All posts by Skyler Braden

I have a HOPE. I have a FUTURE. I have a HOME. I have a FATHER.

January hit the 9-year mark for me here at IHOPKC.  As I was reflecting back on the years, the generosity and kindness of the Father snuck up on me. I felt His pursuit of my heart over the years. I felt His consistent, steady reaching for my heart— that most days was so subtle it came nearly unnoticed. But that Tuesday morning in the 6am prayer meeting, I felt it.


I remembered how I came to IHOP terrified yet hungry to know more of God. Committing to what I felt was so HUGE in the moment, that 6-month internship. I wanted to know Him more so I gave that weak “yes” and offered those 6 months and He gave me 9 years—and counting!

How much more does He give those who ask? How much more will He give if we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking? He is a good Father who delights to give.

God is our Father—a generous Father who finds joy in giving. It’s who He is, it’s what He does—He gives. And the best that He gives is Himself. God gives God. There are no limits. There is no end. He gives.

And He loves us deeply. He cannot stay at a distance. Our Father will go to any lengths to tell us of His deep desire for us. He will not stop pursuing our hearts.

As I was thinking about the incredible reach of the Father, I was reminded of a story that is such a great picture of His pursuit of our hearts. (And in the telling I get to brag on my own Dad too; it’s a win, win!!)

It was nearly 9pm, a normal evening. When I heard a knock on my front door. I was not expecting anyone and when I opened the door, my Dad standing there.


“Dad! What are you doing here?!” was the question that exploded from my mouth. He was not greeted with a hello or a hug—shock had consumed me—this unexpected visit from my farming-father who lived over 1000 miles away brought instant questions and even some fears into my mind.

Suddenly I was thinking something terribly wrong had happened for him to come now—to come unexpected. I anticipated the worst. He just stood there and said, “Can I come in?” His simple question brought me out of shock and back into reality.

He came in. Sat down. Not in a hurry, without concern on his face. “Dad! Why are you here? How did you get here? I asked again, waiting for the bad news to come at any moment. Sitting calmly on the couch he said, “I rented a car at the airport and drove here.”           ( Gotta love that practical answer)

“But WHY?” I couldn’t understand.

Then he spoke revealing the love and endless pursuit of our Father:

He said, “I came because I had something to tell you. I was in the barn last night feeding the cows and I was praying for you. I felt the overwhelming love of the Father for you and I had to tell you. It was so strong that I knew I couldn’t email what I felt.  After I thought about it I knew a letter was not enough either. Even a phone call would not explain what I was feeling. I had to come. I had to come and tell you that your Father in heaven loves you and will go to any lengths to pursue you. As your earthly father I love you but this love is just a meager representation of your Father’s love. I traveled this small distance as a representation of how He will go the great distance to tell you of His love. Nothing is too much for Him; nothing is too costly for Him. He will do whatever it takes to pursue and win your heart.”

I was in even greater shock now! I know my Dad. I know his life. He is a farmer, a pastor, a busy man. It is incredibly hard for him to leave home. I knew that traveling was a real sacrifice. He really did go to great lengths to come here and I knew it.

His words impacted me but I was still waiting for the “and”—the real reason he came. I was waiting for the words that would follow the paragraph he had just spoken that would make sense of it all.  But nothing followed.

“How long are you staying?” I questioned. “My flight leaves in the morning.” Another wave of shock hit me. In the morning!? This is when it became real to me; he added nothing else to the trip to make it worthwhile. He had no other agenda or purpose for coming. There really was no. other. reason. He really did travel across the country just to tell me of the Fathers deep love and great pursuit.

And then twelve short hours after he had arrived he was gone.

But his words—they lingered.

This is what our Father is like, He pursues.  And this is what I felt that Tuesday morning in the Prayer Room. I felt Him reaching for my heart through the years.

Our God is a Father who wants us to be with Him. He will come to us for no other reason, with no other agenda but to give us Himself!

This is truth: God is our Father.  And He is a good Father. He simply cannot stay away. He will go to any lengths to tell us of His deep desire for us. And He will never stop pursuing our hearts.

