Tag Archives: Jesus

Why I don’t believe in God

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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!

Why being a Christian makes me tired

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus

If Jesus gives rest then why am I so tired?

Lately I have noticed an underlying, general message that Christians need to be doing better: Loving deeper. Serving more. Putting faith into action. Going where Jesus goes. The call for action doesn’t seem willy-nilly; there’s plenty of Scripture to back up the instruction. Not to mention, there is our messy, broken world filled with hurting people; the need for Jesus’ love is dire. Love is action and there isn’t enough. Since I am a Christian, I take this call to love better–be better seriously. If we need to be better, then I need to be better.

With a load of desire on my back to please the Lord, and a side pouch of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough in the first place, I seek out where the needs are and I go and I do the work. Trying to be better. Trying to learn more. Trying to love deeper. Trying to be more like Jesus. Not just out in the world with hurting people, but also in my personal life as a wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter.

Consequently, I often have a very full calendar with things to do, people to visit, meetings to attend. If I see a bit of white space in the schedule, I fill it in because it seems wrong to have free time. Or more accurately, I could be using that free time to be serving… “doing better.” While I am “resting,” I could be emailing the girl at church who was struggling last week and offering some words of encouragement. Since I have the white space, I might as well volunteer to make that flier for the fundraiser. Since Thursday is a free night at my house, I could serve at the homeless shelter. Since that church event is happening in a couple of months, I could fill in all the white space with helping organize it… if if feels like too much, well, at least the commitment is only temporary.

Have you ever said, “Things will settle down when this, that or the other thing is over”? I have, too often. The problem is things never settle down because the white space returns and we fill it in again… overloading the schedule over and over again.

As I begin to wear out from being overwhelmed by the doing, I start hearing a conflicting message from my trusted Christian friends and leaders: “You are enough.” “All God wants is you.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “Take care of yourself.” “Just be.”

Well, now I am just confused. And tired.

I went to God with my confusion: If I am supposed to be doing better, loving more, being more like Jesus (of whom I will never be), then how am I possibly “enough”? I am tired, but I am called (and I desire) to go out and use the gifts you gave me to serve others.

He reminded me of THE most important lesson I learned in anorexia recovery: Ignore the voices in culture and listen only for His voice.  While the “be-better/do-more-for-God-and-here’s-how” messages are loud, very few encourage “listen for God to tell you what to do, where to serve, and how to love.”

There are things I want to do for God and things Christian culture expects me to do for God… none of which God has asked me to do for God. It’s when I engage in those things I assume I “should”  or “could” do because it makes sense in serving the Lord that I get completely overwhelmed. I want to discern between the call of God and the call of Christian culture. The only way to know where God is calling me is to spend time with Him in prayer and hear his voice.

He has given me work to do and the gifts and talents to do that work. The only things He’s called me to right now is to minister to my family and to serve in the mental health ministry as he instructs. Not to mention, to follow His lead each day with the encounters he orchestrates with other people. That’s it. And it’s plenty! And it’s good!

And guess what? When we say “we need to do better,” it devalues all that we have already done. God isn’t sitting on His throne with his arms crossed saying, “All the stuff you’ve done is fine, but you need to be doing better. Look at what you aren’t doing.” Nope. He’s holding us in his arms saying “I love you. Good job! Hey, let Me help make this work easier for you so you don’t get so tired, okay? In fact, I have something different for you to do.”

Being a Christian makes me tired when I am busy doing what I think I should in order to be better. Being with God gives me energy, direction, and rest in order to do the work He needs me to do. Never will He over load my plate and never will he tell me “It’s not enough. Do better.”

Exposing the heart of all that matters

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In my last post, I lamented about how God is asking me to surrender my perfectionism. It turns out that I am not really a perfectionist, rather perfectionism is a shield I built to ward off feelings of shame when I’m just being me.

Using my experience at the Shattering Stigma conference, I told you that I wasn’t prepared. I gave my presentation without notes–without organizing my “stuff” into a presentable and tidy speech with bullet points.

I lied (without realizing it).

I was prepared. I was prepared because I had prayed, sought words and ideas through Scripture, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. God had prepared my heart for the day. I gave a presentation from my heart but my trust was fully immersed in notes that didn’t exist. If God lives in my heart, then I can trust God will shine through me–not my notes. Or PowerPoint. Or anything else I squeeze nice and neat into a box.

This is what I was trying to say but failed to make clear that point. I apologize.

But guess what? While this is a very valuable lesson in spiritual growth for me and an incredible step in my relationship with Christ, none of this is about me.

Did you catch the platform upon which God was teaching me? Shattering Stigma with Stories: Mental Health and the Church. He placed me with a group of other people at an event where the whole point is to be 100% vulnerable, raw, and transparent about how not perfect life is.

