Is Prayer Enough?

He calls because he’s in deep pain. He doesn’t know what to do. I hear the desperation in his voice.

I don’t know what to tell him.

She calls because life is about to change. Again. New obstacles, fresh challenges. She wants to be optimistic, but so many things are in the way.

I don’t know what to tell her.

I'll be praying for you

Is Prayer a Cop-Out?

Is “I’ll be praying for you” a cop-out?

Do we say, “I’ll be praying for you,” because we don’t want to feel guilty and say nothing? Because we don’t want to do anything else? Because we don’t know what else to do?

Sometimes yes, yes, and yes.

But when the needs seem so urgent and tangible, “I’ll be praying for you” feels inadequate.

“You come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you?
Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?”
(James 2:15-17, The Message)

People tire of hearing only “I’ll be praying” if they know actions are also needed.

We see it after mass shootings. If politicians tweet only about prayers, they get backlash. Prayers may be good, people say, but they also expect actions, maybe change a law, with the praying.

It’s an old dilemma. James also said faith without works is dead. Faith is completed by works. A person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:20-26).

Who’s the Problem?

Or should we blame the person in need of prayer? Are they responsible for their own dire circumstances?

Doesn’t everyone start Monopoly with free money from the bank? (Since 2008, the rules say you start off with two $500’s, four $100’s, one $50, one $20, two $10’s, one $5, and five $1’s.)

No. Not everyone starts off with money from the bank (or family support or a healthy body or a stable mind). Or maybe as an adult they don’t have enough mental, emotional, or cultural skills, or the right circumstances, to make it last.

According to the World Values Survey, most Americans believe the poor just aren’t trying hard enough. They could dig out if they’d apply themselves. (Interestingly, most Europeans disagree, according to the same survey.)

We’re more comfortable believing success is within our individual control. If someone doesn’t succeed, we say they only have themselves to blame. It’s enough if we only say we’ll be praying. We’ll have done our part.

Or Is It Me?

Or am I to blame for not being able to adequately help others? To do nothing but pray?

I don’t want to doubt prayer, to doubt God, but do I?

Sometimes the problems seem too big.
My resources too limited.
My God too slow?

Pray Anyway

So what can we do?

Pray anyway. It’s always the perfect first step.

And as we pray, maybe God will prompt us to take a second step. Maybe he will supply us with an idea. Or renewed energy. Or proper direction.

When I talked to my friends on the phone this weekend, I encouraged just one step at a time. One day at a time.

Maybe I need to take my own advice in helping them. Take just one step.

  • Just listen to the problem with fresh ears.
  • Just look up a resource to help them.
  • Just ask someone else to pray for me.

Then pray again.

Because prayer is doing something.

Whether or not we see its effects, God is on the move when we pray.

We don’t always have to say “I’m praying for you” if it sounds too trite.  If it would offend.

But we can be praying anyway in our hearts. We can still cover their needs. We can still solicit help for our own means to help.

Throwing ourselves on God’s mercy is always the right action.

  • Maybe God will answer through a change in their circumstances.
  • Maybe God will answer through a change in the person.
  • And maybe God will answer through a change in us.

I’ll Keep Praying

I don’t know what will happen with my two friends. This isn’t the end of their stories. They’re still in the middle.

I did tell them both I’ll continue to pray for them. But hopefully I’ll also do for them, too.

I’m in the middle with them. With all my inadequacies, my fears, my own struggles. For now, that’s where we are.

But I’ll keep praying about it.

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Please share your thoughts about prayer in the comments.

sharing with Patricia, Holley,
MeghanKelly,
Char, RonjaMaryAnita, Terri


What About Your Righteous Anger?

How often are you offended? Are you irritated too frequently? Overly sensitive?

Are Christians viewed as perpetually angry people?

Here’s what could be a game-changer for dealing with Christian anger.

Read it all here, “Should You Be Mad?”

Should I Be Mad? Anger is easy.

* * *

We’re looking at Exceptional Christian Books this month at Do Not Depart.