Distance or dependence—it is our choice

Zechariah was godly, blameless, righteous, holy and faithful, but the years of disappointment had made his spirit hard and crusty with unbelief. Even a visitation from an archangel like Gabriel could not penetrate through the hardness of his heart. God used the prison of muteness to soften Zechariah’s heart and restore him to faith and prophetic discernment. Let God’s holy saints learn a lesson, that we not allow the years to harden our hearts and dull our spirits to God’s powerful purposes. —Bob Sorge

“Disappointment had made his spirit hard and crusty with unbelief”—every time I read these words they are like an alarm resounding within my soul, like an arrow shooting straight into my heart; I question, “Have I become hardened in the waiting? Have the passing years and disappointments formed a layer of unbelief within me?”

Because waiting is not neutral.

A season of waiting will lead in one of two directions; the heart will be drawn into dependence on God or it will be pulled away distancing from Him. There is a subtle residue that wants to settle upon the soul in waiting, a slow hardening from the heat of delay. The pause is simply our opportunity to respond. When we find ourselves in a season of waiting we can either lean into God or withdrawn from Him—distance or dependence.

We get to choose.

In the trail of waiting, a dependent heart continues in perseverance—believing endurance—which produces hope within the soul. But a distant heart grows weary in the waiting and begins accusing; unbelief slowly takes root, which produces bitterness within the soul.

It is in these moments, when the familiar cycle of pain comes again, when the hour is incredibly late and the night is the darkest it has ever been that we get to choose—distance or dependence.

If you are in a season of waiting or have been disappointed once again do not loose heart. Persevere. Choose now—this very moment—to lean into the One who upholds all things.

And remember that you are not alone. Scripture is filled with the friends of God who endured long years of waiting with many disappointments along the way.

Joseph waited with a dream in his heart but was exiled from his family and ended up living in prison for countless days before it came to pass. David was anointed king but had to wait for the throne and even became a fugitive in the process. Abraham waited and carried a promise of descendants—as vast as the stars, as many as the sands of the seas—but did not carry a child in his arms for decades. And the list goes on throughout those sacred pages.

Why? I believe it is because the Lord is after something in the journey.

Waiting is a fire that burns away that which resists His leadership. It burns hot until all that remains is a weak but steadfast resolve to say, “yes” to His ways.

Trusting in the Lord is not just waiting for the answer but it is trusting IN the One who is the Answer. Perseverance is not just waiting for our circumstances to change but it is waiting ON the One who never changes.

How do we persevere? Prayers mixed with tears are the weapons with which to fight the subtle hardening that tries to form within our hearts.

In the wrestle we must let the tears fall while our prayers arise—pouring out our soul to the Lord—this is the way to dependence. In the long hours remember who He is and confess the truth again, saying it right to Him—“You are good, always good.”

Perseverance takes place here in these quiet moments, in these simple exchanges, when our prayers ascend and our tears descend.

An open, vulnerable, trusting, heart continues to look up through the waiting, to look up after a disappointment; like a child looking expectantly to his father once again. If we keep our eyes fixed on Him, over the passing of time our hearts will remain soft—believing.

We get to choose perseverance—no matter how long the season of waiting lingers we can put our hope fully in the God-of-hope because He is faithful. We get to choose dependence—no matter how impossible the situation looks—we can rest in the God-of-the-impossible because He is good.

Trust. Rest. Wait. And then wait a little longer. Persevere. Endure. Lean. And then hold fast—one more day. It is a holy season, a sacred time when you find yourself in waiting, because we only get to choose dependence on this side of eternity.

To the one waiting, in any capacity: you have been given a holy holding place. He loves you that much that He is willing to create this circumstantial nexus that would call forth what moves Him: you, cracked wide-open before Him — vulnerable, bleeding … and hungry. Let me hand you a permission slip. Hope again. Wrestle with the God of hope. Your heart, exposed, will graft a new way to His. —Sara Hagerty

“He loves you that much that He is willing to create these circumstances…”

Can you look at your delay or disappointing circumstances and see the deep love of the Father pursuing your heart? If not, look a little closer. He is working it all together for your good because He desires all of you. He is actively, presently and continually pursuing your heart—until He has it all. A fully given and dependent heart is what He is after.

And He is waiting too; He is waiting for you to look up.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1–2

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” —John 14:18

I don’t have parents yet…I’m still waiting for my case worker to find me some.” These piercing words from my nine-year-old-orphan-friend have been left ringing in my ears over and over these past weeks. “I’m still waiting”—these few words so heavy for a little heart to carry, so hard for my heart to hear, yet they seemed strangely familiar to me. Her yearning for adoption, her cry for the wrong things to be made right, her desire to be accepted and known, felt recognizable to my heart too. It is the cry that is hidden deep within all of our souls.