This conference was not about me and losing my shield of perfectionism. This conference was about shattering the stigma that shields the community from connecting with those living with mental illness. 

  • This day was about the Allen family bravely sharing their story about Andrew, a son, grandson, brother, and brother-in-law who has been battling bipolar disorder since he was in the eighth grade.Allen Family
  • This day was about a highly educated professional, Dr. Rand Michael, revealing that no amount of education or skill will ever prepare us for the beauty, challenges, and lessons we’ll experience with mental illness. Dr. Michael
  • This day was about a wife, Kelcey, living with both bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, describing how her husband has loved her “in sickness” through psychosis, mania, and suicide attempts (not because she wanted to die but because voices instructed her to).IMG_20150530_134724867_HDR (1)
  • This day was about an aunt, Tara, with nieces who suffer severe mental illnesses and how loving them fiercely wasn’t enough to make them all better.
  • This day was about moms, Tess and Casey, who battle depression and anxiety while learning how to best love their kids and navigate the journey of raising families.

Every single story was raw in honesty and emotion about why mental illness is hard and how we’ve experienced the stigma from our communities. Every single story showed what healing looks like. Every single story showed how God has made himself known in the battle despite the lack of confidence we and/or our families have felt in our journeys.

Loving God is hard when you live with the challenges of mental illness because it’s hard to know if He’s really there. Yet every story showed that it’s through love of people that God makes himself most obviously present. 

Stigmas and stereotypes act as protective barriers against understanding people who are difficult to love. For God, no one is too hard to love. We have to break down the barriers to love like God. In doing so, we show the love of God to people who believe they don’t matter. Love is the heart of all that matters.

In the name of Jesus and for the sake of shattering stigma, I proudly present to you my imperfect, note-free shattering stigma story:

*Conference photos courtesy of Sovann Pen; special thanks to my sister-friend Kelcey Rockhold for recording my talk.

Why Prayer Doesn't Work

 

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Prayer is not an ointment. You don’t just rub it on when something is wrong.

Prayer is not a perfume. You don’t put it on to make the aroma of Christian life sweeter and more pleasing.

Prayer doesn’t “work” because it isn’t an application for problem solving or an item on a checklist for “proper function.”

Prayer is, rather, like the life-line for a complete blood transfusion. It’s an internally-intense, delicate, and aggressive means to changing life entirely. It’s an intentional practice of surrendering the body, spirit, and mind so the power of God can flow through to clear out infection and refill the emptiness with the blood of Life.

I don’t always feel like I know how to pray. Like the intravenous tube, so thin, tiny, and narrow, that carries blood into the body, my words typically feel feeble–small, thin, insignificant–carrying my prayers up to God. In fact, sometimes I don’t even know what words to pray, and I pray from a book–either straight from the Bible or from Germaine Copeland’s Prayers that Avail Much. Most times, my prayers dribble out like a rocky stream of consciousness, resembling the disjointed yet impassioned monologue of a four-year-old.

Thank God, though, it isn’t words that give power to prayer. It’s faith. I genuinely believe that God can and will answer me because my heart seeks to align with His. My words might be feeble, but it’s the power of my heart that pumps the power of God through the wordy life-line and into whomever or whatever I pray for in my devotion. How does that power work? I don’t know. It’s supernatural. The Holy Spirit, God in spirit form, lives inside my heart. When I drop my (natural) human control and trust the “thing” beyond my humanness to take over, that’s when the power of prayer takes place.

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There is not a prayer too petty or prayer too challenging to lay before God.  At the risk of making you squirmy, I am going to tell you a story.

Not too long ago I had a friend who was suicidal and had turned away from God. I was terrified for her physical life, and I was mourning the loss of her connection with Christ, because that spiritual life-line was imperative to keeping her alive. I prayed everyday that God would please show up in an obvious way to remind her that He was/is indeed with her and that she has purpose through Him.

IMG_20150511_091132 One day, I sat down with my Copeland prayer book, and I prayed for her deliverance from Satan and his demonic forces (that topic needs a separate post on another day. If spiritual warfare makes you squirmy, I know. Just hang with me a minute, okay?) Praying against the dark forces is deep and dangerous. I soaked myself and my family and friends with prayers of protection. Then I stepped into the gap between my friend and God and prayed. I didn’t just say the words; I held up the words with the power of my heart–like a sword. I seethed against the dark dark forces that cloaked my friend’s view of God, and I used God’s Word–from the Bible–to fill my friend and protect her, to lift her back into the safety of the Lord’s hands and restore her faith. It was an intimate, intense, intercessory prayer time.

As the week wore on, my friend’s faith continued to wane. I confess: at times I wondered if my prayer would even “work”; I am human, so my natural tendency is to think that this spiritual stuff is all about me and my efforts. It isn’t. The second I would think that thought, a stronger sense came through, “I trust you, Lord. I know You will bring her back.”

