Missing link? Open this email for the answer!

Friends! THANK YOU for letting me know that the link in the Advent blog–the one that talked about how adoration is the antidote to anxiety–didn’t work.

(It’s actually kind of hilarious. An antidote to anxiety that you cannot download? Can’t make this stuff up.)

Anyhow.

It’s much better this way. Because now I can share both the blog with a link that (please God!) will work AND I can show you some pix.

Click here for the link to the original post. (And if the bots or whatever are still conspiring against us, head to JodieBerndt.com to download it that way.)

Advent printable on the blog

Once you download the file (and I promise, it’s easy), you can display the cards however you want. Here are a few creative ideas from our email friend group:

Advent Calendar display board

Creative Advent calendar

Advent cards with nativity

 

Tilly the cat and advent cards

Advent cards on mantel

See? It’s super easy. All you do is download, print, cut, and fold.

Folded Advent card

Jodie displaying Advent Cards

Every card features a different name or attribute of the Lord, plus a Scripture reference for context. (And if you’re wondering what any of this has to do with how we handle anxiety, read the blog to discover how praise has the power to change not just our attitudes but our actual brain!)

Advent begins tomorrow, November 27, but don’t let that timeline stress you out. The cards in this printable calendar begin on December 1–which means that you still have plenty of time to join us!

And y’all. I share a lot of printable resources during the year, but this one is my favorite. I’m not at all ready for Christmas, but I seriously cannot wait to adore God in a fresh way every day in December! Hope you’ll join me.

xo – Jodie

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Advent calendar offers anxiety antidote

Advent begins on Sunday.

I know. That feels fast. We haven’t even popped the turkey in the oven (and okay, some of us may still be at the grocery store), but I’m sliding into your inbox today, breaking my own once-a-month-ish newsletter rule, because if you’re feeling at all anxious about the holiday season (or, for that matter, if you’re stressed about anything), I’ve got good news—plus a printable (and pretty) resource designed just for you.

Adoration is the anxiety antidote.

Now, I’m not making light of the worries, even panic attacks, that can color our days. These joy-stealers are real. (Ask me how I know.)

But what’s also real—what is scientifically proven—is that when we praise God, our brains release dopamine, the chemical that makes us feel good.

Worship can change. your. brain.

It’s true. And just a few minutes of worship—making an intentional choice to praise God every day—can change your brain. If you’ve got time between peeling potatoes and prepping the stuffing (and you don’t mind reading words like “cingulate cortex”), you can click here for the research download. But if you want my quick take on the topic, it’s simply this:

Worship, in a nutshell, means giving honor and glory to God. And when we look at our lives through the lens of God’s character, everything shifts. Problems that once loomed impossibly scary or large start to shrink. Everything finds its place in light of God’s splendor. His holiness reveals our flaws; his mercy allows us to confess them; his faithfulness emboldens us to come before him with our every need.

As Ann Voskamp puts it in The Greatest Gift (a book that happens to be my FAVORITE Advent devotional), “When the King rules your world, you cease to rule or worry. All worry dethrones God.”

"All worry dethrones God."

All worry dethrones God.

I agree—and I desperately want God to be on his throne in my life. But sometimes (especially in the middle of the night when “darkness seems to hide his face“), I can feel my chest start to tighten. Maybe it’s the crush-rush of the Christmas to-do list. Maybe it’s the “what-if’s” as I try to trust God with my children. Or maybe it’s just COVID again. I feel like they haven’t given us an expiration date on the symptoms; could the creak in my knees be a long-haul side effect?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that there is a very real thief whose mission is to steal and kill and destroy—and worship is the way we counter his attacks.

A plan to praise

Emboldened by verses like Psalm 9:10 (“Those who know your name trust in you”), I’m putting Psalm 63:6 into practice:

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.

Now, when I wake up at night and my trust starts to falter, I have a plan. Instead of counting sheep, I’m calling God’s name—alphabetically. “God,” I whisper, “you are Awesome. Beautiful. You are my Comforter. Deliverer. Everlasting Father…”

(I’ve got more letters lined up—Faithful, Good, Holy—but honestly? I rarely need them. The simple practice of adoration opens the door to peace and I drift off to sleep, secure in the fact that the One who watches over me is still awake. He will neither slumber nor sleep, the Bible says.)

If you’d like to join me in Advent Adoration this year, you don’t have to stay awake in order to do it. Instead, you can draw near to God—you can come into his presence with praise—with this DIY Advent calendar. We designed it last year exclusively for our email community, and it was so well-received that we’re bringing it back.

Advent Cards on table

Just print, cut, and fold

The Advent printable includes 25 cards, each one highlighting a different one of God’s character traits. They’re super easy to access—just print, cut, and fold! 

Cut Advent Printable

Display the cards with the numbers facing out as you welcome December, and then flip them over discover a new facet of God’s nature every day. You can hang the cards on a strand of twine, prop them on a mantle, or keep them in a bedside box as a reminder of God’s lavish love.

Advent Printable on mantle

Advent Printable on twine

Advent Printable on Mantle 1

Again, this resource is a Christmas gift for our email friend group; you won’t find the cards available elsewhere. As a current subscriber, you don’t need any special code to access the Advent printable; simply click here and follow the prompts to download. (If you have friends who’d enjoy this printable or the monthly newsletter, please encourage them to visit jodieberndt.com to subscribe and join us—everyone’s welcome!)

And as you consider each card, talk about God’s character with your children. Ask questions, even if you don’t know all the answers. For instance…

  • God is our COUNSELOR. Where do you need his wisdom or guidance today?
  • God is SOVEREIGN. How does it make you feel to know that he is in control?
  • God is IMMANUEL. What difference does it make to know that he is with us?

Advent Attribute - God is our counselor

God is Immanuel…and so much more. Whatever your need, wherever you are, you can anchor your trust in God’s name. May you sense his nearness, his love, and his grace in increasing measure in the month ahead.

Now go get that turkey in the oven—and I’ll see you back here next month with a Christmas giveaway of my most-favorite resource!

Happy Thanksgiving!

❤️

P.S. Starting December 1st, I’ll be sharing these Advent attributes along with discussion prompts in my Instagram and Facebook stories. So even if you don’t want to download the calendar, you can follow along and use the daily prompts as an easy Advent devotional your whole family can enjoy!

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“Don’t feed your own face” (and other Thanksgiving helps)

It’s almost turkey time! And while I love pretty much everything Thanksgiving brings—the counting of blessings, the watching of football, even the holding of noses as I prepare Robbie’s must-have sauerkraut—I know that wherever two or more are gathered, conversation can happen.

Maybe it’s an as-yet-undiscovered tryptophan side-effect, but Thanksgiving can bring out all the opinions. The brother who’s positive you voted wrong. The aunt who wonders if you’ve gained weight (and should you really eat all that pie?). The child who comes home from college and proclaims herself vegan so “can we please have something besides turkey this year?”

Truth be told, it’s not just holiday gatherings that highlight our differences. We’ve been at odds with each other since…well, since Abel and Cain. And yet, as believers, we are called to love one another. To value others above ourselves. To make “every effort” to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

All of these passages—and countless others—underscore the fact that God wants his children to get along. And I know the holiday wasn’t even invented when he was writing, but I can’t help but think Paul might have had some sort of prophetic foretaste of Thanksgiving when he reached out to the Romans:

Let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.

