How do I pray when ___?

Pray about it! I declare. Pray without ceasing, the Bible tells us. Prayer changes us, I promise. I write about prayer, but do I truly believe it? Absolutely. Except sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer and then passed away in spite of all the ...

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Pray about it! I declare. Pray without ceasing, the Bible tells us. Prayer changes us, I promise. I write about prayer, but do I truly believe it? Absolutely.

Except sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer and then passed away in spite of all the prayers my family and friends prayed, I floundered. Not just floundered. I flopped. Fell, tumbled, stumbled away, pretending I was okay while knowing I’d never be okay again. God hadn’t saved her life. The only thing stronger than my anger was my denial about being angry.

When I watched my neighbor carry his six-year-old son Henry to the hearse parked in the driveway between our houses, after Henry had succumbed to the brain tumor that distorted his beautiful face, the ache in my heart was almost too much to bear. Even though he wasn’t my own child, my heart was broken. And I had trouble finding words.

When my daughter missed more school than she attended her senior year and had to be hospitalized three hours away from home for a week at a migraine specialty hospital, and clients needed brochures and ads turned around quickly, and my other daughter needed ankle surgery, and my dad was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells, and money wasn’t coming in to my graphic design business account, I was more inclined to curl up in a ball and take a nap than I was to pray. It was too much to try to wade through it all.

When the British man who had devastated me in college by ending our two-year romance with a heartless letter found me online many years later, it threw me. As much as I loved my husband and my life, I had to reframe the way I’d thought about that relationship for the past twenty years, and figure out what any of it meant for my current life. My brain was a tangled-up mess. In prayer, I’d simply sit. I didn’t know how to put words to the chaos I felt inside.

Maybe for you it was a pastor or teacher or family friend who did unspeakable things and no one believed you. Or maybe it was a church who judged you—rightly or wrongly—and pushed you away. Your baby stopped breathing, or didn’t survive until birth. Your spouse cheated on you. Again and again. Your employee stole from you. Your boss spitefully reprimanded you, costing you the promotion you wanted. Or you admitted to being abused and nobody did a thing to stop it. Maybe you adore children and don’t understand why God hasn’t given you a baby of your own when so many who don’t want a baby get pregnant. Maybe you think the only way out of your financial mess is to file bankruptcy, but those debts don’t qualify, you don’t make enough to cover your expenses, and your job is a dead end. Or maybe you are an addict and can’t imagine God could ever deliver you from that.

You may not struggle with a traumatic event, but fight tangled emotions and insecuritieswhy would God want me after all I’ve done? Perhaps you’re waiting until you feel like you’re in a respectable place, with your life cleaned up. Maybe you can’t forgive yourself so you certainly don’t expect God to do so, and you’re certain He won’t want to hear from you.

It might be that you’ve watched holier-than-thou Christians judge and condemn and live hypocritical lives, and you just can’t bear to associate with them in any way because of the impression they convey to the world.

Or maybe you struggle with the age-old questions: How can God allow evil? What kind of God would let that happen? Is God really real? Why can’t I feel Him? Why doesn’t He answer me?

I could write pages and pages and never touch on half of the obstacles people face when it comes to prayer.

What I hope this tells you is that when—not if, but when—you struggle, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you.

In spite of the struggles, though, I’ve also seen answers. I’ve seen my life and attitudes and prejudices and beliefs transformed over time. I’ve witnessed what seem to be miraculous answers, unexplained by science and logic. I’ve watched science heal people, and found myself thanking God for working through medicine.

I haven’t seen God with my eyes, but I’ve witnessed His presence in one situation after another. He hasn’t spoken in an audible voice, but I’ve heard him loud and clear. He isn’t tangible, I can’t touch Him, but I’ve felt Him hold me tight and carry me through moments of unspeakable pain.

So how do we pray when there’s too much going on? When we can’t see God in it? When we don’t know where to begin? When we’re in pain? Sad? Depressed? Uninspired? When we don’t like the way God is answering? When we don’t feel like He’s listening? What do we do when we’re out of words or when our words are angry and don’t seem fitting to be used in a holy pursuit like prayer?

Try something new. Something to jolt our minds and our hearts, something to bypass established behaviors and patterns. We need to trick our minds out of relying on the known and instead seek the unknown.

Think of it as preparation for future situations. Just as an artist has to learn how to mix paint colors, or a basketball player has to focus on individual skills like dribbling and shooting, in order to practice prayer long-term we need to experiment. If you can find ways to strengthen and notice more of God in the everyday, then when it comes time for you to step up to the canvas (or get off the bench), you’re ready. You have all the tools you need to face the problem before you.

Today, and tomorrow, and possibly even the next day, I hope you will try something different. Stand up if you normally sit down. Speak out loud if you typically pray in silence. Read a liturgical prayer or spiritual poem. Write it down. Shake things up.

Designed to Pray coverYou can totally do this on your own, but if you would like to dedicate some time to exploring different approaches to prayer, I hope you’ll check out my new book. Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God releases on August 1, and it’s an 8-week individual Bible study designed to lead women into a deeper relationship with God. (You can order it now.)

