Tag Archives: prayer

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?


Is this Sparta?

I know what you’re thinking. “Two posts in a row? From Brandi?! Is her server down for maintenance?” Well it’s not! I’m actually taking a break from the game in order to share my thoughts with you. Isn’t that thoughtful of me?

Just say yes, so we can move on.

Daniel mentioned in an earlier blog post that we’re in the process of buying a house in “the cities” – which is the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, for those of you who don’t habla midwest. I’m excited about this because it will be the first time we’ve been able to own something, which either means we’re crazy, or we’re moving ever-so-slightly up in the world.

Now, since this process has started I’ve been approaching it through fasting and prayer, and fasting, and prayer. It’s been very cyclical, as I’m sure you can imagine. This hasn’t been an easy road for us Mitchells. It started with us feeling very strongly that our days in Duluth were coming to an end, despite the fact that we have much love for our Duluth/Superior peeps. We had a couple of options on the table: namely, the cities or Florida. Each one had its strengths and weaknesses, so that’s where the prayer started. It was, basically, me telling God that I would move where he pointed regardless of my personal feelings on the subject – if only he would just point.

Eventually, the focus slowly tightened down to the cities, and I began my search for housing. There were a lot of houses available . . . but again, after focusing in on the prayer and fasting, we managed to narrow down the possibilities to 3 different houses. After a couple of trips down into that concrete jungle, we ended up picking the first house we’d looked at. We felt really good about it, so we put in an offer and decided to start the process.

That should have been it, right? No such luck. Every step we took forward was followed by a half-step back, and there were times in the process when everyone involved was ready to throw up their hands, say “Oh to hell with it!” and settled for renting a house in the Duluth/Superior area.

Every time things would devolve to this point, I would go into a season of prayer and fasting. I would ask God the standard questions – did I make the wrong call? Did I misinterpret the signs and portents and dreams? Did he not want us in the cities at all?

Every time I prayed, I would feel this comforting presence I’ve come to call a “God Hug”. It was a  feeling of God saying,  “I’ve never left you. Just wait.” And I would, with renewed faith, counsel everyone in my family of this very fact. Some would doubt it was going to happen at all, some would doubt we could make it work if it did happen, and to all of them I became their only source of encouragement. Even as the clock was ticking down, and it was looking like we were going to be facing eviction from our current rental just to buy the time for the closing on this house happen, I was the one who didn’t have the time or luxury to doubt. We knew that we couldn’t rent another house without signing a lease we’d have to break in a month, thereby paying moving costs twice. Even worse was the threat of being effectively homeless until closing came through. Neither of these were pleasant prospects, and to say I wasn’t afraid would be a massive lie. Still, I felt like we were poi      sed on a precipice – the difference between what God had done in our lives already, and what God was inviting us to discover with him. My fear did not shake my faith, and a lot of times my “prayer” was a shrug and me saying, “Well I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’ve never abandoned me. Not even when I forgot your name. I trust you. And thanks for the shit your doing that I can’t see. Whatever it is, it’s gonna be epic.”

Because that’s how I pray, you see. Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it simple, and keep it real.

One thing I’ve learned in my short faith journey is this: praying to God for help is powerful magic, but it’s not always enough. So we sent out a call to prayer. We asked you guys (our blog readers, who still need a name) to pray, we emailed our pastors and our friends. We got all the “prayer warriors” involved. I even branched out a little and sent out a call to my secular friends – some of whom are pagan, some of whom are agnostic, and one of whom is atheist – and asked them to do whatever they did to send good vibes our way. Heretical? Maybe. Personally, I think God hears you no matter what name you call him or what method you use, and I needed all the help I could get. Being the only support beam gets tiring when you’re holding up the whole building! Plus. . . you know. . . the whole move thing could really use his help.

Well, we asked and you answered. And things started happening in our favor. It became two steps forward and one step back – sometimes three steps. It got to the point that we became convinced that

a)      this move was under supernatural attack (which is not a mentality I jump to easily)


b)      that meant that we were supposed to be doing it.

We renewed the call to prayer amongst family and friends, and God moved in such a way that I can’t imagine it’s because of anyone but him. Now it looks almost certain that we will not only be closing on this house early next month, but that we will be doing it at a substantially lower cost than we originally thought. Due to the various problems we ran into in the course of trying to make this sale happen, the owner has become willing to make adjustments to the contract to help it fly with the VA loan we’re using – including lowering the price of the house, after we’d already agreed on a number. He’s even offering to pay our closing costs out of his own pocket. He’s almost losing money to see us in this house. Who does that, when they could just find another buyer?

I figure, only someone touched by God would do that.

