God’s Lavish Love Story for Us

What a week!

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage released Tuesday, and it has been PURE JOY to see you sharing the book on social media, reaching out to me via the website, and dropping happy reviews on Amazon. Thank you!

Even more than these things, though, with every “launch week” day that goes by–every podcast, every TV or radio show, every IG Live interview–I’m increasingly convinced that we are treading on holy ground in our marriages…and I find myself scrambling to get out of God’s way! I don’t want to say or do anything to muck up the message: God loves marriage because of the opportunity it represents to spotlight the lavish love story he has for us!

God's lavish love story

I’m still teasing out the love story connection (and its application for both marrieds and singles). Earlier this week, I shared a devotional over at Club31Women, and while it really just scratches the surface, I hope this expanded version lands in your in-box today as a reminder that you really are, as Deuteronomy 7:6 puts it, God’s “treasured possession.” Here you go:

Oh, how He loves us!

What do you want God to do for your marriage?

That’s the question I threw out on social media last year when I began work on the new book about how we can pray for our marriage. You can imagine the answers:  People wanted better communication. Good relationships with their in-laws. Deeper spiritual and physical intimacy. Help handling money—and conflict.

People wanted the power to be kind and the grace to forgive.

These are all valid concerns—and they all made it into the book. Nobody, though, said anything about wanting to discover, and live out, God’s purpose for their marriage.

I’m not pointing fingers; when Robbie and I got married, we didn’t think about what God might want for our marriage (or the other way ‘round). I’m pretty sure I wanted kids and a house and Robbie wanted a dog. Beyond that, our primary desire was to just love one another.

Happily, that’s what God wants as well—for us, and for every marriage. God wants us to love one another because he wants our relationships to showcase the world’s greatest love story!

Over and over again in the Bible, we see evidence of God’s lavish affection:

He invites us to make ourselves at home in his love (John 15:9).

He says he will rejoice over us “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride” (Isaiah 62:5).

And it doesn’t matter whether we are married or single; he promises a love story that lasts: “I will betroth you to me forever.” (Hosea 2:19)

I will betroth you to me forever

“I will betroth you to me forever.” 

I don’t know about you, but that one little line just undoes me.

Walk in love

We are God’s beloved. We can love, he says, because he first loved us. And every time we “walk in love” (as Ephesians 5:2 puts it), giving ourselves up for each other as Christ did for us, we get to partake of the gospel. Which, in a marriage, is something we have a hundred opportunities to do every day.

Walk in love

It might be a simple as bringing the other person a cup of coffee or getting up early to let the dog out. It might be going to the movie that we don’t care about but our spouse wants to see, or extending forgiveness when they were late (again). It might be something bigger. MUCH bigger. But whenever we choose to extend kindness and grace, putting our partner’s needs or desires ahead of our own, we reflect God’s lay-down-his-life love for us.

And that, I am discovering, is what marriage is all about.

Marriage isn’t about “completing” each other or making each other happy. It’s about walking in love. It’s about giving ourselves for one another, even when we are far from perfect or lovable. And it’s about remembering the greatest love story of all: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Thank you, again, for your overwhelming support for the new book. I can’t begin to convey my gratitude here, but please know that I do pay attention to our email community (welcome, new friends!), and I often bring your needs (and sometimes your individual names) before God. As we enter into the weekend, I’m going back to the prayer that has animated and sustained my heart during the past year:

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

❤️

For further reflection:

Take a few moments to consider the lavishness of God’s love. How does God’s betrothal—his desire to call you his own and be with you forever—encourage your heart?

In what ways does your marriage reflect the charge to walk in love and give yourselves up for each other? What role does the Holy Spirit play in equipping you to submit to your spouse out of reverence for Christ (Hint: See Ephesians 5:18-21)? How can you love and support one another this week?

And this probably goes without saying, but if you want to read more about God’s love for us and his purpose for marriage, Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage: Trusting God with Your Most Important Relationship is available now. (Good golly, that’s a fun sentence to type!)

Marriage book available now

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A Spotify “Date Night Playlist” for you

Jodie’s note:  You won’t find any Bible verses, parenting tips, or marriage prayers in this post. I’m just popping in to say, “Happy Friday!” and share a Date Night Playlist with you—both as a THANK YOU for being part of this email community and because we’re LESS THAN TWO WEEKS from book launch day! I can’t wait to kick back, pop the champagne, and press PLAY on a date night with my man. We had fun pulling these songs together; here’s hoping you enjoy the playlist as much as we do!

Date night playlist 2

They say opposites attract. And I think they are right.

When I met Robbie in college, he wore khakis and blue button-downs. I sewed my own clothes—and I wasn’t above adding glitter or paint to upgrade an otherwise ho-hum ensemble.

I went to an Assembly of God church where we danced in the aisles; Robbie’s family worshipped at a little stone church, built in 1755, where the proper wooden pews came with a door.

When I went on a run, I played one of two tracks on my Sony Walkman:  Side A or Side B of my Amy Grant cassette tape. Robbie mixed his own tapes (I didn’t know you could do that, back then), featuring bands I had never heard of. Bands like The Talking Heads. The Violent Femmes. Devo (a band that did not, as it turned out, have anything to do with your quiet time).

Music and Lyrics

Today, nearly four decades later, not much has changed.

Robbie’s still sporting khaki-and-blue; I cheered for LSU on the strength of Coach Mulkey’s outfit alone. Church-wise, we’re part of a Bible-believing Episcopal church where, even though there’s no dancing, you do sometimes see upraised hands. And on the listening front, I’m more committed than ever to the praise tunes (and to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, which I hope someone plays at my funeral), but—Violent Femmes aside—I’ve learned to love the songs my man picks.

Which is why curating this Date Night Playlist was so much fun.

Spoiler alert:  It’s an eclectic collection, a mix of Christian and secular tunes. Robbie likes the way a song sounds; I like what it says. To us, the playlist represents the best of both worlds: music and lyrics.

To access our date night playlist, click here.

And if you want to know more about how this list came together (including my favorite song, Robbie’s  top pick, and the one that we both adore), we’ll be talking about music, date nights, and other fun marriage stuff today at noon on Instagram Live. Click here to get to my Instagram page—and if you miss us at noon, you can always head to my Instagram page later and tap this button to get the replay:

IG Live icon for playlist

Oh—and one more freebie for those who like listening:

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage comes in an audio version, narrated by me. Here’s a sneak peek (a sneak listen?) to the chapter on handling conflict. Did you know the average couple argues about 312 per year? (That somehow makes me feel better!)

Click here for the audio chapter. And as you listen, if you think dancing to Bon Jovi being covered by a Dad Band sounds fun, consider us friends. 😊

❤️

P.S. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s already pre-ordered Praying the Scriptures for Your MarriageY’all are just the best.

Date Night playlist 3

 

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Gorillas on the guest list? That sounds fun!

Some weddings are more fun than others.

And in what I still consider one of the biggest wedding whoopsies of all time, we didn’t hire a photographer to capture the memories when my mother married John 17 years ago. You’ll just have to use your imagination when I tell you that a gorilla kidnapped Mom off the dance floor and whisked her away in a boat, whereupon John–looking every bit like James Bond in his spiffy tuxedo–jumped on a jet ski and gave chase.

