Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do you Cut & Paste your prayers? Maybe you should...

If you've followed this blog for very long, you may have read previous posts where I've talked about some of my favorite books on prayer (A Praying Life and Praying God's Word for Your Husband). You also may have picked up on my love of the Psalms.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when a recent challenge from 40 Ways to Grow Closer to God involved praying a Psalm.

I love the idea of praying God's Word back to Him. There's something powerful about repeating inspired words back to our Holy God. I can't help but believe that it makes Him smile.

If praying God's Word is a new concept for you, I think Psalms is a perfect place to start. In most cases, the psalms are prayers that were sung. And some of them are so very personal, you almost don't need to change the words.

I'll give you an example from a familiar Psalm....Psalm 23. If you wanted to pray Psalm 23, you might say something like this.

Father, you are my shepherd. With you as my shepherd, I know I have everything I need. Thank you for providing ways for me to rest and for restoring my soul. Please continue to lead me in paths of righteousness for Your fame and glory.

Get the idea?

Now, the above example assumes that you are in a pretty good place when you start your prayer. But we all's another version.

Father, I know you are my shepherd, but there are so many things we need right now. Please provide. I am so tired, Lord. If I have another day like yesterday, I won't make it past breakfast. Please lead me to places of rest. A few green pastures and quiet streams would be such a blessing after the roller coaster ride I've been on lately. My soul is wrung out. I cannot fix it on my own. Abba, you're the only one who can restore my soul. Right now, I don't know what to do, or where to turn. Please lead me. Show me the right path, not so I can boast, but so you will be glorified.

See the difference?

Regardless of whether you're relaxing by a cool stream in a soft, grassy field, or fighting for each step through a dark valley, try praying a few Psalms today. You might even consider getting really bold and journaling your version.

We're not going for literary genius here! There's not a right or wrong way to do this. When you first start praying God's Word, it's okay to "cut & paste" - just pray the words exactly as you read them. Over time, you'll naturally get more creative with the method.

The idea is to communicate with God. Prayer isn't talking (or shouting) at Him. It's opening ourselves up to what He wants to do. It's being still long enough to hear His soft voice. It's paying attention long enough to notice when He responds.

When you do, would you mind coming back here and sharing your experience with all of us? You could share the Psalm, or you could share why you chose it, the actual words you prayed, or how God has answered.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit! (That's from Philippians 4:23)

Monday, June 25, 2012

When It's OK to Play God

I have a PhD in faking it.

I can’t blame it on my upbringing, although being raised in the fishbowl of the Pastor’s family did help me hone my skills.

No. I think it’s more my nature. Regardless of the drama unfolding in my life, when it’s time to go to church, I paste on a smile and go about my business like nothing is wrong.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to help someone who won’t even admit that there’s a problem?

I wonder if God watches me and rolls His eyes as I square my shoulders and face whatever comes—on my own. I wonder if He wishes I would just open up a little bit more. I wonder if He wants to comfort and encourage me, but I won’t let Him.

I think He got fed up with me recently and staged an intervention.

As I walked into church, a friend caught my eye. I nodded and said “Hi” and kept moving. (I was late after all). But as I turned away from signing a child into class, there she stood.

“You look like you need a hug.”

That’s all she said. She put her arm around me and squeezed. Then walked away.

It took me several seconds to recover. I needed a hug in the worst way, but goodness knows I wouldn’t have admitted to it.

I have no idea what she saw in my face that triggered her concern. My guess is that she saw exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted her to see. And then she responded to the nudge He sent her way.

And when she gave me that hug, it was as if the God of the Universe whispered in my ear, “I know this is hard. I see your pain. I’m still right here, and I’m still in control.”

As a general rule, playing God is a bad idea.

But this is the exception.

The next time you sense God saying, “Give her hug,” “Ask her if she’s OK,” “Tell her she looks nice in that dress,” “Say something kind about her kids” - do it!

Whether it’s directed at your neighbor, your sister, an acquaintance, or the cashier behind the register, God may want to use you to play Him in someone’s life. To be His arms. His voice. His messenger to one of His struggling children.

I have two challenges for you this week.

