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!

 

 

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.

The Beautiful Word Bible giveaway

It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon? Yeah. Well. So I’ll content myself with ...

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It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon?

Yeah. Well.

So I’ll content myself with doing a brief review (because typing left-handed is still slow-going)… and then I’ll give YOU a chance to win one of two copies of this beautiful book. (They knew what they were talking about when they named it.)

The NIV translation is my favorite, and that’s what these giveaway copies are (although this also comes in KJV and NKJV versions). I’m always wishing for lots of space to write notes in my Bibles and for nice, clean, elegant typography. This Bible offers those things, plus key verses illustrated in a wide variety of styles (all fun and colorful). It’s nice to see Scriptures expressed artistically—it gives us a chance to focus on key words and concepts and better understand them. If you’re comfortable drawing in your Bible, that’s what this was made for—but even if that’s not your thing, use the space for notes or journaling. Write about what a certain verse means to you, what you’re learning, who you’re praying for, what questions you have about it, the definitions of words or other related verses… it’s wide open and flexible. You can find your own way and do your own thing. If you want to doodle or draw, then DO. It’s a whole new dimension of interaction with God’s word that can be meaningful and enlightening.

(On a side note, I find the recent surge of interest in coloring, drawing, and so forth pretty exciting… especially since my new book, Designed to Pray, is coming out in August. It’s full of hands-on prayer activities—coloring pages, writing prompts, charts and questions and pages on which to explore—to help you find new insights in prayer by embracing your creativity. Watch for more announcements, or pre-order now :-).)

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that the text in the Beautiful Word Bible is a little too small for my nearing-50 eyes. But the font is pretty and legible—an important consideration to this designer :-). I also wish the paper was a little thicker because some of the illustrated verses kind of show through the pages. Then again, Bibles always use thin paper or else they’d be too big and bulky to carry around!

Beautiful Word Bible composite

Would you like to win one of these Bibles? I have a hard-cover version and one with a leather cover to give away. To enter, just subscribe to my blog posts (right-hand sidebar) or leave a comment below. On April 8 (next Friday) I will post winners. And I’ll even include a little box of colored pencils I had produced as swag for the release of Praying Upside Down.

Hope lots of you will enter—I’m excited to be able to give these away! What do you think about this Bible? Does it scare you or thrill you to be invited to color in your Bible?


Some additional info from Zondervan that you might find useful:

Tips For Bible Art Journaling:

  1. Use the right pen: Look for a pen designed for Bible journaling to minimize bleed through and tears. There are many options in plenty of colors. Or, try your hand at colored pencils which make a great alternative to pens.
  2. Practice on scrap paper: Learn key factors like spacing and ink drying time before you make your mark on your Bible.
  3. Use back pages: When you get comfortable and want to move to Bible paper, try the pages in the back to help build confidence.
  4. Integrate Washi tape: Just a little tape under favorite verses and around the edge adds a lot of interest to the pages
  5. Peel and stick: You name it, there is a sticker for it. From letters and pictures, to shapes, ribbons, and designs. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to brighten your pages with stickers.
  6. Stencil and stamp: Just like stickers, there are endless options in these categories to enhance your Bible without having an art degree.
  7. Appreciate the paper: Use the translucency to your advantage by tracing your favorite images directly onto the Bible paper.
  8. Get inspired: Reflect on the designs found in NIV Beautiful Word Bible or your favorite verse art to help spark ideas.
  9. Don’t stress about mistakes: You will make them – learn and let go of perfection!

Shanna’s 7 Tips to Illustrate Your Faith (courtesy IllustratedFaith.com):

  • Spend time with God – read a devotional, listen to worship music.
  • Pray about it – ask God to guide you
  • Write it down – what is God telling you?
  • Draw it – bring that big idea into the margins of your Bible
  • Date it – Date your entries as you will want to go back to those verses and reflect
  • Tab it – Use tables to see what themes you’ve covered
  • Forget the rules – Connect with God in the way that is most natural to you!

His faithful love endures forever

And this is why I am thankful today. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His ...

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And this is why I am thankful today.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26, NLT

An Upside-Down Christmas, part 2: Grief

I used to design and write my church’s weekly bulletin, and I was aware that, for some, certain holidays brought with them sadness. But I believed that surely time healed all wounds. Sure, it was sad when someone died, but I thought it was morbid to dwell on it. I naively assumed people could let ...

