7 simple ways to find faith in the chaos

My friend Peggy laughed when she bought me a coaster for my desk that says, “More ideas than time.” It couldn’t be more true. Even when I’m not frantically working to meet a writing deadline or revise a graphic design project, my brain spins in overtime. I have notebooks filled with ideas for blog posts, ...

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My friend Peggy laughed when she bought me a coaster for my desk that says, “More ideas than time.” It couldn’t be more true.

Even when I’m not frantically working to meet a writing deadline or revise a graphic design project, my brain spins in overtime. I have notebooks filled with ideas for blog posts, books I’d like to write, ways to promote them, merchandise to support them. All of this is on top of my full-time job as a graphic design business owner—and my simultaneous careers as a mother and wife. I have hobby supplies calling to me from stacks in the corners, books to read, and the normal detritus associated with living with three teens/young adults is strewn around the house. Even when I have sufficient money, I can’t seem to find the time to pay my bills.

My computer monitor is lined with post-it notes containing lists of things to do RIGHT NOW, plus errands to run this week and appointments to schedule and random to-dos that I move from one list to another and never manage to complete. There are reminders of birthday gifts to buy, printer toner to order, moving dates for my college-age daughter, tuition bills due, calls to make, checks to deposit, cards to send, messages to write.

There’s too much going on to squeeze it all into the tiny squares of my calendar, let alone keep the details straight in my head. The alerts on my phone chime 15 minutes before my son is due at basketball or I’m due at the dentist. My email makes a quiet but distinctive sound that causes me to salivate like Pavlov’s dog—I can’t seem to resist a quick look to see what else I need to do. Even when I can slow down and spend a day alone at home, the noise level in my life is loud.

I want faith to be an important part of my life, but some days there seems to be no room for it because everything else is pushing it out of the way.

However, Jesus told the disciples, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Does that excite you as much as it does me? This means that our faith doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to be present, and from it, great things will come.

It may seem impossible to spend time finding faith amidst the chaos, and I agree, it’s not always easy. But I encourage you to steal moments wherever you can find them to reconnect with God in the jumble of your life. These seven tried-and-true tips revive my faith, no matter how busy I am, and I think they will help you, too.

Be still. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). That’s all it takes. A moment in which to remember. Stop. Breathe deeply. And let yourself be aware that He is right there with you. Take that knowledge with you when you ease back into the day.

Put God first. I’ll confess: I do not set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I can have quiet time with God before my family wakes up. (And I believe that’s okay.) But I do have to mentally commit to putting God first, to spending time talking to Him and learning about Him. When I can do this near the beginning of my day, everything else is a whole lot more manageable and I feel more balanced. Even if I just have five minutes.

Forgive yourself. Right now, ask God to forgive you for being distracted and not paying Him the attention He deserves. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) Now—here’s the harder part—forgive yourself. And then let it go, knowing that God does not hold grudges. With this out of the way, you won’t need to work past the I’m-sorry/I-should-haves when you turn to God to initiate a conversation.

Keep an eye out for God in the chaos. Peace infuses the atmosphere when you slow down and feel God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean He is not also present in the too-cluttered, hectic activities crowding your days. God is with us all the time. Just think how much more meaningful your day will be if you spend it noticing Him. When we see Him, our faith increases, and in turn we focus even more on watching for Him.

Pray without ceasing. Think of it like a radio playing in the background. The music you hear is not always in the forefront of your mind, but it’s a part of everything you do. Practice keeping up a running commentary with God, thanking Him for the blessings you see and the people you encounter. Prayer is the primary way we communicate with God to strengthen our faith. And it’s the kind of soundtrack that can change your perception of the day’s events.

Be present in the moment. When our minds are consumed with upcoming events, we don’t enjoy our current endeavors. For example, when you’re stressed about getting somewhere on time, you miss the casual conversations in the car with your kids or spouse. These moments can reveal what matters to them and strengthen your relationship. So whatever you do, give it your all. It’s smart to dedicate some time to looking ahead—but, whenever possible, grant yourself permission to enjoy the little moments that make up the life God gave you.

Learn to see the good in things. You could complain because you’re too busy. Or thank God for the lifestyle that allows you the financial ability to provide voice lessons for your kids, and the leisure time that makes it possible to watch the high school soccer game. You can complain about the piles of unfolded laundry and stacks of dirty dishes. Or you can thank God for a home and a family and a full life. For having more clothes than you need and enough food to fill your belly. There’s nearly always a way to turn a complaint or a struggle upside down and find the silver lining.