When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love. (Romans 14:19-21)

Get along with each other. Use encouraging words. Don’t feed your own face, but share Jesus with love.

Don’t feed your own face.

A helpful Thanksgiving hint, to be sure. But how do we do all of this in real life, with real people? How do we (quoting Paul again) “welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department”? (Romans 14:1) How do we ensure that our conversations—at Thanksgiving and throughout the year—are colored by kindness instead of the “gotcha” mindset that listens not with a desire to understand, but with the intent to counter or correct?

I’m sure there are plenty of biblically based steps we might take, but here are three tried-and-true strategies for having good conversations  with people who don’t always think like we do.

First, we can remember that when Jesus asked God to bring us to “complete unity”, he didn’t mean we’d all be the same. Unity allows for plenty of differences (everything from political ideologies to preferences in cranberry sauce; anybody else’s husband think it “has” to come out of a can?), while recognizing that those things don’t define us. What defines us is our identity as God’s beloved. As his image-bearers. As people who can love, 1 John 4:19 reminds us, because God first loved us.

Second, we can do the Philippians 2:3-4 thing and be humble. There’s nothing wrong with holding strong opinions. But let’s value the interests of others, knowing that additional information might sharpen or enhance our own perspective. And if we remain unconvinced about a particular topic, we can borrow a line from my friend’s ever-diplomatic grandmother: “You may be right.” (That’s a great way to wrap a discussion, especially when served with a smile and followed with something like, “Would you care for some more pumpkin pie?”)

And finally (you knew this was coming), we can pray. We can ask God to keep us mindful of verses like Proverbs 18:2 (“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions). We can trust him to “set a guard over our lips” (Psalm 141:3) And we can pray for an extra helping of grace and peace as we gather together.

Which is, in fact, how Peter began one of his letters. “Grace and peace,” he wrote, “be yours in abundance.”

grace and peace be yours in abundance

If you’d like a visible reminder of that little—but powerful!—prayer, pop over to Instagram or Facebook, where you can screenshot that graphic in my stories and use it as a Lock Screen for your phone:

iPhone with 2 Peter 1:2 lock screen

May grace and peace be yours in abundance. (2 Peter 1:2)

Happy Thanksgiving!

❤️

P.S. Every year, people ask me to share the recipe for Robbie’s sauerkraut. And every year, I start with a warning:  You’ll need one hand to fix the “beloved” side dish and the other to get a firm grip on your nose.

Hold your nose at Thanksgiving

Here you go:

Fill a saucepan about one-third of the way up with water.

Drain one or two cans of sauerkraut and add them to the pot.

Mix in a spoonful of bacon drippings, a splashy of Worcester sauce, some salt and pepper, and ¼ cup of brown sugar.

Cover and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally (and adding more water if needed) until the entire house reeks.

Enjoy!

sauerkraut

(And pssst. If you want more prayers you can use to love wellnot just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the yearyou’ll find an entire chapter on the subject in Praying the Scriptures for Your LifeNo time to read during the holiday rush? Download an easy-to-use prayer calendar here.)

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Prayer Journal Giveaway (just for my email friends)

Friends, the new Praying the Scriptures Journal released this week!

Prayer Journal giveaway

To celebrate, I’m sliding into your inbox with a mid-week prayer journal GIVEAWAY exclusively for my email subscribers. We’ll be picking THREE winners to receive signed copies, hot off the press! Details below, but first here’s a question we tossed out earlier this week over at Club31Women.com

“Do you think most moms know how to pray for their kids?”

It was a fair question. A group of us were talking about how we approach God, and our hang-ups seemed to outnumber our how-tos. One mom said she wanted to pray for her children, but she worried she’d ask for the wrong thing. Another said she wasn’t sure where to begin or how to stay focused. (“I feel like I just sit there and ramble,” was how she put it.) And a third gal confessed to not being sure God was listening. “I’ve had prayers go unanswered before,” she said. “I’m not sure I have enough faith.”

Me, I spent a lot of years thinking that prayer was basically a one-way conversation where I would ask God for what I thought would be good and then see what happened. If my relationships or my circumstances lined up with my requests, I would know that God said “yes.” And if not, he said “no.” I didn’t begrudge God when he turned me down—I knew verses like Isaiah 55:9 and that God’s ways are higher than ours—but I much preferred it when I’d put in a prayer and get the answer I wanted.

I liked it when prayer worked like a vending machine.

But that’s not how Jesus sees prayer.

Christ’s model for prayer is based on connection. On relationship. On the promise that if we lean into him and allow his words to soak into our soul—not just shaping our desires but even creating them—we can pray with the full and wholehearted expectation that God will answer. “If you remain in me,” he says in John 15:7, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”

Christ's model for prayer quote

That’s an incredible promise. But how, practically speaking, do we take Jesus up on his offer? How do we throw off the things that hinder our prayers—our uncertainty, our tendency toward distraction, our past disappointment—and really lean into God? How can we know how to pray?

That’s a mouthful of questions—more than this space can answer—but two bite-sized answers can help.

An animated conversation with God

The first answer is to use Scripture a springboard for prayer. Instead of just reading the Bible, consider it a conversation starter. For instance, if you read a verse like Ephesians 4:2“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”—you can turn it around, making it not just a directive from God, but a request from your own heart: “Help me…” you might say, or “Help my children be completely humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with each other in love.” When you pray like this, letting God’s word animate your perspective, you don’t need to worry about finding the words or doing it “wrong.” You can be confident that your prayers will line up with God’s plans.

The second strategy is to use a prayer journal as an anchor. Whether you write long paragraphs, short sentences, or just bullet points, having a record of your conversations with God comes with at least three benefits: It helps you stay focused. It gives you space to write what the Holy Spirit reveals in the pages of Scripture. And it allows you to stay alert to the ways you see God’s hand at work in your life and in the lives of the people you love.

prayer journal for the people you love

A tether for your trust

In Bible times, people often built altars as a way to remind them of God’s promises and of what he had done. Noah built one after the flood; Abraham built one after God said he would bless the whole earth through him; Moses built one after God took the Israelites safely through the Red Sea. In each of these instances—and in numerous others—the altar signified the time and place where God showed up and proved his love.

We can do the same thing with a journal. We can tether our trust to God’s promises, letting the words we read in the Bible give shape to our prayers. And, over time, we can go back and see what God has done: The places where we’ve seen spiritual, physical, or emotional growth in our children. The friendships forged or restored. The challenging circumstances where God is proving his love through his presence—even if the answer to prayer has not yet appeared, or it doesn’t look anything like what we expected.

A prayer journal doesn’t have to be fancy (I used a spiral notebook for years), but if you’d like help getting started, or you just need some fresh encouragement or inspiration, the new Praying the Scriptures Journal can help. The book offers journaling prompts, biblical insights, and specific prayers you can use to talk with God about your child’s faith, character, relationships, decisions, and more. (Plus, with a linen cover, elegantly designed pages, and a satin ribbon to mark your place, it’s really pretty 😊).

Journal cover

We might think we don’t know how to pray. But as we turn our hearts toward God, telling him our needs and thanking him for what he has done, our prayers release his provision. We find freedom from things like worry and fear in our parenting. And, as Philippians 4:6-7 promises, we experience his peace, knowing that no matter how far away our children may be, they are never out of God’s reach.