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I used to design and write my church’s weekly bulletin, and I was aware that, for some, certain holidays brought with them sadness. But I believed that surely time healed all wounds. Sure, it was sad when someone died, but I thought it was morbid to dwell on it. I naively assumed people could let it go (long before we’d heard of Elsa) and focus on what they did have. My friend Tami lost her mom many years ago, but I didn’t understand her sadness on Mother’s Day—couldn’t she focus on the good memories instead of feeling sad? Or celebrate being a mom to her own children?

Well, maybe she could have (and she likely did).

But how wrong I was. And how sorry I am for all of the opportunities I missed to extend kindness and grace—because now I know.

I know what it is to wonder how I can possibly celebrate when the absence is so real, so gigantic, that the void itself becomes a presence. To question how to “get over it” when the only thing time has proven is that things still have not changed. My mom still isn’t here. And I still miss her. Hundreds, now thousands, of days without her. Exponential sums and moments of being without someone whose body is not here but who is never far from my mind. Granted, I rarely cry myself to sleep anymore. But I still cry. I still mourn. And it overshadows everything, colors it as surely as if a dark filter covered the lens.

The hardest moments are the ones that are supposed to be happy—the celebrations, the milestones. The days in which we feel an obligation to laugh, to have fun, and to hide the pain that consumes us. It’s because of the juxtaposition, the extreme disparity between expectations and what we’re really feeling inside.

Some of you have had big losses—the death of a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent. The grandmother who raised you. The friend who knew all of your secrets. There are other losses, too. Divorce. Family feuds. Jobs requiring relocation. Budgets and work schedules that keep people apart on holidays. Unmet expectations. Joyful personalities changed by addiction or disappointment. These things are hard enough by themselves, but add in the other stresses most of us feel this time of year—money worries, anxiety about getting the right gifts and finishing dinner preparation on time, loneliness, not enough time—and it may seem impossible to bear.

I’m still—and will continue, indefinitely, to be—trying to figure this out. To make my way and hold tight to the sparks of joy, living in the moment and not the past or the future. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I do have some ideas. The more we try to stuff down our feelings, the harder they fight to be seen. Maybe it’s time we welcome our sorrow. Flip it around and find the comfort that dwells on the other side of the pain.

It’s there. It really is. And I hope some of these ideas will help you find it.

**

Carry on. My mom was a giver like no one else I’ve ever known, much of it done in secret. She didn’t want the limelight, she just loved to find thoughtful ways to help. In her memory, my household established a new Christmas tradition. All month long, each of us is on the lookout for someone or something that could use a little help. It doesn’t have to be life-altering. It doesn’t have to be about orphans or the homeless or victims of disaster, although those are certainly options. It’s simply about looking for opportunities to give. We’re honoring my mom’s legacy by learning to give the way that she did. By telling our children about the ways their grandmother made an impact on other people’s lives so that she remains real and present in their minds. By cultivating the traits within them that are like her.

Each gift is presented (or provided anonymously) by the family member who thought of it. We don’t set strict budgets, just do what seems right and what we can afford. Gifts in previous years have included: donation of “wish list” books to an elementary classroom during a book fair (not my son’s own class, because he shouldn’t be one to benefit); paying the fee for my daughter’s friend to take the train to Chicago with a school club; my husband paying the bill for oil changes and tires for people he knows through his work at an auto shop; an envelope of cash for friends with small children to help supplement their Christmas buying; anonymous gift cards to an acquaintance who is out of work. Once I start looking, I see one need after another, and the more of them I respond to, the closer I feel to my mom.

If there isn’t an obvious tradition to continue, don’t worry. When you pray, ask God to point out opportunities and suggest ideas. My former neighbors lost their son, Henry, to cancer when he was six. I can’t change that. But maybe I could donate gas cards or games to a nearby children’s hospital for another family in a similar situation. My grandmother taught me to say the Lord’s Prayer every night before bed. I think of her when I sit down at night to pray with my son, knowing that just as she established that ritual in my mind, I’m helping provide a framework of prayer for my own child.

 

Write a special note. Chances are good that even if you haven’t experienced a deep loss, you know someone who has. Send flowers. Write a letter. Drop off cookies. There are lots of ways to let people know you’re thinking of them. But here’s the hard, potentially awkward part: don’t be shy. Mention the loved one by name. It’s a relief to be able to talk about it. To stop pretending it didn’t happen. To stop worrying that nobody else wants to know about your sadness.

If you have a sweet or funny memory, share that. And if not, just say that you’re thinking of them. You don’t have to—and probably shouldn’t try to—provide neat answers in an effort to make the pain disappear. It won’t. Just tell them you’re sorry. That you know how much they miss that person. That it’s OK to still feel sad. And that you care about them. Whatever you do or say, be genuine, and take your clues from the one who is mourning. Don’t force conversations, but don’t hide from them either.