First, pay attention to the people around you. You don't know the burdens someone is carrying. But God does. If the Holy Spirit gives you a nudge, say “Yes” to whatever it is.

The second challenge is this…if you’re struggling, ask God to put someone in your life who can help you carry the load. And if you find yourself on the receiving end of an unexpected hug, recognize it for what it is.

A little love note from your Father.

2 Chronicles 16:9a ~ For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review::Praying God's Word for your Husband by Kathi Lipp

I have a few pet peeves. Well, probably more than a few. And if I tried to list them, there is one that would make the top five. Maybe the top three.

Man bashing.

I'm not talking about good natured teasing. I'm talking about the tendency for women to gather for lunch or an evening out and spend a significant portion of their time airing their husband's faults and weaknesses, usually to a receptive and appreciative audience who can't wait for their turn to do the same.

It's like fingernails on the chalkboard.
Or talking during a movie.
Or book reviews that give away the entire plot making it pointless for me to read the book.

I'm not implying that women should never say anything negative about their spouse. Relationships are hard work. And sometimes, a little advice from a carefully chosen person can help you see things in a new light.

But it shouldn't be in a group of twenty in the middle of a crowded restaurant at full volume.

We live in a society that heaps pressure on men and then mocks them in movies and television commercials. Regardless of whether they succeed or fail, they can't win.

So what's a wife, friend, sister, mom, to do?

Sure, we can affirm them. We can try to love them the way they want to be loved. We can make their favorite meal and be sensitive to pressures at work. We can encourage them to develop and maintain friendships, get enough exercise, and eat right.

But there is something else.

Something so much better that it could revolutionize our relationships and revitalize the men we love. Something so simple, we often overlook or minimize its importance.

We could pray for them.

I'm sure many of you do. But what if there was a resource that could help you pray for your husbands using the Word of God, tailored to specific seasons in their lives?

Praying God's Word for Your Husband by Kathi Lipp is just such a book. She spends the first few chapters talking about why this type of prayer is so effective, gives tips for establishing a routine, and shares suggestions for ways to partner with other women who also have a desire to pray faithfully for their husbands.

In the remainder of the book, each chapter focuses on a particular topic (Employment, Finances, His Relationship with Others, His Relationship with You, Parenting, Health, etc.) and while there is a little bit of narrative, the bulk of the chapters is made up of specific Scriptures, followed by sample prayers based on those verses.

It is a fabulous resource. You can pray through the different topics on a rotation, or use it to specifically address areas where your husband is struggling at the moment.

While this book is written for wives praying for their husbands, I think it's also a great resource for moms who want to pray for their adults sons, sisters who want to pray for their brothers, and daughters who want to pray for their fathers.

This book has earned a permanent spot in my "quiet time" stack (along with my Bible, my gratitude journal, and my copy of Jesus Calling).
I highly recommend Praying God's Word for Your Husband.

Available June 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The fine print: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review. Opinions are my own.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Playlist for the Broken

So many things are messed up. So many people I love are hurting. So many friends are broken.

And while I’m a lifetime member of the “I can fix this” club, there are some things I cannot fix. Some hurts I cannot heal. Some wrongs I cannot right. Some hearts wearing scars I cannot fade.

But I know Someone who can. So I pray.

And I pray.

And I pray.

When God answers, I rejoice.

When he doesn’t? I beat my head against the back of my chair and I look at my husband with tears streaming and I say, “I’ve prayed so hard. So hard. And it hasn’t done any good.”

I am broken.

And I cannot fix myself.

I have so much in common with Eve.

I think I know best. In fact, I think—although I never say this out loud because good Christian girls know better—that maybe God hasn’t thought this out as well as I have. Because if He had, He would agree with me. 100%.

I want my way.

And when God’s way makes no sense to me?

My faith cracks. Sometimes it’s a tiny fissure. Sometimes a gaping cavern.

Always it’s a wound. A wound that will not—cannot—heal without Him.

It’s at this point that I have a choice. We all have a choice.

We can stay broken, wounded, bleeding. Live out our lives miserable and bitter.

