Five Stars for “A Prayer Journal” by Flannery O’Connor

A Prayer JournalA Prayer Journal is a quick, passionate discovery on what it looks like to seek God in prayer. In this writing, there are only 42 electronic pages, if reading on a Kindle. It’s simple but profound. Elegant like gold, yet practical as a silver utensil. Overall, it illustrates a heart that is hungry for God. A hunger that isn’t satisfied with anything in this world other than to know God. O’Conner’s last words describe the intimate longing her journal portrays, “If I could only always just think of Him.”


The Tipping Point of Christmas

It’s Christmas time and I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. This time of the year there is pressure on our finances, getting gifts, going to parties, buying outfits for those parties, sending cards, preparing food, meeting with family and all our routine responsibilities on top of it all. These layers of duties make me think of recently putting up and decorating our Christmas tree. As you may know with fake trees, there are layers to assemble, and then at the top, the tree comes to the highest point where one may place a star or angel. On the top of our tree, we have a star and it kind of fits, but it IMG_2971seems to lean to one side and will suddenly tip over.

When I feel overwhelmed, I feel like I am going to tip over. It’s like how Malcolm Gladwell talks about how things usually don’t gradually tip, but things suddenly tip. Malcolm says in his book The Tipping Point, “Most people think that life is full of steady progressions. However, in fact, many of the most important events in life happen suddenly and unexpectedly, so that there’s no way to predict them in advance.” Waves of emotion can happen this way, for instance, the stress of the holidays just creep up, and all of a sudden you have been tipped over and caught off guard!

Similarly, I remember feeling this way when I was pregnant like I was going to tip over. When you are pregnant, you have to balance all this extra weight, and there is a lot of additional pain and pressure. I am sure Mary felt this way too. Not only the weight of the baby inside her but the weight of responsibility, of carrying the son of God. I could not imagine that pressure.

Thinking of all this and trying to put things into perspective I ended up thinking about the positive tipping point! In fact, I heard a message from Sarah Bowling about what Mary said when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus. In Luke 1:46-47 Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Although I am confident she was feeling pressure, she still magnified the LORD, and the world’s greatest miracle came to earth.

Today I am choosing to think of all the memories and miracles which are about to come. In fact, the miraculous tipping point is just moments away; we will experience the joy of all our hard work. Soon it will all be done – the shopping, the food, the giving, and gathering will all occur. Then we will rest and take delight in the joy that will radiate off our children’s faces as they open their gifts. We will embrace one another. We may light a candle and pass it to someone next to us until a whole room is lit up. All this will happen so fast. It will be a tipping point, and then we will wait for the season to come again. So push aside the stress and the worry and anticipate the joy that will unexpectedly surprise your soul. Look forward to the tipping point and tell your soul to magnify and exalt the LORD.

Blood Suckers

Giving is a necessary part of life. In fact, if you are reading this post, you have been given something, you were given life. From the moment you and I were conceived, we were given nourishment, time, and room to grow in our mother’s womb. This conceiving process of giving and eventually laboring occurs every day throughout the world. In fact, you may be very familiar with this fatigue, pain, love, sleepless nights, heartache, joy, cost, sacrificial giving and so much more that comes along with having a child.

I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn, I would often say, “This kid is sucking my blood! He is taking EVERYTHING from me!” This statement wasn’t always a complaint, but a reckoned truth. I was GIVING my all, my everything, at every moment. There wasn’t a minute in which I wasn’t giving. Even in my sleep, I was providing nourishment for my son to grow and develop.

A  paradoxical analogy that has recently come to me is pastors give this same kind of constant nourishment. Being a pastor is like being pregnant ALL THE TIME! They are fatigued, experience pain, have sleepless nights, anticipate the future with both joy and hesitation, sacrificially give and so much more.  Each congregation is a growing body that continues to develop and receive from their pastor(s).

As I conclude this paradoxical analogy, my plea is simple. Although we are a body, a body of believers, we aren’t stuck in a womb. We are out, and we can give back! This month, October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and since pastors give their ALL, let’s give to them in return. Let’s appreciate our pastor(s)!

If you are in need of some ideas, here are a few:
1) Cash – green goes with everything!

2) Gift Cards – find out a place your pastor likes. Ask them! I know my pastor like Chic-fil-A.

