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 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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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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The Path of Life

“You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

That’s Psalm 16:11, and it’s what someone put on a wedding gift for my friend Lisa Robertson and her husband Tim, some 40 years ago. Back then, the verse spawned several questions in Lisa’s mind:  Is there a path God has for me? Can I find it? Will I take it?

Is this the next step?

Most folks, I imagine, have had similar thoughts. Because life is full of pathways–hard ones, surprising ones, joyful ones–and we can find ourselves wondering which paths are from God, or which steps we should take. Happily for us, those are some of the very questions Lisa tackles in her new book, The Path of Life, which releases this week!

 

I’ve known Lisa for the better part of four decades. She’s Pollyanna to my Eeyore; she always expects (and sees) the best in people and things, while I mumble about what could be done or made better. But there’s no sugar-coating in this book; instead, Lisa is incredibly candid about the paths she’s been on: The Difficult Path (when her younger sister was killed); the Parenting Path (and how hard it was to watch her son move 3,000 miles away); the Path of Change (when it looked like her church–the place where she’d raised her five children–was coming apart at the seams, and all she could do was look at God and say, “I hate this! I don’t want to be here!”)

Don’t get me wrong. This book isn’t one of those tragic memoirs where you use up a whole box of Kleenex before you hit chapter three. Quite the contrary! The way Lisa processes life’s painful moments helps point us to God, revealing His path–even when His presence seems hidden.

Which is exactly what happened in Lisa’s marriage one day. Here’s how she tells it…

Early in our marriage, I learned how easy it was for me to allow my fickle feelings to determine how I reacted to Tim. One fall afternoon, we had an argument, and in my mature way, I decided to “punish” Tim by giving him the silent treatment. All Sunday afternoon, I didn’t say a word to him. I huffed and puffed, silent on the outside but boiling on the inside.

My big mistake was that this happened during football season, and Tim was so engrossed in his beloved Redskins that he wasn’t aware of my silence. After several hours, my feelings were hurt and I didn’t think Tim cared, but the reality was that he didn’t even know.

Can’t you just picture it? You’ve got the wife all hot and bothered, banging pots and pans in the kitchen, while the husband (who literally has no idea that he’s in the doghouse!) is sitting there, eating chips and wondering what he did to merit a whole afternoon of uninterrupted football. Anybody else’s marriage been there??

I’ll let you read Lisa’s story for yourself, but the punchline is that she learned a lot about the dangers of giving free rein to her feelings that day. “Allowing our emotions to have too much influence in our lives,” she writes, “can lead us to believe things that are not true.”

Roger that.

And Roger this, as Lisa shares what she’s learned about the Psalm 16 promise of joy:

Rather than manufacturing the right feelings, if we want to truly be filled with joy in God’s presence, we need to know that this joy is a gift from God, plain and simple. There’s nothing we can do or strive toward; we don’t achieve fullness of joy, but as a gift we receive it…

Truthfully, it might be easier for me to work for joy than to just receive it, regardless of my circumstances. But thankfully, no matter what our circumstances may be, when we choose to open our eyes and see God’s presence all around us, at every moment, the gift of His fullness of joy is not far behind.

Good words for this Eeyore to remember. Thank you, Lisa.

❤️

The Path of Life releases on May 8; preorder on Amazon now to get your copy by Mother’s Day. And if you’d like to win a free copy, hop on over to my Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook page (@JodieBerndtWrites) and leave a comment or tag a friend who reminds you of Lisa–someone who just sort of oozes “fullness of joy.” We’ll pick three winners on Monday!

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You don’t need a hat for this leadership job

Whenever a young man seemed to be getting serious about one of our daughters, Robbie would “invite” him to have The Talk.

The Talk is strictly a guy thing, but from the after-action reports I’ve been privy to over the years, I think the nutshell version goes something like this:  Every relationship my daughter has is going to draw her closer to Christ, or farther away. Which one are you?

And then, if the fellow indicates that his intentions fall into the first category, there is a follow-up query: How do you see yourself doing that? 

I think these questions are worth considering, and not just for would-be boyfriends or grooms. At the end of the day, I imagine all of us would love for our companions to say, “I am closer to Christ because of my relationship with ______.”

And that, says our friend Ty Saltzgiver, is “the influence of our Spiritual Leadership.”

If you’ve been tracking with us in September, you know that this is Book Giveaway month, and each week I am highlighting a different offering from Ty’s website, SaltResources.com. This week’s featured title is Reflections on Spiritual Leadership.

Now, I realize that the phrase “spiritual leadership” can be tricky. I’ll never forget one of our friends telling us how confused he was when his girlfriend’s father told him that it was his job to be the spiritual leader in their relationship.

“I had never heard that term before,” our friend said. “I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe it was like a Halloween costume or something–you know, something where I needed a hat.”

(Happily, the guy figured it out, and he has been a beautiful influence on his wife, his three children, and their assorted family and friends for the past 30-plus years.)

Acknowledging that his little book is not a “comprehensive treatment” of spiritual leadership, Ty draws on his own relationships and ministry experience (he spent more than 40 years on staff with Young Life) to flesh out reflections on a handful of leadership categories, including:

The state of our soul. “The main plot of our lives,” Ty says, “is how we are growing and maturing in Jesus, not how we are doing in our job or ministry.” If we sense that we are depleted (like, if we start seeing people as interruptions instead of as friends, or if we freak out when the toilet stops up or whatever), that’s a sign that we’ve drifted from our Number One Love (Jesus), and that we need to re-calibrate.

Our belief about success. Do we think that accomplishing goals and fulfilling plans is up to us? Or do we realize that it’s all up to God? Mother Teresa considered herself “just a pencil in the Hand of God”; do we see ourselves the same way? “Jesus wasn’t kidding,” Ty writes, “when he said, ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing.’

Humility. “None of us wants to be arrogant, proud, self-sufficient, or unapproachable,” Ty says. “Yet, humility is the most elusive character trait for the Spiritual Leader.” Gosh, I like this chapter. Ty digs into what humility is (and what it isn’t) and points us toward Jesus as the model for what our lives should look like: Confident in our identity (“humility has nothing to do with a low self-image”), but never forcing ourselves on other people. Being always willing to learn. Choosing gratitude. And, like Moses (who was “very humble, more than any other man”), unwilling to go anywhere or do anything without God.

