4 Things to Stop Doing in Prayer

Transform your prayer life by eliminating these 4 types of problematic prayers.

15-minute Audio. 12-minute Read.


For every Christian, prayer is a vital ingredient to a robust faith and relationship with God. If you want to transform your faith, you can start by taking a look at your prayers. Prayer is both our starting battleground and our place of worship. With prayer, we contend for one another; we rally for the Kingdom, and we deepen our intimacy with Christ.

Our prayers also act as a mirror, reflecting what we believe about God, and ourselves. We can pray from a position of doubt and lack, or we can pray from a place of Truth and authority. Prayer is meant to be powerful enough to move mountains, but sadly, many of the prayers echoing through our church walls today are laced with lies and uncertainties.

Below are four things to stop doing in prayer, and ways to pray powerful prayers instead

#1 Petitioning for Proximity and Permanence (ie God be near me, God stay with me)

In popular culture, it’s not uncommon for relationships to exist somewhere on a sliding continuum of together and separate, creating enough sparks of uncertainty to fuel entire albums of musical expression. Just listen to pop radio for a few minutes, and your ears will be flooded with lyrical stories about the whole spectrum of proximity. For example, we have titles such as…

  • Closer” by the Chainsmokers and “Far Away” by Nickelback 
  • “Next to You” by Justin Bieber and “Without You” Avicii
  • “Contigo” by Enrique Iglesias and “Donde Estas Corazon?” Shakira  

 In addition to the desire for close proximity, the longing for relational permanence, is so universal, that there’s a particular one-word wish that Sam Smith, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Zedd, and Alessia Cara have each dropped an individual title about. And that word is…“STAY.”   

Despite the romantic sounding melodies, the hidden commonality across all these songs is an undeniable fear of loss. You wouldn’t sing your heart out asking for someone to stay unless there was also a possibility they might leave.

Thankfully, our relationship with God isn’t like that because we’re inseparable for eternity. But unfortunately, some of our prayers sound just as insecure as a top 40 pop song, and we pray from a place of spiritual separation anxiety. 

Perhaps you ask God to stay with you as you drive Tioga Pass in the icy conditions, or maybe you ask God to be near you when your significant other is as far away as a Nickelback song. Or maybe, you feel so distant from God, that you just sent out the official smoke signal prayer crying “God, where are you?”

We hear prayers like this so often that they almost sound normal, but asking for God’s close proximity or his presence forever, perpetuate two core lies about Him.

  • The first is that God exists separate from you.  
  • The second is that he could leave you at any time.
  • The Truth is that God lives IN you, and you are united with Him in spirit. (1st Corinthians 3).

His word says He will never leave you or forsake you and that nothing can separate you from his love. Internalizing these truths will radically transform the way you pray and live. Declare them, and know that you are never alone.

# 2 Asking for What You Already Have

Now that you’re fully aware of God living inside of you, it’s important to know what that entails. You have been given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and everything pertaining to life and godliness. And yet, it’s possible, to live spiritually asleep and starve while sitting at a feast. Consider the refrigerator analogy.

You and your spouse just moved into your new mid-town apartment. After surviving off of delivery pizza for several weeks, you decide to surprise them one day by stocking the fridge with all of their random favorite foods during your lunch break. You fill the shelves with chocolate covered acai power-berries, sugar snap peas, and triple strength cold brew coffee. Then you write a detailed love note about what’s inside, tape it to the fridge, and drive back to work giddy with anticipation for their reaction. But several hours later, much to your dismay, your phone lights up with a discouraged, hangry, text message. 

“Spouse, I feel so weak. I just ask that you go to the grocery store. Get me power berries. Give me peas. I need triple strength cold brew.  If you are willing, please provide for me. xoxo”

How heartbreaking. You are willing to provide, but your spouse is either unaware of the food — because they haven’t read the note — or they have read it, but they refuse to eat, or they simply don’t know how to open containers and use utensils.

As ridiculous as that text message may seem, many of us pray in a similar manner. Our spiritual fridge, so to speak, is stuffed with blessings and fruits of the spirit, but if we don’t open it, our prayers will originate from a place of emptiness, as though these blessings exist somewhere outside of us far beyond our reach. For example, you might pray:

  • Give me patience when there is horrendous traffic outside Golden One Center.”
  • “Give me peace when the pedestrians are unruly”
  • “Give me the strength to obey the speed limit when it is as slow as the pedestrians.”

It turns out, you already have peace, patience, and strength. Before asking God for something you think you lack, take inventory of what you have. In Christ, you are fully equipped, complete and lacking in nothing. You have been given every spiritual blessing—including love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control, and yes, even patience, during Golden One Center traffic chaos.

Start from a foundation of gratitude, declaring His promises before sprinting to your complaints and requests. For example, instead of asking God for more power, thank God that the same power which rose Jesus from the dead lives in you, and ask Him to show you how to use it.

#3 Asking for Forgiveness…Over and Over

Asking God for forgiveness is not a sin, but the belief that we have unforgiven sins is. God calls us to trust Him, and our trust is revealed in the way we pray. We can pray in thanksgiving that He is faithful and just to forgive, or we can beg for forgiveness for the same sin, over and over, out of worry that we’re not covered by the blood of Jesus. Let’s take a look at the student debt analogy.

Angie, a freshman at a prestigious and pricey liberal arts college, takes out sixty thousand dollars in loans, to pay her tuition bill that year. Angie has angst. Drowning in debt, 20 units of coursework, and her on-campus job, she strives and struggles just to keep her head above water. But one day, she gets a call from the financial office announcing that a donor would like to pay off her current debt and fund the rest of her degree in full. Unlike most grants, this gift isn’t even merit-based.

You would guess Angie would feel ecstatic and walk around with a buoyancy in her step, just in knowing that she’s saved by the crushing weight of student debt and higher education inflation. But Angie still has angst and walks around campus with a weight of guilt as heavy as her 20 unit class load backpack. She can’t quite wrap her mind around the gift —she has to process it  and she doesn’t believe she deserves to go to school debt free. Thus, instead of accepting the generosity, she calls the financial office after every class to apologize for the cost of her education, the burden she is on the institution, and to triple check about whether her next semester is still covered. The administration office is kind, but Angie’s calls get old after a while because her debts have been deleted from the records. Whats the College/Cross connection?

When Jesus died on the cross, He forgave us our sins, past, present, and future. Yet many Christians, like angsty Angie, have trouble accepting His radical grace and thus ask for forgiveness over and over. In prayer, they sit glued to mental movies of their top ten sins of the week, making sure to replay the worst parts in slow motion for God — as though this is more honoring to Him. It’s not.

When we sin, the book of acts instructs us to “repent and turn to God, so our sins may be wiped out.” So the next time you catch yourself sinning, turn off the slow-mo sin jumbotron, and turn towards the God instead. Then remember, He will remember your sins no more.

# 4 Constantly Using the Word “JUST”  

The word just is used so often in prayer, these days, that it has become somewhat of the spiritual version of ‘um.’  It can be used with fine intent or as mere filler, but prayers peppered with “just” should serve as a warning light on the dashboard of your beliefs. And it’s more than just a grammar issue. Consider the following reasons we use just in everyday speech.

  1. To make an apologetic introduction “Sorry to bother you but, just wanted to check in. I’m just wondering when will you respond to my email.”
  2. To depreciate yourself: “There’s nothing special about me. I’m just a mom, who’s just a sinner saved by grace.”
  3. To minimize a request: Can you just edit all the slides for next week’s presentation? And then just tie up all the loose ends? 
  4. To downplay a situation: It’s not a big deal, I’m just sad. And I’m not sick, I just have mononucleosis.

Keeping that list in mind, take a look at the following prayer.

“God we just come before you now and just lift up Caroline. We just ask you just heal her fractured femurs. God, we just need you to just show up during her operation, and just give divine hand-eye coordination to the surgeons. We just love you. Amen.”

This prayer might fly under the radar at Sunday small group, but it sounds nothing like how Jesus prayed.  In the gospels when Jesus calmed the storm, he did not say “Umm, just settle down just a bit.” No, he prayed with a bold and direct command, saying, “Quiet! Be still.”

If you feel the need to downplay your situation or diminish the difficulty of your requests when talking to God,  you may need a reminder about who you are, and WHOSE you are. The Bible calls you a child of God, a friend of God, and a co-heir with Christ seated in Heavenly realms. As to how we should approach God, then, Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us approach the throne with confidence.”

It’s important that we pray with confidence, because faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance in what we cannot see. Just, is rarely a confident word. The stingy and vague nature of just-filled prayers insinuate the lies that we are a burden to God and that he can’t handle our requests.