❤️

The Giveaway Scoop:  Email subscribers can enter to win a copy of the journal on Instagram or Facebook. All you have to do is “like” the post and tag a friend in the comments. (And psst…if you win and you want me to sign the book for your friend as a gift, just let me know–this prayer journal is my new go-to for baby showers, birthdays, and the moms & grandmoms on my Christmas list! 😊)

We’ll announce the winner in my Stories on Sunday (and we’ll DM you to let you know if it’s you!). In the meantime, here’s a quick peek at the prayer journal and why I think you’ll like it!

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Make Your Home in God’s Love

“Home.”

At its most basic level, your home is the place where you live:  your house, your apartment, even your city or town. But the word carries a deeper meaning as well. The dictionary defines home as the place where our “domestic affections are centered.” Our home is a big part of what forms us. What fills us. What captures our heart.

In John 15:9, Jesus offers a remarkable invitation. He says we can live in his love. Some translations use the word abide. Others say remain. A few say continue, or dwell. I like how The Message puts Jesus’ words: “Make yourselves at home in my love.”

Make yourselves at home in my love

Christ’s love, in other words, can be what forms us and fills us. It can be what captures our heart. Just like the Father delights in the Son, Jesus delights in our company. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we’ve done; nothing can separate us from God’s love! (Romans 8:38-39)

And yet…we hang back. We have the opportunity to relish our status as Christ’s beloved, but we don’t. Why not?

Three Barriers to Receiving God’s Love

There may be any number of reasons why we don’t abide in Christ’s love—why we fail to settle down, relax, and make ourselves at home there—but here are three of the biggest barriers to our thriving in connection with Christ.

For one thing, we know ourselves. We know where we’ve blown it. We know how unworthy we are. And so, unwilling to step out from under our shame, we (mistakenly) conclude that Christ’s invitation is not meant for us.

Or maybe our stumbling block is that we think we have to earn God’s approval. Sure, it is his grace that saves us, but what about after that? We think it’s up to us to please God by what we think, say, and do—and when we slip up or fall short, we figure we’ll fall out of God’s favor and forfeit his love.

Then, too, we may find it easier to give love than to receive it. Giving makes us feel valuable and important; receiving puts us in a more vulnerable position. Receiving requires a type of surrender—which can be kind of awkward. We don’t like feeling needy; we’d rather be self-sufficient. We want to be in control.

All of these things—the shadow of shame, the sense that we need to earn God’s approval, and the desire for sufficiency instead of surrender—are lies that can keep us from experiencing the fullness of joy God wants us to have. But when we stop and consider the glorious weight of Christ’s words—“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”—everything changes. We see the truth.

The truth is this: Jesus knows you. Jesus loves you. And the moment you turn in his direction, he flings wide the door, opens his arms, and says, “Welcome home.”

So what about you?

Where have you struggled to receive Christ’s love? How might embracing his affection—believing that you truly are his beloved—impact how you think about yourself? About others?

Take some time this week to reflect on God’s lavish affection for you. Ask him to open your heart to receive all that he wants to give. And trust him to come and settle you down as you make your home in his love.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your promise that nothing in all creation can separate me from your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Show me how to shape my worries into prayers, letting you know my concerns. Settle me down and teach me to live in the truth as I make my home in your love. (Philippians 4:6-7; John 15:9)

Amen

❤️

Note: A version of this post appeared earlier this week at Club31Women, a place you’ll find books, blogs, and resources designed to strengthen your faith and enrich your family life. Click here to read a recent post about how we can turn our hearts toward God, and here for five strategies you can use to make your physical home a more peaceful and welcoming place. And if you want to know more about making your home in God’s love, you’ll find 31 different entry points in this easy-read book: Praying the Scriptures for Your Life:  31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God

praying the scriptures for your life

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Trusting God with Your College Student

Note: If your kids aren’t quite ready for college, you might want to check out a couple of posts from the archives. Click here for some tips on hosting a back-to-school prayer party and here for some timeless wisdom from bestselling author Rebekah Lyons and Moms in Prayer president Sally Burke, who talked with me about how we can help our kids when they struggle with worry or fear.

Back to school prayers

I remember telling my father that I wanted to attend the University of Virginia. The school had recently topped Playboy magazine’s annual catalog of the “best” college party spots, and my dad was understandably concerned. Making matters worse (for me) was the fact that one of his closest friends–a minister–had sent his son to U.Va., and the fella had gotten into all kinds of mischief. “I wouldn’t send my dog to that school,” the minister had warned, and I thought I was doomed.

Two things, though, worked in my favor. The first was the fact that I knew the minister’s son, and he turned out okay. He had graduated, gotten married, and then gone to seminary. God clearly had his hand on that boy’s life, and I figured he could watch out for me too.

The second thing I had was a working knowledge of Scripture and a willingness to use it, even out of context: “‘Where sin abounded,'” I told my father, quoting Romans 5:20, “‘grace did much more abound.’

“Come on, Dad,” I said. “Don’t you want me to go to a school where God’s grace abounds?”

I won in the end (probably more because U.Va. was the least expensive school on my list than because of the whole sin-and-grace thing) and as it turned out, U.Va. had–and still has–a thriving Christian community. God blessed me with two very smart (and pretty funny) roommates who posted party-relevant SAT words and Bible verses in our apartment foyer (corybantic described “frenzied and unrestrained” dance moves; Proverbs 23 warned of “needless bruises” and other perils of drinking), where anyone who stopped by could read them. Between their friendship and God’s mercy (and despite my making a boatload of stupid decisions), I graduated, got a job, married Robbie, and never thought much about the college party culture again.

Until my own kids grew up.

Could God be trusted to care for my college daughter?

Dropping our eldest, Hillary, off at college–amid a sea of red Solo cups–I had all sorts of questions. Had the party scene gotten worse? Would she be exposed to a lot of drugs? Sexual pressure? Worldviews and social norms that ran counter to the way she’d been raised? And was the same God who had kept both me and the minister’s kid from falling into a spiritual (or physical!) ditch still on the job? Could I trust him to care for my daughter?

Pretty much the only answer I was sure about was that yes, God was still on the job, and that he could be trusted. Suddenly, though, all of the Bible promises about God being “with us” seemed more important than ever. I found myself praying verses like Joshua 1:9 over my girl: Do not let Hillary be afraid or discouraged. Be with her wherever she goes.

I asked God to help her be alert and sober-minded, able to resist the devil and stand firm in the faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9).

And I prayed for wisdom and discernment, so that Hillary would be equipped to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

I asked God for all sorts of things–physical health and safety, good friendships, academic success–taking God at his word when he tells us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. And, when I’d get weary or wonder if my prayers were making a difference, I drew courage from Jesus’ exhortation that we should “always pray and not give up.”

(That last verse, Luke 18:1, is especially helpful when you send a child to college and they don’t call or text you for more than a week.)

(Ask me how I know.)

Pray with the destination in mind

I think one of the keys to praying effectively “on all occasions” (and to persevering in prayer when everything in you wants to give up) is to be destination oriented, rather that process oriented. We need to leave room for God to move however he chooses. The goal when we pray for our kids–whether we’re sending them off to the first day of preschool or the last year of college–is that they will have a saving relationship with Jesus, one that increasingly informs and animates their thoughts, words, and deeds.

