31 Days of Prayer – Coming in July!

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

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

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

Let’s pray together in July.

31 Days of Prayer Title

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

prayer calendar

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

Download the prayer calendar for free (click here)…

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

Day 5 Prayer: Forgiveness

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

Book Cover (sneak peek)

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

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

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

Warmly,

Jodie

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

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A (Printable) Prayer for the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer hands through the years

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

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

Robbie & Virginia prayer hands

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

Hillary and Charlie wedding (answered prayer)

God prompts us to pray

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

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

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

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

God initiates prayer graphic

One “all-family” prayer

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

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

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

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

prayer bookmark - Isaiah 44:3

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

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

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

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

❤️

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

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

Noah and Robbie make a prayer hand

Noah 2022 prayer hand

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DIY Advent Printable to Ignite Praise

(Friends…many thanks to those of you who told me that the Thanksgiving printable prayers were too big to download. Whoopsie! We’ve made some tweaks in case you want to try again and use the cards as stocking stuffers or hostess gifts; click here to access that file. You’ll be glad to know that the Advent printable in this post is much more manageable; I printed the cards from my phone…hope you love ’em as much as I do!)

Advent candles

Ready or not, here it comes!

Advent officially begins on Sunday. And if you’re like me, that can conjure a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, I adore Christmas. I love everything about it:  The carols, the gift-giving, the tree-trimming, the lights. The everyday, everywhere reminders that Jesus is born.

On the other, the everyday, everywhere reminders can leave my soul feeling stressed. “O come let us adore him,” the radio beckons. And I can’t wait to do that–just as soon as I get the presents wrapped, the cards mailed, the cookies iced. Then, I tell myself, then I will be able to settle down and adore.

Maybe you find yourself in the same place.

Or maybe it’s not the busy-ness of the season that holds you back. Maybe you hear the invitation to adoration and you just don’t feel like giving God praise. Maybe this will be your first Christmas without a loved one. Maybe anxiety, disappointment, or fear over a child’s circumstances has dealt a blow to your faith. Or maybe you’re just plain bone-tired after not-one-but-two very long years.

Advent Adoration

If that’s where you find yourself today–longing to experience the thrill of hope but too hurting, too anxious, or too weary to open your heart–may I offer a gentle suggestion?

God doesn’t need us to come to him full of faith, brimming with joy, or overflowing with energy. He simply invites us to come–as we are–and adore. And as we do what my friend Sara Hagerty says and “sing our way into the truth,” something happens. The very act of praising (even when we don’t feel like it) releases the power of God into our lives.

Praise opens the door to hope.

One of my most favorite ways to praise God is to reflect on his attributes. I find that the more I think about who God is–merciful, faithful, Almighty, kind–the more my perspective changes. Problems that once loomed impossibly scary or large begin to shrink in the light of his splendor.

Psalm 100 says we come into God’s presence with praise; Psalm 22 says God is enthroned on our praises. If you long to draw near to God–to experience his closeness as you draw near to Christmas–adoration is the avenue that will get you there. And if you aren’t sure where to begin or how God’s attributes might impact your life, this DIY Advent calender might be a good place to start.

Advent Cards on table

Just print, cut, and fold!

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

Cut Advent Printable

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

Advent Printable on mantle

Advent Printable on twine

Advent Printable on Mantle 1

I designed this Advent printable as a Christmas gift for our email community; you won’t find the cards available elsewhere. If you have friends who’d enjoy this printable or the blogs, please encourage them to visit jodieberndt.com to subscribe and join us!

As a current subscriber, you don’t need any special code to access the Advent printable; simply click here and follow the prompts to download. And as you consider each card, talk about God’s character with your children. Ask questions, even if you don’t know all the answers.

Advent Attribute - God is our counselor

For instance…

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

God is Immanuel…and so much more. Whatever your need, wherever you are, our Savior has you covered. May you sense his nearness, his love, and his grace in increasing measure in the month ahead.

Merry Christmas!

❤️

For further reflection on the power of praise, take a look at 2 Chronicles 20. I read that particular chapter this week and was struck, not for the first time, of what happens when we meet a crisis with praise.

Jehoshaphat learns that a vast army–one made up of three different nations–is about to attack. Alarmed, he resolves to ask God what to do. “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us,” he says. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Then he recounts God’s past faithfulness (he considers God’s character) and–get this!–he appoints men to march out in front of the army and sing praises to God for “the splendor of his holiness.” (v. 21)

What happens next is nothing short of remarkable. As Jehoshaphat’s men start to sing and praise, God…

Well, I’ll let you read the story for yourself. As you do, keep in mind that the tide didn’t turn until the praises began. Praise conquers our fears, sharpens our perspective, and releases God’s power.

“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Let’s keep our gaze fixed on Jesus this Christmas season!

 

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Printable Prayers for Your Thanksgiving Table

(In case you missed these last year, I’m sliding into your inbox with a set of printable prayers for your Thanksgiving table–or wrap ’em up as a hostess gift if you’re not doing the cooking!)

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Robbie and I are gearing up to host our whole crew:  Two sets of newlyweds, extended in-laws, a couple of grandbabies, and at least one pair of very sleep-deprived parents. Plus, we’ve got an assortment of four-legged guests. Tilly the Quarantine Kitty is making the trek from the Big Apple and bringing her brand-new bunkmate:

Rugby the Big Apple Puppy

It’s shaping up to be the good kind of crazy.

Except…the dishwasher is leaking.

As is the puppy.

Which is why I am glad I still have last year’s set of printable prayers. I might be up to my eyeballs in dirty dishes and puppy pee pads, but at least the Thanksgiving table has a chance to look good!

Prayer Cards on Thanksgiving Table

Even more than that, the prayer cards serve tangible reminders of what Alexander Macleran, the great British preacher, called “the crowded kindnesses of God.”

