Color me confused

Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19 Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, ...

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Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, but there are some pieces that I like, just because I do. On a gut level, judging solely by emotion, something in them resonates with me.

But some pieces — well, it takes me back to my college honors humanities class, you know, the one at 1:00 in the afternoon during winter quarter, right after lunch, when the warm classroom and full stomach and last night’s all-nighter would catch up with me and I didn’t stand a chance. But on the rare occasion when I could stay awake, I was frustrated. How am I supposed to know that this author wrote his satirical essay in response to the politics of the day or that he composed this poem in response to the loss of his entire family to the plague? Why does a red hat have to mean anything besides that it’s a red hat? Did the author intend for all the symbolism we’re now studying, or is it just something made up by literature teachers everywhere?

In other words, I sure could’ve used a translator in that class. And that’s what I think occasionally as I stare at a piece of art, wondering what on earth qualified it to be placed in a museum. If you’re right there with me, don’t feel bad for your confusion or uncertainty. The art is simply speaking a language we don’t understand.

Language is designed to help us communicate, but sometimes it has the opposite effect.

Look back, all the way to the Tower of Babel, when God used language to separate us. In today’s high-tech society, global communication issues have been more or less solved, but in our towns, communities, schools, churches, and even on Facebook, language can be a giant barrier. Words of judgment, division, separation, accusation — of course those things push people away. But so do many innocuous-seeming words used by well-meaning, sincere believers.

On my walk… we must die daily… I’m broken… covered by the blood… I crucified my old man and put on my new man… feeding on the word… born again… I’ve been delivered… God has brought me to the Promised Land… I’ve been to the mountaintop… victory march… is she showing any fruit?

I confess, I’ve used Christianese myself. Sometimes the jargon just seems easier — it’s the shorthand we use among others who share our beliefs, simple phrases that communicate profound meanings. But here’s the danger: it can make other people feel like they’re not in the club. It becomes a tool for exclusion, not inclusion. Instead of sharing your testimony, you may have created a stumbling block, another way for someone to doubt their faith (I don’t know what she’s talking about; I’ve never felt that before; my faith must not be real or right; who are you to decide if I’m ‘saved’?).

As believers, we’re all looking at the same things: The same Bible. The same miracle-working God. The same Savior. But we’ve had different experiences. Different expectations. Different issues and prejudices and hurts and lives. Because of this, the same words won’t work for everyone — the one telling the story or the one listening. By all means, use whatever words you have to tell people about the wonderful God you serve. I’m not suggesting that you stop. But watch for eyes glazing over, people shifting in their chairs, glancing at their watches.

What people want — in art, in relationships, in their faith — is authenticity. Understanding. Connection. Something that will draw them in, not push them away. Something real, something true, something that will resonate with them at a gut level, way beyond intellectual understanding but with deep emotion. Something they can understand without a translator.

#HonorAllMoms—and May prayer prompt calendar

Today’s post is written by Sarah Philpott, an online friend of mine who posted here once before. When I held a prayer prompt calendar contest, Sarah approached me about designing a calendar for the month of May to recognize all the women for whom Mother’s Day brings sadness rather than the expected joy. I was completely ...

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Today’s post is written by Sarah Philpott, an online friend of mine who posted here once before. When I held a prayer prompt calendar contest, Sarah approached me about designing a calendar for the month of May to recognize all the women for whom Mother’s Day brings sadness rather than the expected joy. I was completely on board, because after I lost my own mom, I’d had a similar experience. I’d rather cry and go off on my own than “celebrate” on that day—even though I have three kids who I love with all my heart. Sometimes the pain overshadows the joy. And sometimes, people aren’t in a position to feel joy because the reminder of their loss is too great.

I’ll stop talking now so you can hear from Sarah, but don’t forget to download the prayer prompt calendar here or on her website.


Mother’s Day was celebrated in a big way where I grew up. As a child, I’d sit alongside my family in the slick wooden pew and gaze at the fetching flower arrangements crowding the floor of our sanctuary.  Roses, peonies, and spring blooms sat ready to be awarded to the ladies of my small Southern Baptist church.

Ms. Nita, smartly dressed in a pastel dress and a Sunday-go-to-church hat, always seemed to be in charge of the program. After we sang from the hymnal, the kids were beckoned to retrieve a bundle of roses from a basket and encouraged to hand the blooms to beaming mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. After the hugs ended, Ms. Nita took to the center stage and said, “Would all Mothers please stand?”

