Grappling With Unanswered/Rejected Prayers (Discussing Disability & Spiritual Truths)

In the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, the widow approaches the judge relentlessly to receive justice for her situation. Though the judge is not a morally upright man, he eventually grants her justice just to shake her off his back. Jesus insists the Father Almighty will do so much more for us. Point being, we should be persistent in our prayers and petitions, and God will hear us. So, what do we make of it if we pray persistently, only for our petitions to go unanswered or be rejected?

Hope gained then lost

In Oct. 2019, we learned that, for the first time ever, a drug from a clinical trial was statistically proven to improve FA symptoms. Bear in mind that FARA (Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance), the organization that coordinates scientists researching treatments and pharma companies testing them, was established in 1998–so this outcome is born from decades of fundraising, research, drug trials, and fervent prayers.

All the FA’ers at the Oct. 2019 conference

We’ve been holding our breath for the last year in eager anticipation of FDA approval, which we were told would take 6 months to a year. For months and months, I’ve prayed, among other things, that God would help this medicine get passed quickly and be affordable and effective for patients. Well, about ten months later, we received a much-anticipated update. The FDA has declared the evidence “insufficient.” The pharma company has submitted a crossover study that would take place in 2021. If they don’t accept it, we might be SOL with this drug.

A lot of emotions and thoughts have circled my mind. Of course, I’m disappointed. At other times, hopelessness begins to creep in; when I’m sitting in the floor after falling, I feel bitterness that borders on rage. Why do You allow so much suffering? The day before writing this, as my fiancee helped me out of the shower, he twisted his wrist while sitting me in my chair. I joked that FA is painful for us both, and he responded, “FA is realistically one of the cruelest diseases.” Looking down to survey my weak left ankle that constantly rolls, my right kneecap that pops out of place if I’m not careful, and the band-aid on my foot covering a cut I got from a recent fall, I agreed. That sentiment is so mercilessly true that it might make me laugh or cry, depending on my mood.

Remembering spiritual truths

These moments of disappointment also remind me of some spiritual truths:

  1. The prosperity gospel is an inadequate shell of Christianity.
  2. One needs to be biblically literate to hold on to faith in the hard times.

There’s a gospel song I love called “Blessings on Blessings” with lyrics like “Every time I turn around/ blessings, blessings” and “Only speakin’ blessings for the rest of the year.” Though I enjoy jamming with the upbeat song of praise, I hope listeners don’t take it too literally. When I play it, I think of all the ways I’m so privileged. I was born in a first world country, I’ve never been homeless or hungry, I have a loving family/fiancee/church/etc, I have a car and a small writing job, I live in a nice house. But all my little nicks and bruises testify to my disadvantages in life. Prosperity doctrine instructs that, basically, we will receive it if we believe it. As long as people have pretty good lives, I suppose this kind of religious faith is sufficient. But when that scary diagnosis comes, or when you get laid off from the job you thought you’d retire from, or when your child gets in a bad car accident, or when your spouse passes away…you realize life, even life walking with the Lord, has a lot more in store than just “blessings, blessings.” And when I pray for all those who were dealt a far worse hand–abused/neglected children, human trafficking victims, those in war-torn countries, those in detainment camps, those in extreme poverty…my list goes on and on–I feel the rage again. Why, God, why do You allow this suffering?

The point about biblical literacy naturally follows, since biblical literacy allows us to grasp the full spectrum of Christianity, rather than an idealized snapshot. Yes, we Christians will always “prosper” in life, but that prosperity looks less like great wealth and health and more like strength to meet the days and a peace that passes understanding.

Biblical literacy has helped my faith and devotional life in countless ways. I know so many comforting verses. The ones that come to mind immediately are Romans 8:28 (“God works all things to the good for those who love Him.”), Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”), and 2 Corinthians 12:9 (“His grace is sufficient because His strength is made perfect in weakness.”). Some of the truths I cling to pertain not to a particular passage but to overarching themes. Knowing the general notions that God cares for and greatly values the poor and the needy, how humility is exalted, how He always offers mercy even in the midst of the darkest times…having this broad understanding of God’s heart towards the lowly also reassures me.

The Psalms and other parts of the Bible have bolstered my prayer life. With their boldness sometimes bordering on audacity, the Psalms have taught me how to cry out to God, literally and figuratively. WHY, GOD, WHY DO YOU LET ME AND SO MANY OTHERS SUFFER? But the boldness of the Psalms is balanced by the continuous acknowledgement of God’s steadfast love and mercy, even in the worst circumstances. So I’ve learned to lament and look to the Lord simultaneously. Jesus’s prayer life also inspires me. If even He had to make time to get away and relay His burdens to the Father, of course we need to do the same. And when He prays in utter anguish before His crucifixion that God would take the cup from Him, I am reminded that the savior of the world can relate to unanswered prayers…and to suffering.

Who knows what lies in the future? Either way, I trust God to bring me through it.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered or rejected? Tell me about it in the comments.

American Christianity Is Being Subverted by “the Culture War”

Whoo, boy. This is a tough one. No harm done if you wanna hit the back button and come back next week for a light-hearted post.

I’m going to talk about things I’m seeing lately and my own experiences. I’d like you to bear in mind that I was obsessed with “the culture war” before I delved into the Living Word and really started pursuing God. Over the course of 2-3 years, He pruned me and made me realize how I wasn’t reflecting Him or following His commands. It’s been painful at times. In light of my ongoing santification journey, I hope you’ll receive my words graciously rather than reacting rashly. I’ve been guilty of a lot of things I speak against here. Before God started working on me, parts of this post would’ve “triggered” me. And now, I’m the one writing it. That’s a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit working in my heart.

If the first couple paragraphs set you on edge, please, just stick with me to the end.

FYI: “Hyper-conservative” means far right, and “hyper-leftist” means far left. Though American conservatives refer to leftists as “liberals,” I feel weird using the term “hyper-liberal” because a classical liberal supports the free market, generally considered a conservative viewpoint. Yep, it’s really that convoluted.

When social media turns sour

As I write this post, I’m thinking about something I saw this morning–the image to the right. Great question. Incidentally, I’ve found that the true pursuit of God’s heart and will is complemented by a deeper humility. Criticisms of Christianity used to put me on the defense immediately. Now, I acknowledge those critiques and ask how I or we, as the church, can do better. Maybe it’s a side effect of actually loving my neighbor…I want to address and correct the ways we have ignored or harmed them.

