Hope prevails—in March, and always

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know how I can pray for you.

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

A Prayer for When Christmas Has Lost Its Sparkle

Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com… Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy ...

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Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com

Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy songs, and goodwill is restored.

In reality, though, some of us struggle this time of year. Since I lost my mom five years ago, I tend to feel sadness and loneliness more than I feel joy. Some of you may have lost spouses to death or divorce. You may have children who don’t spend time with you or demand too much of you, or parents who aren’t themselves (or are no longer there). Maybe your job requires you to work rather than worship, or you have so many past-due notices you could wrap presents with them—if you could afford to buy presents. Perhaps you’re jaded, knowing that, as a believer, Christmas should be spiritually significant, but your emotions are crowded out by material excess and a to-do list a mile long.

So when Silent Night seems like a quaint, far-off dream… when Deck the Halls provides pressure to be Pinterest-perfect… when O Holy Night feels, instead, commercial and crazy… won’t you pray along with me?

Read the rest of the post here.

A Prayer for the Hopeful

Today’s prayer is written by Dr. Michelle Bengtson. She is a sweet, bubbly, lovely, genuine woman I met at Suzie Eller’s Come With Me retreat in April. There’s something about her that just draws people in. I follow her on social media and love her upbeat posts. Her forthcoming book is called Hope Prevails: Insights ...

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Michelle BengtsonToday’s prayer is written by Dr. Michelle Bengtson. She is a sweet, bubbly, lovely, genuine woman I met at Suzie Eller’s Come With Me retreat in April. There’s something about her that just draws people in. I follow her on social media and love her upbeat posts. Her forthcoming book is called Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression. I can’t wait to read it because everything I’ve seen from her is so encouraging. Hope is such a beautiful thing. And right now, especially, we need to be pointed back to the God who authors hope.


Dear God,

In this world, we will have trouble…you warned us of that, and yet you also declared the promise that despite the trouble and the trials, that we could take heart because you have overcome the world. We can be grateful because while the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, you came to give us abundant life.

Some days our pain and heartache threaten to take our very breath away, and yet we can take solace because you are well acquainted with our sorrows, and your word says that you catch every one of our tears in a bottle. Your thoughts toward us are more numerous than the grains of sand. You know our comings and goings, and when we lie our head down at night and when we wake in the morning.

Lord, what a comfort it is to know that no matter what our circumstances present, you never leave us and you never turn your back on us. In fact, you go ahead of us, you walk beside us, and you come behind, holding us by the right hand the entire time.

Thank you that your word promises that when we trust in you, we will not be disappointed. Father, we thank you that as the God of hope, you fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in you, so that we will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This world that we live in is filled with evil, and while we, your Christ followers, wrestle not with flesh and blood, you promise that what the enemy intends to harm us, you will use for our good. In fact, you promise to use ALL things together for our good and for your glory. We who continue to trust you and keep our eyes focused on you will bear much fruit.

I’m so thankful that despite the chaos in the world around us, that you are the Master of the Universe and that you create order out of disorder. You are a God of restoration and repair. You are a God filled with mercy, grace, and great compassion.

Thank you God that you are greater than any foe who will rise against us, and that because of you, we are victorious and more than a conqueror. Thank you that you are pleased that we simply love and trust you, and want to know you more.

Thank you Lord that even on the days when we feel unworthy, like we don’t measure up, we are loved children of God. You have declared us a new creation in Christ, a friend of Jesus, and that Jesus makes us worthy.

Thank you that there is nothing we can do to make you love us more or love us less. Thank you that when you look at us, you see us not as we are, but through the righteousness of Jesus, clean and holy.

We can take comfort in knowing that when the road ahead of us seems dim and uncertain, you know the plans you have for us, and those plans are to prosper us and not to harm us. And those plans include a future and a hope. Because of you, Lord, Hope Prevails!

We praise you and bless your holy name!

In Jesus’ name, Amen!


 

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.38.59 AMYou can order Michelle’s new book, Hope Prevails, now. It will start shipping on August 16.

Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site:

Dr. Bengtson is the author of Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression.” Her personal experience and professional expertise reveal the unseen issues that keep others chained in despair, while handing readers the keys to freedom. Even though someone may seem hostage to depression, it never has to be the final destination.

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Her Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter (@DrMBengtson)  |  LinkedIn  |  Google+  |  Instagram   |  Pinterest  |  YouTube

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