On Being “A Child Of God”

When I was little boy one of the biggest fights I had with my friends was not wanting to play outside. I hated the sandpit. I never saw the point of the sandpit. You played with sand and got dirty; why would I want that?!

I made up for it with fascination with other things. I used to steal mom’s wire coat hangers and make car wires and stuff. Other memories; the world through the eyes of a little boy…

on being a child of God

Dad was a giant. Because he could open the ketchup bottles and jam jars mom couldn’t, I’m sure he could stop a car with his pinkie finger. There’s nothing dad couldn’t or wouldn’t buy for me when he promised. He stepped in and ’took care’ of the kids who tried to bully me. Many memories… Mom and dad were / are just the best!

Now that I’m grown up I’m more aware of their limitations. I’m aware of some of their blind spots in their perspectives and worldview. There was a time I was naïve enough to think there was nothing mom and dad couldn’t do for me. I had and still have no doubt they have the best in mind for me.

This includes the times mom and dad had to discipline or correct me. Sometimes I knowingly misbehaved. I got disciplined. There were also times I was let off the hook; mom and dad gave me a hiding by being good to me. I felt bad for being mean to them when they chose kindness.

Being a child was key to unlocking expectation to my parents. It meant that I had the expectation of protection from my parents. I never felt guilty for asking anything of them because, well who else was I going to ask? Though I didn’t appreciate the pain of the hiding I deserved, I knew it was their responsibility to discipline.

I didn’t appreciate the manners they taught me when they did, but now I’m grateful… I was ever aware of my limitations and always leaned on my parents. With time they pushed me, helped me grow… So much…

On Being “A Child Of God”

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. — Matthew 18:3-4

Jesus taught the importance of being a child. In fact, He said that unleashing the power of His kingdom was linked to us being children. Sometimes I want to be stronger than I really am. Yet, the truth is I really am more helpless than I portray. Humility…

Sometimes I’m a brat. I resent being disciplined and taught. Being challenged to grow and take responsibility.

Yet Jesus calls me to be… a child. It is when I am a child that I allow God to truly be the Father. My responsibility is to be a child. To have innocent and expectant faith. To never stop believing in His goodwill and plans for my life. To be ’naive enough’ to take God at His Word.

For God to truly be my father, I have to be a great child.

My Routines Build Me Up And Tear Me Down

I hate mornings. I can hardly get my body and brain to engage. I used to be a morning person. Not so much now. The challenge of falling asleep manifests itself, in an even greater way, in the morning.

As I try to wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, with the hope that my wake up time is still many hours away. Squint-eyed I try to make out the time. I shower, brush my teeth, get dressed… Coffee

I have a routine that is forced. A lot of the things, I just have to do. I have many other routines; recurring things. I have rhythms I’m forced to change sometimes because life just happens. Something unexpected, a fuller diary, crises…

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Forgetting How To Pray

I think a lot. A lot about how I live is internal. I’m neither extroverted nor introverted. I’m one of those guys who are half and half. Because I think a lot, a lot of what happens to me is internal.

Sometimes I over think things. I’ve always been this way, as long as my memory serves me. I don’t fight it. I’ve learned how to make that work for me.

(Writing is one of the ways I’ve explored to help me process things.)

forgetting how to pray

This morning, as I took as walk along the coast I realised how much I had redirected some of my ‘prayer energy’ or focus to thinking. I had started thinking about the things I wanted to and should’ve been praying about.

Some people say God hears their thoughts and He should just take their thoughts as prayer. That is is them, not me!

Articulation

I don’t have a comprehensive, theological definition for what prayer is. Neither will I be prescriptive about how you should pray. However, for me, prayer must be articulated. It must be expressed.

Jesus knew that the Father knows us through and through. Every thought, anxiety, aspiration, reservation and passion. Everything. yet, Jesus invites us to ask (Luke 11:2-3; Matthew 7:7 cf. Philippians 4:6).