I’m feeling emotional as I write this post. Tears are stinging the back of my eyes. Why? We American Christians have made partisanship an idol. It’s horrible and heart-breaking. I won’t say “most”…but too many American Christians have turned their Facebook profiles into a billboard for minimalizing problems and spreading hate. Racial inequity? A hoax. Liberals? Deranged and evil pedophiles who want to destroy our country. People who have a problem with America should GET THE HELL OUT! Trump 2020–bet you liberal snowflakes won’t have the BALLS to post this! [I’ve literally seen all of these and worse.] Oh, and here’s the occasional verse from a Bible that I evidently don’t read much…

OUCH! Was that too harsh? I’ll tell you something. When I did things like refer to liberals as “autistic” and insist that Muslims deserve to be persecuted and tell people of color that their experiences were invalid, I sure wasn’t in the Word. In fact, I was more in Daily Wire and the Trump supporters’ subreddit than the Word.

Embracing nuance

I don’t want to leave conservative Christians out in the cold. Liberals post divisive things on social media, too. My prayer lately has been to balance peacemaking with Godly justice (listening to my neighbors, advocating for equity, standing with the needy). In my observation, hyper-leftists prioritize justice, and hyper-conservatives prioritize peace. But one without the other is incomplete.

The official Black Lives Matter organization has some Marxist leanings I don’t support (but I’m down with the grass-roots groups). Though I condone social programs to help communities thrive, I’m not a socialist (though I think crony capatalism is out of control, and it’s immoral how we treat third-world workers who produce our cheap goods). Before editing this post, I watched a YouTube video from a Christian hip-hop artist who immigrated to America but grew up in the Soviet Union. He responded to another American Christian artist who regularly tweets about abolishing capitalism. He described how his family actually had to wait in line for food rations during his childhood, and he strongly advocated a free market system. I think God puts these reminders in my path that, in the process of turning away from one extreme, I must be cautious not to approach the other.

In America, political oppositions have transcended to a full-scale culture war; if you critique one side, you must be a member of the other. I’d love to hear from some non-Americans in the comment section: how does this dynamic look in your country? This sentiment is repeated so often it’s practically a cliche now, but I’ll say it again: we are losing the ability to appreciate nuance. The guy I just referenced has another video where he speaks on white fragility and supporting the BLM movement (but not the actual organization).

Gasp–someone who supports capitalism and calls out young hyper-leftists for thinking they’re so woke yet also speaks on white fragility and racial inequity? You’re not allowed to have all those opinions at once! You can be right or left–now pick one! (BTW, where is Jesus in all this?)

Caring about politics without being enslaved to them

Aren’t Christians supposed to be “separate from the world” in a sense? Of course, political decisions affect our lives, so we should care. But, how can we justify being so intertwined with politics that it basically shapes our personalities? Jesus said to give Caeser what is his and give Him what is His. But now, we walk around wearing Caesar hats and talking about Caeser constantly and insisting God anointed Caesar to save us from (fill in the blank).

I’ll wrap it up by returning to the meme from the beginning. In this post, I discussed how American Christians have gotten way too swept in a culture war when ours is a spiritual war. HOWEVER, it is important not to confuse that message with the notion that Christianity is an individual, personal, spiritual experience that has no bearing on the real lives of real people who are suffering from pain, poverty, oppression, abuse, etc. As with politics, we must appreciate the nuance here.

We are not called to put a political (or any other) identity before our identity as a follower of Jesus, God’s adopted son or daughter. But we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Being His hands and feet means striving for Godly justice AND peace. We Christians, especially American Christians, need to seriously reflect on our priorities and the ways we’ve thrown “WWJD?” out the window, all in the name of winning a culture war. Let’s reject the divisive idol of partisanship.

Thanks for reading! Have you seen the American political divide morphing into a no-holds-barred culture war? Follow up question: How did this dynamic look in the past? [I’m just 26-years-old.] Do you embrace nuance with your viewpoints? Are you more loyal to God than a political party? Please be civil. Thanks and God bless you. โ™ฅ

Here’s another video from the guy referenced earlier in which he discusses racial issues, why he feels the immigrant mindset is actually a privilege, growing up in communist Russia, and more. Say it with me: WE LOVE NUANCE! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. Just as Jesus healed people spiritually and physically, and just as He said that we can’t live by bread alone but also by God’s words, I think we need to work at providing spiritual and physical nourishment. The Kingdom of God is not just a far-off place; it’s also here, now. Also, living out our faith can open the door to more witnessing opportunities. Some ways of being the hands and feet of Jesus include:

Advocating for affordable housing, school funding, and job opportunities with a livable wage

Supporting or hosting community programs and mission efforts–food banks, free clothing closets, tutoring/GED, after-school care, sports, a program to help with a different family’s bills each month, collecting and distributing school supplies, packing UMCOR kits, you name it

Supporting legislation that addresses inequities and becoming educated on social issues

Hosting Vacation Bible School, revivals, Christian music shows, and other events to bring new people to the church to hear the Gospel

Prison/nursing home/etc. ministries–taking the Gospel outside the church walls

Christian Musings on Cancel Culture: Discussing Accountability & Who “Deserves” Mercy

Over the last month or so, I’ve seen everyone from local residents all the way up to celebrities get “exposed” for something bad they’ve said/done. The reasons have ranged from “racial insensitivity” to “borderline pedophilia,” though we’ll focus on the former in this post (more info at bottom)*. The person may go on to lose their job, have their reputation tarnished, etc. Since I support accountability and want prejudice stigmatized, I should feel vindicated. As a follower of Jesus first and foremost, I’m feeling conflicted.

Owning up to past mistakes

Last night (6/28/20), I learned that OG YouTuber Jenna Marbles, who has been on the site forever and has ten million followers, “cancelled herself.” She’s been called out for less-than-tasteful jokes she made in the early 2010’s. A few days ago, she published an apology video that ended with her stating she is taking an indefinite break from YT. I think it’s sad that she feels the need to punish herself for long-past mistakes. Her genuine apology video, in which she takes total accountability for ever hurting anyone with her words/actions, speaks volumes to me. I feel that full acknowledgement of and remorse for her wrongs is enough to “atone” for her past “sins.” She deserves mercy. Most people I’ve seen discussing the situation feel the same way and applaud her graciousness.

