Categories
Faith

Using My Prayer Journal to Be Closer to God

I don’t know about you, but prayer has been one of the most challenging parts of my faith. And it shouldn’t be! The bible is littered with scriptures about prayer: its importance, how to, famous answers. It is woven into every part of the church experience, whether you are just a Sunday sermon goer or whether you are involved in all the groups. Prayer begins and ends all the meetings and gatherings. And it always seemed, to me, that everyone just automatically knew how to pray. Everyone, that is, except me.

You want me to pray… out loud?

Never one for public speaking, public praying was something I always left to the others. The ones who knew how to pray. They knew the right words to say. The right order to say them in. It was like they had access to the secret handshake and I had somehow missed that part of orientation.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t pray at all. I do. But it doesn’t look like what I used to think it should look like. It is informal. And silent. And usually in small snippets throughout the day. It is more of an ongoing conversation with my Creator.

For the longer conversations, I turn to my prayer journal.

Writing out my prayers

If you do a quick Pinterest search you’ll see a lot of how tos for a journal that pays homage to the Christian flick War Room. And while all the pictures of the beautifully decorated and organized prayer books and binders draw me in, they’re not for me. I don’t view prayer as going to war. I view it as a conversation. It is my time to commune with my Creator, to share my doubts and worries and fears with Him. To thank Him for everything He has provided in my life. It’s also a place to seek His guidance when I have decisions to make.

For this, I need something much simpler. Basic, even. A beautiful notebook and a trusty pen.

As a writer, I have a mini obsession with notebooks and pens. I will take any excuse to wander through the office supplies section of Target to browse the pretty covers and colors. So it seemed natural to turn to my writer habits to build my prayer habits.

Spending time with my Creator

Once a week at least, I try to find the time and space to sit in the quiet with my notebook and pen. I can clear away the cobwebs in my mind and just pour out whatever I need to to God. I’m able to get into the details of things, be more specific with my fears and needs. I am free to fall into the glory of worshiping without feeling oddly on display. It is private. It is between Him and me.

Sometimes, through the course of writing out my prayers to Him, He leads me to scriptures. Those times I turn quickly to my bible or bible app. And then they are copied into the notebook, written down to call forth their power.

Writing down my prayers in this way also gives me a record of His answers. Sometimes the answers are no. Sometimes they are yes. And sometimes they are a long time coming. Only when I have “forgotten” do they get answered in some way.

Leaving a record of my journey

It is a visual journey of my relationship with God. It is a love story from budding new Christian to… now. I can flip through those pages and see His influence on my life, see how He has protected me, guided me, and lead me ever closer to Him. I can see the people He has brought to me, and those He has separated.

Prayer is still something I struggle with out loud. I still feel like that young kid asked to give a report to the class whenever I’m asked to pray out loud. And maybe I always will. But that’s okay. Because I know He hears me anyway. I know He doesn’t really care about the words that come out of my mouth, or that come out of my pen. He only cares that I talk to Him.

Tell me about your prayer life. Do you use a journal to write down requests and answers?

Categories
Faith

Why I Won’t Use This Word to Describe My Faith

Christmas is one of those times during the year where I find myself examining my beliefs a little more closely. It probably has something to do with the Christian part of the holiday. And this year, that introspection got me thinking about the language I use when I talk about my faith.

I won’t use the word Christianity very much. I will not proclaim myself a Christian. Even though others would say that I am, and I do fall under the definition. I cannot proudly say that I am one.

Is Christian a bad word?

The word has carried so many horrific crimes against humanity, so many oppressive views, so many controlling policies, that I simply can’t claim it. I cannot overlook the damage Christianity has done long enough to proudly proclaim that I am a Christian myself.

But what about the good? You may ask.

The good exists whether or not I claim the label. I can cheer for the all the positives my chosen faith community has done and is doing in this world. I can jump and shout and be so excited when I see headlines like this one: Religious Leaders Call For Global Ban On So-Called Gay Conversion Therapies.

But for me, the association with the hurt Christianity and Christians in general has done is foremost. It is the first thing that pops into my head. And it really shouldn’t be. So you will not see me use the words Christian or Christianity as much as my fellow Christ followers.

Labels aren’t everything

Let’s be clear. My feelings about the words do not have any bearing on your faith or my faith. My faith is important to me. I am constantly trying to learn and grow in it. My relationship with God is sound. My relationship with His Son is sound. Neither are in jeopardy or lacking in anyway because I refuse to call myself by that word.

I can follow Christ, read His word, pray and seek His counsel without having to say “I’m Christian.” People should be able to see it by my actions, by my love, by who I am. They should not need me to spell it out for them by saying those words. He doesn’t.

Christian? Not a Christian?

So, what does that all mean? If I’m not calling myself a Christian, what am I, what do I believe? Well, I believe in a perfect Creator, one who does not make mistakes. I believe in Christ, as the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in His Word, that he breathed life into the Bible, while still acknowledging that it was written by man. And I follow Christ’s commandments: to love God and love my fellow humans.

Being human myself, I often fail at the second one. But I try. And when I do fail, I turn to Him to help me be better.

I am a work in progress.

