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A Mantle for Your Marriage (plus a prayer you can print!)

So I was poking around in the Book of Common Prayer the other day (and if you think that sounds uber-holy, maybe don’t. Truth be told, “Organize Office” was on my to-do list. But there’s a copy of the BCP* on my desk, and I got a little sidetracked).

And anyhow. I came upon this sentence:

BCP Marriage Prayer

That’s just one little line in a much longer prayer, but it caught my eye. I had to read it again. And again.

“Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads.”

Those words from the marriage service–so incredibly rich–speak to the almost inexpressible power of love.

seal conveys security and ownership. It marks something as authentic. Could there be any better imprint than love (with its inherent patience, humility, and unwillingness to keep a record of wrongs) to guard a couple’s heart as they give themselves to each other?

A mantle, in Bible times, was a covering that represented a call to service, a purpose before God. Could there be a more potent mandate for husband and wife than to serve God and one another in love?

And the word crown points toward the promise of eternal life, as marriage reflects the covenant relationship between Christ and his bride–the one where Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we could wear one of beauty. Could there be a more exquisite portrayal of life-giving love?

See what I mean? This is a fabulous prayer! And if you’re looking for more of the same, I’ve got good news and bad.

The good news is that The Celebration of Marriage is chock full of Scripture-based prayers; I’ve pulled a few favorites and put them on a two-sided card you can print. The front side is the blessing, and the back shows where you can find the roots of these prayers in the Bible.

The bad news is that once you start praying this way (whether it’s for your own marriage or for another union you want God to bless), it can be hard to stop.

Which means that “office organization” might not happen anytime soon….

❤️

Heavenly Father,

Give ____ such wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity…

(Want the rest of the prayer? Click the download–or better yet, get a copy of the BCP and savor it for yourself!)

*And P.S., I didn’t grow up in a church where they used prayer books (or robes, or candles, or really anything except the Bible and Jesus), and I didn’t know what a “BCP” even was. Now I do. And if you ever find yourself in a church where you don’t know all the lingo–words like unction, or epistoler–don’t worry. Just go home and check the phrontistery.

(Which is a real thing.)

(Because you can’t make this stuff up.)

 

 

 

 

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A little thought about friendship (plus a book giveaway!)

There’s an old Swedish proverb that says, “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.”

I like that. And I think it might be part of what Paul was getting at in his letter to the Romans when he said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15

Sometimes, though, rejoicing with someone (particularly when he or she is celebrating a victory or a joy that we wish we could have) can be hard.

Likewise, mourning (particularly when we don’t know what we should do or say) can tempt us to want to hold back, keeping our distance from pain.

But sharing in others’ delights and their sorrows is a mark of what we might call life-giving friendships, the kind we all long to enjoy. I’ll be talking more about what these sorts of connections look like next week (in part 2 of last week’s post on the merits of aging), but for now, let’s ask God to equip us to come alongside one another in a way that really does increase our joy and divide the burden of grief…

Heavenly Father,

Help us be alert to ways we can honor our friends in their celebrations, and stand with them when they sorrow. May we rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

Amen

❤️

P.S. Friendship – that sense of connectedness and belonging – is a blessing we want our kids to enjoy, no matter how old they are. It’s something I wrote about in all of the Praying the Scriptures books. I’m giving away one copy of each title this week, so if you have a friend or two you’d like to share the book with, tag them on my Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook page (@JodieBerndtWrites) and let me know which book they would like!

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Life-Giving Friendships (and three ways to spot ’em)

Robbie and I will be driving home at night and we’ll pass a house that’s all lit up, with cars spilling down the driveway and out into the street.

“Look…” I will say. “Go slow.  They’re having a party…”

“Looks that way,” Robbie will say.

“But…they didn’t invite us,” I will say.

“Jodie,” Robbie will say, looking sideways at me. “We don’t know the people who live in that house.”

“I know,” I will sigh. “But we could know them. And I bet they would like us…”

I may be an extreme (and slightly pathetic) example, but I know I am not alone in my desire to have friends. This longing to belong – this desire for connection – goes back to the beginning of time. Remember what God said when he created Adam?

It is not good for man to be alone.

Roger that. Woman either.

And it’s not just the Creation story that says we need one another; science maintains that we’re actually wired that way. Matthew Lieberman (a leading brainiac in social neuroscience) says, “Love and belonging might seem like a convenience we can do without, but our biology is built to thirst for connection because it is linked to our most basic survival needs.”

(Translation:  We need friends every bit as much as we need water and shelter. And chocolate.)

The thing is, though, not just any connection will do. Two weeks ago, I shared a post about the plusses of aging, one of which is the joy that can come with intergenerational friendships, particularly when they are the “life-giving” kind. Today, I want to explore what that sort of connection looks like. I want to look at the friendship that Mary and Elizabeth shared.

(And just a heads up:  This post is shaping up to be a little longer than normal. So maybe grab a second cup of coffee or click here to get the Bible back-story. And if you don’t have time for a long read today but you value rich friendships, just scroll to the end and jump in with the prayer.)

