That’s fishy. . .

Faith life can be weird, right? I often feel like as a follower of Jesus I am living between extremes that look totally off-putting, yet when I’m doing a good job of it there are these incredible rewards.

One example of where I try to live in the tension is around God intervening in my life. On one extreme there are those who have some kind of faith but believe God doesn’t ever touch reality now that He has set it in motion. That’s not me; I believe God acts in the world. That said, I generally like people who adopt this view, and I don’t find it difficult to relate to… if I hadn’t had my personal experiences with God, I’d be in this camp.

You know, miracles. Like that one time I found my keys.

You know, miracles. Like that one time I found my keys.

On the other extreme are the folks who experience God intervening in every decision of their lives, thanking God for getting out of speeding tickets, for good parking places, for Vikings victories, for the McDonald’s employee giving them an extra large helping of french fries, etc. I appreciate thankfulness, and I’ll thank God for anything good, but I’ve watched people thank God for coincidences as if God designed those coincidences specifically to bless that person… like “Thanks God, you know I needed Adrian Peterson to rush for 180 yards to win my fantasy football game this week, I appreciate your effort on my behalf.” That kind of prayer is harder for me to identify with.

So here I sit, trying to live between the poles (or, you could argue, setting up a false dichotomy…). I believe firmly that once upon a time, as I set off to kill myself, God intervened, saved my life, and changed me forever. I also believe that I’m likely to find the best parking space out of 100 about… 1% of the time. When I do, I’m grateful, but I don’t experience it as an intervention from On High designed to make my day better. A little skepticism not only never hurt anybody, sometimes it keeps you from being an idiot.

I have a saying that I pull out when something happens that seems extremely coincidental, to the point where I might reasonably attribute it to God. I say “Hm… that’s fishy.” A good number of people in my life know that’s one way I say that God might have intervened at this point.

"Dude. I'm calling shenanigans, right here and now."

“Dude. I’m calling shenanigans, right here and now.”

This last week I was at the Vineyard national conference in Anaheim. The Vineyard is the church movement I’m a part of, and I was apprehensive about the conference this year. I was concerned about some meetings I had set up, concerned with my place in my church movement, and generally just feeling anxious.

The night I got there two very nice middle aged ladies I’d never met asked to pray for me. Out of the blue they began to pray words that spoke directly and completely toward my apprehension and anxieties. They spoke powerful words of encouragement and of God’s presence in my conflict (which, mind you, I hadn’t told them I was having… they knew nothing about me other than the fact that my hand had been in the air).

When they were done I felt gladness, a lifting of anxiety/apprehension, and great peace. I thought… “That’s fishy.” It seemed like an act of God.

Over the next three days, people randomly prayed for me three times. All three times they walked up to me cold, prayed words that perfectly fit my situation, and wandered off oblivious to what was, for me, becoming simultaneously a surreal experience and a growing confidence that God is with me and genuinely loves me. No one prayed a single word for me that didn’t fit. No one had any details or knowledge of my life. Everything they prayed gave me greater peace and joy.

It was, in short, one of the fishiest experiences I’ve ever had. I ended up having a number of amazing meetings, and a couple challenging ones. I’m so grateful that before the latter took place, I had received tremendous encouragement and security through either the most absurd coincidences I can imagine… or God had intervened in my life for no purpose other than to bless me.

It was pretty fishy, and I’m pretty grateful. I’ve been thanking God a lot this week, and I’ll be doing so for awhile.

I’m also more grateful than ever to be part of a faith community. The challenges of life (anxieties and apprehensions about people, for example) are a given. Crazy fishy intervention by God seems to happen a lot more often when people are praying around me. It’s almost like God speaks to us through one another, or even loves us through one another 😉

Try to leave some room for the Holy Spirit, guys.

Try to leave some room for the Holy Spirit, guys.

On to the questions!

1. Do you ever see God in the coincidences of your life? How often, and how would you know?

2. Have you ever had a supernatural experience (or extreme fishiness, if you prefer!) while someone else was praying for you?