This Advent season as I am meditating on the One who came my heart is crying out like my orphan-friend— I’m still waiting—eagerly anticipating the Day when He will come again. The word Advent comes from the Latin noun adventus, which means “coming.” The verb of the Latin word for Advent is advenio.  It means simply: “I arrive.  I come.  I am coming.”

As I look back to the manger and meditate on the One who came—that Promised Seed, that Root out of dry ground, that Rod from the stem of Jesse—my heart longs and waits for the Day of His return.

As I hear this little girls’ silent cry, I don’t have all the answers to give her nine-year-old-aching-waiting heart but I do know the Answer. Even though I don’t understand why one small child has to carry so much pain, I do know that there is One who cares. And so I wait with her. I look into her dark black eyes and tell her that there is One who came and there really is One who is coming.

We do not wait without hope because one night a small Infant was laid in a manger. We do not wait in vain because one day a Man was laid upon a crossbeam.

Last night as I held the communion trays at service, holding those small pieces of bread for the endless line of people coming to receive. I felt the remembrance. As each one came to take the bread as their own promise of life, I felt the gift that He gave to each one of us. Face after face appeared before me and I had in my hand the gift ready to give them. And without this gift none of us would have life, we and that line of people would simply die and that would be then end of our story. Yet I held in my hands the evidence that He came— I held my hands tightly around the reason why we wait and do not give up—He is coming!

So when the tears come or hard words hit our hearts this Advent season we do not have to grieve as those who grieve without hope. We do not have to stutter for a response or search for a reason when we experience pain because we have The Reason to rejoice. There is a real Day ahead when He will return for us. And our God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, personally addressing the individual pain in our hearts bringing healing.  This is our hope. This is Advent: He came and He is coming—we will not be left as orphans!

~Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord~

“There is a piece of Him that we can only get when the night is long.”

Do we really believe that God has our good in mind—all of the time? Do we really trust Him even when the night is long? I’m learning to tell my own soul what is true about Him, especially when I don’t understand His ways.

A couple stories from the Old Testament are helping me find perspective of His ways. The story of Joseph and the story of Elisha, which both took place in a town called Dothan.

These men were in need of deliverance from their present circumstances. The first, Joseph, found himself surrounded by his angry brothers. And the second, Elisha, found himself surrounded by an angry army. I can imagine their cries as they prayed for rescue; they were in desperate situations!!! And God heard their cries— but He responded to their same prayers, in the same place, entirely differently. For Elisha God answered immediately with chariots and fire but for Joseph there was silence and then captivity.

This is where the tension comes. It is normal to desire the Elisha-type rescue when we pray but there are times that the Lord chooses to deliver us like Joseph. Similar to how Joseph likely felt when he cried from that pit, we might feel like God is not responding when we cry out to Him. But in the seeming stillness, God was moving on his behalf. We know Joseph’s story well. It is evident that God was with him, orchestrating the events that took place with precision though it looked like He was silent. God’s watchful eye followed Joseph into the pit, into captivity, into prison and then eventually (years and years later) into deliverance.

Joseph’s deliverance was long and mostly painful but his heart was transformed in the process. By the time his brothers were on the scene again, Joseph had tears of love toward them. (I’m guessing this was a slightly different response than what Joseph had when he was bragging about his coat, sharing his dreams, or being sold into slavery) The pit and prison were key agents in Joseph’s full deliverance. The Lord knew the exact means necessary to deliver him not only physically but also from pride and independence.

There are times when God uses the sudden visible and at other times He uses the silent hiddenness. The key is remembering, He chooses the way that He delivers. We can rest knowing that He will deliver us because He loves to set us free, completely. When we pray for rescue from our circumstances we must remind our souls of His watchful eye, whether we go into prison or walk through a miraculous deliverance. It is the Lord who delivers. In the night—when we can’t see clearly what is happening—we must speak to our hearts reminding ourselves of who He is and His great love for us, believing He is working all things for our ultimate good.

Tim Keller (one of my favorite preachers) has a quote that sums this up so well:

The Joseph story tells us that very often God does not give us exactly what we ask for. Instead He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows. We must never assume that we know enough to mistrust God’s way or be bitter against what He has allowed. We must assume that behind everything that happens is the goodness and love of God. —Tim Keller