They’ll know we are Christians by our love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual makeover challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!

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

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

Prayer for those stuck in a rut

This is for all of you people out there who love God but sometimes get bored. Who have had good prayer lives but sometimes feel like you’ve lost that spark. Will you please pray with me? Lord, I love you, I do. That has never changed. I long to grow closer to you. I’m excited ...

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This is for all of you people out there who love God but sometimes get bored. Who have had good prayer lives but sometimes feel like you’ve lost that spark. Will you please pray with me?


Lord, I love you, I do. That has never changed. I long to grow closer to you. I’m excited by the new things I discover in Your word, by the way I see You in prayer and in the changed lives around me.

But I don’t know how to maintain my passion for you. I struggle with staying focused and purposeful in prayer without falling into a rut.

Remind me that I don’t have to have the answers. That You will give me the ones I need, and that the other ones don’t matter.

Reveal Yourself to me in new ways all the time. Let me know You better and better. When I don’t hear from You, or when I feel dry and parched, let me know that doesn’t mean You’re not with me.

Renew my passion for You in ways that will wake up something in my spirit. Excite me, fill my mind with ideas, fill my heart with so much love for You that I can’t just sit back and keep it to myself.

Let me learn that prayer is valuable and I can’t have a good relationship with You without it. But at the same time, don’t let me squander it. I was never meant to keep You all to myself. Prayer equips me to reach out to others, so it shouldn’t stay within the walls of my house. Faith should be active—real, hands-on involvement in changing lives, in helping people carry their burdens, in pointing people to You as the answer for all of their questions and needs.

When I start to have doubts, when I feel bored, when I wonder if it’s worth the effort, help me to remember. Let me look back at the times when I have seen prayers answered in surprising and creative ways. Help me to recall the moments of insight, the surges of passion, the large and small changes You’ve helped me make in my life since I found You.

And when I get too focused on myself—on what I want and need and feel—gently nudge me until I notice the enormity of Your kingdom, the beauty of Your righteousness, the hope that You bring to hopeless and tragic situations, the love that You shower on all your people.

This faith of mine isn’t just for me. It’s meant to change me, and in turn, to change the lives of others. It’s meant to be a witness to nonbelievers, pointing them to the One they long to know. It’s intended to prepare me to live for You—which means to draw people together, to form lasting relationships, to model a content and joyful life. To show people what life can be like when we let You in, when we hand over the controls and break down those barriers and yield all power to You.

It’s exciting to contemplate all that You are and all that my relationship with You can be. I don’t have to bring the passion in to this relationship; I just need to open my heart to You and the passion will come. The ruts won’t feel constraining, but will instead guide me to exactly where I need to be. The boredom will turn to adventure. And You will make all things new. Because You are the God of possibility, of expansion, of miraculous change and surprising answers. And oh how I love You!

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Would you like a colorful reminder to get your prayers started every day? Subscribe to my newsletter at www.kellyostanley.com/downloads or in the sidebar to the right, and you can download monthly prayer prompt calendars (and other freebies). 

Creative new ways to pray—31 of them, to be exact

If we filled in the squares on a calendar with our daily prayers, it would look something like this: Help me, Lord. Fix my finances. Mend my relationships. Bless my kids. Heal my friend. Forgive me. (Repeat.) And all of those are legitimate requests. Real, true, vulnerable, and necessary. But I get tired of praying the same ...

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If we filled in the squares on a calendar with our daily prayers, it would look something like this: Help me, Lord. Fix my finances. Mend my relationships. Bless my kids. Heal my friend. Forgive me. (Repeat.)

And all of those are legitimate requests. Real, true, vulnerable, and necessary. But I get tired of praying the same thing all the time. It doesn’t stem from doubt or lack of creativity. I say the same things because I still want my kids to do well. I still want Katie to be healed of her migraines. I still want God to bless my husband at work. Some people I know are still sick, and may always be. Unfortunately, there are some lessons I may never learn; some trials I may never overcome. I will always want to know God more; I will always fall short; I will always be in need of His grace and His hope and His peace.

So I end up saying the same ol’, same ol’. And even if I thought God wanted to hear the same thing a thousand times, I know I don’t want to say it a thousand times. Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again” (Matthew 6:7, NLT).

In the past few years, through the process of writing Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray, I’ve learned a lot about prayer. That there isn’t really a right or wrong way to pray; if you pray, if you simply approach God, you will be changed. The power is in the One we seek, not in the questions we ask. The answers we’ll get are often surprising. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation.

You probably already know these things.

But if we’re supposed to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), how do we do that without being like a record player whose needle is stuck in a rut, playing the same phrase over… and over… and over… until we’ve lost our ever-loving minds?

The Bible tells us this: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

Hmm. We’re supposed to pray about everything, to pray at all times—because it is through prayer that we develop and sustain a relationship with God. It is through prayer that we learn about Him, learn to love the way He loves, learn to see the needs all around us.