Not owning up to recent mistakes

Contrast that situation with this one: a local racetrack owner made national headlines with similarly tasteless social media posts. Also, when the dust of the Bubba Wallace FBI case had barely settled, he listed “Bubba Rope” for sale on his Facebook page. I read an article in which he shared about the backlash he’s incurred. All but two sponsors have pulled their advertising from his racetrack, the FB page has been bombarded with bad reviews, and his loved ones and him have received death threats. He would’ve at least started to build back some good will had he owned up to his wrongs. Instead of taking a more humble approach, he insisted in the interview, “They took a joke and made it racial. I’m not racist.” Considering his complete lack of “repentance,” he seems less deserving of mercy. [To be fair, I found another article in which he said, “I’m responsible. I’m responsible for trying to make jokes.”]

But, just after saying that, he breaks down and sobs for 19 seconds. Imagine being the interviewer–how long and uncomfortable does 19 whole seconds of watching a stranger weep feel? After composing himself, he says that he “wants no violence,” following up with a recent story about a rat on the track he had put off killing because he doesn’t like to hurt anyone/anything.

Contemplating mercy and accountability

The comments on that interview were mostly vengeful, cheering for this man’s demise. Meanwhile, I felt a mixture of emotions brewing in my heart. Maybe I’m too sympathetic…then again, Jesus never said, “Don’t be too forgiving. Don’t love your neighbor too much.” As I read the post, I thought to myself, This is just a man. Yes, he said insensitive, even cruel things. Is he ignorant and likely close-minded on the topic of racial inequity? Evidently. But he is just a man–a man created in the image of God and beloved. It’s one thing for someone to face consequences for their actions, but it feels wrong to wish anguish on someone.

On the other hand, we cannot underestimate how attitudes/jokes like this man’s have contributed to an inestimable amount of suffering in the black community. I don’t want to forget or minimize that. I recently heard the quote that personal racism justifies and perpetuates systemic racism–great point. When people hold racist attitudes in a general or even subconscious way, it’s easier to rationalize injustices. For instance, if we have a mindset that black people are more violent, we can ignore that 33% of the prison population is black, though blacks make up 12% of the population. Here’s a source for that; this article also points to a general decline in crime and incarceration, which gave me hope and propelled me down a rabbit trail of research. [Obligatory sidenote: There is more violence in black communities, but we need to have conversations about how poverty leads to crime and the complex factors that have led to high poverty rates among blacks.]

This post is not meant to provide answers, just provoke thought. I know some but not all of the answers…

Should people be held accountable for their words and actions in the present? Absolutely.

What about words and actions from ten years ago? Yes and no–acknowledge, apologize, move on.

In my first question, does “being held accountable” include getting fired from one’s job and/or having one’s college acceptance revoked (I’ve seen several examples of both)? ????? Where do we draw the line between people who do or don’t deserve mercy? ??????

Thankful God didn’t cancel me

I used to be close-minded and even hateful at times (as in, calling anyone who cared a “social justice warrior” or “virtue signaller”…I was fully on board the “young, edgy right-winger” train). God miraculously changed my heart through His Living Word. One could dig up incredibly ignorant things I’ve said in the past, and if that happened, I would do as I said above–acknowledge, apologize, move on. I’m just so thankful for the grace of God. Not only did He NOT “cancel” me, but He deemed me worthy to transform and use for His glory, in spite of all the flaws I had at the time (and I’m still not perfect). Did my cynical, arrogant, ignorant self deserve a chance to know Jesus for real–not just in my head but in my heart? I don’t know. As Relient K once sang… The beauty of grace is it makes life not fair.

This post doesn’t have a tidy moral, but here are a few take-aways:

  • Being humble usually ends better than doubling down (bonus: God also condones humility).
  • Try to look through a lens of compassion at each person, even those who don’t seem to deserve it.
  • Listen to and believe people who tell us they’ve felt the unjust sting of prejudice (WWJD?) .
  • Thank God for His steadfast love and mercy.

Thanks for reading! What do you think of this “cancel culture” era? Would God have cancelled you already if not for unconditional love? Let me know in the comments.

*The day AFTER I wrote this rough draft, the whole scandal with Shane Dawson (another huge YouTuber) making inappropriate jokes involving minors came to light. Now, people want or predict he’ll be “cancelled.” We’ll see where the chips fall!

P.S. I’m going to the beach next week and may or may not make my weekly post. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reacting to the Horrifying Documentary “Jesus Camp” as a Christian

Perhaps not in the COVID-19 era, but normally during summertime, children attend camps to have fun, meet other kids, and enjoy new experiences. Recently, I watched a jaw-dropping documentary about a “Jesus Camp” (Kids on Fire Camp) in North Dakota. In a word–wow. Wow in a bad way.

I’d like to ignore the other problematic parts of this film, such as when a homeschool parent trains their child in political talking points, because this post isn’t a movie review. Rather, this post includes a sobering summary of the camp’s teachings/methods and my critique of their doctrine. So, let’s dive into this madness, right after I share my past experiences with Christian youth get-aways (for the sake of contrast).

I attended two Christian retreats at age 17ish. One of them was more serious and reflective, so while we didn’t partake in typical camp activities like rock-climbing or swimming, we listened to messages throughout the day, discussed them in groups, and went through several edifying spiritual experiences (like each of us being surprised with thick envelopes full of encouraging letters from our loved ones). The other retreat was more like a typical camp; we spent days having fun and nights in an auditorium rocking out to a praise band then listening to a sermon. Though the setting and purpose of the get-aways varied, I enjoyed my time at both. Just bear in mind that I was about 5-10 years older than the kids in the documentary when I went to these retreats.

How the Jesus Camp is run

Pastor Becky Fischer, the camp’s ringleader, has frankly disturbing methods of evangelizing children. In one scene, she screams–literally screams–at a roomful of kids that sin will take over and destroy their lives. She then proceeds to tell them that, if they’re a different person at church than with their friends, they’re “a fake and a phony” and need to repent. A woman moans hauntingly in the microphone as the camera pans around the room, showing the children breaking down into sobs and praying in tongues. It is chilling.

Here are a few more choice moments: Fischer is shown composing a Powerpoint and adding a slide that reads “The wages of sin is Hell.” in red font on a black background; while speaking to the camera in a light-hearted tone, she searches for and finds a font that resembles dripping blood. She hollers at the children that Harry Potter would’ve been put to death in the Old Testament. At one service, the children pray for a cardboard cut-out of then-President George W. Bush. Someone gives a presentation on the evil of abortion and passes around tiny fetus figurines, then they whip the kids into another frenzy of tears and fervent prayers.