Pray with me? Dear Lord, help me—every single morning—to find faith in the midst of the chaos. Give me the desire and ability to see You, hear You, talk to You, and give thanks to You. And as I do, I pray that I will draw nearer and nearer to You, and that my faith will multiply exponentially as I understand in new, deeper ways that You are everything I ever hoped You would be. And so much more. Amen.

This post originally appeared on Crosswalk.

Dwelling in God’s Sanctuary

(Reposting this piece from a few years ago, in honor of Father’s Day and my amazing Dad.) “The one thing I ask of the LORD—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections 
and meditating in his Temple.
 For he will ...

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(Reposting this piece from a few years ago, in honor of Father’s Day and my amazing Dad.)


“The one thing I ask of the LORD—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections 
and meditating in his Temple.
 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
 he will hide me in his sanctuary.
 He will place me out of reach on a high rock.”
 Psalm 27:4-5

My dad told me about a meditation class he attended a few weeks ago. The instructor asked them to close their eyes and picture the most beautiful mansion they could imagine. She then guided them through the rest of the scene—notice the peak of the mountain in the distance behind it. Look at the sky. And so on.

Afterwards, she said, “Rob, you’re creative. This should be right up your alley. Tell us what you thought about.”

He said, “Well, I started with Downton Abbey. It’s the most beautiful house I can imagine. But then you said mountain and there are no mountains there so you lost me.”

She said, “You should have just gone with that. It’s OK.”

And he said, “Well, I did. I pictured one of my barns, you know, like I like to paint. With the patina of the wood and all that. Because it’s like a sanctuary to me. When I paint it feels like that. I’m just there. My mind isn’t anywhere else. So I pictured that instead.”

That, to me, sums up the beauty in creating art. Finding that place inside, the place where you can quiet your mind and open your heart and breathe. A place where you can dwell, delighting in what you’ve found. A place of safety and of peace.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to paint to find that. It’s available for all of us—whether we’re artists or not—when we do the things we were made to do. Maybe that thing is being an attentive mom, listening with care to an especially long story, even if the phone is ringing. Perhaps it’s wiping down counter tops after spreading peanut butter on bread, content because your family is fed and you find satisfaction in caring for them. Maybe it’s what you feel at the front of a boardroom, when all the managers present are focused solely on you. You might find this peace in the middle of a chaotic classroom as you try to retain control of a math lesson. Or possibly you find that moment with headphones on, typing away at your keyboard as the novel you always wanted to write begins to come to life.

The Bible reminds us that God came to dwell with us, that we are His holy temples. And I believe that when we do the things God made us to do—as hard as it is sometimes to figure that out—that we’re essentially abiding with Him. Delighting in the Lord, meditating in His Temple. It’s where He wants us to be, safe and protected from the cares of the world. Fully alive. Completely in touch with Him.

So today, if things feel out of control, if deadlines threaten to strangle you or chaos overwhelms you, sit down for a moment. Close your eyes. And imagine that place where you can find Him. Touch Him. Open your soul until you can see Him again. And if you can stay there with Him, let yourself. But even if someone or something else is demanding your attention, try to hold on to that connection as you go about your day.

Because wherever He is, wherever you are with Him, it’s the most beautiful place you could possibly imagine.

When God speaks to you—using your very own words

I know what I know… until that moment when I don’t. And in those moments that I no longer know, God often speaks loudest. When I write about my faith, I search the deepest parts of my soul for the purest of truths, the most true of the true things I know. I don’t write ...

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I know what I know… until that moment when I don’t. And in those moments that I no longer know, God often speaks loudest.

When I write about my faith, I search the deepest parts of my soul for the purest of truths, the most true of the true things I know. I don’t write it if I don’t feel it, believe it, know it, and can back it up. And often, the writing comes easy. Not always, but the best words I write are the ones that seem to come from someplace else, the ones that pour out onto the page.

I truly believe what I say. I try to live out my faith with authenticity. I don’t hesitate to admit my failures and hypocrisies. When I struggle, I say so. And yet, I still have times when what I’m living through is too much, when my faith wavers, when anger or doubt surfaces, when I know in my head what to do but my heart feels broken. When it feels as though God has abandoned me, or forgotten me, or just never cared about me in the first place.