The printable prayers include thirteen different 5″ x 7″ cards featuring topics like protection, diligence, kindness, salvation, and gratitude. I tucked a card into each place setting last year; they’d also be fun to “hide” under plates for folks to discover when they help clear the dishes. And who knows? Maybe your guests might even be nudged to use the cards to pray for each other before the tryptophan coma sets in!

prayer cards

Click here to download the prayer cards on your laptop or home computer (the file is too big to work on a phone).

And as you reflect on God’s crowded kindnesses–his provision, his mercy, his love–may you continue to be rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness! (Colossians 2:6-7)

❤️

P.S.  The printable prayers make a nice teacher or hostess gift, especially if you print them on quality card stock and add a  display easel. I found this gold one on Amazon (it comes in a package of six):

Prayer Cards with gold easel

And psst…I’m also working on an Advent-themed printable exclusively for email subscribers. Be on the lookout for that one in the next week or so–assuming the new puppy doesn’t eat my homework!

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A Thanksgiving Present for You!

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

I know I’m not a Monday email-er, but I’m sliding into your inbox today to kick off Thanksgiving week and let you know how much I appreciate YOU.

When we launched the 20th Anniversary Edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, my publishing team tucked a set of Scripture prayer cards in with some of the very first copies of the book.

prayer cards

We had no idea how popular those cards would be, but once I realized how much people liked them, I asked the design folks if they could re-create the cards in a printable form so I could share them with our growing online friend group. I’m so incredibly grateful for your encouragement and support!

Click here to download the prayer cards on your laptop or home computer (the file is too big to work on a mobile device).

The set includes thirteen different 5″ x 7″ cards featuring topics like protection, diligence, kindness, salvation, and gratitude. I think they’d be fun tucked into napkins or hidden under plates at the Thanksgiving table–maybe as a “prayer prompt” folks can use to pray for the person seated to their right, if your crew is comfy with that.

Prayer Cards on Thanksgiving Table

Or, if you’re one of those squared-away people who is already done wrapping-and-tagging, the prayer cards make meaningful stocking stuffers (especially if you pray them over your children while Santa tucks the cards in with the gifts)!

Prayer Cards as Stocking Stuffer

If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a friend or a teacher, package all thirteen cards together with a little easel. I found this one on Amazon as part of a set of six; click here if that appeals.

Prayer Cards with gold easel

Or…just print the collection for yourself. 😊

And as you do, know that I have prayed each one of these prayers over you. I may not know all your names or your needs, but God does. I love knowing that you are on “the other side” of these emails, and that we can meet, as a friend of mine says, “on the bridge of prayer.”

I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)

Much love,

Jodie

P.S. The prayer cards are meant as a thank you gift for email subscribers, but if you want to forward this note, that’s fine with me. Of course, I always love “meeting” new friends, so if you know someone who might like to receive these posts and prayer prompts (the emails show up once or twice a month on random Fridays), please invite them to subscribe. Thank you for sharing!

 

 

 

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Teach Children to Pray (with these free printables!)

How can I teach my children to pray? Where do I start?

I hear questions like these all the time. “I didn’t grow up in a home where people prayed–at least not outside of church,” was how one young mom put it. “Prayer feels awkward and unfamiliar sometimes. But I don’t want it to be that way for my kids. What can I do?”

What can I do?

That’s actually a really good question–and one that led to a new bonus section in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition. The updated book includes pages designed especially to help you teach your children to pray, talking to God not just for them, but with them:

Teach Children to Pray Section in book

Say, for instance, that your child feels anxious or scared. Maybe it’s a conflict with a friend, a fear of the dark, or the fact that the dog really did eat the homework. There’s a discussion starter at the top of the page (“Everyone gets worried or scared sometimes…”), followed by a collection of easy-to-read verses (“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”), and then a prayer prompt that reinforces the link between our needs and God’s provision.

Teach Children to Pray about Feeling Anxious

Every family is different, and what appealed to my kids might not sound at all fun to yours. But as we teach our children to pray–and to depend on the power of God’s Word–it can help to give them “the Why.”

Give Your Children “the Why”

I don’t know how it is in your house, but when Hillary was about five years old, it seemed like every other word that came out of her mouth was why. Sometimes the question reflected genuine interest (“Why is the sky blue?”); sometimes it felt more defiant, like when we asked her to pick up her toys (“Why?”); and sometimes I had no idea what she was even asking about. Once, in an effort to get her to stop peppering me with so many questions, I threatened to punish her if she asked “Why” one more time.

(You can guess what she said.)

Hillary may have been an extreme case on the inquisitive scale (and she grew up to become an aerospace engineer, so maybe she is?), but I think that all kids are naturally curious. And rather that just slapping a Scripture on the kitchen table as a prayer prompt, it helps if we offer some context.

God’s Word makes things happen

Our kids need to know that God’s Word makes things happen. He spoke the whole world into being, starting with light. All the verses we read in Scripture come straight from God to help us know right from wrong and equip us for every good work. And when the words in the Bible go out into the world, they always accomplish what God desires!

As you teach your children to pray, share these things as the backdrop for why there is power in God’s Word. And then introduce them to John 15:7, where Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” Tell them what you already know: that the more we spend time in the Bible, allowing what we find there to shape our perspective as well as our prayers, the more the things we want God to do will line up with what he already has planned!

Think this is all a bit much for your kids? I hear you. I was you. Longtime blog readers may remember that, for years, our “morning devotions” consisted of somebody yelling “Bus!” and everyone scrambling for their shoes as I stood in the doorway stuffing permission slips into backpacks and saying things like, “Walk with the King today–and be a blessing!”

(Not making that up. But hey, the Bible says we shouldn’t despise small beginnings; everyone has to start somewhere!)

Coloring Pages, Bedside Prayer Cards, and More

I know that teaching children to pray can be hard. But even the littlest ones have concerns of their own–their friendships, their future, their faith–and the sooner they learn to anchor their prayers in God’s promises, the better equipped they will be to trust him as they grow. Which is why, when we were putting the Anniversary Edition together, my publishing team and I came up with a few kid-friendly resources–colorful printables that reflect the pages and the scripture-prayers in the book.

