"Name It and Claim It"

I flew to Hawaii today with my husband to celebrate our marriage for 7 days here. That means a week of lots of writing, I expect, because one of the things Steven and I have to celebrate is that we both need huge doses of solitude, and neither of us needs huge doses of that cling-y kind of "couple time" that marks the expectations of newly-weds or those newly in love. So, while he sleeps, I will read and pray and write . . . and actually hope to major on the 1st 2 this week!

I have been thinking through all the scriptures on prayer, and also all the scriptures on jealousy and bickering and disharmony. An assignment for you, if you have inclination . . . take a look at the apostles' prescriptions for jealousy and dissension, and take a look at Jesus' words on the same. It is clear as can be!

If I have my focus on "His kingdom and His righteousness", and they are really first, then jealousy or dissension go straight to God and then straight to reconciliation. The "straight to God" piece is powerful, though! Ask for the things you want, so that your joy may be full! But don't ask to spend them on your own passions, but rather on His purposes for good for all of us.

So I am to go after what I want with full faith that He will give it to me if it fits His purposes for the Kingdom. And I can do that boldly, knowing that He will answer the real need: to give me what I ask for when that works for His plan, and to heal my perspective and desires when that is the first step toward giving me His abundant life.

How much of our jealousy and politics within a church are because I act to bring about my own agenda and to protect it against your agenda, and I'm jealous when your agenda seems to be succeeding and mine seems ignored? Or how much is based on a desire for affirmation that I'm just as . . . whatever (smart, devout, popular, powerful, valuable in service?) as are the people around me?

This is a gender thing again, too often. We seem to think that there is something un-feminine about owning your own agenda, praying for your own agenda, and then submitting to the real result as God and the community act. So we manipulate both God and the community (and often our own perceptions of a situation) to get what we're after and then grieve when we don't get it. But perhaps our agenda IS His best agenda, but we're being disobedient in how we go after it?

He says to ask for what you want with faith. He says to be persistent. He says God moves mountains.

So when I see a friend who is frustrated in our political and social life at St. Andrews, I am resolved to urge that woman to speak up for exactly what she wants, and to pray to that end. She may still not get what she asked for, but she will get the deeper request! God will be able to work to bring her to the place of real satisfaction as He works through her understanding her real motives and being honest with Him, us, and herself about what she's doing to get what she's really after.

Men have been trained to do that in our culture. Let's train us all to do that! It is honest and effective.

Jealousy and hurt feelings are a pointer toward what you really want. Ask for it! And go after it!

And then reconcile with your brother or sister, or with the community. Reconciliation will be full on the day when we all see His face, and it is in that light that we now can live in unity. He is TRUTH, and knowing that the truth about all our conflicts and emotions and various perspectives and agendas will be seen clearly "soon and very soon" puts today's reconciliation in a whole new light. My selfishness or anger or refusal to forgive or whatever else is wrong on my side will be seen clearly by all at some point -- even by me!! -- and all the hidden positive and negative stuff on their side will too -- by us both! -- and so I will do my best each day to truly be at peace with my brother.


On "Speaking My Truth" and "Living My Truth"

"Can I be deluded, when I think I see a different truth than the one articulated by someone I love, or the one articulated by my community, or the one articulated by you?"

Absolutely. Frequently.

But, guess what? I'm stuck here, inside this body and this mind, with these eyes. And I don't have any good way initially of determining when I am the one seeing clearly and speaking up about actual TRUTH, or when my own limitations make me challenge real TRUTH for my truth which is really not truth at all and won't bear the weight of living it out.

So I can trust these things:

1) I get to speak and think what is from me and my perspective.

2) I get to consider the opinions of others when they challenge me, or resist me challenging them or challenging "what everyone knows".

3) I get to trust that the Holy Spirit is in me, guiding me . . . and respect that He is also in you, guiding you, if you know Jesus.

4) I get to make my choices about how to live and who to be, and have to take the responsibility for those choices and their results.

And that is all we have.

NO, it isn't!

We have a belief in a sovereign God Who is able to accomplish His purposes fully . . . despite us, with us, in us, through us.