Like I said, good stuff.

Ty tackles other topics in the book, too, topics like the practical steps we should take (including praying for people and entering into their pain, which, Ty says, can be a “learned art”), and building a culture of trust. But becoming a better leader is not a matter of “measuring up,” or of adding godly stuff to our lives so that we can impact people in a positive way.

“Our doing more things to be a Spiritual Leader,” Ty writes, “is like an apple tree grunting and trying harder to produce good apples.”

Sure, we can water and fertilize the tree (Ty calls this “greenhousing” our souls), but at the end of the day, God spurs the growth. The simple fact that we desire to grow brings pleasure to God–and we can trust him to mature and develop us (even if we sometimes seem to move backwards). We can relax and rejoice in the knowledge that God is getting it done.

Which, for anyone who longs to draw closer to Christ (and to bring others along for the ride), is very good news.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins, and for entrusting us with the task of telling everyone what you are doing. Make us wise and faithful representatives as we encourage others to walk with you, work with you, and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 & Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Amen.

❤️

Want to know more about spiritual leadership and what that looks like in our lives? Order your copy of Reflections on Spiritual Leadership from SaltResources.com, or post a comment here, or on Instagram or Facebook, for your chance to win this week’s book giveaway.

Congrats to last week’s giveaway winner, a gal who always cleans out her lint trap! Lilly, send me your address (contact me here) and your copy of …And Jesus said, “Follow me” will be on its way!

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Don’t let bad stuff get stuck in your vent

Our clothes dryer stopped working last week.

We had a repair guy come take a look, and it sputtered to life–but then quit again after a handful of loads. Finally, we gave in and bought a new dryer. When the guys came to install it, the old vent thing fell out of the wall…along with about eight years’ worth of dog hair, beach sand, and lint.

I know. I know. Don’t be telling me what a fire hazard that is. Or that we should have checked the vent set-up before replacing the whole thing. Believe me, I know. But that’s not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is that September is Book Giveaway month, and this week’s featured title from author Ty Saltzgiver is And Jesus Said, “…Follow Me”.

Follow Me has soooo many great pearls to ponder. On the subject of trust, for instance, Ty writes, “We all want clarity, but isn’t clarity the opposite of trust?”

On the difficulty we face, sometimes, in receiving, he says, “Doing love is good for the ego; sitting quietly and receiving love is humbling.”

And on the longing we have for more than position, possessions, and pleasures, Ty writes, “The soul’s function is to yearn in order for us to know that LIFE is more than what this world can bring us.”

See? So much good stuff, all offered in bite-sized chapters we can read on our own or with friends.

Surprisingly (because this is NOT a subject that I like to dwell on too much), one of the Follow Me chapters I found most captivating was about sin.

(I know, I know. You don’t like that topic either. But stick with me for a hot sec.)

Nobody likes to acknowledge their sin, to admit that they’ve failed, or that they’ve blown it (again). But doing so, Ty says, is “vital and growth-producing.”

Here’s why (and I’m quoting Ty here):

A sign of drawing closer to Jesus is being more aware of one’s sin (sometimes even having the accompanying “feeling” of being farther from Jesus). It’s like the light being turned up brighter in a room revealing faded paint, a water spot, and a crack in the wall, all that were unnoticed in the previous low light.

Boy, do I get that.

And I’d find the whole light-on-the-spot thing super discouraging, except for what happens when sin gets revealed–and confessed. More from Ty:

Once you call sin by name before God (that is, once you confess it), three things happen:

  1. You are forgiven and God does not count it against you.
  2. The sin is disarmed; it no longer has the same power in your life.
  3. God can begin, in his power and time, to heal you and take that sin from you.

The courage to confess sin springs from knowing that God’s love for us is undiminished by our sin. He longs to pour out His love on us, and in us, in Tidal Wave fashion. He longs to grow us into the unique person who He’s dreamed us to be. He longs to be intimate with us. Our sin unconfessed is the only barrier.

I love that.

And there’s lots more in the chapter–like, thought-provoking discussion questions, catchy Greek words for sin, and Bible verses that can help us flesh out the picture.

The only thing missing (and I don’t mean to tell Ty how to write) is the obvious illustration about how our relationship with the Lord is like a clothes dryer vent. As long as it’s clear, our lives work pretty well. But clog up the works with a mix of dog hair and sin, and stuff starts to break down. There is just no flow.

But when we identify and dislodge the bad stuff–when we name our sin and humbly confess it, even if that feels painful or awkward (and speaking from experience, it often does)–God goes to work. The stream of living water which flows from the heart of Jesus into our hearts flows less constricted, more freely.

We find ourselves caught up in a tidal wave of God’s love.

Heavenly Father,

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven! Keeping silent about our sin saps our strength, but confession takes away guilt. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Show me the places where I resist reviewing myself, places where I may be (even unknowingly) hiding my sin. Grant me the courage to confess, secure in your limitless love.

Amen.

❤️
And Jesus said, “…Follow Me” is a great book for small group discussion–even if your “group” is the teenagers around your table at dinnertime. I tested a few chapters (they’re just two pages long) on my (young adult) children this summer, with decent results. I mean, my people actually made a few engaged-sounding comments. Which I count as a win.
Want your own copy of Follow Me? Click here to order, or enter to win this week’s giveaway by posting a comment here, or on Instagram (@Jodie_Berndt), or Facebook (@JodieBerndtWrites). And congrats to last week’s winner, Jenny Francis – Jenny, your copy of My First 30 Quiet Times is on it’s way!

 

 

 

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How Can We Know God’s Heart?

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know how much I love sharing books and other resources to help us grow closer to Christ. This month features a series of powerful little books by Ty Saltzgiver, and we’ll be giving away a different one every week.

Today’s post is from My First Thirty Quiet Times, a day-by-day devotional that has sold more than 600,000 copies. In this excerpt from Day 5, Ty asks some really good questions: How can we know the Father’s heart? How can we be sure that God really is GOOD, and that He truly CARES for us? And how can we be sure we can trust Him?