Perhaps there was some typical camp fun occurring here that was excluded from the documentary. But what I saw was enough to show me–this place is (was) twisted and, dare I say, evil. I’m no fan of “hellfire & brimstone” preaching as an adult, but putting that kind of fear into children, who will likely grow up tormented by constant guilt and maybe needing therapy, is immoral and borderline abusive. Some of what was said and done is fine out of context; for instance, I actually admire how Pentecostals move their bodies and really get into the service. Sadly, the acceptable things are tainted by the overall picture of what’s happening.

How I would run a Jesus Camp (my critique of their doctrine)

Fischer’s sermon on sin destroying lives was presented in the documentary as the first sermon of the camp. In my experience at youth retreats and an adult one I attended last year, the first message sets the tone for the whole experience. There are so many wonderful themes one can choose from scripture–loving your neighbor no matter who they are, love is action, generosity, forgiveness/mercy, peace, Godly justice (making sure everyone is cared for), not feeling fear and stress because God loves you and is with you, courage/boldness to do the right thing, etc. I would use the opportunity to teach children to be better people through one of those Biblical concepts rather than “put the fear of God in them.”

Does repentance have its place in Christianity? Of course! As I’ve read scripture, God has really pruned me in my worldviews, my former close-mindedness and obsession with politics, how I treat people who test my patience, etc. But there is a loving way to approach that topic, such as by sharing a personal testimony, as I just did in a very condensed way. Discussing repentance doesn’t need to result in a roomful of sobbing children. Not to mention…how many sins could a 9-year-old even commit?! Even adult fans of “hellfire & brimstone” preaching should acknowledge that it’s too traumatizing for young children.

Aside from exploiting the emotions of impressionable kids, I have a major qualm that might not occur to non-Christians watching the documentary. Here it is: there was no mention of ministry whatsoever. Jesus was born, PERFORMED MINISTRY, and was killed–that’s it. I don’t fathom how “Bible-believing Christians” can ignore such an essential part of our calling. Then again, there is a sector of Christians who chiefly value personal salvation and sweep social justice under the rug. As a person who has been chipping away at reading the whole Bible for 2.5 years, I can assure you, God cares for the marginalized. When God gave the Hebrews the Law of Moses (see Lev. 19 in particular)…in the Psalms and Proverbs…when God prophesies the Babylonian Exile through Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others…when Jesus traveled, preached, and healed…when Paul wrote his letters to the churches…God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit stand with the weak, the helpless, the powerless, the poor, the needy. Those who follow Him are called to do the same. Hence, I believe any Christian doctrine, church, retreat, whatever with no emphasis on ministry is missing the big picture.

This was hard to watch and also enlightening. My fiancee and I watched it together, and he was amused by my constantly demanding he pause it so I could preach the true Gospel…the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who stands for hope, love, and reconciliation. Again, repentance has its place, but not like this. For any non-Christians reading this, I hope you’ve realized by now that this documentary, though fantastic for what it is (kudos to the filmmakers), does not represent most Christians or even the Bible.

Thanks for reading! Have you seen this film? What’s your two cents on what I’ve written here? Do you have any Christian film recommendations that are actually God-honoring and uplifting? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Here’s an article on what happened to some of the people in the documentary. I screamed aloud in shock multiple times. I don’t know what’s worse–homophobic pastor Ted Haggard having his gay love affair exposed or Fischer having the ABSOLUTE AUDACITY to compare herself to Jews in the Holocaust.

How to Get “Young People” in Church (& Lessons from a Protest)

If you attend a small church, you have likely heard the panicked question, “How do we attract more young people?!” In this post, I’ll explore that issue. For the record, I’m 26-years-old and have attended church on and off most of my life (mostly on, but you know how college kids are). Also, I’m engaged and childless; hence, my perspective lacks the input of a young wife/mother.

I should note that people may refer to different age ranges with the phrase “young person/people.” Some people literally mean youth and children (18 and under), while others broaden the definition to include people about my age and below; still others think of people in their 30’s-40’s as young. Since the average age for members of most small churches is 65+, the term “young” can be applied liberally.

Times have changed, and many struggle to keep up. Some rack their brains, attempting to come up with events and other (often superficial) ways to reach young people, while others have given up and resorted to lamenting “what the world is coming to.” Believe it or not, attracting young people isn’t actually insurmountable…but it requires leaving our comfort zones.

Over 50 years ago, Dr. MLK Jr. wrote about who the church was in the past vs. at that time. The church used to be a group of passionate Jesus followers who were truly counter-cultural; they spread truth and love and also stood for justice. By the 1950’s, they’d become a state institution that stood with the status quo instead of challenging it. Young people, King wrote, were beginning to disdain the church’s hypocrisy and complacency. If it refused to return to its roots, the church as we know it would be deemed “an irrelevant social club.”

Eerie, isn’t it? “Prophetic” is more like it. The problem has gotten worse instead of better. Surprise, surprise: small churches are in danger of dying out, literally. This predicament brings the book of Jeremiah to mind. Chapter upon chapter deals with God’s impending wrath; it’s disturbing and frightening. But, in chapter 22, God throws out a plea deal: “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3, NIV). The passage goes on to assure that God will make their home “a desolation” if they do not obey. The warnings went unheeded, so the Babylonian Exile happened. But this gives me hope that, just as God offered the Hebrews mercy, it’s not too late to repent of our apathy and disobedience; it’s not too late to return to our roots.

Sorry not sorry for the long intro–y’all know I have a lot to say. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Okay, let’s get into it. Like I said earlier, it’s not that complicated…BUT it is hard.

Provide opportunities to genuinely make a difference

I attended a *peaceful* protest last week for educational purposes and to express compassion for others’ pain (that’s me in the far left photo, recording a video). Upon learning this, a family member mockingly said I must feel “SO VIRTUOUS.” Do I believe my gathering in a group, holding signs, marching up the street, and later returning to my quaint life in the suburbs will really make a difference to anyone who experiences poverty, racism, police brutality, or mass incarceration? No. But, dang, it felt good just to DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!

I’m not totally naive; I realize now is the best time to be alive–for human rights, for technology, for medicine, for access to information, etc. Still, there are so many effed up things in this world from how we mistreat people who make our cheap clothes to how we exploit God’s creation. We young people are energized and compassionate, but we don’t know how to make this world a better place.

The church can provide those opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus through outreach and social action. As we wait for the pandemic to subside, let’s use this time to dream big. I have been fervently praying to God that we, His servants, would be anointed with creativity, visions, boldness, and unity. Join me in this prayer and in planning ways to make Kingdom-shaped differences in our communities. Let’s be willing to try new ideas, take our ministry outside the church walls, and have uncomfortable conversations and experiences. Let’s trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us if we step out in faith.