Anyway, throughout this process my faith was never shaken, even though I was afraid and sometimes exhausted with the job of encouraging everyone else along the way. I’m not saying this to brag – I’m saying this because this is not at all like me. Usually, I’m the one who falls to despair. I’m the one who gives up on God before God gives up on me. But this time, for this struggle, things were different.  I knew it was going to work out even if I didn’t see the end game. I knew God was going to take care of us, because that’s what you do to someone you love, and if there’s anything I know for certain (besides higher frame rates are better) it’s that God loves me. And not just me – God loves my whole family. As such, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would be with us through this storm as he’d been with us through every other storm.

As my pastor, Ryan Bauers, once said, “Life can be rough. Sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes the only choice you’re offered is the choice to go through hard times and feel hopeful, or to go through hard times and despair.”

And – who knew? – God likes it when we call on him. He enjoys it when we take the time to chat. And sometimes, when we ask him to work miracles, he does.

However, as close as we are to the finish line, there are still hurdles to jump and pitfalls to cross. I’m a fighter by nature, and as such I know that you can’t slacken in your assault till victory is fully achieved. That being the case, I’m renewing the call to each of you to come put on your +3 armor of smiting evil and come join me in the battle. Pray, meditate, light candles, whatever it is you do to commune with the infinite wonder that is God. Do it with m,e and on behalf of me and my family, and in return I will do the same for you. Whatever it is you’re going through, God is with you. He walks with you, and he loves you, and he won’t ever abandon you even if you don’t know his name. I know sometimes that’s not easy to see, so as an added bonus, I’m with you too – with my vorpal sword of holy ass-kicking and a bad attitude, and I’m willing to spill metaphoric blood for your cause. So tell me what it is you’re in the middle of, what enemy has you surrounded, what storm rocks your boat, and together we can go to war!

Hi, my name is Daniel. . .

I was recently reading a study that Darren  sent to me. It was a paper, written by an atheist group, on five clergymen who secretly did not believe in God. The paper contained transcripts from interviews conducted with these five men, and each of them told a bit of their story – how they came to be ministers, what lead to them losing faith in God’s existence, why they didn’t “come clean” with their atheism, etc. One thing I noticed about these five guys is that they all said that they’d never experienced anything miraculous in their lives. Each of them had a hard time believing in anything supernatural, to the point that even believing in God in a liberal way (which downplays the role of miracles in the Bible and focuses more on Jesus’ morality) became impossible for them.

I sympathize with these clergymen. I really do. As I’ve said before a time or two, if your faith in God is based on things like the Bible, or tradition, or philosophy, then I think you’re going to have a hard time maintaining that faith. My faith in God is based on the fact that he does, occasionally, do stuff. It’s not always huge, but it’s there – personal, experiential evidence that an immaterial being listens to me, loves me, and can make changes to the world around me. The experience of the miraculous creates a context in which the Bible, the tradition, and the philosophy can be studied, wrestled-with, and contemplated fruitfully. If the Bible confuses me, that’s okay – I don’t worship the Bible. If I disagree with the tradition, or think that the philosophy sometimes falls short, my experiential faith carries me through those times. Faith is something that I place in people, not ideas.

For instance, I would never say what I am about to say, if I had hope that an idea was going to come along and lend me aid. Instead, I say what comes next because I’m hoping that a person (named Yahweh) will give me a hand out of a situation that I am in.

If it’s not entirely obvious from my profile photo, I’m a pretty big guy. I’ve always been big – I was a chubby toddler who became a husky boy who became a big man. I’ve come to accept that certain things are just a fact of life. For instance, my metabolism sucks. Also, my knees are bad from carrying all this weight for such a long time. In addition, I have Type 2 diabetes. These are things that are just a result of being a guy who, I have felt for a long time, was born to be big.

I’ve recently realized that I can’t blame my weight on genetics alone. I’m sure my biology has a part to play in this, but I now know that my habits are a bigger contributor than I previously assumed. The habit that hurts me the most is a sin so “old timey” that in the Middle Ages it was considered one of seven “deadly sins.” Obviously, I’m talking about gluttony – but these days, we call it food addiction.

Here are some signs of how I have a pretty fucked-up habit.

–         I sometimes eat in secret

–         I often eat when I’m not hungry

–         I occasionally eat things that do not taste good, just to be eating

–         I sometimes eat when I flat-out don’t want to eat.

It’s weird to realize that you’re addicted to something as commonplace, as innocuous, as food. I’ve always lived a pretty clean life. I didn’t know what weed smelled like until I was in my mid-twenties. I’ve always been very moderate in my drinking (one or two memorable occasions notwithstanding). I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I haven’t had a cigar in years. I thought that I was immune to addiction.

But food? How do I give up food? Unlike addictions to substances, gambling, or sex, food is a basic biological need. I can’t quit it cold turkey. I’ve tried to curb my habits on occasion over the years. Sometimes I can for a couple of weeks, or maybe (once) for a couple of months. So far I’ve never been able to make it stick. I’ve tried to change my habits for a number of reasons – I’ve done it to loose weight, I’ve done it to control my blood sugar, I’ve done it to just “feel healthier”. Food addiction makes all of these attempts impossible, because eventually the urge to go to the fridge and put whatever is in there in my mouth becomes overwhelming.

