A Simple System of Prayer

Friday, September 4, 2015

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I have always wanted to be more consistent when it comes to praying for others. However, I lacked a plan in order to keep myself on track. Last month I decided that I would make a commitment to myself to pray for 31 people over the next several months. A person for each day. I purchased a Moleskine Storyboard Notebook to set myself up, but really any little notebook would do. I like this one because it has boxes like this...

and this...

To set it up, I put a different number {1-31} in each box. Then in each of the boxes I wrote the name of a person that I want to pray for. Each day when I am doing my morning quiet time I open up to the correct date and pray for the person in the box. So, for example, if it is the 23rd of the month I pray for the person listed in box 23. When a new month hits I start all over again. I use the extra space in the box to make any notes about what I might need to pray for specifically for that person.  The notebook I bought is pretty small and doesn't have a lot of room for notes, but there is a bigger version {Moleskine Storyboard Notebook, Large} that has more room to write in. I didn't use up all the pages...so there will be space to do another set of 31 names in the future when I decide to change things up a bit.

This has proven to be such a simple reminder for me to take a moment to pray for those around me. Now I know that I am being more consistent in prayer, and best of all, I am not forgetting someone. I have also gotten to see how God is moving in the lives of those who I am praying for. It has been faith-building for me to watch Him work! Here are some ideas of who you could add to your list:

  • family members
  • friends
  • church leaders
  • government leaders
  • "enemies" -those that you find challenging to live with or need to forgive {See this post.}
  • teachers
  • acquaintances

Any more ideas of who to pray for? Leave a comment and I will add the category to the list!

The Benefits of Harsh Words

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Harsh condemning words on paper. Judgment delivered via e-mail. Vague Facebook comments meant to sting. And every single one of them were some of the best gifts I have ever received!

Most people wouldn't put critical comments on the top of their Christmas lists. We, as human beings, will try whatever is in our power to avoid pain. Who wants to be looked down upon? Treated with disdain? Seen as a target? And yet, they can become gifts if we let them. How can criticism become a blessing? {By the way, I am not speaking about constructive criticism, but rather the mean-spirited, angry version.} How can we see criticism in a new light? What good can it possibly do us to be verbally beaten down? While I am not saying that ugly, judgmental words are good events in our lives, I do believe that God can use them for our good.

Criticism can make us run to Christ. People's ugly words made me run to the feet of Christ. Oh how desperately I needed to know I was still loved...I was not totally rejected. I have never fought so hard to understand how deeply He loves until I was confronted with the condemning words of others. My relationship with God has grown in ways it never would have if everyone had been loving and gracious.

Criticism can show us Whose opinion really matters. It doesn't matter what their assessment is of you. As hard as it is to swallow, the only opinion of you that matters is His. Severe criticism has the potential to strip away the fear of man. Nowadays, I care less what others think about me because I have seen how people can't really judge our hearts. Only God knows who we really are.

Criticism can strengthen a soul. What made me weak and emotionally raw at the beginning eventually strengthened me. Harsh words gave me the power to stand on my own two feet. There is a strength that comes from journeying through a hell of people's judgments to only come out on the other side knowing you have survived. It takes time, but the critical comments can create fortitude.

Are you struggling with relational angst and need some resources to heal? Check out these books on healing.

The Father's Care

Monday, August 31, 2015

I find them staring each other down.  The baby robin and its "foe", a miniature schnauzer, that doesn't look so miniature when you've just dropped out of a nest. The schnauzer was a perfect gentleman only wanting to make a friend.  But to the baby he was a monster.  How scary to live in a world where you are helpless, vulnerable.

I want to sit with that baby and watch over him.  He is looking a little lifeless sitting on his bottom in the grass with his feet up.  He looks scared, tired, overwhelmed not unlike the person staring down at him.  I want to protect him, but I have a dog to redirect, dinner to make, duties to perform.  I walk away.  I come back after awhile (Who am I kidding?  I check on the baby off and on all afternoon).  He has hopped at bit here and there.  Relief rushes over me.  He isn't sick or dying.  He is safe and sound amongst the blades of grass.  And then it hits me, these are the ones that God takes care of...

