My Spiritual Journey

Lily ReflectionOver the years, people have asked me about my spiritual journey, so I decided to just write it down here. I hope it gives hope to people that no matter how low you get in life, there is always a way out. The path to wholeness maybe very painful, but it is very well worth it!

I was born into a Chinese Christian family. My maternal great, great grandfather became a Christian back in the days the first wave of missionaries made their way into China. He was just a young man of 18, and his family tried to drown him in the river when he converted to Christianity.  He was saved and adopted by a village of fishermen across the river.  As far as I can tell, my family’s tradition has been Presbyterian, though it has a slightly different flavor than the Calvinism that I have learned about after I came to America.

As I look back on my journey through my adult eyes, I can see that my relationship with God began very early on in my toddler years, when my family was still living in Bangkok, Thailand, as God came to comfort me whenever I was physically abused by my father. There was a Presence there whenever I cried that I later on recognized in Sunday School as Jesus (not so much the physical appearance, but the characteristic of love, compassion, kindness, and all the good things associated with Jesus). My father had rejected me from the time I was born, walking out of the hospital the moment he found out that I was a girl instead of the boy he had hoped for. He was an alcoholic and when he got drunk, he would beat my mother and me. About a month before my sixth birthday, my father left my mother, but I took that as a personal rejection too. My mother tried to return home to her parents with me and my two younger brothers, but she was told that while she was welcomed back home, my brothers and I were my father’s responsibility and needed to be with him. So, my father came to fetch us from my maternal grandparents’ home and promptly put us into a boarding school, another act of rejection that didn’t go unnoticed by me. I later recognized the boarding school as being charismatic, recalling the “speaking in tongues” that I was made to participate in from time to time while a student there. I memorized a lot of Scriptures during those 4 years at that boarding school.

Long story short, the bitterness of life was like a thorn that slowly grew and choked the childlike joy and wonderment out of my relationship with God. The more I learned about God through Sunday School, the more God appeared distant and impossible to please. There was a very clear message that sin separates us from God. Not just the original sin that Adam committed, the gap that Jesus came to bridge (as illustrated in the Four Spiritual Laws booklet), but the sin that I commit from day to day becomes like a cloud that separates me from God above, too. God was no longer a close presence to comfort me, but an almighty entity that has the power to snuff me out, and whom I must work hard to appease. Even as a child, I knew that I could not be completely perfect and “sin not”, so naturally, the conclusion was that I would never be good enough to be as close to God as I was as an innocent toddler again.

As a young child, I never had an adult who was always accessible and on whom I could rely on to always be there. Everyone seemed to be aloof. The school staff and teachers, as well as my family, seemed to only care about my academic performance. My mother wasn’t there when I needed emotional support, and I was pretty much on my own to deal with my emotions. In fact, I felt responsible for keeping my mother happy too. And so, I couldn’t grasp the concept of God being constantly there for me to comfort me in times of sorrow and pain. With all the performance-based teaching about God, it’s no wonder that I thought it’s just a matter of time that God would be fed-up enough with me to abandon me forever.

Throughout my childhood, I tried hard to be good, to do good in school, in hope that my father would see that I was worthwhile and would come home to my mother, and we could be a family again. I even prayed for God to change my father’s heart and bring him back to us. A prayer that, to my young child’s mind, went unanswered, which I took as another sign that I wasn’t good enough to deserve what I asked God for. God the father was just as hard to please and distant as my earthly father was.

The final rejection from my father came when I was 18, and was applying for college. I went to see him to ask if he would help me financially. He said that I was an adult, and he was no longer responsible for me. I never knew how much this hurt me till years later. At that time, after a very hard cry that day, my survival instinct took over. I declared myself as an independent and applied for financial aid to put myself through college.

I didn’t know how deep the hole in my heart was then, or how much I was hurting. I didn’t see it till later that I was setup for a codependent relationship. It didn’t take long after I started college when a young man made a move and I fell for it. It felt good to have someone who seemed to want to be with me all the time, who listened to my sad tales with empathy. He also had sad tales of his own to share, and I liked that feeling of being needed as I comforted him. I thought I had found my soul mate. It was only with hindsight that I could see that he was using me to meet his own emotional needs, as I was using him to meet mine. He was addicted to pornography, and I was too naive to see how bad that problem was. I grew up with men like that, my father being one, so I thought all men were that way. Anyhow, I stayed in that relationship for nearly 3 years. My grades went downhill. I had two abortions—one was about a year into our relationship (when he promised that we would abstain till we’re married–yeah, I know how stupidly unrealistic that was now), and the second one was a couple of weeks after the relationship ended. I broke up with him because I realized then that I was addicted to the relationship, using it as a drug to escape life, and if I continued to stay with him, I would never be well or truly happy. I couldn’t stand living a double life anymore, feeling like I was lying to everyone, including myself. Everyone at home thought I was doing well at school. I was such a goody-two-shoes, and only my boyfriend and I knew what a liar and phony I was. I realized then that the bond of secrecy was part of the reason I stayed with him for so long, all the while hating myself for deceiving everyone. I would rather live alone and be honest than to be with him and continue to live a lie.