These little lunchbox cards are perfect for popping into a book bag or taping on the bathroom mirror:

Lunchbox cards to teach children to pray

These 5″ x 7″ bedside prayer cards are the same prayers kids will find in the book:

Bedside Prayer Cards to Teach Children to Pray

And these coloring pages (drawn by my incredibly talented ARTIST-MOM, Claire Gilman!!) make hiding God’s Word in your heart extra fun:

Teach Children to Pray coloring pages

Teach Children to Pray Girl Coloring

Girls coloring - teach children to pray

Want to order the book? Click here – it ships on Tuesday!

Want to view the collection of printable resources? Here you go.

Just want a prayer for your own anxious heart as you head into the weekend? Let’s go ahead and borrow this one from the kids:

Heavenly Father,

I am anxious and afraid about _____. Help me put my trust in you and pray instead of worrying. Thank you for your promise to be with me wherever I go. Help me to be strong and courageous and to rely on the Holy Spirit to give me power, love, and self-discipline. (Psalm 56:3; Philippians 4:6; Joshua 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:7)

Amen

Book by Jodie Berndt with foreword by Audrey Roloff

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Teacher Appreciation Meets Mother’s Day

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. To all the professional teachers out there:  Thank you. For now, and for always.

It’s also Mother’s Day. And to all you moms who’ve added “teacher” to your job description in recent weeks (months? is it years yet?):  Thank you, too.

Some of you seem to be crushing it on the homeschooling front. My pal Elizabeth, for example, adopts a British accent when she teaches her children.  (Maybe she thinks they won’t realize she’s Mom?)

"British" teacher doing school with her kids

And I loved the way that Caitlin, a California mom, put her own COVID spin on the traditional Presidential Physical Fitness Test:

 

Clever, right? (I was more than a little impressed.)

Hope for the Overwhelmed Teacher-Mom

Honestly, though? I’ve heard from plenty of you who don’t feel so creative. You feel overwhelmed. Over-tired. Over it. You couldn’t muster up a British accent to say “Shaken, not stirred,” much less to give a spelling test.

One precious young mom sent me this:

teacher question meme

If that’s where you are, can I just offer two bits of advice?

First, hang in there. Don’t give up. Get yourself an index card (even a fake teacher has those at home, right?) and post Galatians 6:9 on the fridge:

Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9 graphic

 

And second: Don’t compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.

Seriously. That might be the best piece of parenting advice anybody ever gave me, when our kids were young. And it applies to pretty much everything, from your marriage to your job to your effectiveness as a freshly minted school teacher.

Life Lessons from Little League

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you may remember what happened back when I got drafted to coach Little League. Read that post here, if you want; the nutshell version is this:  I knew nothing at all about baseball, but that didn’t matter to my team, the Purple Wolves, at least not at first. We spent our practice time perfecting our cartwheels, working on our team cheer (a growl, paired with a threatening “wolf stance”), and honing our baseball-themed jokes (“Why did the sausage quit playing baseball? Because he was the wurst on his team”).

Life was pretty good. But then Game Day arrived.

I’d found a big old beach blanket so my team wouldn’t have to sit on the grass, and I’d packed what I thought was a strong lineup of snacks. My Wolves seemed pretty happy–until they looked across the field.

“Oh no…” one kid said.

I followed his gaze. The other team wasn’t seated just yet, but you could tell where they’d be. Every single one of the 14 spots in the opposing lineup was clearly marked on the ground by a carpet sample. A carpet sample! And on top of each tidy square sat a matching red water bottle, with a little baseball stopper on top.

“We’re gonna get killed!” a wolf moaned. A few others agreed. And fear spread through my team like wildfire.

Can I just interrupt myself here and let you know that this was tee-ball? If you know anything about tee-ball (and if you don’t, consider us friends), you know that nobody keeps score. You cannot lose. And you definitely cannot get killed. But try telling that to a bunch of kindergartners whose parents are stacked, three-deep, in lawn chairs on the sidelines. My Wolves had come ready to play…and yet they were already feeling defeated.

They had fallen prey to The Comparison Trap.

Watch Out for The Comparison Trap

We do the very same thing.

We can’t help it. We look across the fields of our lives (or our social media feeds) and see moms whose kids are smiling around the kitchen table, workbooks opened, pencils raised, and shirts (clean shirts!) buttoned correctly, while we sit there wondering if the corkscrew would make a good show-n-tell. Or if tracking the steps between the couch and the fridge counts as math.

You know? We can’t help it. We look around at how everyone else is coping with COVID-19 and we think to ourselves:  We don’t have what it takes.

We’re failing at this.

We’re gonna get killed.

We give insecurity a little foothold in our lives and then, like the Purple Wolves’ fear, it starts to spread.

Here’s the thing, though:  Anybody can look like they have their stuff all together, like they are leading a carpet-square life. And if we spend our time scrolling through what other people look like instead of focusing on who we really are—beloved children of God, whose power is made perfect when we are weak and whose grace equips us for every good work—we’ll be doomed. The comparison trap will feast on our joy and eat us alive.

So let’s not. Let’s stop looking across the field at the kids with their matching water bottles, and let’s look up instead. Let’s look at God.

Because He is looking at us. And, like the parents who turned out to watch the Purple Wolves play, He doesn’t care if his kids are sitting on carpet squares or a blanket.

He just wants us to know how much we are loved.

Heavenly Father,

Help me pay careful attention to my own work, getting satisfaction in a job well done, so that I won’t need to compare myself to anyone else. (Galatians 6:4)

Amen

❤️

And P.S., if you want a few prayers you can pray for a teacher (or, a-hem, for yourself), click here to download this printable card:

Teacher Prayer Printable

And if you’re looking for some fun new activities to incorporate into your daily routine, check out the FREE ebook from my friend Susan Yates. (I’m not sure the toilet paper fitness challenge is in there, but she’s got 100 other fantastic ideas!)

