Cake in God’s Kitchen

Honestly, I’ve never really understood prayer. Never been very good at it. While I know those saints who seem to excel at prayer probably say the same thing, I’m not one of those so-called-saints. I may legitimately be the worst “pray-er” on the planet.

But I digress…

When I was in my teens, I used to pray pretty consistently every morning. “Heal her. Fix this. Help me.” Then I started to wonder what God thought of those prayers.

Have you ever had that one friend who gets really into something like, say, fitness and it consumes her every conversation? You used to be able to relate when she talked and maybe even contribute something relevant in return, but now you just listen as she informs you of how much weight she has lost, and how her daily running routine is the best thing that ever happened to her, and how you really shouldn’t eat doughnuts because, seriously, they are sooo bad for you.

Once you have a handful of those conversations, you start to question your friendship. “Why am I still talking to this person? We have nothing in common anymore. Do I really want to hang out with someone who doesn’t believe in the goodness of doughnuts? Uh uh. No way. Gotta cut that toxic right out of my life.”

But seriously. I started to wonder if I ever become “that friend” to God. I pictured myself going through my daily routine of praying for this person and that person and, oh, don’t forget this situation, when God rolled His eyes like, “Here she goes again with that conversation we’ve had fifty times.”

That’s when I started praying less and trusting more. Because God knows. He heard me the first time. And the fifth. and the fiftieth. He knows my heart hasn’t changed. So really, what is the purpose of prayer?

I’ve struggled with this for years, and finally found a satisfactory answer within the pages of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Praying Upside Down.

Kelly compares prayer to baking a cake with her kids. While she admits she could work faster without them cluttering up her kitchen, she invites them to be part of the process because they find joy in it. They want to be part of it all—dumping and stirring and brushing flour from their hands—so that when the finished product finally comes out of the oven, they can feel like they were part of the miracle.

Likewise, prayer is for us. God invites us into His kitchen, not because He needs us there, but because He wants us there. He wants us to be part of the miracle. To have our cake and bake it, too. Because it grows our faith. It reveals to us the goodness of God.

We get a glimpse of His character when we ask for something and He delivers. And we get a glimpse of His character when we ask for something and He answers differently than we perhaps hoped or expected.

You know, maybe I’m not as bad at prayer as I imagined. Maybe I simply pray in unconventional ways.

In any case, I am thankful for a God who invites me into His kitchen, handles my presence with patience, and cleans up the messes these clumsy hands make.

The Villain in My Own Story

“Trusting in so much
That’s not worth trusting in
The person she’s now
Meets who she could’ve been.
There are two roads to travel
She chose the wrong one
Now there’s no going back
What’s done is done.”

The first time I read those words in Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely, they broke a more hopeful heart. A heart that believed in fresh new pages with every sunrise. Today, they still break my heart, but I don’t rage against the truth of them as surely as I did then.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

God, I don’t even know who I could have been. Can hardly remember who I was. And I am trying so very hard not to think of what I am today—the villain in my own story.

I come before You wielding my anger like knives, my discontent as katanas. But when I stand before You in all my glorious rage, You don’t reach for Your weapons. You make no move to defend Yourself against my deadly advances.

It’s like that scene from The Mask of Zorro when the teacher instructs the pupil to choose his weapon, and Alejandro spins around, sword in hand, to find De La Vega holding a spoon.

A spoon.

Just like Alejandro, my anger morphs into confusion.

I came here to wage war and You are extending a dinner invitation.

And I know what will happen should I choose to sit down. You’ll tell me how You know I chose the wrong path. You’ll tell me how long You’ve been waiting for me to come home. You’ll tell me it’s high time I stop Taylor Swifting my way through life, because the lyrics You’ve written fit me better than Taylor’s ever could.

You’ll tell me redemption is only a heartbeat away, should I choose to accept it.

That’s where this whole plan breaks down—in the accepting. Because I am tired of blindly accepting things. Tired of being the observer in my own story. Tired of being the duty-fulfiller and the girl who simply does what needs to be done.

I sense You smile at that confession. You’ve been waiting so very long for me to stop merely drifting through life. My rebellion is a spark that might make You proud if I would only learn to rebel against the proper things.