The truth, however, is that nothing is impossible for Christ. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Don’t hold back. Cast your heaviest burdens on Him. Make your prayers specific, outrageous, and bold. And when it comes to just, just stop.

Action Plan Summary 

Instead of asking God to be near you or stay with you, declare that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and forever united with God.

Instead of asking for what you already have, pray in thanksgiving for the blessings He has given, and ask God to teach you how to use them.

Instead of repeatedly asking for forgiveness, repent, turn, and praise Jesus that His death on the cross was sufficient for ALL sins.

Finally, instead of praying timidly, using just as every other word, pray with confidence. Thank God for what is already done in Heaven, and declare His will to be done on earth.

Sources: Stop Praying Powerless Prayers” Sermon by Eric Knopf from Epic Life




The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating and Singleness

Six practical tips on how to honor God and run an excellent race during your single days.


If there’s one Bible verse that Christian singles hear referenced more than any other, it’s Hebrews 12.

“Sad about being single?” says your well-intended married friend. “Don’t worry. Just run after God, and fix your eyes on Jesus!”

Now, it’s possible, the last time someone recommended taking a run after God as a panacea for your painful and unwanted season of singleness, the insight provided new clarity, and you said, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” But maybe, if you’re like me, you nodded politely and thought “Sounds nice. What does that mean, exactly?”

I used to think “fixing my eyes on Jesus” meant staring at my Bible Gateway app screen to the point of clinical eye strain. And likewise, that “running after God” looked like a more frenetic church schedule, with unblemished attendance to the kind of Bible studies that discussed the meaning of meek in Greek. After seeking more understanding, however, I discovered the Bible’s references to running and relationships, are far richer with wisdom.

Looking again at Hebrews in more detail, the verse says: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Regardless of relationship status, we are all running the race at this very moment. In the rest of the article, I’ll offer some thoughts specifically to those who are single or dating, on ways to run the race well.

Starting with what not to do.


During college, I ran track and specialized in the 5k and 10k races. In the traditional order of events, the distance races don’t start until the end of the day, which makes each track meet a long day of waiting, and also begs the question: “What does a runner do with all that lead-up time?” And the honest answer is,

Absolutely nothing.

First of all, other than skip around the warmup meadow, you can’t really do anything physical, because you’re supposed to save your body for the race. But it turns out, you can’t do much mentally either since just thinking about the race messes with your brain and makes you lightheaded. So instead, you fill the hours with distracting time killers and participate in the following 8 activities.

  1. Sip coffee
  2. Do easy homework, just to make yourself busy.
  3. Apply waterproof mascara, and re-braid your hair 3 times.
  4. Analyze the competition and conclude that their new microfiber red spandex uniforms might help them win.
  5. Visualize the ideal race.
  6. Worry about injury, especially if you’ve been hurt on the track before.
  7. Eat a series of small snacks, like grapes and granola, which taste fine, but aren’t really satisfying, and just whet your appetite more.
  8. Cheer for friends in their earlier events and try not to feel jealous or annoyed as they saunter around taking pictures of their finisher’s medals.

Basically, the entire day is a big lead up to the moment when you march to the starting line, cast off your sweatpants, and gallop into the twilight.

  • A foolish runner expends so much anxious energy anticipating the race, that they have little reserves left over to put up a good fight during the race itself.
  • A wise runner accepts waiting is just a part of the sport.

The Problem with the Starting Line

As singles, if we make marriage the starting line, and believe the “real race” has not yet begun, then we grant ourselves permission to delay important work God has for us. We are already running, and there is too large of a gap between earth and heaven to disqualify ourselves from meeting the needs of the world.

That said, if God calls your name on the loudspeaker (or the still small voice speaker) and tells you to use your gifts and talents in a specific area—be it school systems, sustainable city gardens, or startup companies—it can’t wait on your event calendar, and you must go.


One of the lesser-known truths about runners is that they are a bimodal species of people, who oscillate between strenuous training, and shameless laziness. Take a cross country championship race day, for instance. At the smoke of the gun, you run relentlessly, over steep hills and through freezing rain, in a valiant pursuit of one goal: get to the finish line as fast as possible. Alas, you cross the line, and what happens next?

Well not much. You feel pretty useless, although you will manage to do the following 8 activities.

  1. Mingle around the finishing corral reception area
  2. Give celebration hugs
  3. Line up for team photos
  4. Eat a feast
  5. Go back to the hotel and take a nap
  6. Soak in the hot tub
  7. Feel relieved and satisfied that your most important work for the day is done
  8. Let yourself off the hook from all the usual disciplinary routines

Singles and Finish Lines

Finish lines are important for our vision. If runners were instructed to run as fast as possible, for an undefined distance, with no end in sight, they would get discouraged, and easily tire.

Likewise, if the not-yet-in-sight wedding day event is your finish line, the race is dangerously unsustainable. Your hope, in that case, lives only at the mercy of external factors like personal preferences, or variable life timelines. If your hope gets deferred for too long, an insidious weariness can creep into your soul and sicken your heart. On the contrary, when your hope flows from God, the only renewable energy source, you will soar on wings like eagles through all the ups, downs, and inevitable uncertainties of relationships.

Couples and Finish Lines

The second problem with making marriage a finish line is that when the wedding day finally does come to pass, all that motivation and sense of purpose driving you forward during the chase, evaporates at the altar.

How would you feel, if the first time you walked into your newlywed couple’s cottage, your spouse called out to the Amazon echo dot and said, “Alexa. Check “wedding” off the list. And block off our calendars for the next 60 years. Just AM brunch, and PM naps from here in out.” As dreamy as this might sound, that relationship rides a fast track train to implosion. To thrive both relationally, and spiritually, we need to be about something bigger than ourselves by sowing seeds in a field beyond our own backyard.

As singles, we get to choose whether we date people who work the field, or people who play the field. In the interest keeping your heart intact as you run the good race, pursue the former and flee from the latter.


There are many ways to run a race, but the simplest and purest strategy of them all is to run the “honest pace,” giving it everything you have, from start to finish. When the whole field runs honest, it’s beautiful performance, that makes records fall, and stadiums rise. But sometimes, even the most talented runners hold back from running their best. Front-running, you see, means wind resistance, a target on your back, and no guarantees as to who will go with you.

If nobody is willing to lead, then you just jog along, jostling elbows, stumbling on each other’s feet, and scanning the scene with your peripheral vision in case someone makes a move forward. The pace is laggard enough to snapchat selfies to the crowd — that is now upset, at watching their favorite athletes sell themselves short in mediocre efforts. Later, when the results are posted, and the times downright pedestrian, you tell your coach it was all the group’s fault.

What does it mean to “run honest?”

The way we carry ourselves in the various facets of our lives — the company we keep, the commitments we hold, the way we steward our time, money and attention — all come together to create the cadence of the pace we run. Our pace is “honest” to the degree that we are true to ourselves and obedient to who God has called us to be. But make no mistake, the honest pace, is neither nor common, nor easy, especially when single.

There’s an unspoken assumption, you see, that if you were to take off full speed ahead, at the pace of your true capability, that others will no longer be romantically interested in you.  As singles, if we believe this collectively, then we act like a coed jogging club of bobbleheads, looking around at what everyone is doing, and holding back from going anywhere forward, lest we miss out.

Here are a few examples I have witnessed

  • I know women who have been advised against diving into ideas that excited them, such as starting a small group at church, because it might “intimidate the single men.”
  • I know men who have resigned themselves doomed to dealing with relationship drama full time because, apparently, “that’s just how it is.”
  • As for myself, I’m not immune either. In fact, I once mentioned my friend, Mike that if I really wanted to get serious about dating, I should probably start by reinventing myself — maybe become more extroverted and edgy, and less innocent and whimsical. In slightly kinder terms, Mike said this was the worst idea he had ever heard because then I would betray myself, and nobody wins.

Now, it can be tempting to make compromises in hopes of winning the approval and affection of the common pack, but you don’t have to.

Instead, run at the pace, at which you wish to be caught. The lead pack always sets the precedent for the chase pack.  If you set yourself on fire for God, and whatever makes you come alive, you will not cease to be romantically attractive. In fact, front-running while on fire makes you certifiably organic, drama free, hard to get.

The right person will not be intimidated by your pace. Rather, if you are equally yoked, they will keep you even more honest. Dating discernment can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be a 50 step algorithm. Start by asking some simple questions. Such as, do we help each other run a more excellent race? Or are we signing up for a lifetime of a 3 legged race hobble?