So even if I'm delusional God can work what He's after to completion. And He can even lead me into that abundant life -- despite me. And despite you. He is not only able to lead us to TRUTH, but that's what He's after.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

"Coping Techniques" vs "Living Life Abundantly"

Matthew 6:31-34 (New American Standard Bible)
31"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. "

Religion is so often about all the ways we try to cope with the realities of our lives and with the realities of the coping techniques of the people around us. It takes courage to move past the "accumulated wisdom" of all of those before us and of all of those around us, and risk being wrong with all those real consequences, or to risk alienating oneself from those one loves. But real religion does take that risk.

Real religion is fixed on Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness, which is rooted in the realities of life that emerge as we are willing to be honest about reality. It is in the context of the real world that we can experience the real God and His real abundant life. When we submit to each other in love, we nurture that reality . . . but when we submit to each other out of a fear of each other that is greater than our fear of God and of our fear of living in anything other than His kingdom rooted in reality, we give up the things He eagerly desires to give to us, and we also give up the opportunity to be used in powerful ways in the lives of those we so greatly fear.

It does take guts to step out based on what I see and feel when others tell me in many ways to just keep quiet and stay in line. By 43 I have enough experience with both alternatives to have gained a greater fear of ignoring reality as it appears to me than of being rejected or penalized by those who want so badly to control and manage reality.

I love Paul's writings to the churches at Corinth and Galatia and Colossae. In them we get a glimpse of what it was like to live out agape love for each other together as Christ's disciples in the real world of cultures that clashed and consciences that differed. That is what we still are called to do!

I live in a world where I don't worry all that much about adequate clothes or food or the basic provisions for life. But I do worry about people and their willingness to walk with me as I want to walk with them. So "seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness" and "don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow has enough trouble of its own" is a different call to me than to those in much of history and much of the world. To me it says this: let your religion be lived out in community, but your obedience be personal and intimate, not communal. I call you to follow me, and that means obedience even with your take on obedience isn't supported by others. Sometimes you'll have consequences for that, but the consequences will be the right ones in my plan. The consequences of ignoring what I show you and pursuing the love and acceptance of others will be total loss -- loss of my abundant life, loss of the authentic love of your community, and loss of what I would do through you for them."

So I am walking on, learning . . .

Sometimes "submit ye one to another" means a simple submission to the reality of who I am and who they are, and a decision to walk on in the way Jesus calls me to walk on, even at their displeasure or punishment or threats. Real agape always is rooted in a submission to reality as God created it and as daily life increasingly reveals it.


To My Sons on Loneliness and Friendliness

The thing I want more than anything else for my boys is that they experience life as God meant each of them to experience it -- which means many things, but the center to it is found in relationship, I believe. Since at 22, 21, 7, and 5, none of them are going to hear what I would say to them right now, I decided to post it here and keep it for them for when they might "have ears to hear".

Michael, Joshua, Noah, and Brooks (and Tyler and Cody, too!):

We are each so different in how we approach life and in how we approach people. I think I've done a good job teaching Noah that loving the people around us is central to really being who we were each created to be, and even at 7 he does a great job at that. For the rest of us, I think we have a lot to learn in it!

(Mike, you're like me: so analytical that others can't relate to all that we go through in trying to figure it all out and put it all together. The people God gives each of us who are patient enough and loving enough to be willing to be sounding boards for each of us in that process are treasures, and I hope you become as careful about protecting and nurturing and not over-taxing those relationships as I am becoming. We do need a place to sift through it all verbally! So the rest of what I am saying in this note is not about that, okay? It is an "add these things to your array of friends and mentors who get you and love you.")

Loving Jesus and loving yourselves means loving the people around us. Whatever tasks and projects and careers we are given are secondary to the people that pass through our lives, both in the value God puts upon our efforts and in the lasting rewards we will experience -- "right-here-right-now" and into "forever-and-ever". People are not tools for the rest of it, or an audience for the rest of it. The rest of it is valuable only in as much as it serves to nurture God's purposes in the people around us and in our relationships with them.

We only get a little leeway in "choosing our relationships". The idea of "setting boundaries" and only letting "safe people" in our lives -- or of hand-picking our friends for the perceived usefulness and satisfaction they bring -- is not from God, but from the culture around us. God brings those along with whom we enter into deep friendship based on our emotions at the start, and we get to enjoy those friendships when they show up . . . but He also brings along a myriad of those that we find unattractive or uncompelling, and they are just as much in our lives by His purpose to accomplish what He wants in us, in them, and in those around us.