But after that second abortion, I became even more depressed and withdrawn. I was on a downward spiral that eventually led to thoughts of suicide. The night I made the decision to kill myself, for some reason (I now believe it was God leading me), I wanted to say good-bye to a very good friend. As I was leaving, my friend noticed something was amiss, and kept prodding till I told him my plan to take my life. He hopped in the car with me, ignoring my protest. He talked to me in the car of God’s love and how I had been forgiven, but I kept going back to “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” justice system. Then I saw the perfect opportunity to ram my car into a semi truck ahead of me on the freeway. As I accelerated the car, my friend pulled on the emergency brake between the two front seats, slowing down the car. I screamed that I deserved to die, because I’d taken two lives. My friend raised his voice to match mine, saying, “Yes, I know that’s how you feel, but don’t you see that Jesus died on the cross to take that guilt away for you? He died to set you free from all this!” At that moment, miraculously a light went on in my brain, and I saw for the first time in my life that God wasn’t angry at me, but loved me. He loved me so much, that He’d died on the cross to take away all the guilt that was literally killing me. For the first time in my life, I felt loved and accepted as I was. I cried buckets that night, but it was such a release. All the pain, the self hatred, the shame, the guilt, I laid it all there, between God, me, and my friend. We talked all night long till the sun came up. That sunrise was the start of a new life for me. I started to see the world through the eyes of grace, love, and forgiveness.

My friend and I continued to walk through the healing process together. I named my babies, and properly mourned their death and reconciled with my part in it. Having no reason to run away from pain anymore, I was freed from the need to use anything to mask the pain. As I healed from my brokenness, I gained the strength and courage to face everything and deal with it head on, knowing that God will be there everyday of my life, just as He has been at this lowest point in my life.

My relationship with my friend deepened through this process from friendship into the kind of deep love that made us want to spend the rest of our lives together. Paul had seen me at my worst and loved me through it all, just like God did. To me, he was the vessel God used to pour His love on me when I felt unlovable. I couldn’t see anyone else better to be married to than Paul. And I still feel that way today after being married to him for nearly 28 years.

As I became more secure in God’s love, my understanding of His grace also deepened. I began to see how the false belief about God, whether taught to me or caught by me, had damaged the relationship I had with Him as a young child. Since then, the more I understood God’s love and lived in that reality, the more disparity there was between what I believed and what the traditional Christian churches were teaching about God’s character, His attitude toward His children, and the role of church leadership in a believer’s life. The older our children got, the more uncomfortable Paul and I became about what they’re being indoctrinated into as we took them to church week after week. Eventually, we really questioned why we kept going to church every week, and we felt a stronger and stronger tug to leave that whole “going to church” lifestyle altogether. But we continued to go to church partly because we really didn’t know there was an alternative, having been raised to believe that that’s what all Christians are supposed to do, and worse yet, if you don’t, your faith would surely fade away and your relationship with God would fade too.

But, eventually, we both heard a clear “Follow Me” on Easter Sunday of April 2001, after the church service, and that was when we left that lifestyle for good. It has been nearly 12 years now, and our faith did not fade away, and our children did not become “worldly”. We have, as a family, become more in touch with the world (which is a completely different thing than being “worldly”). Our friends now span all walks of life and wide spectrum of faith. We believe that though we can never know all there is to know about God, we have come to know Him more fully than before, and our relationship with him will continue to grow deeper in the years to come. It has been a trial through the desert, as we have had people pulled away from us once we stopped attending the same church they did. I still remember how lonely the first few years after we stopped attending Sunday services were. So many times the loneliness almost drove us back to attending church again, but we kept following the voice that said, “Trust me. I am here with you.” And God has been faithful to bring new people into our lives, and over the years, He’s knitted a whole new network, both locally where we live and on the Internet, that is based on love and our common bond of humanity. We see them all as children of God, created in His image, who are deeply loved and cherished by Him (regardless of whether or not they believe this to be so). And we can love and accept them, spend time with them, without requiring them to believe exactly the same thing we do.