Now, after 3 Don’ts in a row, you may be wondering “How then, shall I run?”  I have three suggestions.


The 1980’s film “Chariots of Fire,” has a classic opening scene, where a parade of Scottish young men, dressed in white jogging suits, trot barefoot on the shores of West Sands, St Andrews to the sound of triumphant orchestral music.  Even in slow motion, their light and free strides, capture the epitome of unencumbered running. Other runners, however, get a bit more tied up.

In basic running jargon, “speed goggles” refer to the rosy, and often deceptive, lenses that cause you to see the speediest runners of the opposite sex as significantly and more attractive and trustworthy.

In relationships, sexual intimacy gives you “oxytocin” goggles. The trust enhancement, heart bonding factors are ideal for a lifelong marriage commitment, although problematic if trying to see another person’s character clearly. The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality, but unfortunately, the world has no interest in protecting your purity or bolstering your sin fleeing energy. Sometimes, “playing dead” to sin is the more effective option. My personal recommendation is this:

Learn to be unimpressed, to the point of borderline apathy, by anyone or anything that slows you down from running an excellent race. For example, if I am in the middle of something meaningful—like writing this blog post, for instance — Enrique Iglesias could knock on my door, accompanied a team of well-built boy band backup dancers, ready to personally serenade me with the 2011 hit song, “Tonight I’m Lovin’ You,” and I would call out to my roommate with a sigh of annoyance and say “Aimee! Can you deal with that ruckus outside? It’s Enrique the encumbrance, and I have important work to do for the Kingdom of God.”


“Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

In April of 2017, Jordan Hasay, a 25-year-old from San Luis Obispo, CA blazed through the streets Boston, clocking the fastest Marathon debut time ever by an American woman.  Now, close your eyes for a moment and zoom back east to Boston.

Its mile 22. The fans line the streets of New England in a roaring tunnel of noise, as the lead pack comes barreling around the corner to the hydration station: their parched throats yearning for Gatorade. And all sudden Arie Luyendyk Jr, of the most recent Bachelor TV season, struts onto the course holding a rose in one and hand a bottle of wine in the other. “Jordan, will you accept this rose?” he asks. “You look tired. Why don’t you come take a break at my place? You can always jump back in the race later and get serious then.”

Hmm. There is a $50 prize purse waiting to be divvied up among the top finishers at the line. Not for a single second, would Jordan consider accepting a single petal. She has trained too hard to even entertain any compromises. Jordan wants to win. Her eyes are on the finish, and she will stay the course marked out for her–which most certainly, does not include a stopover at Arie Luyendyk Jr’s.

It’s easy enough for us to understand delayed gratification when its framed in the context of an earthly prize. And yet the Bible tells us, we store up riches in heaven, according to how we live on earth. “Goof off now, and get serious later” is a commonly accepted, but severely misguided belief among many singles. How we live now, and who we are becoming, matters not only for our marriage on earth, but also for our rewards in heaven. So just like Jordan, stay the course, and run for the prize.


Few people understand the value of a second as well an Olympic sprinter. In a 100 meter race, the difference between a crown of laurels and a last-place finish can be decided in one-tenth of a second. A sprinter knows that time is not on their side, and the race will over in a blink.

If you are single and desire to be married one day, the chances are, that you will eventually get there. But what you will not get back, are moments abandoned, or days wished away before marriage. Time is a precious God-given gift, equally valuable before and after your wedding day. Thus we need to grasp the unconditional urgency with which we are called to live our days.

Sometimes I have to remind myself, that death is not a question of if, but a matter of when. How many heartbeats, breaths, or laps are left?  I’m not sure. But I am sure, that when I lean into the heavenly finish line, I’ll be running honest.

The Bell Lap

Now, the next time you feel discouraged about your singleness and someone tells you to “run after God,” you can look them in the eye with sincerity and say, “Thanks! I know just what to do!”

So go, and run the race set before you.

  • Run with perseverance and an unshakeable hope
  • Run away from darkness, and sprint towards light
  • Run after truth, and stay the course.
  • Run past evil with doppler effect of a Ferrari
  • Run the honest pace and give it everything you have.
  • Run powered by the fire of the Holy Spirit and let your life leave a legacy like a streak of light in a dark night sky

Transformed and Thankful

Over the last 2 years, God has blessed my community with the most excellent leaders. Here’s a personal letter of thanks, and a story transformation, to one of them.

Dear Eric Knopf,

I remember on the first day of our preach and teach class, you explained to us that the ultimate purpose of teaching, is to bring transformation. Immediately, that statement stirred a question inside of me: When does a preacher ever get to witness the accomplishments of their goal purpose?  Sure, you might hear about revelations after a sermon, or job promotional breakthroughs in a facebook post.

But transformation? That’s less glamorous, harder to articulate, and consequently, far less broadcasted. In my own experience, transformation occurs first internally, far before the seeds of teaching take root and bear fruit into a larger external reality. It happens behind the scenes, inside the heart and mind—almost on a cellular level of the soul—before then affecting the hundreds of tiny decisions and actions which influence the course of our lives, and those around us.

Then, right in the middle of our class, it dawned on me. In the context of your intended purpose, the majority of the fruits of your labor, are invisible! Most occupational endeavors, or passion projects, don’t work this way.  For example, when a veterinarian neuters a cat, they can see tangible proof that the “proper pruning” has taken place, and rest assured knowing the cat will never do something stupid like run away to find a mate. But a preacher just doesn’t receive that same type of immediate gratification or rest assurance.  So Merry Christmas, here’s a story about behind the scenes transformation….

Memory Lane Moments

Every year in December, I take some time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months. Shuffling through journal memories like a card deck, I reminisce over event highlights and ponder over any potential character changes. This year something unusual happened. When I looked back at the journal entries of last year, I could hardly recognize myself inside the lines of my archaic thought process. Indeed, sometimes I get so caught up in racing ever forward, that I forget to acknowledge the distance already covered, and more importantly—those who walked with me on the journey.  

Quarter Life Back Story

To offer some background, in the months leading up to my discovery of the Epic Life community (spring 2015), I rode a train headed straight for a land of deception and disaster. Of course, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but now, looking back almost makes me cringe. Without the right environment and mentorship throughout those critical quarter-life years—my natural personality trait combination of intellect, innocence, and curiosity, could have easily led me down a harmful, (and much less than epic) of a life path. In fact, it was already starting to. See at one point…

  • I was intellectual enough to read Tim Keller or CS Lewis for fun, but too doctrinally insecure to face questions without riding an emotional roller coaster of “crisis Christianity.”  Some people told me to stop thinking so much. Others suggested that God had me in a “natural spiritual wilderness.:
  • I was naive enough to stay rather oblivious to the existence of evil in the world, yet sensitive enough to feel bogged down by its weight. Thus I often lived as a victim, unequipped and frequently blindsided by life. Also, I had a habit of picking myself up with songs containing very theologically debatable lyrics.
  • Lastly, I was curious enough to gravitate towards controversy, although not always discerning enough to know when to flee. For example, if a guy were to tell me that the whole of waiting until marriage concept was actually a common Biblical mistranslation of the phrase sexual immorality, my response would be something like “really? So tell me more about your theory.” I know your eyes just rolled back into their sockets while reading that, but no worries, cross references before conspiracy theories!

Who are These People?

Thankfully, I immersed myself in the Epic Life community at the perfect time, and the potential spiritual wilderness train wreck never occurred.  The cool thing is, I didn’t have to undergo some huge personality makeover, I just became really curious about better things. Such as:  

  • The undeniable fruit in the lives of the people on leadership.
  • The authentic and fun friendships, which seemed to defy all existing stereotypes of post -collegiate social life death.
  • And of course, God’s truth—which was now being unveiled more clearly than ever before in your sermons.

Gratitude Induced Insomnia

It was actually a slight problem at one point because so many light bulbs of revelation came on at once that I had trouble sleeping. I didn’t mind, though. The occasional onset of gratitude induced insomnia seemed a small price to pay for more truth and freedom.  I no longer lived terrified of making “salvation deal breaking” mistakes, or googling my way to confirmation bias and confusion. When I didn’t understand something, I simply told siri “remind me to ask Eric Knopf about x,y,z, later” You have a unique ability to explain complex concepts in simple understandable ways, while still conveying the depth and context of scripture. It’s informative and instructive without being cliche or condescending.  As my doctrinal haze began to clear up I found myself tolerating, and then even welcoming, discussions with people of many different denominations and other walks of faith.