My family is facing something now that is devastatingly hard. Heartbreaking and earth-shattering. We’re just at the very beginning of it all, and it will get harder. I don’t mean to be secretive—I will share it all soon—but that’s not what this post is about.

The day after this new journey began, I opened my email to find that a post I’d written nearly a month earlier for a site I contribute to had just gone live. When I wrote it, I knew it to be true. When I uploaded the post, I was certain that I understood and believed and had lived it out.

But then, suddenly, I found that I didn’t know anything anymore. My world was rocked in a whole new way, and I was sitting outside, journal in my lap, trying to figure out how to pray, how to face this, how to have the strength to get through.

That’s when I decided to check my email—because clearly prayer wasn’t working for me. And I came face to face with my own words:

Prayer is the way our souls find peace. It is the one place we can find rest. We can take it with us. We can lean on it and allow it to help us stand strong and firm. We can let prayer soothe our anxieties, declutter our minds, and keep us focused on the big picture—keeping our eyes on Christ. Even if you can’t find the time you think you need to pray.

Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or involved or time-consuming. Think of it as a radio playing in the background. If you can keep the lines of communication open, you will discover that you feel calmer, you remain more centered, and life feels a little less crazy.

People often ask me how they can know when God speaks to them. Whenever I talk about a time in which I believe I heard clearly from God, I see the baffled looks and quizzical expressions. I watch people try to believe me—and I see when they just really aren’t sure. (And that is okay.)

God speaks in a lot of ways—through the Bible, when a scripture opens up inside your mind and you can dive down deeper and deeper into it, wading through layers of meaning and insight.

He speaks through the words of a song, when the radio plays just the right one for exactly that moment in time.

He speaks through the wisdom of friends, the messages of pastors, the blogs of writers, the questions and insights of children. He speaks through secular music and books, through nature and sunsets and science.

He speaks through email or snail mail, sending just the right message through just the right person at just the right time.

He speaks into our spirits, gently placing simple but profound truths into our souls.

He speaks through articles and podcasts, revealing answers to questions we’ve only recently formulated in our minds. Like the time I asked a friend a question about God that I didn’t understand, and I came home to find a link to a podcast in an email newsletter… something made me click on it, and this man (a well-known pastor who I tend to disagree with about a lot of things) gave the first and only direct answer I had ever heard to my question.

And when I’m really lucky, He speaks to me through my own words. Words I barely remember writing, ones that didn’t seem particularly profound or weighty at the time.

So yesterday morning, I read the post I myself had written, and as I remembered what I already knew, tears flowed. My answer was prepared before I even asked the question. Because God knows what’s going to happen. He already knows what I need, and it has been prepared and provided well in advance.

Nothing surprises God. Not the situation you’re going through. Not the way you will react. Not your doubts or anger or fear or rage or heartbreak.

Lord, I am in awe of You.

Lord, I am grateful for You.

I love the way You work, the way You speak, the way You listen.

And even though the news is still devastating, and circumstances have not changed, my heart rejoices.

Because whatever happens, Lord, I celebrate You. The One who knows. The One who speaks. The One who remembers when I do not.

The One who remains faithful, even when I do not.

10 ways to stay sane this summer

I’m a master of excess, at squeezing in one more thing. I buy too many things, but if I rearrange enough times, and get smart about alphabetizing or nesting or arranging by size—or if I buy just the right containers—I can get one more thing neatly put away. I’ve found ingenious ways to use hangers ...

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I’m a master of excess, at squeezing in one more thing.

I buy too many things, but if I rearrange enough times, and get smart about alphabetizing or nesting or arranging by size—or if I buy just the right containers—I can get one more thing neatly put away. I’ve found ingenious ways to use hangers and boxes and drawers for more than they’re meant to be used for. I’ve worked and reworked my bookshelves to hold one more book… and another couple or three… and this one and, oh, that one too… and finally started reading on an iPad because there just wasn’t physical room in my house for more novels, and I could get a whole lot more books in such a compact little digital space.

I do the same thing with my time. There’s always room to squeeze in one more thing… a 15-minute gap here, or down time while the spaghetti is cooking, or a few minutes less of sleep. I can write cards or finish my Bible study or assemble a craft while watching TV. Read books while eating breakfast. Upload daily social media posts for a whole month in one afternoon while I watch a movie with my husband. Condition my hair while I shave my legs. Answer emails from the bathroom. Clean out the fridge while the bagel is toasting, and load the dishwasher while my lunch is cooking in the microwave. (And then reload it to squeeze in four more cups I found scattered around the living room after I thought I was finished.) You know the drill. You do it, too.

