Author Archives: pjbenedict

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?


Agreeing to Disagree – A guest post by Rev. Peter Benedict

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life convinced that being right and knowing the truth are important. I’ve also often thought I was right about just about everything. Those two sentences would have seemed unrelated to me for a good 20 years, but reading them now I’m stunned at their silliness.

My passion for finding the truth has led to some good stuff in my life. I was the guy in college who’d stay up all night talking with people about anything I cared about, and even if I tried to convince you I was right and even if I knew I you were wrong, I enjoyed hearing other perspectives. I’m glad I’ve always been after the truth, even if I was sure I already had it.

My passion for truth has led to some less good stuff too, especially when it’s been paired with surety in my own perspective. As a teen, for example, I got put in private Christian schools because I was suicidally unhappy in my public school (a story for another day!). While there I was exposed to all kinds of “theology,” and when I became convinced, I felt justified in being a jerk about it… because after all, I was right! I did some terrible stuff, like telling my future sister-in-law that God didn’t want her speaking in church (which I didn’t believe was good, or right, but it was in the Bible and I wanted to be argumentative).

"Oh, for the love of me. . ."

“Oh, for the love of me. . .”

Now I’m 42 years old, or as my teen self would have thought: Nearly dead. And I find myself much less sure, much less concerned with being right, but still passionate about truth. But the truth is different now. Jesus has rolled stuff out in my life, rather than giving me some giant ball of truth-wax in one big glob. I discover over time that I’ve been wrong and that God’s calling me to a new way, and this has happened so many times that I’m now pretty sure of some different truths than I used to believe.

I’m pretty sure that right now I’ve got wrong beliefs about something. I’m pretty sure I have no idea what it is, so I might as well be humble about what I believe.

I’m pretty sure that when I disagree with someone, how we treat each other is more important than who’s right.

"Admit it! Admit that Calvinism is theologically unsound!"

“Admit it! Admit that Calvinism is theologically unsound!”

I’m pretty sure that how I treat people is important even if the other person is doing something terrible, like spitting at me or nailing me to a cross or, even worse… JUDGING ME! I used to put being judgmental on its own special plane in Dante’s Inferno, but now I figure I’ve been sure and judgmental often enough that I should probably just be graceful in the face of it. I’ll probably be judgmental again someday, and when that happens I’d love to be able to say “I’m sorry… could you give me some grace on this one, like you’ve seen me give to others?”

Once upon a time, if I’d started a blog it would have been my goal to tell you, dear reader, what’s right and true. Now I’m writing for a blog because I want to learn from you. When we disagree, I’ll still believe what I believe in the moment… but disagreement is OK, and I hope we do a lot of it here. I hope we do it well.

"I respectfully disagree with your position, vis a vis Calvinism!"

“I respectfully disagree with your position, vis a vis Calvinism!”

On that front… on to the questions!

1. How sure are you of the truth (or The Truth, if you prefer)?

2. How have you treated people when you disagree? How have people treated you?

3. Is there any truth that you’re passionate about? Is there any truth you’ve been so passionate about that you’ve been less kind than you’d hope?

4. Is judgment some kind of special wrong? Is it OK to treat judgmental people badly?

5. Do you have any questions for me, or anything to say that I would benefit from hearing?

Thanks in advance to all who respond. You’re the reason I’m writing, and I hope I learn good things from you.