Here’s Ty:

So often, Christianity is presented to us as a set of beliefs to adhere to and a set of rules (or commands) to obey. In other words, we must believe what is true and do what is right. If we do, then we are a Christian, or to the degree that we do these well, then we are good Christians.

Certainly, there are things to believe and a way God wants us to live, but they are not “in order to be” a Christian. Rather, they are “because of” the reality that we have a relationship with Jesus, where we’ve received His love and invited Him to live in our hearts and trusted Him with our lives.

It is a huge thing to entrust our very lives to God, to give Him the thing most precious to us–our hearts. Therefore, to trust God, we must be convinced His heart is GOOD and that He truly CARES for us. How can we know the Father’s heart?

(That’s a great question. And the answer, Ty says, is not by knowing doctrines or following rules or even seeing God’s beauty in nature. The answer to knowing God’s heart is by looking at Jesus.)

Jesus says essentially, “Let me tell you a story to try and describe for you my Father’s heart.” And then he tells the Prodigal Son parable. He says His Father is always standing on the porch waiting and looking for us who are lost or hurting. Then, when He sees us, He rushes to meet us and showers us with kisses, healing and restoring us.

Jesus represents (and therefore reveals) His Father as the One who pursues and accepts us. Even when there is infidelity or inattention on our part, God’s acceptance is always absolute, no retribution or payback is required. No one could invent a god like this–one who pursues and accepts sinners, one who becomes human and hangs out with us.

All other gods despise sinners, condemn them, and withhold blessings from them.

Not Jesus’ Father. Not our Heavenly Father.

Of course, Jesus’ death on the cross tells us more about the Father’s heart than anything else. Can you imagine the Father’s agony over His Son’s suffering and death, all so we could be in a relationship with Him? When someone dies for you, you no longer question if that person cares for you, or if you matter to them.

You can trust their heart with yours.

❤️

Heavenly Father,

No one has ever seen you, but Jesus–your one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with You, has made you known. (John 1:18)

Thank you for sending Jesus to not only be the way to You but also to show us who You are. Help me to know You more and trust You more.

Amen

 

P.S. (and book giveaway scoop):

Salt Resources

Ty Saltzgiver (above) spent over 40 years with Young Life, and he’s particularly gifted at making complex spiritual issues easy to grasp. My First Thirty Quiet Times comes with short scripture readings, thoughtful application steps, and a prayer every day. The book is designed for a new Christian, but I’ve picked up it up countless times over the years when I want straightforward answers on topics ranging from sin and forgiveness, to what to do when doubt comes, to knowing God’s will for my life.

If you’d like a free copy, post a comment here or on Instagram (@Jodie_Berndt) or Facebook (@JodieBerndtWrites) for your chance to win. Or, since the books cost just $1.99, go ahead and order one–or ten!–and share this great resource with someone you love!

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Who are you becoming?

God cares more about who you are becoming in Him than what you are doing for Him.

That’s a great sentence, and it’s one I wish I made up. Because I don’t know about you, but I definitely spend way more time doing for God (trying to be a good wife and mother, to help out at my church, to write some sort of life-changing blog…) than I spend being with Him. And being with God is, of course, where the really good stuff–the actual life-change–takes place.

But alas, I didn’t make those words up. I stole them from our friend Ty Saltzgiver, the guy who baptized Robbie and me in the Jordan River last March.

If anyone knows about “doing” for God, it would be Ty. He spent over 40 years with Young Life, leading about a bazillion teenagers to Christ. He speaks all over the country, equipping folks to live for what matters. And he’s written 11 faith-shaping books (with number 12 in the works). If God had a “what have you done for me lately” ladder, Ty could sit on the top rung.

But God, as we know, has no such ladder. Sure, He wants us to be good parents and lovers, good bosses and workers, good servants and friends and all that–but, as Ty says, none of those things are the “main plot” of our lives. The main plot is God shaping us–changing us–into the person He wants us to be.

A person who looks a whole lot like Jesus.

I spent this past summer trying to “be” more and “do” less with God. I’d read about the disciples, and how Jesus called 12 of them to be with Him, before they did anything else. That seemed like an excellent plan. And what better time than the summer to shelve things like speaking engagements and writing projects and just sort of…hang out with Jesus?

Yeah, well. It didn’t work all that great.

I am, by nature, a do-er, and I kept forgetting the plan. But God is nothing if not persistent, and I am counting on him to keep at it. To keep at me. To work in me so that as I behold Jesus, I will begin to reflect Him, the way that God said we all could:

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

And if you want that, too–if you want to look more like Jesus as you spend time with Him–I’ve got some very fun news.

Every Friday in September, I’m going to pick an excerpt from one of Ty’s books–something that will draw us closer to Christ–and talk about it here. And each week, as a fun little bonus, we’ll give away one of his books.

(And I know what some of you are thinking, cuz I think this myself: Who cares about a book giveaway? I never win anything.)

(Well maybe you don’t. And maybe you won’t. But that’s okay, because all of Ty’s books are available here, and almost all of them cost less than two bucks.)

(Seriously. Two dollars. At that price, buy ’em all.)

So…I can’t wait to meet you back here next week! And in the meantime, let’s think about who we’re becoming. And let’s ask God to shape us–to transform us–into the men and women He wants us to be.

Heavenly Father,

Help us to see you and to reflect you. Make us more and more like you. Change us into your glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Amen

 

 

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Trust the Whisper (with this Book Giveaway!)

Why the shades?

For starters, because I’m a sucker for the 4th of July. I found them at Target in the $1 bin (the sticker promised “100% UV Protection!”), and I’ve been sporting them all week.

But it’s not just patriotism that has me hiding my eyes. It’s vanity.

I’ve just finished reading The Hundred Story Homeand my entire face is a mess. So is my tee shirt (I never have any Kleenex), but the eyes are the worst. I haven’t looked this bad since, I don’t know. Watching Beaches with my wind-beneath-my-wings pal Susan, back in 1988?

Anyhow.

Author Kathy Izard starts every chapter in The Hundred Story Home with an inspiring quote. Here’s one of my favs:

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

In Kathy’s case, the life she had planned–the life she was actually living–looked pretty sweet. An award-winning graphic designer, she was a happily married mother of four who volunteered in a local soup kitchen. Kathy had been raised to “Do Good,” and she was proud to be making a difference in her community.