Gorillas on the guest list or not, the union of husband and wife is, as we’re often reminded at weddings, “intended by God for their mutual joy.” God wants us to have fun together! And laughter, as it turns out, really is good medicine:  According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and soothes tension through improved circulation. It combats depression and anxiety and increases self esteem. And the positive thoughts that trigger laughter also release neuropeptides that improve our immune systems.

Not only that, but laughter can help us connect and “make it easier to cope with difficult situations.”

What marriage couldn’t use more of that?

Get serious about having fun

Having fun together might sound like something that happens naturally in a marriage (why would you marry somebody you didn’t enjoy?). But even the most upbeat, well-matched couples will go through hard seasons–months or years, even–when we need to guard against joy stealers like stress and fatigue.

So what do we do? How do we intentionally make space to play, to enjoy one another, to laugh?

You could order a book of dad jokes. I did that one year for Robbie (Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom? Because the “P” is silent), and we shared a few groans. In retrospect, a better idea is to talk to our actual Dad–the one who wants us to have fun and be joyful–and ask him to help. We can borrow King David’s words to shape our prayer:  “Make known to us the path of life; fill us with joy in your presence.” (Psalm 16:11)

Marriage prayer for joy

As we pray, we can also ask ourselves a few questions:

What would it take for us to be more intentional about having fun?

Are there things we need to let go of in order to make space to play? Do we need to get away together?

What does fun look like to you?

Having fun looks different for everyone. For instance, Robbie has fun anytime that he’s on a boat. Me, I have fun anytime I can talk my man into pretending he’s happy to be in a picture with one of my books.

Having fun on a boat

Don’t yuck each other’s yum

As you think about what you and your spouse might want to do–take a dance class, attend a music festival, or embark on some unexpected adventure–take turns making plans. And try to make twice-a-month date nights a regular part of your marriage routine. According to a new report from the National Marriage Project at UVA and the Wheatley Institute, regularly dating your spouse is linked to a happier and more stable relationship–one marked by better communication, less stress, more satisfying sex, and a stronger commitment to their marriage.

(All of which sounds fun to me!)

And as our daughters told us when they were teens, “Don’t yuck each other’s yum.” Just because something doesn’t sound fun to you doesn’t mean it won’t be fun if you try it–at least once–with your spouse. Robbie rolled his eyes when I bought a pickleball net and handed him the sidewalk chalk to map out a court in our driveway. Maybe it’s because the driveway slants a bit and is ringed by some particularly prickly holly bushes, but when we invited another couple to join us, we laughed ’til our stomachs hurt.

Brainstorm some ideas and give them a try. Be intentional about creating a climate in which laughter can thrive. And whether you’re naturally funny or not (and if not, that’s okay; the world needs regular people who appreciate the fact that other people invite gorillas to show up at their wedding), ask God to help you rejoice.

Jesus came, after all, to tell us how to live so his joy would be in us and our joy, as John 15:11 puts it, would be “full.”

❤️

P.S. There’s a whole chapter on having fun together in the new book. And when you pre-order a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Marriageyou can get immediate access to a set of printable conversation cards, a collection designed to help you connect with each other (and with God!) about all sorts of topics.

Having fun together

And while I have no idea who snapped this photo, I’m forever grateful to the guest who had the presence of mind to take a pic on the dance floor, moments before the D.J. started playing the theme from King Kong…

Wedding fun

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God’s Purpose for Your Marriage

Why did (or do) you want to get married? Other than the obvious reasons—you love someone and want to spend your life with that person—is there a bigger purpose at work?

Robbie and I hadn’t really talked about marriage before he proposed (it’s one of two times I’ve been utterly gobsmacked by a move that he’s made), and we certainly didn’t head to the altar with any sort of goal or “purpose” in mind. Sure, we had big-picture ideas—I envisioned kids and the picket-fence thing; I am pretty sure Robbie wanted a dog (and “I” got a birthday puppy one year, which was the second gobsmack)—but we’d never really considered what God thought about marriage. Or what his vision for our marriage might be.

Now, nearly four decades later, I am finally waking up to the fact that God does have a vision for marriage. As I pulled the pages together for the new book—talking with dozens of couples about their own perspectives on purpose and exploring the Bible to see what God had to say—I’m boiling it all down to this:

God wants us to bear fruit in our marriages and he wants our relationships to showcase the gospel.

Purpose of marriage: bear fruit and showcase the gospel

The Christian idea of marriage is one of mutual submission and service, one where we give up ourselves—our rights, our desires, our position, our needs—for each other out of love. Even (maybe especially?) when we are not pretty or perfect, or we don’t think that the other person deserves it.

The privilege we have to build marriages that reflect the gospel as we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” is the theme that undergirds pretty much every chapter in Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage. But the other part of our mission—the fruit-bearing part—can look different for every couple. Sure, it’s a charge the Lord gives to every believer (he chose us, he says in John 15:16, so that we might go and bear lasting fruit), but how do we do that, exactly?

A vision for your marriage 

For many folks, the idea of “being fruitful” in marriage means having children. (At least that’s what my mom seems to think, since she signed every one of our engagement and wedding gift cards with Genesis 1:28 and a big smiley face.) Honestly though, that’s only part of the picture. The fruit-bearing charge is one that pops up again and again in the Bible. “I chose you,” Jesus says in John 15:16, “so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”

So how do we do that, exactly? How can we be sure that our lives—and more specifically, our marriages—will be meaningful and productive, in a way that endures? What if we have different ideas about, say, the best uses of money and time? How can we merge our individual (maybe even competing) desires so we have a unified sense of calling?

Those are legitimate questions—questions that have led many couples to lean in and do the same thing many businesses and ministries do and create a “purpose statement” for their marriage.

Having a purpose statement is like adding bumper guards to your relationship: it can keep you in your own lane as you consider the unlimited ways to spend your limited time, talents, and energy. Some couples write their statement in paragraph form, others prefer bullet points that detail their core values (service, adventure, humility, etc.). One fellow I talked with keeps notebooks for the different goals he and his wife have for their marriage; other people—like my mom and her husband—keep their vision simple. “We just want to bless and cherish each other,” Mom told me, “and then do that again the next day.”

Praying about your purpose

Whether you’ve got a big picture vision, a detailed notebook, or you find yourself somewhere in between, it can help to remember what Jesus says about purposeful, productive living: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Put another way, the power to discover and live out our purpose doesn’t come from our own strength or striving; it comes from our attachment to Christ.

Not only that, but Jesus makes it pretty clear that fruitfulness begins with prayer. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you,” he continues in John 15:7-8, “ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Ask…that you bear much fruit.

If praying about your purpose (and doing so with your spouse) feels awkward or unfamiliar, you’re not alone. Research suggests that only 4 percent of Christian couples pray together—about anything—despite evidence that points to a divorce rate of less than 1 percent among those who pray together daily. Still though, I want you encourage you to give it a try, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes. Set a timer if that helps; do what works!

How to pray about your purpose

As you pray, start by asking the Holy Spirit to help you answer some clarifying questions:

What are your individual strengths? What unique gifts do you have as a couple? What is it that you find easy to do, where others might struggle?

Your strengths

What do you love to do, even if it’s hard? When do you feel most alive? What gives you purpose and joy?

Your passions

Where can you make an impact? What does your wider sphere of influence look like? How might God want to use you in that space?

Your impact

Those questions aren’t meant to be all-inclusive; rather, they’re designed to help form your thoughts as you pray. And where you come up against thorny patches—individual strengths that feel competitive, priorities that seem misaligned, personality traits or individual longings that have you and your spouse pointed in opposite directions—bring those to God, too.

