Just one word

  My three prayers are variations on Help, Thanks, Wow. That’s all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward. —Anne Lamott I’ve had lots of people ask me for tips about prayer… How to pray when you’re out of words. ...

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My three prayers are variations on Help, Thanks, Wow. That’s all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward.
—Anne Lamott

I’ve had lots of people ask me for tips about prayer… How to pray when you’re out of words. How to pray when your words are angry or full of doubt. How to pray when there are just way too many words, too many needs and situations and emotions. I know that when I’m struggling with something, I want to find a way to control it, understand it, and study it—but in the end, I’m adding more to my plate, not less.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is simplify. When we eliminate the unnecessary, the core of the matter shines through.

This month, if you’ll join me, we’re going to try to pray with just one word a day. Yep, just one. Words like Create. Yes. Remember. Help. Focus. Grow. And even Oops.

Easy peasy, right?

Don’t worry. Just because the word is simple does not mean the prayer is shallow. Your one word can be your whole prayer—or just the beginning. If you start there and explore, you can add layers and depths of color—like a detailed painting versus a quick, scribbled sketch.

Trust yourself and lean on God as you try this. Don’t worry if it makes you feel uncomfortable; there are lots of ways to approach this, none of them wrong. Meditate on the word, offer it to God as prayer, and see what happens. Maybe you’ll stay there and just sit in His presence. Maybe you’ll use it as a springboard, following your thoughts from one word to another. Maybe you’ll listen for whatever insight God chooses to reveal. He might show you a direction by telling you the next steps you should take. Or maybe answer a question you’ve asked, or possibly lead you to other questions. He might call to mind a friend or family member, show you what someone needs, or reveal a way you can help someone else.

Don’t limit yourself. Just pray and be open to where God leads you. And if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear from you—what do you think? What did you learn?

To download the April prayer prompt calendar, click here. It’s free to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter. If it’s not showing up, you may need to subscribe. Once in a while, if cookies aren’t enabled or you’re on a different device, you might have to re-subscribe, but don’t worry. You won’t receive duplicates.

And now, I’ll close with one of my favorite songs. (If you’re reading this in an email, you’ll have to click to my blog to see the video.)

With just one word that You speak
My mind is filled with Your peace
With every word that You speak
Your power flows unto me

Just one word
and the darkness must flee.
Your word is alive,
Your word sets me free.

One word from God is all we need. How amazing is that?

 

20 Prayers to Pray Throughout a Busy Day (free printable)

Prayer is our primary means of communication with God, and it is only through God that we have the strength, abilities and wisdom we need to face a busy day. But when we’re so busy, when is there time to pray? My answer may surprise you: Always. It’s true, though. We don’t have to stop ...

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Prayer is our primary means of communication with God, and it is only through God that we have the strength, abilities and wisdom we need to face a busy day. But when we’re so busy, when is there time to pray? My answer may surprise you: Always. It’s true, though. We don’t have to stop everything in order to pray. Instead, let these short, simple prayers run through your mind as you go about your everyday tasks—your conversation with God will become a soundtrack underscoring your ordinary days, transforming them into something extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful.

1. Thank you for this day.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. ~PSALM 118:2,4

2. Be with me.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. ~PSALM 118:6

3. You are so good.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. ~1 CHRONICLES 16:34

4. Give me strength for this day.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~GALATIANS 6:9

5. Protect me.
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. ~LUKE 10:19

6. Thank You for the work that keeps me busy.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. ~PSALM 90:17

7. Lord, give me rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~MATTHEW 11:28-30

8. Help me to love.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ~ROMANS 12:9-10

9. Let me see You.
“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. ~JEREMIAH 29:12-14

10. Fill me with joy.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ~JOHN 15:11

11. Show me how to glorify you.
There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. ~PSALM 86:8-10

12. Give me a generous heart.
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. ~PROVERBS 11:25

13. Erase my worries.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~JOHN 14:17

14. Help me.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. ~PSALM 34:17

15. Let my words be uplifting.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

16. Forgive me and help me forgive others.

Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” ~MATTHEW 6:14

17. Thank You for being in control.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~JEREMIAH 29:11

18. Teach me. Guide me. Show me what to do.
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me. ~PSALM 25:4-5

19. Purify my mind.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~PHILIPPIANS 4:8

20. Thank You. Again. Always.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 THESSALONIANS 5:18

This article first appeared on crosswalk.com September 12, 2016

Click here to download the free printable list of 20 prayers.

Oh what a a view!

My pastor told me a story about a man he knew who had been a paratrooper in WWII. Before they dropped into France, the paratroopers were given the chance to pick whatever weapons they wanted, whatever they could carry, from the warehouse. This man, Perry, picked one gun with a spare clip. Most of the ...

