Tag Archives: Prayer

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 tattoo God designed for me

 

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Once upon a time, 16 years ago (at the ripe old age of 19), I had a vision for a tattoo. I didn’t know that I wanted a tattoo because somehow it seemed against the rules… of both my parents and I think maybe God. But I wasn’t sure.  However, I was intrigued enough with the idea that if I got one (someday) it would look like this:

Think of a picture of the world, globe-style, in three puzzle pieces. All three pieces look like they are about to come together, but they don’t quite do so. Superimposed behind the world is the cross.

The image represented a broken world that could possibly come together in harmony if we chose to live with Christ at the center of our lives.

I thought about this tattoo idea for years, and, once in a while, revealed my idea to a friend or two if the topic of tattoos came up in conversation. As I thought about this image, I felt like it wasn’t complete. It needed something—words, but I didn’t know which ones. There was a deep feeling in my gut to wait and listen.  Surprisingly, I also found myself at times praying to God for both permission to get a tattoo, and the words this image needed.

Last summer (July 2014), my husband and I were listening to my workout playlist. The song “City on our Knees” by Toby Mac came up, which I had heard a zillion times. But, on this day, in this moment in the car with my husband, the lyric “One choice from together” resounded like a clanging cymbal in my ear so loudly that I felt it moving in my heart. I gasped, “These are the words! These are the words for that tattoo I’ve been thinking about for the last kazillion years!”

There was a funny feeling, though, that this image still wasn’t complete.

As I continued to think more seriously about actually, maybe, for real putting this thing on my body, I still felt like somehow I was breaking rules. Was it okay as lover of God to have a tattoo? Would I be sinning if I got one? I consulted my friend Nikki who, covered in tattoos, has the most intimate relationship with Christ than anyone I have ever met; I read the Bible looking for a clear “yay” or “nay”; I prayed: “Lord, I feel like you are giving me this idea, but I feel like somehow it is SO wrong. Help me understand.”

So I continued to wait.

Several months ago, one of my pastors was digging deep into the meaning of the word “Shalom.” The concept of a godly, heavenly, supernatural peace that integrates into every area of life was so beautiful to me that I was moved to tears. This time, rather than a clanging cymbal in my ears, I heard a whisper so clear as if I was the only one in the room, “This shall go on the tattoo.”

As I prayed, two more words came to my heart: “Agape” and “Life.” These three words were to be incorporated onto the cross of the image, but they all needed to be in ancient language. I prayed again and was led to learn what Jesus’ original language was and how the word Life translated. Chay. Life was to read “Chay.” And with this, the image finally felt complete.

It was time. Somehow in the deepest part of me, far beyond the doubt I felt about “breaking rules,” I knew it was time to get the tattoo. But where? With whom?

I asked God, “Lord if you want me to get this thing, you’re going to have to tell me where to go.”

Last October, I was at a women’s retreat. A young girl, named Mandi, was standing next to me in the bathroom. She had the most lovely tattooed rose vine going down the side of her torso. I had to inquire. “Wow! Your tattoo is so beautiful. Can you tell me about it?”

In the course of this conversation I learned that Mandi and her father spend time together getting tattoos. It was their thing. Her father had just had the armor of God tattooed on his shoulder. I felt the spiritual tap on my own shoulder to get the parlor and artist name: Atlas Tattoo and Jerry Ware.

In February of 2015, I walked into Atlas Tattoo in North Portland and asked for Jerry. I described the TattooSketchimage to Jerry, and for the first time ever, I saw the a rough sketch of the design that had been  in my head for so long come out onto paper. I was in love. It would be another four months before I could get the tattoo, though, because Jerry was in high demand.

Finally, on May 19, 2015, I walked into Atlas tattoo ready. When Jerry showed me the final design, it was about a bazillion times bigger than I had originally envisioned it, but I remember Mandi saying, “You don’t want to be too controlling with your design because remember, the artist is an artist. You want to let the artist have room to be inspired by the design.”

When I saw the final design, it was more beautiful than I had imagined and I knew it was perfect.

