Category Archives: Spiritual

Why I don’t believe in God

Happy kid playing with toy airplane

To say I believe in God makes God seem like a magical, imaginative entity I can call upon when I need a wish to be granted. It feels like putting God in the same category as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and leprechauns.

“Believing in” God is analogous to me saying I believe in my husband. It doesn’t make any sense because he’s a real dude. I know my husband, and I live and engage my marriage in a way that both recognizes and honors my husband’s existence, not to mention my own. The same goes for God. I know Him, and I live and engage my life in a way that both acknowledges and honors God’s presence in my life. To say I believe in God is simply an intellectual truth: “I believe in God. I don’t believe in the tooth fairy.”

I know John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But merely believing in God isn’t enough to experience God’s full and real power–to experience spiritual truth. Believing is only the first step (albeit a necessary step!) to knowing God.

How does one “know” God? I have gotten to know God through knowing his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both God’s son and God himself in human form. God wants us to know him so badly that he made himself human so we could reach him so as to be saved by Him. Why? Because God is madly in love with us. He adores you. He adores me. Equally and differently. It’s similar to how you love your children or how your mom and/or dad love you. Parents want nothing more than their kids to know how much they are loved and valued. Same with God for you, only the love is bigger and a billion times more intense.

I digress.

How do you normally get to know someone? By being in a relationship, right?  The way we go from simply knowing of someone to really knowing them is by getting into a relationship with them–talking, hanging out, learning each other’s stories, figuring out what each other likes and dislikes, and learning the core character of each other’s heart. It’s no different with Jesus. You can hang out with Jesus by spending time praying and reading the Bible. It feels awkward at first, but the more time you spend the less uncomfortable it becomes.

I know the Bible gets a bad rap, unfortunately, and that doesn’t help. It has the stigma of being a big boring book of controversial rules and regulations. I personally haven’t experienced this in my time with the Bible. God’s Word is the place where I learn who Jesus is, what He believes, what his backstory is, how He lived (and still lives), and His promises to me. Not only that, through Jesus I learn who I am as God’s daughter.  The trick with the Bible is to ignore the world’s negative commentary and just read it between you and Jesus only. Seek the help of trusted scholars and Christian friends who share their personal experiences with Christ with you. For me, Hannah Hurnard and C.S. Lewis are my go-to scholars who help me understand the Bible and God better.

In learning about Jesus and understanding how He loves me, I have fallen in love with Him.  He has yet to fail me; Jesus is the most loyal and faithful friend I’ve ever had. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more clearly I hear God’s voice and experience the power of His presence in my life. (I’ve recorded my experiences with God all over this blog. Just type “God” into the search bar you see at the right of your screen.) So deeply do I love Him that I seek to live my life in a way that pleases and honors Him. Not because “I’m supposed to” according to how Christian culture teaches, but because I want to out of respect and gratitude for Jesus and for continued connection to him. Think of how you love your most precious people and how/why you would do anything for them. That’s the same response I have for my love of God–it’s how God wants us to feel and respond in our relationship with him.

I don’t believe in God. He’s “realer” than that for me. I know God; I love Him; I follow Him; I experience Him; I hear Him; I obey his voice. I encourage you that if you believe in God but aren’t experiencing His presence, go deeper. He’s calling out for you to be in relationship with him. Meet Jesus and you’ll get to know God. Simple belief turns into deep and faithful love that is far more exciting and freeing than… magical unicorns with rainbow powers.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:18

If you feel shy or clumsy with prayer, I recommend Prayers that Avail Much by Germaine Copeland. It’s a book full of prayers for every prayer concern you can think of plus Scripture to help you learn and navigate the Bible. I love it!

The girl who paid for my groceries

Basket of Groceries

As my sweet daughter finished unloading our groceries onto the conveyor belt, I rummaged around my oversized purse to find my wallet. In a sharp sting of realization, I knew my search was futile. I had left my wallet back at home. I pictured my bright orange wallet resting on the living room floor next to my laptop, right where I left it the night before after ordering the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen.

“Oh no,” I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my seven-year-old asked.

“I left my wallet at home,” I said, scanning the load of groceries on the counter. “Ugh. I can’t believe I did that.”

“Uh oh, mommy. What are we going to do?”

“We’re just going to have to tell the checkout lady the truth and come back another day. Ugh. What a waste.”

My gut felt heavy and my spirit frustrated.

The young girl ahead of me finished her transaction and the checker grabbed the first item of our stuff.

“Um. Wait just a sec, ma’am,” I held my hand over the food to stop her, “I don’t have my wallet. I left it at home; all this will have to go back. I am so sorry.”

The young girl before me, who looked maybe no more than 18 or 19 years old, (and who I figured was off for an afternoon at the pool with her freshly purchased Poptarts, Cheez-its, Peach Snapple, and two apples), promptly stepped back over to the check stand: “Can I buy your groceries?”