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My pastor told me a story about a man he knew who had been a paratrooper in WWII. Before they dropped into France, the paratroopers were given the chance to pick whatever weapons they wanted, whatever they could carry, from the warehouse. This man, Perry, picked one gun with a spare clip. Most of the other soldiers weighed themselves down with every last thing they could carry, determined to protect and defend themselves. Perry said he knew he could get more from the fallen soldiers, if he needed it, so he just took what he needed right then to survive.

When they dropped to the ground, the ones who had taken lots — as much as they could carry — broke their legs upon impact.

Ever feel like that? Like you’re carrying way more than you can handle? Oh, wait, of course you do — because you’re human.

I’m right there with you. I’m feeling the weight of many friends and acquaintances with life-threatening or life-altering health conditions—so many prayer needs. I feel the pressure to work more and make more money. The pressure I’m putting on myself to figure out my next writing project, to fulfill all my plans for updating my blog and creating monthly prayer calendars and keeping my own spiritual life in a good place. I am juggling deadlines and the desire to spend time with friends and the knowledge that I have a patient husband but he deserves to get intentional time from me. I’m wanting to spend time with my girls, who are both adults and moving into their adult lives, and with my son, who now no longer needs me to take him places since he can drive himself. And yet I have ad deadlines, and a to-do list a mile long.

I’m hyper-organized, filling calendar squares carefully with minute-by-minute breakdowns of time. I’m quick to suggest letting go of anything that is not absolutely necessary and critical. I’m giving myself permission to leave piles of things in corners if I just don’t have time to deal with them. (Mind you, this is nothing new; I’m just finally giving myself permission to let it go.)

And although it is so easy to let my worries and fears and helplessness weigh me down, one positive thing I can say is at least I’m not holding on to too much. It’s all there, hovering at the edges of my consciousness. The weight of it is tremendous and not for the faint-of-heart. But if I allowed myself to carry it all around, to try to fix it all or bear the burden on my own, I’d be demolished on impact.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I know I’m not strong enough to let these things consume me. There will be times that I agonize over whether I’ve given my kids all the tools that they need to make wise choices. When I wonder if I’ve done my job well enough as a mom so that they’re prepared to step into the next phases of their lives. When I cry because I can’t fix the problems of my friends. When I wonder if I can get all of my work done, or if I’ll fail miserably and bankrupt myself. When I’m too tired to work and all I want to do is lie on the couch and escape into some fictional world.

I know I should pray. I know prayer helps. I know it changes things. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But there are times that even getting to spend time with the Lord feels too heavy, too hard. All I can do is close my eyes and offer up a wish-thought-prayer. Imagine myself floating down gracefully through the skies. Knowing that God has His hand on me, that He’s lifting the weight of my burdens so that I can soar gracefully rather than crash violently. Trusting that I’m not jumping into a frightening situation. Believing that I’m moving slowly towards the just the place He has in mind for me — not as a soldier facing danger but as a skydiver who’s enjoying the ride.

And trying — tentatively, carefully — to open my eyes and realize that the view from here, from within the center of this journey, is spectacular. Always changing. A view I’d never get to see if I didn’t hand all of my worries to God. If I never left the plane in the first place.

All I have to do is take time to notice. Not be in such a hurry to land. And open my eyes wide.

Dear Lord, help me to appreciate the beauty from every single place you take me. Help me to trust in You and turn over what isn’t mine to carry. Help me to know that, while making that initial leap can be frightening, as long as You are with me (and You are always with me), the view will be spectacular. Thank You for who You are and all You offer me. Amen.

Faith in a rear-view mirror

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I’m not ashamed to admit all of the many ways I do things wrong, right? In that spirit, let me tell you about what I was thinking the other day when I passed a cop going the other direction, slammed on my brakes, saw his brake ...

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If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I’m not ashamed to admit all of the many ways I do things wrong, right? In that spirit, let me tell you about what I was thinking the other day when I passed a cop going the other direction, slammed on my brakes, saw his brake lights, and THEN proceeded to drive below the speed limit for the next five miles as I watched my rearview mirror for flashing lights, heart pounding, chanting, “Sh&%” under my breath.

We all break the law in one way or another, no matter how careful and/or good we might think we are. Sometimes we even get away with it, like I did. (Thank goodness.)

From there, though, my mind wandered, and I started thinking about how this applies to God’s laws, His standards, His holiness.

I am not legalistic at all. I believe God’s defining characteristics are love, grace, and forgiveness. That was the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion: that we couldn’t—and don’t have to—pay the penalty for our lack of perfection. I think I have a healthy view of my faults, but I don’t dwell a lot on how lowly I am or beat myself up for my inherent failings and wrong behavior.

Because wouldn’t it stink if someone followed us around all the time, watching for the chance to say “GOTCHA!”? If every time we turned around, someone was waiting to throw a penalty at us? What kind of life would that be?

You know, I think that is possibly part of the reason why God did what He did. Conventional teaching says it was because of His great love for us, that no man should perish. It explains that God is holy and perfect and therefore it is greatly offensive for Him to be confronted with anything less than perfectly holy, and there had to be a sacrifice to bridge that gap.