My mother and grandmother would rise and stand amongst the females of my community. It was like a battalion of matriarchs. Then, the ceremony of awards began. We’d quickly find out who was the oldest mom, who was the youngest mom, and who was the mom with the most children. This tradition of honoring mothers is still one of my fondest memories of my childhood.

But it wasn’t until I was an adult, sitting in church on Mother’s Day fresh from the heartache of my first miscarriage, that I realized how many women actually had hurting hearts on Mother’s Day.

I sat recollecting my childhood and recalled how at my old church the mother with the most living children was awarded one of the biggest and most beautiful bouquets.  The congregation always erupted in applause for this dear soul who had her hands full.

But now, with a babe in Heaven and one in the church nursery, it struck me as an odd banner of honor. I realized that beneath smiles many women silently mourn on Mother’s Day. I instantly thought of my mother-in-law. She has five children. But only three are living. Jesse died at the age of two and Lauren at the age of twenty. Then I thought of my mother. She has three children. But only two of us are living. A gravestone in the church cemetery only marks one tiny soul, who was stillborn. Then the face of a friend, who wanted nothing more to be a mother, came to mind.  Infertility had robbed her of the chance of becoming a mother and finances had prevented her from adopting. She too hurt on this special day. It made me realize that these sweet women—and those just like them who had endured the death of their own children or a dream that never came true, were women who also deserved an extra special bouquet.

My grief opened my eyes to the invisible grief that many women bear on Mother’s Day. We often forget these brave women, don’t we?

But we shouldn’t.

Mother’s Day is still one of my favorite days of the year, and it should be celebrated with unbridled jubilation, breakfast in bed, and homemade cards.

And I love how, at Ms. Nita’s gentle encouragement, my childhood church always collectively gave a big applause to mothers.  Mothers should receive a standing ovation.

But we should expand our celebration of Mother’s Day by showering love and support to all mothers—including those who view Mother’s Day as a stark reminder of what doesn’t exist. Each year, in the United States alone, 1 in 160 deliveries end in stillbirth, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, 3,500 babies under the age of 1 die, and 1 in 8 couples experience infertility. Let’s stand in solidarity as individuals and as the church to #HonorAllMoms this Mother’s Day.

Let’s also set aside the month of May to pray and encourage all sorts of women—those who have a baby to hold in their arms, those who do not; those who wanted to be a mom but never got to be, and those who were placed into that role by circumstance; children who have lost their moms and moms who have lost their children.

I think Ms. Nita would want all these special women to have a beautiful bloom.

“After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Christian Dior


SARAH PHILPOTT, PhD lives in Tennessee on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (and one little baby!) and is farmwife to her high-school sweetheart. An award-winning writer, Sarah has contributed to academic books, scholarly journals, and outlets such as the Huffington Post. Her book, Loved Baby: 31 Devotions for Helping you Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, will be published in October 2017 by Broadstreet Publishing. Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway. Visit allamericanmom.net where she writes about life on the farm and cherishing life in joy and sorrow.

 

The beauty of playing with prayer

Is this art, or is it just play? This particular image was made by melting crayons and letting them run across the page in different directions. (And then they turned it upside down — what a great idea.) Sounds like play to me. But it’s also a kind of art. Maybe it doesn’t require extraordinary ...

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Is this art, or is it just play? This particular image was made by melting crayons and letting them run across the page in different directions. (And then they turned it upside down — what a great idea.) Sounds like play to me. But it’s also a kind of art. Maybe it doesn’t require extraordinary skill, and possibly you have no interest in making an attempt to copy it. I certainly can’t profess that I am dying to melt crayons in the name of art.

But what I do like is that someone wasn’t afraid to try something different. They used a common drawing tool in a completely new way.

As adults, I think we overthink things, and we’re afraid to look stupid. But give a group of young kids in an art studio or classroom, and you probably won’t see them freeze when you hand them a blank piece of paper. Probably they’ll grab it out of your hand, quick. So they can start experimenting.

What happens when I put a blob of yellow paint on top of the blue square I already painted? What happens if I tilt my paper? Hold my brush like this? Push it instead of pull it? Dip this sponge in it and randomly blot parts of the paper? Swipe through it with my finger? My whole hand? What happens when I paint over paint that’s already dry? Does the paint run down the page if I use too much water? What if I don’t rinse my brush out between colors? What if I paint with the wrong end of the brush?