Whether you read my book or not, I’m excited to hear what you discover. I hope you’ll share your experiences with me here or on my blog.

Dear Lord, sometimes it’s a little intimidating to try something new. But I hold tight to the truth I’ve discovered as I’ve walked this path with You: As long as You are in it, I want to be there too. Change can be painful at times, and sometimes I fight it. But Your vision surpasses mine, so I surrender myself willingly. When You get involved, when You begin to refine me and smooth the rough edges, I don’t become less but more. Open my heart and mind to new possibilities, and teach me to express my creativity in ways that allow me to find You. Make connections for me between people and ideas and my awareness of You—let me see more of the ways You’ve woven us all together and connected us all with Your love. Amen.

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.

Standing (kneeling, bowing, dancing?) before God

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on ...

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I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on your posture.


I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once help deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

**

A few months ago, on a Sunday morning, I went to the altar to pray. I’d been closing in with God, doing a lot of writing, thinking of Him as a friend. Sitting beside me. Walking next to me.

But that day, as I knelt in prayer, I realized something. I’ve spent time side-by-side, but not enough time at His feet. It’s a posture of surrender. The physical position is important. Because as I sit at His feet, I remember how big He is. How powerful.

I realize that for generations and generations, kings had to grant special approval to let someone enter the throne room. I’ve done nothing to earn that kind of access. But He allows me to approach Him in His sanctuary, this place of peace, away from the chaos and noise. To rest in the shadows of His glory. To draw near in the shelter of His wings. To not have to do anything. To simply be. To be with Him.

Nothing more is required.

Resting my head and shoulder against the throne, leaning near Him, imagining His hand resting on my head, I feel the weight of His majesty. A fatherly gesture of familiarity and comfort. The bestowal of a blessing.

The sweetest of gifts. The greatest.

**

We can’t control the way God responds to our prayers. But I’ve discovered that I have different types of experiences when I change the posture of my prayer.

Standing with arms open toward the sky makes me feel exultant. I close my eyes and imagine His light shining upon me, His Spirit pouring into me. I’m coming boldly before His throne.

Bowing on my knees makes me feel like I’m coming to Him in humility and supplication, remembering who He is and offering Him respect. Asking Him, humbly and reverently, for help.

Standing, arms open, palms up, I’m talking to Him as a friend. He reaches out His hands to grasp mine, and we stand face to face.

Face down on the floor, awash in emotions, I am physically responding to the almighty power and greatness, the majesty of my God. I am bowing as low as I can in order to lift Him up.

Lying in bed at night, whispering to Him, unloading the burdens I’ve carried all day, I feel an intimacy and can imagine His arms holding me tight as He rocks me to sleep.

**

If the only way I’ve experienced God is in the silence, the quiet moments might not seem so sweet. If I’ve only ever danced and shouted, I’ve missed the opportunity to hear His still, small voice. If I always humble myself, I may forget that He wants to come face to face with me and build relationship. And if I simply walk through life with Him beside me, I may lose sight of how powerful and magnificent He is. I may forget that He. Is. God. We’re not equals; He is so much more.

And the more ways I approach Him, the more I experience of Him.

What are you doing today? Whether you meet me at the foot of the Almighty God, or we link arms and dance for joy, or we sit down together and talk over coffee, know this: There’s plenty of room for all of us. And He will meet us there.

 

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!

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!

What you missed (Allume 2015)

Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. ...

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Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. Here are a few highlights.

The aforementioned friends. The swag bags—and oh my goodness were there lots of free books! A little bit of heaven. Seeing my book displayed alongside some truly amazing authors, and getting to meet a bunch of others. Late-night talks, and time spent with my agent. Dinner with some people from Tyndale.

allume collage 2A few random (but profound) tidbits from some of the people I heard speak (top left to bottom right):

Logan Wolfram, director of Allume—”Peace only comes through the whole body… Their differences paved the way for them to undertake their ministry together… We all end up at the foot of the same Jesus… Be curious about what makes you different, but more curious about what makes you the same.” Excited to join the street team for her upcoming book, Curious Faith.

Austin Channing Brown—”Doing nothing is no longer an option… Committing yourself to constantly entering the brokenness… Whites have been elevated beyond where they should be, and blacks pushed lower. Both are false identities and have interfered with the way we see God… Incredibly important to the work of justice is to follow the more marginalized… Reconciliation cannot be done alone. It must be done in community.” Her words really stirred up something inside me, showing me why I must care about racial issues.

The Museum of the Bible—being built in D.C. to open in fall 2017. An immense undertaking—and an exciting one, because they want to show people the history of the Bible. And it sounds amazing. I’ll be posting more about it later, but you can go to their site right now.

Tim Willard—spoke on the language of beauty with language and ideas too beautiful for me to replicate. A couple phrases from my notes: “What God creates communicates joy because there is an echo within us. He is echoing in you because he is alive in what you see… What connects with people in writing is that which comes from joy or tears… Beauty demands something of me because I have to first pause to see it… The embodiment of beauty in your writing is what actually makes it so.” I bought his devotional, Longing for More, and the intro alone brought me to tears. Something so beautiful and profound in his words.