Will you join me there as we talk about our “righteous anger” and the book Unoffendable?

sharing with Kelly, Lyli, Maree, Deb, Susan, Crystal,
Rachel, Debbie


Why They Listen to You

“People tire quickly of conversations that are simply ongoing narratives, endlessly repeated narratives, of another time.”
– Joan Chittister

Older Generation - Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years

Aunt Nancy

Aunt Nancy is 93 years old. Her husband died a few years back. She now lives in assisted living, but is doing well, all things considered.

As she sat inside on July 4th, away from the heat, different guests at the cookout would wander in and out of the house. And occasionally sit down for a visit with Aunt Nancy.

By mid-afternoon, I was seeking escape from the heat, too. Aunt Nancy was the perfect respite.

As I sat with a few others in my mother-in-law’s living room, we talked with Aunt Nancy. She told us some things we already knew. And some surprising things, too—her memory isn’t what it used to be—that we could easily weed out.

But content aside, it was simply being together that we enjoyed.

The Signposts

We weren’t looking to Aunt Nancy for only facts from the past.

Like other pilgrims on this journey, we look to the generation who walked before us for a lighted path. For a well-trodden road. For signposts that if we keep walking this way, we’ll end up in the right place.

  • We listen to hear that regardless, it will work out.
  • We listen to hear that God is really good.
  • We listen to hear that in the end, we will be fine.

I need to remember that, when I’m on the other side of the conversation. When I’m the “Aunt Nancy.” When I’m the older generation, the Aunt Lisa.

Aunt Lisa

Earlier in the day, before the crowds arrived, I was able to spend a quiet conversation with one of my nieces. She’s beautifully pregnant with her second baby, halfway there. We talked about changes and worries and options.

And what I hoped to pass along to her wasn’t facts, but hope. Faith. Joy. That she’s doing a fine job already. And I know she will continue to, regardless of what comes next.

That “life in all its forms is not only possible but wonderful,” in the words of Joan Chittister.

Relationships aren’t just to relay information back and forth to each other. They are to inspire each other to live better, to live stronger, to live more wisely.

Why We Listen

By the end of the day, Aunt Nancy was wilting. She’d changed from sitting on the couch to lying down on it. I rode with Clara Jo to take Aunt Nancy back to her home.

When we arrived at her assisted living facility, the residents were already gathered in the dining room for supper. Aunt Nancy was excited to be there with them. Even though she had no hunger for food, she was hungry to share her day with her friends.

Before she was even seated, they were asking her about it. “Tell us all about your day, Nancy!” She was ready to talk. And they were ready to listen.

Whether talking to someone ahead of us or someone behind us on our life’s journeys this week, may we all breathe life and inspire love and speak courage into each other.

Isn’t that what we’re all listening for?

* * *

Who do you listen to that is older than you? Are there younger ears listening to your voice? Please share in the comments.

sharing with Holley, Kristin, Patricia, Emily, Jaime,
Kelly, Char, Ronja,
Meghan, Mary, Anita


If You Pray Well, You Live Well?

If you pray well, you live well.

I Ain’t Scared

I get uncomfortable. Anxious. Sometimes scared.

It’s nothing new. Through the years I’ve resisted it. I’ve accepted it. I’ve worked on it.

And I’ve prayed about it. A lot.

So when the pastor was asking for a public recitation of prayer one Sunday after preaching on Isaiah 54:17, I wanted to repeat his phrase with everybody else:

“I ain’t scared.”

He was using slang to give us attitude. He was using our togetherness to give us courage. And he was using it as prayer to give us faith.

But would it be true for me to say it? And if so, why don’t I say it more often?

I read another statement of affirmation on Monday:

“If you pray well, you live well.”

It was written by the Puritan author Richard Rogers in the 1500s in his Holy Helps for a Godly Life.

I want to believe it also is true. But is it? And if it is, why don’t we pray more often?

The Pains of Praying

Sometimes we just forget to pray. We get in doing-mode instead of pausing to talk things over with God first.

Other times we find it boring to pray. So we shut it off prematurely. We don’t have time for that.

And then there’s the biggie: Sometimes we don’t pray because we don’t think it works.

We haven’t seen God answer everything, so we stop praying for anything.

But Prayer…

In Holy Helps, Rogers addresses these pains. He suggests we need to recall more frequently the benefits we already have seen from prayer. To pray for the blessings still promised to come.