Identity Discovery

Unsurprisingly, the more I learned the truth about God’s character, the more I learned about my own identity as well.  Long before I started coming to Epic Life, I knew God was calling me to share my writing with other people. However,  I had no plans of actually doing anything about it in the near future. Paralyzed with lies about incompetence, I refused to share a word. For a short time, I really did think I could get away with ignoring that one calling—maybe try listening to God in some other areas—and continue along as a slightly disengaged observer of life. But as it turned out, that wasn’t an option.

First of all, the prayer team kept bringing up “having a voice,” or “writing for others,”at what I considered to be very irrelevant times. Since I didn’t have much previous exposure to the prophetic, I used to respond by saying things like, “hey nice prayer. But just wondering, have you been talking to other people? Like about my secrets?” I know. I can’t believe I blamed the prayer team for gossip either. Gradually my heart softened, and my mind opened. Finally, last December 2015, when you challenged us to reach 1000 acts of kindness, I reached a tipping point and thought,  why not join in? I mean, everyone’s doing it, and I’ve always wanted to start a blog anyway.  By the time the kindness challenge officially ended, I no longer required permission to walk in obedience and keep going.  

“Vulnerability Hangovers” and Holding Back

Later, in April, when I stepped on stage for the first time to share a testimony with the community, an internal barrier shattered.  It’s been a year of much blogging, breakthrough, and discovery, ever since. I will admit, it has not always been easy. In honesty, sometimes the new concept of vulnerability felt so terrifying that I thought I might throw up on multiple occasions. However, when my “alive meter” kept skyrocketing, and my inbox flooded with responses from encouraged listeners and blog readers, I realized that holding back would always be the scarier life choice.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like right now had I continued along the same trek of seeking out quaint churches and trying not to be too curious. It’s not like I was in danger of joining a gang or selling drugs, but there are other kinds of character tragedies. Most likely, I’d just be a “pretty nice” person with a couple of secrets and a lot of unused potential. While that’s not even close to the will of God, at most other churches, I could have easily gotten away with that lifestyle. But of course, I am so glad I didn’t!

Full Circle Unfoldings

Last year when I sent you and Camille that long Christmas card letter, I remember ending with a line like this: “I have a feeling, or perhaps it’s a Holy Spirit intuition, that this is just the beginning.”  Oddly, I wrote that note before joining leadership, and before the spontaneous post service Q and A, and before ever taking part in princess stories and park strolls with Scarlett and Maverick. And yet, it must be a (mind of) God thing, because I just knew there was, and still is, much more to come.  That being said, I had no idea how the unfolding would play out so delightfully in reality.

I never could have imagined that 6 months later I’d be swinging from jungle vines at the Green Papaya in Costa Rica while discussing the gospel of Mark among friends and fish tacos. Or, that I would spend the early mornings of my family vacation devouring the pre-published edition of “The Will of God,” while discussing Theology (without stress) across from my brother as he worked on his own Theology essays.  Also, I definitely never thought I’d end up in a living room full of people eager to learn how to teach, during the rainy Monday nights of October.

Speaking of, it was during that class, that I gained an even greater awareness and respect for the work you put in, in order to deliver quality sermons week in and week out. Even though you deem your message content as mere leftover “bread crumbs,” giving away good crumb’s requires a diligent kneading of one’s own daily bread. It’s a privilege to take part in a community where the leaders freely dust everyone with such high nutrient density breadcrumbs. Seriously, thank you so much for all that you do to positively influence so many of our lives.  I am forever grateful to have been a part of this ministry.

2016 was quite a year, but now I am even more excited for what’s to come!

Love, blessings, and declarations of favor.


“The Best is Yet to Come”

Live Testimony Audio from 3/2/2017 at Epic Life.

Speech Transcript 
It’s good to see you guys and I have a confession to make. In my last testimony, I told a story, about the time I moved to Sacramento, “a couple years after college,” to go back to school. What I conveniently forgot to mention, back then, was that in those “couple years after college,” I got expelled from my other school. Let’s dive into that blip on the radar screen. It’s late August of 2013. 

I am feeling relieved, and also, I admit, a little smug, that I finally know what I am going to be when I grow up: A Doctor of physical  therapy. Getting accepted to grad school was a big deal, so I arrive on the first day excited ready to roll. I imagine the next 3 years are going to be full of stimulating discussions, study parties, and extra time for creative research projects.

Well, it wasn’t like that. In the first round of midterms I get flattened across the board, in all 8 classes. That’s  not the only problem. By one month in, I cannot help but notice, that this profession (as a doctor of physical therapy) is not what I expected, at all.

I feel like a bride walking down the aisle, gearing up to dedicate my life and get married to this career, that had seemed really cool in the lead up stages. Except now, the closer I look, the more turned off I get.

I briefly entertain the thought, that maybe I’m making a big mistake, here. Then I  cut the thought out of my mind. I already wrote the tuition check! I tell myself this is standard cold feet; it’s time to get work, and rescue my grades. 
Highly motivated by the fear of failure, I give it my all: I spend my early mornings in the labs, and my late nights roaming the streets of Alameda!with flash cards. And of course, I pray. “God, please do not let me fail.” I say. “But if I am going to fail, or if you don’t want me here, I would rather you make me sick, it doesn’t  look like my fault.”…. Be careful about declaring bad theology!

The night before the first final exam, out of nowhere–I get violently ill. I take the finals anyway, and a couple hours after the last exam, receive an email summoning me to the dean’s office. I walk in, and sit down, and they hand me a box of Kleenex.  

“Well Chrissa, we know you tried really hard, and you came really close, BUT…” They go on to inform me that I failed two classes, one of them by two tenths of a point, and the consequence is expulsion. Expelled? I think to myself. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen to me. 

But it did.

That afternoon I say goodbye to my classmates, pack up my apartment, and drive to my parents house. Awake that night, I try to reconcile with how it was that I could pour so much of myself into something and still miss the mark. Naturally, I have some disappointment to deal with, here. But  I want to get over it, already. So after the Christmas vacation, I set my eyes on a different school in Sacramento, and divert attention and hopes elsewhere

Part 2: The Bachelor 
Okay. Here’s another confession. I cannot stand the Bachelor TV show. Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not because I think it’s too unrealistic. Based on my early/mid twenties dating experiences, I find it a little too realistic. Basically, after grad school, there’s a dramatic dating elimination hunger games going on in my life. All the contestants are stalking each other on social media. Girls are crying; guys stressed because the girls are crying: And I am in the arena, praying for wisdom, because I’m so confused. But when my prayers are answered, I realize, Oh, this  is not complicated.

Simple math. If the sum amount of my pain and your stress, are consistently greater than that of my happiness and your peace—it’s just not a good fit. 

With my new found logic, I exit the the bachelor hunger games arena—but not scratch free. 
Part 3 Disenchantment: 
Not only am I torn up, but I start to wake up to a disenchanted reality full of deferred disappointments. In my experience,

 The longer you stay drunk by the comforts of a lie, the worse the hangover is when you wake to the truth.  

I feel like I went to sleep in Disneyland, and woke up in a Linkin Park music video, that keeps reminding me “I tried so hard and got so far, and in the end it doesn’t even matter.”

I look back over the last 3 years—what was supposed to be the big launching into real adult life— and I see failure and heart break.

 In addition, I have an overwhelming awakening to the concept of choice. I recognize that even with good intent, I don’t always make good choices. Mistakes are painful and I’d rather not make them anymore. Thus, I decide I’m going to work really hard to not to make any wrong choices.

Part 4: Refinancing the Heart 
Unfortunately, I don’t trust own decision making mechanisms, anymore, so I’m on the hunt for permission and validation. I want someone to tell me what the right answers are, and give me some reassurance that I’m doing a good job at life.

But I don’t get this reassurance. And even when I do it’s not satisfying; it never feels like enough. Because I never feel like enough. Then, God gives me an analogy.

My heart is like an economic system, currently on the brink of bankruptcy for 2 reasons. 

 a) My identity stocks are owned by 95% earthly shareholders.

b) My self worth is outsourced in either performance or people.

I have learned: Acquiring the value of our self worth, has to be, a passive income inside job between us and God. Only then can then can we operate in freedom and generosity.
So I go about refinancing my heart, and continue my quest of making only right choices.

Part 5: Constant Vigilance
My next approach, is one of constant vigilance. I believe that if I can simply gather enough information, analyze the situation to (near) death, and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible—than I can outrun the unknown , escape criticism, avoid mistakes, never get hurt, and excel in all my endeavors. 