We can try to fix ourselves. Patch up the wound with whatever feels good. Cover up the scars with laughter and a heavy layer of denial.

Or we can let Him fix us.

We lay it all out there. Our hurt, our confusion, our anger, our desperation. We hold back nothing from Him.

We believe with the shards of faith we have left and we beg Him to help our unbelief.

And He does.

When He takes our broken pieces and puts them back together, the craziest things happens.

Our faith grows back . . . stronger than before.

But how do you do it? When faith stumbles? When belief wavers? When you don’t know where to start?

For me, it’s music. Songs that give voice to my pain and confusion. Songs that remind me of what I believe. Songs that help me worship when I don’t feel like it.

Here is my playlist for the broken. If you're hurting today, I invite you to listen. Just listen. Let Him put you back together again. Stronger than before.

Abba - It hurts. So much. Nothing will ever be the same. It feels like nothing will ever be right again. We don't understand. But we choose You. Over getting our way. Over what we think is best. Over having what we want. We choose You. We choose to believe that You are God and that there is no one like you. You are worthy of our praise. Father, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Reading

I was the kind of kid who loved school. Loved it! I didn't want to see it end and couldn't wait for it to start again.

But, summer had one huge thing going for it.

Virtually unlimited reading time! And a steady supply of books thanks to a mom who took me to the library - a lot! (Thanks mom!)

Of course, the grown-up version of summer doesn't have quite the same amount of free time. But it just wouldn't feel like summer if I didn't have a crazy assortment of books ready and waiting.

I've always been an avid reader. While I have favorite genres and authors, depending on my mood I'll read anything (except horror and erotica). Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Suspense, Thriller, Biography, Women's Fiction, Chick-Lit, Political Thrillers, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, YA, Dystopian, Classics and any combination of the above!

So just for fun, I thought I'd share with you a few of the books on my summer reading list. Maybe you'll discover a few gems you've never heard of. And if you want to share your TBR (to-be-read) list in the comments, I'd love to see what worlds you are planning to explore over the next few weeks!

  • Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. This baby has been in-progress for, um, a while. It's good. It's just not easy to toss in a diaper bag. I'm determined to finish it!
  • Praying God's Word for Your Husband by Kathi Lipp. I'm writing a review of this one in the next week or so.
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Not a light read (a memoir of the deadliest season on Mt. Everest), but my husband really enjoyed this and it's been in my TBR stack for too long!
  • Hood by Stephen Lawhead. A retelling of the Robin Hood legend.
  • Saint by Ted Dekker. Don't anyone pass out, but I haven't read anything by Ted Dekker. Ever.
  • Intervention by Terri Blackstock. I love Terri Blackstock but haven't read anything of hers in a while. Can't wait!
  • First the Dead by Tim Downs. Another author I've never read. But this book sounds so good!
  • So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones. Because sometimes a good YA read is exactly what I need.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Just for fun!
Have you read any of these books? Got a favorite author you want to share? Tell us in the comments!


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Why You Should NOT Take A Break This Summer

A few weeks ago, I asked what you were planning to do to grow closer to God this summer. Remember? (If not, click here!)

I know that many of us participate in Bible studies during the school year, but we usually take the summer off. Which makes perfect sense. It’s hard to schedule group sessions around vacations and swim lessons.

What doesn’t make sense?

Taking the summer off.

We aren’t in first grade anymore. We’re supposed to be ever growing, ever learning, ever maturing.

Go ahead and take the summer off from scheduled, group study. But please don’t put your Bible and journal up on a shelf with plans to dig them back out in September.

We must remember that we are in a war. Our enemy doesn’t take summers off. For whole battalions to decide they aren’t going to fight for three months out of the year reveals a serious lack of spiritual maturity on the part of people who should be battle hardened warriors.

Make no mistake about it...if you aren't growing closer to God then you're moving away from Him. The enemy will gladly watch you drift and then he'll unleash every obstacle in his arsenal to be sure you never get as close as you once were.

Now that I’ve gotten all up in your business, let me share with you a resource you might want to consider. You could think of it as a summer refresher course.

Depending on where you are in your walk with the Lord, it might sound like a remedial class.

Trust me, it’s not.