Your differences don’t catch God by surprise; in fact, they may be the very things that equip you to fulfill your calling. They may be what makes you, as our friends Alyssa and Jefferson Bethke put it, “Stronger together.”

You can read more about fulfilling your purpose in the new book. It releases April 25, and—

What’s that you say? You don’t want to wait? You want to start bearing fruit now?

Well alrighty then. I’ve got some good news. Great news, actually. All you need to do is pre-order the book (which is super easy; click here) and then click here to let us know your order number. We’ll send you a set of 20 different conversation cards—including one on FULFILLING YOUR PURPOSE—so you can start talking (and praying!) about all sorts of good marriage topics TODAY!

Fulfilling your purpose conversation card

Conversation Card Collection

Conversation cards (tulips)

I hope you like these cards as much as Robbie and I do. We had fun coming up with the questions—they got us talking!—and now we’re having even more fun talking to God about all of the stuff!

More to come in the weeks ahead—and as always, I am grateful for you!

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

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Five best ways to talk to your spouse

This post about how you can talk to your spouse appeared earlier this week at Club31Women, a place where you’ll find articles, books, and other helpful resources to help your family flourish. I’m sharing the article here in case you missed it—and because I want you, my email friends, to be the first to access TWO FREE CHAPTERS from the new book that can help you talk (and listen!) to your spouse with love.

Five Strategies for Talking with Love

My husband Robbie and I once hosted a large dinner party where, to ensure a good mix of conversation at every table, we seated guests according to whether we thought of them as a Q or an L. Everything was going well—everyone seemed engaged in some lively discussion—until one of the “L’s” noticed the scrap of paper I forgot to remove from under his plate and demanded to know what it was.

Not knowing how else to handle the situation, I confessed.

“You’re kind of loud” I said, “so you got an L. The gal to your left is a bit quieter—she listens more than she talks—so she’s a Q.”

The room went silent for a beat and then erupted in laughter as the L’s began identifying (and congratulating) themselves on being the life of the party. The Q’s exchanged knowing glances, which made them seem mysterious and alluring.

Neither communication style is the “right” one; talkative or reserved, we all have room to improve. And when it comes to marriage, if we want to talk—and listen—to our partner with love, five strategies can help.

Five strategies for talking with love

First, set the stage. As unromantic as it might sound, good communication flourishes with a little advance planning. Pick a regular time to connect—whether it’s a weekly date night or ten minutes every morning over a pot of French press coffee—even if you don’t have anything major to discuss. That way, when something important does come along, the pathway to being present for each other will be comfortable and familiar.

Second, don’t expect your spouse to be a mind reader. I’ll never forget the gal who texted her fiancé on Valentine’s Day to say she did not need flowers. To her, that was a hint: she’d really like to get flowers. To him, it was confusing—especially because he had (fortunately!) already purchased a bouquet. Clear communication is key; we have to say what we mean. And if a topic is particularly important, it can help to ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” as a way to be sure that your partner is paying attention.

Third, keep it positive. Our brains retain more negative than positive thoughts, and the buildup from hurtful or disparaging words can create an atmosphere of hopelessness or resentment. We’ll obviously need to talk about difficult things, but we can choose how we frame these conversations. If finding something positive to say feels like a stretch, ask God to show you how He sees your spouse. Be alert to the beauty God reveals and speak that—both to and about your spouse. Studies show that speaking well of someone actually influences you to look on them more favorably and with greater appreciation! A win-win!

Fourth, be responsive. Every day, we make dozens of observations or requests of our spouse, often with something as simple as, “Look at that sunset!” When you recognize and reply to what’s been said (“Wow! That is beautiful!”), connection happens. When you ignore your partner (or pay more attention to your phone or the TV or whatever), bonds break down. Look for ways to connect and show support for each other in the seemingly insignificant interactions of daily life.

Why Jesus asked questions

And finally, ask questions. Even the simplest queries—What’s the best thing that happened today?—can make your spouse feel valued and loved. Jesus understood the power and importance of questions, and he asked far more than he answered: Do you want to get well? Why are you so afraid? What do you think?

Jesus knew all the answers, of course. His questions weren’t intended to produce information; rather, they were designed to build relationships, create conversation, and take his listeners to a new level of understanding. Which, at the end of the day, is what we all want in our marriages, right?

We all want to be deeply known.

We want to be understood.

It doesn’t matter if we are loud, quiet, or somewhere in between; we all want to be able to look at our spouse and ask what may well be the most powerful of all the Lord’s questions—Do you love me?—and know that the answer is yes.

Make it personal (and get a sneak peek at the new book)

Think about the communication patterns in your marriage. Do your words build up or tear down? Do you confide in your spouse? Ask good questions? If you don’t have a regular date night or “connection time” on the calendar, build that into your schedule. It may feel awkward at first, but trust God to work in and through your conversation as you build a marriage where intimacy and connection can flourish.

You can read more about good communication in Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage: Trusting God with Your Most Important Relationship. The book is available now for pre-order (click here), but if you just can’t wait to get started, click here to get exclusive early access to two chapters designed to help us talk (and listen!) with love. 

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage Promo Graphic

And in the meantime, here are three of my favorite “talking and listening with love” prayers you can use right this minute to pray for your marriage:

Heavenly Father,

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14)

Let our conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we will know how to answer each other. (Colossians 4:6)

Tune our ears toward wisdom and our hearts to understanding, especially as we talk about _______. (Proverbs 2:2)

Amen

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How to pray for your marriage

How can you pray for your marriage? What do you want God to do for you and your spouse? Where do you need his help?

If you’ve been part of our email friend group for more than a minute, you may remember when I first began asking questions like these, both here and on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Your answers covered a wide and wonderful spectrum. You wanted God’s help when it came to handling conflict, talking about money, and navigating differences in your faith. You wondered about dealing with parents and in-laws. You wanted to know how to honor and protect one another—and to extend forgiveness when you fall short.

And you wanted to have fun together.

Robbie and I want these things too. We want God to teach us to love and cherish each other in everything from our communication to how we meet one another’s physical and emotional needs. As empty nesters, we want to cultivate a marriage that doesn’t grow stale but follows the Proverbs 4:18 promise: The longer they live, the brighter they shine. And, perhaps more than anything else, we want to know how to prayfor each other, and for our marriage.

Which is why I am sliding into your in-box today with a printable marriage prayer card

Marriage Prayer Card you can print

…and counting the weeks until the NEW BOOK releases!

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage Promo Graphic

I know what the book says, of course (I’ve stared at the pages umpteen times in the editing process), but there’s something about holding a book in your hands—one that has prayers all written out and accessible for every need—that makes trusting God seem so much more do-able.

Marriage Prayers for growing in kindness

Book Covers - Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage

Handling conflict in marriage

Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage is not a book about “fixing” your spouse. Nor it is one that highlights any kind of idealized Christian marriage. It’s a book for real-life marriages with stories from real-life couples—couples who know what it’s like to struggle and stumble, even as they move toward that sweet spot of grace. It is a book about bringing your cares and your questions to God—the One who works in us to desire and do what pleases him—and then trusting him with the outcomes.

And there will be outcomes.

