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.

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.

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

The Needy Kind

I once informed my family that I was going to spend some time with Jesus.

“Tell Him I said, ‘hi,'” my mom said.

Then my brother (who was not five, but twenty-three) chimed in, “Tell Him I want a pony.”

We all got some laughs out of that one, but when I sit down and really think about it, I find that the confession that slips off my tongue is, “I’m not really the needy kind, except when it comes to You.”

Because I’m pretty independent. I’m not one to ask people for help until I’ve tried it on my own and discovered that I really can’t do it. But that’s not the case when it comes to my prayer journals. And I’m not saying that every page details me asking for a pony. There are days where I write out lists of things I’m thankful for and marvel at how God managed to blow my mind yet again, but when I flip through the pages that reflect my spiritual walk, I find that so many of my prayers include me asking for something.

To be sheltered close to God’s heart.

To learn to see with His eyes.

That God will grant favor to that missionary who is very much a part of my heart.

That I will find joy in His presence and hope in the hard times.

And I think, when’s the last time I shut myself away from the world simply to tell God “hi”?

I can’t remember. I think there was a time, once, when I would wake up in the morning and whisper a greeting to the One who shapes my days, but it has been too long ago. I’ve become needy in all the wrong ways.

Or maybe the problem is that I’m not needy enough.

I want to be the kind of needy that craves time spent in His presence.

I want to be the kind of needy that reaches out to Him the moment I wake up.

I want to be the kind of needy that can’t live without knowing He’s right by my side every, single moment of the day.

I want to be the kind of needy that doesn’t need answers; only Him.

And if I have one request today, it’s that He would be enough.

The Better Thing

A Very Confused, But Heartfelt Prayer

I want to say that I forgive You, but maybe I should be thanking You instead. Thanking You that You know me better than I know myself. Thanking You that You gave me the best thing, even though I couldn’t see it in the moment.

Because, in a way, You gave me exactly what I asked for—exactly what I thought I wanted. And even though it stung enough to make me question if maybe I thought wrong, it’s exactly what I needed after all.

But then, You always give me what I need. Even when it hurts. Even when it breaks my heart and sets my world to spinning. Even when I’m left asking, “Why?” only to find the why in the form of a prayer I prayed only a few weeks or months earlier. I asked for this. And You said, “Okay.” Then You said that things will only get better from here on out.

And I struggled to believe You. To trust Your promise that this was for the best. To know that Your arms would be there to catch me. But now that I’m coming out of the fog, I see… I see that the view is so much better from up here. That the world seems so much brighter from this vantage point.

I think of all the times I believed I knew the best way—believed my will was more important than Yours. You proved me wrong every single time. Not out of spite, but out of love. Because You saw where my path ended. You saw the destruction that waited up ahead. And You guided me—sometimes gently and more often with a forceful tug—onto the better path.

And here I sit once again, in a place more beautiful than I could have imagined when You first said, “Let’s go this way.” And as I look over the view You’ve set before me, I realize there’s really nothing to forgive. So here is my prayer of thanks… For caring enough about me to not give me what I want. For knowing me better than I know myself. And for always giving me the better thing.

Aware

Lord,

I regret many things,

but I do not regret this moment with you.

For it will have been a lifetime well-spent

to have lived this single moment

aware of your presence.

Steven James

Lord,

I waste so many moments caught up in the mundane.

So many hours focused on the trivial.

How much time I spend aware – truly aware – of Your presence

seems so small in the scope of my life.

So I revel in this moment that I too often ignore.

Help me become more aware of Your presence today.

Hearing it from You

One of the students in my youth group posed the question: “Why do some people find it so hard to open up to God when He knows everything anyway?”

A leader volunteered that maybe it’s because we tend to think that if we suppress something, it will go away. She suggested that maybe people are afraid to open up because when you talk about something, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

I could see truth in her statement, and maybe that really resonates with you, but I found that my silence resulted from something else entirely. My problem lay directly in the ending of my young friend’s question. God already knows everything… so why bother telling Him about it?

It took me a long time before I realized that God actually likes hearing from me. Yes, He already knows the things that are in my heart, but He wants to hear them from my mouth. To know that I want Him to know. Maybe that thought is hard to wrap Your mind around, so let me phrase it this way:

My aunt used to regale me with tales of “Samantha this” and “Samantha that”. While I loved hearing what my little cousin was doing, nothing delighted me more than when Samantha herself would walk up to me in wide-eyed wonder exclaiming, “Guess what?”

She could tell me the same story I had heard only five minutes earlier from her mom, yet I would hang on Samantha’s every word. Why? Because I loved hearing the story from her point of view, seeing it through her eyes. I loved the childlike enthusiasm. I loved the fact that she wanted me to be privy to the many facets of her life.

So be reminded that, yes, God already knows the intimate details of your life, but He also cares greatly about you. Nothing delights Him more than when one of His children approaches Him in wide-eyed wonder and says, “Guess what?”

So go ahead and give it a try. Your heavenly Father is waiting to hear from you.

When God Says “Pray”

All was quiet in the Snyder house. I was just about to drift off to sleep when my eyes flew open and my spirit was convicted to pray for Tony. Tony was a friend – more of an acquaintance, actually – whom I hadn’t seen since he had moved a good six months earlier. But it was the middle of the night, and I was inclined to pray. So I did.

Tony’s face haunted me for more than a week, often at the most inconvenient times. I’d be guiding a string of preschoolers down the crowded hall of a church. “Pray.” I’d be fixing a late lunch for my siblings. “Pray.” I’d be lining up the perfect pool shot. “Pray.”  Though I thought the persistent urge to pray was getting a tad bit ridiculous, I prayed.

A year later, I stumbled across Tony’s mom on facebook. I shot her a message to ask how life was going and part of her reply sent a holy tremor down my spine. Tony had been in an accident last June. June was the month I couldn’t get him off my mind.

It struck me that I could have been lying in bed praying for Tony the very night he rolled his truck. My frantic prayers could have empowered the angels who spared his life that night. I suddenly realized that the entire time I was praying, Tony was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from a near death experience.

Let me tell you, a message like that will make you think twice the next time God puts someone on your heart. So, of course, when I was unable to read the other night because I couldn’t get a certain face out of my mind, I set the book aside and began to pray. Though I may never know the reasons behind this particular prayer, I think of Tony… and how God divinely touches the hearts of His children when another is in need. And so I pray.

Gods and Goals

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Sometimes in our walks with God, we start to feel as if we are running in place rather than moving along. I hate that feeling. So there I was, trying to get myself on the right track with God, when I stumbled upon a poem by author Steven James. In essence, this poem was a prayer that can be summarized in one sentence: “If goals can become gods, may You be the only goal I have.”

Maybe I struggle with this more than you do, but sometimes I let my dreams take over. Lately, I’ve been trying so hard to figure out where I’m supposed to go next that I forgot to sit down and soak in God’s Presence now. Somewhere along the lines, I got my priorities wrong. But in the moment I read that poem, I decided to set them straight.

“I choose You,” I whispered, echoing the prayer of Steven James. Then I turned on some music, basked in God’s Presence, and danced until my feet were on fire. It was one of the most beautiful nights I ever spent with my Savior.

So how about you? Where are you letting your goals and desires take first place in your life? What do you need to sacrifice in order to experience true intimacy with God? He’s waiting for you to choose your god today. I pray you choose to drop your idols and whisper those infinitely freeing words: “I choose You.”