A dear friend of mine (Lori Roeleveld of Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island), threw out a call to take “The God Challenge” this summer by reading 40 Ways to Get Closer to God written by Jerry (Chip) MacGregor with Keri Wyatt Kent.

It sounded perfect. Maybe a little lighter than what I’d been planning, but hey, it’s summer.

Did I mention that this is not a remedial class?


It’s not that these challenges are hard. If you’ve been following God for any length of time, you may even read the challenge for that day and think, “Seriously? That’s it? I do that all the time.” I’ve had a few of those days.

To my surprise and embarrassment, when I attempt the challenge I often discover that I needed some work on that particular discipline after all. Consider me Gibbs slapped by God!

I’m not going to give it all away, but I started this in late May. It’s June 11th and I’m not even up to Day 10. I’m trying not to read or jump ahead until I have actually done, or at least planned when I will do, each activity. I'm taking my time because I don't want to just read a book about getting closer to God.

I want to actually get closer to God.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you some of my adventures, what I’m learning, and what God is showing me about how amazing He is. If you’d like to jump in and join the fun, that would be fantastic. (Please send me a shout out in the comments!)

Whether you choose to join in on #TheGodChallenge (our Twitter hashtag) or not, please do something. Read the New Testament. Pray for each member of your family every day. Read the Psalms slowly (I did that last year - loved it!).

Your enemy is not taking the summer off. You shouldn’t either.


The Joy Dare continues...

3 Gifts Painted ~ Roses painted the perfect pink; baby faces painted in watermelon juice; smiles painted on the faces of friends reunited

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pros and Cons of Attending the Same Writers Conference

Me and my dear friend Edie Melson at her book launch last fall!
It's the first Thursday of June so I'm over at Edie Melson's place, The Write Conversation.

I'm sharing my thoughts on the pros and cons of returning to a writers conference you've already attended. Come over and say Hi!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blessed to Call Him Mine

Sometimes, when a follower of Christ answers the call to come out of the boat and walk a new path, the people they've been doing life with are more hindrance than help.

Instead of cheering, they chide.
Instead of rooting, they rebuke.
Instead of praying, they pout.

And far too often, the resistance comes from those closest. The very people who should understand, don't. Spouses gripe. Parents worry. Friends question.

I know this happens. A lot.

But not to me.

When I started writing a book a few years ago, I had four chapters done when I mustered the courage to print them out and ask for my husband's opinion.

He's been my biggest fan ever since.

All that summer, he'd ask me how the book was coming. It was often this question that drove me to sit back down in front of the computer and press on, even when I thought I'd lost my mind to consider writing a book.

When I typed "The End" it was Brian who declared it a success. And Brian who thought it should be published. It was Brian who encouraged me to take a writing class. Brian who said "yes" to me attending my first (and second) writing conference. Brian who never questions me when I say, "I need to write".

It's Brian who listens when I complain, whine, ok, cry over poor contest scores, blog posts that no one responds to, and rejections from agents and editors. And it's Brian who reminds me from time to time, often, that he's certain God had a purpose for me writing that book and that God's plans for my writing are still unfolding.

It's Brian who encourages me to keep stepping out in faith, even when I'm exhausted from fighting the wind and waves of doubt and fear.

So, if you've ever been encouraged by anything I've ever written, you should know that there's a man in my life who cheers, roots, and prays for me. A man who is out of the boat with me.
A man I am blessed to call mine.
Happy 40th Birthday Brian! I love you!


Are you taking the JoyDare with me? My personal journal has over 700 grace gifts listed since November 2011. I'm a little behind in updating the blog link (what with a writers conference and a 40th birthday party weekend to enjoy!) but I'd love for you to join me.

I'm so thankful...
  • For my husband of almost 15 years who gets me, even when I don't get myself.
  • For family and friends who celebrated with us.
  • For the way earthly joys awaken that place in our hearts created for eternity and leave us longing for the time when we will all be more death, no more tears, no more loved ones missing from the party.
  • For mist dancing at dawn on a quiet lake.
  • For birds, bullfrogs, and bugs letting me listen in on their morning song to our Creator.

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