Our lives aren’t meant to be so full. And yet, well, summer happens and it often brings even more to do.

If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of the word summer induces stress-related hives. Honestly, my kids are old enough that summers now aren’t all that different for me than the rest of the year. But I think I suffer from PTSD, because summers have usually meant more appointments—camps, summer PE, drop-offs and pick-ups and practices and summer reading and complete chaos. Not to mention kids invading my space. (I work at home, so it’s a big change to go from everyone at school to everyone home, just one room away from me with the TV on, phones vibrating, snacks being consumed, Netflix shows eating up the internet bandwidth, and cars barreling in and out of the driveway.)

Given all the craziness, what would you say if I told you that you also needed to find time to pray?

It’s true, though. Prayer is the way our souls find peace. It is the one place we can find rest. We can take it with us. We can lean on it and allow it to help us stand strong and firm. We can let prayer soothe our anxieties, declutter our minds, and keep us focused on the big picture—keeping our eyes on Christ. Even if you can’t find the time you think you need to pray.

Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or involved or time-consuming. Think of it as a radio playing in the background. If you can keep the lines of communication open, you will discover that you feel calmer, you remain more centered, and life feels a little less crazy.

Here are some tips to help you squeeze in a little more prayer time this summer (or anytime).

  1. Let yourself off the hook. Give yourself grace—permission to be less than perfect and permission not to dwell on your failings. This may not help you find additional time, but it will allow you to use whatever time you have more productively. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up—especially if it takes up time you could spend actually praying.
  2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Maybe now is not the time to start a new reading plan or add two new prayer groups. Don’t give up the things that keep your faith strong, but consider temporarily lowering your goals—or changing them, adapting to your new schedule. Instead of quiet time every morning, shoot for three times a week, or have it after you drop the kids off at swimming lessons.
  3. Find ways to incorporate your kids. Do you enjoy working on your Bible study over a cup of coffee one morning a week? Make a study date of it—have them grab their summer reading and sip on a flavored lemonade or fruity tea alongside you. Or sit at a picnic table with your Bible or journal while they play at the park.
  4. Make a set of keychain prayers. Cut up some index cards (or buy a set of pre-made craft tags) and put them on a keychain. When you find yourself waiting in a pickup line, or killing time in between activities in the car, flip through the names written on the tags and offer up silent prayers.
  5. Try an app like First 5, which helps you start the day with a short devotion and Bible reading before you get out of bed.
  6. Download some podcasts. It’s easy to add them to your phone, and then you can plug in some ear buds and get inspiration from your favorite speakers and pastors while you go for a walk, sit and watch swim lessons, or mow the yard.*
  7. Whenever you have to wait, don’t waste the time—pray. Whether you’re in the checkout line at the grocery, waiting for a train to clear the tracks in front of you, or sitting on the sidelines waiting for a baseball game to begin, offer up a short prayer. Thank God for the life you have, for the people you’re with, for your awareness of His presence. For the sunshine, for the beautiful day, for the purpose in your life. You can pray about anything, but the quickest (and least private) prayers may be ones of gratitude.
  8. Think in terms of prayer symbols. Does your sister love McDonald’s sweet tea? Say a prayer for her whenever you drive by (or through) a Mickey D’s. Is your son a soccer fanatic? Pray for him every time you pick up a cleat or dirty soccer sock. Assign “symbols” to the people in your life, and let those prompt you to pray whenever you see them—whether you’re on the go or watching TV.
  9. Print this free prayer prompt calendar. Put it on your fridge to remind you to pray whenever you open the door for some cool air or to grab a popsicle.
  10. Remember that God is with you, wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing. There may not be room for one more thing on your calendar, but there is always room for Him. Every morning, before you head out, invite Him along for the ride. I promise you, He will say yes.


*I don’t want to be obnoxiously self-promotional, but I’m part of an amazing lineup of women in an online summit scheduled for June 5-8. If I didn’t think it was going to be wonderful, I wouldn’t have said anything :-). The Journey Summit is free if you tune in live, or you can buy an all-access pass to hear all the interviews anytime it’s convenient. Learn more here.