3. What do you think of my story… do you have any stories (positive or negative) that are brought to mind as you read?

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11 responses to “That’s fishy. . .

  • Eric

    I’m just going to respond to number two: I was in church during final worship and I felt moved to get prayer. I was reluctant but then I saw a man who I didn’t really know so I figured I would just go up to him and ask for some guidance. When I approached him he said “About twenty minutes ago God told me I have a message for the one who comes up to you for prayer.”
    What followed seemed impossible and seemed to have nothing to do with guidance. The things addressed have never been told to anyone in the church. Events that I hadn’t spoken of in years and wounds I had long pretended healed were suddenly being addressed directly to me out of the mouth of someone who didn’t know me but was shedding tears for me.
    At the end I was told to relax and take a break and in that break i healed and I gained courage again and I saw happiness as a real possible thing. Once I saw that, then the answer to what I wanted guidance on was clear

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    As Dan and Brandi know, I spent June 2010 – June 2012 involved in an extremely cultish situation with a person who ended up leaving Hillside and taking many with him. Until June 2012, I’d never heard the term “spiritual abuse,” but that fits to a tee.

    One of the many things this man believed was that God works out absolutely everything in our lives (assuming that we have faith and are allowing him to do so, of course). Those extra french fries, that parking space – those are blessings from God if you have the eyes to see it. If you don’t have the eyes to see it, then you’re F’d, because God will stop giving you french fries and parking spaces.

    It got to the point where I had to check with this person – because only he had the revelation of the holy spirit, because he had spent so much time with God – before I went to Starbucks (ZOMG WHAT IF I WAS SUPPOSED TO GO TO CARIBOU INSTEAD), before I picked out a dress for New Year’s (ZOMG WHAT IF GOD HAD A BETTER DRESS FOR ME AT TARGET?!), before I decided which route to take to work (ZOMG WHAT IF I HAD THE CHANCE TO WITNESS TO SOMEONE IF I HADN’T TURNED LEFT HERE), basically before I even decided to pee (ZOMG WHAT IF I USED THE WRONG BATHROOM)?!

    Needless to say, I led a life of incredible anxiety. I knew – because my cultish friend told me – that if I didn’t do what God wanted, like if I went to Starbucks instead of Caribou, that God wouldn’t be able to speak to me again or work in my life until I rectified the situation by repenting and physically going to Caribou.

    It was extraordinarily controlling, as most spiritual abuse situations are, and left me with an extremely negative taste about God intervening in today’s world. I thought that God only intervened when we were faithful enough, and even then, he was capricious in deciding who got which french fries.

    – – 1. Do you ever see God in the coincidences of your life? How often, and how would you know? – –

    So this is where I was at in June 2012. I swore off God in all respects, then decided that maybe He was there, then decided that if he was there, he definitely wasn’t in the stupid little coincidences.

    It was around this time that Matt and I began praying together. They were the absolute wrong kinds of prayers according to my cultish friend – dry, simple, “please God, make our relationship stronger, and help us be able to live in the same city.”

    The thing is, is that slowly – not in the extra-french-fries or nice-parking-space kind of way – Matt and I began to see those prayers come true in ways that really seemed fishy. We had some difficult fights that ended up making our relationship stronger. I got a job in Minnesota that I shouldn’t have been able to get. Matt got a job in Minnesota almost immediately. I got a perfect apartment without even seeing it. Most importantly, as I told you and Dan and Brandi and the Fortins and Catlins, I felt like God hooked me up with friendships here that are beyond just happening to like people – like these are the people who will help me heal from my experiences. These are the iron-sharpens-iron kind of people.

    I don’t know how I know that this is God. I guess that’s where faith comes in – sure, it could all be coincidence, but it sure seems like God even if he hasn’t announced it with a megaphone.