I’m a little misguided, a little bit lost. And I am far from ready to release this spark that has led me astray.

Anne Jackson was wrong. It’s not that there is no going back; it’s that it is so very hard to find the willpower to turn around when the desire is still rooted this deep.

I would ask You to rescue me, but that would make me too much of a damsel in distress. I’d rather find my way back on my own.

You can leave the light on, though. Maybe sprinkle the path with bread crumbs, so I can pretend I’m the big, strong girl who can navigate the woods on her own, even though I know You are there, waiting in the shadows, bringing me from lost to found.

But that’s my pride talking. That’s the part of me that wants to go on pretending I am strong enough without You. So if we are going to get this right, you should probably come out of the shadows and take me by the hand so we can walk this path together.

And when I feel like looking back over my shoulder, squeeze my hand a little tighter to remind me that You’re there. Leading me out of the woods. Into the light. Guiding me home.

To Love Like You Do

A Prayer:

When you came to earth, You didn’t stand on street corners with signs that screamed condemnation. Oddly enough, You weren’t even the one shouting, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

You did your share of preaching—delivering theology from a fresh perspective—but mostly, You sat among the people, filling their bellies with bread and their ears with stories. Mostly, You saw people. You met them where they were and said, “Come follow Me.”

You chose them. You chose the ones who “weren’t good enough.” The ones who “didn’t quite measure up.” The ones who didn’t have all the answers. The ones with no future in spiritual things. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots… Ordinary men.

Like me.

You surprised people when You claimed to be God incarnate. Because, of course, God would come with fire and brimstone. God would come to purge the earth of evil men, not cleanse the hearts of the broken and condemned.

We think we know You, but we don’t. We don’t know the way Your heart grieves to see us so caught up in religion that we neglect relationship. We don’t understand Your love for the least of these.

When I look around my world, I see a people who preach tolerance and live something else entirely—people who would throw stones rather than extend mercy.

Sometimes I think I hear You weeping. Sometimes I feel the God in my heart extend a hand toward one of the broken. Usually I’m not good at being God incarnate, so I walk on by, still feeling the ache of Your heart resounding within mine.

What will it take for me to love like You do?

God, reveal Yourself in me until I disappear into You.

Life As I Don’t Know It

Hopes and dreams and time wasted wishing I could fast-forward to the big moments already. So much of my life is spent waiting for things I never make happen. And I wonder where I would be right now if I pursued things as recklessly as I dream of doing.

So many hours compiled of wasted moments, strung together on the threads of my distraction. And I think it’s because there’s a shadow of doubt in me.

I’m not brave enough to challenge You to catch me when I leap.

But what if I was? What if I plunged headfirst into the unknown? What if I charged into the places I want to claim without fear or trepidation? What if I lived fully abandoned to You and the calling You have placed on my life?

Why is it so easy to cling to the comfortable and familiar when the after effects of the two are but a shadow of what my life was meant to be?

But somewhere in the corners of my mind, I hear You whisper:

“Life. Abundant Life.”

Bubbling over. Bursting at the seams. Spinning in ecstasy.

Life.

I settle. For so much less than You would offer me. For a life much simpler than Your grand design.

And I convince myself that this is the best there is while my heart remains carved out like a tree a woodpecker has claimed for its own—hollow, empty, resounding.

And You come knocking, knocking, knocking… to reveal what I’ve been missing all along.

Life. Abundant Life.

Life as I don’t know it.

Learning to Fall

I felt him falling, arching his back against my wrist as his head swung down between my knees. My heart fell with him even as my left hand shot out to wrap my fingers around his shirt and pull him back upright. I was greeted by a smile so big it crinkled his nose and squished his eyes into slits.

“You,” I said, my voice shaking, “have a lot of faith in me.”

Of course he did. Because I’ve been throwing that child around for half his life and I haven’t dropped him yet, but I think it’s time to tell sweet Oliver that he needs to at least warn me before he pulls a stunt like that.

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A Prayer:

God, I wish I had half the faith in You that Oliver has in me, but I’ve never been a fan of falling. I’ve never been good at letting go of my illusion of control long enough to trust You will catch me.