So here I am, having traveled a full circle back to the same pure and simple love relationship I had with God when I was a toddler, unencumbered by man-made religious rules. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.


I Won’t Let Go

Today I am hurting for my friends.  Some are fighting serious illness, some are grieving the loss of loved ones, some are dealing with unemployment, some are trying to get free from an addiction, some are hurt from a betrayal, and some are dealing with all of the above.  The words that come to mind as I think of my hurting friends are the words I’ve heard God spoken to me in my dark times.   The words are also found in the lyrics to the song  “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts, from their latest album Nothing Like This (January 2011).

No matter how dark the days, no matter what you have done, no matter what you’ve heard. . .  He won’t let go of you.  He will dry your tears.  He will help you get free.  He will fight the fight for you.  You are His child, and He loves you deeply, unconditionally.   See yourself through His eyes, the eyes of an adoring Father who delights in His child, who only sees what you were intended to be and not what you’ve become.  See God as a loving God who just wants to hold you and take your hurt away, replacing it with peace.  Fall into His arms.

I have found Him to be the Daddy I have always wanted in my life.  Let Him have a chance to be your Daddy.

I WON’T LET GO by Rascal Flatts (2011)

It’s like a storm
That cuts a path
It breaks your will
It feels like that
You think you’re lost
But you’re not lost on your own,
You’re not alone

I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
and you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
and I won’t let go

It hurts my heart to see you cry
I know its dark this part of life
Oh it find us all and we’re to small
to stop the rain
Oh but when it rains

I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
and you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
and I won’t let you fall

Don’t be afraid to fall
I’m right here to catch you
I won’t let you down
It won’t get you down
You’re gonna make it
I know you can make it

Cause I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
and you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
and I won’t let go

Oh I’m gonna hold you
and I won’t let go
Won’t let you go
No I won’t

The Logical Song

Have you ever heard a song after not hearing it for many years, perhaps decades, and see a whole new set of symbolisms and meanings that you never saw before?   This happened to me yesterday, when I heard The Logical Song by Supertramp (1979).    Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I only saw it applying to the educational system (like the public or private schools).  But yesterday, I saw how it can apply to the religious educational system I’ve experienced too.

I have always been spiritually sensitive.  I’ve known God as far back in my childhood as I can remember.  It was wonderful, beautiful, a miracle, even a magical time in a child-like sense.  I loved nature–the birds, the trees, the clouds, little furry animals–and in nature I encountered God, a loving God, a compassionate God who delighted in watching me play, even laughing with me.   He was there to comfort me after my father beat me as a toddler, and protected my psyche as I saw my father physically abused my mother.  Then, life happens–my family life fell apart, my father left my mother, and I and my 2 younger brothers were sent to boarding school, a Christian boarding school.  There I learned to memorize Scriptures, and I was told of a God that watches over me like a judge, and will punish me if I’m bad (and the disciplinary actions at the school enforced this image of God very well too).    Throughout my childhood, I was taught in Sunday School to be wary of the affirming entity in my heart that I’d known, that it’s really my own deceitful heart (some would even say it’s the devil), and I was introduced to a god who’s full of wrath, waiting to punish me whenever I do bad things, and to judge everyone in the end, destroying the bad ones in an eternal fire.  Suddenly the focus was all on being good and doing good to keep peace with this wrathful and holy god.  Now there are rules I needed to follow to be a good Christian, to be sensible, dependable, spiritual, acceptable to this god.  I didn’t see it then, but I really had been conditioned to be a mindless vegetable, just following the rules I was told God wanted me to follow.  God then became a distant tyrant, and I forgot all about the times I had shared with him in my younger days.

When I was alone and left to my own thoughts, the questions would be there.  But when I asked those questions of the people teaching me about God, I got answers that only led to more “but what about. . .?” questions.   Soon I learned it was futile to ask questions, because nobody really knows the answers and they didn’t like having to admit that they didn’t know, so I just kept the questions to myself.

Long story short, when I was between the ages of 19 to 21, I’d made choices and did things that I still regret to this day, though I’ve since come to terms with it with the real God.   Back then though, the guilt and shame of failing to live up to the perfect standard this wrathful god expected of me led me to such self-loathing, I expected this false god to destroy me, because I had learned well what the people who do such abominable things deserved.   And when I continued to breath and live, I figured that I was so detestable, I wasn’t even worth destroying.  I couldn’t stand the emptiness, the unresponsiveness from this god, so I attempted suicide to end the pain.