The goal when we pray for our kids

Some of our children will get to God (or get back to God) by walking the straight and narrow; for others, the path may be crooked, painful, and even sometimes dangerous. I talked with one mom who is convinced that God sometimes takes our kids down paths we would not have chosen to keep us from patting ourselves on the back. “We cannot glory-steal from God,” she says. “When our kids come to Christ in a way that only he could have arranged because it looks nothing like we would have hoped for or envisioned, we are much more inclined to give him the credit.”

When you pray for your children in this big-picture way, you trust him to accomplish his best purposes in their lives, no matter how many detours they take, or how many times they may get tripped up along the way. As you pray, though, remember that our kids aren’t the only ones who will face temptation. We will too.

We’ll be tempted to blame ourselves for our kids’ mistakes and second-guess our parenting choices.

We’ll be tempted to live in a world of regrets and “if onlys”, ignoring God’s power (and his desire) to redeem.

And when it looks like nothing is happening and we start to grow weary, we’ll be tempted to give up on the power of prayer.

But let’s not.

Let’s stand firm, knowing that our labor in the Lord is never in vain. It doesn’t matter whether the bad choices in life belong to our kids or to us, or how big the sin is. God loves us. And his grace has us covered.

Looking back on my college experience, I still like the idea that “grace abounds even more.” But I looked up Romans 5:20 in The Message, and as I pray my all-grown-up children (and my all-grown-up self) through life’s tempatations and stumbles, I think I like this translation even better:  “When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.”

❤️

P.S. This post and the prayers it contains are excerpted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. From now until August 31, my friends at FaithGateway are running a back-to-school special on that title, as well as Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens and Praying the Scriptures for Your ChildrenWhen you order any book, you’ll get 47% off the cover price, plus a bunch of freebies to help you pray specifically, and confidently, for your children.

Back to school prayer kit

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating as we send the people we love back to school:  Our prayers release God’s provision. And as we pray, we discover his peace.

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A Word for the Weary (plus a prayer plan for August)

Maybe it’s the heat, but everywhere I turn–from my DMs and text messages to casual convos with the lady at the post office–people seem to be weary. Not the good kind of weary, like the tiredness you get after a hard day’s work in the garden (or even at the computer), but the the sluggish kind of weary that feels kin to discouragement, or even defeat. The kind that comes with long seasons of waiting. Uncertainty over the future. Relationship ruts. Heat.

The kind of weary that settles in when life just feels hard and you wonder where God is in the mix, or what he is doing.

If you’ve been around this space for awhile, you know I’ve given up trying to figure out what God is doing (or at least I’ve tried to; I still catch myself with questions more often that I want to admit). But I have not let go of my desire to anchor my trust in his promises. Promises like Isaiah 26:3, which says that God will keep us in perfect peace as we trust in him.

If you were one of the more than 20,000 people who prayed the scriptures in July as part of our 31 Days of Prayer, you may remember that verse from Day 28:

Prayer for trusting God Isaiah 26:3

Keep me in perfect peace, even when I don’t know what you are doing. (Isaiah 26:3)

Or Day 18, which featured a prayer for hearing God’s voice:

Isaiah 30:21 prayer for listening to God

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

If you you missed the July challenge, you can download the daily prayer calendar hereBut if you want a new plan–a fresh approach for August (and even beyond)–might I suggest praying your way through the Psalms?

The OG Prayer Book

Think of the Psalms as the OG Prayer Book.

Jesus prayed the Psalms. So did the early church. And so have countless Christians through the ages, in times of weeping and laughter, disappointment and hope, pain and victory. “The Psalms express every human emotion,” writes Tish Harrison Warren, “but, taken up again and again, they never simply leave us as we are. They are strong medicine. They change us.”

Warren is an Anglican priest and the author of a book called A Prayer in the Night. She says it’s not like the Psalms take grieving people and make them “annoyingly peppy and optimistic.” Instead, she writes, the Psalms “form us into a people who can hold the depths of our sorrow with utter honesty even as we hold onto the promises of God.”

As someone who knows what it’s like to live in the tension between weariness, grief, or discouragement while still trusting in God’s goodness and love, I appreciate that perspective. I’ve actually been spending some time in the Psalms this summer (with 150 of them, it’s not like the well is apt to run dry), and they’ve given me fresh reason to stake my faith in God’s word. For instance, when I ran my own weariness and uncertainty through the filter of just two little verses in Psalm 19, I found refreshment, wisdom, gladness, and understanding.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
reviving the soul.

The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The commandments of the Lord are right,
bringing joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are clear,
giving insight for living.

 

God's instructions revive our weary soul (Psalm 19:7)

God’s word restores us. It can be trusted. It brings us joy. It lights up our way, showing us how to live.

And it helps us pray.

Consider this your invitation to join me in praying your way through the Psalms as we round out the summer. If you’re feeling the heat–literally, or metaphorically in the face of weariness, uncertainty, or anything else that might be sapping your strength–you don’t have to look farther than the first few verses to find your footing. Here’s Psalm 1:2-3 (how’s that for an easy 1-2-3 reference?), expressed as a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

May I delight in your word, meditating on it day and night, so I will be like a tree planted by streams of water. May I bear fruit without withering and prosper in all that I do.

Amen

Psalm 1:2-3

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Saints, sinners, and what Italy taught me about abiding

Robbie and I just got back from Italy. It was a bucket-list trip, one made all the sweeter since we went with a group of friends from our church. Billed as the “Saints and Sinners Tour,” I think the idea was to take a bunch of (mostly) old American sinners and introduce us to a bunch of (really) old Italian saints, and hope something good would rub off.

Saints and Sinners Tour book

We marveled over the humility of Francis of Assisi, a pampered party boy who renounced his luxurious lifestyle in order to “wed” Lady Poverty. That move didn’t sit too well with his father–especially when Francis stripped naked in the public square to demonstrate his commitment, leaving the Bishop to try to, um, cover things up:

Giotto's painting of St. Francis standing naked in the public square

We applauded the courage of Catherine of Siena, a spunky saint best remembered for telling Pope Gregory XI (and I’m paraphrasing here) to “Man up!” and get back to his duties in Rome. (The Pope had been living in Avignon; having been to both cities, I can see why he might not have wanted to move.)

Catherine of Siena telling the Pope to return to Rome

And we heard about folks like St. Philip Neri, a Florentine monk who thought Christians ought to be more cheerful than melancholy, and that being holy didn’t mean you had to look serious or sad. Known to carry two things in his pockets–a Bible and a joke book–Neri is one of those saints I hope I get to sit by at the welcome dinner in heaven.

I liked the saint stories, or at least most of them. Truth be told, though, they were not my favorite part of the trip. Maybe I’m just a bigger sinner than most, but what I really loved about Italy were the vineyards. Which, remarkably, seemed to be flourishing.

Vineyard in Italy

I’m no farmer, but I did take one class in meteorology at U.Va., and I could tell it was hot. Over 100 degrees, according to the weather apps on our phones. Plus, Italy was in the midst of a drought. “Pray for rain,” our tour guide pleaded, when she realized our group was on speaking terms with the Lord. “We really need it.”