Study after study details the benefits that come with mutual prayer—perks that include a higher satisfaction in marriage, a greater sense of emotional well-being, and even better sex. Even when you’re fed up with your spouse (they left their towel on the floor, they were late again, they sing off-key in the shower), praying helps. “Prayer gives couples a chance to calm down,” is how a piece in the Wall Street Journal put it. “And it reinforces the idea that you’re on the same team.”

If praying together is not something that would fly in your home—maybe your spouse is not a believer, or they aren’t sure prayer works, or one or both of you just balk at what feels like a strange or unfamiliar idea—that’s okay. This is a book meant to help you pray as you can, not as you can’t.

When Robbie and I taught marriage courses at our church, we understood that a lack of prayer in a marriage did not in any way signal a lack of love. One of the things we encouraged couples to do, if they were not comfortable praying together, was to consider the material, reflect on the questions, and then ask one another:

“What’s something I can do to support you in this area? How can I let you know you are loved?”

How can I let you know you are loved?

Malachi 3:16 says, “Those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” Could it be that God pays attention when we talk with each other? Might he even receive these conversations as prayers? When they’re birthed in the context of marriage—a relationship that’s designed to reflect God’s covenant love and be a picture of the gospel of grace—we have to believe that he would.

I wish I could put a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage in your hands right this minute! For now, I’m contenting myself with this gift: A printable Marriage Prayer designed exclusively for my email subscribers. The card includes some of my favorite scripture-prayers from the book, prayers Robbie and I have prayed for our own marriage as well as for our adult children as they’ve begun their new lives as husbands and wives.

Marriage Prayer Card (with Robbie and Mary)

I hope you like this marriage prayer card as much as I do. Click here to download (you’ll be asked to verify your email address and then you’ll get a link to the card in your inbox). You’ll find two identical prayers on the page: One for you, and one you can share with a friend or tuck into an engagement card or anniversary gift (did you know that PAPER is the traditional gift for celebrating the first year of marriage?).

Speaking of gifts…

The new book comes in two formats: a softcover that’s perfectly sized for your nightstand or for slipping into your purse, and a hardback version with a clean, simple cover—something a man might pick up. Something that feels “just right” for a wedding or anniversary gift. (In fact, if you invite me to your wedding in the next year or two, don’t be surprised to find the hardcover slipped into the box with the crockpot or the wine glasses from the registry; I’m stocking up!)

I’ll be sharing more about Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage as release day draws near, along with a few more fun freebies that are in the design phase right now. I have LOTS of ideas to help us pray about our most important relationship, and I’m running them all by Robbie to get his input. Because let’s face it: What’s a great marriage idea if your man’s not on board?

And speaking of being on board…

Robbie and I kicked off the new year (our 38th as a married couple) with two weeks on a boat.

Jodie and Robbie on a boat

It doesn’t matter if it’s a canoe or a catamaran, my man is happiest when he’s on the water. I’m still navigating my role as First Mate (and there may or may not be a forthcoming blog about some of our boating “adventures” and how God used them to, um, strengthen our marriage), but all told, we had a great time. Our adult children were with us for part of the voyage; if you’re wondering how many grown-ups can fit in a dingy, the answer is “at least ten.”

10 in a dingy

❤️

P.S. If you’d like to pre-order the book (and get the “best price” guarantee when you do), I would be super grateful. I don’t know much about algorithms, but pre-orders let retailers know when to stock up and which books they want to showcase for their readers. Which feels helpful… 😉

And in the meantime, here’s what Robbie and I are praying for you:

May your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

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Prayer Journal Giveaway (just for my email friends)

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

Prayer Journal giveaway

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

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

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

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

I liked it when prayer worked like a vending machine.

But that’s not how Jesus sees prayer.

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

Christ's model for prayer quote

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

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

An animated conversation with God

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

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

prayer journal for the people you love

A tether for your trust

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

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

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

Journal cover

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

❤️

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

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

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Marriage (and why I lived in a bathrobe)

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

But first, a little backstory.

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

Marriage Survey Responses

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

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

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

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

A toast to the marriage manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Father,

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

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

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

Amen.

❤️

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

marriage prayer card

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

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Does God really want to hear us complain?

Does God really want to hear us complain?

That’s one of the questions Valerie Woerner tackles in her new book, Pray Confidently & Consistently. Earlier this week, I invited Val to join me as a guest on my IG Live series, Conversations on Prayer. I’d read her book, and I was eager to pick her brain about how we can experience a more rich and satisfying prayer life.

IG Live with Valerie Woerner

We covered all sorts of ground, from why we pray to how we can let go of the things that hold us back. Things like feeling like we have to clean up our act to come to God (or like it’s not cool to complain)…uncertainty about what we should pray for…or wondering whether God even hears our prayers when we don’t see anything happening.

If you missed our conversation, you can watch it on my IGTV (scroll to the bottom of this post for the how-to’s if this is new tech for you…it is for me!). And in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy quick snippet of wisdom from the new book. I don’t have space to print the whole thing, but here are some highlights from Chapter 6…

Pray Confidently & Consistently book

Learning to Lament, Doubt, and Cry Out to God

Val admits, right off the top, that she is a “great complainer” – but that she would “never” complain to God.

“Why would I”” she writes. “How could I? How tacky! How classless! How…much like David, the man after God’s own heart.”

It’s true. The Psalms are full of lamenting and “Why, God?” prayers. (Check out Psalm 13 if you need a for instance.) And that was tricky for Val. She didn’t understand why God would welcome a prayer marked by complaining, doubt, or lament – at least not until she recognized that when we make it look like we have it all together, we miss out on a closer connection with God.

“When someone sees all your quirks and habits and sticks with you,” she writes, “it deepens the intimacy because you know how fully loved you are.” The alternative – attempting to seal off our closet of complaints from God’s sight (even though we know nothing is hidden from him) – prevents us from fully experiencing and enjoying that love.

Why we complain

Our questions, confusion, and even complaints can never shock God. He formed our minds; he knows we don’t know everything. And so, Val concludes, “I think he responds with patience, much as we do with our kids, knowing that their understanding is limited.”

Which is, she says, the nutshell explanation for why we complain:  We complain because we don’t see the full picture.

“If we did see everything,” Val writes, “I think we’d agree with God’s plan, but instead we see just a snippet. We ache as we feel the pain in our own lives, lives that feel like all we have because we can’t imagine how they fit into the larger picture of eternity.”

So what do we do? How do we make sure our moments of sadness and doubt look like David’s lament (which God honored) and not the Israelites’ whining to Moses (which got them in trouble with God)?

Four Essentials in Healthy Lament

Val outlines four steps for effectively shaping complaints into prayers that God longs to hear:

First… Go Directly to God

There are things we feel perfectly comfortable complaining to our family about; in Val’s case, it was the rain (okay, hurricane) that ruined their beach trip. But bugging God with this stuff? That just feels petty.

And yet, Val says, who we take our complaints to matters. God is waiting to change our hearts. He knows, she writes, that “any hope of transforming our complaints and whines into heart-changing laments is going to come in his presence. If we want gratitude and faith to replace the entitlement or doubts in our hearts, it will only happen when we take these things to the one who created those hearts.

Transforming complaints into heart-changing laments

Next…  Acknowledge Your Pain

David gets brutally real with God (see, for example, Psalm 6:6-7 and 44:23-26), and so should we. God can handle our honesty; it’s when we leave out the pain or gloss over the wounds that our prayers start to sound phony.