For a little while I think I have a high functioning undercover strategy working out for me—until I get coffee with Eric Waterbury. He looks at me like an X-ray and says “if you keep doing this, your life will stay small, but it has the potential to be powerful.” After the denial wears off, I see he has a point: my constant vigilance is shrinking my life and faith. 

See, FAITH as defined in Hebrews is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance in what we CANNOT SEE. But, indirectly, I have been saying to God. “God, here is my circle of trust. It’s roughly the size of a human eye—so that limits us to  what I can see. On a good day it expands to the size of my head–meaning only what I can think of. God, I want break through! But don’t break my borders.” 

MEANWHILE, on Sunday, Hillsong United comes on, and I’m belting out “Spirit lead me, where my trust is without borders.”

Once again, I am convicted. 

Part 6 The Central Story
Finally, a few months ago, I reach a point where all of these convictions converge to trigger the question:

 “Is this the kind of story I want to tell with my life?”

Everyday—whether I document to my diary, or post to Instagram—my actions, beliefs, and decisions are telling a story—for which only I will be held accountable for at the end of this life.  

If I’m honest with myself, the central themes of my story right now, look like…

Mistake prevention, perception management, sin avoidance, social media upkeep, and, idea hoarding.

I  don’t read this genre for fun. In literature and film, great stories never start, or end, with flawless characters, or perfect plot point destinations. A great story happens, when a character wants something, badly enough that they are willing to face fear, doubt, and conflict, to fight for it. Also, for a story to work, it needs an element of uncertainty. Otherwise, we would no longer feel compelled to turn the page, or click next episode, at one in the morning. 

As the dots connect, I realize, that maybe, achieving perfection is not the purpose of my life story. In fact, maybe, the goal of not making any mistakes, IS the mistake. That’s the very thing my keeping my real self, and all my ideas, locked inside and away from the world.
Also, if I really do ask the Holy Spirit to lead me down a path that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, or no mind has imagined—then I simply do not have time to live a story limited by the fear of failure.

Part 7 His Kingdom Come 
Presently, in the process of letting go of perfection, my vision has improved – both near and far site. I can see present reality more clearly—because I am no longer afraid to look at it. I can also see my dreams for the future more vividly—because, I now aim to choose curiosity over despair, when facing the not yet charted transition territories.

 There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt crushed by the weight of the “not yets.” I asked God: ” How do I deal with: the people not yet healed, the hungry children not yet fed, the debts unpaid, my stories not yet published, and the deep longings of my heart not yet fulfilled? These questions used to haunt my story. Now these questions drive my story.

 I have accepted that between reality and dreams, a gap in some form, will always exist. Afterall we are here on earth and NOT yet in heaven. But now I see that inside the gap is our invitation to carry forward the greatest story ever told. 
 It’s a battle, where we face darkness with torches of light; 

an adventure, where we slash through thickets of lies with swords of Truth.  

And it’s a romance, of God’s outrageous, everlasting love for us. 

    Alas, together in this story, we rally, with patience and urgency, for His kingdom to come and His will to done. 

 You guys, the best, is yet, to come!

Love, Fear, and College Hoops

A college basketball perspective on love, and fear of the Lord.

Today’s post is based (loosely) on parts of a sermon by Eric Knopf at Epic life about the fear of God. This blog/podcast has two parts. The analogy, and the Kingdom connection.

Part I- The AnalogyFear or Love?  Which team do you play for?

Fraidy Cats on the Court

The Fraidy Institute of Trepidation, also known as F.I.T college, takes great pride in school sports. They are represented in mascot by the timid and skittish domestic animal, the cat. When prospective student-athletes visit Fraidy for recruiting trips, the athletic department treats them like royalty. Showering recruits with attention and kindness, the coach projects a future picture of a college experience rich with belonging, expert mentorship from team captains, and erasing of student loan debt via scholarship money. After the student signs the contract, however, the mentality shifts and the coach begins using  fear as a behavior management technique to improve the team’s performance. And, in the short term, it’s quite effective.

The ever-lingering punishment of “suicide liners” drives the players to arrive at practice 15 minutes early, like clockwork. Echoes of slammed clipboards and humiliating midgame berates, keep team members practicing their free throws daily. The fear of losing educational enrolment—as it rides on the fragile foundation of merit-based scholarship money—lights a haunting fire in the eyes of every Cat on game day. On weekends, fear of coach’s wrath ensures a dutiful, albeit bitter, team-wide abstaining from intoxication and other campus party chaos. The athletic director deems the basketball the most polite in the whole school.

With the intense emotion of fear always on their heels, the cats never lack in performance motivation. Indeed, Fraidy qualifies for the playoffs every season and has earned a reputation for running a systematic and clean game with minimal on-court errors. And yet, just below the surface of the seemingly flawless tight ship, an infestation of problems eats away at the team like termites. By sophomore year, most players find themselves plagued with burnout and stress fracture injuries. On the emotional front, ongoing jealousy corrodes the team spirit. No one celebrates in another’s individual scoring victory as they believe coach can only shine the spotlight on so many players at once. Ultimately, for those who choose to play for Fraidy, fear rules over every aspect of their lives.

Agape Takes Possession

Standing beside Fraidy, in stark contrast, is Agape Pacific University. The athletic department at Agape meets prospective students with a genuine kindness, which only increases after the recruiting trip. The players at Apage Pacific still pursue excellence on the court, however, unlike the cats, their motivation is NOT fueled by the fear of the consequences of failure. Team discipline and exemplary attendance records serve as a mere bonus byproduct of their love of the game, respect for the coach, and commitment to each other.

While other conference teams attempt to get away with as much foul play as possible, Agape Pacific refuses to “play dirty.” Sure, they still make mistakes and chuck their mouth guards into technical foul territories from time to time, but they find no satisfaction in throwing sharp elbows or holding jerseys behind the ref’s back. Quite simply, that would take the joy out of the game; and in regards to Joy, Agape goes big.

     From the shrill whistle of tip off to the blare of the final Buzzer, Agape Pacific takes ownership of the court, electrifying the arena with passion. The team chemistry, love of the game and desire to honor their coach, cancels any fear of making mistakes. Ironically, some of the other teams are afraid of Agape, They say the bright intensity is “too much,” and they can’t take the heat. But Agape does fear such competitors. They press on, with a full court press, and continue bravely with alley-oops, high fives, half court shots, and slam dunks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Agape wins, every time.

Part II: The Kingdom Connection

The “fear of the Lord” is a widely discussed and often misused phrase in today’s church. The book of Proverbs states that the “Fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom. And at the same time, Jesus frequently commands His disciples NOT to fear. When facing this apparent contradiction, we must first recognize the multiple definitions of the Greek noun phobos. According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, phobos can mean either “fear, dread, and  terror,” or, “reverence for one’s husband.”

These definitions are not interchangeable, and they require a contextual distinction for accurate understanding. Since the majority of Christians have not studied Greek in depth, the word “fear” tends register far more readily with the dread definition. And sadly, while the church does focus on the Grace of God to bring people in, they often use the “Fear of the Lord—with an emphasis on the terror based definition—as a sin prevention and behavior grooming tool. In doing so, the church unintentionally disciples followers into a faith damaging, fear-based relationship with their loving Father. In the words of the original sermon, “it’s impossible to authentically love someone you also fear.”

To finish with a verse, I leave you with 1st John 4:18. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  

I Belong to An Our

April 14 2016: A written and illustrated transcript of my testimony on belonging and community.

Live Audio: http://www.epiclife.org/messages/i-belong-to-an-our/

It’s good to see you guys and I have a story to share, but I’ll start, with a question.

“Would you rather live in Sacramento, or be forced to wear a toga forever?” While I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this: that was a typical would rather question, among the silicon valley teenagers that I hung out with in high school. We went with the toga, every time, which might give you a general sense of how I used to feel about this place.

Ironically, a couple years after college, I ended up moving here, to go back to school. But at the time I didn’t mind the move, because I had high hopes in the potential of my “friendlationship,” with a guy who also happened to have just moved to Sacramento. I thought the coincidence was a divine sign.

Okay, let’s talk semantics. “Friendlationship” by my definition, is a noncommittal, coed companionship, involving: long hours of emotionally intimate one on one time, many mixed signals, and frequent face timing.

Soon after I moved here, it was no longer a healthy dynamic, but I refused to let go. I had started operating under this irrational and weird assumption that if one guy felt so halfheartedly about me, than that was probably indicative of the entire rest of the male population, and that it was better to have someone in my life, rather than no one.  I felt stuck.