Recently, I was chatting with my mother-in-law, and the subject somehow got around to life after death. I told her some stuff that I’d recently read that was written by my academic hero, N.T. Wright. He talked about how the idea that we all had an immaterial soul was not Biblical – that the Bible preached a physical resurrection, not a spiritual, immaterial one. I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, and she said, “Yep. And we’ll be perfect – we won’t have sickness, or scars, or be overweight.” We’d have glorified bodies. And that got me thinking – if, on that future day that the world was redeemed, I was resurrected as a skinny, sexy Dan, doesn’t that imply that my weight’s ultimate causality – the underlying problem with my addiction – is that this world is broken, and that I myself am also broken?

This is where God comes in.

I am fasting from everything but water for the next twenty-four hours. I’m not fasting to start a diet, or to try to live a healthier life, or to cleanse my body of toxins. I am fasting because I need help from a being outside of myself. I’m fasting because I need the miraculous intervention of the person who has, on the odd occasion, miraculously intervened before – in my life, and in the lives of others that I know. I’m fasting because I am broken, and because I am broken I need to be fixed. I’m fasting because it’s a tradition within the Christian faith. For whatever reason, fasting is something that seems to sharpen the spirit. It brings focus to the faster’s mind, and it seems – for me, anyway – to make it easier for the person fasting to hear God. Maybe it helps God hear them, too. I’ve previously fasted for 24 hours  and for three days, and both times I felt my faith grow stronger for a time.

After my fast is over, I’m going to confront this addiction with renewed focus. I know it won’t be easy – I’m not asking God for easy. What I am asking God to do is to make overcoming this habit possible. Occasionally, I’ll give mention in this blog as to how my struggle is coming along. . . not because I’m assuming you’re all dying to know, but because this is blog about a faith journey, and sometimes going to God with your baggage is part of that journey. If I don’t document this part of my journey just because it’s a little embarrassing, then one could rightly question the honesty of the blog.

Today’s question – would you pray for me? You don’t have to comment, or give me encouragement, or in any way draw attention to yourself if you don’t want to. But when you chat with God next, could you mention that I need his help? 

Story time!

I’d like to take a little time today to tell you all a story.

Something happened to me recently that I really would love to share with all of you. As many of you know, we moved up here from Arizona, and in the process we had to split our family. There are lots of reasons for this, a) our two older children are in school down in Arizona and we didn’t want to disrupt their studies but b) and maybe more importantly, we were moving up here on what we believed was the whim of God, and, more tangibly, on the charity of some friends who opened their house to us. And while that was wonderfully nice of them, they only had two spare bedrooms (and no previous experience with kids) so we didn’t have the room to put our whole family in the house!

It basically would have looked like this.

We sucked it up and came, however, with the understanding that the separation was temporary and that we would bring the remainder of the clan up once we got established in our work, and in our own place. This took longer than we thought, and every day that went by without the money to make any sort of move at all, it got harder and harder. I began to pray earnestly (and repeatedly) that God would move for us and provide something that we needed.

Now I should note that we have a specific list. The bigger your family gets, I find, the more specific your list of needs are. And as time passed it became more and more apparent that we weren’t going to only be bringing up our other two kids, but my aging parents. That meant we needed a certain amount of space, but more than that, my parents age and health being what they were, we needed a certain layout. They can’t really tackle stairs, for example. With 3 kids and 4 adults we really needed there to be a washer and dryer. With three or four vehicles between the adults, we really needed somewhere with off-street parking. Above all, this had to be given to us at a price we could afford. The more I looked at the local house rental market, the more discouraged I got, because while I found many, many beautiful houses that would work, they were really expensive. Any houses I found that were in our price range were cracker-box small, or had all bedrooms on the upper floors, or had on street parking, and so on.

“It’s lovely, really. . . but honestly, if I could have FOUR walls, that would be great.”

I prayed about this so much that I’m sure God, up in heaven, felt like I do when my son gets stuck on asking me for something and repeats himself over and over and over until I’m going “Ok! Teaghan! I heard you! I said yes! Give me a sec to do it, kiddo!”

But even though I repeated myself ad nauseum, I trusted that God had heard and was going to provide us with everything we needed. So as time went on, and I looked at about a-million-and-2 houses in the area, I began to amend my prayer. “Ok God, you know what we need, I won’t take your time with repeating it again, but I’m dumb. So when I find the one you want us in, put bells on it for me, so I know it’s the one.” I even began telling people, “Well, don’t worry, when it’s the one, God will put a bell on it, and we’ll know!”