The Fear of Relationship (+ A Special Invite)

I’m thrilled to welcome you to a guest post written by Kelly Balarie. We have something really cool to offer you, but regardless of whether you’re able to participate, I think most of us can relate to the words she’s sharing with us below.   This is my confession to you: I am a stinky ...

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I’m thrilled to welcome you to a guest post written by Kelly Balarie. We have something really cool to offer you, but regardless of whether you’re able to participate, I think most of us can relate to the words she’s sharing with us below.

 

This is my confession to you: I am a stinky friend.

I don’t call people back until at least a week later. I don’t remember birthdays. I get myself spread so thin I rarely reach out like I intend to. I get nervous and run away. I wonder if they are sizing me up in their mind. I consider what they are considering and figure there is no way they could like me. I can only deal with short bursts of time, where I call the shots…

But I am learning.

I am learning, because I am pressing into what scares me: women. Usually, I’d turn myself around and walk the other way from their perfectly aligned necklaces, sweet smelling perfumes and highly organized houses—like they are mosquitoes looking to bite me with their perfection. I think, they’ll: 1. Hurt me 2. Judge me, or 3. Hurt me.

You see where this is going, right?

But, lately, as I’ve pressed into what scares me—women—I’ve noticed something. They don’t bite. In fact, when I draw near to them, God seems to have this way of drawing love out of me. I come home and my husband is all, “You had fun, didn’t you?”

Everything in me wants to get all Negative Nelly and pretend I still don’t like them, but, in reality, I’ve actually grown to love them. This is what happens when you spend time with them. When you really listen. When you ask and when you seek their heart.

You find out they are more than appearance: so many of them care about the heart.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. You see, I just got finished with spending time with 35 amazing authors and love-forgers in the world. I chatted with them about home life, work life, worries, fears, marriage, sex, love, friendship, the unexpected and the unfair. We talked about every fear under the sun. I laughed and I cried. I related to their words. I shared their feelings. I understood their stories. I learned a whole ton of stuff without it feeling hard to digest or unsettling to my stomach.

These 35 fear fighters all make up The Journey Together Summit. Spending time with these women changed me.

Rather than judge them, I started to grow fond of them.

Rather than thinking they were better than me, I saw they were just like me.

Rather than believing I was alone, I learned, we are all in this together.

Life is not easy. Friendships are hard. But, when you get a helping hand from a woman who has lived the pain you are walking, something clicks. It clicks like a bracelet reminding you of the ongoing nature of God’s love and it’s tight hold on you.

As I conducted interviews with these women, it was like each one extended me a bracelet. Their stories made me believe I could press on, they reminded me of faithfulness, they lifted me up in God’s Word, they drove home truths and they helped remove debilitating thought patterns of fear. I am so grateful for them. I love them for this.

I believe you will love them too—and find new courage, and drive into what fear is stopping you and come alive in your own way. Why not see what happens? This event is free. Sign up today for The Journey Together Summit as we talk about fighting your fears from June 5-8th.

There are topics for everyone, including: unmet expectations, an unfair life, shame from the past, uncertainty of the future, worry, anxiety, feeling like a bad mom, marriage, intimacy, work issues and so much more.

Can’t attend then? No problem. You can get the All Access Pass giving you availability to all the sessions, at any time.

If you feel alone, down or debilitated in life, I am confident, these women, like they did when I talked to them, will give you a breath of fresh life.


 

Now it’s me again, the other Kelly. I just want to thank Kelly Balarie for including me in this line-up. I’m not kidding or being falsely humble. I cannot believe I’m seeing my name alongside some of the other authors who are included. This is when you know God is working in spite of you. I’ve talked about this before, but I learned that one way to follow God is to stop dreaming up plans and asking Him to bless them. Instead, look around and see where God is already at work, and then get on board.

That’s how I feel about this. God is already working. He is changing lives and drawing people to Him through the words of this amazing group of people. I’m delighted to get to walk alongside them and watch and see what God is busy doing. I hope you’ll come along with us. This isn’t just a sales pitch—I really mean it. And I hope you’ll be part of this.

 


About Kelly Balarie Author and speaker Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/. Don’t forget to take part in The Journey Together Summit.

No matter what… Grace.

Do you really understand grace? I don’t. But oh, how much beauty there is in the sliver of comprehension that I can wrap my head around. I recently read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and it transformed my faith. Well, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. It validated the beliefs I’d already formed and pushed ...