I called one of my friends who I can always count on to tell me the truth, for advice. She said “You know, God has plans for you in Sacramento, whether or not they include this guy.  Ask Jesus for wisdom, he loves to give it.” And then she asked, about what I was reading in my Bible.

I told her “Oh I don’t think I really have good enough academic background to read the Bible on my own.”  This was a bad excuse. First of all, I went to Westmont College where I took about five  classes on Christian doctrine and the history of world Christianity throughout all time. But even if i didn’t go to Westmont,  it was still a poor excuse, and I am so thankful, she called me out on it.

“Chrissa, the gospel is simple, it’s meant for children to understand.  You will have a lifetime to read and analyze it all in depth, but for now, just read it.”   And I did. For the next 6 weeks, as I listened through it, I walked around everywhere with my jaw dropped  just thinking “Wow! it says that!? This is amazing news. This is the food I have always been starving for.” The word lit a fire in my soul, and for the first time in my life, I received crystal clear wisdom from the Holy Spirit, what I heard was

You are free. You’re not a place holder. You can leave.

So I knocked on his door, and true to form, used a Lord of the Rings break up analogy. I said, “Well, I’ve enjoyed our time together, but dude, we’ve been stuck in the shire of indecisiveness, for more than a year, so if you’re still interested in other hobbits that’s fine. But I’m taking the Fellowship.

” I’ll admit, this was scary. But sometimes you just gotta  pull a Frodo Baggins and say, “I will take the journey, although I do not know the way!”(that’s code for, parting ways for those of you who don’t speak in fictional characters)

Part II: The Fellowship

Part of me assumed that because the decision was Holy Spirit lead, it would be a painless easy process. And it was…. For about 3 weeks.  But after that, I cracked. Like really cracked. Suddenly, everything that I had tried to protect myself from feeling, for about, the previous 20 years, came rushing to the surface. I had no confidence, I had no energy, and I had no friends (At least here). It was a dark place, and my  life felt so empty.

But I wasn’t totally helpless. I thought I could make things better, by simply seeking Jesus MORE. So I read books and I’d plow through an entire sermon series on a weekend like it was some type of holy net-flix binge. It was as though I believed that if I just gained enough information about Jesus, then I’d truly be full of joy and the holy spirit.  But I wasn’t. Actually, at this point I was more like a Christian marshmallow s’more, who was either puffed up, burnt out or both.


And even though every morning, I listened to songs like “In Christ alone,”  and “All I Need is you,” I was definitely missing a key something in my faith.

Part III: The Wakeup Call

Then I came across First John 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

And I realized that I had been pretending to myself and to God. It was time to come before him as I was.  So I pulled out my journal, one year ago, and wrote this prayer.

April 2015 Dear God,  It  has been so long since I’ve been bold enough to ask for something big. I have not felt gratitude, trust or hope for a couple months. Lord help my unbelief and give me the strength and the faith to pray something bold. I need a new start.  I pray for a place to live that’s closer to school, and the American river trail, where the rent is under 500 a month. But most importantly,  lead me to a church community, that is uplifting, fun, and grounded in truth. One that will make Sacramento just make sense. Jesus, you are my DAD!  I know Dad on earth would love to give me these gifts. So why not my Dad in heaven?  I ask for this in Jesus name, Amen.

Less than a week later , my first craigs list contact, offered me a place with every single specific. And God even threw in a bonus pool.

Another month after that, I found Epic Life  on google and decided to give it a shot. I remember my first day, I stood  in the back, with my arms crossed  thinking.  I really can’t wait to get home and finish that Bonhoeffer book, Life together, about community. And then it hit me, that maybe God can offer this request to me if I did something. 

Making friends started with small steps, by introducing myself to one person, and giving some hugs, and accepting a pool party invitation and so on. It came much more out of an act of will, and practice, than anything else. But it turned out there was nothing to be afraid of, and you guys were super welcoming.

Yet, even with all these new people I met, I still had this underlying sense of loneliness.  And I’m not talking about just being by yourself, but rather a feeling of being misunderstood or isolated even in a group of people. I’ve recently learned, that for me, this came from two things.

  1. First was the belief was that I needed to arrive to church well put together and happy, always. This lasted until the time I had a bad day and tried to leave worship so I could go outside cry alone. and about 5 people, approached me asking if I wanted to talk or pray.  So I just went back inside.
  2. The second was rooted in a general sense of unworthiness of belonging. I just didn’t think I was ever good enough, I even pulled aside Eric Knopf aside in January and said “Hey it’s really nice, you guys invited me to be on leadership, but I dont know if I really measure up. I mean I hear from God, but not at the same lightning speed as everyone else, and I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert once and they’re not exactly a Christian band. Sooo….

He just looked at me like, Uhh, I think you’re doing just fine. But it was moments like these, when I would share outloud and have other people refute the lies that were coming out of my mouth, that I was able to start moving on from the crippling perfectionism.

Another heart change, came a couple weeks ago. I posted a blog entry on Facebook. Eric Waterbury shared the link with the caption “Our very own, Chrissa Trudelle has written something etc.” When I read that, I just stared into the screen at the word OUR. I haven’t been coming here that long and I’ve had to miss quite a few because of school, but I belong… to an our.

Then last week, I had this moment, when I was looking around during worship, and I couldn’t help but smile, and think, these are my people. This is my city.  Honestly, most of you, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg of your hearts. And there’s so much more life and experience to be shared.


This excites me, because I now understand, that the Christian life without fellowship is a tiny fraction of the richness of what it can be within.

And Spiritual growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, trust me I’ve tried. See,

  • If I try to blow off my next paycheck at the Nike factory store, the Christian finance expert, Dave Ramsey is not going to shoot me a text to keep me accountable for my financial stewardship. But Ashley Mellott, probably would.
  • And if I have 14 burning questions about the latest sermon, CS Lewis can’t answer my wordy curious emails, but Eric Knopf does.


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should ever stop learning or asking questions. But sometimes if I overanalyze to the point of anxiety. I back up and remind myself of three things.

Number 1: By the cross, our sins are forgiven. But God isn’t just saying nonchalantly “ehh  no worries.” What I imagine, is a Taylor swift in concert at Levi stadium, where 50 thousand teenage girls, (and me), erupt into song and dance, singing shake. it. off.

Number 2: God is FOR us and not against us.  I used to think of God with a big punishing stick. But now I picture his love a lot more like the time the San Francisco Giants won the pennant in 2014, after Travis Ishikawa hit one deep and AT &T  park was on fire with excited fans and orange rally towels. I imagine that noise and electric energy times a billion as God, For us.

But you know who else went crazy? Was the home team. Which brings me to point number three.

  1. I love you guys!


Greater Is He

Enjoy a musical morning devotional by way of the Sing-song memory method. Simply click on the bolded lyric line for the related scripture passage.

Greater is He, Blanca

I face a giant
In over my head
Help me to look up
I take a deep breath
And take the next step
Though I may be weak
I know who is with me
And greater is He living in me. Than he who is in the world

 Whatever may come, his strength is enough

My heart is at peace, for greater is He

I face an ocean
The waves are raging

You’ll do what I can’t

And I’ll walk on dry land
I’ll step out on the sea
And in His name, giants will fall
And in His name, oceans will part
And in His name, there’s nothing we won’t overcome
This is our God, this is our God
This is our God, this is our God

*All passages are from the NIV translation and are best read in context.

Crossing the Bridge

Thoughts on change, transitions, and the human fascination with bridges. 

Golden Gate. Brooklyn. Tower. London.

Historically, and presently, humans are positively fascinated by the architectural structure of “the bridge.” Not only do countries revere bridges as national status symbols, but bridges dominate the postcard section of bookstores, attract tourists from thousands of miles away, and cause locals to swoon on their daily commutes.

I like bridges too; and one evening, as I ran across the rainbow bridge in Folsom, I grew curious about my  own captivation with the grandeur of the crossing truss. My feet kept moving, but mentally I stopped in my tracks to ask myself: Why are we so enamored with these man-made concrete transportation enablers?  I began to think…that maybe, there’s more to the bridge than its architectural structure. Or that perhaps, we gawk at bridges because they represent an inate desire.

Buster and Steph

See, what bridges do, is close a once impossible gap between two separate places. Take the San Francisco bay, for example, a hundred years ago, over 23 thousand feet of choppy waters separated Oakland and San Francisco. Hypothetically Steph Curry would have had to leave Oracle and circumnavigate the bay, just to catch up with his baseball buddy Buster Posey at AT&T park. But thanks to the bay bridge, Steph can drive his Mercedes over a double-decker,earthquake safe, well-lit corridor—watch Buster hit a home run against the LA dodgers—and still make it back in time to sink threes with Draymond Green at practice.

