Review and Giveaway: The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents

Sometimes you just need a reset button.

When your phone or device freezes, you know what to do: reset. Turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on. Presto. The app resets, and you have a fresh start.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that in parenting, too?

Seasons of parenting can make us feel stuck. Maybe you’ve got an active three-year old who seems to have made his goal in life pitting his will against yours. Maybe you’ve got a daughter who rolls her eyes at every word you say. Maybe your kids are struggling with something and your momma heart aches at not being able to fix it for them. Maybe you just want to inject some vigor back into prayers for your family that have started to feel a little stale and routine.

Praise can be our reset button.

God inhabits the praises of his people. I’ve found that praise can be one of the surest ways to change the atmosphere of our home. There are those days when nothing seems like it’s going right–including my attitude. But if I pause to turn on my praise and worship playlist it doesn’t take long before the atmosphere seems to lift. I sing a little, the kids start singing along, and suddenly we remember that we really all do like each other. Praise gets our eyes off our situation and puts them on God. Sometimes that perspective shift is all we need.

That atmosphere-changing quality of praise is what Becky Harling helps us explore in The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents
The 30 Day Praise Challenge is just that: a guided challenge to spend twenty minutes a day for thirty days praising God for the work he is doing in your child’s life. The first fifteen days focus on us as parents, and the second fifteen days focus on our children. Each day’s praise guide includes an invitation to praise, scriptures to meditate on, a list of a few songs to listen to, a guided prayer, and a journaling prompt. An index provides a list of songs to download, or you can access them through the author’s Spotify or YouTube playlists.

In addition to the 30 Day Praise Guide, the last section of the book has suggestions for taking it further. There are some great lists of ways to praise God using his qualities and names. There are also some solid sections on special concerns such as praising God in the midst of grief, praising God when you and your spouse disagree over parenting issues, and lifting up a mantle of praise over children whose parents are in ministry, adopted children, and children of divorce. I’ve really enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to any parent who wants to find a fresh way of praying for their children.

And guess what? I’ve got a giveaway copy for ya:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free copy of this book through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not guaranteed to give a positive review.

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Reminders of Another World

I am at a Spiritual Formations retreat this week. Today, as we paused to reflect on the Word and contemplated the different ways we hear God’s voice I was reminded of how easy it is to rush through our lives and forget we are citizens of a greater kingdom. I wrote about this a little a while back. Today, I’d like to invite you to remember with me that we belong to another world.

 

There’s something about a mountain that gets your attention.

I lived in Seattle for about three years after graduating from college.  It was a different world for this Texas girl.  There was rain, for one thing.  And trees.  And tulips in the spring.  I could drive down to a beach near my apartment, sit on the beach, and see mountains across Puget Sound.

One of the things I never got used to was seeing Mount Rainer looming over the freeway.  On clear days it felt like you could reach out and touch it.  I’d forget sometimes it was there.  I’d be sitting there, stuck in traffic, drumming on the steering wheel and look up—boom.  It was right there in front of me:  a majestic mountain, reminding me that there was a world outside the boundaries of concrete and steel.

Kingdom living is like that. Click here to read the rest of the post.

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If I Forgive Her, Do I Still Have to Be Her Friend?

friend

“If I forgive her, do I still have to be her friend?”

I’ve heard it asked on multiple occasions from multiple people. Daughters struggling to relate to their moms as adults; women who feel betrayed by a friend; women in ministry struggling with the actions of people in their congregations. Figuring out how we move forward in relationships after conflict can be the hardest part of forgiveness.

There aren’t hard and fast rules for this. Sometimes it’s not safe or healthy for us to continue in relationship with this person. Sometimes we have to readjust our boundaries and allow people less access to our lives and hearts. And honestly, sometimes we need to acknowledge that part of the problem in the relationship is us. There are times I need to be honest enough to admit I have taken offense in a situation that is disproportionate to what really happened. Often, those offenses highlight something in me that I need to deal with before the Lord. It’s only after I’ve done business with the Father in those areas that I can honestly look at the relationship and move forward appropriately.