Cousin Camp eBook graphic

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The Most Life-Changing Habit for the New Year

Note:  This post appeared earlier this week on Club31Women. They’re featuring a “Fresh Start” series in January, with tips on everything from organizing your home (yes, please!), to meal-planning and parenting helps, to a 100-Day “Love You Better” Marriage Challenge in the New Year. Good stuff, all around!

 

The Most Life-Changing Habit for the New Year

Which habit do you want to carry into the next year?

We were three hours into a family car trip during the Christmas holidays when my daughter pulled that card out of the box. It was a good question. Looking ahead to 2020, which habit would I choose to continue?

My mind cataloged all the usual suspects:  Exercise. Organization. Healthy eating. Financial fitness. I’d made small gains in each of these areas in 2019, and I knew I wanted to keep honing those habits. None of them, though, felt particularly dynamic or productive, at least not in a life-shaping way. I kept thinking.

And I remembered a line from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life:

“No other habit,” Warren wrote, “can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflections on Scripture.”

Rick Warren, Scripture

 

Daily Reflections on Scripture

Daily reflections on Scripture. That was it. That was the single most valuable habit I wanted to carry into the new year. I don’t just want to read my Bible; I want to reflect it. To examine it. And to let it examine me – shaping my thoughts, my actions, and my conversations – so that my life dovetails with God’s designs, and so that my prayers line up with his purpose.

Which is, I think, what Jesus was getting at in John 15:7, when he made one of the most jaw-dropping statements in the Bible. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you,” he said, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Put another way, what this promise means is that the more we allow Scripture to penetrate our hearts and our minds – pruning out the bad stuff and breathing life into what’s good – the more our desires (and our prayers) will reflect what God is already planning to do.

I can’t think of a better jumping-off place for 2020 than that.

And honestly? All of those other good habits and resolutions – from taking care of our bodies to managing money wisely – find their inspiration in Scripture. There is not a need we will face, a goal we can set, or a healthy discipline that we can practice that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his word.

Effective time management? “Teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Dealing with things like worry and fear? “Let us not be anxious or afraid, but instead cast our anxieties on you, knowing that you care for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Increasing your giving, or your kindness toward others? “Prompt us to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)

Those are just a few of the life-shaping prayer prompts we find in the Bible; there are countless more to discover. And the best part? The best part of Christ’s John 15:7 promise isn’t just the fact that we can ask for whatever we want. The best part is that when we take God up on his invitation – abiding in him, and letting his words abide in us – we get to live out John 15:8:  We bring glory to God. We become productive, fruit-bearing people. And we discover the security of knowing that we are Christ’s disciples, that we belong.

31-Day Prayer Habit

If you like the idea of reflecting on Scripture each day – of allowing God’s word to shape your perspective, as well as your prayers – can I invite you to join me in a 31-Day Prayer Challenge? Let’s kick off the new year by looking at the Bible not just as something to read, but as something to pray. Let’s allow the words that we read – words first spoken by God – to animate our conversations with him.

Any passage will do (because again, Scripture is full of transformational promises, principles, and prayer prompts), but if you’d like some help getting started, you can download a printable 31-day calendar here.

There’s a different verse for each day of the month, with topics ranging from relationship needs, to character qualities, to ways to develop and strengthen your faith. Pray through each day’s verse slowly, out loud if you can. And whether you’re praying for a family member, a friend, or yourself, try to return to the prayer several times during the day so that God’s word will take root and give birth to hope in your heart.

“My word,” God promises in Isaiah 55:11, “shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”

So which habit will you carry into the new year? I hope you’ll join me in letting the power of God’s word accomplish his very best plans in 2020, both in your life and in the lives of the people you love.

Heavenly Father,

May we delight in your word, meditating on it day and night, so that we will yield fruit in season and prosper in all that we do. (Psalm 1:1-3)

Amen

And P.S., if you want to know where we got the question game for our car trip, it was a tip from my son-in-law, Charlie, who saw it advertised on Instagram and thought, “That looks like a Berndt thing.” He was right. We loved it. And if you want your own game, you can order it here.

(There’s also a set designed just for couples…which Charlie got in his stocking this year. #Mother-in-Law Goals.) 😊

(I only recommend books and other products I really like on this site, and if you order via a link that I share, Amazon sends me a small commission…which, as you know, I almost always spend on more books so I can share the really good ones with you!)

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

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

And anyhow. I came upon this sentence:

BCP Marriage Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Printable Marriage Prayer

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

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

❤️

Heavenly Father,

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

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

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

(Which is a real thing.)

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Robbie First Day of Kindergarten

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

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

IMG_7041

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

❤️

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

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Let’s take prayer out of church

Happy New Year!

I am already in love with 2019, mostly because of the people I’ve been spending time with, and the places we’ve been. “Captain” Robbie and I started the year on a boat with our people…

…and since coming ashore, I’ve been hanging out in the classroom with Andrew Murray and Jesus:

I first read Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer back in college, when my brain worked a little better than it does now. Honestly though? Murray’s words are richer the second time around, even if I do have to process some paragraphs twice. (The book, originally published in 1885, says that it’s been “updated for the modern reader,” but I’m guessing that “modern” maybe means different things to different people…)

Anyhow.

Having been “in school” now for almost a month, I can’t wait to share what I’m learning with you!

For starters, Murray maintains that prayer is the most important and influential thing we can do. It is, he says, “the highest part of the work entrusted to us–the root and strength of all other work.”

Underscoring his point, Murray notes that Jesus didn’t teach anybody to preach; rather, He taught people to pray. And His very first pupil wasn’t one of the disciples. It was (and this was an eye-opener for me) the woman He met at the well.