I’m not disagreeing. I know all of that.

But have you ever considered that maybe it was also a way of God giving us a life we could enjoy (the abundant life discussed in the Bible)? I think it was partly about creating an environment in which we’re welcomed with open arms, not afraid to come to Him—because even though God knows all about us, and is clear about who He is, he doesn’t want a barrier between us. He designed us to have relationships with Him and with each other.

And how amazing is that?

A friend recently said that if your idea of sin is small, your God is small. If you don’t see how lost you were and how much you are in need of a savior, you can’t truly celebrate the enormity of being found. So I started praying about it—do I lean too far towards the concept of grace? Am I shortchanging God or living in denial about all that I’ve done wrong? Have I truly turned away from my sins and been changed? Am I full of pride or ego, or am I realistic about how badly I need God?

The next day, I was practicing the talk I was to give at a prayer workshop the following day, just checking the timing and smoothness of it. It was all about grace. About how God doesn’t beat us up, but just wants us to turn to Him. About how I’m flawed and not more holy than someone else, and how ironic it is that someone who fails as often as I do could write not one but two books about prayer. About how I think that’s why I got to write those books—to tell people it’s okay to not be perfect. The only thing that sets me apart in even the slightest way is that when I fall short, I try again. I don’t let shame keep me away; I want God more than I want to dwell on what I’ve done wrong. And I believe that God wants me to come to Him. So I return to Him, again and again and again and again.

And as my words came out, so did the tears. I kept practicing anyway. By the end, I was sobbing—tears of thankfulness because of how deeply I believe it all to be true. Because I don’t deserve God’s magnanimous grace. I didn’t earn it. I can’t, on my own, be truly good. I can try, and I do. I get some things right, but I seriously mess up others. I sometimes deceive myself, and sometimes I have profound insights into who I am.

Sometimes I may think about it more than other times, but I do recognize what a gift it is. Because always, always, I try to remember who God is. 

And to me, He is a God of second (and third and 482nd) chances. His face lights up when I turn back to Him. His arms are open to welcome me. His head is inclined towards me, eager to listen, interested in what I have to say. Am I the center of the universe? Of course not. But God is big enough to be this personally invested in each and every one of us. He loves each of us enough to delight in us. When we turn to Him, we’re not keeping Him from doing bigger and better things. We’re being who He created us to be.

He’s not following us around looking for reasons to penalize us. He doesn’t rejoice when we mess up. But when we come to Him because we just want to be with Him, I believe He celebrates.

He’s not hiding behind a barricade, waiting to pounce. We can relax, let down our guard. And open our hearts to the knowledge that He’s not trying to trip us up. He’s not setting us up for failure.

When we live life as though He is the God of “gotcha!”, we’re belittling the fulfilling life that He has given us and we’re shortchanging ourselves.

We can’t pretend the law isn’t there. We shouldn’t overlook our transgressions and missteps. But we don’t have to live in that place of remorse and regret and shame. Once we’ve acknowledged what is in our rearview mirrors, we need to put our eyes back on the road ahead—the one He’s on with us.

And floor it.

Hope prevails—in March, and always

In a Bible study a few months ago, I learned about a concept from another study called Experiencing God. It goes something like this: It’s not up to us to try to think up new things to do for God. We should watch and see where God is already working—and then get on board. Pretty simple, ...

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In a Bible study a few months ago, I learned about a concept from another study called Experiencing God. It goes something like this: It’s not up to us to try to think up new things to do for God. We should watch and see where God is already working—and then get on board.

Pretty simple, right? And yet incredibly profound. It has changed everything for me in terms of how I promote myself.

I think of my writing as a ministry. And I love what I do. But sometimes it’s discouraging—the blog numbers don’t grow like I want them to, or someone I like unsubscribes. I promote myself because it’s what I’m “supposed” to do, because those things are what agents and publishers care about—but it always (always) feels awkward.

But over the last couple of months, as I’ve tried to put this concept into action, it has changed me. Instead of seeing other writers as competition, I’ve developed a greater sense of compassion. A deeper gratitude for the lives others are able to reach. An appreciation of what makes each of us unique.

Serving the kingdom of God isn’t about me. It’s about God doing what He will, and being granted the privilege of being some small part of the process.

This is all just some of the background thinking behind this month’s prayer prompt calendar. If you’re new here and don’t know, each month I create a calendar filled with random, kind of quirky prompts to help you start your prayers. There are so many times when I try to turn my mind towards God, only to be surprised by suddenly not being able to remember a single thing I wanted to pray about.

And then there are times when I’m facing something so big that I don’t even know where to start. Words fail me. It might be something in my life—anxiety over finances, health concerns for friends and family, issues in my relationships, discouragement or anger or frustration—or something as basic as hormones or a bad mood. Honestly, there are no limits to the obstacles that keep us from praying.

