Prayer: WTF? An Invitation.

Prayer: WTF? An Invitation.

Dear, Jesus. 

Hey, God.

Oh, great king of kings and Lord of Lords, creator of heavens and earth, all powerful and mighty God.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. 

What is prayer? I mean, really. What is it? Is it a monologue or a dialogue? Is it a dumping ground for our complaints, requests, wishes, laments? Is it just another task on the burdensome spiritual to-do list?

How does prayer work? Does it change God or me? Is it like a genie in a bottle sort of thing? Is it formulaic – like do I need to confess every bad thing I’ve ever done before God will listen? “Hey, God, I’m really sorry I stole that piece of bazooka joe in the summer of ’89.”

Why is it so inconsistent? Why do some prayers get answered an others don’t? Why does one prayer get answered in a flash while others seem to require years of persistence? Why don’t I feel close to God when I pray and those around me seem to have the code to the secret holy of holies society?

Prayer is one of those bizarre things that raises more questions than it does answers. From Sunday school felt-boards to academic lectures, we learn a plethora of ideas concerning prayer. In effort to contain the unruly collection of ideas, I put together a list of lessons on prayer. A list that I’ve astutely titled, Brianna’s Top 3 Lessons on Prayer. Ready? Ok. Starting with #3:

3.) When you pray, go into a closet and shut the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. (Matthew 6:6)

Wait, so does that mean I’m literally to go into a closet? But which closet? My coat closet? My storage closet? My wardrobe closet? Does it matter? And how can I pray to a Father figure that is unseen and feels so far away?

2.) When you pray, have Faith and do not doubt. (James 1:6)

What does this mean, exactly? Is the some kind of Thomas the Train motto? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I can do this, I have enough faith. I don’t doubt (except sometimes I do, what happens now?).

1.) Don’t give up! Keep praying until the Fruit comes. (Luke 18:1-8)

How long is long enough? Do smaller requests require less persistence than larger ones? What happens if, after years of persistence, I see no juicy fruit growing on my twiggy Charlie Brown tree of prayer?

Thanks for the lessons. I totally understand now. NOT! (Once a 90’s child, always a 90’s child.)

The Sunday school felt-board lessons were a good starting point. And the adult Sunday education classes provided some additional insight. But many of us are still wrought in utter confusion. In our spiritual haze we mutter, Where’s the Father? Where’s the Faith? Where’s the Fruit? Prayer, WTF? It’s just so confusing! Guess I’m gonna eat some worms.

Ok. Maybe we don’t need to get our shovel and bucket just yet. I’ve got a hunch there’s more to prayer than we’ve previously experienced. In the next few weeks we’ll be exploring this curiouser adventure of prayer. We’ll unpack scripture, watch some videos, and lean into the wisdom of some of my favorite travelers. So don’t eat those worms just yet, my friend. Instead, I invite you to send in some of your curiosities on prayer. What questions do you have? Together let’s get to know the Father, stretch our muscles of Faith and sample some Fruit along the way.


-Featured Image: “Prayer 2” by Angu Walters


Theology at the Movies: Blood Diamond

Theology at the Movies: Blood Diamond

I was in first grade and I wanted my hair done in pig-tail braids. That particular day I was wearing my brand new Mickey Mouse suspenders and they demanded pig-tail braids. It was going to be the best day of school ever.

My three other sisters were hogging our small bathroom, time was short before the school bus would pull up to our yellow rambler and mom was frantically trying to get us all out the door. Bless mothers of small elementary age children. They’re angels sent from heaven with a capacity for mayhem that would make gladiators cry like babies.

As the chaos ensued I sat quietly on the floor by the bathroom door, hoping mom would just get the hint that I needed my hair braided. Before she caught on to my subtleties the bus was honking at the end of our driveway. My sisters flew out the door and mom was nudging me along behind them. With crocodile tears welling in my eyes I said, “But I wanted pig-tail braids!” With righteous frustration, mom tossed my hair in a pony and that was the end of it.

I hated when mom got crabby. I know, I know. everyone gets crabby, impatient, frustrated. We’ve all totally lost our shit from time to time. It’s life. But I was a 6 years old kid and on that day, in my little brain, I internalized my mom’s frustration and my first false identity was formed. I thought, if I’m perfect, then mom will never get impatient.

And so, perfectionism was born.

We all have stories of false identities. At far too early of an age we learn these identities so thoroughly and carefully that sometimes we think they’re actually true to who we are.  I’m Brianna and I’m a perfectionist.

What does your false identity tell you? Don’t be afraid, we’ve all got them. Far better to own it than continue the charade is what I say. Under our masks we’re just a promenade of failures, screw-ups, drop-outs, addicts, too much, not enough, worthless, cheater, liar, deceiver…

But then one day, in the midst of the noise of our masquerade ball we hear the sound of something different. This something is unfamiliar and yet familiar. It’s like a voice, one that is so far yet so real we cannot help but turn our ears in hopes of making out the words of the whisperer. As we turn we begin to hear it more clearly.

Can you hear it? Do you know what it is? Dare I say it’s the greatest longing of every human heart.

It’s the sound of our name. Our true name. Called to us by the one from whom we were created.

The transformation of self that occurs when we hear the sound of our true identity is a powerful gift. It’s a gift offered to all of us and it’s ours if we wish to receive it.