We know Mary – the mother of Jesus – but her connection with Elizabeth goes back to before her baby was born. Mary was a teenager when the angel appeared and turned her life upside down. Not only would Mary be pregnant, but her baby would be…the Messiah?

Sure, giving birth to the Messiah was something every good Jewish girl dreamed of, but we can imagine what went through Mary’s mind. She wasn’t married. People would talk. She wondered what Joseph would say. What he would do. Mary’s whole life – her reputation, her marriage, her future – hung in the balance. I’m guessing that having an angel to confide in was nice and all that, but what Mary really needed right then was a friend.

And God knew it.

He knows how we think. When we’ve got news we want someone to process it with, someone who will understand. And so God clues Mary in on the fact that Elizabeth is also expecting a surprise. Elizabeth is old (way old), and it makes no sense for her to be pregnant. But she is. Both women – one a virgin, and one long past her childbearing years – are in the same boat.

So Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. And, from a strictly relational standpoint, the story that unfolds is remarkable.

For starters, Elizabeth wasn’t one teeny bit jealous.

Think about that one for a sec. Elizabeth is older, wiser, and married to an uber-godly man who’s devoted his entire life to being a priest. How easy would it have been for Elizabeth to draw some comparisons. To think that maybe being Mom to the Messiah was an honor that she deserved. To wonder whether God had made some sort of cosmic mistake.

But no. There’s not even a hint of “Why wasn’t it me?” Instead, the first thing that comes out of Elizabeth’s mouth when she looks at Mary is affirmation: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”

Second, Elizabeth never once hogged the spotlight. Her man had also been visited by an angel, and she was expecting her own miracle baby. Who would have blamed her, had she babbled on and on about that? (“I mean, I hit menopause, like, 50 years ago, Mary!”) But Elizabeth doesn’t talk about herself at all, other than to marvel at the fact that Mary would come to her house. “Why am I so favored,” she says, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

That humility – that focus on Mary, rather than her own circumstances – is a marker of life-giving love.

And finally, pretty much everything Elizabeth said fueled Mary’s faith, rather than feeding her fear.

Mary had a long road ahead of her. Here’s how their conversation could have gone down:

Elizabeth could have planted seeds of worry:  Mary, are you sure you’re up for this? You’re so young. Have you talked to Joseph? You know how people will talk.

She could have sown kernels of comparison, making Mary feel insecure:  I don’t know, Mary. Joseph is just a carpenter.  Wouldn’t you think God would want someone like my Zechariah (have I mentioned that he is a priest?) to be a role model for his son?

She could have dug into doubt:  Ok Mary…did the angel really say you would give birth to the Son of God? Let’s go over it again. Tell me EXACTLY what Gabriel said. How was his body language? 

But Elizabeth didn’t ask any of these worry- or doubt-fueling questions. Instead, she recognized God’s purpose for Mary and she validated it. Here’s what she said, word for word:  “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Luke 1:45

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” Could there be a more life-giving sentence? I can only imagine how Mary must have clung to those words, especially when she found herself having contractions while riding a donkey and having her very first baby in a stable. Without anyone around to give her a push present or start a Sign Up Genius or anything.

Honestly? Elizabeth is the kind of friend we all want to have. The kind of friend we all want to be.

Because there will be times in our lives when our friend is pregnant (maybe not with the Messiah, but with a new job or a new house or a new baby/grandbaby or anything else that we wish we had), and taking delight in her happiness rails against everything in our self-centered nature.

And there will be conversations when everything in us longs to compare our friend’s pain (or their joy) to what we have been through, and we’ll be oh-so-tempted to jump into her life and say “Look at me!”

And of course there will be circumstances that look more than a little bit iffy. Uncomfortable. Scary, even. Situations where it would be easy to come alongside our friend and sow seeds of worry or doubt.

But let’s don’t.

Instead, let’s ask God to shape us into life-giving people, people whose words are marked by encouragement, humility, and a desire to validate and affirm God’s purposes in each others’ lives.

Let’s speak life to our friends.

Heavenly Father,

May our words bring life. May we be people who truly believe that your promises – in our lives, and in the lives of the people we love – will indeed be accomplished. (Proverbs 18:21, Luke 1:45)

Amen

❤️

P.S. Mary and Elizabeth’s connection feels especially precious on the heels of this week’s Garden Club pansy sale, where the friendships are even more vibrant than the flowers. And no (for those of you who have been around this blog for while), I did NOT steal any pansies this year…

pansy sale 2019

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Getting Old, Shining Bright

Perhaps you remember the story about the woman who dropped in on her daughter-in-law, unannounced, and found the girl standing inside her front door, naked.

“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?” the older woman asked.

“I am waiting for my husband,” the young wife replied. “This is his favorite outfit. It is my Love Dress. And since he will be home soon, I think you should leave.”

Confused (and more than a little embarrassed), the mother-in-law drove away. But by the time she got home, her discomfort had faded, and she realized that her daughter-in-law might be onto something. Which is how, 30 minutes later, her husband arrived home to find her naked in the foyer. “What on earth are you doing?” the man sputtered.