Two hours, (and a lot of pain and swear words later), I was forever committed to this image. I was elated! IMG_20150520_164804I knew in the depths of my heart that this was the fruition of a 16-year conversation with God and the beginning of my life-long commitment to God that I am all in for the Kingdom of God–no matter what.

This tattoo was God’s design, not mine. While I experienced great pain, I knew it didn’t even come close to the pain Jesus felt on the cross that day. I am now forever branded into the Kingdom of God, so thankful to have been invited, and so excited to let others know that they are too.

And when we choose Christ to be the center of our lives, we choose godly Love, godly Peace, and everlasting Life. There is nothing more special than this–no doubt.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

How to parent my daughter who's just like me

Haley Beach

Her emotions wear a cape, soaring her high out of reach where I can’t bring her back close to me. From far away she looks at me with helplessness, “Mom, help me. I don’t know what to do! I feel out of control! I am losing my mind!” We both wait for the wind of exhaustion to gently bring her down into sleep.  Rest restores her body and mind back into control.

She’s just like me. Except she’s only six-years-old and hasn’t figured out how to control her HaleyandMeemotional power. I’ve had 34 years of experience and seven years of therapy to help me reign in my emotional squalls, and even still it’s hard work to maneuver the stormy winds of anxiety, panic, and fear. My daughter, Haley, and I are two highly-anxious, perfectionist-peas in a pod.

Lately I’ve been at a complete loss as to how to parent a child like me. I spend a lot of energy either trying to soothe Haley’s emotional tirades or reacting with my own rants out of sheer frustration. I’ve taken her to the doctor to rule out physical ailments and am currently researching behavioral health support. Nothing feels right. I have been praying for guidance as to how to get my daughter the coping tools she needs now so she doesn’t end up like me later–feeling out of control and coping through disorder.

My friend Andee recently wrote a post called Just Like You–A Post for Mother’s Day, and she describes the curse-turned-to-blessing of having a daughter just like her. It was Andee’s insight into her daughter that has given me insight into mine. She describes her daughter, Annika, as one who “not only wears her emotions on her sleeve, but all the way down her maxi dress. She has no poker face and tells you exactly what she’s thinking. Early on, Annika’s tranquil mood turned to tantrum within seconds and rage would strike out of the blue.”

I can literally insert Haley’s name in for Annika’s. But rather than trying to “fix” her daughter’s emotional outbursts to avoid future demise, Andee offers a listening ear and reassuring love.

I realized I have spent so much energy on trying to fix Haley to avoid future angst, that I have lost a grip on who Haley is and what she needs right now. My daughter doesn’t need fixing. She needs love, understanding, and reassurance (just like I do). That’s how to parent a child like me. Hello, answer to prayer.

Yesterday, Haley was depressed, unfocused and exhausted. She was getting sassy in her tone with me and tipping into the rage-red zone. Taking my cue from Andee’s insight, I asked, “Did something happen at school today? What’s wrong?” Turns out she got stuck on top of the jungle gym at recess. She was scared to fall; her classmates were encouraging her, but it was embarrassing; she was worried she wouldn’t get down before the bell rang for class; and she was confused because she’d never been scared up there before.

Well, no wonder she was upset! For a six-year-old, getting stuck on top of the jungle gym makes for a rough day. I hugged her and affirmed her feelings and told her I loved her. What a scary and stressful experience! I wish I could say she magically felt better and we lived happily ever after the rest of the night. Her mood didn’t improve, and actually it got worse, but I kept my cool and just let her be how she needed to be. IN accepting her emotions toward her situation, I was better able to love on her despite her coldness toward me. I trust in time she’ll learn to trust me as I parent in love rather than “fixing.”

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I see, now, Haley is just like me– creative, generous, compassionate, funny, intelligent, and intuitive. She’s a thinker and a creator and an achiever. This week she’s written two books, crafted three songs, made me multiple presents and cards for Mother’s Day, encouraged her older brother, and has given her best in everything she’s done. Her future looks much brighter from this angle!

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