Chrystal Evans Hurst—Author of Kingdom Woman with her dad, Tony Evans—and what an amazing speaker. “We serve a God who loves to interrupt us. Every interruption serves to introduce us to Him in a new way… Rest is worship. It’s trusting God. Believing He’s got this. Stop, beloved.”

Gwen Smith (not pictured)—you should listen to this beautiful song. Right now. And then listen to all her other ones.

Wendy Speake—such an inspiring session. “Your heart message usually comes out of your story. Not the first one, but the second story (the ‘I once was lost but now am found’ story). We’re just a reflection of that message. And until we understand our own stories, we can’t tell those of others.”

Esther Burroughs—reminded us of the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit whispers and He nudges—and if we don’t hear Him, we’re not still enough… When the Holy Spirit works, He always points to Jesus, not to you or to your book or your blog… A woman of God who trusts the Holy Spirit has to live this way: instant confession and instant obedience.”

Lots to chew on. Lots of thoughts whirring through my brain. So many people with so much to say… and a whole bunch of books to read, as well. Looks like my mind is going to be busy this fall and winter!

Still having trouble being still

I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN. But since when have I ever kept it short? As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a ...

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I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN.

But since when have I ever kept it short?

As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a Bible study—sort of a prayer activity book, with eight weeks of prayer exercises. For Day 7 of each week, I titled it “A Day of Rest” and created short, quiet thoughts and activities for those days. Something simple, some way to stay connected and pray without ceasing, but nothing that was tiring or difficult. My thought process was this: On the seventh day, God rested. Maybe you should, too.

As Marcia and I were discussing it, I told her I was having trouble with the days of rest. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, that’s ironic!”

I have trouble resting. Relaxation feels indulgent. I have too much to do. Not enough time. Too many things I want to do. People to see. Books to read (and write). Ask my husband—I don’t even really relax on vacation. It’s a problem.

And yet, I’ve been bombarded with messages about why we need to rest. Why we need time to be still and quiet with God. I’m the first to tell about an article I read once saying that kids need down time in order to be creative. Their minds need time to ponder, reflect, wonder, and imagine. When they’re overly busy, there’s no time to simply think.

I read this article today, 6 Reasons You Seriously Need to Slow Down: How a hurried life can destroy your relationship with God. Although I haven’t read her new book yet, I read Emily Freeman’s blog, Creating Space for Your Soul to Breathe, which is all about saying no to busyness. My go-to Bible verse is “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

And yet…I hurry. Always. I can’t go to a soccer game without a book to read and a notebook to jot ideas in. I can’t pick up my son from school without a book. I answer emails at stoplights (but not while driving, I promise). If I sit in front of the TV, it’s with my calendar and notebooks and laptop spread in front of me. I burn nearly everything I cook because I sit down at the computer to try to finish one more thing and I don’t hear the oven timer go off.

I’ve been starting to wonder why. Do I need to stay busy to feel important? Do I do a lot of meaningless stuff to avoid something else? Am I afraid if I slow down I’ll never get moving again?

I really don’t know.

But it’s becoming clear to me that I need to try.

I’m not exactly sure how. No idea what that really looks like. How do I not feel like I’m wasting time? How do I not worry about all that I’m not getting done? I don’t think I feel the need to earn God’s (or anyone else’s) approval. I know I’m loved by God first and by my friends and family, just the way I am. But I always think that if there is more that I can do, I should. If I have any talents at all, I should use them. If I have all these wonderful people in my life, I should spend time with them. And if I want to do those things, I have to cram it all in and rush rush rush through my days.

I’d love to know what you do to slow down—even if it’s just mentally slowing down. How do you justify it? Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and it comes naturally to you. If so, I’d love to hear your insights.

I’ll start by signing off WordPress and picking up my journal. My house should be quiet for a little while longer. (See, I can’t even sit in quiet without something in my hands. My excuse is that it keeps me focused and I get less distracted.) But please, comment on this post and let me know your thoughts. Do you have these struggles too? How do you handle it?

Reaching the end

I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished! I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll ...

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I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished!

I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll be working on edits with Bonne, the same magnificent editor I worked with on Praying Upside Down. That gives me great pleasure, because she’s something like magic. She makes me look good. I’ll keep you posted on things like release date (next spring) and the cover and so forth, but for now all I have to offer you is the title: DESIGNED TO PRAY: Creative Ways to Engage with God. It’s an 8-week-long prayer journal/activity book filled with creative prayer exercises, stories, Bible verses and quotations, and lots of fun artwork. And I’m really excited about it. But I’m also quite tired. I’ll be sending this to my editors Sunday afternoon after asking everyone in my church to pray over it first. And now? I’m going to indulge in reading a good YA novel and watching TV with my son. I may also find some chocolate.

Here’s the link to download the new prayer prompt calendar for September. Hope you enjoy!

Sept 2015 prayer prompts

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.

 

 

Does your posture influence your prayer?

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head ...

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GRAPHIC The more ways I approach

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once held deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

Join me at the Internet Café today to find out how.

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