Sunrise in Italy

We could see what she meant. I woke early one morning to greet the Tuscan sunrise, but I had to look down every few steps. Walking was tricky; the ground was so parched that the soil was cracked.

Cracked soil in Italy

How, I wondered, could anything survive in that heat? How could the vines keep bearing fruit? I would think they’d be spitting out raisins; how come the grapes looked so healthy and lush?

As I pondered these questions, I sensed the Holy Spirit’s whisper. “The branches survive as they stay attached to the vine,” he said. “They don’t have to try to produce grapes; that happens naturally, as they do their one job: Abiding.”

Grapes on the vine

Ahhh. A fresh twist on Christ’s words in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Created for connection

Like grapevines, you and I are created for connection. The degree to which we stay connected to Christ is the degree to which we will thrive. But what does that vine-branch connection look like in our everyday lives? How do we, practically speaking, abide?

Back in 1900, R.A. Torrey tackled this question in a book that’s now widely considered a classic: How to Pray“To abide in Christ,” he wrote, “is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and constantly look to Him for the inflow of His life into us, and the outworking of His life through us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God.”

Put another way, when we take Jesus up on his John 15 invitation–when we say yes to dwelling in Christ and letting him dwell in us–our prayer life changes. No longer do we cultivate our own feelings and desires; rather, it is Christ who forms his thoughts, emotions, and purposes in us. And the more we allow this life-giving flow of his life into ours, the more powerful and effective our prayers become.

The more we become people of impact.

The more we live lives marked by purpose and meaning.

The more we bear lush, healthy, life-giving fruit.

Lemon tree

Lemons in Italy

(And yes. I was captivated by the ginormous lemons in Italy. They were like footballs.)

(Well okay. Footballs for children. But still.)

A harvest on the horizon

If you’re following along with our 31-Day Prayer Challenge this month (and if you are, you’re not alone; more than 20,000 people have downloaded the calendar and are praying with us!), you might already be seeing a harvest–or at least a glimpse of it on the horizon, as you allow God’s promises to give shape to your prayers. This week, for example, we invited God to animate our relationships, praying Philippians 2:3-4 (“Let me value others and put their interests above my own”) and asking him to fulfill 1 John 3:18 in our lives (“Give me friends who will love not just with words but with actions”).

 

Day 7: Friendship prayer from Philippians 2:3-4

 

Day 8: Friends prayer from 1 John 3:18

And there are plenty more topics on tap. We’ll ask God to help us to navigate suffering and grief, give us freedom from worry and fear, and teach us use our gifts and talents wisely. We’ll even pray about what it looks like to approach aging well!

31 Days of Prayer Calendar

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There is nothing we’ll face in life that God has not already thought of (and provided for!) in his Word. If you want to join us on the prayer challenge, click here for more info. If you just want to download the calendar so you can follow along on your own, click here. And if you want to dig deeper on the whole subject of staying connected to Christ, click here to get your copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God(There’s an entire chapter on what it means to abide, filled with insights from biblical brainiacs who know how to put the hay where the sheep can reach it.)

I’ll leave you with one more reflection from Italy, which comes (appropriately) in the form of a confession.

Yes, I liked the saints. And yes, I liked the vineyards. But what I mostly liked (and what I maybe got in trouble for stealing) was the secret stash of ice I found in the hotel refrigerator.

The cubes were almost as big as the lemons.

And boy-oh-boy, was I grateful.

Enjoying the fruit of the vine

 

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

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31 Days of Prayer – Coming in July!

Quick question: Where do you need God’s help right now?

Are you struggling with a challenging relationship? A job that feels too big to accomplish? Anxiety over the future or the current moment?

Whatever the situation is – whatever popped into you mind when you saw that first line – it has not taken God by surprise. He reveals problems not to prompt you to panic, but to invite you to pray. And I’m sliding into your inbox today in the hope that you’ll join me, and a whole bunch of other folks, in saying “yes” to that invitation!

Let’s pray together in July.

31 Days of Prayer Title

The wonderful community at FaithGateway is hosting a 31-day prayer challenge using my Praying the Scriptures calendar. If you’ve seen the calendar, you know there’s a different topic every day – things like trusting God, finding freedom from worry, managing money and time, living with greater gratitude, and experiencing joy.

prayer calendar

Each day includes a short scripture you can pray about that particular need or concern. I’ve said it before: Sometimes, the tiniest verse or phrase in the Bible can do more to transform our thinking and shape our desires than if we were to try and tackle an entire chapter at once (and the bite-sized prayers are much easier to remember!). 🙏🏽 

Download the prayer calendar for free (click here)…

…and then follow along, if you like, on Facebook or Instagram, where we’ll be sharing each day’s prayer prompt in my stories, like this prayer for FORGIVENESS on Day 5:

Day 5 Prayer: Forgiveness

Of course, if you want to know more about any topic, or access a bigger collection of prayers, each day is covered in a different chapter in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life(Click here to learn more or to purchase a copy.) I’ve been so encouraged to hear all the ways that this book and the prayers it contains have helped shape your conversations with God – thank you for letting me know!

Book Cover (sneak peek)

And one more quick thing. Consider inviting a friend to do this prayer challenge with you. Some of my most favorite prayer times have been when I have a partner to come alongside me during a particular season – and who knows? Maybe this little 31-Day experiment will kickstart a daily habit of connecting with God and watching his answers unfold, long after you’ve finished praying!

I’m so looking forward to doing the daily prayer challenge with you, starting next week. There’s nothing like knowing you’re joining your voice with so many others and welcoming Jesus into the prayer circle!

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Warmly,

Jodie

P.S. If you joined us for 31 Days of Prayer last July, you can do it again—this time with a community of fellow believers on a journey of learning to pray Scripture. I’m so grateful to the folks at FaithGateway for all the ways they equip us to draw closer to Jesus and grow daily in grace! ❤️

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Marriage (and why I lived in a bathrobe)

It’s been a minute, I know. And I’ve missed you. So I’m sliding into your inbox today with a quick personal update, a few scripture prayers, and DIY idea you can try for a marriage you love.

But first, a little backstory.

Last summer, I asked you to let me know what topics you’d like to see covered in a book about marriage. You weighed in with some very specific answers. You wanted principles and prayers you could use for better communication, handling conflict, and knowing how to deal with parents and in-laws. You wondered about intimacy—both the physical and the spiritual kind, particularly where you and your spouse might not be in the same place, faith-wise. And at least one of you asked if I could please write something–anything–that would get your husband to do what you wanted him to do.

Marriage Survey Responses

I put all of these things in the pondering pot and went poking around in the Bible to see what God had to say. I came away convinced that God is crazy about marriage, and that his deepest desire is to equip us to love one another as he loves us: selflessly, lavishly, and in ways that go beyond anything we could ever ask for or imagine.

I also interviewed oodles of people. I talked with everyone: Newlyweds and empty-nesters. Folks who’d spent years on the struggle bus and those for whom the “for better” eclipsed the “for worse.” Couples who were comfortable talking to God–trusting him with their most important relationship–and those who had no idea where to begin.

And then I went into a writing hole. I basically stayed in my bathrobe for a few months, poking my head out of my office just long enough to ask Robbie to read something and give me his feedback. Which was both helpful and hard. Robbie is nothing if not honest. And even though he sent me back to the drawing board more times than a husband who wants to eat dinner “sometime tonight” should ever do, his comments were thoughtful and wise (especially when it came to tricky topics like handling money, experiencing forgiveness, and having good sex).

