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Be Still and Pray

Note:  I shared this “Be Still” how-to on Facebook and Instagram earlier this week. Based on the feedback I got, I figured I’d post it again here, along with some of the other favorite scripture-prayers people shared. I’ll be back next week with a more regular post, but in the meantime, I can’t think of a better way to keep COVID-19 fear and worry at bay than to take hold of a Bible promise and let it sink into your soul…

Be Still

An anchor that holds

Reading the scriptures is not the same thing as praying the scriptures. And today, as we find ourselves tugging at anchors to see which ones will hold, let’s give the latter option a try.

Read Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Now let’s pray it:

Heavenly Father,

Help me be still. Let me get off the treadmill of worry, busy-ness, confusion, and fear. Quiet my heart. Help me be still.

I want to KNOW that you are God. I don’t want to just hope that; I want to be certain. Show me, God. Let me know…

…that you are GOD. You are in control. You are the Lord of lords. King of kings. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. You are God.

See how that works? With just a few breaths, we can move from panic to peace, from striving to stillness, from fearful to free.

Try this at home

If you like this idea, here are a few more scripture-prayer anchors, shared by our Facebook and Instagram friends. Just click on the verse, read it, and then turn it into a prayer:

Psalm 91:4

Psalm 5:11-12

Zephaniah 3:17

2 Timothy 1:7

Colossians 1:9-14 (a longer prayer, but one that is jam-packed with good stuff for yourself and for the people you love–things like wisdom, strength, patience, joy…and the promise that we have already been rescued!)

❤️

I’m sending love your way today, along with gratitude that in a world marked by social distancing, we can still meet on the bridge of prayer. See you next week!

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Coronavirus Concerns: How to Cope

Thanks to the Coronavirus, I am learning new things.

Like, I didn’t know what “social distancing” was, or that it could be a healthy thing. Now I do. And I have a whole new respect for folks like my husband, who has never once struggled with FOMO and will be fine if we get quarantined.

Or WFH. (Who knew that what I’ve been doing as a writer for the past 25 years had its own acronym?)

Or even the fact that people, when panicked, will hoard toilet paper. I read where one newspaper actually printed eight extra  pages in a recent edition–“emergency rations” was how they put it. Can you imagine?

Actually, I can.

Because the newspaper people are not the first ones to make this particular link. Years ago, my mom asked me to donate a carton of books for a mission trip she was going on. When I learned that the supply coordinator had asked her to bring toilet paper, I balked. “Mom,” I said, “Don’t you think the missionary people will wonder why, when they asked you for toilet paper, you brought books instead? What will they think when they go to the supply cabinet and open the box?”

“They will think that it’s brilliant!” my mother exclaimed. “Because with toilet paper, all you have is toilet paper. But with your books, you can read them, and then, if you still need supplies…”

Anyhow.

I hadn’t planned to post a blog this week, but I figured that if we’re all WFH and feeling socially distanced, maybe a few words of comfort would help.

I’ve written about things like worry and fear in the past. If you’ve got time for a longer post, click here to read about how–whether we’re up against a bear market, a bear of a disease, or an actual bear–God doesn’t want his kids to be scared. For now, though, I’ll share just two quick recommendations.

Replace the bad with the good.

First, have a plan. Anyone who’s ever tried to accomplish a goal–Lose weight. Save money. Stop cussing–understands the importance of action steps. It’s not enough to just state the objective; you have to replace the bad habit with something better. Something good.

Which may be why, when Paul said, Don’t worry about anything, he followed that command up with this charge:  Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Don't worry (about the Coronavirus)

That verse–Philippians 4:6–was apparently the “verse of the year” for 2019. I don’t know who decides stuff like that, but if we needed to swap our worries for prayer last year, how much more do we need to make the trade now?

So here’s Part One of the plan:  When you feel the fingers of worry starting to crawl up your back, don’t panic. Use them as a trigger–or a prompt, if that’s a happier word–to remind you to pray.

Look up.

Part Two of the plan is to quit looking around and look up.

Longtime blog readers will know that Sara Hagerty is, in my view, one of the most gifted writers of our time. I savored her last book, Unseen, and now she’s got another masterpiece hitting the shelves–one that can help move us from panic to peace.

Adore Book Cover

I pre-ordered Adore the moment I caught a glimpse of the cover. And now that I know a little more about what’s inside (click here for a quick peek at the trailer), I CANNOT wait for this book to arrive.

Because here’s the thing.