You know the story. Jesus is tired. And thirsty. And probably hot, since it’s the middle of the day. He’s alone by a well and when a Samaritan woman comes along to draw water, He asks her for a drink.

And she says…no.

Not in so many words, of course. But instead of getting water for Jesus, the gal can’t figure out why He’s asking. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman,” she says. “How can you ask me for a drink?”

Again, you know the deal. Samaritans and Jews didn’t fraternize much; to the Jews, Samaritans were “unclean.” And this gal wasn’t just average unclean; she was extra unclean, having had five husbands and a sixth man now sharing her bed. Still, though, Jesus engaged her…

Which is where Andrew Murray comes in.

The woman wanted to know whether worship should happen in Jerusalem (like the Jews thought) or Samaria (like her people thought). Jesus told her that neither answer was the right one, since “a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”

That’s John 4:23. And the way Murray sees it, Jesus was saying that prayer is not confined to a place. It wasn’t limited to Jerusalem or Samaria, any more than it is limited to our churches or even our individual prayer closets. Instead, true worship happens when the Spirit of the Son, dwelling within us, reveals the Spirit of the Father and teaches us how to pray.

All of which points to two truths:

Truth #1: It doesn’t matter who we are or where we’ve been; Jesus wants us to pray, and he is eager to teach us. Never think you are too broken or clumsy or ignorant about churchy stuff to sit in Christ’s classroom. If he took time for the Samaritan woman (whose questions were legit), he will delight in taking time to teach us.

Truth #2: True worship works a whole lot like breathing. Instead of confining our praises and prayers to a particular place or “quiet time,” the Spirit of Christ in our hearts can (and should) connect with God all day long.

And I know, I know. Right now, some of you are thinking: But who has all day? I can barely find five minutes to pray!

I hear you. I thought the same thing, back when we had four kids under age six, and I spent most of my days doing things like cutting grapes, finding socks, or trying to catch a worm so Hillary could take it to school for Pet Day. (Lame, I know, but not nearly as bad as my grandmother, who gave my mother a saucepan on a leash to play with. Truly. But “Fluffy the Pot” is a story for another day…)

Prayer, I figured, was reserved for people who had more time, less children, and a whole lot less laundry than me.

But the thing is, we do have the time. We really do have “all day” to pray.

When we get dressed in the morning (or fold the umpteenth pair of clean socks), we can ask God to clothe us (or our kids) with things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

When we slice up an apple or bite into a berry, we can pray that God will fill our lives with the fruit of His Spirit: things like love, joy, self-control, and peace. (Galatians 5:22)

When we head into a meeting, especially if we aren’t sure how things will go down, we can do like King David and ask God to shape our words and our thoughts so that what comes out will be pleasing to Him. (Psalm 19:14)

And when we collapse into bed at the end of the day, we can thank Him for being the one who offers rest to all who are weary, whether we are burdened in body or soul. (Matthew 11:28-29)

You don’t have to know the verses; you get the idea. Prayer prompts can be found everywhere. And the more we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus, trusting Him as our Teacher, the more he will show them to us!

And speaking of prompts…

If you want a little help jump starting your prayer life in 2019, you can download a free monthly prayer calendar here. There are versions for children, teens, and adults, and you can use the prompts to pray daily or by topic, simply adding the names of the people you love.

And speaking of people you love…

I am more than a little bit grateful for you. Thank you, dear Friends, for sticking with me during the “blog break” last month. I have some fresh ideas to share in the new year–thoughts on family life, prayer helps, and more–and I look forward to seeing where the Lord leads. And as always, I am praying for you:

May God bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

 

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Have Yourself an Amazon Christmas? Not so fast…

Does anybody else have a husband whose phone lets him know when a credit card charge goes through?

Blame it on Amazon Prime. That “Buy now with 1-click” thing makes it a little too easy. And when I overheard Robbie on the telephone with the nice Amex lady, explaining why he thought our card had been hacked, I knew I had to ‘fess up. It’s like I used to tell my teenagers, back in the day. Numbers 32:23. You may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Honestly, though, it didn’t feel like a sin. Not at the time, anyway. It actually felt like a good idea to add this to my cart:

(It’s a Santa suit.)

(For your toilet.)

Before you judge me, be advised that this was not an impulse purchase. Granted, I was not looking for this particular product when it popped up on my screen (because I guess, based on my shopping history, Amazon thought the ensemble was something I’d like?), but I did not “Buy Now” right away. I did some research (and as it turns out, there are actually quite a few companies that make Santa suits for your bathroom), and I read the reviews.

And I know. Right now, some of you are thinking, “Who would review that?” I thought that too. I mean, I can’t get my own family members to leave a comment on Amazon about one of my books, but there are apparently hundreds of strangers who are willing–eager, even–to talk pros and cons when it comes to toilet seat covers featuring three-dimensional cheeks.

To my credit, I will admit that I was tempted to go with the $4.99 suit, but I stopped myself. I chose the $18.99 version instead because I am nothing if not an eager learner, and my very wise smart-shopper husband always says, “You get what you pay for.”

Anyhow.

All of this is to say that this is the last you will hear from me about shopping. I am super grateful to those of you who submitted ideas (especially the gal whose husband went out on Black Friday and came home with SEVENTEEN HAMS, because I guess 16 was just not ham enough?), but clearly, it is time to move on. Let’s talk about something else Christmas.

Let’s talk about best-loved traditions.

My favorite tradition, hands down, is Christmas cards.

I love Christmas cards so much, in fact, that I cannot throw them away. I didn’t really see this as an official Hoarding Situation until I went in the attic to get the ornaments and had to shove my way through boxes of greetings from Christmases past. All stacked and sorted in zip-lock baggies, with the years clearly labeled, as if one of my as-yet-unborn grandchildren will one day ask me what the Hamilton family looked like, circa 2001.

As if.