“You might be wrestling with lots of doubts at the moment,” Val writes. “Maybe there’s a sin you keep buried in the closet and have yet to confess. Or perhaps you’re grieving and angry at God. Prayer may feel impossible, but you’re in a better spot than you think. You have nothing to offer, but that’s always been true. It’s just more visible now.”

Tell God how you feel; he can handle it.

Third…  Make Your Request

“Make your requests known to God, and listen for his answer.”

That’s Val’s advice, along with a word of caution:  “Don’t assume that if [God] wanted to give you relief, blessing, or freedom from the struggle, he would have already done it. Our God gives good gifts to his children, as we’ve seen in Matthew 7:11, but he also tells us to ask for them.”

And finally…  Praise Well

“When we complain to anyone besides God, our experience is hopeless and defeated. But when we lament to God, we get out of our personal reality and get into God’s. We remind ourselves of the truth and hope we have in Jesus. This is why praise is a necessary part of lament.”

God doesn’t want us to come to him with all our drama because he loves it. He wants us to come because he loves usHe knows he’s the ONLY one who, Val says, “can redeem our complaints and comfort us in our laments.”

And it’s okay if we have to keep reminding ourselves of this truth – if we (as Val puts it) “seesaw back and forth from lament to praise.” David did that. He gave voice to the truth again and again, taking hold of what he knew in his mind and speaking it to his heart.

Don’t be afraid of hurts, doubts, and frustrations. Take them to God, throw off the weight of facades, and realize that you are fully known…and fully, deeply, unconditionally loved.

❤️

Want to know more about releasing your complaints to the Lord? Read all of Chapter 6 in Pray Confidently & Consistently. 

Or watch the IGTV interview, where Val shares more on this topic. Go to my Instagram feed and click the thing that looks like a little TV:

Jodie's IG Feed

 

Or just spend a few minutes sharing your lament, honestly, with the One who can help. Be encouraged by Christ’s invitation…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

❤️

As always, I only tell you about books I truly love; if you purchase via the link in this email, I get a small commission.

 

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Hearing God’s Voice in a Noisy World

(Note: This post about Hearing God’s Voice ran earlier this week over at Club31Women. If this topic is of interest to you, you’ll find a deeper discussion, along with some questions for reflection and prayers you can pray, in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Life.)

praying the scriptures for your life

“How,” my six-year-old daughter Annesley wanted to know, “can you tell if it’s God speaking to you, or if it’s just your own voice in your head?”

A fair question, and one that many grown-ups might be asking today. And my answer, I thought, started well.

“For one thing,” I said, “God’s voice will never contradict Scripture.”

Annesley looked a bit blank, so I plowed ahead (and here’s where things got a bit dicey). “Like, the Bible says things like ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ So if you ever feel like God is telling you to kill your mother, you can be sure that this isn’t his voice.”

(Okay, okay. I’d just had four kids in six years. I was not at the top of my intellectual game.)

“Kill your mother?” Annesley repeated, incredulous (which I took as a good sign.) But then she folded her arms and gave it some thought.

“If that was God,” she finally concluded, “he’d have to have a pretty good reason.”

Anyhow.

I know my example may not be the most appropriate one, but it’s theologically true. When God tells us something, it will never run counter to what he says in the Bible. That’s one sure way we can check to test whether the voice we are hearing is his.

Another plumb line is that God may convict or correct us, but he never condemns. You know that inner voice that says, “You’re pathetic… You stink… Shame on you”? Yeah. That one. That one is not God. That’s our enemy, the accuser. Also known as the father of lies.

Don’t listen.

Listen, instead, for encouraging words. Words that build you up and prepare you to live a purpose-filled life. God’s voice is like his written Word, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training” so that we “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

And finally, God’s voice is never scattered or frantic, and it’s rarely loud. It may even come as a whisper. And it may take a while to discern. Moses knew the value of seeking God’s counsel before plowing ahead. “Wait,” he said to a group of ceremonially unclean Israelites who were eager to celebrate the Passover, “until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.” (Numbers 9:8)

These three signs—consistency with Scripture, convicting rather than condemning, and focused rather than frantic—are hallmarks of God’s voice. There are others, of course. But the main thing to remember (and this whole concept kind of undoes me) is that God wants to be in conversation with us.

He longs to reveal himself. To give us direction. To bend down, incline his ear, and talk with us—as he did with Moses—“as one speaks to a friend.” (See Psalm 116:2 and Exodus 33:11)

What a privilege we have as believers to be able to enter into conversation with Almighty God.

Hearing God's Voice questions

Is there a decision you’re currently facing? A situation where you need to know how to respond? A place where you long to experience unshakable peace, instead of worrying that you might do the wrong thing?

Meditate on the incredible opportunity you have to talk things over with God. Ask him to provide the direction you need. Pay attention to anything the Holy Spirit whispers to your heart as you listen for God’s voice, and allow his word—as revealed in the pages of Scripture—to shape your perspective and show you what to do.

Here’s a simple, but powerful, prayer you can pray:

Heavenly Father,

Teach me what is best, direct me in the way I should go, and help me pay attention to your commands so I will experience your peace. (Isaiah 48:17-18)

Amen

Isaiah 48:17-18 prayer

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Sneak Peek! (and last chance to preorder)

Book Cover (sneak peek)

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life releases NEXT WEEK! Here’s a sneak peek just for YOU, my email friends – and I’m sending this note this with a heart FULL of gratitude for all the ways you’ve encouraged me throughout the writing process.

The book has two parts.

Part One is called “An Invitation to Abide.” It’s a big-picture look at what connection to Christ looks like in real life, and how we can become people of impact as we allow God’s Word to give shape to our desires and our prayers.

Part Two is more nitty-gritty. That’s where we dig into 31 different topics (one for each day of the month, if that pace appeals) where we need to experience God’s power and provision. Things like loving hard people. Extending forgiveness. Praying for our marriage or our children. Hearing God’s voice. Using talents, time, and money wisely. Waiting on God. Aging well. Dealing with the pain of unanswered prayers.

You get the idea. If it matters to you, it matters to God – and his Word has us covered.

Each chapter starts with a story, winds its way through some Scripture, and wraps up with three “R’s” designed to strengthen our connection with Christ: Read, Reflect, and Remember.

Read highlights a few verses that equip us to trust God with the topic at hand. Day 14, for example, is about Finding Freedom from Worry and Fear. Psalm 57:3, Philippians 4:6-7, and Matthew 6:31-33 are three faith-building promises that can help shape our understanding:

Read

Next, the Reflect section invites us to go a bit deeper and apply God’s promises to our particular and specific circumstances, with reminders like this:

“Whatever this situation is, it has not taken him by surprise. Consider the fact that God may be cluing you in to a problem or need, not to get you to panic, but to invite you to pray.”

Reflect

And finally, the Respond pages offer a collection of Scripture-based prayers like this one:

Thank you that you know my needs. When I am tempted to worry about ____, help me replace fear with faith. Show me how to seek you above all else, trusting your promise to give me all that I need. (Matthew 6:32-33)

Respond with prayer

You can pray all the verses right then and there, or pick just one or two to return to throughout the day. (Or the week. Or the month, if that’s more your style. This book is a resource, not a ritual. 😉)

So there’s your sneak peek. I hope you’ll like this one as much as I do, and that you’ll join me in allowing God’s Word to transform your desires and give power to your prayers. You were made—you were chosen!—for this.