Here are some principles I find helpful:

    • Forgiveness takes one person. Reconciliation takes two. Forgiveness is a matter of us taking care of our own hearts before God. We can forgive someone who is no longer living. We can forgive someone who is not repentant. We can forgive someone without telling them that we’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness does not require the other person’s participation or repentance. Reconciliation does. While we always desire reconciliation, reconciliation is not always possible.
    •  Love and forgiveness are free. Trust and respect are earned. We can offer love and forgiveness to everyone because of the cross. When we show love and forgiveness, we are reflecting the grace God has shown us. Love and forgiveness are unconditional. Trust and respect are earned. I may forgive the person who embezzled church funds, but I’m not going to make him church treasurer. I can love and forgive the friend who gossiped about me, but it may be a long time before I share a secret with her again. When trust has been broken, it takes time to rebuild that relationship. Redefining boundaries to acknowledge that loss of trust can be necessary and appropriate. 
  • Boundaries are necessary for our emotional and spiritual health. We can offer grace and love to everyone, but not everyone should get access to our inner core. Jesus had many disciples, but there were only twelve he called to be with him. Of those twelve, only three were invited to share intimate moments like the Transfiguration and raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We can be honest with everyone, but we don’t have to be intimate with everyone. We allow our spouses, children, best friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers different levels of access to our hearts. Sometimes in the aftermath of conflict we need to reassess the level of intimacy we have allowed someone.
  • People and relationships are valuable. People are not disposable. Yes, sometimes we need to redefine or reassess boundaries, but we need to be cautious about cutting people out of our lives. It may be necessary to limit contact with an individual for our own safety and health, but those situations should be rare. If we run at the first sign of conflict, we miss out on the blessings of intimacy earned by weathering storms together. Friendships and family are worth fighting for. We need to remember that sometimes we are the ones in need of grace. How would you want the other person to respond if the situation were reversed?

Botttom line, we need to ask God to show us the next steps. If God throws open the door for reconciliation, rejoice in that. If reconciliation isn’t possible, ask God to show you what appropriate boundaries and responses look like in your situation. You may need to periodically revisit that question. But be open to surprises. God does amazing things when he redeems.



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Forgiveness: Trading Bitterness for Blessing

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Bitterness festers. It’s like that sore tooth you can’t quit poking. You know it’s sore and swollen, but you keep nudging it with your tongue, trying to see if it still hurts. Unforgiveness can be the same way. Unchecked, unforgiveness hardens and grows, sprouting judgment, accusations, and bitterness.

We know this. And yet blessing our enemies still seems like a step too far. Isn’t it enough that we’ve forgiven and trusted God for justice? Do we actually have to pray blessings on them?

We bless our enemies because blessing is the antidote to bitterness. Blessing keeps our souls from going sour; it throws open the windows so the wind of the Spirit can rush in. Blessing is the final step on our road to forgiveness and healing.

Why do we bless our enemies?

1. Because Jesus told us to.

Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). It doesn’t come naturally to us. Like forgiveness, praying for those who persecute us is something we can only do by the Spirit’s power. The world tells us to curse our enemies and repay them blow for blow. Jesus tells us to bless them. Counter-intuitive? Yes. But blessing our enemies is actually a tool in our own healing. It changes us. We cannot pray for someone and maintain bitterness in our hearts toward them. Praying for our enemies opens the door for God to heal our own wounded hearts.

2. Because prayer is powerful.

Prayer makes a difference. Sometimes prayer can feel like a last resort–I can’t do anything else, so I might as well pray. But God tells us that the prayer of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Prayer is warfare. Prayer brings the Spirit’s power into our circumstances, manifesting the kingdom among us. We may not always be able to go charging into conflict on our own, but in prayer we can confront the spiritual realities behind our struggles and see transformation.

3. Because blessing overcomes evil with good.

If we return wrong for wrong, all we get is a bigger mess. We don’t overcome evil with evil. We overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Continuing in attitudes of judgment and accusation toward others does nothing but harden our hearts and keep us trapped in the cycle of resentment. Blessing breaks the cycle and allows God to use us as agents of transformation.