Everything I know about prayer has come from experimenting — and observing. When a friend told me she’d prayed for two hours one night, I turned around and went to God and said, I don’t get it. What is there to pray about? Don’t you know everything? And then one day I tried it. And two hours flew by. I wouldn’t have believed that until I tried it. (I’ve also had times when five minutes seemed to last forever.)

I’ve watched people dance in the aisles. Kneel at the altar, sobbing — or laughing. Genuflect as they duck into a pew. Bow silently in the back row of a church. Circle round a hurting friend in her living room. I’ve squeezed the hand next to me in circle prayers, signaling that I’m done and the next person can pray, and I’ve prayed alone in the shower, and while driving, and in line at the grocery (though those prayers tend to be ones asking for patience so I don’t strangle the person in front of me who’s paying with five different types of payment and has three separate orders and the cashier is going off duty so she has to count out her change before the next one logs in and I have to be somewhere in five minutes).

OK, so I digress. And I’ve now proven to you just how desperately I need prayer.

I’ve recited The Lord’s Prayer. Read Scripture, aloud and silently. Written my own prayers. Read those written by others. Cried great big heaving wordless sobs. And closed my eyes tighter when I’ve gotten uncomfortable with the way someone else is praying — which is when my prayers switch to “Help me understand. Forgive me for judging.”

The point is, I’ve given myself permission to play around. It doesn’t mean I don’t take prayer seriously, and it doesn’t mean I’m holier than you or anyone else. It just means I believe it’s OK to experiment. And it’s acceptable to have fun. It’s fine if one type of prayer doesn’t really fit you, or if the way you pray doesn’t match that of anyone else that you know. It’s all right to learn from watching someone else or to try something you’ve never seen or heard before.

Don’t worry if you have doubts about the effectiveness or veracity of a particular approach. After all, everything created on a canvas is not art. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth experimenting a little. You’ll never really know what you’re able to do until you try.

So won’t you? Try something new? Meditate on a prayer, poem, or Bible verse. Try writing out your prayers, in a journal or as a list — and consider sending a friend the prayer you prayed for her. Talk out loud if you’re normally silent. Kneel in silence if you’re normally vocal. Recite a liturgical prayer if that’s not your usual style. Listen to gospel music, or contemporary rock, or whatever it is you don’t normally listen to. Stay home one Sunday to pray alone if you’re usually busy and distracted at church, or if your faith is more private, consider attending a new church. Visit a church that worships differently from yours. Pray for each friend and family member as you scroll through your phone contacts. Just try to keep an open mind.

The beauty of it is, you can’t mess this up. From God’s point of view, any attempt you make is a beautiful, courageous thing.

A genuine work of art.

How to worship when you’re not in church

Around the time my husband and I were married (25 years ago), we both felt the pull to attend church. Until then, it had never been part of my regular routine—I’d always preferred sleeping in on Sundays—but I discovered, to my surprise, that I loved going to church. My only complaint? I wished there were ...

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Around the time my husband and I were married (25 years ago), we both felt the pull to attend church. Until then, it had never been part of my regular routine—I’d always preferred sleeping in on Sundays—but I discovered, to my surprise, that I loved going to church. My only complaint? I wished there were some way to carry that feeling with me when I went home. I remember sitting on the end of my bed one morning after we came home, the songs repeating endlessly in my mind, feeling a longing for something more.

I browsed the gospel and hymn cassette tapes in the music section of various department stores and tried to pick out titles that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t find anything similar to the songs we sang. So I randomly picked out some tapes, eagerly plugged them into my car stereo, and felt disappointed when I recognized nothing. The tapes made their way into the garage sale pile, and I was left, once again, wanting something I couldn’t define.

At that time, I did not know that there was a kind of faith that went beyond the walls of a church. I didn’t realize that there was so much more to faith than showing up for an hour on Sundays. Nor did I know that I could have any kind of relationship with God, let alone one that sustained me minute by minute, giving me strength and clarity and guiding my steps. I had no idea that I could live my life in a state of worship. Once I learned that it was possible, it changed my faith for good.

Yet I think there are a lot of people with similar experiences to the ones I described, who haven’t witnessed examples of people living a life of worship but feel a vague hunger for something they can’t explain. No matter how strong your faith is, no matter whether it plays a dominant role in your life or a tiny one, the reality is that we were made to worship God. Sounds simple, right? But the truth is that our concept of worship may be incomplete and limited. When we expand our ideas about worship, we will begin to see God more clearly. We’ll realize He is present all the time, and we’ll discover a sense of fulfillment that is deeper than we imagined it could be.