    – -2. Have you ever had a supernatural experience (or extreme fishiness, if you prefer!) while someone else was praying for you? – –

    This used to happen at Hillside church a lot. There were a few people – Lindsey Sykes, the Floerkes, Robin Brady – who kind of freaked me out in a good way. I would go tell Lindsey that I was feeling a little sick, like I had a cold, and it would be nice to be healed from that. She’d pray for the cold, sure, but then she would launch into other prayers that cut right to my core and had NOTHING to do with anything I’d told her. It was like she could see through me, or like God was intervening, or something.

    The Floerkes used to pray for me with imagery. I still remember distinctly some of the images they got – Shaun would say, “I see such-and-such, and I don’t know what it means” – but I would know *exactly* what it meant. Again, it was like God was intervening, or something.

    – – 3. What do you think of my story… do you have any stories (positive or negative) that are brought to mind as you read? – –

    The first story that popped into my head was something this cultish guy would regularly pray for: his fantasy football league. He felt like God wanted to make him rich through winning at fantasy football, so he would be investing a lot of money and following the scores constantly. My cultish friend did actually win his fantasy football league and make a lot of money – enough to eventually buy the Mercedes that God wanted him to have – but I’m not entirely sure that was due to God making Adrian Peterson run faster.

    The other stories are more positive (i.e. relating to what I said under #2 above), but I have to think about whether to post those or whether to hold them inside for a little bit longer 🙂

    • pjbenedict

      Thank you Veronica! On the one hand: I am sorry your experience led you through spiritual abuse. On the other hand, what you’re writing now is pretty beautiful (minus Adrian Peterson). You & Matt praying, growing faith that God is doing something through your lives… that’s good stuff.

      I hope to hear your other stories some day. Take your time.

  • Curtis Hunt

    Until recently I attributed all the “good” things, including parking spaces and extra french fries, to God and the “bad things” to this messed up world or, more often, my own brokenness. Basically all the “bad things” were situations that God could have intervened in, but didn’t. And then I blame him for it. The good things I thanked him for as is my duty when I “receive what is due to me as God’s special child.” As you might imagine, that did not engender a heart of thankfulness.

    For about nine months now, now I’ve been aware of how incredibly blessed I have been over the last year, but continued to be disgruntled about my life situation. That “awareness” had not travelled from my head to my heart. During this time I continued to feel negative toward God and regularly grumbled toward him.

    Then, a couple days ago, while walking back to my desk from a meeting at work (i.e. not doing anything spiritual), I decided I had enough of this relationship and it was time to get out. I wasn’t going to worry about God as much anymore and just try to focus on what was actually going on around me.

    The weather was particularly nice. Our finances had been super blessed recently. My family is all healthy and whole and growing. My job has rocked since I moved to Blue Cross. So I ditched God.

    Directly after ditching God and briefly reflecting on the good things I mentioned above, I felt very free and at peace and present in the moment. And writing this now is bringing me close to tears. Seems… very… fishy…

    (To clarify, since most of you don’t know me, I am very aware that I did not ditch God in any way at all and only ditched my view of God. But since no one has anything other than their own perception of God, it amounts to the same thing. I ditched “my” god, not GOD.

    Also, since that day of ditching god, I have taken plenty of opportunities to blame him for stuff in life that frustrates me. It’s a hard habit to break. But as I practice making a clean break from god, I think it leaves a lot more space in the future to encounter GOD. And Amen to that!)

  • Scott Mielke

    1. There is no where that God is not, so it’s not possible for God to not be involved in anything. I really don’t believe in “coincidences” in the traditional sense of the word because we are always creating our own reality. We always coincide with what we’ve created, but it is fun to get some of those hits that we weren’t expecting.

    2. Again, since we are always creating our own reality, I don’t see anything as supernatural. It’s all natural. We just don’t think that we’re that powerful.

    3. You’re a great writer, Pete!

    • pjbenedict

      Our paradigms are different, and I’m glad because I see so much that is good in you, and I get to learn from you because we’re friends. May God bless you today, Scott, even more. Thank you.

  • Scott Mielke

    Thanks, Pete. The better it gets, the better it gets!

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