I was joking.

I also asked for a million dollars in unmarked bills to be found in the laundry room. God took THAT joke less. . . literally.

One day, after praying, I came across an ad on Craigslist. A four bedroom house in Superior, Wisconsin(for those that aren’t local, that’s right across the bridge from Duluth) was going for $750 a month. “That looks hopeful” I thought to myself, so I shot off an email to the owner, who responded with a phone call telling me I could go look at it, but she had other people who were also interested. She pointed out that the other couple had not yet put in an application, so she was still showing it, but she didn’t seem very enthusiastic that this wouldn’t be a waste of our time. Well, I wasn’t about to give up that easily, so I set up a meeting with her the next weekend.

Fast-forward a bit to next weekend – we drove out to Superior, got to the house, and immediately fell in love. The house is large enough for us, the rooms are nicely-sized, and there’s even a single room on the bottom floor with its own bathroom so that my parents won’t have to go upstairs! I began to get kind of excited about it, but I kept myself in check and began praying silently (and somewhat distractedly. . . sorry, God) for God’s guidance. His will, I told him, not mine. The owner took us downstairs to show us the basement, which was huge. It came with several things that filled me with delight (such as a craft table for me to do my painting-type-whatsit on, and a fully functional ping pong table), but I continued to keep myself in check.

“I was hoping for a teleportation pod, but couldn’t find a SINGLE HOUSE that we could afford that had one!” – Daniel

Daniel, Teaghan, and the owner headed back upstairs to look at some of the rest of the house, and I sort of lagged down in the basement, getting a better look at things. The owner still had a lot of stuff in there, so I was being careful not to disturb anything while looking. I finished my exploration, and turned to head back upstairs to join them when I noticed a plaster carving of the Last Supper, partially obscured by a canvas drop cloth that had been tossed upon a table. Smiling a bit, I walked over and picked it up to get a closer look. As I did, something fell to the ground. Not wanting to be disrespectful and leave it there, I set the carving down and bent down to pick up whatever had fallen. As I bent down my eye fell almost immediately on something lying under the table. Feeling a growing sense of amazement and disbelief, I picked it up to get a closer look, and what should my shaking hand be holding but a tiny Christmas tree ornament shaped like a bell. I stared at it, filled with a deep joy so potent I actually laughed, even while my eyes were tearing. I cradled the tiny ornament in my hand and made my way upstairs to show my husband. He laughed out loud, commenting on how that was incredible, and he couldn’t believe there was an actual bell! We shared the story with the owner, who also laughed.

We took the application.

We went home and filled it out, one for every adult in the house. My hand was cramping when we were finished. We called the owner and asked her how we might drop this off for her. She told us the days she worked, and the days she’d be at the house, none of which worked for us at all with our work schedule. But Daniel and I both felt a pressing need to give her the application. So on a whim I volunteered to drive out to Two Harbors, Minnesota, where she lived, and hand-deliver the applications to her. She agreed, and we loaded ourselves back into the car.

We arrived at her home, were introduced to her husband as, “the first people to look at the house today”, and were invited into her home. At those words my heart started to sink. The first people? How many people had looked at that house – people who had better credit, a smaller family, less children, less dog? What if she liked one of them better than us? I loved that house! I dreaded her telling us “No.” Then my mind returned to the tiny bell, and I squared my shoulders. “No way” I told myself. “God wants us in this house. I’m not gonna worry about it!”

As I thought this to myself, we were led into the living room of her home where, out her sliding glass door, I could clearly see an ornamental dinner bell hung on the porch. It was behind a beautiful cross hanging on the wall. I smiled to myself. I just knew God was reaffirming his approval for this direction.

That Sunday, Daniel caught up with our friend Tim, who attends our church. He told him about the house, the owners, and the bell-shaped Christmas tree ornament. As Daniel described the owners, our friend got a thoughtful look on his face. “Do you know their’ names?” he asked. Daniel told him, and Tim’s face lit up.

“I know them!” he said. “In fact, I saw the husband just yesterday. I’ll call them and let them know what I think of you!” He promised he wouldn’t lie, but that he would share all the nice things he felt about us.

“Dan’s a great guy! He wouldn’t HESITATE to help you bury a body in the. . . um. . . I mean. . . move.”

One week later, we got the call that we’d been chosen to have the house. I don’t know how many people were looking, or how many of them applied. I know we weren’t the first or only family, and I also know that she didn’t call a single one of our references. It seems clear to me that this house was an answered prayer and a gift from God, sitting and waiting for us to come and take it. I don’t know about you, but the idea of God answering prayers in so tangible a way is very new to me. I’m both honored and humbled to be thought of so personally by the creator of all the universe.

So that’s my story. Now I’d like to open the door for you! If you have stories of tangibly answered prayer, I’d love to hear them. Tell me all your things!