Friday Prayer for Confidence

Jeremiah 17-7-8 (1)Summer can be a time of scorching heat and crippling drought.  For those whose confidence is in God, though, these things hold no peril.

Need a little water to refresh your soul today?  Here’s an encouraging promise to pray for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Teach _____ to trust in you.  Let his confidence be rooted in you, so that he flourishes like a tree planted by the water.  Show _____ that he doesn’t need to fear when life heats up, or worry during seasons of spiritual drought.  Remind _____ that when his confidence is in you, his life will never fail to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Here Comes the Bride!


In The Undertaker’s Wife, there’s a chapter in which a woman – the “prophet in red stilettos” – shows up to attend a funeral and asks Dee Oliver (a.k.a. the undertaker’s wife who, by this time in the story, is the undertaker’s widow) if she is married.  When she learns that Dee’s husband has passed, the woman doesn’t miss a beat.  “You are going to get married again,” she proclaims.  “The Lord has a husband for you.  But you don’t need to go looking for him; he will find you.”

The Bible says that there are a lot of false prophets out there, and that one way to tell if a message is from God or not is if it comes true.  Well, this gal with the red kicks seems like the real deal because (spoiler alert) Dee is getting married this week!  I’ll let her tell her story in her own good time, but I will say this:  If I get to write it, we might call it The Wedding Planner’s Wife, since her beloved (Mr. Boyd Melchor, pictured here) has pretty much taken over every detail of their impending nuptials and, based on the plans that he’s laid thus far, it promises to be glorious.

Emmy Ill Wedding

So Dee, congratulations!  All God’s best to you and Boyd as you begin your new life together.  I love your story, especially the fact that (just like for all of us) it is still being written.  And not to steal your personal prophesy or anything, but I think the promise that the woman gave you at the funeral that day, words from Joshua 1:8-9, are pretty perfect for anyone who wants to see their own story end well:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

I guess we should just put an Amen right there.

But by way of a P.S., here’s this:  For all of you who have posted comments or written reviews saying you really liked The Undertaker’s Wife except for the ending cuz you wanted to know what happened to Dee, well…now you know.  And for those who have not yet read the book, here’s a wedding party favor:  Click here to download the first few chapters for free. Whoop whoop!




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Friday Prayer to Listen and Follow

John 10-3-4I love it when a Bible verse practically jumps off the page, begging to be turned into a prayer.  John 10:3-4 did that for me this week.  It’s a short passage that is as precious as it is powerful – I prayed it for each of my children, and now I want to go back and pray it for myself!

Here it is, if you want to join me in praying for someone you love:

Lord Jesus,

Let _____ be like a sheep who listens to you.  Call ____ by name, and lead her.  Thank you for your promise to “go on ahead” of ____; may she follow you because she knows your voice.  (John 10:3-4)


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The Smell of the Spirit

FullSizeRenderLast week my pal Dee gave me an air freshener for my car. I might have been offended except that 1) she gave one to two other gals, too, which suggested that I wasn’t necessarily a target, and 2) I actually needed it.  It’s like when someone says you have something in your teeth:  Grateful trumps insulted, every time.

Robbie and I buy used cars (“pre-owned vehicles” for those who know to say sofa instead of couch, which is apparently an important lifestyle distinction that I had never even heard of until last week). Anyhow, I love my ride, but second-hand buyers can’t pick every feature, and I got a car that came with an intermittent smell of cleats.  Yeah.  Sometimes when I crank the AC, it takes me back to those long road trips to lacrosse tournaments in places like Maryland and New Jersey, when I’d spend hours in a car with a bunch of 8th grade boys who talked about things like how to catch a rabbit with a goalie stick and hung their feet out the car windows, lest I perish.

I miss those days, but not so much that I would turn down Dee’s gift.  The box implied that it smelled like CLEAN CRISP WHITE.  I plugged it right in, and while I am not really sure what “white” is supposed to smell like, I’d wager that if you are one of those people who hangs a cardboard pine tree from your mirror and immediately gets all ho-ho-ho inside, you’d like it. (Click here if you want one.)

And I do like it, actually.  Not for the smell, mind you (the cleats might be preferable), but because it reminds me of an encounter I had with the Holy Spirit.

(Well, maybe not the real Holy Spirit.)

(But He was probably there, too.  Rolling his eyes.)

Here’s how it went down:

You may know that the Bible talks about the fragrance of God.  Perfume makers in the Old Testament crafted a special oil that was used exclusively for anointing things and making them “holy,” and the smell was both sacred and distinctive.  In the New Testament, Christ’s love is called a “fragrant offering” (Ephesians 5:2) and Paul tells us that, as believers, we spread “the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14).  I had read verses like these, and I’d even heard that the Holy Spirit sometimes showed up with a “sweet smell,” but I’d never experienced it.  But I wanted to.