As much as I wish my life had not come to this dark moment, I’m glad it had, because that’s when I saw the merciful and loving God I used to know in my young childhood again.  How he saved my life is another story in itself to be told at another time.  I’ve learned since then that He’s been there all along, but I had believed in what I was taught about Him instead of trusting in what I had experienced and known in my heart, and so I couldn’t see Him for who He really was, is, and always will be.  From that moment on, I felt a freedom to ask questions, but not to the religious leaders. I asked God Himself.  I’ve discovered Him to be very different from the god I was taught about.   This true God loves me deeply, unconditionally, and it pained Him when I couldn’t see myself through His eyes, and chose to destroy myself instead of coming to Him, letting Him love me and heal me.  He is a God of justice, but also one of mercy.  In Him alone can anyone find the perfect balance between love and justice.  And, in my experience, the majority of people who are teaching other people about God don’t really have it right, and tend to lean too far to one side or the other.  What’s saddest is they’re fighting each other all the time, and that grieves God very much.

It’s been nearly 27 years now since God rescued me from that dark pit. We have had quite an adventure, and I’ve asked Him many questions. I still don’t have all my questions answered, and I probably won’t, because to know all the answers would literally blow up my mind and kill me.  My finite mind just can’t contain all the wisdom of God.  But I am at peace in not knowing everything.  I’m OK with the mysteries, because I know the One who knows.  And since I now really know who I am, or more precisely, Whose I am, life is once again beautiful, wonderful, and definitely, a miracle.   So I guess I’ve come a full circle, becoming a child again.  Fitting, really, for Jesus said unless you be like a child, you will not see the Kingdom of God.  It truly is wonderful to simply be like a child, resting on His lap, living each day in the awareness of His deep affection for me!

THE LOGICAL SONG   As performed by Supertramp in 1979

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable, respecable, presentable, a vegtable!

At night, when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run so deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.

The Tragedy of Insecure Christians

Today, my heart is heavy.  Of course, I am mourning with the people in Haiti who have suddenly lost loved ones, and are dealing with the aftermath of the recent earthquake there.  The photos and videos are heart wrenching!   Yet, there is another tragedy that my heart is mourning over.   I feel pity for Christians who see God as an angry and unforgiving God, who’s only nice toward them if they are “good.”   These Christians have never experienced God’s unconditional love (or, if they have,  they have forgotten it) and truly fear His judgment for themselves.   They believe that God has a big bucket full of wrath that He’s ready to pour on them if they ever fail to “live a righteous life.”   They are insecure Christians, and out of this insecurity, they have a need to judge others in order to make themselves righteous and feel better about themselves.  They are the ones saying that the disaster in Haiti is a curse that God has brought upon the people of Haiti for practicing Voo-Doo, or having  “made a pact with the Devil” generations ago.  These Christians believe that the reason Haiti has suffered thus is because God has finally unleashed His wrath upon them.

Some are saying, but look, these Christians are also rallying help for the Haitian people, so they do have compassion for them.  Let me ask you this:   When you are down on your luck, through things not in your control (like unemployment, or flood, or earthquake), does it make you feel good to receive help from people who have made it clear to you that you’ve “brought this upon yourself”?   Well then, how do you think the Haitians would feel receiving help from these Christians who have first condemned them?

My heart breaks for the Haitian people who heard these proclamations.   These words cannot be farther from the truth!   My spirit is grieving at the pain caused by these reckless words from people who claim to know God.   By their words, these Christians are showing me (and the world) that they don’t know the heart of God for people at all.  Instead of being the bearers of Good News, they bring condemnation.

Oh, if these Christians would just understand that through Jesus, God has already made the whole world righteous before Him, that ALL humanity has been restored to our Creator, and we (ALL humanity) can approach God as confidently as His children, and even climb onto His lap if we want to.   He is always welcoming us, ALL of us, whether we believe or not, with open arms.  Jesus has finished the job of making us right with God once and for all, for ALL mankind, for ALL eternity.  THIS is the true Gospel that brings joy and peace!  THIS is the real Good News!