When it was all said and done, we hit “send” on the manuscript a scant three minutes before it was due. I thought we should celebrate by going to bed (like, to bed-bed. For a month.), but Robbie said it was time for a toast.

A toast to the marriage manuscript

I look tired, I know. I was tired. I am tired.

And honestly? There were plenty of times during the process when I questioned God. Who was I–who were we–to write this book? Would it be any good? And would we have any friends when we finished, since I’d spent such a long time in the hole? Writing is lonely. Writers are lonely. It’s a privilege, to be sure, but if your heart’s desire is to write a book, you need to know, up front, that your social life may take a hit.

(And, if you are like me, you’ll probably gain at least seven pounds in the process.)

The book–cleverly titled Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage–releases next spring (just in time for wedding season!). I’ll be giving you little sneak peeks between now and then, including excerpts from interviews with folks who’ve done the marriage thing well, folks who’ve navigated the “for better” together, as well as some hard seasons of “worse.”

For now, though, I’ll leave you with three of my favorite marriage prayers–verses you can personalize for yourself, for a friend’s marriage, or even for your unmarried children as you pray for their relationship with their eventual spouse.

Heavenly Father,

Make us kind and compassionate to one another, and quick to forgive. (Ephesians 4:32)

In humility, may we value one another above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to each other’s interests and well-being. (Philippians 2:3-4)

May our marriage be rooted and built up in Jesus. Strengthen our faith and cause us to overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Amen.

❤️

I put these prayers on a card we gave all the guests last summer at Virginia and Christopher’s wedding.

marriage prayer card

And okay, so it’s not technically a “DIY” project–not unless you’re way better than I am at graphic design. But any local printer (thank you, Virginia Beach Printing!) can help you make your own card, personalizing it with a monogram or a cross or any emblem you like at the top. This makes a sweet party favor at a wedding shower or bridal luncheon, or slip the card into a frame as a gift for a couple you love. Happy wedding season–and happy almost anniversary, Virginia and Chris!

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The Helper knows what looks good on you

Maybe you’ve heard about the woman who looked at God and said, “So far today, I’m doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, or told any white lies. I haven’t been greedy, nasty, or selfish. I have not whined or complained or cursed—not even once! And I haven’t charged anything on my credit card or eaten any gluten.

“But…I am going to be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think I will need your help.”

Can you relate? I know I can. When it comes to right living, we all need God’s help. Particularly since obedience—doing the right thing—is linked to living in the warmth of God’s love.

“If you keep my commands,” Jesus says in John 15:10, “you will remain in my love.”

John 15:9-10

Trouble is, obedience does not come naturally. Disobedience comes naturally. “I have the desire to do what is good,” Paul writes, “but I cannot carry it out.” We’d all be doomed, when it comes to desiring and doing the right thing, except for the fact that God knew we’d need help. And he gives it to us in the form of the Holy Spirit, our Helper.

What the Helper Does

If you’ve been following along in my Facebook or Instagram stories through Lent, you know we’ve been reading Catherine Marshall’s classic book, The Helperwhich details forty different ways the Holy Spirit offers practical help in our lives. I’m linking the book in this post, but you might have to settle for a used copy; new ones are hard to come by (and cost waaaay more than the $3.95 I paid for mine, back in 1978).

The Helper (1978 edition)

The Helper does all sorts of valuable things, from reminding us what Jesus said, to equipping us with supernatural power, to guiding us in ways that save us worry and even time. He also (and this is where the ability to do the right thing comes in) gives us new desires. He doesn’t force them on us, of course, but as we entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s keeping and care, he gives us (as Philippians 2:13 puts it), the “desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

I love that. Because honestly? We don’t always know what would please God. Plus, there are plenty of times when we might know the right thing to do but we just don’t want to. Or, like Paul, we might actually have the desire, but we lack the power, or the ability, to see whatever it is through to completion.

In her book, Catherine Marshall tells the story of her friend, Janet, who arrived in Washington, D.C. “deficient in taste and know-how.” Knowing that her friend needed help if she hoped to fit into the city’s sophisticated climate, Marshall connected Janet with a style maven who took her on, waiving the customary fee for her service, and ordered up a beautiful three-piece British tweed suit—something that the newcomer could feel confident wearing in almost any setting.

(Stick with me here. I know a three-piece suit—British or otherwise—might not be a “must have” today, but as a high-schooler in the 1970s who owned one made of royal blue polyester, I would have given anything to have some tweeds of my own.)

As Marshall tells the story, the suit arrived and Janet burst into tears. It was ridiculously expensive—and she wasn’t even sure she liked it! But then, as she wore it, a strange thing happened. She began to love the outfit, and her own taste started to change. “The purchase turned out to be one of the mainstays of Janet’s wardrobe for eight years,” Marshall writes. “The tweeds were not worn out even then.”

God knows what we should wear

Here’s the takeaway:  When we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit (just as Janet submitted her will to that of the big-city stylist), we allow him to go to work in our lives. He transforms us, as Romans 12:2 puts it, renewing our minds—changing the way we think—so we can know God’s will, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

And then, somewhere along the way, it hits us:  Like a professional stylist, God knows better than we do what looks good on us. And when the Holy Spirit tells us what to wear—to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”—we can trust that we will love the result. The Helper has impeccable taste.

The Holy Spirit, our Helper, has impeccable taste

❤️

I shared the story of Janet and the professional stylist in my book, Praying the Scriptures for Your LifeIf you’d like to spend a few more minutes thinking through how the Holy Spirit can work to give you the desire and the power to do what pleases God, here is a brief excerpt from the “Reflect” section at the end of that chapter, along with a few prayers you can pray:

  • God’s commands are always designed for our benefit; they are motivated by love. Likewise, our obedience is born out of relationship, not obligation. Our connection to Christ creates our desire to obey—and it is through obedience that we abide in Christ’s love.
  • Still, though, obedience can be hard. Don’t be afraid to ask the Holy Spirit for help, knowing that your humility acts as a magnet for God’s grace. And remember: God will never give you a command that he doesn’t also give you the power to fulfill. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your life today.
  • Take a few moments to reflect on what that resurrection power can accomplish in your life. Dry, dead places can become fertile ground; sin’s chains can be broken; radiance can replace shame. Ask God to open your eyes to the beauty of his commands as you surrender yourself to his keeping, trusting the Holy Spirit to give you both the desire and the power to do what pleases God.

Heavenly Father…

Work in me to will and to act to fulfill your good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Create in me a clean heart. Restore the joy of my salvation and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:10-12 NLT)

Don’t let me be arrogant and stiff-necked, refusing to obey your commands. May I listen to you, knowing that you are gracious and compassionate towards me, slow to anger and abounding in love. (Nehemiah 9:16-17)

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Easter Basket Book Giveaway

We’re a month away from Easter, and baby Noah and I are just hopping into your in-box today to let you know about our favorite freebie of the year:  THE EASTER BASKET BOOK GIVEAWAY.

