everyone who is deeply into religion often draws on more than one source."

Plus, I am told, that a group of Utah Mormons plans to do the daylong fast with their Muslim neighbors on the first Sunday of August, a monthly ritual when Latter-day Saints typically go without food or water for about 24 hours.

Eating dinner after 9 p.m., though, is a tad unusual for Latter-day Saints.

I'll let you know how they do, and I'll periodically report my own successes and failures this month.

So begins my Ramadan Quest II. Here's hoping I think more about deity and devotion than grilled chicken and corn on the cob.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

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