“I am wearing my Love Dress!” his wife beamed. “Do you like it?”

“I do,” he said, after a beat. “But…it needs ironing.”

I know, I know. Bad joke. But it tees up today’s post, which is about the merits of aging.

Getting older is not something we value today. Whether you’re into Botox or wrinkle creams, hair restoration or hair removal, or maybe even that new body-shaping thing where you lie down and let some doctor paddle you with electromagnetic pulses (“One session equals 20,000 crunches!”), chances are good that you’ve plunked down at least some cash to waylay Father Time. We all have. Globally, we’re expected to spend upwards of $216 billion on anti-aging treatments by the end of 2021.

(That’s billion. With a “B.”)

But hey. I’m not judging. To quote my former pastor, when someone asked whether or not women should wear make-up (who asks that sort of thing??), “If the barn needs painting, paint it.”

So again:  You’ll get no finger-pointing from me, no matter how many nips, tucks, or paddles you want to endure. I would, however, like to offer a different perspective on aging–one that was on vivid display a few weeks ago, when I had the privilege of connecting with 17 other women at the Club31Women Writers’ Retreat. Our ages ranged from 21 to 73, with yours truly clocking in as the second oldest one there.

Club31Women Writers Retreat

We’d barely unpacked our suitcases when one of the 30-something gals–one of the fresh-faced, wrinkle-free, dewy-complexioned young writers–asked if I had time to talk. My first thought was that she must like my outfit, but then I realized that 1) we were not in middle school, and 2) I was wearing running clothes. And as we got to know one another (and she admitted that she was looking for things like “sage advice” and “godly wisdom”), I had to confront the stark truth:  My cute young friend wanted to spend time with me because I am old.

(Okay. I know 56 is not really that old. But remember when you were 30 and you thought that 60 was practically dead?)

Anyhow.

As the two of us dialogued–and as as I watched other women forge intergenerational connections during the retreat–I realized that Scripture is right. Getting older is not such a bad thing.

Psalm 92 talks about flourishing in our golden years, with the promise that we will “bear fruit in old age” and always stay “fresh and green.”

Job points to the the practical benefits that come with more birthday candles: “Is not wisdom found among the aged?” he asks. “Does not long life bring understanding?”

And the book of Proverbs calls gray hair (and by that, I’m pretty sure the translators meant “roots”) a crown of splendor.

All of this is good stuff. But I think my all time favorite getting-old promise (and the one we can all pray will be made real in our lives!) is Proverbs 4:18. Here’s how The Message puts it:  “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.”

Proverbs 4:18

The longer they live, the brighter they shine.

Honestly? I’ve tried a bazillion different night creams; none of them even come close to delivering that. But God can.

And He does.

Because unlike in the physical realm–the one where cells die, bodies decay, and we’re forever having to go back and repaint the barn–the spiritual realm offers fresh vigor and strength. What begins with salvation (when we become “new creations“) only gets better with time as we are literally renewed day by day.

It’s like exfoliating. Only way better.

In part two of this post, I’ll dig a little deeper into inter-generational friendships, particularly the life-giving kind. For now, though, I want to ask you a few questions.

If you’ve made it past halftime in life (and you can define that one however you want), are you sharing your wisdom with the next generation? Are you bearing fruit? Are there younger people with whom you “do life”?

And if you’re on the younger end of the spectrum (like, if you basically never use Facebook), are you open to connecting with someone who has what we might call a “more seasoned” perspective?

If your answer to those queries is no, consider asking God to bring some new friends into your life. Keep alert to folks who are younger (and older) than you. And be open to the surprises God might have in store.

And in the meantime, if you are one of those fresh-faced young gals and you see someone like me while you’re out buying organic sweet potatoes to puree for your toddler, feel free to tell us how good we look. Just say: “You’re glowing! You look almost…shiny!”

We’ll know what you mean.

❤️

Heavenly Father,

May we be people who flourish as we mature. May we bear fruit, even in our old age, and always stay fresh and green. (Psalm 92:14)

Amen

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Free “Must Have” on the Back-to-School List!

So I saw where today’s parents are spending, on average, nearly $700 per child on back-to-school shopping. Which is lot of notebooks and glue sticks. And when you factor in the mini-fridge or whatever else a college kid needs (I’m looking at you, Bed, Bath & Beyond Campus Checklist), that number climbs even higher.

Happily, there’s at least one must-have item that doesn’t cost anything. And honestly? Every kid needs it, whether they’re headed for kindergarten or college.

Robbie First Day of Kindergarten

I’m talking about back-to-school prayer.

Several years ago, I wrote about the ice-cream-and-prayer parties we used to host at the end of the summer. You can read that post here, but if you just want a few good prompts to help kick off the year (or to tuck in the lunchbox, maybe?), click here to download 12 of my favorites. This collection covers everything from listening to instruction…to having a teachable spirit…to making the most of every opportunity!

IMG_7041

Happy praying…and as you send your crew out the door this year, may the Lord watch over their coming and going, both now and forevermore! (Psalm 121:8)

❤️

And P.S. yes, I did make Robbie give a flower to his teacher. 🙂

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