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Do you really understand grace? I don’t. But oh, how much beauty there is in the sliver of comprehension that I can wrap my head around. I recently read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and it transformed my faith. Well, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. It validated the beliefs I’d already formed and pushed me even farther in that direction.

I think grace is one of those words we throw around in the church and don’t really think about.

It’s often defined as unmerited favor, but even that us misleading. It’s true that it’s not dependent on us; our merits don’t qualify us for it.

But it’s also true that in the very act of offering so much to us, God makes us worthy.

We’re not qualified, but God loves us enough to give us absolutely everything we need for all of eternity: His love. His forgiveness. His mercy. His compassion. His transforming power.

Grace means that God loves us no matter what. He calls to us, woos us, pursues us, transforms us.

It means that there is nothing else we could do that would make God love us more than He already does.

It also means there is nothing we could ever do that will make Him love us less. There is no way to stop Him from loving us. There is no way to earn more—He’s already offered it all. Every last bit of it. It’s all held out to us, His Almighty arm fully extended.

He doesn’t love me more after that really powerful quiet time I have than He did before I sat down to spend time with Him. That floors me.

No matter what we do, His love remains the steady, life-giving force that defines us.

When we make derogatory comments and participate in ugly political debates, He loves us.
When we crumple on the couch, surrounded by tissues and consumed by tears, He loves us.
When anger consumes and lust ignites.
when our brains work for our benefit and when they turn against us.
When white-hot jealousy and righteous indignation bloom, even then, God loves us thoroughly and completely.

When grief topples and faith wobbles
and addiction beckons
and overspending prevails
and children rebel
and bodies die too soon
and terrorists destroy
and marriages combust.

Even when hope is but a teensy spark, an ember about to extinguish itself,
how wide and long and high and deep is the love God has for us.

God’s love remains when families crumble
and teenagers fumble
and consequences loom
and purpose is thwarted and bank accounts dwindle and temptations seduce and wounds break wide open and despair devastates and malignancies lurk and darkness holds our secrets and when light reveals them.

And you know what else? His love consumes and changes and colors our lives when things are okay, too. When we’re bored but steady, when we’re lonely but not alone, when we’re serving the least of these with fervor and compassion, when we’re leaning on Him for strength and sheltered in the wings of His love.

When we’re standing at the mountaintops rejoicing, and when we’re kneeling at an altar, and when we’re studying the words He’s spoken and when we rest quietly in His presence.
When we’re at the extremes, and when we linger in the middle.
When we frequent places we don’t belong and behave in ways that aren’t like us at all.
And when we behave in ways that are too much like us, and we wonder if we’ll ever be able to change.

When we wonder how we could ever stand before God with our heads held high, and when we fall on our faces in fear and trembling and awe.

When we’re unforgiving and stubborn
When we’re gracious and yielding
When we believe we deserve what God offers, and when we understand the fundamental nature of our flaws and inadequacies and failings.
When we write Him love letters, and when our words fail.
When we feel Him, and when we do not.
When we love Him back, and when we push Him away.

Even then, especially then, God’s love prevails.

That is the sheer beauty, the mind-blowing simplicity, the overwhelming gratitude and unbelievable truth of God’s freely-given grace.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:14-19, NIV

3 things Jesus didn’t pray for

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus gives us instruction about how to live, serve God, and love others. And of course, he tells us to pray. We know prayer is important because the Bible says that Jesus prayed regularly and Paul tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we study the New Testament, we ...

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Throughout the Gospels, Jesus gives us instruction about how to live, serve God, and love others. And of course, he tells us to pray. We know prayer is important because the Bible says that Jesus prayed regularly and Paul tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we study the New Testament, we discover that, with the exception of a whole chapter in John (chapter 17), we aren’t privy to many of Jesus’ actual words spoken in prayer.

To put it simply, prayer is communication with God, and none of us is exempt. Even Jesus did not neglect his relationship with the Father, and communication is essential to build a strong relationship.

In Matthew 6:5, Jesus says “when you pray” (not if) and then shares an example of how to pray. On the other hand, since He tells us the Father knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8), why pray at all? Because it is in these conversations that we build a relationship and come to understand the nature of God.

Jesus was known for turning things around, for giving surprising and unexpected answers that were contrary to expectations. Even if you’ve been praying for years, you may learn something new by looking not at what Jesus did pray but at what he did not pray for.