But then she met Denver Moore. (You know Denver as the scary homeless guy who makes friends with Greg Kinnear in Same Kind of Different as Me.) Thinking that Denver would appreciate all that she and the other volunteers were doing for the city’s homeless (in addition to serving meals, they offered soccer teams, art classes, and gardening), Kathy took the man on a tour.

But Denver, as it turned out, was less than impressed. In fact, he didn’t say anything–until he’d seen pretty much everything in the building. Then he spoke up.

“Where are the beds?”

Kathy was confused. The soup kitchen didn’t have any beds–it wasn’t that kind of place. Even as Kathy tried to process what Denver was saying–and to explain why they couldn’t house folks overnight–Denver came at her again. Here’s how she tells the story:

“You mean to tell me you do all this good in the day and then lock them out to the bad at night?”

His accusation left me gutted.

Denver patiently allowed me my discomfort. He watched me silently wrestle with my new awareness before he quietly asked me his next question.

Does that make any sense to you?

Of course it made no sense. I was flooded with shame.

Denver’s next question would change the trajectory of my path forever. It was the question I had been waiting for and looking to answer ever since my dad died nine years before.

Are you going to do something about it?

(Kathy writes that she wanted to look over her shoulder to see who, exactly, Denver was talking to. Later, as she drove Denver back to his hotel, she could feel him studying her.)

“You know,” he said, “you don’t have to be scared.”

He kept talking, adding cryptically, “They already know they are coming.”

“Who?” I asked, still reeling from the magnitude of his assignment.

At that moment we arrived at the hotel’s circular drive.

Denver stared at me with utter certainty as he said, “The people who are going to help you–they already know they are coming.”

And with that, Denver opened my car door and walked away.

Wanna know who showed up–or how the story turns out? I hope so, because The Hundred Story Home was just released last month, and it’s already my top pick for the beach bag this summer.

Here’s why I think this book matters:

Kathy knows that not all of her readers will be called to end homelessness, or even just to push it back by a bit. (Honestly though? I don’t think you can come away unchanged from the book, even if all you discover is how to “see” the man on the street as he holds up his sign.)

But even if working to end homelessness isn’t our thing, Kathy maintains that we all have a purpose. We all, she says, have a call, one that’s “patiently waiting and whispering.” We may struggle along the way–and Kathy writes very openly about her own faith questions, her difficult family issues, and her unmet desire for fulfillment–but our whisper (whatever it is) is woven into that journey. And when we hear it, we need to be ready to listen.

To let go.

And to take a leap of faith into the life–the satisfying, significant life–that might not look anything like what we had planned.

Want an autographed copy of the book? Post a comment here, on Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes), or Instagram (@jodie_berndt). We’ll pick three winners and announce them next Wednesday, 7/11!

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Book Giveaway for Your Bunny!

People sometimes wonder how they can teach their children to pray.

I get that. Some of us didn’t grow up in homes where we saw prayer modeled, or even talked about. And for a lot of people, prayer can feel like something best left to professional clergy, or to “varsity” Christians like the beloved Billy Graham. People who know how to do it “right.”

As I said, I get that. And I wish I had a sure fire-formula for raising kids to know God and to (as Hebrews 4:16 puts it) “approach his throne of grace with confidence.” I don’t, but I think at least two things can help:

First, let your kids see you pray (even if that feels awkward, at first). If you’ve got children, you know that “Do as I say, not as I do” may sound good, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as “Do as I do.” When it comes to learning and picking up habits, more is caught than taught.

And second, introduce them to Scripture. In his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller reasons that “we speak only to the degree we are spoken to” and that when our prayers are immersed in the language of Scripture–the words first spoken to us, by God–our lives, and our prayers, find their anchor.

Keller’s book is great, but it’s definitely heady. If you’d rather find the cookies on the bottom shelf (and share them with your children), you might start with something simpler. Something like First Bible Basics or Psalms of Praise, two new board books by Danielle Hitchen and Jessica Blanchard. Robbie and I focus-tested these treasures on our two-year-old niece, and she loved them.

We loved the books, too. And with Easter less than one month away, I can’t think of anything better for the Bunny to pop in a little one’s basket! The books feature colorful illustrations, power-packed verses, and kid-friendly concepts:

They’re also chock full of biblical principles and promises. And honestly? It’s not just the babies who benefit. Feeling anxious? Overwhelmed? Can’t sleep at night? Hold onto Psalm 4:8 as God’s promise for YOU:

If you like the look of these books and you’re interested in winning a set, hop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes) and leave a comment. We’ll pick three winners at random and announce the names on Monday.

(Dogs, no matter how spiritually curious or astute they may be, are not eligible to win.)

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What do College Kids Need? Good Friends!

(This post originally appeared earlier this week on the Theological Horizons blog. Theological Horizons is an organization headquartered at U.Va., and if you click on that link, you’ll find the post, plus some great resources for young women going through sorority rush. Super helpful insights on things like identity, acceptance, and more.)

I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer:  I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.

Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.

God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps:

The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow…. (read more)

(I don’t mean to leave you hanging, but that “read more” link takes you straight to the Theological Horizons site, where you’ll find the whole blog. And you have UNTIL MIDNIGHT TONIGHT to enter the drawing for a free copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. Whoop!)

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Too Busy for Peace? You’ve Got Options

Christmas is three days away.

Which, if you’re like me, means you are kinda busy. I’m wondering if the kids would mind if, instead of wrapping their gifts this year, I just shoved all the Amazon boxes into the family room and wished everyone a Merry Warehouse.

It could work.

First though, I have this blog to write. And you have this blog to read. And since we are all short on time (except maybe for my friend Sara Jane, who does things like fly fishing, and who knows how to quilt), I’ll give you some options.