Sara knows what it feels like to worry. To live in the world of what if. To wonder if you’ll ever measure up…or if your child is okay…or even why you didn’t get invited to that party.

Or if your loved ones will be safe in the weeks ahead.

More than that, though, Sara knows that God wants to meet us right there in those thoughts–in the “middle minutes” of our lives. And to get us to look up. At him.

Adore releases on March 31st.

Which, if you think like my mom does, might turn out to be perfect timing if you run out of supplies…

And in the meantime, here’s one of my favorite anti-virus prayers you can pray for yourself, for the people you love, and for strangers on the other side of the world:

Heavenly Father,

Spread your protection over ______. Surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)

Amen

❤️

P.S. If you want more scripture-based prayers to keep Coronavirus fear and worry at bay, hop on over to Instagram and check out the latest post by @abigailCBN. And as always, if you order a book that I recommend in this space, Amazon sends me a teensy commission…which means I can keep buying new books and letting you know which ones are the best!

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How has your mother shaped your life?

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you’ve met my mother. You’ve read about the gorilla who came to her wedding (a story that comes with a side dose of hope for those who’ve lost spouses they love); you know she goes boogie-boarding in the snow (because age is a number, not a lifestyle); and you’ll remember how she helped save the day when the bus we’d hired to transport Annesley’s wedding party left the bride and groom at the church.

IMG_8916

And in a brand new book called Faithful Daughter:  True, Inspiring Stories Celebrating a Mother’s Legacy and Love, I’m telling the story of how Mom taught me to get back at people who hurt me.

Mother-Daughter Book

Faithful Daughter is the brainchild of noted writer and editor Ami McConnell. Ami asked 35 of her friends (award-wining novelists, best-selling authors, and gals who just love a good story) to write about how their mothers’ lives had shaped theirs. The compilation of essays–some marked by joy, others by searing pain–is as varied as the women themselves. But there is one common theme:  Namely, that there is no such thing as a perfect mother. And no perfect daughters, either. We’re all just women, daughters of God.

Who loves us just as we are.

If you want a chance to win a free copy of Faithful Daughter, pop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (@jodieberndtwrites) and leave a comment about your own mom. I’d love to hear how her life, or her faith, left its mark on yours. And in the meantime, here’s my story…

An Inheritance of Blessing

I could hear him back there, bouncing his basketball. We were on our way home from elementary school, together and yet not. Thomas, the coolest boy in the whole third grade, walked twenty feet behind me. I didn’t look back.

Suddenly, the bouncing stopped. A split-second later, I felt the breath leave my body. Thomas had thrown his ball and—since he was also the most athletic boy in third grade—it had hit me, square in the back.

I took off running.

Three blocks later, I burst through my front door. “Mom!” I cried through my tears, “Thomas Mayfield [not his real name] just hit me in the back. With his basketball!”

My mother has never been known for her nurturing personality. She could tell I wasn’t seriously hurt and so, rather than letting me wallow, she pointed me toward the door.

“Jodie,” she said, “Thomas will be walking past our house in about one minute, and when he goes by I want you to say, ‘Have a nice day, Thomas.’

“And then I want you to curtsy.”

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that my mom sounds a little bit crazy. And she is, in a mostly good kind of way.

Like, when my sixty-one-year-old dad was battling brain cancer and lacked the strength to get from the car to their condo, and my mom told him to sit on the sidewalk. “Stay right there,” she said (as if my father had another option), and then she disappeared into the building. Five minutes later she returned, carrying the cushions from their lanai, a bottle of Pepsi, and a bag of Doritos.

Which is how my parents wound up spending an entire afternoon sunning themselves in a parking lot until my dad found the strength to begin again. Crazy right? Yeah. Crazy good.

Repaying Insults with Kindness

But back to Thomas.

Per Mom’s instructions, I went out to the street and saw him coming my way. Thomas didn’t acknowledge me but, as he drew abreast of our house, I spoke up:  “Have a nice day, Thomas.” And I curtsied.

(Having seen The Sound of Music at least three times before I turned eight, I knew how.)

If Thomas was surprised, he didn’t show it. If anything, he looked a bit worried. He probably figured my mother had called his—and that he’d have to face the music when he got home. That’s what most moms would have done, back in the day:  called and tattled. But not mine.

Claire Rundle may have been short on maternal sympathy, but she was long on the Bible. She knew what it said. And whenever anyone tried to hurt her or one of her kids, she always found a way to pay them back.

With a blessing.