 

Give a gift to memorialize someone, either for the person you’ve grieving or for someone else who is. Donate to a charity or church or school or organization in the person’s name. Perhaps you can continue a tradition that person started—buying a coat and gloves for a child in the community. Wrapping presents in the local toy drive. Donating a book to the library. If your aunt was known for her baking, write the recipe on pretty recipe cards (labeled “Aunt Sue’s Famous Poppyseed Bread”) and drop off loaves to friends so that they will always say her name when they make it. Go door to door in your neighborhood collecting canned foods and donate them to a local food pantry in that person’s name.

 

Don’t forget the friends. Our culture accepts that we will grieve a close family member, but often overlooks the friends, coworkers, students or an unmarried partner. My sister’s best friend passed away this year. Everyone was praying for the family, worrying about Teresa’s girls and husband. Of course. Sometimes I would forget that my sister was feeling a profound loss as well.

Occasionally I run into one of Mom’s friends in a parking lot or the baking aisle at Kroger. Until I see them fighting tears, I often forget. She’s missing from their lives as well. They wish they could pick up the phone to tell her something funny. They may not feel they have the “right” to grieve, but they do anyway. Acknowledge that: Thank you for loving her, too. Or she loved you, too, you know.

 

Tell stories. Let your kids hear about the time she left the sweet potatoes in the microwave through dinner and didn’t find them until the next day. Talk about the funny things that have happened. Point out which ornaments she gave you or describe what Christmas was like when your dad was a little boy. Plop a box of Kleenex in the center of the table if you need to. But let yourself remember.

 

Or don’t. There are times when sharing is the right thing to do, and times when you aren’t ready or able to “go there.” Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to do—or not do—what is right for you at that moment. And be aware that people grieve differently. My sister and I are very close and we both lost the same person on the same day. But we rarely feel the impact of that loss at the same moment. We both read the same book within a couple weeks. I could barely get through it, sobbing because it brought up all of my emotions. Kerry was fine. But then she has moments that I’m oblivious to, like when she fixes Mom’s recipe for stuffed peppers or rolls out some homemade noodles and she wraps herself in the contentment of showing her love for her family in the same way.

**

There’s not just one way to grieve. And there are plenty of different ways to honor someone. The only rules? Wrap your words and efforts with kindness and gentleness. Keep trying. And practice grace, both with those who may not know how to help you face your grief and with yourself when you fall short.

Do you have any ideas to share? I’d love to hear them.

Wrestling with God

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face ...

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Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” Genesis 32:28-32, NIV

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m not a “kid person.” I like my own OK (most of the time) and I adore the kids of most of my friends. But as a general rule, I’m not one who is thrilled to be seated on a plane with the mom on one side and the dad on the other side of me passing a screaming baby back and forth. (That really happened. I insisted — no, really, I don’t mind at all — that we trade seats so they could sit together. I’m fine with the aisle, I said with a smile. But I digress.)

Maybe I don’t think of myself as a kid person because I don’t usually know what to talk about with them. I’ve read that dads are usually the ones who roll around on the floor with the kids, but in my family it’s me. I don’t know why. But I’m more likely to be found swinging my friends’ kids around and being goofy than sitting and having a conversation. I blow raspberries on stomachs and turn in circles as I carry them and tickle their feet.

Because once there’s a connection in place, the walls are down. And the conversations come more easily.

**

I was talking with a friend the other day, saying that I felt far removed from God and church right now. And I didn’t know why or what to do about it.

I came home and sat down with my journal. And then, spontaneously, I picked up a book I started months ago but had decided not to finish. I opened it to the crumpled post-it note marking the page where I left off. Within minutes, I grabbed my pen and filled journal pages with quotes from the book. I underlined passages, drew stars in the margins. I had ideas. Questions. The book is, in some circles, slightly controversial — or, at the very least, not an easy one to grasp. After reading, writing, thinking, struggling — both to grasp elusive insights I could just barely start to discern and to decide whether I agreed or disagreed with this writer’s theology — I suddenly noticed that I felt God again.

As I lay in bed that night marveling at how quickly that had changed, I think an actual giant light bulb illuminated the space above my head. Followed by this awareness: Jacob wrestled with God.