And then sure enough, it happened.  Within a week of my U.Va. graduation, I’d landed a job at the Christian Broadcasting Network.  I loved working alongside so many talented and media-savvy Christians – people who loved both Jesus and TV – and there were days when I felt like I could just sense God’s nearness.  One day, I was alone in the ladies’ room – the ladies’ room! – when suddenly, out of nowhere, a sweet smell began to fill the air.  I didn’t see any air fresheners (and believe me, I checked), nor did I hear any sort of pffft pffft that might signify a mechanical dispensation.  The fragrance was just sort of…there.

And I had to ask.  “Holy Spirit?” I whispered.  “Is that…you?”

Now, bear in mind that I was alone in the bathroom.  (There was no one around to make fun of me except God, and I figured he’d seen worse.)

And I was fresh out of college.  (Where stranger things than finding the Holy Spirit in the ladies’ room had opened my mind to new ideas.)

Plus, I was eager to know more about the supernatural things of God.  I was primed for an encounter.

The heady fragrance grew and, while I wouldn’t have chosen that particular eau, had I been in God’s shoes, I didn’t feel it was my place to judge.  Instead, I left the bathroom and nearly bumped into an older, wiser employee who (you can’t make this stuff up) just happened to be the head of building maintenance.

“I think I just smelled the Holy Spirit!” I gushed.  “In the bathroom!  I was just standing there, after I’d washed my hands, and the fragrance just built.  Out of nowhere!”

To his credit, the man didn’t howl.  He didn’t even chuckle – at least not at first.  Instead, he gently explained that the lavatories had recently been equipped with a silent, timed-release air freshener, and that I must have been right under the air vent when it went off.


So that was that.

And here I am, 30 years later, still not knowing what God smells like.  I had actually forgotten the whole CBN bathroom experience until CLEAN CRISP WHITE brought it all back.  I did a little googling, and it turns out that there really are people who have smelled the Holy Spirit.  If you’re one of ’em, I hope you’ll post a comment on this blog, cuz I’m still curious.

But in the meantime, I’m going to drive around in my clean crisp car, focusing on things that are a little easier to understand, like the fact that each one of us really does carry the “aroma” of Christ.  The New Living Translation puts it this way:  Wherever we go [God] uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14).  

Maybe not all of us will get to smell the Holy Spirit, this side of heaven.  But how cool is it that, as we share his love, other people can detect his presence on and around us?  If we could package that fragrance in an air freshener box, I guess the best name would be LIFE.


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Pressure Washed Love

Hillary’s wedding is just two months away, and with an at-home reception, you can imagine the Honey-Do list Robbie wakes up to most weekends.  Some of it, though, he thinks up all by himself.

Like pressure washing the dock.

Untitled design (6)Now, I don’t generally like things that look all perfect and new, so this is not a project I would have encouraged. But when Robbie tactfully observed that we’d passed “vintage chic” a few years back and were now headed into the “slip-n-slide” stage of outdoor decorating, I saw his point. Weddings have enough natural pitfalls without sending Grandma and her wine glass into the bay, mid-way through the party.

While I mulled that one over, Robbie suited up in his duck boots, his hat, and his SPF shirt and headed out to the garage.  I’d always thought pressure washing was basically a grown up version of playing in the sprinkler, and I wondered why he needed all the gear. It was a warm and sunny day; why not do it barefoot?

“If this water cuts across your toes,” he explained, “it’ll saw ’em right off.”

Okay then.

If you’ve read Gary Chapman’s book about Love Languages, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Acts of Service is tops on my list, and when my man came back in the house after a couple of hours – absolutely filthy and only half-way  finished – I thought he was awesome. He was also exhausted, and so when he went off to work on Monday morning I went out to the dock, thinking I’d surprise him and finish the job.

Yeah, so pressure washing is harder than it looks. Just starting the machine (which involves one of those ghastly pull cords designed to make men feel manly) was challenging enough, but if you’ve never pulled the trigger on one of those things, well. It took every ounce of my fourth-grade gymnastics training not to fall overboard from the kick.

Eventually, though, I got the hang of it, and I managed to do another mile or two of boards. There was no way I could finish before sunset, though, and my spirits sagged. Knowing that Acts of Service is not Robbie’s love language, but wanting to send the message anyway, I decided to try Words of Encouragement:


Now, if pressure washing a dock is hard, let me assure you that pressure washing a sentence is harder. I tried block letters first, but that involved stopping and starting the nozzle-gun, and the kick got me every time. So I resorted to cursive, which I hear is no longer being taught in schools. Which is a real tragedy, given how had it is to pressure wash “I love you” in print.