That’s why I’m so excited about this month’s prayer prompt calendar. When I started looking through the entries for the calendar contest, one of the criteria was looking to see where God already seemed to be working. There were other factors—how creative I could be with the theme, what graphics or style might support it, how easily I could adapt the concepts into short prayer prompts, and what my readers might find helpful. When Michelle Nietert, a licensed professional counselor, wrote this, it grabbed hold of my heart:

I’m a professional counselor and March is our busiest season especially for children and adolescents as well as their families. It begins the first month of the season of the highest suicide attempt rates in the country for adolescents. Also increased teen pregnancy and psych hospital admissions occur in the spring. I would love to see a calendar about praying through emotions and themes that combat these struggles. Prayer prompts for things like experiencing joy instead of depression, hope to combat discouragement, replacing fear with courage, confidence to combat doubt, energy to replace exhaustion, etc.

I didn’t realize that March was a busy season for these things. I live in Indiana, so by March we’re all feeling pretty desperate for sunshine. Lots of my friends and family suffer from seasonal affective disorder, and it’s typically a pretty blah time.

Last spring at a retreat, I met a woman named Michelle Bengtson. Her book was scheduled to come out a few months later. I was intrigued by the title—Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression. But I was also impressed at the relationships she had formed with people at the retreat (and at other conferences in the past). I started following her on social media, and I watched as her husband was re-diagnosed with cancer. And yet I was inspired, again and again, by the way she pointed everyone to God at every bend in the road. She lives a life exemplifying her message, and I wanted to be involved with that, even if it’s just peripherally.

When all these factors came together, I decided this idea was perfect for the month of March. So this calendar contains prayer prompts inspired by and suggested by both of these women, and from Hope Prevails.

Please visit both of their blogs and help promote this calendar. We all have people in our lives (if not ourselves) who are battling the issues represented here: depression, feeling alone, suffering from anxiety, fighting cancer, needing peace, struggling with addiction or pain, believing the lies of the enemy, stumbling under the weight of worry—and more. We can’t let these things keep us from understanding who God says we are. We belong to Him. He never leaves us, and He equips us for these fights. We cannot do it on our own, but that’s okay because God promises to go with us through it, and we already know that He is victorious in all things.

Please join with me this month (and beyond) in these prayers, and consider picking up a copy or two of this book. I am convinced that it will make a difference.

If you’re trying to carry something that feels too heavy, please share it with a friend, professional counselor, or minister. You may also email me privately. I promise to lift you up in prayer and then delete your email, keeping your need confidential.

As always, I’ll share these prompts daily on Facebook and Twitter, so you can tag people as you pray for them or share the prompts with your friends. (Use the hashtag #MarchPrayers.)

You can also download the whole calendar for free if you subscribe to my newsletter (click here to download it or sign up). And don’t forget to visit Dr. Michelle Bengston‘s and Michelle Nietert, LPC’s websites; you can sign up for their newsletters to get the calendar, too.

Let me know how I can pray for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Calendar Contest Winners (yes, that word is plural)

I specifically chose NOT to select one word as a theme for this year. I’m terrible at following through with things. And yet one message keeps sticking with me regarding my writing and ministry (if you want to call it that)—generosity. I cannot only promote myself. I can’t do things that are simply to further my own brand. So ...

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I specifically chose NOT to select one word as a theme for this year. I’m terrible at following through with things. And yet one message keeps sticking with me regarding my writing and ministry (if you want to call it that)—generosity. I cannot only promote myself. I can’t do things that are simply to further my own brand. So much of the writing business is about tooting your own horn and staying in front of your readers. I feel uncomfortable every time I do that, and yet I keep trying because I feel like that’s what I’m “supposed” to do.

However, in a Bible study a few months ago, I was introduced to the concept that we don’t need to keep coming up with new plans, asking God to bless them. We need to watch and see where God is already working—and then get on board.

So that is what I’m doing.

Do you realize how many amazing ministries there are out there? Some causes are close to my heart; others are new to me. Some people have far-reaching audiences and some have no more than a handful of friends. And yet the love behind each of their efforts is genuine and enthusiastic and passionate. I’d be honored to work with these women (not meaning to generalize, but all of the entries came from women) to reach new people—to help people focus their thoughts and pray, whatever the particular circumstances. To give them hope to hold onto, no matter what is going on.

Almost immediately after I announced this contest, I felt such regret. Not because I had second thoughts about designing a calendar for someone else, but because HOW ON EARTH CAN I DECIDE?! I received SO MANY amazing ideas. Well over 30 of them, most well thought out and intriguing. I’ve read them again and again, printed them out, thought and planned and made spread sheets and prayed.

But I couldn’t make a decision.

Until I realized that the only person limiting me to just one winner was me. This is my blog… this is my contest… and I can do what I want :-).

So this is what I’m doing:

The winner of the prayer calendar for March is, well, two people. It’s sort of a combination of the ideas entered by Michelle Nietert and Dr. Michelle Bengtson.