  1. If you want a post about finding peace in the midst of the mayhem, click here for an oldie (and say a little prayer for our family, as we mark our first Christmas without Khaki):
  2. If the whole family is coming and you aren’t sure what you’ll do with everyone when the eggnog wears off, try the game we played on our family stay-cation. Put Grandma under the sheet for added fun:
  3. If you don’t want a post but you’d still like some peace, try this: Swap worry for gratitude, tell God what you need, and think about stuff that’s actually worth thinking about. Here’s a free Christmas printable to help you remember these tips:

And finally, if you’ve been dying to know who won the book giveaway from launch week, I’ll tell you: Mary Martha (what a great name) in North Carolina, Alice in Virginia, and Crystal in Colorado. Thanks so much for your kind comments, Girls!

All right y’all. Let’s get to it. And, whether you plan to spend the weekend shopping and wrapping or fly fishing and quilting, may grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord! (2 Peter 1:2)

Merry Christmas! 🎄

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Launch Week Fun!

Ok Y’all. It’s Launch Week for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenWhich means all kinds of fun. Like, look how happy my kids are.

First of all, thank you! Thank you for letting me test drive so many thoughts and prayers in this space. It’s been a delight to partner with you as we bring our loved ones–our kids, our spouses, our friends–before the Lord every week, and then wait and watch as his faithfulness unfolds in our lives.

And thank you for jamming up Amazon. I mean it. The book earned Amazon’s #1 Bestseller flag on Launch Day–thanks to you!–and the Mother of All Retailers ran out of stock. They say they have more, but I’m picturing (and praying for) their 120,000 new seasonal employees as they drive forklifts around big warehouses, looking for boxes marked “Berndt.”

In the meantime, I have my own stash of books and I’m itching to share! Post a comment on this blog–it can be a prayer request, a favorite Scripture promise, or just a Merry Christmas wish–and I’ll pick three winners at random, who will each get a copy of the new book. Whoop.

And there’s more.

My good friend Susan Alexander Yates (you’ve met her in this space) graciously offered to let me guest blog for her this week. I talked about praying for your child’s marriage and created a Marriage Blessing from the collection of Scripture prayers you’ll find in the new book. If you want your own copy of this prayer, you can download it here.

(And P.S., the prayer card is two-sided, with the prayer on the front and the Scripture references on the back. If you want to frame it as a Christmas present for your spouse, your married children, or a even a new bride, Amazon offers a great selection of clear stand-alone frames; one of my favorite styles is here.)

(But don’t ALL of you order today. I don’t want to make those forklift people any more crazy than they already are.)

And finally… Maybe you saw this pic on Fox News.

Annesley says I blog about her too much (and lately, she’s right), but when I got the chance to write a post for the media moguls so that they could give folks some Good News this Christmas, I couldn’t help myself. Y’all know I’ve made some pretty jolly mistakes (the sweater, the posture brace), but money-wise, this one was the worst. If you missed it on the Fox News site, here’s the story.

And again, you all. Thank you. Thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and your prayers. May the Lord continue to encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:17)

You are loved.

 

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Unseen: The Best Book on the Beach

If you have children, you probably know how embarrassing it is to be you. I know I do.

Sometimes, though, I just can’t help myself.

Like on our last family vacation. We’d gathered in Bethany Beach, Delaware, where pretty much every beach-goer is either a lacrosse player, a bookworm, or (and yes, this does happen) both. Oceanfront real estate is dear, and by 9:00 a.m. every day, the good campsites have all been claimed by athletes and readers. Families stack themselves three and four deep, the ones in the back having to thread a course between chairs, towels, sports equipment, and a summer’s worth of New York Times Bestsellers just to get to the waves.

Got the picture? Good.

Because it was going on noon and the beach was super crowded when I finished Sara Hagerty’s new book, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed

I’d started reading early that morning, taking my coffee and the book out to the sand.

I read about Sara’s post-college passion to “change the world for God,” and how her escalating effort to get the job done (and earn the approval of others) left her empty. I read about her career in sales and how, in the midst of client presentations and spreadsheets and co-workers who took credit for her work, she found herself craving more. I read about how, as a young mom, Sara tried to make a difference in her family amid piles of laundry, endless meal prep, and bickering kids in the backseat…and how, through it all, she scouted her days, trolling for the tiniest sign that what she was doing mattered.

I read about how God saw her in those hidden seasons, those hard-to-measure “middle minutes” of our lives. And I read how Sara saw Him, too. How she found herself drawn by His gentle expression. By his open stance. By the lines on His face.

The lines on God’s face.

Can you imagine? That image – that one little line, hinting at indescribable closeness with God – just undid me.

Fortunately, my kids didn’t notice the tears slipping out from behind my sunglasses, or the fact that (and I am not proud of this) I had to blow my nose into my beach towel. What they did see, however (and what pretty much everyone saw), was when I stood up.

As I said before, I couldn’t help myself. So captivated was I by the raw beauty of Sara’s writing that, when I finished the book, I had to let someone know. Thinking that I was only addressing my family, I held the book aloft (as in high, as in above my head) and said: “THIS is the BEST BOOK on the WHOLE BEACH.”

“Really?”

I turned, wondering who had spoken.

It was a lacrosse player seated one campsite over. He wasn’t reading, but his mom and his grandmom both had books in their laps. As did about 15 other beach-goers, who all now looked up, expectantly, to see what book was so good.

I had no choice. As my children buried their heads in their towels, trying to signal that they were not actually with me, I plowed ahead.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes it is.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about…” and here I faltered. How do you tell someone that the best book on the beach is about how God has lines on his face? Or that it’s about how he sees you, and loves you, even in the most mundane and seemingly unproductive moments of your life? Or how he just…knows.

“It’s about God,” I finally said. “It’s about how we were actually made to be seen. And it’s…it’s just really good.”

“Okay,” said the lacrosse player. “I’ll check it out.”

I hope he did.

And I hope you will, too. Because I realize, reading back over this post, that I have not done a good job of explaining this book. Not at all.

Fortunately, Sara gave me permission to share an excerpt with you. And I’ll do that in just a sec, but first, you need to know two things.

Number One. Right now (as in, right now, cuz this promo ends tomorrow), Zondervan is offering a buy-one-get-one deal on copies of Unseen purchased at Barnes & Noble. Click here for details.

And Number Two. If you want a FREE copy of the book, post a comment on this blog. Tell me if you like Sara’s writing (I loved her first book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet), or maybe what you’ve done lately to embarrass your kids. Or just say hello; anyone who comments will be entered to win (and I love this book so much that I’ll actually pick two winners, so your odds just went up). This giveaway will be live through 9/21, so jump on it.