3) Speaking of food who doesn’t like food?!? We all need to eat. Bring a meal or take them out for lunch, coffee, tea, etc.

4) Presents – again ask! If you are in a large congregation and you don’t personally know your pastor call his or her secretary. Maybe your pastor likes movies, archery, books, football, or collects small antique cars. Amazon is always there for you. You don’t have to go out of your way to get a present!

5) A card, phone call, text or thank you in person is a refreshing change from all the other Monday (or any day ending with y) emails regarding some complaint. Seriously pastors get more complaints than thank you’s. Give a thank you!

6) Team up with your home group or entire congregation to give your pastor a much-deserved vacation!

7) Last but not least, pray for your pastor! Prayer could be the greatest gift of all.

National Day of Prayer

Yesterday I was praying with a friend, and while she was praying, she used the word “resist” to describe something. Once she said, “resist” my mind went straight to America, and the Resistance Movement. As my mind thought of how America is tangibly resisting, my spirit echoed in how it is not resisting. James 4 clearly states we are to RESIST the devil.

Therefore on this National Day of Prayer, I am praying we RESIST!
IMG_6225~We resist pride.
~We resist envy.
~We resist addictions.
~We resist adultery.
~We resist prejudice.
~We resist murder.
~We resist false idols.
~We resist quarrels
~We resist jealousy.
~We resist sickness.
~We resist hate.
~We resist confusion.
~We resist lust.
~We resist depression.
~We resist fear.
~We resist lies.
~We resist false accusations.
~We resist torment.
God, we resist EVERYTHING that is not of or from you.
We want to resist and now submit, solely to you. Knowing that you are the only thing and One worth drawing toward.

*This is not a political post. Please don’t make it a political post. It’s a prayer post.

A Hug Can Change Everything

When my youngest was just a baby, and my oldest was in preschool, we were just at the beginning stages of figuring out what it means to be a fragile medical family. I was working part-time, trying to help with medical bills while the kids were in a program called Mother’s Day Out.

I loved Mother’s Day Out. In fact, one day I came to pick up the kids, and the preschool teacher said something about it being book day. As she described the day, she handed me the book, “Hug.” I quickly said, “I can’t pay for this!” She replied, “No, it’s a gift.” I started to cry: First, because I couldn’t even afford a simple paperback book and second, the kindness of teacher Sachi blew me away.IMG_4680

The other week while picking up our weekly Costco pizza, I stopped by the book aisle and lo and behold I saw the book “Hug.” Since “Hug” changed my life in so many ways, I had to pass “Hug” along.

You see, “Hug” was given to us at one of our lowest points, at least the start of our lowest points. I never imagined not having enough money for a small paperback book. I also never planned “to not plan” to get my kid a book, on book day. This just wouldn’t be! However, it was our reality.

Teacher Sachi changed and saved the day by giving “Hug” to my oldest son. She also hugged me while tears rolled down my face. “Hug” was a tremendous gift to our family. It was one of the biggest hugs we ever received.

You never know what may change someone’s life; a small paperback book named “Hug” changed mine.

Life is a Highway

Often, when I take my dog out, I pray. Today was no different. When I heard my dog bark, my natural routine took place. I got my dog’s leash, and I told him to sit. Once he sat, I gave him a treat.

When I walked out my front door, I thought about texting my husband, but then I remembered how much I’ve been wanting to “stop before texting” I decided to change my plans. I didn’t text my husband. We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, but I’ve been thinking about stopping before I walk, sit, stand, or do anything.

Actually, STOP.

All this to say, I have wanted to question the moment, the necessity before I text and ask myself these questions: Do I need to text him/her at this very instant? May this wait, and I talk to him/her later? Do I even need to say this at all? Could I just stop and pray?

Since the text, I was thinking about sending my husband wasn’t urgent and didn’t matter at all. My next thought was the goal I’ve been trying to reach – Will I stop and pray? Will the moment I grab my phone to text, someone, be a trigger for me to pray for someone?

This idea to stop before texting is kind of a form of fasting because it is saying no to something we do so easily. Without much thought, we grab our phones like we grab food. In fact, I might say it is harder for some to fast their phone, then to fast a meal.

As I put away the idea of texting my husband, I started to pray.