If I can have the audience of these insecure Christians, I’d like to tell them:

You can be set free from this insecurity, to never have to feel the rollercoaster of feeling high or low depending on your performance again,  if you’d only embrace the truth of God’s unconditional love for you, and accept all that Jesus has already done for you.    Repentance is nothing more than a change of mind to accept Jesus as who He said He is (the Son of God who came to earth in the flesh), and thereby accepting this Father-child relationship with God that’s been given to you before you were even born.    And all that’s required for righteous living is to acknowledge that God is real and loves you deeply, and then just relax and let Him change you through His unconditional love from the inside out.   He is gentle and kind, and all the while never keeping score of your performance.   The Christian To Do List that you feel you need to do in order to be “good Christians” (which changes depending on which group you’re with)  is a religion that people came up with (by twisting God’s truth) to control other people.

Come to really know God for yourself, instead of through someone else.   Listen to the Holy Spirit in your heart, and stop following those man-made rules of the Pharisees.   Let God reveal His unconditional love to you, and stop keeping scores (of either your own or others’ performance).  Rest from your own strife to be righteous, and you will have no more need to put down or condemn other people.

How do I know this?   I know this because I have lived the insecure life of a Pharisee and nearly died in the process.  I am thankful for my second chance at life, and am living each day in the freedom and joy of His unconditional love.   God loves you very much.   Don’t waste anymore time living like a Pharisee.  Come and experience His love for you, then you will really have Good News to share with the world!

Following Him

PaulandkidsatCaswellSPThis morning, I heard a song that I haven’t heard in a long time by John Denver called “Follow Me.”   Although John wrote this song for his wife, Annie, inviting her to follow him on the road as a traveling musician, the phrase “Follow me” was also used by Jesus long ago to call his disciples to follow Him.     And I believe He still calls to us today to follow Him.   Hearing this song again made me reflect on my own journey from the time I first knew about Jesus as a very young child till now, 40-something years later.

Over the years, people and religious entities had tried to convince me that by following their beliefs and practices, I would be following Jesus and get closer to God.   They all could pull verses out of the Bible to back their claim (now I see that they would take these verses out of context and totally disregard God’s true nature that I have come to know since then).    I had followed some of these beliefs and practices, and had learned at nearly the cost of my own life that a religious belief system can be just as addictive and destructive to a person as substance abuse.

We are all born with a need to be loved and accepted, a need to feel that we are of worth and important.  God offers to fulfill this need for us through a personal relationship with Him that’s not based on anything we can do, but on His unconditional love for us alone.   Jesus came in the flesh to show us this love.  We don’t have to earn it, we just need to open up our hearts and accept it.   And because it is unconditional, we can never lose it either.  Nothing we can do will ever separate us from God’s love.  Yeah, it really is that good and simple!   But until we respond to His invitation for a relationship based only on His grace, and are changed from inside out by His love, we really won’t understand the simplicity and purity of this unconditional love, and we will forever try to fulfill this need within us through pleasing those whose approval we seek (having our sense of worth go up and down depending on how well we please them); and we will make others earn our approval as well.   We will also be vulnerable to those who want to manipulate and use us–all they have to do is feed our need for love and approval, make us feel important and needed, and they have us right where they want us.   It’s my observation that the fear of rejection and the need for approval are the two strongest tools used by people who want to control other people.

Jesus doesn’t use deception to manipulate you.  He doesn’t use the bait and switch tactics.  He doesn’t lure you to a party and then enslave you to a list of Do’s and Don’t’s.   He said His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  And I’ve found it to really be so!  You simply only have to acknowledge that He exists and invite Him to be a part of your life.  Listen to His quiet voice in your heart, and follow Him where He leads.  Get to know the people that He brings into your life and see them through His eyes.   Love them as He shows you how to love.   Just relax into His unconditional love and acceptance of you, then let your thoughts be challenged by His higher thoughts, and your ways be changed by His better ways.  Before you know it, you have become a vessel of His love to be poured out to others.

Religious people who are still trying to earn God’s approval for themselves will not be able to accept what I had just said in the previous paragraph.  They will say that it’s too simple; that you need to study the Bible, go to church, and do all these “Christian” things in order to grow spiritually.  I can tell you that I have done all that, and I have found that these things won’t do any good at all if you do not have a relationship with Jesus and have a clear understanding of His grace first.  For it is only with that understanding can you begin to learn to see things through His eyes.  Without learning to listen to that voice in your heart, which is His Spirit teaching you and guiding you, you’ll only be following an empty religion, and vulnerable to be indoctrinated by other people into their interpretation of who God is.  And you will feel fine until you fail to perform to the standard of that religion.    You will feel good or bad about yourself depending on your performance.  But in a genuine relationship with Jesus, you can wake up every morning feeling loved just as you are, regardless of your performance.   And you’ll also be able to accept and love others just as they are, regardless of their performance.   That is how Jesus transforms us into His likeness.