On the plus side, the nice thing about pressure washing is that, once you have a good grip (and you stop getting tangled up in the hose), you have a lot of time to think.  And as I watched the boards go from slimy to clean, I thought about Jesus.  I thought about how he pretty much pressure washed our whole lives through his work on the cross. I thought about how his arms must have hurt, even more than mine did, as he hung there. And I thought how cool it was that he could do the job once and for all and say, “It is finished,” without having to suit up again the next weekend.

Most of all I thought about how, in that once and forever act of service, he wrote “I love you” on our hearts.

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Friday Prayer for a Troubled Heart

John 14-1I love that Jesus knew our hearts would be troubled.  And I love it even more that he gave us the answer for that.  Instead of trusting in well-laid plans, favorable circumstances, or good results, he tells us to trust in him.

If your heart is anxious today – if things aren’t shaping up the way you thought or hoped they might – don’t worry.  And don’t let your peace or your happiness depend on results.  Instead, stake your hope in who God is, and turn Christ’s words into a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Don’t let my heart be troubled today.  Help me to trust in you – in your character, your faithfulness, your power, and your love.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Friday Prayer for When People Bug You

1 Corinthians 4-12 (1)So we did a little crabbing on the Fourth of July.

The little guy in this pic was too small to keep, but that didn’t stop Khaki from wanting some quality play time before we threw his new buddy back in the Bay. The two of ’em went at it for about a dozen rounds before they both got tuckered out.

I suspect that Khaki thought it was all in good fun, but if I had to guess I’d say that his crustacean pal felt a little persecuted.  Cursed, even.

But he took it like a champ.

Which made me think of how we react when people push our hot buttons.  Most of us aren’t facing anything close to real persecution, but we all have people who bug us.  Who pick on us.  Say mean things about us, even.

People who (a-hem) can make us kind of crabby.

The good news is that God has a plan for that.  The Bible has all sorts of verses about how his children should respond to insults, bullies, and undeserved attacks.  Something in the crab’s demeanor (okay, so that’s a stretch – but he did have remarkable endurance) made me think of 1 Corinthians 4:12.  Here it is, in the form of a prayer:

Heavenly Father, 

When I am cursed, help me bless those who are cursing me.  When I am persecuted, give me the strength to endure.  And when I am slandered, show me how to answer kindly.  (1 Corinthians 4:12)


P.S.  Lest you think I am running some sort of violent canine-and-crab ring, let me assure you that 1., No animals were harmed in the making of this post (except I guess the big crabs, which we did eat) and 2., The dog-and-crab show was not my fault.  More and more criminals are implicating themselves through selfies these days, and Robbie is no exception:





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Mac-n-Cheese and Peas and Fleas

Robbie is working at a fish shack and living at a skate park in North Carolina this summer (which is pretty much the sum total of everything I know about his current status, which I think demonstrates pretty good parental awareness, given that he is a fourth child) and I guess they cook for themselves cuz he texted me the other day, asking for instructions on how to make his all-time favorite meal.

Given that a lot of popular blogs feature “Tempting New Recipes!”, I figured I’d jump into the culinary fray and share the info with you too – although let me just say right up front that, while this meal is a Berndt Family Classic that gets trotted out for pretty much every birthday dinner (except mine), I will not blame you if you don’t find it the least bit tempting (because I don’t).

Even the dish’s name (coined by my mother, who invented this meal during my childhood), is a little off-putting:  Mac-n-Cheese and Peas and Fleas.


So anyway, here’s how you make it:


  • 1 16-oz. box of elbow noodles (the “mac”)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (the “fleas”)
  • 5 slices of Kraft American Singles, the shrink-wrapped kind (the “cheese,” although I am using that term loosely here)
  • About half a bag of frozen tender tiny peas (not the big fat ones)
  • A stick of butter, chopped into pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Whatever seasonings you like (we use garlic salt and pepper)
  • Optional shredded parmesan cheese for garnish


  1. Cook the macaroni in a big pot while you brown the ground beef.  When both are finished, drain the macaroni of water and pour the fat off the meat.  (This is a critical but potentially confusing step – more later.)
  2. Peel the cheese (are you drooling yet?) and add it to the hot macaroni.  Add the butter and the milk and stir over low heat until the butter and cheese are all melted.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the peas in a small amount of water, just until they are no longer frozen…no need to cook ’em for more than about two minutes.  Drain them, and then add the peas and the ground beef to the macaroni mixture.
  4. Stir it all up and add your garlic salt and pepper.  Top with shredded parmesan cheese if you want to look a little fancy (we usually skip that step), and enjoy!