Erm… blank stare.

“What? No, no. You don’t need to do that. That is so nice of you. That’s okay, though.” I said, dumbfounded.

She looked at me square in the eye, “Please, I want to.”

I had no words and the swell of emotion in my chest was threatening to push tears out of my eyes. “If you really want to. If you’re sure,” I responded weakly.

“Yes. Please let me. Go ahead…,” she made a nod to the checkout lady, who was clearly just as surprised and touched as I was.

As the items beeped through, I stood there feeling helpless and humbled and bewildered and thankful. This teen girl was buying my groceries. So I did what any mom would do in this situation, I began to cry.

I felt a light stroke on my arm; I looked down at my daughter who looked up at me with her toothless grin. “It’s okay, mommy.”

The teen girl (I didn’t even think to get her name), smiled and repeated, “Yeah. It’s okay. No need to cry.”

I couldn’t help it. I was so moved and flabbergasted. As the bill pushed the $40 mark, I turned and said, “Are you sure you want to do this, it might be expensive.”

“Yep. Not a worry.”

The bill was $42 and change. She handed over her Visa and it was done. I gave this young woman a hug of thanks and offered her blessings. Then she walked away and was gone.

The checker looked at me with a big smile. “Hey, it’s okay,” she said, “It happens. We forget our wallets. No biggie. Just be happy.”

“Okay, thank you.”

As I drove home in silence, I went to God in prayer of thanks. But then fell into the following conversation with Him:

“Why did you do that, Lord? I don’t deserve having my groceries paid for. I don’t need the help like others do.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love.

love“But I feel like I took a blessing away from someone who really needed it.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love. My love is unconditional. 

“How would you like me to pay it forward? If I receive a blessing, I should bless others too.”

How do you know I wasn’t blessing you because of how you’ve already blessed others?

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel like I deserve this, Lord.”

Let Me love you.

“But…”

Let Me love you.

I had prayed to God early this same morning, as I do everyday, for a wise and humble heart.

And I waited, as I do every day, for humiliation… to be humiliated.

Today I learned the difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation brings shame, and God promises we won’t ever be brought to shame. Grace, an overflowing of undeserved favor, brings humility. I was humbled in a gentle yet powerful way… I have money to buy my groceries and even groceries for others, except today. Today I had nothing. It was literally by the grace of God, the Spirit prompting humble love in a fellow human–a teen no less–that I was able to go home with my groceries. He’s teaching me how to accept grace. To develop a humble heart, I have to learn how to accept grace. I don’t deserve it. I don’t earn it. I don’t need to pay it back. It’s a no-strings-attached gift. In letting Him love me through His grace, I experience the humility I desire.

This is how God works, friends! This is how awesome His love is for us.

Let Him love you.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

God's Presence is Undeniable

Nearly 5000 counted dead in Nepal. Massacre killings of Christians in Kenya. Orphaned and starving children in multiple countries. Riots in Baltimore.

My pain seems petty at best.

Lord, I don’t even know if I should bother trying to talk to you. Can you even see me in the midst of the dark around here? Forgive me for my selfishness in needing to cling to you right now. You have countless in crisis; I am not in crisis. I trust you have heard my prayers for the hurting, lost, broken, lonely, scared, and angry. I don’t trust that the prayers for myself matter, so I don’t pray them. I don’t really need anything. Just You. Your presence to reassure me that even though the world is falling apart You are not falling away from me.

///

Leanne, go outside.

His invitation is undeniable. “Okay, but only for a minute. I am tired.”

I know.

Stepping outside, the view from the vista upon which my balcony sits is breathtaking.  The kind of breathtaking where I simultaneously suck in air yet spend air whispering, “Wow!”Viewfromthebalcony

“It’s beautiful, Lord.”

Take it in. Let go for a moment and enjoy this.

I lean my arms on the balcony railing, resting my chin on my hands. I breath in deeply and exhale, letting the tension deflate from my body.

“Lord, I am so tired. I could fall asleep here. The sun is warm on my skin. Thank you.”

Sit. Rest.

FeetonBalconyI pull up the chair behind me and sit. Settling in low, I raise my feet to the balcony railing and let my head fall back, resting it on the back of the chair.

Close your eyes.

The darkness behind my eyes blocks my sight and turns up my other senses. Afternoon sun blankets my face and soaks through my jeans.

“This is nice.”

What do you hear?

“I hear the river. It’s rushing… it sounds like white noise. White noise blocks out the world noise. I can hear You, Lord.”

What do you see?

My eyes focus on the black behind my eyelids. Only it isn’t black. “I see orange and yellow with moving sparks. Brightness from the sun absorbing the dark. My mind’s eye captures what sight cannot ever see. I see You.”