This one person came to mind, and I didn’t know precisely why I was praying for this individual, but I did. I prayed for her, her daughters, and her son.

As for a funny paradox, when God puts someone in my mind I often text the person and say, “I am praying for you.” I hope to encourage the individual as maybe they are having a hard day? Some days I never know. So after I technically stopped. (I put down my phone to pray.) I started again. I texted the individual who I just prayed for. I didn’t say much of anything, but, “Praying for you as I take out my dog.”

Ironically, all of a sudden my dog decides to stop, and sit right next to the black hot pavement.  He didn’t even go pee. I began to laugh, and texted the person again (along with the picture below), “I guess God or my dog wants me to pray longer.”IMG_2841

I needed to stop again. I needed to keep praying.

There are so many times in life where we need to stop. Alternatively, our society has been trained to move fast. It’s even declared in our music, “Life is a highway, I want to ride it….” I’m convinced that life shouldn’t be a highway ALL THE time. That is chaotic.

We need to stop.

We need to stop and pray.

Time Out for a Cry Out!

When my kids were little, they had the cutest time-out chair, ever!! I wish I were small enough to sit in it. It was a nice place, a safe place. My boys could re-gather their thoughts and behavior, and start again. Sometimes their cries would outlast the timer, but I would give them the opportunity to stay in that nice, safe place until they gained their composure. Better said, I would NOT let them get out of their time-out until they cried it all out!

As a mom, I have found myself in need of more time-outs than any other time in my life. Maybe even more than I had as a toddler? I don’t know, but recently I needed a time out. I needed a timeout for a cry out!

Remembering back when my boys cried out, in a time-out, I never saw it as a gift. In fact, the scripture in Romans, which mentions kindness leading us to repentance, was certainly not in my mind, nor theirs. However, recently when I was alone, my time-out could only be described as a glorious gift.

Of course, you might be thinking anytime in which moms are alone is a gift, and I would concur 100%! However, when we are particularly placed in a time-out, do we see it as a gift? Do we see that kindness leads to repentance? Do we see waiting – leads to a promise?

As I think about my kid’s lovely blue time-out chair, I can vividly imagine myself rocking back and forth as if I were in a time-out, in their chair. It seems I’ve been rocking back and forth for a while. My back is beginning to hurt because there are no cushions. Even though I’ve described the chair as nice and safe, it isn’t the most comfortable. It’s really hard. It’s just a little wooden rocking chair.IMG_0032

Now I begin to wonder, “How did I get here? How did I get in this time out? It seems like I have been in this chair FOREVER!! When is the timer going to go off? Did it go off already? Am I still complaining and nothing has changed since I first sat down?”

As I continue to think to myself, I say, “Okay, I am going to gain composure. I am going to get out of this time out!” Then all of a sudden the tears, the true tears start rolling. I confess my envy, jealousy, discontentment, and all the stuff that has built up in my heart. I let God know I am scared. I didn’t intend or purposely do something wrong to get in time-out. Alternatively, it was just life. Many things aren’t fair, and just as kids, we get mad, we pout, and we end up in time-out.

As I discovered myself in time out, I realized God wasn’t harshly disciplining me. I just needed to gain composure. I was acting like a child complaining in a grocery store. I wanted all the pretty items on the shelf. I saw others getting items off the shelf, so why couldn’t I get something new?

As tears continued and my soul cried out, I got something new; I got mercy.

The next day, I woke up and when I looked at my phone, I got a text that said, “Praying for you today: Lamentations 3:19-24 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I said to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”

IMG_0033Again, Jesus revealed I have something new, I have Christ’s compassion, His mercy, which never fails.

Although I will continue to see people have new items, (new careers, new homes, improved bodies, new levels of education) in which I may not get, I am promised to have mercy; and mercy unlike everything else I listed never fails, never breaks, and never ends.

He does not forget the cry of the humble. Psalm 9:12b

Put the Gun Down!

When I was a little girl, I was scared that if I fell asleep with my hands above my head, I would get shot. You know, because in the movies when the cop comes out s/he says, “Put your hands above your head,” and the officer(s) ALWAYS have a gun in hand! It was such a terrifying thought! One night when I saw my mom sleeping with her hands up, I was sure I would never see her alive again. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t know that putting her hands above her head (whether accidentally or on purpose) was the universal sign of signaling someone to shoot?