Maybe that’s what I’m doing. I want to dive right in. All or nothing. I’d rather spill my guts in a conversation than discuss weather or sports. In the same way, I don’t know how to do superficial with God. And, sadly, that’s how it feels sometimes. I’m there. I’m being polite. But I’m not engaging. I’m not going deep. I’m holding Him at arm’s length so I don’t have to really give anything of myself.

But when I pick up a book, some kind of spiritual/self-help book (or a challenging blog on a controversial or inflammatory subject), the intensity of it forces me to engage. It’s not the same when it’s a fluff piece or even someone who parrots what everyone else says. It’s OK if it’s not easy to process or accept, if it’s a viewpoint or teaching that differs from one I’ve heard before (or that I currently hold). Usually those are the best ones. I may not always like what I read. Then again, I may change my thinking 180˚. But the one thing that will not happen is that I will remain lukewarm.

If I agree with the author, I will read the Bible and study and talk it through with my friends to be sure I’ve found the “right” answer. If I disagree, I will read the Bible and study and talk it through with my friends until I believe I’ve found the “right” answer. To be truthful, even though I try to keep an open mind, often my gut-level answer is the one I stick with. But before the wrestling is over, I will have found resources and information to support my stance and solidify it. Over time, my opinion may evolve or outright change. But the great thing about wrestling with spiritual concepts is that I always — always — end up closer to God in the end.

I think it’s because wrestling is how I relate. The mental/intellectual struggle gives me something tangible to hold onto. Facts, quotes, ideas. It allows me to delve deep into the emotion. And it bypasses the superficial. When I wrestle with a Biblical passage or concept, I find myself adopting the words of Jacob: “I won’t let go until you bless me.”

And you know what? He always does.

Please comment, because I’d love to know: What books, articles, or blogs challenge you, spurring you on to studying a topic for yourself?

God’s Masterpiece

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 If you’re anything like me, sometimes you look at the people around you — pastors, Bible study leaders, friends who faithfully have 5 am quiet time — and feel absolutely, positively certain that you don’t measure up. It’s like looking at ...

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

78483458If you’re anything like me, sometimes you look at the people around you — pastors, Bible study leaders, friends who faithfully have 5 am quiet time — and feel absolutely, positively certain that you don’t measure up. It’s like looking at the giant canvases on a museum’s walls. Even if we don’t understand them, we know that they put to shame our meager scribbles. So much so that sometimes it’s easier not to even try. Not to risk failing. And certainly not to tape our measly little drawings on the wall next to the masterpiece.

[You can read the rest of the post at Internet Café Devotions.]

WINNERS of this week’s giveaway are Geraldine Donoghue and Alison Bliss. Yes, I decided to draw two names because I have a couple extra prizes. Geraldine and Alison, please email me (kellyostanley@me.com) and let me know which item you’d like: Making Manifest, Life After Art, Create Every Day, Lynn Schriner “Amazed” CD or Alana Story “Just Offshore” CD. Stay tuned for next Monday’s giveaway, and thanks for entering!

Pass the fruit salad

Good morning! I have a new post at Internet Café today. Please join me there to read the rest of it. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) In theory, I like fruit. But in practice? Well, I’m ...

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Good morning! I have a new post at Internet Café today. Please join me there to read the rest of it.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

56568838In theory, I like fruit. But in practice? Well, I’m more of a chocolate kind of gal. I can notice the beautiful colors and shapes and agree that the fruit looks quite luscious. But I’m more likely to grab a bagel instead of a banana. While I’m often surprised by how good fruit tastes, I’m not all that adventurous. Give me the more “mainstream” ones like apples, grapes and strawberries. Watermelon and pineapple are yummy. But kiwi? Kumquat? I’ll pass. [read more]

Facing Your Giants

a pseudo book review* *My friend Peggy talks about “nuggets” — the best part of a message, what she takes away from it. My “pseudo book reviews” are just that: the one or two things I will remember, maybe all from one chapter. It may be a particular phrase or thought that changed the way ...

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a pseudo book review*

*My friend Peggy talks about “nuggets” — the best part of a message, what she takes away from it. My “pseudo book reviews” are just that: the one or two things I will remember, maybe all from one chapter. It may be a particular phrase or thought that changed the way I see something, or a quote, or a new take on Scripture. The nuggets are the very best parts. I’d love to hear your take on any of these books, too!

71tEqv6TwXL._SL1500_If you don’t know the story of the Brook Besor in 1 Samuel, it goes something like this. David and his 600 men returned from the war front to find that the Amalekites had destroyed their village, looted it, and taken the women and children. David went to God, who told him to go after them. The men are exhausted, angry, and about to give up. In fact, 200 of them do. When they reach the brook, these soldiers dismount and lie down to rest. Can you imagine — too tired to go after their own families?