Michelle Nietert sent me this:

I’m a professional counselor and March is our busiest season especially for children and adolescents as well as their families. It begins the first month of the season of the highest suicide attempt rates in the country for adolescents. Also increased teen pregnancy and psych hospital admissions occur in the spring. I would love to see a calendar about praying through emotions and themes that combat these struggles. Prayer prompts for things like experiencing joy instead of depression, hope to combat discouragement, replacing fear with courage, confidence to combat doubt, energy to replace exhaustion, etc.

Dr. Michelle Bengtson, author of Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression, wrote this:

I’d love to have a prayer prompt calendar centered around some of the themes in my book, Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression. Prompts could include (but not limited to) praying for those who are currently struggling in the valley of depression, as well as prompts that coincide with the chapters in the book: recovering our joy, reclaiming our peace, re-establishing our identity, knowing our worth in Him, remembering our secure destiny, being confident that nothing separates us from His love, being thankful that God uses our pain, etc.

Michelle Nietert brought my attention to the appropriateness of the timing, but I’ve been wanting to read Michelle Bengtson’s Hope Prevails, so I’m kind of merging the two entries into one calendar. I plan to pull many of the prompts from ideas in the book. I’m excited to bring this to you next month, particularly because in this part of the country, March can be pretty blah. And we can all, always, use some hope.

But then again, why stop there?!

In May, I’m teaming up with Sarah Philpott for a topic I feel passionate about—a movement to honor all women on Mother’s Day. I haven’t miscarried or lost a child or had fertility issues, but I have lost my mom, and it made me realize how many people experience mixed emotions while the rest of the world is celebrating mothers during that whole month.

In October or November, I’m planning to do a calendar based around the themes of a new novel—historical fiction about the Oklahoma Land Rush—being released by Jayme Mansfield. I think it will be a fun challenge to create a calendar around ideas in a novel. I picked this simply because I thought it would be fun.

And all those other months? Well, you just never know. So if you aren’t mentioned here, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t hear from me later! Honestly, the only thing keeping me from promising to pick one a month for the next year is the fact that, while I love to plan, I’m terrible at follow-through. I don’t want to overcommit and then disappoint people (and myself). Not to mention the fact that I need to leave some room for creativity—whatever floats my boat at that particular time. I like to leave some room for inspiration and whimsy. While writing this post, in fact, I came up with yet another idea I am dying to do for April!

Please know that if I move forward with any of your ideas, I will give you credit, link to your blog (if you have one), and seek your input as I create the calendar.

So, to all of you who entered, I want to say thank you. Besides inspiring me in general, your suggestions also inspired me to branch out.

Many of the ideas submitted were important but not necessarily universal needs—things like pregnancy loss, being in the sandwich generation, facing cancer, dealing with grief, and so on. A few months ago I created a calendar for Laura Polk, who writes for Christian single moms. (If you’d like to know how to pray for a single mom (or if you’re one), click on over here to sign up for her newsletter and get your copy of it for free.) As I read the contest entries, I decided to expand on that idea and develop a series of undated “30 days of prayer for ___” calendars to make available for people whenever they’re facing a specific situation.  I plan to slowly add to my downloads page with more of these as I can find the time.

In a few weeks, I’ll send the new hope-themed calendar to my newsletter subscribers, so if you’re not already signed up, now would be a good time. (Click here and then subscribe in the purple box in the upper right part of the page. The teal colored “never miss a post” box on the blog page subscribes you to blog posts but not my monthly newsletter.) When you sign up, you’ll have access to the February calendar right away.

Thank you all for the excitement surrounding these calendars, for your passion for the people you’re connected with, and for your belief that prayer matters!

They’ll know we are Christians by our love

READ ON TO GET YOUR FREE FEBRUARY PRAYER PROMPT CALENDAR DOWNLOAD! February is arriving at the perfect time—we all need a little more love in our lives. Maybe you’ve been disillusioned by the meanness on Facebook lately, or disappointed when people in your lives seem to be showing their true colors (and they’re not very ...

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READ ON TO GET YOUR FREE FEBRUARY PRAYER PROMPT CALENDAR DOWNLOAD!

February is arriving at the perfect time—we all need a little more love in our lives. Maybe you’ve been disillusioned by the meanness on Facebook lately, or disappointed when people in your lives seem to be showing their true colors (and they’re not very pretty). Maybe you keep hearing about hate and want to be intentional about choosing love. Perhaps you’ve even wondered how on earth we’ll ever convince another person to want to embrace Christianity when the image put out there by so many doesn’t look like the Christ we’re proclaiming.

I hear ya. Unfortunately, I’m right there with you.

And now it’s nearly Valentine’s Day. Normally I groan a little on the inside at that. I have a wonderful husband but this holiday has always felt like one geared more towards infatuation than permanence, so it hasn’t meant a lot to me (and as a redhead, I’ve never been a big fan of red or pink).