Prayer is more than thought; it is articulating [Click to Tweet]

I haven’t done a specific study, but as I think about it, there is nowhere in Scripture where prayer is just thought. Then again, it might just be my ‘bias’ toward prayer being articulated.

If most people are honest when they think “prayer”, they think “articulation” and “expression”. Never mind what people think right…

How

Because I grew up in a Christian home prayer was a norm. When I decided I was going to be a Christ follower I did wonder where my parents and others sourced their prayers. There were times I got stuck on the ‘how’.

How do I come up with things to pray? How can I string words and craft sentences in such a way that God understands and I don’t make a fool of myself?

This morning I seemed to find myself at the same place I was as a little boy. Remember, my ‘philosophy’ on prayer being articulated…

Thus I have to articulate my prayer, so that I know that I am praying. Also, I do believe that God knows what we need. He knows our thoughts but prayer is one of the ways we express our faith in Him. Faith in His love for us and willingness to act for and on our behalf.

Somehow I asked myself, “how should I pray?” I pray often. But here I was, asking myself how I should pray. Then I realised something else. What I was asking myself was how was I to articulate or express what I was thinking to God.

Perfect articulation is not the object of prayer; connecting with God is [Click to Tweet]

How could I be so stupid to believe that i had to wax eloquent when it came to prayer? For this moment, at least, how did I start believe that God only hears the eloquent?

After slaying these thoughts I whipped a messy and heartfelt prayer. I’m sure it pleased the Father to hear that snot and tears… I connected with God. He did some things in my heart.

Messy prayers mean and do more than unarticulated and unsaid prayers [Click to Tweet]

God is never surprised or puzzled when our (messy, articulated) prayers reach His ears. Like a parents having pleasure at their children’s attempt to speak, I know God loved hearing from me.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Rather the messy prayer than none at all…

What other barriers stop people from praying? Like me, have you had similar experience(s) in your prayer life?

Answers | Prayer Rehab

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I Am Jonah, this blog is also, in some way, a journal of how I’m learning to follow Jesus again. Part of it is about chronicling the tension between what God wants of, in and through me.

Lately, it seems God is putting me through prayer rehab. Reclaiming an appreciation of prayer and its significance. Sometimes it is not that I or we don’t know anything. It is not that we have forgotten but we need reminders. We need renewed perspective, vision, and passion.

A renewed sense of weightiness… It seems, at least for me, God always takes me back to the “elementary” to grow me, mature me to the “next level”, whatever that is.

Back to prayer…

God answers prayer. He does. Many times I’ve been frustrated with Him because ‘He didn’t answer my prayers’. The truth: most of the times He has answered my prayers the answer has been “no”.

Like a brat nagging mom or dad because they answered my request but not with the answer I wanted… That is how my prayer life has been in many seasons of my life.

Nothing but a nag. No depth. Me-focused. Intense on what I wanted… There are times the sum of my prayer life has been me giving God marching orders. My shopping list.

There are times my prayer life is nothing more than a rant about my problems. My challenges. I must be transparent, honest with God as I connect with Him. God is not shocked by my frustrations with the answers I get from Him, sometimes.

My humanity doesn’t shock or surprise God… Those times I rant, complain, and yes, even those times I’ve scolded God for not doing what I asked. For not doing what I wanted. What I told him, no, for not doing what I ordered Him to do.

I’m being reminded that I sometimes God’s answer is, “no”. Sometimes the answer is, “not that way or in this time”. The answer has also been, “never”.

This morning (sounds like a guy on the podium on Sunday morning right, but I am actually writing this in the early morning hours)

This morning, I am being reminded that even Paul, the apostle, the missionary, had desires to go places and God squashed them. Surely, he prayed about his plans… God’s answer to his plans were sometimes contrary to what Paul wanted. This is true for me. For us and our plans… Sometimes our prayers are in our plans / planning…

Sometimes God’s answer is, “Go!” and that can also freak me out. Somehow, God has a way of answering by giving us assignments we feel are greater than us. We feel ill-prepared and perhaps don’t measure up to.