Easter Basket Giveaway

Every year, we pick a few of our best-loved new releases – books we think families will enjoy – and share them with you. If you want to win the Easter Giveaway, pop on over to my IG account to tag one of your favorite bunnies, but for now I’ll just go ahead and tell you what’s in the basket this year. (Click on any of the titles to learn more or order on Amazon; books may also be available at ChurchSource.com, ChristianBook.com, or your favorite local bookseller.)

Little One, We Knew You’d Come is the latest release from beloved author Sally Lloyd-Jones. (You know her from the Jesus Storybook Bible.) It’s a beautifully illustrated way to celebrate the joy of new life and love when a baby is born. Noah especially loved the last line: “…we’re so glad you’ve come!”

Little One Easter Giveaway

What If It’s Wonderful? Release Your Fears, Choose Joy, & Find the Courage to Celebrate is by Nicole Zasowski, a licensed marriage and family therapist who says that God’s purpose for us is not just worked out in our struggles, but also in our dreams and our joys. Nicole makes the psychological and spiritual case for celebration, encouraging us to approach life with an expectant heart and the courage to trust that God really is good. I’d snag this one on the strength of the title alone.

What if it's Wonderful

(Noah loved the party horn we tried with What If It’s Wonderful; she couldn’t get it to unfurl but that didn’t stop her from making kazoo-like noises to celebrate!)

Wonderful 2 - Easter Giveaway

Next up in the Easter Giveaway Basket is the updated version of a time-tested classic loved by generations of families:

Honey for a Child's Heart Easter Giveaway

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is for anyone who wants to discover wholesome, nourishing books for their kids. I wish I’d known about this resource when our kids were growing up; the annotated list of books for kids ages 0-12 is more than a little impressive, whether you’re looking for a good read-aloud story or if you just want to cultivate your child’s love for reading. (True confession: I looked through the list and I’m ordering several of the author’s recommendations for myself!)

And as someone who is currently testing the theory, “If you don’t clean for six months, the dust doesn’t get any worse,” I am both challenged and inspired by Christy Fitzwater’s Keeping House: A 30-Day Meditation on the Value of HousekeepingIf Christy cleans even half as well as she writes, her house must be sparkling. If you’re looking for some fresh inspo as you tackle the routine jobs that come with keeping house (and you want to draw closer to God in the process), this one’s for you.

Keeping House Easter Giveaway

And finally, my favorite: Raising Prayerful Kids, by Stephanie Thurling and Sarah Holmstrom. The subtitle on this one says it all: Fun & Easy Activities for Building Lifelong Habits of Prayer. 

Raising prayerful kids 2 - Easter Giveaway

From fun crafts like paper prayer chains and blessing bags, to soul-rich introductions to things like The Lord’s Prayer and the practice of Lectio Divina, to discussion prompts and sometimes laugh-out-loud stories, I can already tell that this is one of those books that’s gonna be the go-to resource every time we get to babysit the grandkids.

So…click the links in this post, check the reviews, and if you think you’d like to win the whole bundle, I’ll see you on Instagram! (Winner announced Sunday…gotta get these books in the mail before Easter!)

Raising Prayerful Kids Easter Giveaway

 

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How to rejoice (even when it’s somebody else’s big win)

(This post about knowing how to rejoice with other people – to celebrate when someone else has a win – ran earlier this week over at Club31Women.com, a place where you’ll find all sorts of good things for yourself and your family. I’m sharing the message again today, partly in case you missed it but mostly because there’s no such thing as too much cheering for one another!)

“Friendship doubles our joys and divides our griefs.”

I’ve read that quote countless times over the years, starting in high school when my English teacher chalked it on the top right corner of the blackboard.

The thought made sense to me then, and it dovetailed neatly with what Paul wrote to the Romans when he explained what love should look like in everyday life: “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” he said. “Mourn with those who mourn.”

Now, some forty years removed from that English classroom, I still believe friendship—loving others well—has the power to multiply joy and divide sorrow. But I wonder why we’re so much better at the second part of Paul’s command than the first. Why do we find it easier to weep with a friend when she’s hurting than to magnify her delight when she has a win?

Maybe it’s jealousy: We want what she has.

Maybe it’s insecurity: We compare ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up.

Maybe it’s a critical spirit: We know who she is; she doesn’t deserve the blessing.

Or maybe it’s fear: We worry, somehow, that if God showers his gifts on somebody else, he won’t have enough left for us.

Whatever the reason, the Bible is full of examples of folks who loved well—who entered into each other’s joy—and those who didn’t.

Consider how Elizabeth greeted Mary, when the young mother-to-be showed up at her house. “Blessed are you among women,” she cried, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43) Elizabeth could have been bitter or jealous (Why had it taken her so long to conceive? Why hadn’t she been chosen to bear the Messiah?), but she wasn’t. Instead, in humility, she shared Mary’s joy, fueling the younger woman’s faith with affirmation and blessing. What a gift!

On the flip side, there’s David’s wife Michal, who stared out the window as her husband danced and celebrated when God’s ark came into the City. King David and his entourage—Israel’s elders, commanders, Levites, musicians—“went rejoicing,” Scripture says, but Michal (who found David’s conduct shameless and vulgar) “was filled with contempt.” (1 Chronicles 15:25-29)

Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist; Michal remained childless to the day of her death.

How do we become like Elizabeth instead of Michal? Put another way, how do we cultivate a spirit of humility—one that is quick to celebrate someone else—instead of a spirit of criticism and contempt?

How do we rejoice with those who rejoice?

First, we can anchor our identity not in who we are or what we do, but in our status as God’s beloved. God loves us—and wants to bless us—just because we are his, and an awareness of who we are in his sight can keep things like jealousy, insecurity, and fear from gaining a foothold in our lives.

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Second, we can pray with expectant joy for our friends, interceding for them when they struggle and giving thanks when they succeed. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Praying for someone else gives you a vested interest in their well-being and opens the door to sincere and generous love.

And finally, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help. We don’t have to worry that he’ll see our warts and our weakness; he already knows all about that and he is always praying on our behalf.

What about you? Where have you found it hard to enter into someone else’s joy? What keeps you from celebrating when a friend has a big win? Confess any jealousy, insecurity, or fears to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to help you anchor your identity in your status as God’s beloved.

Psalm 112:5 says, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely.” Let’s be generous with our love, coming alongside others in their hard times and, even more, in their rejoicing.

❤️

You can read more about joy-sharing friendships–and how to cultivate them–in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life:  31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God.

 

 

 

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Does your Valentine have a long nose?

Does your Valentine have a long nose?

That question might seem peculiar (and okay, it kind of is), but don’t blame me. Blame the Apostle Paul, who brought it up.

In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote a lot about love. You know the passage I’m talking about; you’ve heard it at a bazillion weddings. And in fact, when our son Robbie got married, the minister cautioned against dismissing the passage as cheesy or cliché, since it’s become so familiar.

Wedding photo

I’m talking, of course, about 1 Corinthians 13. That’s the one where Paul says that whatever we do–no matter how noble or moral or jaw-droppingly generous–is basically worthless, if it’s not motivated by love.

And then he details what love looks like:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

That’s really good stuff, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. So with Valentine’s Day almost upon us, let’s just bite off what we can chew.

Love is patient.

The Greek word for patience in this verse is makrothumia, which means long-suffering. Or, even more literally, long-passioned. You know what a short-tempered person acts like, right? Picture the opposite. Picture someone who waits before expressing their anger. Someone you feel safe with. Someone who makes you feel loved.