A slight breeze sends a chill over my skin. The brightness behind my eyes goes gray, evidence that clouds are moving in.

“Lord, I’m cold. I should go inside.”

Wait. Not yet.

Like turning up the dial on the thermostat, heat and light spread again upon my face and arms. My jeans are hot to the touch. My skin prickles in goosebumps, responding to the certainty that God just wrapped His arms around me. His presence in the warmth enveloping my body is undeniable.

“Thank you, Father.”

Open your eyes.

I open my eyes just as a blanket of gray washes out the sun and carries in a chilly breeze.

“Lord, it’s cold.”

Go inside. Sleep. It’s okay.

///

I don’t have to see God with my eyes to know He’s with me.

I don’t have to hear God’s voice with my ears to know He’s talking to me.

I don’t have to feel God’s fingers on my skin to know He’s touching me.

In a world that is falling apart and needs God more than ever, He’s here… with the dying, the lost, the broken, the angry. But also with you and with me. There is no pain or request that is too petty for God, no matter how much devastation the world is facing. You still matter in the midst of the world’s tragedies.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

Side note: I did go inside to sleep, and I woke an hour later to the biggest most beautiful hail storm I’ve ever experienced:

Hailstorm2 Hailstorm

Dear Friend, What is it about God…?

Dear Friend,

What is is about God that makes you so mad? The mere mention of His name causes your shoulders to tense, and your fists to curl, and your mouth to spit words of hate.

What is is about God that makes you so skeptical? The mere mention of His name causes indignant doubt and the passionate desire to prove His non-existence.

What is is about God that makes you so irritated? The mere mention of His name causes you to turn your back, to tune out your heart, to question the intention of the Believer.

What is it about God that makes it easier to believe in the universe, to believe in coincidence, to believe in “just meant to be”–all of which are equally unseen and void of visible proof and human explanation. Why is God so much more intensely unfathomable than those other things to which we have no clear answer?

I ask not to challenge, but to simply ask because I don’t understand.

The harsh heart, the angry words, the indifferent spirit towards a God who has shown undeniable presence and wielded great power in my life is crushing to my heart.

Father holding daughter in arms at the beachImagine a tiny daughter who adores her father, who grasps her father’s hand and looks up at him with adoring eyes and sweetly requests, “Carry me, daddy. I am so tired.” She asks because her heart knows that her father will lean down and scoop her up, holding her close in the strength and safety of his arms. She knows because he’s proven time and again that anytime she needs him, he’s there. And when she’s securely held high above the terrain that has made her so tired, she rests, leaning her head upon his shoulder and falling asleep in the peace of his love for her.

Now, look at that peaceful little girl and tell her that her father doesn’t exist.

Tell her the safety, rest, and love she’s feeling right now is imaginary and she was crazy to even ask to be carried. Look into her eyes and spit words fury that this father is nothing but a figment of her imagination and she should never speak of or rely upon this so-called father again. Tell her that the pressure to live a life of happiness, peace, and security lies completely upon her– upon her abilities, her intelligence, and her willingness to follow the harsh expectations of the world. You tell this little girl that if she isn’t finding happiness and fulfillment it’s because she isn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough, and savvy enough to make it in this world. Tell her that the key to finding purpose in her life is to work hard as hard as she can and if she gets tired, sick, or disabled, well then tough luck. She isn’t cut out to make it in this world. Her future is hopeless.

You tell this little one that the father she knows so well and with whom she pleads to carry her has never and will never lift her from the terrain that makes her so tired.

Imagine how heartbroken this little child would be.

20130909_134855

In the eyes of the world I am just another woman. In the eyes of my Father, as my child is His, so am I His daughter.

I am that daughter of God. I am God’s child who looks up and reaches out for my Father’s hand, sometimes for the sake of my own tiredness and always for the sake of others’. I see you, friend, who is angry, skeptical, irritated, and unbelieving, as my brother or sister. It’s okay if you don’t believe. But I do. Please be careful with your words. Words are powerful and words meant to hurt… do.

Your words, however, won’t ever shake my faith. I could give you my testimony if you’d like, but it’s hard if God is so unwelcome to your ears. Would you even listen to me? My intention would never be to convert you because that isn’t my job. As Christian I am simply to share how much He loves you by being transparent about how He’s shown his love for me (despite my brokenness)–about all the times He’s scooped me up when I have been so tired.

I wish and I pray that you would have the experience of our Father scooping you up in Love because I assure you, He will and does. But I dare ask, if you won’t even allow the mention of His name to penetrate your ears, how will you ever accept even the possibility of Him as a Father to enter your life?  I wish you could give Him a chance (even in your skepticism)–to spend some time learning about who Jesus was/is for yourself. He’s more real than the universe and so much more powerful than coincidence.