John 15:16

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16)

❤️

P.S. Release Day is June 8th…which means there’s still time to pre-order…which means you can still access all the fun bonus content like the “Five for Five” five-minute video devotions and the mini-conversations on prayer. Details at JodieBerndt.com. Whoop!

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Making (and Keeping) Good Friends

College Friends Photo

These girls. We’ve shared each other’s heartaches and joys for more than forty years, since we first met in college. And as I wrote about the gift of friendship in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, I couldn’t help but thank God for Susan and Barbie— and for the fact that they weren’t put off when they realized that my idea of “dorm room essentials” included a suitcase full of bathing suits and a beach chair.

Barbie was a U.Va. volleyball player who hailed from the mountains of Tennessee. I’d never met anyone who could clog, but drop Rocky Top on the record player and up she would jump. Susan, a native Tarheel, danced the Carolina shag with effortless grace, and she knew—and actually used—every vocabulary word on the SAT test.

(“Corybantic,” she said, was how I danced.)

Corybantic definition - wild, frenzied

I adored (and yes, envied) these gals for their brains, their athletic prowess, and their flawless dance moves. But what really got my attention—and what eventually knit us together in a forever friendship—was seeing how much Barbie and Susan loved Scripture and the way they lived out their beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. These gals were not theologians. They were certainly not pious or perfect. And they knew next to nothing about Hebrew and Greek (unless you count knowing which fraternity boys were the best dancers). Susan and Barbie simply recognized the value of verses like Romans 12:15 (“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”), and used pillars like that to fortify their friendships. They came alongside other people with laughter and tears, doubling joys and dividing burdens, whether they were hanging out with the cool kids or just talking to me.

(Did I mention that, along with a beach chair, I brought a sewing machine with me to U.Va.? Yeah. I made my own party dresses…)

Me in my homemade party dress with my friends

Fast forward forty years.

Susan, Barbie, and I have celebrated, grieved, and prayed our way through career choices, marriage decisions, parenting curve balls, health concerns, faith questions, cross-country (and cross-ocean) moves, and the twists and turns that now come with caring for grandbabies and aging parents.

We’ve prayed our way, in other words, through life. And I could not be more grateful.

Because friendship is something I don’t take for granted. I’ve lost count of how many times, over the years, I’ve wrestled with loneliness—whether because we’d just moved to a new town or because I simply (and sometimes inexplicably) felt bereft in a place I’d called “home” for years.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

What then? What do we do when we’re feeling that ache? When we don’t know where we belong, or who “our people” are? Or when we find ourselves in a crowd and yet feel like we’re kind of alone?

We can start with prayer. God created us for connection; we are hard-wired, science tells us, for love. We can ask God to give us—and make us—good friends, and to open our eyes to the life-giving relationships he wants us to cultivate.

Those are prayers God delights to answer. Just like he delights to come alongside us as the friend who is “for” us—as our advocate, our counselor, our giver of joy. God delights in friendship.

You’ll find dozens of friendship prayers in the new book (click here to pre-order), but if you just want a few you can pray right now, here are three of my favorites:

Heavenly Father,

Surround me with friends who spur one another on toward love and good deeds so that we can encourage one another when we get together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Friendship Prayer - Hebrews 10:24-25

Make me the kind of friend who is kind and compassionate, quick to forgive, and willing to carry other’s burdens. (Ephesians 4:32, Galatians 6:2)

Thank you for calling me your friend. Equip me to love others the way you love me, being willing to lay down my life—my position, my agenda, my reputation—for my friends. (John 15:13)

Amen

❤️

P.S. One of my most fun (and funniest) friends is Kristin Adams. You know her as the gal who fell down on American Idol—after singing “Fallen”—and as the pretty half of @KristinandDanny, digital content creators and lip-syncing sensations who spend their lives bringing good stuff to the world.

Fun Friends: Kristin Adams and me

I had a chance to talk with Kristin about prayer not long ago. We covered lots of tricky stuff (How do I know I am asking for the “right” thing? Is it okay to pray for myself? Does God really want me to pray?), and our whole convo is part of the pre-order bonuses that come with the new book. Click here for details!

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When teens don’t tell the truth

(Note: This post ran earlier this week as part of the Strength & Dignity devotional series at Club31Women.com. I’m sharing it here because we’re celebrating launch week for Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens and there’s a whole chapter in that book about honestly, integrity, and praying for your teens to tell the truth!)

God prompts us to pray (Club31Women graphic)

“Where were you last night?”

Molly eyed her daughter, watching for any hint of deception. Her maternal instincts had kicked into overdrive, but she wanted to give Jenna a chance to tell the truth before she confronted her with what she already knew: that Jenna had left a birthday party with a boy and then shown up—much later—at a girlfriend’s house where she had been invited to spend the night.

“I was at Allie’s house.”

“How did you get there?”

“Brian drove me there after the party.”

“Did you kiss him?” Molly asked.

“Mom!” Jenna protested. “What’s with all the questions?”

Molly hadn’t planned to ask about the kissing; the question had simply popped into her head. And now that Jenna had sidestepped the issue, she sensed she had hit a mark.

“Did you kiss him?” she repeated.

“No, Mom!” Jenna scoffed. “Nothing happened.”

There it was—the slightest cloud flickered across Jenna’s face, signaling to Molly that her daughter was not telling the truth. Molly didn’t really care whether or not Jenna had kissed anyone; that wasn’t the primary issue. It was the lying that mattered—and lately, it seemed that Jenna had been lying about a lot of things…

What to do when you teenager lies

If you’ve caught your teen in a lie—or if lying seems to have become a pattern in their life—you probably know how Molly felt. She was discouraged, angry, and exhausted. And as she read verses like Jeremiah 9:5, she was also scared. “No one tells the truth,” the prophet warned. “With practiced tongues they tell lies; the wear themselves out with all their sinning.”

There’s no question that lying gets easier with practice. And in a world where shifting blame, denying guilt, and withholding key information has become commonplace, it’s no surprise that our teens can twist the truth, break promises, and even tell bald-faced lies without feeling like they’ve hurt anyone or done something wrong.

So what do we do? How should we respond when our kids don’t tell the truth?

For starters, don’t panic. Nothing you are facing comes as a shocker to God, and when he reveals something—even the ugliest something—in our teens’ lives, it isn’t to scare us. It’s to prompt us to pray. Our prayers release God’s power to accomplish his purposes in the lives of the people we love.

Our prayers release God's power

Next, try to discover what motivated the lie. Was it fear? Insecurity? A desire to “cover” for friends? Ask God to reveal anything you need to know so that you can be specific and intentional when you pray.

And finally, remember where lies originate. Satan is the father of lies. He likes nothing better than to get you to believe his twisted words—including the lie that your kids are “doomed” when they blow it, that nothing will ever change, or that you’ve failed as a parent when your teens take a wrong turn.

Satan’s speaks deceit and destruction; God’s language is redemption and love. Trust God’s power to provide as you pray, knowing that his deepest desire is to lead your family to the Truth and set you free.

God delights in those who tell the truth


Read

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. (Proverbs 12:22)

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. (Psalm 34:12-13)

Reflect

As you ask God to help your teens tell the truth, think about your own life. What lies is the enemy trying to get you to believe? Has he whispered that your family is a mess, or that you will never get it right? Don’t listen! Remember that Satan is the father of lies, but that God is the Father of Love. He has started a good work in your family’s life and he can be counted on to complete it, and his deepest longing is to set your family free.