Romans 12:1 serves as a great guide to how to worship, even when you’re not in church. In this verse, Paul urges us, “in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” 

In many churches, we’ve gotten in the habit of referring to the song portion of a service as “worship,” but in reality, true worship isn’t confined to what happens at church, nor is it about the music. In fact, worship is even better when you bring it into your daily life, letting God flow through you and around you as you do your ordinary, everyday tasks. By taking this verse apart, we can discover how to let your whole life reflect a state of worship.

In view of God’s mercy. In order to accept God’s promise that when we believe we belong to Him forevermore (even after death), we must first recognize our need for what He offers. When we see the enormity of our sin, we understand the extent of the sacrifice Jesus made—willingly—on our behalf. When we grasp that there are no limits to God’s mercy, it changes the way we interact with others. We see that what we’ve been given is special, but it’s not exclusively ours.

The same love and forgiveness and acceptance is available to anyone who wants it. Because of this, we are able to act with mercy towards others, and when we do so, we’re glorifying God. We’re acting in a state of worship.

Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Worship isn’t just an abstract state of mind. Serving God and bringing glory to God are done through our actions, by living a life that represents the truth of God. It’s about revealing the character of God and showing His love to others.

Ask God to help you behave in ways that exemplify His character and portray His message of acceptance and forgiveness and kindness. When you act as His hand extended towards others in need—by giving, by helping, by listening, by encouraging—you are offering your body as a living sacrifice. It’s not a sacrifice unless you give up something valuable, but this kind of sacrifice brings with it great rewards.

As you build relationships with others, you will find opportunities to share what God is doing in your life. And as you see more of Him, your faith will deepen, and you’ll find yourself worshipping God more and more often.

Holy and pleasing to God. Fill your mind with what is good and pleasing and holy (Philippians 4:8). It doesn’t have to be labeled “Christian” in order to be uplifting and edifying—but you do need to guard your mind and heart against temptations because there is no one else who will do this for you.

For me, what this looks like is listening to contemporary Christian rock more often than any other music—not because the other is inherently bad, but because if I’m going to have song lyrics stuck in my head, I want them to be good. I want to dwell on something inspiring, to meditate on something hopeful, and to wrestle with complex truths. I read all kinds of books, but I’ve learned to shy away from gratuitous violence and demeaning relationships in the fiction I read, because I don’t like the way that makes me feel.

The truth is we can find God in non-religious movies, books, and activities if we set our mind on Him and remember to watch for Him. Each of us has to decide what to feed ourselves to bring out the best in ourselves, and then to turn it around to offer it to God.

This is your true and proper worship. It’s not enough to simply like God; the truest worship is when we go all in. This extravagant love and extreme submission includes wanting whatever God thinks is best for you, in all areas of life.

We have a human tendency to compartmentalize—this box is for church, and that one is for the other parts of life. Make a conscious effort to keep the boxes wide open and allow them to overflow into other areas. Be open about how you see God in your life, but don’t bash someone over the head with your belief. Simply live it, authentically.

Let your life be your worship. Offer it as a gift to the God who has given you so much. That’s the most powerful kind of testimony, and the most beautiful kind of worship—whether you’re in church or not.

Originally written for Crosswalk.

Church and the power of a shared story

One day during a writing workshop I attended, the teacher (a well-known author) assigned us the task of sitting for 30 minutes in three very different locations and writing down every single detail we observed. That evening, after we shared the details with each other, she told us that now they belonged to us. What ...

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One day during a writing workshop I attended, the teacher (a well-known author) assigned us the task of sitting for 30 minutes in three very different locations and writing down every single detail we observed. That evening, after we shared the details with each other, she told us that now they belonged to us. What the other women observed became part of my repertoire, and my observations became part of theirs. Now I can take these ideas and absorb them, hold them close, make them part of my story — weave them into the fabric of who I am.

There are a million reasons I could give for getting involved in a church — not because you have to be in church to have faith or practice it, but because it is the ideal place to learn from other people who are, at least in theory, trying to live out the faith we share. No, the people there won’t be perfect. They most likely will fail miserably, as we all do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. It also doesn’t mean you have to go early for Sunday school or sign up for all the Bible studies — although you can. It just means that it’s a good place to observe. Open your eyes. Listen. Talk. Share. Ask questions. See how someone clings to God in the darker moments of her life — or notice how she doesn’t — and watch how that changes her. Don’t hide your secrets. If you want to have a perfect little life on Facebook, be my guest. But somewhere in your life find people with whom you can be real.