Help them encounter Jesus and be transformed

Jesus is the one who started transforming my heart at age 23. As I pursue Him, the scales fall from my eyes. I see my neighbors clearly and love them deeply; I feel compelled to help them. For me, meeting Jesus was the first step, with action following. But if we are ministering to young people who don’t attend church, the walk will have to come before the talk, if that makes sense. Show them how Jesus has changed you–by loving your neighbor–then introduce them to Jesus (love is an action verb here).

When I met Jesus–when I dove into the Living Word and God drew me near–I got baptized with the Holy Spirit and an unquenchable fire. It’d be fair to ask, “Hey, wait–I thought you said young people are already hungry to make a difference–so why is Jesus needed?” Allow me to clarify.

We young people want to make a difference…but when Jesus is the motivation, one’s mindset changes. I want to stand for justice, but I also want to be a peacemaker; I want to be bold, but I also want to be gentle. I pray for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s families to have peace and comfort, but I also pray the officers would repent and receive God’s mercy.

Most of those attending the protest I went to were fueled by other things–anger, desperation, fear, despair. Several chants started with the word “F*ck.” Young people are emotionally exhausted because they don’t want to succumb to hopelessness, yet they often feel powerless.

Praise God, there is hope in Jesus Christ; young people and the world as a whole need it. We need Jesus, along with God and the Holy Spirit, to help us return to the mindset of the early church.

Young people do not need a social club. We need Jesus, and we need avenues to ACT as the hands and feet of Jesus. Are our churches social clubs, or are we ready to partner with Jesus and transform the world? (referencing the 1 Cor. greeting & the Great Commission)

Thanks for reading! Two cents welcome. โ™ฅ I myself attend a small church with the same “young people” issue. Maybe God has anointed me with these revelations so I can start laying groundwork to eventually bring more young people into my church. Asking people to step outside their comfort zones feels intimidating to the point of impossible. Perhaps Satan is trying to immobilize me. Ugh, swimming against a current is tough stuff. Words of encouragement also welcome!

Striking Balances Without Becoming Paralyzed (Coronavirus & Black Lives Matter)

The last couple months have been uncertain and panic-ridden, then the last couple weeks added icing to the chaos cake. The contentious issues facing us are causing extreme polarization. I wonder how we can strike some balances and truly listen to people’s different concerns while still being bold, loving defenders of truth and justice.


Opinions vary greatly on the pandemic and social distancing. As I pointed out in my post on the double-edged sword of the internet, theories range from “this is an over-hyped political hoax” to “the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.” For the better and the worse, people don’t believe “the media” anymore. If mainstream sources are unreliable, only fringe sources and/or people’s own judgement (frequently based on hot air) can be trusted. I can’t contribute an educated viewpoint since I’m not qualified in medicine, business, sociology, etc. But there are several factors we must weigh carefully–preserving public safety and “flattening the curve,” the consequences of shutting down businesses, the mental/social ramifications of prolonged isolation, etc.

Black Lives Matter

People’s perceptions also vary on the backlash from George Floyd’s murder. I was glad to see almost everyone–race, age, gender, and political leaning aside–stand with George Floyd and demand justice for his murder. Many have participated in peaceful protests seeking understanding and compassion for the black community and black lives. As the sun sets, those protests morph into riots. I have pondered the rhetoric and the arguments from different viewpoints. Some unequivocally condemn looting as a criminal act; some compare looting to the Boston Tea Party and Nat Turner’s Rebellion; some insist that most cops are good people; some provide evidence that cops are instigating violence at protests.


In both cases–Coronavirus and BLM–there is no room for nuance. Is this even surprising, given the state of our politics? Every single social issue is arbitrarily deemed partisan. I digress…

This made me giggle…A Birmingham Prize Fight, W. Allen, 1789

Do you wear a mask? You’re just a sheep.

Do you NOT wear a mask? You’re an inconsiderate idiot.

Do you think we should’ve kept businesses closed longer? You don’t care about people’s livelihoods.

Are you visiting the beach or eating in a restaurant? You’re cavalier and ignorant.

Do you think looting is wrong? You’re privileged.

Do you think looting is a valid form of protest? You’re insane.

Do you think all cops are bad? You’re narrow-minded and unfair.

Do you NOT think all cops are bad? Again…you’re just a sheep! Open your eyes, man!

My eyes are wide open. I wish I could shut them sometimes; then again, I know the God of the Bible does not call me to complacency. All the pain adds a heaviness to my spirit. A lot of things do, actually. Like the fact that people who have a relationship with the same God as me think I’m doomed to hell for preaching a sermon as a woman. And married Christians who treat their spouses with so little grace and respect that I cringe in their presence. And all those in the world suffering from anguish, abuse, starvation, despair, persecution, etc. every single day. Just to name a few. At times like these, I’m grateful the Holy Spirit intercedes in my prayers, enunciating those groans in my spirit, casting my heart cries on the God of peace.

There is no easy answer to these problems; this post can’t have a tidy moral. But I am realizing a fruit of the Spirit we all need more of–gentleness. I need more gentleness–the strong, wise, Godly version anyway–to process the information, the viewpoints, the endless articles and newscasts, the disturbing videos. I need more gentleness to hear those who worry about their health along with those who worry about paying their bills. I need more gentleness to listen to and believe stories of racial injustice. I need more gentleness to understand the devastating toll looting can take on small business owners. I need more gentleness to unravel how poverty and racism intersect to destroy communities.

However, I also have a balance to strike between gentleness and boldness. I don’t want to be paralyzed into silence; I must weigh everything thoughtfully, but I’m just a tree with no fruit if I don’t stand with truth and justice. Dr. MLK Jr. wrote of the “white moderate,” who values order above justice. The God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament demand justice and condemn oppression (along with idolatry, greed, materialism, and vanity–read the prophets and the gospels if you don’t believe me). May God guide me in striking all these balances. Lord, open my eyes, my ears, and my heart.

Thanks for reading! Two cents welcome, but please be GENTLE. I feel nervous when I post anything remotely controversial or potentially alienating, especially since Christians are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Then again, my feeling hesitant to call Christians into partnership with Jesus speaks volumes on how biblical messages have been distorted and ignored. Reconciliation requires addressing the complex, not-so-pretty topics; reconciliation means we must care enough to speak and act.