“Do not repay evil with evil,” the Bible says, “or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

That’s 1 Peter 3:9. And it worked. Thomas never bothered me after that day; in fact, we became friends. And my mom’s crazy counsel—to repay insults with blessings—has stood me in good stead, over the years. Because what I’ve found is that the more I try to extend kindness to people who hurt or offend me, the better life gets. It’s like grace finds a way to get rid of the sting.

“That’s the ugliest thing I have ever seen.”

I have four children. They’re all grown up now, but I tried to raise them in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:9. I’m sure there were times when they thought I was as crazy as I thought my mom was. I’m sure there were days when they thought I was worse. One year, for instance, they gave me a homemade Mother’s Day card where they’d picked a word to go with each letter in the word MOTHER. Next to the e they wrote EMBARRASSING.

Honestly, though? I didn’t care if they thought I was nuts. I just didn’t want them to miss out on a blessing. And so I encouraged them to invite the mean girl to their party. To bake cookies for our grumpy neighbor when he complained about the noise they made. To pray God’s richest favor over the middle school bully.

I did not, however, ever ask them to curtsy. So there’s that.

But here’s the thing:  Repaying meanness with kindness almost never makes sense, nor is it usually easy. Yet it opens the door to a life full of freedom and blessing—one that refuses to take up an offense—and for that wisdom nugget, I will be forever grateful to my mother.

She and my dad enjoyed their last parking lot picnic back in 2001, the year that my father went to be with the Lord. Mom got remarried several years later—her name is Claire Gilman now—and I love my stepdad. John is just as generous and crazy as she is.

They downsized recently, moving from a big house to a small condo, taking only their most beloved possessions. As John pushed his favorite stone bench into place outside their new front door, a neighbor approached.

“That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen,” the neighbor said, inclining his head toward the bench. “Where do you plan to put it?”

John straightened up. “Well I guess I will put it wherever you like,” he said with a smile. And then he invited the man and his wife over for dinner.

Which is not, to be perfectly frank, what I would have done. But it’s the sort of thing I want to do when someone gets under my skin. And so, even as I ask God to help my children “repay evil with blessing,” I pray that 1 Peter 3:9 prayer for myself:

Lord, make me willing to return kindness for cruelty. Let me meet meanness with love.

Lord, make me more like my mom.

Mother-Daughter Book Quote

 

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God knows what we need, so why pray?

God knows what we need

God knows what we need even before we ask him. So…why should we pray?

The short answer, of course, is “Because I said so.” As in, we pray because God tells us to. (See, for instance, Philippians 4:6, Matthew 7:7, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 .)

But there’s more to the question – and the answer – than that. And as I was thinking about it this week, I remembered a post I wrote years ago, one where I shared a picture of a poster my father gave me, wall art that I hung in my high school bedroom, and then my college dorm room, and which I still have today:

IMG_4026

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

God knows what you need

I know my dad meant for the message (which is a quote from Jesus, in Matthew 6:8) to point to my Heavenly Father, but I felt like it applied to him, too. Dad usually did know just what I needed, and he was always quick to provide an encouraging word, a sound bit of advice, or even, sometimes, a gift.

Sometimes, it was a gift that I didn’t think that I needed:

My father and tennis racket

And other times, it was something I was sure that I did. Like when my father gave me an introduction to Jesus.

You can read the longer version of that story in the earlier post; the nutshell report is that Dad (who’d been a Sunday school teacher, a rec-league coach, and every other decent thing that a person could be) was stunned to discover that the Christian life wasn’t about trying to be “good”. But when he explained the whole sin-and-grace thing to me, it made perfect sense.

(I was eight, at the time. I knew I was a sinner. And I was super grateful for grace.)

My dad would have celebrated his 81st birthday this week. I’ve written about his battle with brain cancer in this space before, and I’ve shared how much I miss him, even after 20 years. There have been so many times in my own parenting journey when I’ve wished, more than anything, that I could have him around. Times when I’d love to seek his advice. To ask him to pray. Or to just see his smile.

Today, when I hear people wonder why we should pray (“I trust God to do what’s best for my family,” was how one man put it, when he told me that he didn’t pray), I often think of my dad. And how, even though I knew that he knew what I needed, I’d still ask him for stuff–whether I wanted a new dress, a dose of wisdom, or the car keys. After all, he was my dad.

Which is, I believe, why God wants us to pray.