Because it is in the sharing, in the seeing, that you find the knowing. And it is the knowing that strengthens you and develops a faith that is lasting. When you look through the eyes of faith and notice how God works, it will change what you see when no amount of money-juggling will prevent overdraft fees. It will help you distinguish Him when your nephew responds again to the siren song of his addiction, or your child fails another class, or a herniated disk cancels your golf vacation. It will help comfort you when the biopsy shows that you really did spend too much time in the sun or that there’s no getting around it, you have to seriously change your diet because your health has hit critical stages. No matter how much you love chocolate. Or salt. Or bacon. He will guide you when your reputation tanks, or your investments do, or when the tanker jackknives on the interstate and kills a four-year-old child. It will sustain you when you can’t please a boss or seem to make a smart decision or salvage your marriage. It’s not dependent on you — because the Bible tells us, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NLT)

Sweet and precious Lord, help us not to overlook the gifts you’ve given us, the ones surrounding us in the pews at church (or surrounding us in life, if we don’t go to church). Teach me, Lord, to see You, honor You, pay attention to You. Grant me Your unfathomable peace. And thank You for putting people in my life to walk alongside me. Help me learn from them, no matter what I’m going through. Amen.


P.S. If you don’t go to church, please don’t think I’m criticizing you. We each have to find our own way and our own place and I’m glad that my blog is part of your spiritual life. In fact, I wrote an article called Should You Feel Shame for Missing Church?, and the short answer is no :-). But I have been forever changed—in a good way—by the people at my church and I know the powerful things that can happen when you find a church to call home.

How to pray when you’re distracted

Dear Lord, I’m so glad that I can come to You at any time. But I wish I could focus more, that I wouldn’t start my prayer and already be distracted before the end of the sentence. I hope that it doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in You. You know my heart, better than I ...

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Dear Lord, I’m so glad that I can come to You at any time. But I wish I could focus more, that I wouldn’t start my prayer and already be distracted before the end of the sentence. I hope that it doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in You. You know my heart, better than I do, but I think my intentions are good. I just can’t still my brain enough to stay on one thought for very long.

And that can’t be the way it’s supposed to be.

God, will You please help me?

Are You laughing at the fact that between writing this line and the one before it, I answered an email, forwarded another, and deleted two more? Probably not, but You see all. You know how my mind works. And You know how I struggle.

In order to go deep with You, I need to spend time with You. But I’ve cluttered my days with too many activities, lots of responsibility, and tons of unnecessary chaos.

Straightening out my priorities would help me in numerous ways. If it helps me connect with You, that is reason enough to do it, but if it helps me find peace and calm in my daily life, that’s even better.

I know that wherever You dwell, peace reigns. And that’s where I want to be. Show me tangible steps I can take in order to make smarter choices with my time. Give me determination to keep reaching for You. Strengthen my conviction that time talking with You is important and makes me better. It makes me more fully into the person You mean for me to be.

As You transform me, my mind will focus more on You and will remain more steady. My hope will grow as I believe more thoroughly that You are the answer to all of my questions. My relationships will deepen as I receive (and learn to give) the kind of understanding You have shown me. The love I show others will be more generous and compassionate because I will have been changed by time in Your presence.

And it all starts with more sustained focus on You. Please, Lord, honor my desire to spend time in prayer. Answer my heart’s cry for all You have to offer. Give me wisdom to not be waylaid by unimportant distractions. Help me forgive myself for my inability to do this on my own. And thank You that You want me to come to You in the first place. You are generous and kind. Merciful and powerful. Forgiving and full of love. You are amazing.

And I want to see You more clearly. Amen.

A peek into my journal

I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real. I wrote this in my journal recently, ...

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I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real.

I wrote this in my journal recently, and then the next time I picked it up I felt so strongly that I should share it—not because it’s amazing writing, and not because I have the answers, because I don’t—but because I think someone out there needs to know that they are not alone. Here’s the truth: We don’t all feel inspired all the time, and we don’t always know how to pray. Even me—and I’ve published two books on prayer. So please read on and know that each person’s faith life will ebb and flow. Prayer may come easily sometimes and be more difficult at other times. But God remains the same, and He always wants to hear from us. I am so grateful.