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.  Matthew 10:29

Why do I worry?  I may feel helpless and hopeless.  But that is a lie.  I never fall out of my Father's care. I may face "foes", but are they really the monsters that my mind makes them out to be?  There are no monsters when God is your Father...only illusions of monsters. Is it possible that the helplessness and the foes are put in my path to show His care?  Does He allow them in so that I can face the harshness of life and know that I don't face it Fatherless? Does the presence of the heartache only prove His love?

By evening, the it has cooled and the baby bounces to life.  Hopping to and fro.  No longer hiding in the grass.  To be that baby that is my desire.  To hop to and fro and no longer hide, but embrace life.  To know that we don't fall out of His care. That we can take a leap and He is still there.

My Name is Hope

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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For me, 2015 is the year of HOPE. My Word of the Year. After several tough years I needed something to hang onto...a hope that God would use what I had been through for His glory and my good. To hope in Him that He will see to the end the story He started writing so many years ago in my heart. 

Hope is so essential for those that deal with anxiety and depression {like me}. I have struggled my whole life with these complex emotional issues. There are good days. There are bad days. There are even a few horrific days sprinkled in the midst of it all. Through it all I have learned more about learning into God in the midst of the raw emotions.

I recently read My Name is Hope: Anxiety, depression, and life after melancholy by John Mark Comer. He takes a look at the spiritual and emotional causes of anxiety and depression and gives tips on how to deal with them. He points out that anxiety and depression are linked according to the Bible which has totally been true for me. My anxiety causes depression. I loved reading his insights on the inner workings of both...Here are just a few things he had to say...

Anxiety is temporary atheism. Anxiety is when you stop trusting God...

Anxiety is mental. Depression is emotional.

Learn the art of praying your guts out.

For all our intelligence, ingenuity, and brilliance, we remain a violent, hurting people. We don't know how to repair the soul. We never have...No technology, no government, no self-help book has the power to reassemble the broken pieces of the human heart. God is the only hope for the desperate.

It takes time to undo years of sin, abuse, and dysfunction. The greater the wounds, the longer it takes to heal.

If you struggle with either anxiety and/or depression John Mark's book is worth the read! 

To read more of my posts on anxiety and depression, click here.

How Gratitude Changes a Heart

Sunday, August 23, 2015

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In October it will have been six years. Six years and counting. Six years of counting. That fall morning in 2009, I started a small list. Honestly, I didn't know how long I would last. I am great at starting things, but many times fizzle out over time. I had no idea how much I would need an ever-growing list that I would add to each week of the gifts God brought to me. In November of that year God would start a journey for me that I would not want to take. He knew I would need gratitude to keep my head above water and my mind sane. With each gift that I wrote down {or for many years typed on this screen to post on the blog}, my attitude changed. My heart held onto hope. A hope that maybe life is not as bad as it seems. Maybe when I am not watching He is giving gifts.

So almost six years and working my way to 6,000 gifts I have come to realize my great need for continuing my list. Yes, there have been seasons in life where the list was slower to grow. There have been times when it has exploded with abundance. Here's my thoughts after maintaining this habit for longer than I expected.

{Three of my gratitude journals}

A grumpy heart needs gratitude. There are times when I have a rough day. My mood is grumpy at best...foul at worst. Or maybe there is a tinge of jealousy creeping into my heart. Or maybe seemingly nothing has gone my way. Those are the days that I am finding I need to pull out my list and take a few minutes to thank God for the good I may have missed. Without fail, my mood improves if I will just sit and thank Him.

Gratefulness brings the positive memories back. I love that I can go back to my lists and remember what God has done for me. There are events and people that have happened in my life that I have completely forgotten about...flowers from a student, uplifting words, watching my son ice climb, playing family games. All gifts that would be forgotten if they weren't written down.

A hurting heart makes a gratitude list grow faster. During 2013, I went through some major changes in life. Painful changes. While I can look back and now see a glimmer of what God was doing and why He was allowing such devastation, at the time I was completely lost. All I could do was list as many graces as possible so that I wouldn't sink under the deepening grief. My list exploded during that time. I am sure part of why I survived it all had to do with counting God's gifts.

Gratitude makes a heart trust. Having a list of what God has done has caused me to trust Him more. There is just too much evidence in those journals to not believe Him. So when I am facing anxiety over an upcoming event all I have to do is remember all those graces and gifts listed. While trust has NEVER been my strong suit gratefulness has helped me overcome my doubt about God's goodness.