Thankfully my mom didn’t die that night, and shortly after I found out that if you accidentally have your hands above your head, no one is going to pop out of thin air and shoot you. I also learned, often, in these types of movies, officers would come out and say to the person who would soon be putting their hands in the air too, “Put the gun down.” So I realized they weren’t random people putting their hands in the air. Often these people broke the law. They were the ones who first had a gun.

Now that you know I learned the ABC’s of getting arrested through television let me tell you how I broke the law.

Many people think you should start your day reading your Bible, but I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. In my teens and maybe early twenties, I would lay in bed with guilt as I tossed and turned only to fall back asleep. One day I learned about giving your best to God. I knew for sure my best was NOT IN THE MORNING. Ever since then I’ve made a habit to read my Bible, and pray, in the day, or evening before bed.

Although I am pretty good at reading my Bible before bed, I do have a problem when I purchase new books. I often find that when I open my Kindle App (where a few of my Bibles are found), the last intriguing book I bought seems to catch my eye. Therefore I’m guilty of reading other books. In fact, last night I went to bed a bit grumpy and said out loud to God (as my husband listened), “Why do I have to read my Bible? It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible, ‘You have to read the Bible!’ It’s not a commandment.” As my husband laughed, I quickly recalled the passage of scripture that states, “You shall meditate on it both day and night.” I then thought, “Grrrr, IT IS in the Bible!”

As I continued to finish up my day, I checked emails, Facebook, and Googled some random fact and all of a sudden I seemed to hear a voice just like I did when I was little. However, I didn’t hear the usual “Put the gun down.” I heard, “Put the phone down.” I thought, “Seriously?” Did I just hear, “Put the phone down,” as if my phone was like a gun?!? Geeez, I must be having another naive moment like I did when I was little. Why would my phone be like a gun?

Then I realized why my phone is like a gun. It is holding me hostage. I’m holding myself hostage. To be free, I have to drop my phone. I have to raise my hands in surrender. I have broken the law. The scripture that came to me states, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8

Although I haven’t broken a law in which my hands were in the air, and the police were going to shoot me. I have broken the law, I haven’t met with grace in a few days.

I prayed, “Jesus forgive me. I’m naïve or downright foolish at times. I need help. I want to surrender to You. Help me drop what needs to be dropped so I can be free in You. In Your law, in Your grace.  Amen.

Space Invaders

I just got back from a prayer getaway and since returning a hundred things came to mind before praying did. Of course, then the hundredth and one thing popped on in, I thought, I should pray. Thankfully, I didn’t start the conversation. In fact, sometimes it’s much easier when God starts first. God knows that I am a mom and all that entails. I also think God knows that I’m probably an undiagnosed ADHD believer, as God often has to interrupt me to get my attention. Can I get an Amen?

Tonight God interrupted me through two lovely space invaders. One space invader I gave birth to, the other one I bought. Of course, I would never say, “I bought a kid.” However, I did buy this kid; he is my dog. So two children (one by birth, another by bucks) got so close that they only left me with an approximately 2-foot square on my king size bed! Thanks to Google I found out the length or footage of a king size bed is 76 x 80. Therefore, my child and dog had up to 74 x 78 feet. Granted they didn’t take it all, but they crowded me into this little upper right-hand corner in which I had no space. They invaded!

Ironically earlier this evening I told my husband, I wish I could hide in a closet or a cubby hole. Since being gone this weekend, I didn’t have any invaders. I had space. I had my own room! It was lovely.

Tonight as the hundredth and one thing popped into my head, I realized why I should pray. God wants to invade my space! God wants to get close. From experience, I’ve sometimes learned when God wants to get close it isn’t always fun. Sometimes God wants to clean out the closet. You too may know it isn’t always fun until after the closet is clean. But tonight, I knew God wanted to be present with me. God wanted to spend time with me. Like my dog and child all snuggled up so close. God wanted to invade my space.

When I started to pray, I said, “God, thanks for invading my space. Thanks for being present even when I’m not thinking of you. You always want to be so close. You are such a good father. You teach me in so many ways. I love my space invaders. Thanks for interrupting me through them. Thanks for teaching me how to pray.”