Here’s Sara:

“Why this waste?”

(excerpted from Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed)

I’d been in a suit and heels since 5:00 a.m., and after a full morning, I was at the airport for an early afternoon flight home—home to a husband, but no children.

I’d recently started to crave more. I wanted more from my sales support job. I wasn’t tired of doing it or even tired of the desk work and the travel, but I was tired of working for little more than sales goals and a paycheck. I wanted more than productivity and success. I wanted brushes with God and meaning and almost anything that mattered but wasn’t easily measured.

My work for the day was done and I was tired, but my heart was hungry, and I was beginning to like heart hunger. So I prayed: God, I want to meet with You in this airport.

Meeting Him required quieting my insides enough to hear and respond. The kind of dialogue I was learning to have with God burgeoned when I saw it as an exchange—my mind for His thoughts, my fear for His assurance, my whispers for His response. As I made my way to a restaurant near my gate, I noticed an elderly gentleman who was being pushed in a wheelchair. I prayed for God to breathe life and strength into his frail body. I saw a man running as fast as my mind usually worked, and I prayed his racing heart would come to know Jesus. I saw a young woman with vacant eyes, and I prayed she would find the filling her heart most needed. I realized afresh that the people all around me weren’t merely interesting. They were God-created. I wanted to talk to Him about what He had made.

God, what do You see in the man who is late for his flight? And the one in the wheelchair—how do You see the heart buried underneath that broken body? Rather than looking at people as faces among the masses, I asked for His eyes for them and responded with minute-long prayers: God, I want to meet You in this airport.

No one knew this conversation I was having in my head with God. And I was starting to like these secret exchanges.

At the restaurant, I grabbed the last available seat at the bar, which was full of day travelers with carry-ons. As I scooted up onto my stool and glanced at the laminated menu, I noticed the gentleman sitting next to me. He looked to be near retirement, but he was dressed for business. I was drawn to him in the way you’re drawn to someone who is not at all like you, but with whom you feel a strange connection.

Maybe I’m supposed to share the gospel with this man, I thought. I ordered my food and opened my book, trying to concentrate on reading while staying aware of what felt like a nudge from God.

Ten minutes later when the waitress brought out my order along with that of the man next to me, I noticed that we both had ordered the same meal. I awkwardly mumbled a comment about it, looking for a way to begin a conversation. But my voice, perhaps too quiet from nerves, got lost in a salvo of loudspeaker announcements. He hadn’t heard me. I went back to my book, resigned that I’d misread God’s cues.

The book I was reading explored the concept of abiding in the vine from John 15. The author used the notion of tree grafting to illustrate this abiding. After hours of client presentations on throbbing feet, my mind couldn’t absorb the words. I read and reread the same paragraph, but without comprehension. And then this prompt dropped into my mind: Ask the man sitting next to you to explain it.

Uh-oh, I thought.

As much as I wanted to hear from God, I knew that we humans sometimes mishear Him and mistake our mental wanderings for His voice. What should I do? Talk to the man and risk awkwardness and embarrassment? Or not talk to him and risk missing what might well be God’s answer to my prayer to meet with Him in this airport?

Well, at least I’ll never see this guy again, I thought. So I went for it.

“Sir, excuse me,” I said, much louder this time, almost shouting to compensate for my nerves.

He startled. “Yes?” he said, raising his eyebrows like the authoritative boss of a fresh college grad.

“Do you know anything about grafting?” I coughed out.

“What?” he asked.

Oh no. I had to say it again. This business exec didn’t even seem to know what the word meant.

“Grafting, sir. Do you know anything about grafting?” My face was red hot.

“It’s funny you should ask,” he said. I noticed tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.

My heart started racing.

“I majored in agriculture in college and I minored in grafting. I run a farm equipment business but have gotten away from what I once loved.”

Now I was sure I could actually hear my heart, not just feel the pounding.

He stretched back on his stool, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. Then he enthusiastically explained the details of how the branch of one tree is grafted into another as if he were telling me a page-turning story. I showed him the paragraph in my book and asked him questions. He made it all so clear.

I’m not sure if I was more surprised that the prompt to talk to this man really was from God, or that God was personal enough to meet me at an airport barstool. Apparently, God was meeting this man too, right over his hamburger and French fries. He thanked me after our exchange as if he’d been reminded of his boyish love for trees and for grafting, a love that needed rediscovering.

Twelve years later, this conversation remains my most memorable business trip. Still. I can’t remember where I’d gone or even who I met with on that trip. I remember it only because I’d felt seen and heard by God.

God showed up when I was in my suit and heels, and He winked. We shared a secret. During those days of client presentations, excel spreadsheets, and conference calls, He was whispering, I want to meet with you, here. What I might once have considered a waste of time—conversation with Him in the midst of a demanding day—became, instead, food for my hungry heart. It was a gift of hiddenness during a season when my work required me to be on during the workday.

God’s currency is communion—a relationship that grows, nearer still. A relationship that is cultivated when no one else is looking. A relationship accessed not just when we feel we need His help but at all the odd times that punctuate our agenda-driven days. A depth of relationship that feeds the recipient in the way that productivity and accomplishment just cannot.

What a waste. What a beautiful waste.

Ω

(Unseen is the last book in our September Book Giveaway series. To those who just joined us this week – welcome! And congratulations to Alexis from Tennessee, a new subscriber who won a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children!)

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At Work and at Pray: Lift Up the Teachers

(September is BOOK GIVEAWAY month! Congratulations to last week’s winner, April from Sidney, Ohio, who’s getting a copy of Jeannie Cunnion’s new release, Mom Set Free. And this week I’m giving a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children to a NEW blog subscriber…so if you’ve got a friend who might like these posts, please spread the word and invite her – or him! – to sign up.)

 

So…Robbie is slogging through the third week of a college course called Theories of Financial Markets. I’d be jealous…except that I’m not.

But honestly? He’s not the only one hitting the books:

The Bible says we’re supposed to stand firm and give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). “The work of the Lord” is kind of a broad category, but I’m pretty sure that praying fits in there someplace. And right now, I’m workin’ it on behalf of Robbie and his U.Va. teachers.