Picture God.

Because honestly? The kind of patience Paul is writing about is the kind of patience God extends toward us. “He is not slow in keeping his promise,” Scripture says. “Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” It’s that very patience, coupled together with God’s unlimited kindness, that makes us want to love him back.

God wants us to have that sort of patience with one another–and especially, I have to believe, with our Valentine. (Particularly if our Valentine is someone we’ve lived with for, say, 37 years.) God knows, and studies show, that being generous toward our loved one–extending patience and kindness instead of anger and contempt–can create an “virtuous cycle,” one where love begets love.

But what if you’re not a naturally makrothumiac-ish person? (Don’t @ me, all you Greek scholars; I’m trying.)

The good news–the great news, actually–is that we might not be naturally patient. But that’s okay. Because God offers a super-natural answer. Makrothumia is something the Holy Spirit produces in us; all we have to do is say yes.

Okay, so I know some of you are wondering what any of this has to do with being long-nosed. I’m getting there. Be patient.

(Had to.)

Paul was writing to Greek-speaking people, so he used Greek. Had he been writing in Hebrew, he would have used ’erek appayim. Which, as we all know, literally means “long of nose.”

For instance (stay with me here), in Exodus 34:6 when God describes himself to Moses, he says he is “The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”

This verse could actually be translated like this:

“The God of compassion and mercy! I am long of nose and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”

Why does God say he is long of nose? I don’t know. But as someone whose own nose gives my face what some people call “character,” I am grateful for the Hebrew translation. I just wish my patience were as prominent as my proboscis. 😉

What about you? Could you use a little more makrothumia in your love life? Could your Valentine?

If so, you’ll find lots of prayer prompts in my book Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, which includes chapters on loving others (even when that doesn’t come naturally), waiting well, and asking God for things like patience and kindness in your marriage. Click here to order.

And in the meantime, here are three of my favorite “patience prayers” you can pray. I’m sending these along with armloads of love and warmest wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day!

❤️

Heavenly Father,

Fill us with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that we may be strengthened with all power and have great endurance and patience. (Colossians 1:9-11)

Equip us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Help us be completely humble and gentle. May we be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Amen

Robbie and Mary's Wedding

(Photos by Jen Fariello.)

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A (Printable) Prayer for the New Year

What do you want God to do for your family this year? Is there a particular prayer on your heart that you hope he will answer?

If you’ve read my books or hung around the edges of this space for more than a minute, you probably know about my one of my favorite family traditions: Prayer hands. And if you want to skip this next part and head straight for the printable at the end of this post, be my guest!

But if you want the back-story on why I love this tradition, here it is:

Every year (usually in late December), I spend some time  thinking and praying about each of my children. I consider where they are spiritually, socially, physically, and emotionally. I think about their schoolwork (now their jobs), their relationships, their character, and how they use things like money, talents, and time. I put all of this stuff in the pondering pot, and then I ask God to clue me in as to what he might want to do in their lives, what purposes he might want to accomplish, how he might want to bless them in the year to come.

And then I go poking around in the Bible like I’m searching for treasure (I am!), and when I find a verse or a passage that speaks to whatever it is that I think God might be up to, I commit to praying those words over my child, off and on, all year long.

Prayer hands through the years

When the kids were younger, I’d trace each child’s hand on a piece of colored cardstock, write the prayer verse on the hand (personalizing it with their name), and date it. And because laminating is one of my love languages, I’d do that too. I’d stick the finished product on the refrigerator, where the prayer hand would serve both as a reminder (to me) and a reassurance (to my kids) that their earthly parent was talking to their heavenly parent on their behalf.

God answered these prayers in some above-and-beyond ways. In 2001, for example, he gave Robbie Jr. wisdom and self-discipline in place of impulsiveness and a wayyyy-too-short fuse, an answer to a Proverbs 23:23-24 prayer that continued to play out as he grew. And in 2003, God softened Virginia (who’d been known to bluntly warn other kids on the playground that they were going to hell) with discernment and grace, setting her up for a lifetime of living out Daniel 12:3.

Robbie & Virginia prayer hands

Later, when the children grew up (and their hands were no longer cute enough for the fridge), I began making bookmarks. And God continued to pour out his provision, often in ways that didn’t look at all like what I was expecting. For instance (and if you’ve read Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children, you know this punchline), my 2014 prayer for our daughter Hillary was based on Isaiah 62:2-4. I wanted Hillary to know that she was a “crown of splendor” in God’s hand, and that he took great delight in her. That was not a bad prayer, but God had a bigger (and better) idea. I didn’t pay much attention to this part when I began praying, but the passage talks about getting a “new name.” Sure enough, that was the year God brought Charlie into the picture–and Hillary got him and his name.

Hillary and Charlie wedding (answered prayer)

God prompts us to pray

Why do I like these long-term prayers? Put another way, what makes the prayer hands/bookmarks so special, as opposed to the prayers we might pray, day-to-day, as needs arise?

For one thing, when we commit to spending a whole year praying about one particular thing, we learn to wait well, trusting God even when we can’t see what he’s doing. We give him time to work. And we get out of the way so he can weave in answers and blessings we hadn’t even known we wanted.

On an even deeper level, I love the way that God works through the pondering process, as I consider my kids and their needs. I may think I am setting things in motion when I pray, but in reality, God is the initiator. When he gives us a glimpse into what he is doing, he does so in order to awaken in us a response–one he expected to awaken.

God prompts us to pray. And what a privilege it is to partner with him, through our prayers, to accomplish his good purposes in our children’s lives.

God initiates prayer graphic

One “all-family” prayer

If you follow me on social media, you may know that in recent years I’ve added one “all-family” prayer that I put on the back of each person’s bookmark. I see the two-sided version as a way of asking God to work in our individual lives, even as he grows us as a family.

Our 2021 prayer was based on 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May our love increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.” (That seemed like a good one, especially as we welcomed a new son- and daughter-in-law. What could be better than love overflowing?)

This year’s prayer is from Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” When I read that verse in mid-December, I thought: That’s it. That’s all I could ever want for my kids and grandkids: More and more of God’s Spirit, along with his blessing.

I phrased the Isaiah promise as a prayer and made bookmarks for the whole crew:

prayer bookmark - Isaiah 44:3

If you like the idea but you’re not sure where to start, you’re welcome to copy our bookmark. Click here to download the Isaiah 44:3 prayer in printable form.

And if you want to personalize your bookmarks with an individual prayer for each child on the back, help yourself to any of the verses in this post. Or pick something from one of the prayer calendars you’ll find at JodieBerndt.com. (I’ve linked the version for children here; there are others for teens and adults.) Or go on your own treasure hunt, asking the Holy Spirit to show you which verses to pray!

(And psst – don’t worry about picking the “perfect” verse. They’re all good, and if you find something you like better next week or next month, you can switch! 😉)

May God pour out his Spirit on your children, his blessing on your descendants. Happy 2022!

❤️

Our granddaughter, Noah, took her first steps recently. Which made me think about walking. Which made me think of Jesus’s invitation in John 8:12“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Noah likes Robbie better than she likes me, so I volunteered him for the hand-tracing job:

Noah and Robbie make a prayer hand

Noah 2022 prayer hand

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