Blessing our enemies is about agreeing with God’s intentions toward them. It’s not about asking God to shower them with rainbow colored unicorns. Instead, we are able to bless those who have hurt us by asking God to show us his heart and purposes for those individuals, then agreeing with those things in prayer. It might look like this:

  • Lord, give him a repentant heart.
  • Help  her speak with kindness.
  • I can only imagine that he’s doing this because he has been deeply hurt. Heal those broken places, Father.
  • Give her the willingness to change.
  • Be merciful toward her, Father.
  • Lord, don’t let him hurt anyone else.
  • Make his heart tender toward you, Jesus. Sensitize his spirit to hear your voice.
  • Help her see and speak truth, Lord.
  • May he fulfill the destiny you created him for.
  • Jesus, overwhelm her with your love.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask God what he wants you to pray for this person. There may be a thought that comes to mind or a verse of Scripture may jump out to you during your devotions. Simply pray what God shows you. And remember that forgiveness is a layered process. You may not be there yet. Sometimes being willing to be willing is the best place to start. But there are always blessings in obedience. When we pray blessings on our enemies, it opens the door for God to bless us.

This post is the last of a five post series on forgiveness:

5 Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Forgiveness: Giving Up Revenge

forgiveness

“He hit me!”

“She hit me first!!!”

No one has to teach us to get revenge. It’s born into us. We instinctively know that debts require payment. It’s justice. Yet our sin nature twists that desire so we look for payback instead of reparation. It’s not just that we want them to pay–we want to make them pay.

We want to punish them.

We want to hit back.

Forgiveness requires us to lay aside our right to revenge.

Two things are important to understand:

  1. Laying aside revenge does not mean we stop seeking justice. Forgiveness does not remove consequences. It does not mean that we don’t report a crime, decline to press charges, or refuse to testify in court. When a person’s actions have harmed us, themselves, or someone else, it is right for us to take the steps necessary so that their actions can be addressed by the appropriate authority. The difference is that we take action to protect others and do what is right–not because we want to do them wrong.
  2. Laying aside revenge also does not mean putting ourselves in vulnerable positions. Nothing in Scripture requires us to expose ourselves to harm. Laying aside revenge means trusting God to bring justice. It does not mean subjecting yourself to continued abuse.

Giving up our right to revenge means that we accept the sufficiency of the cross. Jesus death on the cross paid the price for all sin–my sin, your sin, and the sins people commit against us. Forgiveness means that we stop demanding repayment. Jesus’ payment is enough.

Relinquishing revenge also means recognizing that justice is God’s job, not our own. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Again, this doesn’t mean we don’t cooperate with the appropriate authority as needed to resolve the situation. Law enforcement, church discipline, and logical consequences are all tools God uses to bring about justice. Giving up revenge means that we trust God to be the just judge he has declared himself to be. We don’t personally have to extract our pound of flesh from people. God has declared that justice is his job. We can trust him to do it.

 

Giving up our right to revenge means that we stop looking for payback or ways to get even. That might mean:

  • We stop fantasizing about giving someone the church-lady smackdown
  • Refraining from gossip
  • Not giving people the silent treatment or the cold shoulder
  • Not attempting to get back at them or looking for ways to get even
  • Recognizing our passive-aggressive behaviors for what they are and openly working through conflict
  • Being honest with the appropriate people–not trashing them to your whole circle of acquaintances

As we look to God for our healing we also trust him to bring justice. We may have to cooperate in that process, but we recognize that justice is God’s job–not ours. Forgiveness means admitting that revenge is not ours to take.

This post has been part four of a five-part series on forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Six Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Child Protection Policy

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With summer almost upon us, churches are gearing up for VBS, youth camp, and summer children’s activities. Before you stock up on marshmallows for chubby bunny, change the oil in the church van, and assemble that grass hut out of cardboard boxes and paper bags, there’s something else you need to think about.

Are your church’s child protection policies in place?

This is not fun stuff to talk about. But it is necessary, especially in light of recent events. Many of you who follow this blog are ministry wives or are in church leadership. If your church already has child protection policies in place, great. Follow them. If you don’t, establishing a robust child protection policy needs to be a priority. I know it’s not fun. No one wants to ask Mrs. Cindy Lou Who who has served in the nursery for 70 years to all of a sudden do a background check. But we must. Child protection policies keep your church, your workers, and your children safe.

Here are 6 reasons your church needs a child protection policy.

  1. Because Satan is evil.

    Satan’s goal is always our destruction, and children are not exempt. If he has the opportunity to attack a child through molestation or abuse, Satan sees it as fair game. And if he gets a chance to make that abuse happen on the church’s watch, it’s just bonus points. Hitting a family, a child, and a church all in one stroke? That’s a good day for the devil, and we need to be on our guard to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  2. Because abuse can happen anywhere.