But it is also true that we encounter all kinds of obstacles—shame, anger, frustration, impatience, grief, and boredom. My stock advice is this: if you find yourself in a rut, try something new. Because God is unlimited, and the ways He reveals Himself are without boundaries.

Maybe my prayer prompt calendars will help you approach God from a different angle. Our God never changes, but there are countless facets to who He is—to all that He is—so when we explore another facet, we grow closer to Him. We learn more.

These prompts are designed to be fun and to remind us that there are all kinds of things we can pray about that we might not normally think of. Like our childhood best friend. A woman in high heels or a man who works the night shift. A celebrity or a utility worker. Someone who can’t have a baby, and another person who has four. They encourage us to keep our eyes open as we go through our days, to pay attention to the people God puts in our paths and to offer them up in prayer—because there are no limits to the needs we’ll encounter, and no limits to the answers God will offer.

The calendars also incorporate praise and silence, to help us dwell on gratitude. To stir us to action sometimes instead of relying only on words. To think about others, but to know we can also pray for ourselves.

The prompts are open enough that they do not limit your prayers, but hopefully provide impetus to get you started. Let your mind wander. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. For instance, if the prompt is “pray for someone wearing a dress,” your prayers might go like this:

Lord, thank you for this woman. Be with her as she goes through her day. Thank You for the job or event she’s going to, for the people in her life. Help her turn to you. Thank You for covering her with Your spiritual protection, for the fact that what Jesus did he did for all of us. We are all covered spiritually, forevermore. Thank You for protection from the elements, for warmth and security. For Your offer to clothe me in righteousness. Help me to wear the whole armor of God and to stand firm in my faith. Clothes cover us, but I also ask that You uncover what should not remain hidden. Let me release all my shame and sorrow, and not hold on to anything that is not uplifting and pure. And in place of those things, help me put on characteristics that will show people who You are, so that they will see You through me. Let me put on Your love and kindness and mercy and generosity. Let me live in Your holy presence. Thank You for always being here for me. Amen.

But you don’t have to do this my way. Your prayers may look nothing like mine, and that’s okay—all that matters is that you try. That you reach out to God, that you consciously make room for Him in your life. Because when you do, your life will change. And you will be transformed.


To download July’s prayer prompt calendar, click here. If you haven’t already subscribed to my e-newsletter, you will be asked to do so, and then all of my downloads will be unlocked for you. Near the end of each month, I send a newsletter to all my subscribers with a link to the prayer prompt calendar for the coming month. You’ll have plenty of time to print it and hang on your fridge, put in your Bible, or post on the wall by your computer where you will see it daily.

He has risen!

Wishing you an Easter filled with joy. xo...

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Wishing you an Easter filled with joy. xo

Starting over in prayer

Is anyone else surprised to discover that it’s almost 2016? Somehow, every year I’m surprised by how close together Christmas and New Year’s Eve are. Yeah, I know. It’s the same every. single. year. So better get this printed out and hung on your fridge… or your mirror… or wedged into the center console of ...

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Is anyone else surprised to discover that it’s almost 2016? Somehow, every year I’m surprised by how close together Christmas and New Year’s Eve are.
Yeah, I know. It’s the same every. single. year.

So better get this printed out and hung on your fridge… or your mirror… or wedged into the center console of your car. This blog, and my book, are all about prayer. But do I consider myself a dedicated or accomplished pray-er? Not so much. I’ll gladly share my best secret tip, though: Try again. Didn’t pray this morning? Try this afternoon. Didn’t pray today? Try again tomorrow.

I fall short all the time. But instead of beating myself up, I just keep trying. I ask God to help me and to forgive my lack of interest. I ask Him to renew me, to help me focus. And then tomorrow, if I find myself in the same place, I stop for a moment. Say a short prayer, and ask for help. At that point, I’ve already prayed more than the day before. And I do that, over and over again. And you know what? Over time, I grow. Over time, I desire more of God. Over time, I discover that I’ve spent more time with God than I thought.

God’s always listening, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Even if you forget to talk.

So let go of your guilt, and let’s start fresh again together. In January of 2016. Which is less than two days away.
[ w o w ]

Download your calendar here.

Happy New Year!

The essence of creativity…

As I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, ...

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GRAPHIC essence of creativityAs I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, afraid the thought would vanish with the scenery. Bits of my own writing, bits of other people’s.

This quotation is one I stumbled upon again recently. I immediately fell in love with when I first read it—when Ann Voskamp posted it in 2012 in a post about why everyone needs to make art everyday. (Read that post here.)

Because of my new book, I’m thinking a lot about creativity. About risk. About finding the courage to seek God even when it’s not easy. To look for Him even when we’re tired and weary. To pick up the Bible even when we don’t know where to start. Wondering about how to keep up a life of faith, how to not burn out, how to push through anyway. And I’m pondering how to still my mind and relax into my relationship with God even as I try frantically to meet this next writing deadline.

