Note: this post is epically long. But trust me, it’s worth the read.

I’ve been doing lots of reading on the subject of how our thoughts and feelings can determine our lives. I was one of those who thought it was all hokey and just a bunch of talk by people who didn’t want to face reality, but the more I reflected on my own life, the more I came to realize just how true it all is.

I remember when the book “The Secret” came out and the uproar it caused within the mainstream Christian churches. I didn’t really understand why or what the big deal was, I just knew the church was claiming it was “anti-God” and lots of other things. I didn’t think about it much, didn’t really care either way, until I read it several months ago. By this time I was fed up with mainstream religion and all the hypocrisy so I had no prejudices going into it. The more I read of it, and the more I read of other books like it, I came to realize two very important things:
1.) There’s a lot of truth to it
2.) It’s the exact opposite of anti-God. In fact, it’s more close to God than anything.

Awhile back, I remember being hit with a thought that was so powerful that it stuck with me. It was about 12:30 during a very sleepless night, and all of a sudden, I heard a quiet voice saying, “We sing songs to worship God, preach to talk about God, and pray to talk to God, but sometimes He just wants us to shut up and listen.” It affirmed so much of what I had come to know but not fully understand. I have long said that when God speaks to me, it isn’t gentle and quiet, nor is it loud and booming, it’s a proverbial 2×4 to the head and a “Wake up and pay attention, I’m only gonna say this once.” So much has happened in my life that I never actually “prayed” for in the classic mainstream sense, but when I looked back, I realized that in fact, it happened because it was the strongest type of prayer — the kind where you put your heart and soul into something you want and then get out of the way and let Him work.

I’ve never been good at the kneeling, church type of prayer. It always felt so fake to me, and the truth is that it was. The church teaches us that we have to follow a certain formula in our prayers and that we have to pray at certain times, but that is so misleading. Our prayers become mechanical, rehearsed, and devoid of any passion that we can hardly call it a connection to the Divine. We forget what prayer is used for and why we do it. It becomes one more thing to check off our “good Christian” list before we start our day and before we go to sleep, but it loses it’s meaning so much that, if it doesn’t mean anything to us, why should we think it means anything to God?

I gave up on the mechanical rehearsed recitation routine and followed a different path. Instead of following the formula, I began practicing seeing God everywhere I went. I would look at a flower, tree, blade of grass, and “see” the force of God within them. (I use “see” in quotations because not all seeing requires eyes.) My prayers were reserved for when I actually felt like talking to God, and even then they weren’t always spoken. I stopped seeing God as this big unseeable force that was a zillion miles away and started seeing Him in every aspect of daily life. I’m not perfect by any means, I fail more often than I succeed, and on bad days it can be nonexistent, but I feel that this simple change makes all the difference in the world. I feel more connected to God than I ever did before in church, and even when I don’t consciously recognize it, there is a small part inside of my heart that holds onto that and reminds me when I most need it.

But I digress. What does all this have to do with feelings dictating our lives? Just the fact that our most powerful prayers rarely fit what we are taught to believe prayer is. I will set a few examples out that strengthened my faith, convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists, and that even though these books might not outright call the “positive thinking force” God, that’s exactly what it is.

Back in second grade, I had to do a project on a foreign country. Having a last name further in the alphabet, by the time it was my turn to pick one, all the popular countries had already been picked. I picked one out at random and chose Australia. During the course of the project, I fell in love with the country. I had a superstition about the number 15, so I decided that I wanted to go to Australia when I was 15 years old. I think my family chalked it up to the cute dreams of a 7 year old, and by the time I was older I had forgotten all about it. Amazingly enough, during my freshman year of high school, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called People to People, a group dedicated to sending youth to other countries to learn the culture, government, politics, and way of life. The letter I got was for a three-week trip to………..yes, you guessed it, Australia (with New Zealand thrown in for good measure). The kicker? I would be 15 during the trip. But that’s not all…

