prayer

Melissa Hawks on Prayer: The Angelic Toxic Waste Dump

Melissa Hawks on Prayer

Melissa Hawks has been a friend of mine for almost two years now. Our friendship spawned because of a crazy thing Jon Acuff decided to do called the Start Experiment (Now Dreamers and Builders), and has grown into a massive community today. I consider her one of my bests, even though we haven’t known each other for a long amount of time. She’s a woman I’ve shared stomach-hurting laughter and deep, grievous tears with. We have both been there for each other during our darkest of days, and have helped pull each other out of the pit. I’ve watched her grow deep and wide, as she’s watched me. Hopefully, this is the first of many guest posts from Melissa. I’ve noticed throughout our friendship that she’s pretty exceptional when it comes to prayer. She is always praying for others, for circumstances, for herself. I wanted her to share with us today about prayer, so that maybe some of that great habit she has will rub off on us. Without further adieu…


   I first learned how to pray when I was a seventeen year old freshman away at college. That may seem odd considering I grew up in a family where ministry was what you were born to rather than a life choice. I learned all about the technicalities of moaning and groaning and prayer journeys and prayer meetings and prostrating yourself before His face before I could walk. But I learned how to pray at the age of seventeen from a middle-aged professor named Jim Sleeva.

Sleeva is a legend amidst those who sat under his tutelage at the small Christian college I attended. I was never quite sure whether he liked or approved of me; he was hard to read. Back then I was a pretty great at following the rules, but beneath it all I knew the truth. A wild heart beat it’s irregular rhythm within my chest. There was a rumor that Sleeva had x-ray vision like Superman so I knew he could probably see my wild heart too. He reminded me of how I had always pictured Jesus. I couldn’t imagine that Jesus (or Sleeva, if he could see them) would approve of all my thoughts. But, I was pretty well versed in Scripture and I knew Jesus had made quite a name for himself by being nice to the sex workers and women caught in adultery, so I figured maybe at some point he (and Sleeva) might find it in their holy hearts to like me too.

Here’s what I learned from Sleev about praying:  you don’t have to be fancy. He never used grandiose words, or elaborate repetitive phrasings. He spoke exactly like he would speak to anyone else. He would close his eyes, get a giant ridiculous grin on his face and say, “Hey, Jesus. Thanks for these kids here and this beautiful sunny day you gave us to enjoy. You knew exactly what we needed after the last two weeks of storms and rain. Touch my friend Juan, who has the flu and heal his body. Show us how we can love You, each other, those we meet, better. You’re the coolest, Jesus. (because Sleeva was kind of a hippie) Amen. He would finish his prayer and you would think, “yeah. That dude knows Jesus.”

That’s when I learned how to pray.

The whole idea of “pray without ceasing” always seemed overwhelming and and a bit dramatic to me. Until I came to understand that my prayers are just me talking to God. About stuff. All the things. And that’s what I do. When I stopped trying to force my prayers to fit into a certain time frame of a half hour first thing in the morning or an hour before bed (yeah, that never happened), and I just began to start talking to God throughout the day whenever life happened, that’s when relationship formed. That’s when it became like breathing.

That sounds hard, right? Does it sound a little painful? It’s easy. It’s part of being mindful about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. If I notice a sunset or I’m so angry at something that has occurred. I acknowledge those feelings and turn them into a conversation with God. “Thank you for that glorious sunset, God” or “I’m so freakin’ pissed right now, God.” It’s a good habit to get into because it also makes me more in tune with His voice. When I am communicating with Him, I also take more time to listen.

Don’t self-edit your prayers. He’s God. He can handle the real you. I swear in my prayers, because sometimes I swear in real life. The first time I did this was right after I filed for divorce. I was in my car alone and the weight of it all was burying me. I couldn’t breathe; it was too much. I started to pour it all out and with it came a whole heap of language that I knew the community I was raised around wouldn’t have approved of. Between the “Oh, Jesus’s” and the “@#$&” my car was being turned into an angelic toxic waste dump. But He’s GOD. He can handle it. He can handle me. And I reverence Him enough to be real with Him. It doesn’t take away from the sacredness of our conversation, it adds validity to it. I am not hiding from Him.

The intimacy that comes with this kind of relationship with God has some great benefits. It teaches you to live with less fear. I have become less afraid of the dark because the Light is always with me. It also becomes easier to recognize dark things because you are accustomed to living your life in the light. You know immediately when you take an action that you shouldn’t. You learn to love people better, forgive faster, and that God doesn’t fit into any of our boxes we try to shove Him into.