I’m praying, for instance, that they would “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time they will reap a harvest if they do not give up.” That’s Galatians 6:9…and it’s my all-time favorite teacher prayer. Because being tired or worn out is no fun for anyone. And no matter how sorely they’re tempted, I don’t ever want a teacher to give up on my kid.

(Some of you get that.)

I’m also praying that Robbie will be teachable. I want his heart and his mind to be open to things like wisdom and understanding. I want him to have a good attitude as he heads off to class every day. I want him to be able to confront academic challenges with grace, and to see hard things (which, to me, would include theories of financial markets) as opportunities to grow.

I actually wrote about the value of being teachable in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. And, since that’s this week’s book giveaway (whoop!), I figured I’d share an excerpt from the chapter about praying for our kids’ relationships with their teachers and coaches. Here it is:

 

Praying for a Teachable Spirit

If you’re like me, you tend to spend more time praying for your kids to get the right teachers than that they will be the right students. But how our children think and behave in the classroom or on the athletic field can go farther toward fostering strong relationships with teachers and coaches than just about anything else.

Ned and Drew are two of the most teachable young men I know. Eager learners, they are quick to explore new ideas, and they have learned to recognize and respect the giftedness of their teachers – even when some of the concepts they were taught clashed with their own Christian convictions.

Ned and Drew’s willingness to learn is also evident in their athletic pursuits. Both are outstanding runners, a trait they inherited from their father, Jim, an Olympic medalist who was the first high schooler to run a mile in less than four minutes. When Ned and Drew won spots on the high school track team, Jim vowed not to interfere with the coach’s methods. Moreover, he encouraged his sons to respect the coach’s authority, even if the man’s coaching style differed from their father’s teaching.

As it turned out, the high school track coach did not do everything the way the former Olympian would have, and Ned and Drew knew it. But rather than argue with the man or rebel against his methods, the boys opted to buckle down and do their very best, while Jim and his wife, Anne, stayed content to pray for their sons from the bleachers. As a result of the family’s gentle, teachable spirit, the coach saw Christianity in a very favorable light – a testimony that would not have been possible had Ned and Drew taken an aggressive or defiant stand against his techniques. What’s more, the track team won an unprecedented series of three straight state championships.

Every life has it’s share of boredom, dissatisfaction, frustration, and tragedy. But if our children can learn to meet each new challenge as Ned and Drew did, by seeing the value in other people, respecting authority, and looking for opportunities to learn and grow, then even painful or disappointing circumstances can become reasons for thanksgiving. And long after our children have graduated from classrooms and playing fields, a teachable spirit will prove its lasting worth in their careers, their marriages, and their ability to minister to others.

 

There’s more, but you get the idea: When we pray for our kids to honor and respect their teachers and coaches, good things happen. 

So let’s do that.

Heavenly Father…

Cause ______ to obey his teachers and coaches and submit to their authority. Let him know that these people keep watch over him, and that you will hold them accountable for the job they do. Show ______ that when he honors his teachers and coaches and makes their work a joy instead of a burden, the end result will be to his advantage. (Hebrews 13:17)

Amen.

And P.S., if you like that Galatians “don’t get weary” prayer, here are a few more ways you can ask God to bless your kids’ teachers. Click here to download this image as a printable postcard:

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Parenting in Freedom and Grace (plus a book giveaway)!

Ever feel like your kids’ future is riding on you? Or like you have to be perfect (or at least really good) so that they’ll have an example to follow? Or like God is watching the way that you parent…and that if you blow it, he’s gonna be bummed?

Yeah, me too.

I think I told you about the time Robbie took the SATs. He’d spent most of his childhood playing outdoors, and I couldn’t remember ever seeing him read. Did he know any vocabulary words? I wasn’t sure. And so, in a last-ditch effort to redeem my academic parenting fails and get him prepped for the test, I bought a case of lacrosse balls and turned them into flashcards. If Robbie learned even just two or three words while he played, that might help.

Oh how I wish I’d had Jeannie Cunnion’s new book, Mom Set Free, back then! She could have saved me a lot of angst (and kept me from ruining Robbie’s lacrosse stick, cuz the mesh part turned pink when the Sharpie marker wore off).

As it is, I’m highlighting and starring and underlining pages in Jeannie’s book now. My kids may be grown, but I still need all the help I can get when it comes to rejoicing – and actually relaxing – in the blessing of being a mom.

As the book’s cover proclaims, Jeannie’s heart is to free moms from the pressure to get it all right. Our kids’ future (whether they’re headed to kindergarten or college) is not in our hands, any more than it’s up to us to “make” them honest and kind, strengthen their faith, or protect them from hardship. All of those things – and so many more – are ultimately up to the Lord. He has good plans for them (ideas that are way better than ours, BTW), and as Philippians 2:13 reminds us, it is God’s job (as in, not ours) to work in them to “will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Don’t get me wrong. Jeannie isn’t trying to get us to sit back and do nothing. Parenting, she says, is hard work – and it involves discipline and boundaries and consequences. But it also involves grace – huge buckets of grace! – the kind that frees us to discipline and teach and correct our children without relying on anger or scare tactics or shame. As Jeannie sees it, parenting with grace is what lets our kids know (the way that God lets us know), that even when they make unlovable choices, they are still (and forever will be) deeply, unshakably loved.

Ahhhh…there’s so much good stuff in this book. And – whoop! – I actually got to be with Jeannie this week to celebrate the Mom Set Free launch. She was a guest on the 700 Club (click here to watch her interview), and some of my young mom friends came over to my house beforehand to get her warmed up:

To see a clip from that interview, you’ll have to head over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt)…but first, I’ve got some good news. I managed to snag an extra copy of Mom Set Free while Jeannie was here, and I want to give it to someone! Post a comment on this blog and I’ll choose a winner at random (unless you are a patent attorney who thinks that my SAT-word lacrosse balls are marketable product, in which case I will probably pick you).