While I don’t intend to make this a post about the bay bridge and the Golden State Warriors, I do believe all of us must cross bridges to become more warrior like at life. Bridges are inevitable. Anytime we have a vision, or see a gap between where we are, and where we want to go, there’s a call to cross. Transitioning  from student to career life is a bridge. Relocating from one town to another is a bridge. Building a relationship is a bridge. Leaving a relationship to be single is also a bridge. Breaking or starting a new habit is a bridge. The bridges we encounter every day can appear as big Brooklyn, or as small as H street, Sacramento, but regardless, the trusses of trials or changes await.

The Art of Bridge Crossing

There is no shortage of information about “how to live well” at a fixed point A, or a stable point B. But oft-neglected in schools and instruction manuals is the navigation part between the two. Even though bridges are beautiful and transformative, many times I don’t feel like crossing them. For starter’s there’s the toll and I am not guaranteed to have all the right cash or fast track passes at the ready. Then when I do enter the bridge, the fog might engulf me in, causing the other side to appear so distant that I can hardly make out a clear destination picture to satisfy my certainty cravings. But most dangerously, if I lose sight of my vision in the middle, or look down into the shark infested waters below, I risk doubting the journey entirely, and will contemplate turning back to more familiar territories.

Forging Forward

At one point in time, the seemingly enormous distance of my own “bridges of change,” would leave me discouraged. I felt behind at life. I wanted to cry a river,  build a bridge, and get over it already. But now I am learning to accept it’s the gap which will drive us to forge forward, and, significance exists in even the tiniest of steps in the right direction. I also remember that not only did the Golden Gate bridge take 4 years to build, but I’ve crossed that bridge on foot multiple times. Whether a tempo pace run or pedestrian touristy stroll, it happened by forward progression of one foot, followed by the forward progression of the other foot—a single step at a time—over and over.

 The Truest Trusses 

Sometimes we try to cross a bridge with our eyes closed, in denial of change. Or, we might attempt to drive at a rushed 100 miles an hour speed, clenching our teeth and simply hoping to make it to the other side alive. But in either of those bridge crossing strategies, we would miss out. In transition, the bridge serves as a special and refining location in and of itself. 

Whatever the circumstance, God builds bridges with us to overcome trials and bring us to new places. As Hillsong United sings it, “He calls us out upon the water… where our trust is without borders.” Bridges may initially look  like foggy corridors or fiery hoops to jump through. But more often, the life bridges are paths from the desert to the orchard; a bridge well crossed can bear much fruit.


“It’s a God Thing”  


An examination of the phrase “It’s a God thing” in reference to the Olympics, and cornflakes cereal.

Why Examine?
A couple months ago, when I started to proofread and revise my writing for this blog, I learned something unexpected. I became painfully aware of how many words and phrases I had been tossing around for years with very little understanding as to what they actually meant. It was inconceivable, so I downloaded a dictionary app and set a goal to strive towards improving my language precision. I realized that speaking words with weight, especially in the realm of one’s faith, is important. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to fill awkward spaces with comforting phrases and become fluent speakers of “Christianese.”

The Divine Dormitory?
A couple years ago, in a summer after college and before grad school, I faced the tough task of finding an affordable and safe apartment in the Eastbay: a combination often difficult to come by in Oakland, California.  After an oddly enthusiastic tour near Samuel Merritt University, one of the potential roommates pulled me aside with a serious look on her face and said,

“isn’t this crazy? I mean, we were praying for a roommate—a Christian female with an active lifestyle, who doesn’t party too much—and you literally emailed us right then! Do you think this is like…a God thing?”

I didn’t know what to say. The last two apartments seemed like equally good options, but I also didn’t want to disrupt the apparent divine dormitory dynamic. So I shrugged while nodding slightly, and said (in honesty) that I would pray about it. In hindsight, to answer her question more directly, sure. The situation offered potential Christian community and an answer to prayer for both of us. So yes, in roommate form, I suppose I could classify as “a God thing.” But along those lines, I believe I was also knit together in my mother’s womb, and born as “a God thing.”

Me things vs God things 
I have noticed, we typically use the God thing phrase, only in reference to an uncanny coincidence involving unlikely events falling together in accordance with a certain desire. Now, I don’t say this in any way to discount a divine encounter or answer to prayer. However, phrase in this context becomes problematic if it implies we can divide everything of God–his promises, provisions, and gifts–into two groups: ‘God things’ and ‘me things.’ The division mindset can erode our sense of gratitude for the ordinary, although no less astonishing, blessings such as a job, a friendship, a sunset, His peace, His wisdom, or His grace. The Bible reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from above, yet we won’t see it this way if we search for God only scenes of earthly grandeur.

Consider the Corn Flake
When I attended youth group camp in junior high and high school, I distinctly remember part of the tradition was to enjoy a disregard of social norms for the whole week. Kids would do anything from prank other cabins, eat copious amounts of dessert, share teary eyed testimonies, or belly flop from the diving boards above, all in the name of Jesus or friends and fellowship. But oddly, no one ever stood up at breakfast to announce a breakthrough after pouring themselves a miniature box of cornflakes cereal. Although I wonder why not.

Really, why didn’t anyone ever stand up to say, “I am blown away by this bowl of starchy substance! God provided a corn seed, which grew into a plant, that was harvested and dried into a cereal vessel conducive to holding milk—all so that I can enjoy the process of tasty ingestion and energy assimilation!?”  To my knowledge, corn flakes don’t bring teens to their knees in curiosity and prayer about whether each flake was a crunch of God. Granted, the popularity of the paleo diet might have something to do with the disregard for corn. But more likely, it’s because our eyes are peeled for “God things” only under the umbrella of what we consider culturally extraordinary.

The Olympic Sound Track
See, I am not advocating we eliminate this phrase from of our vocabulary. Actually, technically speaking, we could use it more often. Take the Olympic games for example. All the Olympians—specifically the ones toeing the line for the prestigious 10,000-meter track race—are undoubtedly, a living, breathing, herd of “God things.”

Pumping vast volumes of blood with each stroke of the heart, they are a stampede of  biomechanically beautiful machines composed of pulleys, levers, ambition, and spirit. As the bell lap signals the runners to fight for a medal, every leg will ache in acidity, and every chest will rise and fall in rapid gasps of air.

Each breath in their lungs is miraculousTo Breathe in God, and breathe out thing is not only the song of the Olympic soundtrack, but it’s the beat of our lives. All of us, olympian or otherwise, breathe as a collective choir to a continuous melody… God-thing-God-thing-God-thing-God-thing. And one day, when we exhale our last breath, and the things of this world fall away, we finally get the chance to say…GOD.

*If you stumbled upon this post, and it positively affected you in any way, or maybe you think it’s a God thing, feel free to leave a comment below, or share it to facebook  🙂

From Friend to Fiance to Family

The unusual story behind how my parents met, became teachers,  got married, and arrived at the Priory.

“Paul-have-some-more” meets “Sylvia-head-in-the-clouds”
(translated Cheyenne nicknames, in reference to his huge appetite, and her thoughtful nature respectively)

They first shook hands in the Los Angeles airport, before flying to Montana for a year of volunteer teaching. The recent Loyola Marymount graduate Paul Trudelle was tired, and in need of a change: He was tired of the competitive rat race of the premed track,  tired of the crowded smog bubble of Los Angeles, and definitely tired of the dating game. He had set out his plan to  spend a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and apply for medical school upon his return.

Sylvia Elek appeared tired too; she boarded the airplane only after facing significant resistance from other’s attempts to dissuade her from leaving. It made little practical sense in the eyes of peers, colleagues and family. Why would a well-educated woman with job opportunities in sunny, safe, Orange County voluntarily choose to live in a place with high crime rates, below zero winter temperatures, and a nonexistent paycheck? Nevertheless, she felt compelled to go and signed up for the trip anyway. Both Sylvia and Paul actually requested to volunteer in Alaska, and both of them (much to their original dismay) were stationed in Montana instead. 


Friends for a Lifetime

At first, the polar opposite duo showed no signs of sparks. Sylvia acted reserved around new people, kept a diary, and possessed such an innocent nature it nearly classified as rebellious.  For example, throughout high school, she played the famous card game “BS,” unknowingly, and with exuberance, in its long form. Whereas Paul, a textbook extrovert, and enthusiastic master of ceremony of the volunteer orientation, led Sylvia to question whether the town of Ashland ( population 300) could possibly meet this outgoing guy’s massive social needs.