And part of that progress is this. Sharing myself with you all. Maybe some of you are as in progress as I am. If you are, welcome aboard! My type of Christianity may not be for you. (I am unapologetically polyamorous and bisexual.) If it’s not, that is okay! I wish you well on your own journey. Otherwise, welcome to my world. May we grow in our relationships with Christ together.

Categories
Faith LGBTQ+

When a Pope Speaks Love to a Marginalized Community

During the filming of a documentary, Pope Francis spoke out for the LGBT+ community. We are children of God, he said. We deserve to be a part of and have a family. And we deserve to have legal protections.

The Pope said this! This is amazing! And huge!

I don’t ever expect the Catholic Church to come down on the side of marriage equality. That marriage is (or should be) between a man and a woman only is a major tenet in most Christians beliefs. It is woven so intricately throughout the Bible that the Church simply can not endorse marriage equality. And that’s fine. I don’t need them to, really. It would be unfair of me to ask them to give up such a huge part of their belief system. I would love it though if they could stop fighting it so hard.

Not children of God?

This news from the Pope came at the perfect time for me. Just the other day, I had come across a conversation between a friend and someone that they knew but I did not. Both of them are Christian, I assume, based on their conversation. And this person that I do not know kept saying that we – the LGBTQ+ community – were not children of God. Because we were living in sin and, presumably, not saved. That, of course, we are loved. But we should be loved through the lense God’s truth. Our “lifestyle” could not and should not be accepted. We should instead be reminded that homosexuality is a SIN. Over and over she said this. We are not children of God.

It upset me.

Some important points

#1 – It is not a “lifestyle.” It is life. Period, full stop.

#2 – Every human on this earth is a Child of God. He created us. We are His children. Every. Single. One. Of us.

#3 – Loved by being told that we are an abomination, our love sinful? That is some Westboro bullsh*t. (Pardon my french.) And not at all what Christ calls for. Also, fun fact, Christ never speaks on homosexuality. And here’s a bonus fun fact. The original Greek word arsenokoitai more closely translates to “boy molesters.” It was not replaced with “homosexual” until 1946 in the Revised Standard Version Bible.

I am glad that person was unknown to me. I am glad my friend pushed back against them. But I am still saddened that someone would think and say such hurtful things in this day and age. (No, I am not living in a bubble. I know it happens, and worse.)

We deserve family and legal protection. Specifically, he is advocating for civil unions for same sex relationships. Not marriages. A very different, but supposedly equal arrangement. Separate… but equal… Where have we heard that before?

Let’s be clear. Separate is not equal. Civil unions are not the same as a marriage. They do not offer the same legal protections and benefits that a marriage does.

Even so, the fact that the Pope, the man closest to God on this Earth, said something like this… It’s amazing. And must be a blessing to all of the Catholic members of the LGBT+ community, in particular. Their life, their families, were acknowledged, and not judged. And the figurehead of an institution that has done so much harm to them, is fighting for them.

A reminder of acceptance

It reminded me of the episode in the Netflix show One Day at a Time. In it, there is a scene where the daughter Elena comes out to her deeply Catholic grandmother. In <60 seconds it seems Lydia goes from “No, it’s a sin,” to “Okay! I’m good!” And all while following her faith through the reasoning. It is an amazing scene. (And a reaction I wish more devout Christians would mimic.)

We deserve family. We deserve legal protections. Because we are children of God. Every one of us.

Tell me what you think? Are you surprised by what the Pope said? Please keep it civil.

Categories
Faith

Love God: It Really Is That Simple

It’s complicated. Yet so simple. As Jesus says: Love God. Love your neighbor.

Check and check… mostly.

I think we all struggle with that last one, regardless of beliefs. We are human after all. But that first one? Check. Simple enough. Love God.

It took me a while to get there though. I was not raised in the church. Nor in a particularly religious family. My mom is not at all religious. My dad has his faith but it’s his, and he is not one to really share unless asked. I’m sure it has guided him throughout life. But quietly.

Feeling His Influence

My grandparents and aunts and cousins (on my dad’s side) are slightly more religious. They have their bible studies and church on Sundays and prayers. Okay, so maybe more than slightly. But we moved a lot (military brat!) so their influence was from afar (if at all).

I grew up knowing who God is, knowing the important commandments, and the big bible stories. There was church and Sunday School and youth group depending on where we were stationed.

But it wasn’t until Lovey and I got serious that God and church became a real part of my life.

So we “shopped” around town for months before finding a church we both felt comfortable with. We “plugged in” to the studies and ministries. And I found a safe place to wonder and explore.

“All the questions just faded to the background and it was just peace.”

I made great new friends who were patient and loving and ready to help me find whatever answers I needed without being pushy. And then it happened, driving in the rain with Lovey, off to explore a nearby city for the day. A peace I had not felt before just washed over me. All the questions just faded to the background and it was just peace. Like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by a silence you can feel, with none of the dark and foreboding ickies surrounding it.

Since that day, I have grown and read and still sought out answers. But I also settled into a peace that those questions may always be there. That He will give me answers on His time. It has been a lesson in trust and patience. And love.

Love God. Love your neighbor.

It’s just that simple.

Tell me about your journey. Do you still have questions? How has He answered those for you?