Determine to learn to meet the emotional and practical needs of each person God brings in front of you as a ministry empowered by His Spirit to accomplish His purposes. Learn the skills to do that by trying and failing and learning and trying and succeeding in the process He takes you through with each.. If that is your central purpose, you will not only be useful to Him, you will have your own emotional needs met.

Your own emotional needs may not be met by the people you love. They will be met by God, through your relationship with Him in all Three Persons, and they will be met by the people He chooses to use to meet them. When you feel a lack there -- you are lonely in general or lonely in a particular area -- cry out to Him. He answers. I promise this from my own personal experience and from scripture and from the accounts of others, and feel huge confidence that if you test this you will find it to be true.

You will have many times when you are lonely for a particular person. You will be lonely for one who has passed through the grave to a place where they are present with Jesus and awaiting their resurrected bodies. You will be lonely for one that you love but who does not love you enough to engage in active relationship as you would desire. You will be lonely for friends who move or have life-changes that move them out of your life. You will be lonely for other friends who change and are no longer the friend you once had. That loneliness is unquenchable by any other person, but it is not unquenchable where God is concerned.

God loves each of us like that! When any of us moves away from Him, none of the rest of us can satisfy God's longing for the one who is missing! And so, when we turn to Him in those times of agony, He is there with full understanding.

He does not remove the longing for the one we miss. He does eclipse it, though. In turning to Him in our most vulnerable moments -- in all of the moments of life where we are most alive because we are feeling strong emotion -- we experience that connection and empathy and understanding that fulfills our deepest need for intimacy, and we are drawn to where we can begin to fulfill His desire for intimacy.

Real relationship happens over time and in the midst of the mess of real life. May you become men who are capable of the deepest intimacy, so that you experience all of life as you were created to experience it.

I love each of you deeply, and am grateful for all each of you teach me as you continue with me as you each do. Thank you for your love! It has been one of the richest places from which God has drawn to satisfy the deepest parts of me. What a mystery that His love is seen not only in the care of a mother for her child but just as strongly in the love of a small child for his mother!

Now back to the rushing around that your mother seems to live in despite the places you each urge me toward peace and organization . . .


Our "Working Hypotheses"

My husband and I have long referred to the way we make our way through life as series of "working hypotheses" that are modified or completely replaced when the evidence leads us to believe they are flawed. I have realized that this is really how every single person operates, although some are more conscious of it than others. And "religions" are ways of systematizing one's current hypothesis and uniting with others working on the basis of those same assumptions in order to get the predicted results. Sects within a religion and subcultures within larger secular cultures serve the same role. They allow people to act on a particular hypothesis from within community, receiving the supports and rewards of participation in that community.

There are a few places I want to take this train of thought. The first is just a personal one: the thing that unites me with the people that I both love and continue with in mutual friendship is not necessarily a commitment to the same "working hypothesis", but rather the ability to see things through that set of glasses, and live life consciously seeking to pick the most rewarding "desired results" and to go after them with the methods that most effectively yield them. I find little in common -- and certainly experience no mutual admiration or connection -- with those not willing to engage in a continual analysis of what reality (that is, my perceived "results" and their perceived "results" from one's current "working hypothesis") tells us both about the "results" we should be pursuing and about the most effective methods of achieving those results. And, despite the fiery history between me and my husband, one of the strong connectors is exactly this single mutually-held way of approaching life, even in the context of "working hypotheses" that are directly contradictory at many points.

Similarly, the thing that holds me in my church is that there is a core to my own "working hypothesis" that has held true over time and that I believe is unlikely to change before my death, and my current church is a community based on that same core that allows some freedom in fine-tuning the "working hypothesis" for each member. The main places that I experience frustration in my community are not the places where the "working hypothesis" is in conflict, but rather the places where an analysis of the "working hypothesis" is punished socially.

The danger of being part of any community of faith or of culture is this: that one will be so in need of the resulting relationships that one will abdicate his or her ability to make responsible choices about anything more than a decision to do what it takes to stay in the good graces of the "community". To do so means that one's basic working hypothesis has become this: "I am not capable of seeing reality clearly, and I choose to be part of this community. The main result I am after in life is to maintain my place as an accepted part of this community. Therefore, I will accept as "my truth" what I am told about what we should be after in life and how we get those results, and I will live the way I am instructed to live by the community." (In some communities the "working hypothesis" will be handed to me out of a consensus of many and will be allowed some flexibility, and in others it will be handed down by a person or persons in authority and with less flexibility. We often judge communities by where they stand on that particular spectrum rather than by the strength of the community's "working hypothesis". That judgement itself shows much about the values and hypothesis of the one making the judgement.)