My whole goal in undergrad was to prepare me for vet school. That was my job, and given the fact that I would meet all the qualifications as a junior, I could apply early. So I did what any good overachiever would do and began the application. I was literally halfway through the application when I was overcome by this feeling that I needed to stop, finish my undergrad, graduate as a senior, and then apply during my senior year. This was scary for lots of reasons, the main one being that it took away an extra chance I had to apply if I didn’t get in the first time. This was not a popular decision, and caused a little bit of friction in my family, but I just knew that it wasn’t right, even though I couldn’t explain why. So I abandoned my application and prepared for my last year of college. I was in a pretty serious relationship at the time and I thought originally that this feeling was there to give me more time to cultivate this relationship. Early into my senior year, that relationship ended and I was feeling a bit lost. I remember that night, saying “God, I’m not looking for anyone right now, but if the right one comes along, I will be open.” Two weeks later, I got a message through Facebook from someone who remembers me from that trip to Australia. Not only did he remember me, but I remembered him — in fact, he was the ONLY person from that trip that I recognized and remembered his name. I even remember that on the trip, I had a moment of feeling that there was something about him, something that almost said, “You need to remember this guy.” And I did, and for 3 years I passed him and knew exactly who he was. So when he messaged me, it was cool that I finally confirmed what I knew. I found out we were living in the same dorm, which was crazy. I looked at his profile and interests and it was spooky how much we had in common, how much made me think, “there’s something about him…” We picked up where we left off, cultivated a friendship, and eventually turned into a relationship. We got married in 2008. I looked back on that feeling I had to stall my application and realized that, had I applied early, this reconnection wouldn’t have happened.

One of my favorite artists is a guy by the name of Christian Riese Lassen. He does these unbelievably vibrant colorful paintings of sea life, and they are just amazing. I have so many posters that its ridiculous. The downside is that his main gallery is in Hawaii. Well, when I was checking out colleges, one such college took me down to San Antonio to visit Trinity University. On the last day of our trip, we go out to lunch in a strip mall that, for some cosmic reason, had a Lassen gallery. Unfortunately, it happened to be closed that day and we were leaving the following day. We ate lunch and as we were coming back, we saw someone getting ready to go into the gallery. We caught up with him, explained our situation, and he let us come in for a tour. Looking at all of his art, I decided that I wanted to get one of his official prints as a vet school graduation gift. So not only did I get a private tour because I REALLY wanted to go in, I also got a special edition book featuring his artwork. Fast forward to my last year of vet school, my parents went to Hawaii. I was on rotations and couldn’t go, so they went without me. While on the trip, they were walking down a street when my dad, for a reason he can’t explain, entered a little hidden art shop. He said he didn’t know why but he was just drawn to it. During my graduation party, he revealed what he found there — a genuine Lassen print, but not only that, it was one of his sea turtle prints (an animal I have felt especially drawn to).

None of these things happened because I got down on my knees and specifically asked for them. These things happen because I felt a passion for them, and because I trusted God to handle it. Granted it was more of an “if He wants me to have it it will happen” but there was never a doubt that it would happen if it was meant to. I didn’t do anything special to make these events occur except be open to receive them, to trust that they would happen, and to be passionate about them. All of these books, they all say the same thing; want something with passion and trust that it will happen. So many people were up in arms over this teaching because it went against their view of a vengeful, judgmental God that demands some sort of payment or penance to get what they want, that you have to work hard and earn your dreams, that suffering is some sort of a test. The Bible itself has a verse that says, “Believe and you shall receive.” This isn’t conditional — it’s not “believe, work hard, and pay a price and then you might receive if I deem you worthy.” But this is what so many people believe and teach others to believe.

These things didn’t happen to me because I was “saved” or because I had met a certain criteria. These things were set in motion well before I met the church criteria of salvation, and I promise I was no more worthy or deserving than anyone else. These things happened because, even though I didn’t fully understand at the time, I trusted that they would happen. I felt a passion for them in my heart and trusted that they would happen when the time was right, and they did. God was watching out for me long before I truly understood who He was, and I still cannot say I understand. But I do know that God is love and that He gives us these dreams and passions for a reason. To doubt their reality, to question whether we deserve them, all these things prevent us from following the individual Path that has been laid out before us. No, we won’t live a life of misery if we don’t follow it, and other opportunities will come up, but we will always turn to those dreams, sometimes with a deep regret that we did not follow them. We pray to God to ask for things we don’t think we deserve or that we doubt He will give us, and as a result, we block our hearts to recognizing the opportunities in front of us. Trust me when I say:

If you have a desire for something, it is because God has put it there. You do not need to question whether you deserve it — if you have a desire, there is a reason. The plans necessary to make them happen are already in place. It isn’t your job to figure it out, and it won’t always make sense. That’s not the point. All you need to do is follow the opportunities, take those chances, listen to your inner heart saying, “Go for it.”