But LOVE? Now that is something I can celebrate. And so it’s an easy step to turn this holiday into one that’s not about two people—but about our True Soul Mate. It’s about God, who taught us about love, practiced love, advocated love, and IS love.

Because one thing I believe is that love is always the answer. I’d rather err on the side of love—give too much rather than not enough. Welcome everyone in and let God change their hearts, not me. The other thing is that people do watch us to see how we treat people and whether we live what we preach. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:37 NLT).

And that’s what I want to do: Love people so completely, so well, so unswervingly that no one can question whether I love God—because that will be abundantly clear. So I put together a prayer prompt calendar for this month that is all about love—about feeling compassion, stretching those boundaries, and loving even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Normally, these monthly calendars are available only to my newsletter subscribers, but in the spirit of (you guessed it!) love, I am offering this to all of you. Print it out, tuck it in your Bible or on your fridge, tape it into your prayer journal, tack it on the wall by your mirror, or distribute copies to your church—whatever you can do to remind yourself to practice love.

ProductGraphic_Feb 17 prayer promptsClick here or on the image above to go to the high-res PDF file. At the top of that page, click the disk icon to save or the printer icon to print. If you enjoy this, check back next month (or subscribe to my newsletter while you’re here) and you’ll get them every month. But if not, that’s okay, too. I just want to share this one with all of you right now.

Pray with me, and then enjoy this song :-).

Dear Lord, when people look at me, I don’t want them to see division or strife or discord. I don’t want them to feel judgment or exclusion or hate. I want them to see You. To feel the kind of love—the power of it, the mercy and kindness and generosity and stability and permanence—that can only come from You. Open my mind and soften my heart so that I can love like You do. And help me to love You more freely, openly, and passionately, because Your Love remains forever. Amen.

How to speak out—without losing all of your friends

Full disclosure: I am wary of offering this advice (for lack of a better word) because I am far from perfect, and I am afraid someone will show me examples of all the times I’ve failed to follow my own guidelines. Offering opinions is a difficult thing to do, especially now with the heightened emotions ...

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Full disclosure: I am wary of offering this advice (for lack of a better word) because I am far from perfect, and I am afraid someone will show me examples of all the times I’ve failed to follow my own guidelines. Offering opinions is a difficult thing to do, especially now with the heightened emotions and the overall weariness people feel for politics and current events. But if you follow me on social media, you probably know that I keep speaking out.

I’ve probably inadvertently offended people along the way, in spite of my good intentions. Through it all, though, I have followed some pretty strict guidelines for my own behavior. I have intentionally worked to keep my comments aboveboard and kind, and I think it is paying off. I keep hearing from people who thank me because even though I disagree with them, I do so with kindness. People have told me thanks for being brave enough to say things they’re afraid to. For not backing down but not being mean. I’ve even been praised for showing restraint. Well, the last one might be a stretch, but I do feel passionately about things and I’m not afraid to speak up when I feel the whole truth isn’t being told—it’s not so much about changing people’s minds as it is that I don’t want people to be unaware, blindly aligning themselves with a position based on in accuracies. Or ignoring a critical component that could change their point of view.

So, keeping in mind that I have certainly failed at times, and that there are other ways to accomplish the same goals, I thought I’d share some of my personal guidelines with you.

Always start with empathy. There is likely a reason for someone’s passion—maybe their child had an abortion and then couldn’t have children, and they mourn the loss of grandchildren, so the idea of someone being pro-choice is abhorrent to them. Maybe someone was sexually abused and they’ll never stop fighting for people to stop blaming the victim. Perhaps they have a friend who is at risk of deportation, and although she came to this country illegally, they don’t want to see her family’s lives disrupted because of the good they’ve also done here. Try to figure out, when possible, what’s below the surface, and give people the benefit of the doubt that they have reason for their passion. Always acknowledge the validity of someone else’s perspective, if you can, or at least their right to believe what they believe. (This means not adding a dig like “you can believe lies if you want.”)

Find common ground. In order to come to a mutual conclusion, we must build it on the same foundation. Granted, that isn’t always possible. But chances are we agree on something. For instance, one day I talked to a super-conservative friend of mine about politics. He and I have always good-naturedly disagreed on all things political. But when I started asking questions—why does this matter to you, how do you think we should accomplish that—I discovered that in most cases we agree on the desired result. We simply disagree on things like whether it’s already being accomplished or not, or who should pay for it, or which way we lean regarding when we’ve done enough and when we’ve enabled less-than-ideal behavior. Seeing that helps me understand his perspective, which makes it feel less personal and offensive. Even if I still disagree.

Say we, not you. This isn’t always appropriate, but if I say, “You don’t pray as often as you should,” it’s an accusation. If I say, “We don’t pray as often as we should,” I’ve included myself, and it becomes more of an observation than a condemnation, bringing people along with me rather than separating myself from them. As I said in the previous point, look for commonalities, not differences. When you can start there—using we, not you—you’re in a good spot.