Not to worry–I’ll presumably go back to normal next week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

P.S. #WearTheDangMask (might as well be safe) & #BlackLivesMatter (God’s heart hurts when His children hurt; protests in all 50 states and 18 countries reveal a world of pain)

The Pharisees Aren’t the Bad Guys & the Disciples Aren’t the Good Guys

Pharisees, scribes, chief priests–these are the bad guys in the story of Jesus’s life and death. And the disciples, who followed Jesus throughout His ministry, are the good guys. Hmm…is that true? I wonder if we are drastically oversimplifying both the gospel and human nature by viewing these characters in a black-and-white manner. Today’s post explores the nuance in the Pharisees, the disciples, and people in general.

Antagonists: religious officials (?)

Repeatedly throughout all four gospels, Jesus expresses disdain for the Jewish religious officials of the time. He is grieved and repulsed by their cold-heartedness and hypocrisy, which He boldly calls out and condemns. They care more about their social status than their neighbor; they cling to the letter of the law (Law of Moses) while disregarding the spirit of the law. Back before the Babylonian Exile (long before Jesus is born), God speaks through the major prophets of the Old Testament, insisting that burnt offerings mean nothing if people’s hearts are far from His.

The Pharisees Question Jesus by James Tissot, late 1800’s

Scribes knew the law well enough to contract legal documents (marriage, loan, inheritance, etc.). Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, formed after the Exile referenced above and the later return to Jerusalem, were comprised of men who wanted to “return to the law.” This goal is noble in light of the idolatry and injustice that had incurred God’s wrath. Essentially, they wanted to repent, be reconciled with God, and follow Him.

Had they followed the spirit of the law as well as the letter (boils down to being just and loving with everyone, especially the poor and needy), the religious officials SHOULD & WOULD have served as great allies in the gospels. They were more committed to God and His ways than anyone in society…”on paper,” as they say. However, those serving these roles succumbed to corrupt motives and bankrupt morals. A very gradual perversion must’ve happened over the course of generations, as memories of the Exile faded into the past. [Reminiscent of what kept happening with the Hebrews through the entire OT, eh? I wonder if the whole “gradual perversion” concept applies to American politicians…ahem…back to the topic at hand.] By the time Jesus came, religious officials had risen to a great position in society with much privilege, power, and glory.

Christ Accused by the Pharisees by Duccio di Buoninsegna, early 1300’s

I think we should approach our understanding of the religious officials with nuance. Yes, they are generally antagonistic in the gospels…but we should acknowledge that, at least theoretically, they are very knowledgeable of and loyal to God. And, as much as I’ve used the pronoun “they,” I hope there were outliers–people who worked for/in the temple because they genuinely loved God. As I read Mark 12 the other day, I looked on a certain exchange with new eyes. A scribe asks Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus tells him to love God and his neighbor. The scribe replies, “These commandments are greater than all the law put together.” Jesus proclaims, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Protagonists: disciples (?)

The disciples are Jesus’s most faithful followers during His life. Giving credit where credit is due, it’s amazing how they drop what they’re doing and go when He calls them. [Irony: the religious officials reject Jesus, yet uneducated working-class people follow Him.] Up to the crucifixion, they stick with Jesus through all His travels and teachings–even that one time in John 6 when He tells people to drink His blood and eat His flesh to receive eternal life (spoiler alert: it wasn’t a popular statement). ๐Ÿ˜‰

I can’t categorize the disciples as “the good guys,” though. Through much of the gospels, their heads are thicker than molasses. They don’t intuitively understand Jesus’s mysterious, holy words and actions; they need parables explained to them, they illustrate lack of faith several times, and they cannot comprehend His foreshadowings of the future. Those shortcomings could all be chocked up to their lack of education, but there’s more…

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet by Ford Madox Brown, mid-1800’s

Amazingly, the disciples actually have something in common with the religious officials: vanity. After the disciples witness so much of Jesus’s miracles and teachings, in which He helps helpless people and preaches humility and generosity, the disciples have the AUDACITY to argue with each other about who is the greatest among them…after Jesus outright says/demonstrates, multiple times, that the first will be last. Seriously?! As most of us know, one of the disciples, Judas, lights the match that starts the ticking time bomb to Jesus’s death. Peter, the rock of the early church in Acts, denies Jesus three times as He’s on His way to be tortured. Gah! It’s borderline comical how seemingly unworthy the disciples are. But Jesus chooses these hard-headed, flawed men to be the apostles. [What do you think that says of God’s ability to use each of us? And don’t even get me started on every other character in the Bible.]


The religious officials are flawed men, and so are the disciples. The religious officials are supposed to follow God but fall prey to pride and greed. The disciples are supposed to follow Jesus but can’t wrap their minds around His purpose and message. God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit are the good guys; Satan/death/sin are the bad guys. And the others in the story, just like us today, are just guys–with potential to be good, bad, and usually some of both.

As we appreciate the shades of grey in the gospels, may we acknowledge the shades of grey in ourselves and others. Maybe we view ourselves as good–but no one is perfect. Maybe another person did something bad–but they can still repent and change. And, as the featured image depicts, we can all be pig’s butts sometimes (extra grace required).

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Have you learned something or seen something in a different light after reading this? Do you appreciate the ridiculously flimsy connection between the post and the featured image? Let me know in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. It’s hard to buy into notions that the Bible was “made up” because, if it were only written as “a tool to control people” or something similar, why in God’s name would someone write the story and the characters to be so morally complex? Ha! Really, though.

How I’ve Been Spending my Time During Quarantine

It’s crazy that my “Coronavirus Came in Like a Wrecking Ball” post was published one month ago. Gah! Today, I want to take it easy and share how I’ve tried to put the extra time to good use.

I’m going a little stir crazy since I can’t attend all the church-related outings that come throughout the week and/or month. Fortunately for me, I was already used to the staying-productive-while-being-home-most-days routine, but NOT having those outings sprinkled in my days (along with going out to eat sometimes, nail salon appointments with my grandma, other little activities) makes the time seem monotonous. [In case you’re wondering, I’m a contributing writer for a small, local newspaper.]

Before I go further, I want to say–I pray for you to have strength, peace, and “daily bread” (whatever you need today physically, mentally, or spiritually) if you are still working in public, attending full-time college online, taking care of children 24/7, the owner of a small business, laid off from your job and trying to make ends meet, etc. I’m very much aware how blessed I am to have extra time and comparatively few worries right now.

Clutter is the worst!

Time management has been better some days and worse on others because monotony is demotivating. Overall, I have been blogging, spending more time on devotionals (praying/reading Bible/perusing commentaries), reading books, and tidying up dusty shelves, baskets of unused items, junk drawers, unneeded clothes and books, stacks of papers on my desk, and all those little nooks and crannies that are easier to ignore when the hustle and bustle of life is in full swing. [Check out the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, or one of the countless YouTube videos about decluttering, for inspiration.]

