A Mildew-Free Life

Deuteronomy 28Yeah. That’s my plant. It is (was?) an impatiens, but a garden guru pal said it was a goner, a victim of “mildew and blight.”

Which is, according to Deuteronomy 28, what happens to us when we don’t follow God. Along with a nightmarish catalog of other unfortunate circumstances, disobedience can leave us with “wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew.”

But that’s just the bad news.

The good news is that obedience to God opens the door to all sorts of blessings. We get blessed in the city and in the country, blessed in our families and in our work, blessed when we come in and when we go out. And everyone will know that we belong to God.

I’m afraid I can’t do much for my garden, but I’m going to dig into Deuteronomy for today’s Friday prayer. If you want God’s blessing in your life and in the lives of those you love, feel free to pray this one with me:

May _____ faithfully obey your voice and be careful to do what your command; may your blessings come upon him and overtake him. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, ESV)


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Guest Post: Don’t Look Back

If you’re a regular on this site, you know that my daughter Virginia just graduated from the University of Virginia, where I like to think that she sometimes studied. She starts her “real job” in New York City next month, but in the meantime, knowing that I am writing like a crazy person to meet the publisher’s deadline for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children, she offered to write a few blogs on my behalf. This one hit home. Pray for me, cuz I don’t really love the thought of all my kids growing up, and I’m having a hard time not looking back.

Here’s Virginia (and yes, that’s her in the pic):


NeedToBreathe has a song called “Won’t Turn Back” where they sing about having faith like a soldier and the strength to stay put in hard circumstances. It is a great song to encourage you when you know you face an upcoming battle or mountain, but what about in the day-to-day life?

Having just graduated from the best school in the world, I constantly find myself looking backwards. It is so easy to get lost in a daydream about spending the afternoons at vineyards or waking up with my six best friends in the same house every morning, all of them up for any adventure. But here’s the thing about looking back: When I spend excess time thinking about Charlottesville, I constantly miss what is happening right in front of me. I miss what God is doing now.

There is a story in the Bible where Moses delivers the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But as soon as they are out, they miss it and want to go back. They miss the food, water, and life of the past, even though they were slaves. To appease and bless them, God sends bread called “manna” out of the sky for them to eat. God provides them with endless manna, meat, and clean water. He gives them more than they could ever ask for on their journey to freedom. But instead of being grateful and satisfied, the Israelites keep complaining. Every little bump in the road causes them to look back and, as a result, they miss the blessings that are right in front of them.

Transitions are constant in life. Whether it is an old school, an old job, an old city or just an old life in general, we all have things we miss. And like the ancient Israelites, we can sometimes idealize whatever we left behind and long to return to our old “easy” way of life.

But we do not have time for that. I’d pray that God would help us to not dwell on the past but rather, to look toward the future with hope and excitement, praising him for what he is doing in the present. With eyes in the front of our heads, humans are designed to look forwards, not backwards.

There is the manna of God’s provision everywhere in our lives; we just have to face forward to see it.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)




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Friday Prayer for a Family Blessing

Isaiah 61-9

I’ve just finished a chapter for the new book about praying blessings over your children. Here’s a sneak peek with one of my favorites; pray it for your family or others you love today:

May _______ and his/her descendants be known among the nations, and may all who see them acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed. (Isaiah 61:9)


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Rescue from the Storm

Who doesn’t love a good summer storm?


Nature’s beauty, though, doesn’t come close to the power of God. Consider the glimpse we get into his majesty from Psalm 18. Verse 6 sets up the story:  In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

God hears. And here’s how he responds:

The earth trembled and quaked…He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

That’s just part of the picture; you can read more about God’s thundering voice, his smoking nostrils, and the blazing coals if you read the whole psalm. But when you do, don’t miss verse 16. It’s tucked in there amid all the clanging and banging, and it’s easy to overlook:

He reached down from high and took hold of me.


You have to admit, that’s pretty amazing. Here’s God, thundering in the clouds – with fire coming out of his mouth and bolts of lightning going everywhere – advancing with so much power that the mountains shake.

Why? Why would he do that, just because he heard someone cry?

I’m tempted to quote The Princess Bride (again) and say, “True Love.” But in the interest of not offending anybody who can quote verses like Deuteronomy 4:2 (which warns us not to add anything to God’s word, or take anything away from it), I’ll just stick to the Psalm. Because verse 19 gives us the answer:

He rescued me because he delighted in me.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to believe that God could delight in me. But he does. And delights in you, too. And so the next time we see a storm racing in off the horizon (whether it’s a literal storm, or the scarier, metaphorical kind), let’s remember Psalm 18. Let’s remember that we serve a God who is powerful enough – and who loves us enough – to show up.

And, when he hears our cry, to reach down.