This is where our movie clip comes in. Now, there are a plethora of theological conversations wrapped up in the film Blood Diamond. We could discuss war, violence, injustice, the diamond business. But I chose to discuss identity. Why? Well, this clip will say all that needs to be said. Check it out…

Gorgeous, right?

Friend, what masks are you wearing? You look pretty tired from wearing them so long. Mind if I help you take them off? I need help too. Together, let’s turn our ears to the one who calls us by name.

Bob Goff is one of my favorite human beings on the planet. You should really get to know him. On identity he says this, “Don’t let other people decide who you are.” Isn’t that refreshing? He also goes on to say, “Don’t let your past push you around anymore. We’re new creations.” Gold. Pure gold, I tell you.

I think this clip from Blood Diamond demonstrates the power of hearing our true identity. Young Dia Vandy was kidnapped from his home at a young age by rebel forces and brainwashed into becoming a hardened child soldier. Dia was forced to take on a false identity. Once known as a beloved member of the Mende tribe, he came to believe he was a murderer. Only by the voice of his father reminding him of his name is Dia liberated from his false identity back into his true self.

Dear reader, you’ve got a big life to live! Don’t let your past push you around anymore. This life needs your true self. Come, let us encourage one another to listen to the familiar whisper of our name. You are loved. You are enough. You are a new creation. You are made new. You are liberated. Join the epic adventure that can only be lived out with unveiled faces!

Theology at the Movies: Moana

Theology at the Movies: Moana

I used to have a really hard heart. The kind of heart that was rebellious, closed and obnoxiously self-protected. During this time I subconsciously abandoned all the things that I love. Things like romance, connectedness and being known. You know, the very things that are simultaneously the source of great joy and potential heartache. I also, for some odd reason or another, shut down all affections toward the more peculiar loves in my life – namely, Elvis, Disney movies, vintage romantic musicals and terribly cheesy songs. I bid farewell to all these jewels. Oh my prison of protection was strong, ya’ll. Horrifically strong.

But then the Spirit broke through my stoney self-protection and gave me this new, drippy heart of flesh. And with this new heart all my former loves came flooding in. Elvis sings to me on a daily basis and I hang out with The Man From Snowy River at least a dozen times during the Christmas season. I want all my people to be joined by the darling little app knowns as ‘Find Friends’ and what’s even crazier still, apparently I now wanna be a mama. (Warning! Use caution when you let the Spirit open you up. She’ll shock you with all these new desires you didn’t even think of. This PSA brought to you by the woman who regularly joked about tying her tubes.)

All this to say, I’m watching movies with different eyes and I’m seeing theology show up all over the place. So it only makes sense to create a thread of posts devoted to two things I love dearly: Theology and Movies.

First up on the watch list is Walt Disney’s, Moana. (PS, we’ll be hanging a bunch with Walt. And at the end of these posts I’ll lead a “Theology and Movies” trip to Disneyland… JK. But wouldn’t that be one of the happiest trips on earth?!)

The synopsis goes like this:

Daughter to the island chief, Moana is the only navigator courageous enough to voyage away from the island in valiant effort to restore the heart of the mother island, Te Fiti,  which was stolen ages ago by the demigod, Maui. Without her heart, Te Fiti’s island deteriorated into a hardened darkness, no longer empowered to bring forth the vibrant, verdant life she once generously provided.

On her epic adventure Moana finds Maui and demands he help her in restoring the heart of Te Fiti. As they sail toward the mother island challenges ensue and nearly entirely thwart their mission. But with a perseverance only legends speak of, Moana sets her gaze upon the task before her and sails on through the many odds stacked against her. With the power of knowing her inner strength alongside the desire to call forth Te Fiti’s true identity, Moana finally makes it to the mother island.

Unscathed by Te Fiti’s calloused exterior, Moana asks the ocean to allow Te Fiti to come forward. The sea is parted in two and Moana boldly walks toward Te Fiti, singing into being her truth, beauty and life.

Go grab the box of tissues and check this out:


I know your name.

They have stolen the heart from inside you.

But this does not define you. This is not who you are.

You know who you are.

Gah! I sob. Every. Single. Time. Undoubtedly my tears come unglued because this movie taps into so much of my own narrative. But I also think it touches on something much larger than this. You see, I believe this story of restoration is communal in nature. Every one of us has areas of our hearts that are calloused and closed. Deep wounds, lies of the enemy, insecurities, the voices of society, broken relationships… all of these experiences cause us to hide behind our little walls of self-protection.

And there is grace for this. Lots of grace.

The crazy thing about the grace that blankets our journey is that the power of grace itself does not allow us to remain in our lifeless state. Isn’t that insanely lovely?! Grace empowers us to do that which we cannot do on our own. God gives us community to support one another along the way. We need each other to call out the truth of who we really are, we all need Moana’s in our life and we all have the chance to be Moana for one another. And as we engage in this reciprocity of grace we become a band of love and light, singing songs of liberation from every false identity.

So go, gather your friends and kiddos around the tube. It’s the perfect fall day to cozy up with a blanket, hot cocoa and Moana. Let us sing without apology the truth of who we really are. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are a warrior. You are beautiful. You are more than enough. You are not your past. You are God’s beloved.