Prayer signals relationship

At its most basic level, prayer signals relationship. John Wesley said, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” That’s a claim that the Bible reinforces. God could do stuff on his own – heal this person here, make it rain there – and sometimes it seems like he does. Far more often, though, we see him waiting on people, engaging with people, getting to know people – and then meeting their needs – through their prayers.

Prayer acknowledges our dependence on God. It’s a way of saying, “You’re God, and I’m not.” And whether we’re talking to God because we need a healing or some other tangible blessing, or we want guidance for life, or we just like to hang out in his presence, the ultimate effect of our prayers is to draw us closer to him. “God works through the prayer process,” wrote Jennifer Kennedy Dean, “to expand our vision, to deepen our hunger, to stretch our faith, and to lift our desires higher. We start the process desiring something from him; we end it desiring only him.”

All of which is to say yes, God does know what we need, even before we ask him.

But he still wants us to ask.

And this week, as I’ve found myself missing my dad, I’m more grateful than ever to have had an earthly father who pointed me toward my Heavenly Father. He is the One who loves us enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ever ask or imagine. He is the One who loves it when we pray.

Heavenly Father,

I know that every good gift comes from you, that you know my needs, and that you are able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine. (James 1:17, Matthew 6:8, Ephesians 3:20).

Today, I ask you to ___________.

Amen.

 

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Life Lessons (and Prayer Prompts) from a Dog

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you’ll remember how frightened our dog Max was, when he met a big black lab on the boardwalk:

A few weeks ago, Minnie met (and was terrified of) the very same dog.

Minnie and the Black Lab

Which reminded me of the lesson Max taught me, back in his day:  Namely, that it doesn’t matter what we are facing, God does not want us to be anxious or scared. His love – his perfect love – drives out fear.

(Even when the thing we are scared of is fake.)

You can read more about confronting fear here, if you missed that earlier post. But today just happens to be Minnie’s FIRST BIRTHDAY (a Valentine’s baby!), and as I was scrolling through photos of her this past week, I realized that she has taught us just as many lessons (and prompted just as many scripture-based prayers) as Max did.

And so, if you’ll be so good as to indulge me, I’ll share just a few. These are all areas where I need God’s help; feel free to borrow any prayers that appeal to you too.

Encourage one another daily.

Minnie and lacrosse

When Minnie joined our family last year, she didn’t have much choice about where she would go, or what she would do. But she tends to be very supportive and enthusiastic about pretty much every endeavor. You get the idea, looking at her, that she is hoping that you will succeed.

Heavenly Father, help me be someone who encourages other people every day. (Hebrews 3:13)

Whatever you do, do it for God.

 

Dog Minnie and laundry

“Whatever you do,” the Bible says, “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” When you’ve got some big, important project to do, it can be easy to tell yourself that you are “serving the Lord.” Laundry, though? Not so much. (But hey,  God is all about making things clean…)

Heavenly Father, no matter how big or how boring my job is, let me work with all my heart, as though I am working for you. (Colossians 3:23)

Listen more than you speak.

Minnie has this one down. She doesn’t speak – she barely even barks. But whenever we hang out together, I am reminded of how nice it is to have someone who is always willing to listen. Which is a hard thing for me, sometimes. I like to talk.

Heavenly Father, help me be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19)

Pray about everything.

Dog and Prayer Book

Do animals pray? I don’t know. But Minnie has certainly been exposed to a lot of good books on the subject, and she’s heard plenty of prayers. And if she could talk, I bet she’d quote Paul:  “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”

Heavenly Father, help me exchange worry for trust, praying about everything and thanking you for what you have done. (Philippians 4:6)

Know when to rest.

Dog resting on Dad

Here again, Minnie sets a stellar example. Because she’s just like me. She spends a lot of her day racing around. (Sometimes in circles.) But she knows when to quit, when to be still. She trusts that someone is keeping her safe.

Heavenly Father, life can be crazy and wild. Help me be still and know that you are God. (Psalm 46:10)

Love each other.

Dog Minnie and Friends

Life is better with friends; we all know that. And when Jesus tells us to love each other, he doesn’t leave us to try to be a good friend on our own. We love, he says, because he first loved us.

Heavenly Father, show us how to love other people with the same self-sacrificing love you lavish on us. Let us love out of your love, because you loved us first. (1 John 4:9-19)

Sooo…

Happy Birthday, Minnie. Here’s to many more years of praying the scriptures with you!

And to everyone else: Happy Valentine’s Day. You are LOVED! ❤️

Minnie on the Lawn

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