Yet, He still sends me. Sometimes God’s answers are exactly what we wanted… That’s the next post.

Today, God, I pray, give me courage to accept and make peace with all Your answers… Amen.

 

Related:

More, Deeper Than A Craft

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

I borrowed the tittle of this post from Mark Batterson‘s book, “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day“. What I will share with you in this post is about something that struck a great chord in me. Particularly also due to my earlier post, More, Deeper Than A Craft.

I get this from Mark who got it from Ted Loder’s book, “Guerillas of Grace“. It is about how prayer is way more than what we have reduced it to. May it resonate with you, the way it has with me:

How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

Or groans

or sighs

or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

or clenched fists

or the cold sweat that trickles down my back

or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will You accept my prayers, Lord,

my real prayers,

rooted in the much and much and rock of my life,

and not just the pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged

bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord,

as I really am,

messed up mixture of glory and grime?

This prayer about prayer is so liberating. It gives a perspective and depth to prayer that I feel we have undermined and overlooked. Sometimes words evade us. Sometimes we don’t pray the prayers we really mean to or want to pray, because we’re locked into wanting to be crafty, articulate.

What are some of the things that have shaped your perspective and attitude toward prayer?

As I wrote the questions above I realised that there are both negative and positive things that have shaped my prayer life (whatever that is). As I’ve said, I shared some of that in this post. If you haven’t read it check it out and let’s have a conversation.

You can do that either with me, others but most importantly with God.

I know, for sure, that one of the biggest approach and “attitude shapers” when it comes to God, is our understanding of who God is. As my view of God has matured, so has my prayer life. Sometimes I think I’ve regressed. See-saw. At other times I’ve adopted, knowingly and otherwise, other people’s approaches and practices.

I have been guilty of creating a chasm between God and myself (if ever that is possible, but you know what I mean… I’ve done this by embracing barriers and practices that I’ve created myself or adopted from others.

Probably my most earnest prayer ever is this one here. I am convinced it’s probably the most defining prayer we can pray. Nothing can define us more than God encounters. And, they are birthed in earnestness in prayer.

[Photo Credit: ninastoessinger]

OK To Struggle With God, But In God

OK To Struggle With God, But In God

It is not always easy being vulnerable about struggles with myself in relating to God and what He expects of me. I wish I was super spiritual. The thing is, growing up as a Christian there were times I was made to believe that the more you matured spiritually the less you struggled with stuff. That you were impervious to temptation and unChrist-like behavior.

I wish I knew earlier that it was OK, fine, to struggle with stuff. I’m not saying that it is fine to give into temptation but that temptation and other struggles of being a Christ follower don’t make you a “lesser” Christ follower. What determines whether you’re immature or not, is your response to temptation and struggles.

I’ve been liberated to know that it is fine to have struggles with God. I mean Jonah, for example, struggle with God’s plans for the people of Nineveh and went to Tarshish (Jonah 1:2-3). Maybe that’s not the best example, what about Paul, kind of the rock star Christian right, he struggled with God because of some thorn (Romans 7:21-24).

Wait, I think I have the best example. A man asked Jesus if He could heal his son. Jesus said the son could be healed if the father believed. Wow. That simple? Sometimes not. The man’s response was that he believed but still had some hang-ups. Some issues, you know challenges, believing.

Out came his confession, “I believe but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). Awesome. This man was upfront about what His struggle to believe and rely on Jesus completely. This is liberating, especially for the times I’ve felt and feel condemned by others for not believing or having “enough faith”.

“Enough faith?” What is that? Who has the measure for that? [Click to Tweet]

How absurd that we can be the ones to determine how “enough” other people’s faith is. Ludicrous! Profanity! How dare we tell people they don’t have enough faith. How dare I tell anyone that they faith is not “strong enough”. How can I condemn others like this?