As my church goes through a process of preparing to call a new Senior Pastor, they are analyzing the needs of those within our church and the perceptions of those within our church. They have accumulated data from surveys and discussion groups, which is being analyzed by an outside consulting group. The analysis will be presented to the "Visioning Team" chosen to lead this effort, and they will proceed from there to determine the church's mission as it goes forward, and the ways it will employ its resources to accomplish that mission.

Based on the book of Acts and what we see there of how the Holy Spirit works to accomplish God's purposes in the world through Christ's body the CHURCH, I am in prayer that the consensus that develops out of this Visioning effort at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach is a reaffirmation of our mutual commitment to the orthodox truths of scripture and Church history and our joint quest to live them out in authentic relationship with the Triune God and with each other (by allowing each of us to keep telling the truth about our own individual perceptions of each other and of our churches and of what the Holy Spirit is saying in our midst). If that remains the over-all structure, and decisions about current mission and use of resources are subject to a process of continual re-evaluation under that structure, then I'm willing to live with vast conflict over the "details". But if the "details" become the "over-all structure", and the commitment to our God and to each other and to telling the truth each day about reality as we each experience it becomes secondary, then I will find a new community.

The second place I want to go with this train of thought is where I will end this post. I can pick up on the concepts in future posts as I have time to expand my thoughts. For here, let's just look at my own "faith statement":

The core to my own working hypothesis is basic orthodox theology: God created us for relationship with Him and with each other. Real relationship requires real free will. Humans exercise their free will in ways that produce pain to themselves and others, and in ways that destroy the relationship they have with God and with each other. God is sovereign, and is working within the context of having created us with real free will to restore us to the fullness of the relationships He created us to have. The fact that we each have real free will (as part of His sovereign plan and as a result of His continued choices to restrain His ability to override our authentic free will) means that we are each free to go after any agenda any of us chooses. We will not be forced by the Sovereign One or tricked by Him or manipulated by Him into choosing to go after the things He is after. However, the Sovereign One will accomplish His purposes despite those with free will who never freely submit to His will. And those who choose to go after a relationship with Him and to learn and to pursue His purposes will find true fulfillment and freedom -- not only into the future "eternity", but this day -- right here and right now. The church is to be the community of those who are purposefully aligning themselves with God's purposes and who are purposefully committing themselves to relationship with Him and to relationship with each other. Jesus is God Himself entering into our reality as we experience it, and in His life, death, and resurrection, and in His current life at the right hand of God the Father, He is working all the pieces of God's agenda of reconciliation and relationship. (This is a vast over-simplification of my own theology, but it is the core. Please react to it out of an understanding that I do give much more definition to the issues of God's purposes, His means of accomplishing His purposes, "sovereignty" and "free will", the nature of the Triune God, soteriology, and all the other bits and pieces that any of us must fill in about "How it all works.")

There are still many pieces of my "working hypothesis" that are not working (that is, the results are not what the means to the results should have been given the hypothesis), but the core piece of the satisfaction of a relationship with God Himself through Jesus Christ holds true. I don't know it all, by any means, and I do know that . . . despite my friend who recently told me somewhat angrily "You're not God!". But I am satisfied that I've got this core down: I was created to know God. I have found that through Jesus. "Knowing God through Jesus" satisfies my deepest desires even when nothing else does. And He is present with me in my search to live this minute more authentically and effectively than the last.

There is TRUTH and we can know Him! That is a huge statement of faith, isn't it? But it ceases to be a "statement of faith" to the one making it as, over time, it is woven into all the details of life as it has been experienced. If this is in reality "TRUTH" and not just my deluded use of a historical faith to meet my own need to make sense of it all, then it would be available to you, too, if you asked Him to show Himself to you, wouldn't it? And if it is just mass delusion, your prayer would have no power to lead you into the same delusion, would it?

Worth a try?