It’s Saturday morning—really almost noon—and I’m feeling that familiar resistance. I should work; I want to read. I should pray; I want to read. I should be productive—I have so much to do—but I’m tired and just want to indulge myself.

Lord, what is it in me that wants to do meaningless, selfish things over spending time with You? Is it the fear—the knowledge—that You know me? That You see through my BS? That You know how far my heart and thoughts are from You in the daily grind?

Revive that passion in me, Lord. Please. It was so good for me to spend the last few days with Cindy and share our stories about You, about our faith and discoveries. To be reminded, through my own words and experiences, how amazing You are. To remember what a gift You’ve given me and all the ways in which You’ve revealed Yourself to me.

I already know that my prayer life will probably never look like it used to. I’ve changed; You have not.

But what I have now feels stagnant and boring. Distinctly uninspiring.

The irony isn’t lost on me: I write about how to invigorate your prayer life, how to try again and again, to do something new to shake it up. I tell people I get to write, not because I am a better pray-er, but because I want You more than I want to stay where I am.

I do want You, Lord.

I want to hear You and see You—but I really want to know You. To let my days be changed by Your presence. To let my life be changed by Your participation and provision. To let You so permeate my being that every particle of me is transformed into something new—unrecognizable as me but fully recognizable as YOU.

Sometimes it seems as though the leap between where I am and where I want to be is impossible to traverse. No obvious path; seemingly impassible obstacles.

And yet I know—and believe—that nothing is impossible for You. My failings don’t even enter into the equation.

Do this impossible thing, Lord. Whisk me over the chasm I sense between us. I’m not asking You to deliver me from the hard work of it. Just for You to show me the footholds I need to navigate across. To inspire me, step by step. To coach me, coax me, whisper encouragement to me. To never leave my side—and yet, inexplicably, to be waiting on the other side when I arrive, arms wide open for a deep embrace.

Help me to get there, Lord. One tiny step at a time.


Dear Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers—and for always wanting to answer them when we’re simply wanting to grow closer to You. Help revive my passion; restore my lagging faith; remind me how amazing You are. I know these things, and I believe in my heart, but sometimes my head gets in the way. Thank You for loving us so much. Thank You for wanting us to lean on You. Thank You for always, always being there and for knowing the desires of our heart. Amen.

Go ahead. Write, draw, color, doodle in your Bible. It’s OK (and I can help).

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bible journaling group about my book, Designed to Pray—specifically, the meanings of different colors and how those meanings can “color” and inspire your prayers. (If you have my book, the material came from Week 8.) Now, I’m not one who’s afraid to write in her ...

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bible journaling group about my book, Designed to Pray—specifically, the meanings of different colors and how those meanings can “color” and inspire your prayers. (If you have my book, the material came from Week 8.)

Now, I’m not one who’s afraid to write in her Bible. I put the dates that I read or was taught a passage, the name of the person the verse makes me think of, phrases of other translations or word meanings for clarification, and so on. With my art background, you wouldn’t think I would be afraid to draw in my Bible, either. But the truth is, when it came time to get to work, I was intimidated. I looked at the works of art created by some of the other women there and was in awe. I didn’t have the right tools, I don’t know the techniques—and since my biceps tendon repair surgery last spring, I just don’t quite have the same control I once had.

But I’d already put together some traceables for the class to use—which are simply illustrations of some of the key verses from that chapter of my book. And I was there, and I had some colored pencils and a black marker with me, so I tried it.

As you’ll see in my photos, these are not great works of art, nor do they need to be. But I got to see first-hand what so many people have already discovered (as the current trend can attest). It was fun. I like paying special attention to certain key words. Offering my scribbles as a form of prayer. Letting the words, the meanings, resonate in my soul as I spend time in this book that has changed me.

So I want to offer this set of 12 traceables to you (free even if you don’t subscribe to my newsletter; this link should take you directly there). Print them and then trace them into your Bible or a journal. Embellish. Change them. Or just trace them as you thank God for what He’s saying in those words.

And if you just don’t have it in you to try this, consider printing them to use as bookmarks. That works, too.

As you can see, I just used my NIV Life Application Study Bible, which I love love love. Right after I had my surgery last year, I got to review the Beautiful Word Bible —a great choice if you want to buy a Bible just for this, because it has wide margins and some verses already illustrated for inspiration.

Click here to download, and please share them with anyone who might be interested. Now go, and never hesitate to write in your books. Make them your own!

 

 

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.

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