Why do I hold onto these cards? The most obvious reason, I guess, is relationship. I love the friends we’ve made over the miles and the years. And even if we only see some of these people on their most perfect-looking day, once a year, I’m still grateful to know that they’re out there.

And I love the words, too. I mean, when else can we openly encourage one another to Celebrate Jesus-Fest (which, if you Google it, is pretty much what “Merry Christmas” literally means) without the checkout lady giving us the side-eye?

But there’s more to my strange obsession. I hang onto the cards because, to me, they represent stories that are still being written, lives that are still being shaped.

Once upon a time, when our children were young, we used to post the cards on a bulletin board in the kitchen and leave them for months, praying for a different sender each day. Now that we’re empty nesters, Robbie and I do this mostly alone. We sit by the fire, open the cards, and pray for a new batch of loved ones each night. And when I put stuff away in the attic, and see the little boy who now flies Navy helicopters or the girl who’s all grown up with kids of her own, I can’t help it. I’m thankful. It’s good to remember that God’s still at work.

Does that sound kind of corny? Maybe it is. But in a rush-rush season (one where I am pretty sure that Amazon sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake), carving out even the tiniest bit of time for things that matter–things like connection with God, and with one another–has become a beloved tradition, and one I look forward to every year.

If you like the idea of praying over your cards–or if you just want a few blessings that you can tuck into stockings, or maybe even use to tag gifts–here are a few of my favorite “one-size-fits-everyone” prayers:

Want to download and print ’em? Click here.

And while you’re at it, maybe pray for me, too. Better yet, pray for my family. Because I still have not settled on this year’s “perfect gift.”

Which means that so far…

 

 

 

 

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Grad Tip for Parents: Let God Pick Your Kid’s Career

 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.

It’s graduation season, and I can’t think of a more encouraging verse than Psalm 32:8. Whether our kids are headed to college, to new jobs, or into the great unknown, the whole “What’s next?” thing can be daunting! And as parents, our hearts can feel like a tangled mess of emotions:  pride of accomplishment, sadness over the chapter that’s closing, or even (particularly when we don’t know what the future holds) uncertainty, with maybe a little worry mixed in.

The pride and the sadness are both beautiful things; why else would 97% of all high school yearbooks and 29% of commencement speeches give the nod to Dr. Suess:  Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened?

The uncertainty thing, though, is not so much fun. And if that’s where you are (like, if your child needs a job), I’ve got three things that might help.

The first is something Virginia (who was a college senior at the time) told me, as we discussed her (still hazy) future. “Mom,” she said, “Research shows that 72% of college students don’t have a job lined up before graduation.”

I don’t know whether Virginia was right or not. A point in her favor is that she actually worked in U.Va.’s Career Services office, where she would have had access to numbers like that, but you have to stack that against the fact that she is her mother’s daughter, and statistics (like that bit about yearbooks and speeches) sometimes get made up on the spot. Either way, though, the data made me feel better. And if it helps you to repeat this 72% claim, you can say that you read it in a blog.

The second thing that can help is prayer. It’s not just that you get a “peaceful, easy feeling” when you pray for your child; it’s more that when we bring our sons and daughters before God, we really are making a difference. As Paul told the Corinthians“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (Paul and his pals weren’t looking for work; they were more concerned with facing “deadly peril,” but the principle is the same. Our prayers matter.)

And finally, it can be good to remember the plan. We might not know what it is, but after praying (and yes, worrying) three kids through the job-hunting process, I’m finally coming to realize that God does. He knows exactly how our children are wired (Psalm 139:13-16); he’s already lined up good work for them to do (Ephesians 2:10); and he promises to instruct and counsel them in the way they should go (Psalm 32:8). Our job isn’t to worry or nag; our job–if we want to get on board with God’s plan–is simply to trust him.

So there you go: Repeat iffy statistics, pray for your kids, and trust God. And if you want help with tip #2, the folks at FaithGateway surprised me a few weeks ago when they sent word that they’d pulled a collection of prayers from the Adult Children book and created a beautiful “Praying for Your Graduate” resource for parents (click here to download):The guide includes 21 prayers, all neatly divided by seven so that you can pray one every day for three weeks.

Which, research shows, is about how long it takes for the average college grad to land his first job. 🙂

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A Printable Mother’s Day Present–for YOU!

Mother’s Day is on Sunday. I’ve spent the past few weeks noodling over what sort of present I wanted to give to the moms who follow this blog, and I’m super grateful to the folks at Yellow Leaf Marketing for helping me pull together a series of printable prayer calendars: One for CHILDREN, one for TEENS, and one for ADULTS!

(And heads up: If you don’t have kids of your own, you can download the files and start praying them for yourself, your friends, your spouse, or even–if you read last week’s post on returning blessings for insults–for the people you don’t really like! 😉)

I’ve said it before: There’s not a need we will face in parenting—or, for that matter, in life—that God has not already anticipated, and provided for, in his word.

Which is, for me, good news and bad.

The good news is that, no matter what we desire or need—wisdom, friendships, safety, courage, patience, or anything else—he has us covered. There is a verse (or 20!) that applies!

The bad news is that these calendars cover just 31 days. I had a tough time picking which of God’s promises to tap into and pray. You’ll find a lot of my favorites, but if you’ve got a concern you don’t see in this collection, you know what to do.

Grab your Bible, and just start mining the gold for yourself.

And as you lift up your family, please know that I’m praying for you. Moms (and Dads): May you be steadfast and immovable, always giving yourselves fully to the work of the Lord (like praying for your kids!), because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Happy Mother’s Day!

🌹

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The Life-Giving Power of Blessing

When George Washington was elected president, he rode to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to tell his ailing mother the news. The conversation reportedly went something like this:

George: Guess what? They want me to be president.

Mom: I’m dying.

George, flustered: Well, as soon as I get settled in New York, I’ll come back and …

Mom: This is the last time you’ll ever see me. But go, do your job. That’s more important.