He didn’t pray for provision. 

If I told you Jesus prayed for a nicer home, a job promotion, or a luxurious car, you wouldn’t believe me. Neither did He ask God to stretch what money He and his disciples had. Yet how often do our prayers center on material things? Is it wrong to ask God to help you pay your bills? No, but don’t be surprised if God instead tries to teach you about living within your means and being content with what you have. When Jesus taught His followers the Lord’s Prayer, he told them to ask for their daily bread—basic essentials, what they needed at that moment to survive—but nothing beyond that.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25, NIV)

Instead, Jesus trusted that God (and His people) would provide everything He and the disciples needed. He understood that by following his instructions about sharing our possessions, feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor, we will have enough. Instead of asking for more, Jesus gave thanks for what He already had. He blessed the food in front of Him, and He thanked God for hearing Him and giving wisdom to those who believed in Him.

He didn’t pray for the sick. 

When someone came to Jesus for healing, He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t pray, but He simply put His hands on them and healed them. He surprised people by starting with what was on the inside—the state of their hearts—and then He moved from the spiritual to the physical. After forgiving them of their sins or declaring that their faith made them whole, Jesus healed their bodies.

We can learn an important lesson from this—prayer must not replace action. Just as Jesus often withdrew by Himself to pray, so should we. He teaches us that it’s ideal to pray in private and not for show. But after Jesus prayed, when He encountered someone in need, He acted. He didn’t use prayer as reason or excuse to delay. (How often have we said, “Let me pray about this and I’ll get back to you?”) Neither did He denounce the sick for a lack of faith. He recognized the faith it took to ask for help, and He responded with compassion. Immediately.

“But He was Jesus! Of course He could heal! How am I supposed to do this?” you may wonder. I’ll answer you in Jesus’ own words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” (John 14:12, ESV). His instructions were specific: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8, NLT)

He didn’t pray about tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself consistently asking for revelation, for God to show me His plan, to give me some kind of insight into where I am going so I know what to do to get there. But here’s the thing: God doesn’t have to tell us what He is doing, and sometimes we might be better off not knowing. If we can learn to listen for God’s voice—if we can develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer—then we will hear and respond when He nudges us in a certain direction.

Jesus already knew God’s plan for His life, but still He approached God and asked if there was any other way it could be played out. It’s alright to tell God what you think you want. But then, in humility and full obedience, even when facing crucifixion and suffering, Jesus ended His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane by asking for God’s will to be done.

Instead of relying on our own knowledge or ideas, God wants us to depend on Him. God doesn’t necessarily want us to be enlightened about every step of His plan, but instead to lean on Him daily for help. To turn to Him with each step we take. To understand that He can be trusted with all of it because He knows what He is doing. And not to worry but to live in the present.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

Praying like Jesus

The things Jesus prayed—and the ones He didn’t pray for—provide guidance for our prayers. But just because Jesus didn’t pray for something doesn’t mean that we should not. Although Jesus was fully man, He was also fully God. He was privy to God’s plan in a way that we are not. He didn’t need faith because He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who God is and what He could do. To pray like Jesus, we need to nurture those seeds of faith that God has given us—trusting and giving thanks for what has been provided, spending time in prayer so that we are ready to act when the time comes, and leaning on God to help us live in His will in each moment. Our days should begin and end with prayer—bookends to the miraculous answers and blessings we’ll see as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

This post was originally written for Crosswalk.

The Journey Together Summit

Friends, Today, I am overjoyed to share a FREE online event I’m confident you’ll love: The Journey Together Summit, June 5-8. I’m joining hands with 34 leading authors—some really amazing women—with the sole mission of helping you discover new bravery. Whether you desire to be brave at home or at work, in your marriage or with ...

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Friends,

Today, I am overjoyed to share a FREE online event I’m confident you’ll love: The Journey Together Summit, June 5-8.

I’m joining hands with 34 leading authors—some really amazing women—with the sole mission of helping you discover new bravery. Whether you desire to be brave at home or at work, in your marriage or with your children, in ministry or in the mess of the day, dealing with a surprising life or just organizing it—this is the event for you. There is something for everyone with over 34 topics of fear covered (wait ’til you see them all!).

We’re also featuring an awesome line-up of authors who will give you practical, relevant and biblical tips for stepping into peace, purpose, and passion.

This is an event you won’t want to miss! Afraid you can’t “be there”? Don’t worry!