Moving on. This man was real with Jesus and Jesus had no problem with that. It is when we’re smug and try to act like we got it all together we push God’s hand away (Luke 18:10-14).

The most important thing about having struggles, whatever they are, is where we turn to. Some have challenges with some of the ways things are done in the local Church and choose to stay away. Some don’t understand how they lives have played out the way they have that they shun and hate God.

It’s OK to struggle with God, but in God [Click to Tweet]

Grapple with whatever you’re grappling with as long as you take it to God. As long as you use it to seek God more about it. As long as you go back to God, like the man in desperate need, “I believe but help my unbelief”.

God I’ve used excuses about the things I don’t understand about You, about how my unmet expectations in life, to turn from you. I’ve turned from you while, on the outside, I’ve done things that “normal” Christ followers do. Help me to always turn to you when I struggle with you. Amen.

I Am Jonah, I believe but help my unbelief…

 

[Photo Credit: jot.punkt]

Seeking HIM and NOT Finding

There are times that I spend some time reading the Bible in trying to know God. Trying to understand God… Trying to figure Him out a little better than the last time.

I try to listen to His voice. It is settled in my mind, and heart that God does speak. It sometimes takes me a while to hear Him speaking because He also speaks in ways that I don’t expect. In ways I don’t prefer, in some cases.

I would prefer He used billboards. I wish He would pull some stunts from the Bible… Maybe send an angel so that I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that it is He who speaks to me. I’ve been following Christ for many years and I’m still learning to hear Him.

Does that make me spiritually immature? The fact that I’m still cautious about being quick to say, “This is what God is saying to me…” that is. I hate and I’m also scared of being judged as this by other Christ followers for not being so attentive. For not always being able to hear God speak.

seeking and not finding him

Could it be that I let the anxiety of not being able to tell them about “the word” I received from God get in the way of my seeking and listening? This somehow puts pressure on me to “hear something“. I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with lying and say I heard God when I didn’t.

There are seasons I struggle to hear God. There are times I need to know if I should go one way. Should I pursue an offer? How should I respond to some people and particular situations?

There I times I just know for sure. Those are great and I’m not too worried about those. I can hear Him clearly giving me an assignment. That’s great… Well, except for the obedience part.

Sometimes I do take a while to get myself to align with God. I Am Jonah.

It is the times His voice is less than a whisper. I sometimes allow clutter, noise to muffle His voice. Does God sometimes speak that way intentionally to cause me to seek Him a little more? Or is it just the noise I’ve allowed in my life? Maybe both…

Jesus said seek and you shall find. It means that. What it doesn’t mean is that every time I read the Bible I should find him right?

The fact that I can’t hear Him speak doesn’t mean that He isn’t. That I don’t hear Him speak doesn’t mean that He is speaking for me to hear. Sometimes God is just quiet, right?

Seeking Jesus, the Christ, is not an event. It is a journey. Each moment I seek and think I don’t find is a step to a revelation in a tomorrow day. There is a revelation of God our spirits have that we’re not aware of. This is because it is a building block to the ‘revelation moment’.

The truth, I don’t always see or hear God as I read His word. Perhaps it’s more right to say, I’m not always aware of the revelation of God each time I seek Him. Perhaps in those times all that has been uncovered to me is pixel of the bigger picture.

If God is not obscured, in a sense, perhaps I would never appreciate the significance of the moments the light went on in my spirit. Revelations of who He is, is made precious by the process of seeking. God, is that part of the idea?

Perhaps all these questions are not as important as this: my focus should be attentiveness, so that when He does speak I hear Him. Compromising my attention will be my demise.

Stay attentive. Keep seeking…

God, help me to be more in tune, more attentive to you. Help me guard and nurture my attentiveness to you. Help me to be alert to hear your voice, your leading. Help me to draw my attention from what I want. How I feel, opinions… may these things pale as I keep my attention on you. Amen.

[Photo Credit: Dan-scape (Peak District-Photo)]