Although as it turned out, even with the complete lack of nightlife and provided entertainment, meaningful social connections were not a problem. Bonding over teaching, cross country skiing, guitar songs, dart games, or small town basketball, the group of eight volunteers became fast friends. In a land wrought with much poverty and alcoholism they did not escape their dosage of trials and tragedies, yet through that, Paul and Sylvia found those years–filled with laughter, learning, and life–as some of the richest they have ever had.

Educators by Trade


Before they ever fell in love with each other, they fell in love with teaching. They shared the hallway across from their classrooms and collaborated on lesson plans, helped each other set up labs, and shared the inevitable disaster story. They cultivated an organic friendship rooted in the simple joys of quality time–and by November, Sylvia saw romantic potential. Unsure of what to do, she consulted Paul’s roommate Mike for advice. Using the  analogy that boats are meant to sail the sea and not sit in a harbor– Mike challenged Sylvia to risk vulnerability, and tell Paul how she felt already.

Over the next few weeks, Sylvia worked up the courage to follow through with a unique strategy. Leveraging the close proximity of the airline seating arrangement, she confessed her feelings from 10,000 feet above the ground on their way home for the holidays. Paul thought she was sweet but didn’t trust his relationship track record, and quite frankly, at the time, Sylvia just wasn’t his type. “I like you as a friend,” he said, “but I’m considering the priesthood.” Sylvia had no comeback. Paul’s statement had been true at one point,  but we still give him a hard time about this line to the day.

A Contract Renewed
They started the spring semester right where they left off–just as friends, but Sylvia’s feelings never quite died. As the school year came to a close, the volunteers faced the decision of signing a new contract as paid employees or heading back home. Sylvia stood at a crossroads. While she had grown immensely, and enjoyed the friendships,  the only returning volunteer member, was Paul: a good friend, but also a painfully unrequited crush. Seeking wise counsel yet again, she consulted a mentor. “Oh, you gotta come back,” he said with great conviction. “Think of the students and the group of new volunteers. ” Thus after more time in thought and prayer, she signed the contract to return for another year, but let go of any expectation of joining Paul’s future.

From Friend to Fiance 

One afternoon in July, things changed. Abruptly. Midway through a heartfelt spiritual and intellectual conversation, Sylvia shared a word of wisdom that resonated so deeply with Paul that it shook him awake. Suddenly, like Paul of Damascus,  the scales fell from his eyes, and he knew he could never let Sylvia go. “It just hit me, like–here is this wonderful woman, she’s my best friend, knows me better than anyone else, and she has a rock solid faith in God. I would like her to be my wife.” And so, acting on what he describes as none other than the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he proposed.

“Would you like to spend the rest of your life with me?” he asked. He had no ring in hand; they had never been on a real date, and yet she said yes. The previous hour, or even the previous minute, he had no plan of popping the question, yet he was full unparralelled peace. “If someone had asked me the following day ‘is there any doubt this woman will even stop loving you for the rest of your life?’ I would have confidently responsed ‘absolutely not.’ And I know that to be true, even more to this day.”

Day after proposal grins. 1979

The following day when their friends heard the news, they claimed to have seen it coming all along. Paul and Sylvia’s parents, however, showed slightly more surprise with the unexpected phone call to announce both an engagement and a request for the blessing in hindsight.“Dad I’m engaged!” said Paul over the phone . “Congratulations son,” said Claude calmly, before silence fell the other end of the line. “Do you mind if I ask, to whom?”

The Sound of Wedding Bells


A year later they rang in their wedding weekend with a rehearsal dinner at a theatrical production of “The Sound of Music.” On  July 26, 1980, they married in Corona Del Mar, California. To keep consistent with the beat of their musical theme, Sylvia walked down the isle to organs attuned to the Sound of Music wedding processional. It’s almost as though  they sought to set the stage for a future where they would move to a land where the hills were alive, and have a bunch of kids that would fight for space on the bed to sing along with the film at least four times a year– but they denied it in all the interviews.

The Happiest Hotel on Earth

Two years later, with one-year-old Steve Trudelle in tow, they decided it was time to return to their native golden state of California. But not southern California. With pasty white skin, runners bodies, and an innate aversion to traffic, they craved a land with shady trails, starry skies, and wide freeways in golden hills. They prayed–asking God specifically for science/math jobs at a Christian school in northern California–and took action, making an appearance at a private school job conference at the Disneyland Hotel.

Despite Paul’s ability to befriend and conversate with just about any living being, the desirable job prospects looked bleak. One could argue that after hours of striking out, the natural reaction would be to slip out the back door in discouragement. But their bodies stood in Disneyland, the happiest place on earth where according to Walt Disney, “all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” And their spirits dwelt with Christ, as coheirs in heavenly realms. There’s nothing natural about that combination.

From a place none other than inside of the elevator, they bumped into  Father Christopher Senk, from the Woodside Priory — a Benedictine, college prep school, founded by Hungarian monks in the hills of Portola Valley, CA. The chemistry was immediate. A week later Paul and Sylvia drove through a tunnel of trees along Alpine Road, growing more enchanted with each turn. Over the next few days, they dined with students, enjoyed the hospitality of the monks, and participated in a series, of what turned out to be, successful interviews. Shortly after, Paul and Sylvia accepted a shared teaching position, moved on campus, and never looked back.

The Present
Today–33 years, 6 kids, and 3 grandkids later–Paul continues to teach science at the Priory. Seventh graders and freshmen visit his classroom during recess to let the shocking power of electrically transform them into hair-raising trolls. They ask questions about the galaxy, and request in class commercials to gawk at the flaming brilliance of the exploding hydrogen balloon. It never gets old. In fact, Paul genuinely enjoys education to such a degree, that he recently admitted he hopes heaven is not just cheesecake and music, but also a place full of teaching and learning–two of life’s greatest joys.

And then everyone graduated from the Priory, and we all lived happily ever after.

Johnny’s Graduation May 2014

Well, that sounds ideal, except I have to get back to the story .


Truthfully, we did enjoy many happy memories worth mentioning:  finding satellites with green lasers on the trampoline,  basketball championships, graduations , and road trips in the club wagon van. But we also lived as a colony with eight different personalities in a 1200 square foot space; conflict and chaos comes with the territory…The midnight evacuation as the El Nino flood waters surged through our hallways; the horror of watching flames engulf our first ever new van or plagues of strep throat: that’s only the beginning of the list. We also disagreed on occasion: about chores , R rated movies, church attendance, and curfews, to name a few. We learned a lot along the way, and to be honest, we are still learning. And… such is family life. Such is growing up. It appears a family balancing act of provision, protection and pulling back the slingshot to let the kids spread their wings and fly off into to their own unique futures.

The inspiration in the Example
My parents have shared many stories with us over the years, but to me, the story of their volunteer years is one I never tire of hearing. I suppose in part because the fact that less glamorous road that turned out to be unexpectedly romantic. But more so because I see a common thread of courage and faith. I saw it with my Mom forging forward to Montana on her own, and in her boldness to face  rejection in the airplane. I saw it in my Dad’s proposal, and his choice to pursue his real passion of teaching.

And through it all,  I’m inspired to watch and learn how God worked to open doors in their lives, with more blessings than they ever could have imagined.

Without further ado, I would like to raise an anniversary glass of bubbly water to my parents as they celebrate 36 years of marriage. Cheers to many more.


*Seven fun facts

  1. Sylvia took a break from classroom teaching to raise the six kids but she has since returned to the Priory as a math tutor.
  2. At some point in time, each Trudelle sibling (now ages 20-34) has harbored a secret hope that they too might be so fortunate as to skip the dating confusion by having a friend that becomes their fiance over the course of one conversation.  It has yet to happen. But 50% are unmarried, so stay tuned!
  3. The family is now spread out in Seattle, Fremont, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Portola Valley, and Indiana.
  4. Since the Bay Area has exploded in population, and Paul and Sylvia are still averse to traffic, they cope by spending as much time running or hiking Portola Valley trails as possible.
  5. Paul and Sylvia volunteer at church as marriage mentors and believe all couples should experience serving together for romantic bonding and character building. Oddly, they advise modern couples to actually go on dates before popping the question.
  6. To help them understand the middle/high school recess jargon to keep up with their students, my siblings and I make a point to educate them on the current hot new idioms and phrases. So, if anyone walks by the house and hears an interaction like this:  “Hey BAE, how was your day?” “Not too sketch, the B period class discussion was lit!” –don’t worry, it’s just modern language practice.
  7. They still watch “The Sound of Music” every year.