Easy, right?

Robbie managed to get through the whole thing on his first try, and he sent me a snap of his efforts:


I asked how the crew liked it, and he said it went over well…although one girl “freaked out” when she saw him adding the fat from the burger meat back into the macaroni pot.

“You did what?” I asked.

“Added the fat.  Like you said to.”

Now, I definitely did NOT say to pour the fat back in (although, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I am not, normally, opposed to fat in my food).  To prove his point, Robbie sent me a screen shot of the instructions I’d texted:



Okay then.  So now you know why I am not a recipe blogger.  But if you decide to try this one at home, I’d love for you to let me know how it goes.  If nothing else, it could turn out to be the very thing that convinces your husband that it’s time to make reservations at a nice restaurant, just the two of you, and take you out.  (You’re welcome.)



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Friday Prayer for the U.S.A.

2 Chron. 7-14It’s been a buckle-up week in America, as everything from Supreme Court decisions to the roller-coaster ride of presidential politics make newscasters giddy over the dramatic feast.  For those of us who pray for our country, there’s certainly no shortage of topics to cover!

I’ll confess that I started out this week praying some pretty pointed prayers:  Fix them.  Teach him.  Show her.  Protect us.

And then God drew me back to that old familiar passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14.  I grew up in a church where we literally sang this verse as a prayer; I should have remembered it without the Lord’s gentle prompting.  It’s a good one, and if you’ve got a few moments to  pray for our country this Fourth of July, I hope you’ll join me in starting with a petition aimed at those of us who believe:

Heavenly Father,

We are your people, called by your name.  Help us to humble ourselves.  Teach us to pray the way that you want us to pray.  Cause us to seek your face and turn from our wicked ways.  And then please, O Lord, hear us from heaven,  forgive our sin, and heal our land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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DIY: God Bless America (with pix this time)!

(Note from Jodie:  Many thanks to those of you who let me know that yesterday’s post showed up without photos.  Turns out that the site that does this stuff for me was down – or maybe somebody out there just doesn’t love America.  Either way, it should be working now.  Happy painting!)


We’ve always been a July 4th kind of family.  Patriotism plays into it, sure, but there’s also the lure of things like al fresco dining (cookouts), free entertainment (fireworks), and easy decorating (throw a few flags around and – bam! – you’re in the holiday spirit).

What’s not to love?

Truth be told, we own a lot of flags.  Normal people buy candy or magazines in the checkout line; I am a sucker for Old Glory.  I can never remember how many of the dowel rods the dogs chewed up in their patriotic zeal last year, so I grab a fresh batch of ’em every June to stick in the ground, the flower pots, or on the front door.  Other kids show up at college with Michael Jordan posters and monogrammed bulletin boards; mine arrive with giant flags.  And if I happen to see an old ratty Star Spangled banner in an antiques shop?  Just hope you aren’t between me and the cash register.

photo 2

Because honestly, you can never have too many flags.  That’s probably what I was thinking on a warm June day back in 2002, right around when the family photo (above) was snapped.  We’d found a piece of old plywood in the garage and, not having any other use for the giant board but unwilling to waste it (a reluctance that I like to think speaks well of my fiscal sensitivity), I grabbed a can of white paint and told the kids to let ‘er rip.

Once they’d covered both the wood and their bathing suits, we added a navy square and three simple words:  GOD BLESS AMERICA.  Part proclamation, part prayer, it seemed to fit, particularly since 9/11 was still very fresh in our minds.

Then came the fun part.

We live on a fairly public corner of our neighborhood, and every kid who came by that day was invited to dip his or her hands in a brownie pan full of red paint.  Print-by-print, hand-by-hand, the “stripes” came together, as each child left his mark and then used a Sharpie pen to sign his – ahem – handiwork.  Betsy Ross, eat your heart out.


Today, most of the kids who slapped their hands on the sign are all grown up – some of them are living in far-away places like Charlotte and Los Angeles – but we still haul the sign out every year.  As a nation, we’ve been through a lot of changes in the past 13 years, but our prayer is still the same:  God bless America.

If you want to join us in that prayer this year (or if you just need a project to keep the kids busy for a couple of hours), why not make your own flag?  All you need is a piece of plywood, some paint, and a bunch of patriotic volunteers who don’t mind getting a little bit messy!

Happy Fourth!

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