Respond

Heavenly Father,

Help my teens–help me–to believe you and hold to your teaching. Keep our tongues from evil and our lips from telling lies. Take delight in our family and set us free. (John 8:31-32Psalm 34:12-13; Proverbs 12:22)

Amen

❤️

P.S. You can read the rest of Molly and Jenna’s story in the updated edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, the latest release in the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series. Drawing on the power of God’s Word, this book equips you to pray effectively for everything from your teen’s relationships, faith, and safety to the purposes and plans God has for their future.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens 

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Praying for Your Children to be Healthy and Safe

(Note: This post, Praying for Your Children to Be Healthy and Safe, ran earlier this week at Club31Women.com, a community of women who are committed to building strong marriages, healthy families, and vibrant relationships with the Lord. You’ll find lots of helpful resources there, from tips on parenting teens to weeknight recipes to a free guide to finding PEACE in your home. Um…yes please!)

I want God to keep my kids safe (2)

Praying for Your Children to Be Healthy and Safe

When the Coronavirus first began spreading, our daughter Virginia—who lives in New York City—decided that she should evacuate and come social distance with us. That sounded like a good plan to me; Virginia is a lot of fun, and she’s always full of ideas.

One of her ideas, as she left New York, was to swing by the SPCA and pick up a kitten.

Virginia keeping her kitten safe

Five months later, we were still working from home—my husband and I, two of our four adult children, our one-year-old puppy, and the cat. Everyone seemed happy. One morning, though, Virginia woke up and noticed that Quarantine Kitty had a cut or a burn of some sort on her neck. She was still purring so we didn’t think it was fatal, but Virginia wasn’t taking any chances. She bundled the cat into the car and was at the vet’s office by the time it opened.

The cat, as it turned out, was fine. But Virginia was not. She was rattled.

“I love this kitty so much,” she said, “I can’t stand to think of her getting hurt—”

She stopped, mid-sentence, and looked at me. “Mom,” she said, “I cannot imagine what it must be like to have a child who gets sick or hurt…how panicked you must feel. I bet it’s even worse than when it’s your cat.”

Um, yes. It is worse.

And whether it’s the baby’s 2 a.m. fever, the child’s bloody knees on the playground, or the teenager’s late-night phone call, we all know what it’s like to feel that lump of fear in our throat, to want our kids to be safe, to protect them however we can.

So what do we do?

We pray. We do what 1 Peter 5:7  invites us to do:  We cast all our anxiety on God, because he cares for us.

“I want God to keep my kids safe.”

Twenty years ago, when I began working on a book about how we can pray for our children, I surveyed more than one hundred parents about what they wanted God to do for their families.  One of the most oft-repeated answers was, “I want God to keep my kids safe.”

Boy, did I understand that. We had four kids in six years, and it seemed that somebody was always getting sick or—in Virginia’s case, anyway—running into a doorknob or (not making this up) eating part of a glass thermometer. I knew she was tough, but I wondered how long her luck would hold out. What would become of Virginia during her teenage years?

I remember crying out to the Lord, asking him to protect her. “What happened to the hedge of protection and the guardian angels I asked you to provide for our children?” I cried. “Aren’t you paying attention?”

Almost immediately I sensed God’s answer. “I am protecting Virginia,” he spoke to my heart. “In fact, I’ve had to put some of my best angels on the job, just to keep her alive!”

It sounds funny now, but God’s promise of angelic protection—an invitation he extends to all of us in Psalm 91—was made real over and over again in Virginia’s life, as she grew. And now, as we release the 20th Anniversary Edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, I can attest to his faithfulness.

My kids—like all kids, I guess—had their share of lumps, bumps, and bruises. And I know that the Psalm 91 promise is not some sort of magical “guarantee” that our children won’t have to suffer. But I am convinced that God hears and answers our prayers, and that his John 15:7 promise (“If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”) is true.

Scripture Prayers You Can Pray

Our children are grown, but I am still asking God to protect them and keep them safe. How am I praying? Here are two of my favorite scripture-based prayers; feel free to personalize these for the people you love:

I pray that all may go well with _____ and that they may be in good health, as it goes well with their soul. (3 John 2) 

Let ______ take refuge in you and be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over ______ that they may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11)

You’ll find dozens more prayer prompts like these—prayers for our kids’ physical safety, as well as their spiritual and emotional health—in the new book.

God never meant for us to have to keep our children safe on our own. He meant for us to pray, slipping our hand into his as we trust him to accomplish his plans and his purposes in our kids’ lives. And as you pray, know that I am praying for you: “May God cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” (Psalm 115:14)

❤️

You’ll find prayers for your children’s safety, relationships, faith, character, their future, and more in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary EditionThe hardcover volume comes with a satin ribbon and a presentation page (making it perfect for gift-giving), but it’s available in paperback, too. Click here to order.

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Technology and Your Children (and three prayers you can pray)

Twenty years ago, when I wrote the first edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, the biggest kids-and-technology question Robbie and I faced was whether to let our children watch PG movies. On VHS tapes.

Today’s parents face a whole new nest of tech-related concerns–whether it’s the “easy-everywhere” access to online content, the threat of things like cyber bullying, or the very real (and increasingly common) link between high social media usage and low self-esteem and depression.

“The word I might use to describe how parents feel about kids and technology,” one father told me, “is probably panic. Or maybe terror.”

But technology isn’t going away; it will play an important role in our children’s future. Which is why, when I wrote Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary EditionI interviewed a bunch of younger parents to see how they were parenting–and praying–with regard to this vital issue. And (spoiler alert) the news isn’t all bad. There are some really good things we can do (and pray!) as we work to keep our children safe and teach them to, as author Andy Crouch says, put technology “in it’s proper place.”

Here’s a sneak peek at an excerpt from the new book–which releases in less than two weeks!–along with a few prayers you can pray for your family right now…

Girl and Technology, Laptop

Not if but when: One Family’s Story

Sara’s 12-year-old daughter, Allison, likes to create collages on the computer, using clip-art images and videos to make her masterpieces. At home, the computers have content filters and other parental controls, but the devices at her father’s office are not as protected. And one afternoon, when Allison was using an office computer to work on a project, some obscene pictures popped up on her screen. Immediately, her father got a text alert from his internet provider:

A porn video has been accessed from this location. A quick review of all the office computers revealed the trouble spot. But when asked what she’d seen, Allison denied all involvement. And the more her parents pressed for details, the more emotional and manipulative she became.

“That was not like her at all,” Sara said. “My radar was on high alert—and I realized that our greater concern was not what she’d seen or the exposure she’d had, but the choice she was making to lie.”

Thinking about what she calls her own “progressive sanctification”—one where the Lord continues to tenderly transform her heart—Sara resolved not to react in knee-jerk fashion, but to slow down and ask God for his counsel. “I wanted the Lord to teach me how to relate to my daughter, knowing that the way I treat her now will affect our relationship and her life in 20 years.”

She started with prayer.

God doesn’t reveal things to scare us

“I know the freedom that comes with confession,” Sara said. “I prayed that God would turn Allison’s darkness into light, and that she would know the joy of walking in that light and enjoying sweet fellowship with other people and with Jesus.”

Eager to have her own burden lifted, Sara reached out to an older friend—someone she knew she could count on not to gossip or pry, but to pray.

The woman responded with reassurance. “When God alerts us to something that is not right in our children’s lives,” she said, “it’s not because he wants us to be worried or scared. It’s because he wants us to pray. Our prayers open the door to God’s redemption, protection, and blessing in our kids’ lives.”