Current reads: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (awesome!โ™ฅ) and America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (informative but debatably longer than needed–glad I am reading it but eager to knock out these last couple chapters).

Sidenote: I’ve been utilizing the cleaning time to listen to new (to me) music. Lecrae has so many good albums. GAWVI’s new album HEATHEN dropped last week, and it’s got several bangers. Fun fact: “Fight For Me” by GAWVI feat. Lecrae is the first Christian rap song I downloaded about two years ago. And the rest (my love for Christian rap) is history. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anways, it’s ironic because I discussed my aversion to cleaning and organizing in my recent post on procrastination. But, alas, dynamics in the world and in my brain have shifted. Now that I’m cooped up in the house almost 24/7, tidying up helps time pass quickly and leaves me feeling accomplished, which makes my life seem purposeful despite being on “pause.” In the same vein, jumping into tidying up enables me to banish feelings of sluggishness. [Who knew dealing with the inch-thick layer of dust on literally everything would be so gross and annoying?! Remind me to get off my butt and do this more often…]

Another thing that helps with sluggishness is exercise, so I am keeping a consistent schedule (1x/week at home, 2x/week with trainer). I’m blessed that I can still exercise with my trainer in his apartment, so that is all I leave the house to do. Funny enough, I think these quarantine workouts are harder; we have no machines, so we just do all the tough body-weight stuff that gets my heart pumping like squats and push-ups. He also lives on the second floor, and part of my “warm-up” is walking up the stairs. Oy vey!

Yesterday, I discussed how privileged Americans are with my fiancee, who works at a grocery store. He only visits a couple times a week right now because my heart condition makes me vulnerable. We notice so many people on social media complain about how bored they are and how much they want this to end. This is certainly not ideal, but we can still leave the house for essential items, we have all this technology to entertain us, etc. We agreed that it’s tragically ironic how we Americans have SO MUCH, yet all we focus on is WHAT WE DON’T HAVE. [Not gonna lie–I low-key teared up because I was impressed by this humble wisdom coming from someone who serves on “the front lines” right now.] LORD, FORGIVE OUR UNGRATEFUL HEARTS! [Please, give yourself permission to feel frustrated/lonely/disappointed/sad about the circumstances, but don’t dwell in that mindset.]

Thanks for reading! What have you been up to during this time? Let me know in the comments.

As much as I want this all to end, I am trying to learn any lessons I can in this time, whether it’s just how blessed we are to have our usual conveniences, how to be hopeful and trust God in an uncertain season, how much we NEED community, how should technology intersect with mission and ministry now and in the future, etc. Between Good Friday and Easter, I read an analogy between this unsure time and the uncertainty the disciples must’ve felt on that day between Jesus’s death and resurrection…poignant!

God Spoke to Me, an Eerily Prophetic Quote from Dr. MLK Jr. & Attending a Mega-Church Virtually

Though the lack of Sunday worship services during Lent makes it feel less real, today is Good Friday. As we remember Jesus’s great sacrifice for humanity this Easter weekend, I wonder how the church will stand against injustice as Jesus did. Whether we choose to be counter-cultural or comfortable will determine our ability to follow Jesus, make disciples, and transform the world (The Great Commission).

God spoke to me this morning

As I type this rough draft on April 6, 2020, I just finished my prayer + Bible reading time. [See last week’s post to learn more about how this looks.] In my prayer, I specifically asked God to “speak to me in ways I can understand, which is mostly through what I read.” Also, I had this vague, nagging feeling that a post idea was on the tip of my fingers as I prayed; I even paused and blinked for a minute, tried and failed to grasp it, then reverted back to my prayer.

When I got to my reading, I *just so happened* to be on Psalm 112. As I read it, I found comfort for uncertain times as I read of the righteous: “Their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord. Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid.” Amen! I went on to read 113 and 114, and what do ya know? The footnote says Psalms 113-118 are considered “Hallel” because of their association with the Jewish Passover…which *just so happens* to directly correlate with Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, when Jesus entered Jerusalem FOR THE PASSOVER CELEBRATION (and His impending murder).

Then, I skipped forward to Isaiah, which I’ve been chipping away at for months. I *just so happened* to be on chapter 52, and some of you may know where this is going…the servant song of chapter 53. Holy wow. Some read it as a prophecy of Jesus, while some simply see Jesus reflected in it. Either way, the passage provides a stirring picture of sacrificial love.

Finally, I read my NT passage for the day, which was the last chapter of Romans. As Paul spoke of UNITY in the church, I was reminded of a prophetic–even to the point of disconcerting–quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps this is the post idea I felt tingling on my fingertips. God moved me to write this immediately.

Jesus wasn’t status quo; what about the church?

martin luther king arrested in birmingham
Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Dr. King being arrested on April 16, 1963. Photo from a TIME magazine article covering this story when it happened.

When Dr. King was arrested during a peaceful protest in 1963, a group of white evangelical leaders came together to write him a letter discouraging his “untimely and unwise” fight for equal rights for black people. His response to them, jotted in the margins of a newspaper article about the letter along with pieces of paper smuggled in to him, articulates grace along with biting truth. Some of that truth disturbs me in its continued significance. Or, in 2020 vernacular: I’m shook. The letter is long, and even this excerpt is lengthy, but I feel compelled to share this:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Ouch. The truth hurts. Has the body of Christ become weak, ineffectual, defenders of the status quo? Have we become an irrelevant social club? Are young people so disappointed with us that they’ve become outright disgusted?

I find these premonitions scary. Why? The fact that churches are dying all around us and suffering from a lack of younger demographics shows many have worsened rather than improved with the symptoms Dr. King identified almost 57 years ago.

Lessons learned from attending a mega-church virtually

Yesterday, I attended a virtual church service through Elevation Worship, one of those sometimes-vilified mega-churches that is growing while so many others sink. Even I have pointed out issues with mega-churches, such as lack of intimacy, which is still a fair point. However, as I watched the service, God opened my heart. [Sidenote: I’ve also prayed God would continually sanctify me and make scales fall from my eyes.] I realized people–even myself at times–miss the full picture when we say things like, “Young people just want a big concert!” Yes, the praise music was led by a band on a stage. But the sermon was fantastic…which, ironically, dug into a Psalm (I posted about Psalms last week).