There’s no doubt God is incomprehensible. His omnipotent power is beyond human sense and control. He seems scary and unsafe, but I assure you it’s broken people and the darkness threaded through this world that is scary and unsafe. God is a father who loves his children and wants nothing more than to protect you– to lift you high above the wearisome terrain of this life and give you rest.

That is what I believe to my core. It’s okay if you don’t, I just kindly ask that you please be careful with your words against what you cannot see or understand.

Much love and In His Peace,

Leanne

 

 

Heading into the Desert

Mountain on sunsetThere is a story about a woman named Much Afraid who follows her best friend, the Chief Shepherd, to the High Places. The High Places, which is a real place here on earth known as the Kingdom of Love or the Heavenly realm, are represented by glorious mountains glimmering with the beauty of a new day’s rose-golden sunrise kissing the pure-white snow covered peaks.

As Much Afraid traverses the journey to these mountains, she runs into all sorts of hardships and trials, often causing her doubt of whether she should have followed the Chief Shepherd in the first place and if he could really be trusted to get her to the High Places as he promised.

There’s a scene where her path comes to an end, and the only other path available actually leads into the opposite direction–away from the mountains. Confused, she cries out for the Chief Shepherd’s help.

“Where shall I go? The only direction available leads away from the mountains. Surely you don’t mean for me to go down that path.”

Indeed. He did.

Not only did that path lead in the opposite direction, but it lead right into the desert. As you can imagine, Much Afraid is horrified and dismayed. After traveling all that way and through the trouble she’d experienced so far, to now journey away from the mountains was more than a little disheartening… and her trust in her friend was obviously put to the test.

“Do you trust me, Much Afraid? Do you trust that I will lead you to the High Places as I promised?”

Hinds Feet

Even if you aren’t into God, if you are a writer and/or lover of stories, this is one of the best allegories ever written.

At the risk of spoiling the whole book, Much Afraid does indeed make it to the High Places, with many more detours. And when she arrives… well, I’ll let you read what happens.

I was so inspired by this story last summer that I prayed the Lord would take me on the very same journey to the High Places–to make me a citizen of the Kingdom of Love and to give me a new name. My name is not Much Afraid, but rather Much Anxiety. 🙂

As I have been recovering from anorexia, my therapy team has recently deemed me well enough to begin participating in a support group. Actually two: one is a meal-therapy group where we eat as a group and therapize through the experience; the other is a simply a support group. While evaluating the days and times of these groups, I realized that my therapy would actually be increasing as I would still be seeing my dietitian and therapist as I am now, plus the groups. Not only that but the intensity is amping up… meal-therapy? I cannot imagine anything more uncomfortable! I’d rather eat a plate of Lima beans. I hate Lima beans.

Color me confused, because I am healing. Isn’t therapy supposed to become less and easier as one recovers? Not only that, but the addition of these two groups (for the next eight weeks) will strain my daily schedule as I consider them in conjunction with normal family life and kidlet-activities.

Surely, God did not mean for me to go down this path.

I took the situation back to God and was like, “What do you want me to do? Do you really want me to engage in more therapy… engage in a schedule that will/could potentially cause me more stress and potentially trigger me in my disorder? Maybe I should just do one group. Which session do you want me to go to?”

Desert

“… in all the world only one thing matters: to do the will of the One she followed and loved, no matter what it involved or cost.”

All of a sudden, startling as popping balloons inside a hushed library and clear as the sun after a brutal storm, came the words and vision of Much Afraid’s plight the day the Chief Shepherd confirmed she was to go in the opposite direction.

My heart fell into my stomach and my legs got weak underneath me: “Oh no. You are sending me in the opposite direction. Though I am recovering, you are sending me into more and more-intense therapy. There is so much work to be done.”

Now,  I must also tell you that just last week I had asked God where in my journey I was… to give me a sign or clue that showed me what part of my journey resembled Much Afraid’s. Usually I can tell, but lately I haven’t been able to. Call me crazy, if you haven’t yet already, but I believe I got my answer.

While my initial response was similar to Much Afraid’s–horrified and dismayed–I actually take comfort and find joy in four things:

1) There are really cool things that happened for Much Afraid in the desert.

2) I can hear God’s voice so clearly.

3) God is answering my prayers/whining–constantly, even though I don’t always like the answer.

4) Much Afraid makes it to the High Places, and it is as awesome as the Chief  Shepherd promises.

I find myself today on my knees, humbly laying down, yet again, my will (and understanding) to follow my Chief Shepherd in what feels like the opposite direction–into the desert of more waiting and learning and refining. As Much Afraid says at her altar in the desert, “I am thy little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.”

I will close with this: The Chief Shepherd says to Much Afraid so tenderly “Always go forward along the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.

So here I go, into more therapy… straining through my days for the next eight-weeks and willing to honor what comes for the glory of my Chief Shepherd.

And the Lord says, “You shall see what I will do…” (Exodus 6:1)