Seriously, y’all. I love it when I get to recommend a book that combines my two favorite things:  Loving my kids and following Jesus. And Mom Set Free is chock full of great verses; I’ll borrow this one from p. 236 and leave you with a parenting prayer:

Lord, you have promised to fight for me. Help me to do what you say and just stay calm! (Exodus 14:14, NLT)

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Book Giveaway: Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner

Note to readers:  This post is the first in a three-part series.  I met author Wendy Blight last year and, given the national conversation that’s taking place about sexual violence, particularly on college campuses, I found her story both relevant and redemptive.  JB

 

“I hesitated, then spoke three words I never thought I would utter:  ‘I was raped.'”

Wendy Blight had a seemingly perfect life.  Voted a “Baylor Beauty,” engaged to be married to her college sweetheart, job offer in hand as she graduated – it was all working out exactly as she had planned.  But then, after a leisurely afternoon by the pool with her friends on a muggy Texas day, she returned to her apartment and found a masked man waiting for her, wielding a large knife.

What followed was a horrific crime, and then a 15-year journey to find answers:  Where was God when I was attacked?  How can my rapist go unpunished?  Can I ever feel safe?  Will I ever just be normal again?

In her compelling book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner:  The Transforming Power of God’s Story,Wendy phototells how, after the assault, fear and doubt became the driving force in her life.  I imagine that anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual violence would readily understand Wendy’s torment.  For those who have not experienced that pain, the honesty in her story opens the door to a deeper level of empathy, offering valuable insight into how to come alongside those who are hurting.

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know I love the University of Virginia, and right now I am privileged to be part of a group of students, alumni, and faculty members who are working to assess (and improve) the school’s climate and culture, particularly as it relates to sexual assault. We’ve talked with legal experts, law enforcement officers, bystander education advocates, professional counselors and a host of other brilliant and compassionate people, and I am encouraged by the progress that’s being made.  New policies and procedures are taking shape, and more and more students are stepping forward to help one another.

Perhaps nowhere, though, have I seen the path to hope and healing charted so clearly as it is in Hidden Joy.  Because she has “been there,” and because she doesn’t try to gloss over her anger or her confusion, Wendy’s story resonates with truth.  And when she begins to trust God – to see his hand in her life, working for good purposes, even in the midst of her pain – it makes you want to stand up and cheer.  It’s like watching a prisoner step out into the light.

I wish I could put a copy of Hidden Joy into the hands of everyone who has ever been a victim, or who has ever wanted to help a friend find hope amid the ashes of suffering.  I can’t do that, but sweet Wendy has offered to send a free, signed copy of her book to someone who posts a comment on this blog – we’ll pick a giveaway winner at random and announce that on Wednesday.

I’m also turning this space over to Wendy for the next two days.  Tomorrow, she’ll recap her story and offer a free chapter of the book to anyone who would like to read more.  And Wednesday’s post will feature  strategies for staying safe, insights Wendy first shared on Oprah Radio and now offers to us.  They’re commonsense tips, but important ones – and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to forward them to your children, your friends, and anyone else who will listen.

(3.18.15 – Congratulations to Helen Roberts of Virginia Beach, who will soon be receiving her complimentary copy of Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner – and thank you, Wendy!)

 

 

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Book Giveaway: The Undertaker’s Wife

You know how you run into people at a party or wherever and they try to regale you with some story about how they  accidentally bought a three-legged dog (which actually happened to Robbie’s aunt) or how they tried to use a cherry bomb to unclog a toilet (his uncle, who stood on the lid), and they wrap it all up and  say, “My life should be a book!”?

For most people, that’s not true.  Trust me.  Partial dogs and imploded commodes will get you through the appetizer course, sure, but that’s about it.

photoFor Dee Oliver, though, her life was a memoir screaming to be written.  And, thanks be to God, it has been!  The Undertaker’s Wife:  A True Story of Love Loss, and Laughter in the Unlikeliest of Places, releases this month.  If you’ve ever seen The Blindside or The Help or even a rerun of The Addams Family, you will read Dee’s story and think, “Can the movie be far behind?”

Okay, okay.  So I’m a little biased.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the book with Dee.  But even our minister liked it: “Southern women have found their Mark Twain in Dee Oliver!” is what he had to say.  (Even before he got his free copy.)

Here’s a little excerpt from the back jacket, just to whet your appetite:

On Dee Branch’s first date with Johnnie Oliver, a fourth-generation funeral director, she knew she was in for a unique relationship when he had to leave “for just a minute” – and came back to the car with a corpse.

You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s not really a spoiler to let you know that Johnnie dies (you pick that up in the first chapter), or that Dee winds up working in an African American funeral home (which you can read for yourself on the back cover).  I’d tell more (and believe me, there’s plenty, from the time Johnnie nearly choked to death on her engagement ring, to the funeral homily about the man who had been “drinkin’ and chasin’ women and never bein’ much of a daddy to his kids” and still got into heaven) but I’d rather you read the book for yourself.  Part memoir, part how-to book, The Undertaker’s Wife is probably the best book I’ve ever read (and certainly the best one I’ve ever had a hand in writing) about the common ground of grief, the practicalities of death, and the ever-present faithfulness of God.

And here’s a nifty treat:  By posting a comment on this blog, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a free copy of The Undertaker’s Wife.  Check back on Friday to see who won – I’ll reveal the “super lucky” winner (have you noticed that “super” is, like, the most popular blog word ever?  Super cute shoes!  Super easy dinner recipe!  Super helpful tip for stain removal!) at the end of this post.

(If giveaways aren’t your thing, or if you’re like me and you aren’t really sure how to post a comment on someone’s blog, you can click here and buy the book for yourself.)

And, if you happen to be in or around Virginia Beach, Virginia, on March 25, please join us for a special book launch with Changing Seasons.  I’ll be interviewing Dee and, even though she doesn’t know it yet, we’re going to take questions from the audience.  Last time I heard Dee speak, a 76-year-old woman wanted to know “where you put the Botox.”

(If possible, please come up with a new question this time.)

(Although that was a good one.)

(I mean, people want to know.)

Hope to see you on March 25th…or on the blog!

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY UPDATE:  Congratulations to Nancy Keshian of Winston-Salem, NC.  She was the 7th person to comment on this post, and will soon be receiving her free copy of The Undertaker’s Wife.  Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it, Nancy!

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