Need help starting a list?

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are- I love Ann Voskamp's book on how gratitude changed her life.

Need a gratitude journal that's free and printable?

Another free, printable gratitude journal

Lessons Learned from Hurt

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I am always taken by surprise how the ugly events of life can be the greatest teachers. It seems human beings learn best under duress. We normally think the best teachers are those that love and adore us, but God has been showing me that sometimes the best teachers are those that we disagree with, hurt us, and abuse us. They are the ones that give some of the best lessons. About a year ago I came to realize that I have learned a tremendous amount about life and how to live it through by those who inflicted pain. When the hurt entered my life God was not just allowing hard circumstances. He was setting up lessons for me to learn. Here are just a few I have learned along the way...

Anger is dangerous. Nothing can blow up a relationship quicker than lashing out in anger. It just isn't worth it in the big picture. Dealing with my anger over what someone has done before approaching them is the better way to go because once you explode something it takes forever to pick up the pieces.

Apologies save the broken. Knowing how to apologize well and rebuild trust is a skill that many don't have. Yet, it is one that everyone needs. An apology done right can save a relationship and heal a broken spirit. To read more on apologies, click here. It's better to have broken pride and apologize than to permanently break a person's heart.

We all have patterns. Going through hurt has made me more aware of the "red flags" in others. Typically, if someone does a certain behavior towards you it will be repeated. We need to be aware of those patterns and decide what we can deal with and what is a deal breaker for us before diving into a relationship. Also, realize that you, too, have patterns. Try to identify the negative ones and work on changing them.

There is no such thing as perfection. Relationships are messy. People are messy. You won't escape this side of heaven the dysfunction you see around you. Accepting the lack of perfection can bring peace. There is no perfect spouse. No perfect friend. No perfect family member. We all fall short (ourselves included). If we aren't perfect then we need to give grace to those around us who are less than perfect also.

Relationships are more important that being right. If you have to be right then you are going to be lonely. People are far more important than taking a stance and keeping your pride intact. Many of the broken relationships I have been a part of would have been saved if the relationship was chosen over pride and the need to be right. Pride can kill what matters most.

Have you gone through deep relational hurt? Have you struggled to get past the pain? Maybe one way to overcome it is to be thankful for what you have learned. While the lesson may not have been an easy one it may save you in the long run. So what has the hurt taught you?

There is hope and healing if you have dealt with major relational angst. Check out this book list for some great resources.

Letters From My Father's Murderer

Sunday, August 16, 2015

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Forgiveness is a process. A long one. For those who have not had to forgive a deep wound in their lives the concept of working through forgiveness may be hard to comprehend. The deeper the wound the longer the recovery and road to forgiveness. Some may not understand and say, "Why won't you just forgive?". It is not that simple. It takes time and above all God in the midst of the heartache to bring true healing.

I recently read Laurie Coombs' book Letters from My Father's Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness in which she talks about her process of forgiving and then eventually reconciling with the man that murdered her father. The story is compelling...I could barely put it down and read it in two days! But the real value of the book is to watch the process of forgiveness Laurie goes through as she writes to the man that took her father from her.

While Laurie's story is far more tragic and painful than mine, it was interesting to see how there were similarities in our thought processes. There are just certain actions and attitudes we can take to help with forgiveness. For example, Laurie mentions praying for Tony {the man that killed her dad}. For me, praying for those that hurt me has been so beneficial in getting me to a deeper place of forgiveness. {Here is a list of verses to pray over those you are trying to forgive.} As Laurie states, "You cannot pray for someone and hate them at the same time." Another concept she lays out in the book is understanding. In order to forgive we need to see the situation from our perpetrator's perspective. If possible, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. To forgive maybe we need a new set of eyes--God's eyes. He knows the whole story--both sides of it. Many times when we are hurt we only look at one side--ours.

I can't highly recommend Laurie's book enough! It gave me a new perspective and new ideas on how to push through all the issues surrounding healing. If you are struggling to forgive may I suggest that this may be an extremely helpful book for you. Laurie Coombs also has a blog. You can read more of what she writes by clicking here.