He encourages us to talk up God’s goodness to him, to ourselves, to others. To verbalize what we know. To see by God’s light in the dark.

And he reminds us that we are being heard. Indeed. God is listening. Our words aren’t trapped in our own heads. They go straight through to the heart of the Father.

Get the Gift

And when we do pray? We are changed. Maybe not dramatically. But we come out different on the other side of prayer than how we entered it.

  • We have more grace to accept and give forgiveness.
  • We have more determination to fight off the bad.
  • We have more hope to pursue the good.

And we’re more acquainted with God.

That Sunday morning I did choose to say this aloud with the congregation:

“I ain’t scared.”

I looked around at my fellow brothers and sisters also saying it. My husband beside me. My friend Tara in front of me. Her husband (also named Jeff) saying it, “I ain’t scared.”

In that moment, seeing big Jeff—a tall, strong man with his hands raised to the ceiling in praise the Father—I knew it:

Yes, we really are safe.

And in that moment, I wasn’t scared either.

Pray Well

I will likely continue to grapple with a certain level of anxiety and fear as long as I’m in the flesh. But I can also have great moments of peace in the midst of it.

I know that I’m surrounded by protection.

  • God hears me.
  • God loves me.
  • God is for me.

And he wants me to live well.

If you pray well, you live well, so they say.

Here’s to praying better.

* * *

Is prayer your first option in crisis? In times of peace? Please share in the comments.

We’re almost finished reading Holy Helps for a Godly Life at Tim Challies’ blog.
More thoughts from it:

sharing with Dawn, Deb, Susan,
Crystal, KellyLyliDawn,
Debbie, Lori, Rachel


5 Links, Books, and Things I Love – July 2018

Did you do anything exciting in June? What are you looking forward to in July? We share once a month with Leigh, who recently just published her first novel (my review here)!

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

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5 Things Around the Web

1. How Much Money Do You Save by Cooking at Home?
by Priceonomics Data Studio

Save Money Cooking Home

Just how much money do you save by cooking at home? Researchers analyzed the true cost of cooking at home from scratch, compared to delivery from a restaurant or a meal kit service.

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2. Are There Contradictions in the Bible?
by Peter Enns

A different perspective on the nature of the Bible and inspiration. Something to think about.

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3. Study: Charts Change Hearts and Minds Better than Words Do
by Christopher Ingraham

How do you combat misperceptions? A surprising answer: charts.

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4. Read This Article!!!
by Julie Beck

How many exclamation points do you use when you’re really excited? (Hint, nowadays, probably more than one.)

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5. Sitting in Grandpa’s Chair Is a Serious Offense  

Did you have a chair like this in your house? My dad had a chair that no one else sat in (except when we felt really daring).

Sitting Grandpa's Chair

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5 Things about Reading, Writing, Listening

1. WRITING: 31+ Best Books on Writing for Copywriters, Storytellers, and Bloggers
by Henneke

I love this list. Some of my very favorite books are here (including Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.)

~ * ~

2. PODCAST: Internet a la Carte
from Planet Money

If you had to pay for things individually that you access online, how much would you spend to google something? To use Facebook? To shop online? A short but interesting look at how we value our online habits.

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3. PODCAST: The Secret to Making the Most of Your Limited Time  
from The Productivity Show

I like this strategy of timeblocking. Lots of time efficiency tips here (including doubling your time estimates—that’s a toughie!).

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4. BLOGGING: A Call for Plodding Bloggers
by Tim Challies

“So my message for my fellow bloggers is this: Plod on! Be content to be a plodding blogger and trust that God is glorifying himself and blessing his people through your faithfulness.”

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5. BOOKS: Seven Books I Recommend – June 2018     

I finished some great books this month. Everybody, Always by Bob Goff is an especially good read for loving others as God loves.