Stick to the issues. I’ve watched—and I’m sure you have, too—countless arguments online, which quickly devolve from “I see it differently” to “that’s what’s wrong with people like you” to “you are ignorant and stupid.” And from there it just gets uglier and uglier. When someone is attacked or called names, sparks are going to fly. Don’t get derailed. If you’re discussing one thing, stick to that one thing and don’t bring up what someone said or did twenty years ago or every single thing they’ve ever done wrong. It hurts your argument and ensures that they won’t listen.

Know what you want to speak about, what is off-limits, and when to speak. I’m not afraid to say so when a political position does not match the way I read the Bible. I won’t hesitate to offer an alternative point of view when I think I have a fact or insight that might help another. But when I read earlier comments on a post and see that people are getting ugly, or when the conversation turns to something controversial that I’m not comfortable taking a public stance on, I let it go. I try hard not to simply add fuel to the fire. If I don’t have something new to say, I may not say anything. If I know a person’s friends will start a big firestorm in response to my comment, I might send an explanation in a private message to someone who gets me. There may not be a need to say those same words to everyone. However, there have been times when I defended someone, fully aware that what I said would not change the mind of the original poster but might influence others who read it. (Don’t deceive yourself—people are reading. And watching. And wanting to see the best from those of us who call ourselves Christians, even if they’re not Christians. They often don’t see it; what we say and do matters more than you know.)

Don’t stereotype. See the point above about sticking to the issues. When you tell someone they’re part of a bigger group and then say that group is ignorant (or racist or sexist or whatever it is), you’ll offend that individual. I know from personal experience that it’s hard not to take these comments personally, whether they’re meant that way or not. So just remember that when you lump everyone into one category, you’re denying the truth that there are countless nuances of belief and feelings and that there are other factors you may not have considered—which makes it an unfair assessment. It kind of pains me to say this J… but not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or misogynist. It took me a while to figure this out (I offer a blanket apology to all Trump supporters for this) because those were aspects that I could not see past. My first instinct was to think that because the racist or sexist comments and actions didn’t turn them against him, they must be for that. But the reality is, in many cases, there was something about Hillary they couldn’t get past or else they simply believe more in the traditional Republican platform. Every person’s opinion is a result of numerous value judgments (which issues they are passionate about—and why), so everyone will come to a different conclusion. It doesn’t make them bad people.

If you don’t know something, admit it. Don’t keep arguing when you haven’t read the article in question or you are basing your opinions on someone else’s comments—or you truly just don’t know details. The quickest way to defuse an argument is to say, “I wasn’t aware of that,” or, “I know my logic may not make sense to you, but based on what I know, this is where I land.” Lots of the anger out there stems from people professing great insights when it’s clear to others that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Along the same lines, recognize flaws in your arguments or in the actions of fellow supporters. Admitting that there are aspects of an issue you do not support—or that the behavior of others supporting your cause doesn’t line up with what you believe—doesn’t undermine your position but makes it more credible. And opens the door for others to think, hey, maybe I can support this after all. (For instance, I’m a Christian, but some behavior I see feels inconsistent with Christian values. If I refuse to acknowledge that, non-Christians may judge all of Christianity—and me—and not want any part of it. If I admit that I, too, see what is obvious to them, and do it with the least amount of judgment possible, I’m showing people that you don’t have to take the whole package. You can love Christ without doing ___ (fill-in-the-blank). Because the reality I want people to see is that the authentic Jesus, and genuine faith, are so good that it’s worth fighting for—even if the way others do it isn’t always perfect.)

Know that it won’t always be easy and you won’t always be popular. I act like it’s simple, but it’s not. Every comment I make requires careful consideration—and prayer, and wisdom, and discernment. I don’t want to upset people, nor do I like to be attacked. As hard as I try not to, I often take things personally. It hurts and it’s not fun. But when I can look back at my own behavior and feel relatively confident that it is consistent with my personal ethics, that it is done with respect and kindness, and that I have spent my time on issues and positions that are important to me, I see that as a win.

You may have found different ways to navigate these waters. I would love to hear them. I love stories about lessening the divide between people, about bridges that help people cross an intimidating chasm. I love seeing how God can be revealed in surprising places, how relationships can be strengthened through respect, and how we can love each other better through understanding and empathy. I want to maintain the right to speak my opinion and not cause others to feel silenced.

I just want us all to be friends :-). If you’re still reading this, we must be—so thank you.

A prayer for today—because I trust in You, God.

People who follow me on Facebook know my political leanings (and it’s a safe bet that about half of my readers feel differently than I do), but this isn’t about politics. It’s about trusting God when things don’t go as you hoped. Here’s a prayer I posted on Facebook today. Join me in reaching out to ...

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People who follow me on Facebook know my political leanings (and it’s a safe bet that about half of my readers feel differently than I do), but this isn’t about politics. It’s about trusting God when things don’t go as you hoped. Here’s a prayer I posted on Facebook today. Join me in reaching out to God, whether you are happy or sad (or somewhere in between) about today?