The Church

St. Augustine said something like "The church is a whore, but she is my mother." I love that. We are a collection of hypocrites, liars, self-centered narcissists, and subject to all the same sins and mental illnesses -- plus a few additional ones -- as is the world at large. Anyone who attempts to participate in authentic community in any local church will end up frustrated and angry and hurt many many times. But, nevertheless, it is in participation in authentic community with all those sinners in any local church that God pours out His Spirit. By holding myself apart from all the frustration and anger and hurt that sinners bring to my life, I hold myself apart from the biggest way Jesus wants to reveal Himself to me daily. By subjecting myself to all those "screwed-up people", I have the opportunity to move past how "screwed up" I am . . . . and be His instrument to bring the change and growth He wants to bring to each of them, even as He uses them to bring that change and growth to me.

The local church is PEOPLE. Indeed, the global church is PEOPLE. And we do all need individually to pray in solitude and to study scriptures and life separately from each other and to fast and to meditate and to live individual lives "practicing the presence of God." Our private, pietistic, mystic spirituality is core to authentic relationship with the God Who loves us -- God the Father Who chose us and Who purposes everything for our good and for His glory, Jesus our God Who reveals the Father to us and Who executes His purposes even as He intercedes for us minute by minute out of His love for us, and the Spirit of God Who indwells us and directs us and empowers us for the life that is abundant and for the renewed relationships with the three-fold Him and with each other and with ourselves and with the world He created . . .

. . . But just as much as we need all the private disciplines and private connection with our Great God, we also need our corporate means of living before Him and with Him. "Living before Him and with Him" requires that we authentically live before each other and with each other. There is room for privacy and solitude, but not the room our early-21st-century evangelical culture gives to our ideals of privacy and solitude. If my "conscious contact with a higher power" is birthed in privacy and lived out in privacy, it is a spirituality that may serve to accomplish my will and purposes in my life. It may give me the resources internally to accomplish all my own visions and hopes, even. But, in the end, it will birth nothing that will last beyond my grave.

When I submit to other sinners in a community of faith, and when I live my life openly before them so that they even know clearly that I am still a sinner (although redeemed), then I find the doors opening to a life that goes beyond my vision for life, and even a life that goes beyond their vision for life. The vision for life that is from our Lord is a vision that must be birthed in community. The full, abundant life that Jesus promised was promised with an admonition that we must love one another. And real love is not theoretical. Real love shows up. Real love gets hurt. Real love gets embarrassed. Real love gets angry. And real love -- empowered by the Spirit in us, not from our own visions or wills or emotions -- leads us into authentic forgiveness and authentic change.

I thank God for the people in my life at St. Andrews, and for all the people there not in my life so much but in the lives of the people who are in my life. The Holy Spirit is just as interested in each of us as He was in each of the members of the early church communities we read about in Acts. He is just as able to do powerful things that move His Global Church forward. And He is just as able to make us screwed-up sinners love each other.

Praise to the Triune God!


Cultural Humility vs Real Humility

I'm still at my parent's home, and it has been wonderful to get face-to-face time with each of them. My mom was telling me about what the Holy Spirit has been teaching her in her 69th year of life. (The Holy Spirit talks to all of us who are His, if we will just shut up long enough to hear Him!) She told me about several insights, and one of them was on humility. She was struggling with a church situation and how to respond, and she felt like the Holy Spirit said to her: "Karen, do you want people to think you're humble, or do you actually want to be humble?" When I repeated this back to her later, she added: "And it was clear that it was an either/or choice. I couldn't have both."

I've been studying Acts with the rest of my church, and one thing that keeps popping up again and again is this idea that Paul was very human, and that his arrogance is evident at many points in Acts and in his writings. I remember thinking that Paul was arrogant, too, back when I was a teenager. Since then I have become a mom 4 times over, and now I get the idea of telling my kids: "I do this and this and this for you. I did this myself, even though it was your responsibility. I need and deserve your cooperation now. I am not asking you to do anything I haven't done first. I just want the best for you, and when I did this and this I was demonstrating exactly how you get there." So Paul's "arrogance" doesn't look like arrogance to me anymore. It looks and sounds like good parenting: leading by example, and not being quiet about how that worked or what that meant to the "kids".

I've also been watching people's reactions to each other, and to those in leadership positions. We have 2 things going on: 1) We don't like being told what to do, especially by someone who is "leading by example", and 2) We have cultural ideas about what it is appropriate to share about our successes and our failures, and about with whom those things can be appropriately shared. Both these dynamics make us miss the point on what God is after in our "humility". I could write essays about both of these dynamics (and I suppose I may do that, eventually, but not tonight) but you can write your own essays as you think about the people you think are arrogant *****'s and why you think that.