Noting that Allison likely felt embarrassed by what she had seen (and maybe scared to admit it), Sara’s friend pointed her toward Psalm 25 as a prayer prompt:

  • Let Allison put her hope in you, Lord. Let her never be put to shame. (v. 3)
  • Relieve the troubles of Allison’s heart; free her from her anguish. Take away all her sins. (v. 17-18)
  • Guard Allison’s life, rescue her, be her refuge. May integrity and uprightness protect her. (v. 20-21)

Sara and her husband continued to pray verses like these, trusting in the Genesis 50:20 promise that God could take something so clearly intended for evil and use it to bring about something good in Allison’s life.

It wasn’t long before he did. The following Sunday, after hearing their pastor talk about the freedom the comes with confession and the triumph of grace over shame, Allison pulled pulled Sara aside.

“I need to talk to you, Mom.”

Allison broke down and revealed all that had happened, including her attempts to cover up what she’d seen by lying about it. As she confessed, Sara saw her daughter’s countenance change. It was as if a cloud lifted; Allison’s shadowy face became joyful and radiant.

The transformation made sense to Sara. “When we keep things hidden,” she said, “it always leads to deeper and darker things. It’s a mercy, not a burden, to be found out.”


kids and technology, phone

Three “technology use” prayers we can pray

Technology use is just one of the new chapters you’ll find in the expanded and updated version Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. Other topics include things like praying for your child’s identity and their sense of belonging, as well as strategies you can use to build a prayer legacy in your family, teaching your kids to depend on God’s promises as they grow. You can pre-order your copy today (see info, below) but in the meantime, here are three short-but-strong scripture prayers from the book that you can pray for your children right now:

Heavenly Father,

May we live with a heart of integrity in our home. Don’t let _____ set anything worthless before their eyes. (Psalm 101:2-3 CSB)

Cause _____ to look to you and be radiant, turning away from anything that would cover their face with shame. (Psalm 34:5)

Put your hedge of protection around _____. (Job 1:10)

Amen

❤️

Praying the Scriptures book with Pumpkins

Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition ships on October 20. To preorder (and pssst, the hardcover version comes with a ribbon book mark and beautiful presentation page for gift-giving), click here for Amazon (they give me a tiny commission if you order from my site), or try ChurchSource.com, where (last time I checked) they were offering the book at a sweet pre-order discount. Whoop!

And if you missed last week’s story about praying for your children to share God’s love with their peers (my favorite prayer story in the whole book), click here to catch up!

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20 Years of Praying for Your Children

Pssst. I’ve got some exciting news, and I wanted you to hear it here first! Many of you have been praying for your children with me for twenty years and…

in just a few weeks–on October 20th, to be exact–we’re releasing the 20th Anniversary Edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children.

Praying the Scriptures book with Pumpkins

This new edition has all of the stories, prayer principles, and verses folks loved in the original book, but we’ve updated it to include topics like praying for your children’s use of technology and their sense of identity and self-worth, along with an encouraging message about prayer’s role in parenting from New York Times bestselling author, Audrey Roloff. Plus, there’s a whole new kid-friendly section designed to help parents pray not just FOR their kids, but WITH them, teaching them to depend on God’s promises and his power as they grow.

I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead (including links to the free Study Guide and the Video Series), but to kick-off this launch, I want to revisit one of my all-time favorite stories about praying for your children. Here’s an excerpt from the book…

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

For years, Friday mornings were a highlight of my week. That’s when I got together with several moms to pray for our children, their teachers, and our school community. In addition to interceding for our kids’ individual needs, we used a different verse from the Bible each week as the basis for a more general prayer that can apply to each of our children.

One morning, our collective scriptural request was for our children to have boldness in evangelism, being alert to opportunities to share the gospel with their peers. Being part of a public school community, we recognized the need for sensitivity in this area, yet we knew that God could provide open doors. We prayed according to Ephesians 5:15 – 16, that our kids would be very careful how they lived — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.

Two or three weeks went by, during which time we moved on to new requests, tucking the evangelism thoughts into the back of our minds. Then one morning Callie walked in, her face flushed with excitement. “Remember when we prayed for our kids to have boldness in evangelism and be alert to opportunities to share their faith?” she asked. “Well, listen to this . . .”

Callie began her story by reminding us about a second grader named Eddie, whose misbehavior was almost legendary in our school. We had all heard of Eddie — the tales our kids brought home tended to catapult Eddie to the top of our prayer lists, and those of us who had spent volunteer hours in Eddie’s classroom knew, firsthand, how disruptive he could be. Thinking of Eddie, we often prayed that God would give his teacher, Miss Harrison, an extra measure of wisdom, patience, and love.

Many of the children instinctively tried to put some distance between themselves and Eddie, but Callie’s son, Brandon, took a different approach. He befriended the boy, inviting him to be involved in games and on playground teams where he might otherwise have been left out. And one day when Miss Harrison asked each child, as an in-class assignment, to write a letter to someone, Brandon chose to write to Eddie.

A Life-Changing Letter

When the time came for the children to deliver the letters, those who had written to parents, grandparents, or neighbors put their notes in their backpacks to take home. Brandon simply dropped his envelope on Eddie’s desk. Eddie opened the letter with excitement, but when he took out the sheet of paper, his face fell. Eddie couldn’t read well enough to get beyond the first few words.

Recognizing the problem but not wanting to draw attention to it, Brandon quietly asked Miss Harrison if he could read the letter aloud to Eddie.

Miss Harrison just happened to love God — and Eddie — as much as Brandon did. “Yes,” she said. “You can read it to him today at recess.”

That afternoon, the two boys sat on a log under the shade of an old oak tree, oblivious to the noisy shouts and energetic games being played all around them. Eddie pulled the letter out of his pocket and, leaning closer so he could hear, waited for Brandon to read it.

Dear Eddie,

Please, please ask Jesus to come into your heart. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Jesus died on the cross for your sins.
  2. You will have eternal life.
  3. God (Jesus’ father) is maker and creator of all.
  4. You will go to heaven.
  5. You can have anything you want in heaven.
  6. I will be waiting for you.
  7. God will be waiting for you.
  8. Jesus will be waiting for you.
  9. You can do anything in heaven.

 

P.S. All you have to do is right now bow your head and say “dear Lord, I want Jesus to come into my heart so I can have eternal life.” Amen.

Opportunity to meet Jesus letter

Eddie leaned back, reflecting on Brandon’s words. “Would you,” Brandon asked cautiously, “like to pray and ask Jesus to live in your heart right now?”

Eddie met his friend’s eyes. “Yes,” he said softly.

Sitting together at the edge of the playground, the two boys bowed their heads in prayer as Brandon led Eddie into the kingdom of God… ❤️


Even today, more than twenty years after I first saw Brandon’s letter, this story still puts a big old lump in my throat. I know Brandon (not his real name) and I can tell you that, as an all-grown-up man with a job and a wife, he’s still “making the most of every opportunity” to showcase God’s love.

If you want to be praying for your children using verses like Ephesians 5:15-16, you’ll find dozens of similar scripture-based prompts in the book. Here’s one of my favorites, a verse you can pray for your kids, yourself, or anybody you love:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for their hope. Let them do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

Amen

Opportunity to pre-order the book

To preorder Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition, click here.

 

 

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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.

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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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