Can’t you just hear her? As a mom, I know I can.

And I can relate to some of the crazy things that Mary Washington asked of her son. For instance, when George was in the Pennsylvania wilderness, fighting a losing battle against the French (and facing dire shortages in everything from tents and ammunition to clothing and food), Mom wrote a letter requesting that he send her a servant and “some butter.”

I’m sure my kids would say I’ve done worse.

But here’s the thing about Mary. Even though she really was dying (she had breast cancer) and could do nothing, tangibly, to help her boy do his job, she understood the power of words. And as they wrapped up what turned out to be their very last convo, she sent her son off with this charge:

“Go George, fulfil the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended for you; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing be with you always.”

Our words carry blessings and curses. Or, as Proverbs 18:21 puts it, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Which kind we speak–words that breathe life, or words that can cripple–is up to us.

And, strange as it sounds, the person our words target doesn’t have to be doing something we like or approve of in order for us to give them a blessing. Grumpy neighbors, irascible co-workers, wayward children—these folks are all candidates for favor. Ma Washington certainly didn’t agree with all of George’s plans and decisions (she told him that joining the Royal Navy was “too dangerous”), and yet she covered her son with life-giving words.

If it seems awkward to bless a child (or anyone else) who does something we don’t like, or who has made a choice that we believe runs counter to God’s commands, consider this: a blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. Rather, when we bless our children, we do the same thing God does when he blesses us: He speaks favor over our lives and points us toward the abundant life he wants us to enjoy.

In blessing someone, we turn them over to God, trusting him to give them a vision for using their talents and abilities, as well as a sense of purpose in life. It’s never too early to do this for our children; consider Hannah’s words when she brought her young son Samuel to the temple: “For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:28).

Nor is it ever too late.

Mary Washington was 80 years old when George was elected, and she died five months later. I’m sure, though, that her final words stayed with him forever. And I pray that as I parent my own adult children (and call them at work to ask them to help me with Facebook—or at least send me some butter), I would give them the very same gift: The knowledge that “Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing would be with them always.”

Is there someone who could use an encouraging word from you today–maybe a co-worker, a child, or a friend over whom you might speak God’s favor?

Numbers 6:24-26 is one of our family’s favorite blessings (and if you like it too, see below for ordering info). It’s one that Robbie and I prayed with, and for, our children as they were growing up:

Monday is Presidents’ Day. Let’s make these life-giving words our prayer this week, using them to forecast God’s favor over our family, our friends, our co-workers, and–whether you like what he’s doing, or not–the guy who got Washington’s job.

Heavenly Father,

Bless ______ and keep them. Make your face shine on ______ and be gracious to them. Turn your face toward ______ and give them peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Amen.

(The image in this post is of a beautifully crafted 5 x 7 print that I purchased in December as a stocking stuffer for our girls. It’s still available from @snowandcompany, and if you’d like to order your own copy, click here. And if you want to read more about blessing and releasing our kids, check out chapter two in Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenIt’s available as a free download at jodieberndt.com.)

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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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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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Your Kids are Never Out of God’s Reach

It’s August.

Which, by force of habit as much as anything else, has me thinking about back-to-school prayers for my kids.

Which would be a little bit odd (my children are grown-ups), except for one thing: It doesn’t matter whether our kids are headed off to kindergarten, college, or to a new job on the other side of the country, they are never out of God’s reach. And to me, the back-to-school season represents as good a time as any to ask God to hold them!

Here are four of the prayers I am praying:

Make Robbie glad by your deeds; may he sing for joy at the works of your hands. (Psalm 92:4)

Keep Virginia from all harm; watch over her coming and going, now and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)

May Hillary and Charlie grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and others [co-workers, bosses, friends, and even each other]. (Luke 2:52)

Keep Annesley and Geoff in perfect peace. Give them a steadfast mind [one that stays focused on you, instead of on “what ifs” or worries] and the ability to trust you. (Isaiah 26:3)

If you want to borrow these prayers and personalize them for your own family, click here to download a letter-sized PDF:

If your children are little, consider writing their names in the blanks and tucking one of the cards into a lunchbox or book bag. If they are far-away grown-ups, you might slip a prayer card into a letter (maybe with a Starbucks gift card, right Virginia?). And if you’ve got teenagers, just stick the prayer on your fridge or your dashboard. Your kids might roll their eyes but trust me:  Deep down, they’ll be glad you are praying.

Or maybe don’t share the prayer cards with anyone. Instead, just do like I do, and keep ’em for yourself. I have mine in my prayer journal. Because even though I might THINK it’s my kids who need God, the truth is that I do, too. I need the reminder (as my crew heads off to new people, new places, new things) that, even though I can’t protect them or give them things like wisdom, peace, and joy, God can.

And in fact, that’s exactly what his heart longs to do.

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From the Bedside Stack: Summer Reading Picks

My bedside table always has a stack of books by a fairly diverse collection of authors.

P.G. Wodehouse (think Downton Abbey, only funnier and more redemptive), C.S. Lewis (just finished Prince Caspian, again), and John Grisham (always a fun beach read, plus he’s a U.Va. fan) have all been in the mix this summer.

You might notice, based on the photo, that one of my own books is there, too. I keep a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children close at hand since, quite honestly, I need it. I might not re-read all the stories, but if one of my kids needs something like wisdom, protection, or even a sense of purpose or direction in life, I love having a collection of prayer verses at the ready. I’ll never forget the night, years ago, when a teenaged Virginia burst into our bedroom and, seeing me sitting up in bed with my book, stopped short. “You are reading your own book?” she asked. “Oh Mom. That is just so sad.”

(What is NOT so sad is that, from now until June 30, you can download the digital version of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children for just 99 cents. Click here to order…and please pass the word!)