Just because I’m writing about prayer does not mean I struggle any less than you do. But with each comment I receive, each message and question about prayer, I am more and more inspired to work on this book. I’m in love with the subject. I’m in love with creativity. And I’m remembering how much I’m in love with the Creator who inspires all of those things.

And I’m grateful for you. For that thing inside that won’t let go, the part of you that keeps reaching, keeps wanting to try again or find more of God or reach out to connect with others. The part of you that keeps hoping. We hear all the time that God is love. And oh, He is. We can rest in it, pull it around us, wrap ourselves in the warm cloak of God’s adoration.

But the word that makes my spirit leap is hope. Hope says there’s always something more. That the end is not the end. That somehow, some way, things will get better. Deadlines will be met, bodies will be healed, finances will balance, relationships will be restored, life will move forward, and God will prevail.

But allowing ourselves to believe? Letting ourselves feel that hope? It’s hard. And scary. It’s a huge risk. But if you look back at Ann’s quote, note that she doesn’t simply say that creativity is believing. She says it’s believing enough.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to believe everything you hear or study. You don’t need all the answers. You can still wonder, and doubt, and try, and fail, and walk forward, and fall back. But just believe enough to pick yourself back up. To take one more step. To reach out your hand, to tilt your face towards the sky. To dream. To create. To pray. To seek. To hope. And to find.

Because the biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.

 

 

The problem with prayer

Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that. But the problem? You’re never done. I’m a list maker. I will ...

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Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that.

But the problem? You’re never done.

I’m a list maker. I will transfer items I’ve already completed to a sheet of paper just for the sheer joy of crossing them off. I line my computer monitor with post-it notes with check boxes beside each item. I have lists in my calendar. I make lists for my family when I’m not around.

I like to finish something. I don’t have the world’s longest attention span. I also am a big fan of instant gratification, which is why I can never seem to schedule posts here on this blog. I write it, and I want it to go live. So I never seem to stick to a schedule. But I’m trying. (And I’ve digressed.)

As I was saying, I like to finish things. I hate projects that go on for months and months. I have to break them down into smaller pieces so that I can check them off: Do initial layout. Get approval. Revise layout. Get approval. Prepare art for printer. Download high-res photos. Get printing quote. Send to printer. Send invoice.

But prayer? I don’t get to cross that off.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to pray. I really do. But sometimes, because I’m so driven and obsessive and overscheduled (my own fault), I wish I could draw a nice big checkmark next to it.

I may be an overachiever in many ways. But I am severely lacking in discipline and longevity. I get tired. And bored.

July 2015 prayer prompt previewWhich brings me, finally, to my point: July’s prayer prompt calendar is ready to download. If you struggle like I do—if sometimes prayer seems too abstract and on-going, too lofty and heavy—this may be just what you need. It’s one simple prompt for each day of the month. You’re not required to stop there—let your mind wander. Open your eyes to whatever God brings before you. Keep watching… and waiting… and praying. Because just like our responsibility to pray never ends, our God never ends. We will always get answers. We will never cease to be changed.

And all it takes is just a few minutes a day. One small item on your to-do list with a monumental impact. And one mighty God. After a while, it won’t feel like a task to be crossed off a list, but a treat. A joy. A way to soften your heart, slow your mind. And connect. Amen.

 

Don’t do it

Don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that God won’t come through because of your current (or past) failings. Or that what you have to offer isn’t enough. ~Praying Upside Down Remember this: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Romans 8:38-39 in the NIV reads, “For I am convinced that ...

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PUD book quotes-19Don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that God won’t come through because of your current (or past) failings. Or that what you have to offer isn’t enough. ~Praying Upside Down


Remember this: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Romans 8:38-39 in the NIV reads, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which is amazing. Wonderful. Right?

But read it in The Message: “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

That’s right. Nothing. Maybe today we can all sit back for a moment and let that sink in: There is nothing that can get in the way of our finding everything. Thank You, Lord!


Remember the giveaway I posted a couple weeks ago for those who wrote reviews of Praying Upside Down? First, I want you to know how grateful I am for each one of you who took the time to post a review. It means so much. And second, here are the prizes and the names of the winners. Please email me your mailing addresses so I can get you your prizes!

Where are you?

When I pull farther away from God, His size, importance, and abilities seem smaller. But when I draw in close, He becomes magnified. He becomes everything to me. ~Praying Upside Down   Have you seen this play out in your life? What did you do to draw in close again?  ...

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PUD book quotes-11

When I pull farther away from God, His size, importance, and abilities seem smaller. But when I draw in close, He becomes magnified. He becomes everything to me. ~Praying Upside Down


 

Have you seen this play out in your life? What did you do to draw in close again?

 

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