Throughout the service–the music, the message, a video they showed praying with teachers in this pandemic, everything–I felt the Spirit moving. I realized young people want to be where the Spirit is. Oftentimes, sadly, people who have been set in their ways a long time reject new ideas, mission projects, etc. and exclude the Spirit from their churches.

The Spirit moves people to have compassion, love justice, and be bold. We absolutely need to be unified in these traits to bear fruit; otherwise, God might just curse our fig tree. Remembering the incredible sacrifice Jesus made for me, I want to be courageous for Him. I’m thankful for opportunities in my local church and at the district level to really step out in faith, especially through United Methodist Women, a mission organization that is authentically counter-cultural.

I pray we will remember all these things as we move into the future. Who will we be and what will we stand for? Also, as an excerpt from my Psalm reading today says: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Thanks for reading. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a wonderful Easter weekend.

How Reading the Psalms Transformed my Prayer Life

Prayer, as I once heard in a sermon, is an area of religion/faith “where we could all stand to improve.” Today, I want to share how reading the Psalms has improved my prayer life.

Here are some (loose) categories of how a person’s relationship to prayer may look

  1. Doesn’t pray at all
  2. Only prays in a dire situation, such as when a loved one becomes seriously ill or when one wants a work promotion, etc.
  3. Prays more frequently but tends to be rote, vague, and/or lack vulnerability
  4. Prays frequently with fervor, with humble confidence, with honesty, with worship and reverence

Just a gander, but I’d guess most people fall in category #2. Though the last category is the most ideal, let the record show there is not a ceiling of perfection with prayer; one can always pray more often, for longer, for more people and situations. Still, I’m happy to report I have moved solidly from category #3 to category #4. I will share the role the Psalms played in that. First, I need to give you a brief timeline of my faith journey/prayer life

  • 1993-2008–lifelong church-goer, too young to understand much (cat. #1)
  • 2008-2017–old enough to understand more, thought I was a Christian but was really riding on emotions and traditions (cat. #2)
  • 2017–read most of the Bible for a college course; had a spiritual transformation (still cat. #2)
  • 2017-2019–God sanctified me and made scales fall from my eyes daily; for the first time in my life, I genuinely “hungered and thirsted for righteousness” (cat. #3)
  • 2020–(going to) read entire book of Psalms; established a new method for praying and reading scripture (cat. #4)

As of April 3, 2020, I’ve read over 100 Psalms (about one third of the book left to complete).

The Intersection of my Prayer Life & my Devotions

As you see, during the heavy sanctification period, my prayer life began shifting into the right gear. But I needed to go through some trial-and-error. Praying at night before falling asleep worked for a while, but I kept dozing off before finishing. Praying before I got out of the bed in the morning worked for a while, but there were a few issues. Firstly, my still-sleepy brain kept wandering off from Lord, guide the doctors and scientists researching Friedreich’s Ataxia to find treatments and an eventual cure to I wonder what I should wear today? I need to email my boss when I get up. Secondly, I didn’t really like lying in bed for an eternity in the mornings, yet I didn’t want to cut my prayers short. Ugh, such a dilemma! Meanwhile, I was reading my Bible at some point throughout the day on the couch. The lack of routine made devotional time easier to skip. Oops, I just had way too much to do today…never mind the fact I’m not making it a priority…

Sooo. I began to read my Bible and pray at my desk in the mornings after breakfast (stringent back support=less temptation to get comfy and groggy, easier to write in my Bible; consistent routine=more likely to do it). Around that time, I began digging into the Psalms. Though I read several of them (and even paraphrased one!) during the life-altering-college-course, I’d never read the book straight through, start to finish. So I figured this might be excessive but what the heck and dived into it.

My Reaction to “Psalm Submersion”

WOW! The Psalms are incredible. They provide countless examples of praying with equal parts BOLDNESS and FAITH. I have actually been taken aback at times by how blunt and direct some of the Psalmists are–even to the point of DEMANDING that God hear their desperate cries, save the oppressed, enact justice, scorn their enemies, etc. But that element of boldness is balanced by unshakably high levels of AWE and WORSHIP. Even in the midst of pain, suffering, and feeling forsaken, these Psalmists still praise God for creating everything, having steadfast love and mercy, being a refuge for the needy, etc.

As I read these Psalms, I was inspired–even convicted–to start imitating them. I was ready to take my prayers to a new level. It also “came to me” (thanks, Holy Spirit) that I need to start praying OUT LOUD. [Boy, you realize pretty quickly how mealy-mouthed your prayers really sound when you hear the words.]

Praying out loud with the inspiration of the Psalms has pushed me to be more real, more specific, and more intentional. Getting distracted while praying is a problem of the past (praying out loud, while sitting upright at my desk, helps me focus). Hearing the words somehow makes it feel like an actual conversation with God. Speaking the words aloud helps me explore and embrace the most intimate parts of my heart and share with God how I truly feel, what I truly need, etc. The Psalms have informed my prayers by their AUDACITY to plead with God UNASHAMEDLY. And now, I find myself making similarly audacious prayers…

Lord, You created the heavens and the earth, and You created each and every person in Your image. Scripture tells us You are the refuge for the poor, the weak, and the needy. Father Almighty, in Your sovereignty, help Your children who are suffering from oppression and injustice. Free those who are imprisoned by prejudice, by persecution, by human trafficking, by domestic and child abuse, by homelessness, by the sex industry, by mental and physical illnesses, by unsafe and unfair working conditions, in war-torn nations. Lord, be their refuge, please! Give them their daily bread–peace, hope, strength, courage, perseverance, healing, or whatever they need–to help them get through today. Guide them to connect with resources to get food, shelter, and their other physical needs. Lord, I know You did not create us to suffer. Bless all those who are suffering today. And guide Your disciples to have open hearts, open eyes, and open ears to see the needs around us. Draw us near to You and help us grow individually so we can act collectively. Give us all the tools we need–boldness, unity, creativity, vision, wisdom and insight, spiritual gifts and interests, strength, faith–so we can understand how to meet those needs and turn our thoughts into actions. Lord, help us plant seeds that grow up to bear fruit–fruit that makes disciples and transforms the world. We cannot do these things alone. Let Jesus be our head so we can be the body of Christ.

Perhaps this priming of my prayer life is happening “for such a time as this.” I hope you will join me in audaciously bold and faithful prayers during these uncertain times…for those with the virus, for their caretakers and loved ones, for essential workers, for those out of work, for small business owners, for those with children, etc…

Thanks for reading! If you don’t mind sharing, which prayer category do you fall under? Do you ever pray out loud? How are you doing, really? Let me know in the comments.