Real humility is an accurate view of Who God is, of who I am, and of who you are. If I see all of those in increasing measures of TRUTH, I move toward real humility.

If I believe that God doesn't really speak to anyone that I know personally, let alone to me . . . and that God won't direct any of us to actually act in real ways apart from the general principles of scripture . . . then I will assume that anyone who acts like there is a Real God Who speaks in real ways to them is either off their rocker or a severe narcissist. ("Talk about arrogant!") This is exactly the dynamic Jesus was referring to when He spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth and quoted the proverb "Physician, heal thyself". Maybe God might speak to a celebrity in an unknown community, but certainly not to one who is just like me!

Our modern secular culture sets us up for our own Christian ethic in this. The wider culture says "There is no absolute truth, and anyone who claims to know absolute truth with any certainty better not assume that his absolute truth applies to me as well as it applies to him!" Our church culture affirms that there is absolute truth and that there are people who can declare it to us . . . but then makes anyone bold enough to do so suspect of a disqualifying arrogance.

What that does to our leaders is put them in this catch-22: If they speak with boldness affirming what most of the community believes, they are respected and followed. If they proclaim any TRUTH outside the current community consensus, they are written off or severely criticized. And if they speak only the agreed-upon truths, but show any sign of an understanding of their own giftedness or the ways they might be able to authentically lead us by example, they are disqualified as ungodly because of their "lack of humility". (And heaven forbid that we get close enough to them to see that they are actually still sinners in need of grace in any real way! "The arrogance of someone who is far from perfect himself trying to tell me that he has any better grasp of how the world works or of what God wants from us! You shouldn't let yourself be in a leadership position unless you have real humility and are a great example of how we should all live!" But don't let that man or woman tell anyone that they are a great example of how anyone else should live!)

What that does to the rest of us is this: We give lip-service to the idea that we are a priesthood of believers, and that every believer as part of the BODY is able to use their giftedness to build up the rest of us. We give lip-service to the idea that all of us can hear God in real ways in our quiet times or during corporate worship. We give lip-service to the idea that we can all serve each other and the world around us in significant ways. But we tear down and disqualify any one of us bold enough to do any of that in a visible way as "lacking humility". We have a cultural ideal of "humility" that is not at all about God's view of reality, but rather all about our own need to get off the hook from the idea that we should be just as bold in saying and doing anything that God calls any one of us to say or do. We should be fools for Christ regularly, because bucking our culture very often requires being seen as a fool.

Did the Holy Spirit really tell my mom that she could either have others see her as being humble or she could actually be humble, but not both? I am staking my life on it. How about you?


Coming Home to the Garden

I am home in Minnesota, at my parent's tree farm. They manage wildlands to keep them beautiful and productive. They have a huge wild-flower garden. They have a home that I can't describe, so I posted these pictures. This is God's land, and my parents see themselves as His stewards of it.

The driveway to their home is exactly a half-mile in length, and is a well-groomed dirt road. (My dad does a great job of keeping it almost like a paved road through his grading and other maintenance.) That is my home, spiritually. I began walking it in 1999 when I was here for a couple of months while I was pregnant with Noah. It was the place where God taught me to pray in whole new ways.

As I walk it now and pray, my prayers are prayers of praise and thanks for all those answered prayers, and new prayers prayed in new faith based on years of answered prayers. I have learned that I cannot do anything, but God really can do anything. I have learned that He does in response to prayer what He would not do otherwise (to paraphrase John Wesley). I have learned that He has a plan that is glorious and more fulfilling than anything I could imagine to ask Him for, and that, through my prayers, He leads me down that path.

I hear people say "God has 3 answers: "Yes", "No", and "Wait"." And I hear them say "He changes us through prayer, and that is His answer." And I hear many other simplifications of what conversation with God is like, and "how it works."

But . . . guess what?!? He is REAL. He talks with us. He hears us, and responds. He lets us hear Him, and lets us respond. Prayer "works" the same way talking with my husband does. And the point is not getting stuff. The point is talking with the One Who made me and loves me and is in control of everything and sees everything in His Truth.

God does things in response to prayer that He would not do otherwise. And the greatest thing He does is share Himself. And, if He is my friend and I am His, what more could I possibly desire?