Another book I am LOVING was a gift from my eloquent friend, Michelle:

“Shakespeare,” author Mark Forsyth begins, “was not a genius.” He was a great writer who “started out badly” and only got better because he “learnt techniques and tricks.” The Elements of Eloquence is full of such tricks, all artfully articulated (which would be an example, of course, of alliteration). Whether you’re looking to snag a Pulitzer or just step up your thank you note game, this book is a winner.

And finally, I am finding myself longing for more of the Holy Spirit. Happily for me, the gals in our church are doing a summer study on Catherine Marshall’s The Helperan oldie-and-goodie that covers who the Holy Spirit is, what he does, and a whole lot more in 40 bite-sized readings.

Not only that, but I’ve recently discovered a two-book series about the Holy Spirit by Susan Rohrer. Voted “Most Sensible” in high school (a designation she considered an indictment, rather than a compliment), Susan hardly seems the type to delve into things like supernatural gifts. But she does so – with exquisite grace and with a relentless attachment to Scripture, whether she’s talking about “out there” stuff like gifts of healing and prophecy, or the more socially acceptable graces (things like teaching, encouragement, hospitality, and even exceptional creative or technical abilities).

I realize that the Holy Spirit (and particularly his activity in contemporary times) can be a touchy subject in some churches. And I also know (because I’ve seen it happen) that his gifts can be misunderstood or misused. But The Bible in One Year reading plan has us in Acts right now, and when I read Acts 13:52 this week (And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit), I was like, “Yeah. I want THAT.”

If you do, too, check out The Helper or Susan’s books.

And if that’s not where you are (or where you want to go), then just stick with Mark Forsyth. Because, as far as I know, literary tricks like anadiplosis (which I may blog about next week, so start getting excited!!) have never sparked any controversies.

Happy reading!

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“Shocking” New Findings on Friendship

News Flash:  Friendship is good for you.

Researchers at U.Va. recently revealed evidence that backs up the idea that the stronger your relationships are, the better your health will be. I won’t go into all the details (they use words like “hypothalamus” and “epinephrine”), but the gist of the report is that if you are under “the threat of electrical shock,” your brain will be a whole lot happier if “a trusted loved one” is near.

And, if you are holding that person’s hand, all the better.

“Having that hand to hold,” notes the lead scientist, “signals that you have resources – you have safety – so any particular stressor is just not as stressful as it might have been.”

But – and this is my favorite line in the whole article – “Nothing similar was found during stranger handholding.”

(How awesome is it that they actually studied that? I mean, if you took my husband and put him outside in a thunderstorm and asked him to hold hands with a stranger, the threat of electrical shock would NOT be his foremost concern.)

Anyhow…

I love it when science catches up with what Christians have known all along: We are created for connection. We thrive in community. When Jesus told us to “Love one another,” he obviously knew that we’d need an uninhibited hypothalamus in order to effectively respond to stress and other unfortunate circumstances.

In celebration of U.Va.’s findings, I’ve pulled together nine of my favorite “friendship” prayers and created a free printable for you:

To download these prayer cards as a letter-sized PDF (you’ll have to cut them up by yourself), click here. Pray the verses for yourself, for your kids, or for anyone who might feel a little James Taylor coming on (like maybe they are down and troubled, or they need a helping hand).

And remember, next time you get caught in a lightning storm (or if you find yourself in one of U.Va.’s brain imaging scanners while a red indicator “X” hints that you are about to be shocked), God has you.

He is with you, wherever you go.

And, as the psalmist says, he is always holding your hand:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:9-10)

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The “Unbroken Enjoyment” of Waiting

In his classic work, Waiting on God, Andrew Murray says that waiting “gives a higher value and a new power to our prayer and worship” because it links us to God and gives us the “unbroken enjoyment” of his goodness.

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would ever put “waiting” in the same sentence as “unbroken enjoyment.” Not even on the same page. But thanks to one of those cosmic collisions that happens between life and learning, I am starting to believe that Murray might be on to something.

The “life” part of the collision is an unsettling mix of unmet longings and disappointing circumstances, the things I see and experience in the lives of those I hold dear. The dating relationship that was “supposed” to lead to marriage but didn’t. The promotion at work that never materialized. The deal that has not yet closed. The “deferred” notice on the med school application. The gap between homesick and happy for college students. The desire to have a baby (and the heartache that grows with each negative pregnancy test).

Those are the unexpected outcomes – and the unanswered prayers – that can make a person wonder about verses like Isaiah 49:23, which is where God says, “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” 

The “learning” part is the light that is piercing the darkness. Thanks to resources like Murray’s book, as well as a Bible study I am doing right now on the Psalms (click here to see the teachings offered through Galilee Church), I’m cobbling together an understanding of verses like Proverbs 13:12 (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”), and I want to invite you to join me.

Over the next three weeks, I am going to write about what happens when hope is deferred:

What are we supposed to do when our prayers are not answered in the way that we expect – or when they seem to be not answered at all?

How can we handle the grief, or the anger, that can slip in through the door of disillusionment and wrap itself around our hearts?

Is the “unbroken enjoyment of God’s goodness” really an option for believers today? And if so, how do we get there?

Waiting is hard. Murray says that the word patience is actually derived from the Latin word for suffering. That, unfortunately, makes sense. And it might explain why the Bible offers this little pump-up nugget:  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

“Be strong and take courage” are words you might expect to hear at the outset of some adventure, some challenging or difficult enterprise that will tap (and maybe even exhaust) your deepest reserves. And if you don’t want to slog through that mire with me, I get it. Just check back in December, when I promise to post something more fun (an update, perhaps, to the Posture Brace or maybe even the Christmas Sweater).

But if you want to come along for the ride, I’ll leave you with the promise of good things to come:  A rescue, a firm footing, and a new song:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3)

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And PS, for those who might want their own copy of Waiting on God:  You can download the 1896 version for FREE by clicking here, or order the updated version ($5.99, and with language that is easier to follow but still needs maybe a 600 on the SAT Verbal) here.

 

 

 

 

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