Yep!  Following Jesus really is that simple!  The lyrics to this song is very close to what I hear Jesus saying to me everyday:

Follow me where I go;

What I do and who I know;

Make it part of you to be a part of me.

Follow me up and down;

All the way and all around;

Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.

The Difference

There’s a poem called “The Difference.”  It’s one of those poems written by unknown authors that became popular back in the 1980’s.  I had this poem hung on the wall of my dorm room back when I was a student at UCLA, and it’s been on a wall in every home we’ve lived in, until today.  I just took it down, because it no longer resonates as true in my current relationship with my Father.  I’d had it up there for so long, I’d forgotten about it.  But today’s thought reminds me of this poem and how much I disagree with it now, so I’m removing it.

The gist of the poem is that when I get up in the morning, I need to pray first, otherwise I would have a horrible day and feel distant from God.  There was a time when I would have believed this was true, and I even hung this poem on the wall to remind me to pray each morning.   There was a time when I felt distant from God and would try to figure out what I did or didn’t do to cause God to withdraw Himself from me; a time when I thought that God would allow bad things to happen to me because I forgot to pray for His protection.  And I even believed that if I didn’t pray first thing in the morning, then I didn’t “put God first in my life,” and deserved whatever bad things that happened.

The ironic thing is, no matter how many prayers I said back then, I still felt distant from God, and bad things still happened to me.   So I still constantly wondered if I’d prayed the right things or stated my requests correctly (you know with humility and all) to please God.  When bad things still happened when I’d prayed, I’d feel like I must have failed to do it right somehow, or just didn’t pray long enough, or whatever.

The reverse was also true.  Sometimes good things happened when I didn’t pray at all!  Sometimes I get things I never even thought to ask for, or things I purposely didn’t ask because I thought God would think it’s frivolous.  And many times I get things that I didn’t know I needed until the moment, so never had a chance to pray for it.  Many times I’d seen His hands intervening in situations throughout the day eventhough I’d forgotten to pray that morning.

Hmmm. . . So praying did not prevent bad things from happening, and not praying still resulted in God blessing me with things I didn’t ask for.  So what did all that mean?  Does it mean prayers are ineffective?  No.  Not at all.  I know miracles can happen when believers pray, and I have witnessed many such miracles in my own life as well as friends’.  But it does mean that God doesn’t need to wait around for us to say just the right thing to intervene on our behalf or to bless our socks off!  He will do whatever He’d like, whenever He’d like.  After all, He IS God.

I think the real difference on how my day goes is not based on whether or not I pray in the morning, but on how much I allow the reality of His love for me to permeate my being and thinking.  The difference is in how I percieve God the Father.  I used to see Him like a big CEO and taskmaster, a distant God who needs to have things done just-so for His approval, so I was concerned about praying just right everyday to earn His approval.  Now I see Him as a loving Daddy who smiles at me the moment I wake up and gives me a big “Good Morning” hug.  I don’t need to recite any mantra to get His attention, nor do I really need to ask for anything that I need.  He will provide the things I need each day as I need them, in the same way I provide for my children without waiting for them to ask me in just the right way.  No, actually, because He’s perfect and all powerful, He can provide for me even better than I can ever do for my children.  Today, I see God as a Daddy who’s very fond of me and can’t wait for me to wake up each day so we can spend some time together.

So how do I explain when bad things happen now?  Well, it just happens.  It rains on the righteous as well as on the wicked.  This is a fallen world we live in.  There is sickness.  There are people who steal, cheat, and lie, and they do this to everybody alike.  There are people who will treat you unkindly, because they themselves don’t know love.  So bad things will happen, and not all my days will be good days.  It’s simply a statistical fact.

When bad things happen, I no longer feel left alone to figure out what I did or didn’t do to cause them to happen; instead, I can feel my Daddy right there beside me, and I can hear Him telling me it will be alright, that He is big enough to handle any problem that comes my way.  Now THAT is a real difference indeed!

Sure, I still pray, but it’s now more like an ongoing conversation with my Daddy throughout the day, not a religious ritual in the morning to get a distant God’s attention or ask Him to make my day go well.   My day will go as it will, and I will be just fine at the end of each day, because my Daddy is always with me.  And He can make the best lemonade out of any lemons that life can bring!