Books-Recommend-June-2018

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5 Things I Love

1. Wear Orange

Like everybody else feels, mass shootings hurt my heart. My friend Kay and I have joined Moms Demand Action (and it’s not just for moms). We want to be more informed, make a difference, and stop feeling so helpless. #UseYourVoice

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2. Selfies…Ugh

I don’t take many selfies (I don’t like pictures of myself in general). But I do like to have pictures of Jeff and me together when we travel. So I’m trying to do better. We marked two firsts in June: Epcot for a day and New Orleans for a weekend.

selfies

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3. Cemeteries

Cemeteries are so intriguing. We walked through one in New Orleans, which was very different than the ones I’m used to in Alabama.

cemetery

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4. Father’s Day

Jeff continues to be a great dad, no matter how old our girls get. He loves them; they love him. He got to enjoy time with both Morgan and Jenna around Father’s Day.

fathers day 2018

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5. Grandbaby…you knew a pic was coming

I was blessed with lots of time again in June with my sweet grandbaby (and with Morgan and Fuller). I can’t get enough moments with this precious girl.

grandbaby

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5 Things on the Blog

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What was a highlight from your June? What are you looking forward to in July? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

sharing with Holley, Kristin, Bethany, Jaime,
Kelly, Char, Meg, Ronja,
MaryTerri, Anita


7 Books I Recommend – June 2018

Here are 4 non-fiction and 3 fiction books I recommend from what I finished in June, including a 1-minute video review of a favorite.

Once a month we share our current reading list at Jennifer’s.

Books-Recommend-June-2018

Books I Recommend

NONFICTION

1. Everybody Always
Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People
by Bob Goff

Everybody Always

This book about Bob Goff’s crazy but true experiences of loving ALL kinds of people is very inspirational. One of my favorites this year! So it is the pick for my 1-minute video book review this month.

[click here if you can’t see the 1-minute video review]

My written review and quotes from Everybody, Always

2. I’m Still Here
Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
by Austin Channing Brown

I'm Still Here

“I was too white for Black people, and too Black for white people.” Austin shares authentically and sometimes painfully about her experiences as a black woman in modern America. This is an important book for helping us understand racial reconciliation.

My review of I’m Still Here

3. In Search of Wisdom
A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most
by by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre, Alexandre Jollien

In Search of Wisdom

If three men sat around a table and discussed life, then someone transcribed their conversation, you’d get this book. These three are intelligent, philosophical, and deeply spiritual men. I enjoyed getting to eavesdrop on the conversation, even though it took me several months to finally read it all. It was worth it.

My review on Amazon here

4. Five Stars
The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great
by Carmine Gallo

Five Stars

Do you want to communicate better? This book zeroes in on modern-day communication skills and their importance. It’s well-written and well-organized, which is always a pleasure in a non-fiction book (and unfortunately, not a given). Easy to read and enjoyable stories.

FICTION

5. A Storied Life
by Leigh Kramer

A-Storied-Life

This debut novel by Leigh Kramer is a delightful story about a young art gallery owner, Olivia Frasier, whose grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The plot progresses with the grandmother’s illness and the arrival of hospice and tense family dynamics. It’s very good!

My review of A Storied Life

6. The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes

the-girl-you-left-behind

I like novels that switch timeframes. This one starts in World War 1 in occupied France, then moves to present-day London. The anchor is a painting, “The Girl You Left Behind.” It is a hard story in places, but a satisfying one.

7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time

After seeing PBS’s list of 100 favorite novels for The Great American Read, I decided to read more of them. This novel was a quirky look at the experience of an autistic teenage boy in England. (It’s also a great play, I hear.) I enjoyed the storyline and it increased my empathy for those struggling with mental disorders.

Reading Now

  • When
    The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
    by Daniel H. Pink
  • Reframing the Soul
    How Words Transform Our Faith
    by Gregory Spencer
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
    by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Inspired
    Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
    by Rachel Held Evans
  • Give People Money
    How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World
    by Annie Lowrey
  • The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen
    Opening Your Eyes to Wonder
    by Lisa Gungor
  • The Gift of Years
    Growing Older Gracefully
    by Joan D. Chittister
  • Wait
    The Art and Science of Delay
    by Frank Partnoy
  • What Truth Sounds Like
    Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
    by Michael Eric Dyson

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What good book have you read this month? Please share in the comments.

Whats-on-Your-Nightstand-at-_5-minut

My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

sharing with Holley, Patricia, Emily,
Book DateKelly, Char, Meghan