I’m continually learning how to be in relationship with Him. How to trust. How to quit trying to tell Him how my story should be written. I’m so damn bossy. And He is patient, loving, and keeps redeeming me and my story. My prayer of late for my own life has been this, “I trust you to complete that which concerns me.” It’s been the ultimate way of me letting go and leaving it in His hands. Because here is the truth my prayers have taught me…

He is God. He is trustworthy and He is good. And even on the worst days…that is enough.

Holy Sanctification Process Batman, What the Crap is Happening?

What an insane 24 hours it has been. We all know one of the reasons why, and for the sake of all of our sanity, I won’t talk politics.

Last night my son woke up at around 3:45 in the morning. Typically when this happens, something spiritually fishy is going on, but I was drugged up on NyQuil, so Daniel handled it.

I woke up this morning to my phone being blown up with texts about friends in the hospital. Seizures, brain bleeds, emergency open heart surgery, respiratory infections…. THE WORKS!

How quickly God can put into perspective what is most important.

How quickly God can remind us of WHO is actually in charge.

Today has been physically and emotionally exhausting, but spiritually I feel SO ALIVE. I feel like my church family is suffering together, and suffering well. I haven’t really realized, until today, how much we love each other. It’s incredible and perhaps a snapshot of what heaven will be like (without the pain, tears, and weird hospital socks).

As wounded soldiers who are having to get their broken bones set and bandaged up, we are all leaning on each other for help, and it may be one of the most humbling and amazing times of my life.

If you are of the kind that prays, pray for Church On The Way. Pray for endurance, rest, strength, courage, hope and faith.

God is walking with us through the valleys.

 

Soul Drunk

It’s astounding, once I am sober- minded, to think about the thoughts I had prior that I would use to justify the propitiation of sin.

And by sober-minded, I mean having repented of deep, dark sins, leaving me clear- headed. Like a blindfold taken off of my eyes.

Seriously though, let’s really think about this. When we are completely consumed with the chase of earthly joys, we are drunk in sin, running aimlessly about, never really catching what we want. We stumble around without any clear vision or realization of how much we are hurting ourselves, and it is only until we wake up the next morning, with a massive headache, that we realize the bruises on our arms and the cuts on our feet.

I haven’t been doing very well with the coffee. I wrote a few weeks ago about giving up coffee because it had become an idol, but one does not simply kick over a golden calf, destroying it with one pathetic push (especially if it is not truly repented of). Remember how much work it took to build it?

Same with food.

And with spending money.

And with wanting a fairy-tale marriage.

I’ve been really sick the past few days. I actually cannot think of another time in my life when a sore throat was this painful. My body aches, and my face is draining slowly. All of this led me to sit down with a cup of very hot tea this morning while Abram was taking a nap, and dive into God’s arms. Putting the pain of my flesh aside, it was incredibly restful. I heard deep, deep down within my soul the holy spirit asking me why I keep chasing these things. We simply started conversing. I was reminded of why I permanently had the word “Beloved” tattooed on my wrist, the reason there is a tree with vines on my shoulder, and a sparrow that rests on the skin below my ear.

Oh yea. I forgot about those.

I then felt lead into a much needed time of repentance, where I desperately yet fearlessly let these idols of coffee, food, money and marriage go. With each sin repented of, I followed it with the request that God would break the chains and set me free. Very deep, relieving breaths followed.

I tell ya, there’s nothing different from those moments this morning to the moments I sit in this afternoon. My throat is still in excruciating pain, and my bones still ache. But I feel free-er, stronger. Ready to fill this clean-out body and soul of mine with something better, more joy-everlasting.

I even had a plate of broccoli for lunch…. because I wanted to.

But let me just say this, and please pay attention: We, as humans, are by no means one time fixes. I am repented of and free from those idols and sins in this moment right now, but the second I turn my gaze away from Christ and onto something else, I gladly open my door to sin that does not belong in me. And it is so easy to shift our gaze, when we are not constantly and deliberately seeking after and spending time with Him, asking Him to pursue us even more.

Is this where you find yourself today? Drunk in sin, getting no where and feeling miserable? I don’t care where you are right now or how important your “task” is at the moment. If you are like me today, then stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go rest in God. Let him heal and free you.

I confidently say that nothing else could possibly be more important.