I’m not at all like Oliver, smirking as you extend Your arms over the fence because I know You’re not going to put me down. I’m more like his little schoolmate Brooke, crying out and grabbing at Your face, Your neck, Your hair like You might actually leave me alone in the wilderness. But unlike Brooke, when You call off Your playful scare, I’m not smiling. I’m still shaken. I guess I’m not as forgiving as children tend to be.

But I want to trust You that much. I want to be able to smile in Your face in that moment before I arch my back and fall, knowing You won’t let me hit the ground.

I’ve done an awful lot of falling, but not enough trusting in my lifetime. I never was that kid You could swing through the air.

Because sometimes I don’t believe You would never let me fall. Sometimes I’m afraid You won’t be ready. Sometimes I doubt the strength in Your arms. So I hold on, clinging tightly to the collar of Your t-shirt and I miss the exhilarating joy of flying through the air.

But I don’t want to be that kid with the fearful eyes and clenched fists; I want to be the one whose arms hang loose and smile comes freely. The one laughing instead of whimpering. The one who is fully abandoned to the thrill of the fall and completely confident in the arms that hold me.

Help me, like Oliver, to never hold on, but trust You will never let go.

over the shoulder

I’m working on it, all right?

My Heart is Not as Daring as Your Desire

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

When I read these words, penned by Steven James, I’m struck by the truth of them. The things You want for me are so much bigger than the life I would create for myself. It’s not that I don’t desire Your will; it’s that I’m afraid of pursuing it. Afraid of the path it will lead me down.

I know that, ultimately, You want what is best for me, but I know from past experience that the refining process is painful. So very painful.

It’s not Your desire that I’m afraid of, really. Those things You want for me… I want them too. More than anything. Well, almost anything. I guess I don’t want them more than I don’t want to face the mountains in the distance. I guess I don’t want them more than I want to avoid the dragons that lurk along the way.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

It isn’t. I’m not the storybook heroine, charging full-speed ahead toward my great and glorious destiny.

I am Rapunzel, clinging to the comfort of my tower.

I am Sleeping Beauty, hands folded peacefully across my chest.

I am Cinderella, sleeping in a pile of ashes because I’m not brave enough for princes and ballgowns.

I say I want adventure, but I’m lying. I want what is comfortable. Familiar. Safe.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

Most days, I’m perfectly happy in my prison because it means I don’t have to be finding my way in this great, wild world. But deep within my heart, there’s this prick of conviction—sharper than the spindle that put me to sleep.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

But it should be. And it could be, if only I would let it.

God, You know that ultimately I want Your will. It’s just that mine so often gets in the way…

I’m torn between the Life You Offer and the Life I Demand From You.

So please, make me brave enough to dare all that You desire.

And when You call me out of this prison tower, let me spring from the ledge with both feet.

Your Once Upon a Time Tale

God of Wonder,
Why do I find it so easy to get caught up in the mundane busyness of life? Why do I allow the tiniest details to become the biggest issues? Why do I get so caught up in going through the motions that I forget how to fully enjoy You?

Sometimes I fear I’ve allowed the little things to swallow up the Greatest Thing of All. Sometimes I look around the clutter of my life and realize I can’t find You. And life is simply too boring when it is not lived in constant awareness of who You are and all You offer me.

And I feel that I’ve lost something I desperately want to reclaim.

I want to recapture the mystery that is You. I want to lose myself in that fairytale wonder where pumpkins turn to carriages and kisses break spells and there’s always that hope of dreams coming true. I want to drink deeply of Your Presence and lose myself in Your love. I want to dance unhindered in the courts of Your Kingdom.

But my happy thoughts have been replaced with an endless list of things I need to do and I’m learning that pixie dust wears off if you haven’t used it for awhile. That Neverland wonder feels so far away when I’m too weighed down by the trivial things in life to be able to fly.

And I know that You care about the little things. I know that You concern Yourself with the tiny details of my life. And yet… Yet I hear You calling me away from the intricacies that consume me. You beckon me out from the mundane and invite me to dance in the realm of wonder and magic.

Your hand extends the good part that Mary embraced and Martha scorned. Today I can choose to be either Mary or Martha.

So I set aside my broken priorities and allow You to sweep me off into the fantastical wonder of Your once upon a time tale.

Wonder Discovered