Because here’s the truth. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to be defined by hate. I don’t want to feel constantly disappointed. I don’t want to constantly criticize. I also don’t believe in staying quiet when I think something needs to be said. But my brain isn’t sure how to process current events… So I’ll do what I do when my brain doesn’t know how to process… I’ll pray.


Dear Lord,

You and only You know the future. You and only You know the possibilities for the days and weeks and years to come. You and only You have the potential to effect significant positive change and to bring good out of any situation, whether originally intended for good or not. You and only You can forgive us for our mistakes and give us strength to live for You, and in the ways You have commanded.

You are the God who said, in effect, “Let the children come. Let the weak and the poor and the outcast and the lost come to me. Love like I love and the poor will be clothed and the hungry will be fed. Obey your rulers but change the world by sharing my message. Don’t ever give up—because I hear you and answer. I know what you need. I’m with you. And I’m already victorious.”

So, Lord, when words and ideas and fears and disappointments battle for dominance in my brain, I have to lean on You. I have no other choice. When I feel like I know some of the answers—but they don’t match everyone else’s—I turn to You for comfort and hope and wisdom. When I don’t know what is going to happen to my country, my world, my life, I stand firm in my faith. I stake everything on who You are. I have to believe You are in control. I have to believe that You have already prepared answers for the questions I don’t even yet know to ask. I may be struggling with all sorts of things, but thank You that I do not have to struggle with the assurance that You are my God. You are good and merciful and compassionate and just. You are forgiving and redeeming and healing and hoping. And You are the author of love. You are the giver of love. You are the inspiration for love. You ARE love. And there is NO ONE who is not loved by You. Help us, God, to show it, live it, feel it, and believe it.

Amen.

Spiritual makeover challenge

I’m a sucker for before and after photos of makeovers. I love seeing the changes, recognizing how to enhance the beauty that’s already there and bring out what was formerly hidden. As I was trying to fall asleep one night last week, I thought about all the ways I want to change spiritually, and I ...

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I’m a sucker for before and after photos of makeovers. I love seeing the changes, recognizing how to enhance the beauty that’s already there and bring out what was formerly hidden. As I was trying to fall asleep one night last week, I thought about all the ways I want to change spiritually, and I prayed, “Lord, make me over in your image. I need to be transformed by you.”

Then I knew just what to do. I hopped out of bed and sat at my computer and promptly made this list of characteristics that I’m asking Him to make over for me.

That’s the key: not trying to do this ourselves, but leaving it to the Expert. I think we can safely trust that He will answer these prayers because of what the Bible says about us being made in His image:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ~Colossians 3:10

So, here’s my idea: Read through these scriptures with me, and pray these prayers, and download the worksheet at the bottom of the post. Then spend some time reflecting on your spiritual beauty (and imperfections), and go to God in prayer, asking Him to transform You to be more like Him.

Lord, give me Your eyes to see — let me see through eyes of compassion, not ones of judgment; let me see the beauty I might otherwise miss, let me notice the needs all around me

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ~Psalm 119:18

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ~1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Your ears to hear — let me hear cries for justice, pleas of the lonely, calls for help, the needs of the heart that aren’t articulated or even always understood, and let me hear Your voice over all others

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ~John 10:27

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. ~Isaiah 55:3

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. ~Psalm 85:8

Your arms to reach — let me help someone else who’s down, let me embrace someone who feels alone, let me be the safe place someone else needs to come to for shelter

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:2

Your hands to touch — let me treat people gently, competently, surely, and let my hands be instruments of healing

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. ~Mark 1:41-42

Your words to speak let my words build people up, not tear them down; let me share Your truths with kindness and accuracy

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ~Ephesians 4:29

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

Your mind to reason and solve problems help me distill problems and learn to frame them through the lens of your word, and help me formulate unexpected and perfectly appropriate solutions that could have only come from You

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2

Your legs so I can stand firmly, with stability, on a solid foundationstrengthen my faith, planting it more deeply inside me, so that I will not be toppled by strong winds or easily shaken

When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. ~Proverbs 10:25

So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 15:58

The Lord’s plan stands firm forever. His thoughts stand firm in every generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Blessed are the people he has chosen as his own. ~Psalm 33:11-12

Your heart to love without limit show me what love really looks like, and teach me how to say “I love you and,” not “I love you but,” because is it truly love if it comes with criticism or judgment? Open my heart to feel new depths of compassion and to love generously, mercifully, and with

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. ~Psalm 51:10-12

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. ~Ezekiel 11:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ~Matthew 5:43-45

Amen!

P.S. Don’t give up. It may take some time for God to reveal His ideas to you or to give you the chance to practice these traits. But rest assured that He does want to transform all of us to become more like Him. We just have to be willing to let Him! Click here or on the worksheet image below to download the PDF file.

Philippians 1:6 ESV: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

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