The 2017 Journey Together Summit is a FREE, VIRTUAL online conference!

You don’t have to travel—we bring the interviews to you! They’ll be broadcast over the web, so you can watch from the comfort of home.

What’s more? It’s FREE. Check out the lineup and see the agenda here. I can’t believe I get to be part of this.

 

So what are you waiting for? Join me and 34 other experts at the 2017 Journey Together Summit. Grab your FREE ticket today! And, if you can’t attend June 5-8, we have you covered. Get the All Access Pass and you’ll be able to watch the videos post-event.

I can’t wait to see you there! And I hope you’ll invite a bunch of your friends to join you. It’s a great way to initiate meaningful conversations and share this journey we’re on together.

Kelly

P.S. You can download my brand new e-book on prayer — for free — when you subscribe to my newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Revealing the Truth—interview

Just wanted to share this with you, if you have a little spare time and want to hear us talk about prayer. Rabbi Eric Walker is a great interviewer and a talented speaker—check out his show, Revealing the Truth, on Igniting a Nation right here....

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Just wanted to share this with you, if you have a little spare time and want to hear us talk about prayer. Rabbi Eric Walker is a great interviewer and a talented speaker—check out his show, Revealing the Truth, on Igniting a Nation right here.

Prayer for the mom without a mom

I wrote this last year, but it seemed to resonate with a lot of people, so I wanted to share it again. Love to all of you who can relate, and praying that you can find the joy again. xo Dear Lord, Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one ...

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I wrote this last year, but it seemed to resonate with a lot of people, so I wanted to share it again. Love to all of you who can relate, and praying that you can find the joy again. xo


Dear Lord,

Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer.

It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels like my mom should be. When, even after several years, I feel lost… adrift… permanently damaged, even as I go about my days. I’m not depressed. But I miss her. I feel perpetually lonely without her.

On a day like today, all I can think about is what my mom did for me. How she—even through her criticisms—was my unconditional place. My biggest supporter and strongest cheerleader. How she saw what was bad, misguided, or just plain wrong in my actions—and didn’t hesitate to say so—because she believed I was capable of so much more. Because she thought I was so much better than that.

I wonder now—when I rebelled, did it hurt her the way my own kids hurt me?

Did she stand firm in her opinions anyway, simply because there was no other choice? Because she had to be the mom she knew I needed, rather than the one I thought I wanted?

Did she lie awake at night, wondering if she was doing right by her kids?

Did she fume all day when I yelled at her unjustly?

And even so, did she defend me, instinctively, against any and all criticisms?

Did she mourn over her inability to protect me from people who would hurt me, injure my opinion of myself, break my heart?

I’m certain she did. As a teen, I was oblivious to that. As a parent myself, I now understand her better. Lord, You gave me wonderful mom, and I’m so grateful. And You’ve blessed me with remarkable, amazing children. So why do I feel more like crying than rejoicing?

Because I fully recognize all that I lost. All that she was to me. All that a mom should be to her child. And I’m afraid I can’t live up. I’m afraid I’ve already failed irreparably. I’m afraid my kids will never understand the depths of my love for them. My desperation to shield them from all that could harm them. My unlimited hopes and aspirations for them. They may never understand how deeply I feel the things that hurt them. Or how much I believe in them.

Maybe they’ll get it when they have children of their own.

Maybe someday they’ll cling to You when they realize they don’t have control over their own kids’ lives. Maybe they’ll live in awe of a God who loves us with a Father’s love. Maybe they’ll understand that we are forever connected, whether we’re both on this earth or not. Maybe they’ll grasp the reality that parenting well involves huge risk. It involves making unpopular decisions and hard choices and knowing that we can’t fix everything. It requires being hands-off sometimes when our instincts tell us to cling tight. It consists of a love so great that it isn’t changed by circumstances, actions, achievements—or by disappointments or failures. Our hearts are forever tethered to each other.

Lord, as I write this, I feel my heart loosening. My gratitude welling up. My sadness is still there but not bringing me down… instead, it’s lifting up my head, directing my sight towards You. Because I do have reasons to celebrate. Reasons so much greater than flowers and gifts or the perfect card.

I have You. And I had her (and will always have her, even if she’s not here). And I have my kids.

And I do have joy… in spite of the sadness. But on this day, with Your help, I will let joy prevail. Thank You, Lord.

Amen.

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