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A Prayer for Guidance

Isaiah 30-21

There are plenty of times in life when we don’t know which road to take, or even where the road we are on is going. If you feel like you could use a little divine guidance today, try these words from Isaiah as your Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Whether I turn to the right or to the left, may my ears hear a voice behind me, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)



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A World of Trouble

In this world you will have trouble.

That’s what Jesus said to his disciples, shortly before he was arrested. To me, these are some of the hardest words to read in all of Scripture, mostly because they are so true. We know we have trouble: we face it in our jobs, our marriages, our parenting, and our health. And now, with what feels like increasing regularity, we face trouble on the otherwise unremarkable backdrop of our city streets, between people who don’t even know each other.

The good news, at least for believers, is that Jesus tucked these ominous words inside two of the most beautiful promises in the Bible. Here’s how John 16:33 reads, in it’s entirety (and I’ve added italics, so you can see the tuck): “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I get the part about Jesus overcoming the world – that’s what the cross was all about – but what about the first part? What things was he talking about? What did Jesus tell his disciples, so that they could have peace?

To find out, we need to back up – and in fact, it’s worth backing up all the way to the start of John’s gospel. John is the guy we might call Jesus’ earthly BFF, and he not only records miracles and other events as they happened, but he often gives us the meaning of these things, as well. It’s like he knew we’d have questions.

But even if we don’t go that far, even if we back up just a little bit, to the beginning of the chapter, we can find a reason for peace. Jesus says that “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (Yeah. That’s not a new line.) But he doesn’t want his followers to be afraid. Instead, Jesus says he has a plan. He’s going to send the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, who will let everyone know what’s what and give the disciples a joy that nobody can take away.

And Jesus offers the same promise to us. When we’re facing trouble (whether it’s in our personal lives or on the national or global scale), we can take hold of his peace, knowing that he has both promised it and provided it. We can tap into the Holy Spirit, our Helper, and ask him to guard our hearts and teach us what we need to know. That’s how we get unshakable trust.

But some of us can do even more. Those of us who know what it’s like to be comforted by God can turn and extend this same comfort to others, encouraging people with words and deeds. Or even sometimes just with the gift of our presence, the way that God does when he says, “I’m with you. You are loved.” We are a nation that’s hurting; be alert to opportunities you might have to come alongside a neighbor and give them even just the smallest reason to hope.

And, in addition to building each other up, we can pray.

On Sunday, our minister talked about Amos, a guy who was minding his own business as a shepherd when God called him to be a prophet. I’m guessing that Amos had zero professional training, spiritually, but when he saw what was coming down the pike for Israel, he was horrified – and his prayers, prompted by a love for his country and a belief in God’s power, made a difference.

I’m not trying to make an Episcopalian out of anyone (Lord knows, we have our own set of issues), but if you’re like me and you sometimes find yourself groping for a prayer anchor in the face of things like racial violence, terrorism, and hatred, you might appreciate a few of the time-tested, biblically based prayers we drew from The Book of Common Prayer on Sunday. Click here if you want the whole catalog, or just join me in the briefest excerpt, which pretty much sums up what I want to ask God to do for us today:

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Lord, keep this nation under your care.





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The Psalms of Ascent

Psalm 126-2-3I love the Psalms of Ascent, the Bible’s catalog of worship songs that Jewish pilgrims sang as they went up to Jerusalem for the festivals each year. Psalm 126 is probably my favorite, since it highlights God’s power to turn our lives around, restore our fortunes, and bring joy out of tears.

Here are a couple of verses from this psalm, rewritten as our Friday Prayer. Pray it for yourself today, or for someone you love:

May your mouth be filled with laughter and your tongue with songs of joy. May it be said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for you.”

The Lord has done great things for you. May you be filled with joy. (Psalm 126:2-3)


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God Shed Your Grace

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a year, you’ve probably seen this flag:


It’s a piece of plywood that we painted nearly 15 years ago, with the help of a bunch of neighborhood kids. Part proclamation, part prayer, we pull it out every Fourth of July: God Bless America.

This year, though, I kind of want something different.

Maybe it’s the presidential campaign, maybe it’s the Supreme Court, or maybe it’s just Orlando and Isis and Brexit and Zika all rolled into one. I don’t know what it is, but instead of asking God for his blessing, I mostly just want to ask for his grace.

That line from America the Beautiful – the one that says, “God shed His grace on thee” – keeps running through my mind. I’m including the lyrics to the whole song so that you can sing it (and get it stuck in your head, too) this holiday weekend. Because even though it was first published as a poem in 1895 (bonus trivia to pump up your cookout), it’s still a terrific prayer for our nation.

First, though, here’s a Friday prayer for grace. Pray it for our country, our friends, and maybe even (if you’re feeling like a particularly faith-filled patriot) for the folks out there who don’t seem to like us that much:

May we conduct ourselves in the world with integrity and godly sincerity, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12)



Click here to a download a free printable version of America the Beautiful, or just sing it to yourself right now:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


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