He did.

Last Friday, my friend called me. She told me about the profound, intimate time she had with God that very day, which was humbling and powerful for her. She had been done with Him; she had been angry that people were even praying for her. That all changed on Friday, and the connection with Christ has been reforged. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.

 

Is she all better? No. She is still grieving, battling mental illness, and enduring the journey of deep healing. But the Life-line is reconnected and the process of spiritual transfusion can continue!

Did I do a happy dance and say, “My prayer worked! My prayer worked!” Nope. I got down on my knees and I prayed a tearful and joyful prayer of thanks–“Thank you for saving her, Lord. Thank you for catching her. Strengthen her bond with You. Thank you for answering my pleas. Thank you for answering her family’s pleas. You are faithful and miraculous. Wow!”

Prayer is not an ointment. We don’t apply it on our life to stop the itch of things uncomfortable. Prayer is the infusion line by which God’s power is pumped into our lives. It’s internal, delicate, and aggressive. Prayer doesn’t merely work; it’s literally the supernatural pathway for God to hear and respond into our lives .

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” John 5:14

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

 

 

 

 

Why I am afraid of "fat"

I’m still afraid of looking fat.

This is where the bulk of my shame lives as I continue my recovery from anorexia. Nearly six months into my treatment, I am happy to say:

1) that I am up to a healthy weight (though I don’t know what that weight is and don’t care to know).

2) my metabolism is healed (did you know dieting and starving destroy your metabolism? I didn’t.).

3) my body cues are functioning on their own (meaning I know–for real–when I am hungry and when I’m full; when something sounds good and when it doesn’t).

4) I am eating intuitively, which means I eat according to when and what my body tells me in terms of what it needs and what it wants. No rules; no invitation for others to have a say.

These are huge leaps of restorative progress that have happened in a relatively short amount of time, considering I have had anorexia for 13+ years.

Yet, I still have an eating disorder. If you have ever looked at a skinny girl and said, “Dang, she needs some meat on her bones. Give that girl a cheeseburger,” I am here to tell you this disease has nothing to do with food or weight–and please, I kindly request, do all of us “skinny” girls a solid and stay quiet because those words just feed our disorder.

All of my progress is in long-term danger because I still fear “looking fat.” This is perplexing to me because on December 6, 2014, I wrote the following in my journal:

“I fear being ugly and invalid; society says fat is invalid and ugly. Therefore I cannot be this way. I have fallen ill by playing into society’s definition of fat. I bet “fat” isn’t even in God’s dictionary. I can’t define “fat” on my own because I am stuck between two worlds–> God’s and this fallen earthly place. I know God sees people beyond their size. Size literally does not matter to God. The condition of my heart matters; right now my heart is infected. I see it now from God’s world. Yet,God still sees me as valuable and lovable.

IMG_20150419_082316In my fallen world, infected minds have determined that size does matter and it reflects how good or not good we are (“skinny” is beautiful which makes skinny marketable, profitable, desirable–valuable. If you’re not skinny, then you’re not valuable).

This completely contradicts God’s perspective. 

I must decide who I will trust. Will I continue trying to define a word that simply doesn’t exist in God’s world? Will I keep striving to appeal to a definition outlined by infected hearts and minds? Or, instead, will I throw this word away entirely and focus only on the things of which affect–grow, purify, honor–the condition of my heart?”

Well, given my progress in health, we can see what I chose, right? But I confess to you, dear reader, I still fear looking fat. I feel ashamed by this. And frustrated. Why can’t my eyes see beauty when I look in the mirror? Why can’t my spirit feel confidence when I dress in the morning? Why can’t I let go of “fat” and “skinny” when I know these ideas don’t exist in God’s kingdom?

Idolatry.

God, the Father in Heaven, the Son in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in my heart, is no doubt my God. Yet, He isn’t my only only god because I still idolize my body. Part of me still stands with the cultural ideal, IMG_20150419_105452worshiping beauty and perfection as defined by a society that places value on what we manufacture for our physical body. I can’t let go of “fat” and “skinny” because I still place more value on my body image rather than God’s image. This is a hard dose of humility to swallow today.

I am not manufactured. I am created. . . uniquely created by a perfect God who made me in His image. I believe this, but clearly not with all of my heart because I still worry about “looking fat” and thus having little to no value (interest,validity, etc.) to other people. This is a dark depth that still needs transformation. I surrender to this truth today.

I can’t fix this today. I can’t fix this, period. God has to. My own self-efforts for change lead to manufacturing something that doesn’t align with what God has already created in and for me. He will heal this broken part of me; I got down on my knees in tears asking for forgiveness and asking Him to take this part of me and change it. He will. And when He does, the danger of relapsing into anorexia will become less of a threat. Cheeseburger or no, my eating disorder does not hinge upon food but rather the belief and deep understanding of where my value lies.