I bet you’ve been that weary before. I know I have.

David continued forward with the rest of the men, eventually catching up to the raiding party (with the help of an Egyptian slave they’d left behind) and killing or scaring off the Amalekites, rescuing all the women and children. Every one. Their wives and the ones of the men who were still hanging out at the brook. Probably playing poker. On their way back, victorious, loaded down with loot, David’s men were furious that the other 200 men were lazing around instead of helping, so they decided to keep it all for themselves.

But David wouldn’t hear of it. He gave the men at the brook an out (announcing that they had stayed with the supplies), respecting their weariness and helping them save face. And then they all shared equally in the spoils.

Max Lucado wrote, “Isn’t that what the church is intended to be? A place for soldiers to recover their strength?” And then, “I wonder how many could do the same. Too tired to fight. Too ashamed to complain. While others claim victories, the weary sit in silence. How many sit at Brook Besor?”

It was like neon lights went on, flashing the name of a friend before me. I do some work with this person, and I’d been feeling unusually frustrated at what I saw as her failures. I was feeling particularly self-righteous at that moment. Not only was I working my butt off, but I felt like I was picking up her slack, too. She was the bottleneck in my productivity. For the past few days, I’d really struggled with this situation.

And then I read this:

If you are listed among them, here is what you need to know: it’s okay to rest. Jesus is your David. He fights when you cannot. He goes where you cannot. He’s not angry if you sit….

Brook Besor blesses rest.

Brook Besor also cautions against arrogance. David knew the victory was a gift. Let’s remember the same. Salvation comes like the Egyptian in the desert, a delightful surprise on the path. Unearned. Undeserved. Who are the strong to criticize the tired?

Are you weary? Catch your breath. We need your strength.

Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired. Odds are, you’ll need to plop down yourself. And when you do, Brook Besor is a good story to know.

The flashing lights in my head (notice this! notice this!) showed me two things:

A) My friend was one of the weary at that time. And it was OK. My job was to respect her, honor her for coming as far as she had, and know that after she rests, she’ll get up and start moving forward again.

And B) Since when did I start thinking of myself as the strong one? I’d been struggling for literally years, weary as all get out, feeling like I couldn’t find my way back to God — and then suddenly, just like that, I found I was there. Back. Walking with Him again. It didn’t look exactly the same as it used to. But He was there again. (Truth be told, He had never left. I just refused to recognize Him for a while.)

Thank You, Lord, for the way you speak, for the way your Word is living and active and penetrates to the very core of my soul. Thank you for defusing my frustration, showing me my errors, and helping me see that I already have everything I long for: You. Beside me. Always. Even on the days (weeks, months, years) when I find myself collapsed on the banks of the Brook Besor.

Behind the scenes

Everybody wants to talk about the front of the painting. You know, the canvas, the place where the paint was applied, where the artist’s talent (or lack thereof) is prominently displayed? But you know what? There’s a part that is rarely noticed — perhaps even the most important thing of all. The hanger. It holds ...

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Everybody wants to talk about the front of the painting. You know, the canvas, the place where the paint was applied, where the artist’s talent (or lack thereof) is prominently displayed? But you know what? There’s a part that is rarely noticed — perhaps even the most important thing of all. The hanger. It holds the painting up, keeps it safe from harm, and positions it right where it belongs. 133828149

As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle. Exodus 17:11-13, NLT

Sometimes I have a hard time translating lessons from the Old Testament into my daily life. But not this one.

Because I’ve failed. I’ve fallen. I’ve been weary and heartbroken. Full of grief, overwhelmed with anger and outrage, unable to hold my arms up for another single minute.

I’m grateful beyond words that I didn’t have to go through that all by myself. That I’m not walking this earth all alone. That I have my own Aaron and Hur.

See, when Moses’ strength gave out, his people started to be overcome. He needed help. The beauty of this story is that, when the battle was over, it wasn’t just Aaron’s victory. Ultimately, of course, God Himself brought the victory. But the ones who held up Aaron’s arms shared in it with him.

friends

When you see someone start to give out, when their faith is wavering, hope is being crushed, weariness is prevailing, the battle isn’t going their way — just reach out, lifting their hands to the sky. To the One who lifts us. To the One who holds us up. To the One who makes everything possible, no matter how discouraging the battle looks at that moment.

Because the most important thing about a pretty surface is whether there’s something holding it up so that the world can see.

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