    I know we all think it won’t happen at our church. We know everyone. We’ve got good people. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen here. Those are dangerous thoughts. Abuse is not restricted to certain zip codes. Abuse can happen anywhere a predator has access to vulnerable children–including your church. We cannot be so naive as to think it can’t happen to us. See point number 1.

  3.  Because abusers don’t look like the boogeyman.

    I don’t want to pile on the Duggars. I can only imagine the agony of recognizing that one of your children has molested another, though it is concerning that the abuse was not properly reported at the time it took place. Josh Duggar says this inescusable behavior is behind him. For his sake and the sake of his family I hope it is so. Josh recieved counseling. I hope his victims also received the counseling and support they needed to heal.

    The Duggar story reminds us that abusers don’t look like the boogeyman. A typical abuser is not the creepy guy down the street or a trench-coat wearing stranger. Abusers can look like a family member. They can look like coaches, camp counselors, or Sunday School teachers. Abusers are able to gain trust. That’s what gives them the opportunity to perpetuate their abuse. We have to let go of this idea that we’ll know them when we see them. We don’t.

  4. Because child protection policies protect your workers.

    Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. Let me say that again. Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. If we suspect or are informed about abuse, we are legally and ethically obligated to report it. And yet, we know that sometimes people lie. Sometimes people lie because they know churches have liability insurance and they’re hoping for a settlement. Sometimes people lie because they’re mad and want to get at you. Sometimes they lie because they’re covering up their own actions. Shaken baby syndrome? Let’s blame the nursery worker. Good child protection policies such as having two adults in the room at all times protect your workers from false accusations.

  5. Because child protection policies protect your church.

    Child protection policies protect your church in several ways. Robust child protection polices prevent opportunities for abuse to take place and make your church a less attractive target for an abuser. Your liability insurance company may require your church to adopt a child protection policy to ensure coverage. Also, even if your church has liability insurance your church can still be vulnerable if you do not have a child protection policy in place. Our church was advised that if we did not have a child protection policy our trustees could be sued individually if abuse took place. Adopting and following a good child protection policy can reduce your church’s risk of liability.

  6. Because child protection policies protect children.

    Jesus has entrusted our church’s children into our care. Church should be a safe place for our children. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that our children are protected when they walk through our doors. A good child protection policy creates an environment where our children are safe but abusers are not. By eliminating opportunities for abuse and putting abusers at risk of discovery, we can make our churches an unwelcome place for those who would harm our children.

    Having a good child protection policy in place is a matter of due diligence. At the minimum, a child protection policy should include background checks for all workers, a two adult policy, and abuse prevention training for preschool, children’s and youth workers. Training should include types of abuse, signs of abuse, appropriate touch, and how to report abuse. Your denomination or state convention can guide you in finding appropriate resources.

What policies does your church have to protect children? What resources would you suggest?



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Forgiveness: Getting God’s Perspective

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“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

If I wasn’t already convinced Jesus was the Son of God, those words would do it for me.

He hangs there on the cross in agonizing pain, flanked on both sides by crucified criminals. The soldiers who nailed him to the cross roll dice for his clothes, and the Jewish leaders who should have praised him mocked his name instead. He is utterly alone. He could have called down lightning from heaven or an army of angels to deliver his wrath. But instead he uses a pain-wracked breath to utter a profoundly simple prayer.

Father, forgive them.

You could preach a thousand sermons on that line, but the thread I’d like to pull is this: Jesus saw the cross from heaven’s point of view. He knew that his suffering was a stop on the pathway to victory. He recognized the blindness and brokenness and ignorance of those that put him there, and he knew that they didn’t have the faintest glimmer of the eternal consequences of their actions. And so in the midst of the pain he prayed for their forgiveness.

If we want to forgive, we need to see from heaven’s point of view.

We tend to see the world through the lenses of our hurt. And when we are hurt, we make all kinds of judgments and determinations against the people responsible.

Don’t waste your energy. She’s not worth it anyway.

He’s just a jerk.

That mean streak’s never going to change.

You can’t trust a word she says.

Liar.

Backstabber.

Enemy.

When we’re hurt, it’s easy to surround ourselves with people who will help us nurse our pain. They mean well. They don’t want to see us hurt, so they encourage us in our tendencies toward blame and judgment. Of course it’s “their” fault. It’s just how they are. Shake it off, get rid of them, they don’t have to be your problem. We agree and we try to be the bigger person and move on–then we wonder why we just can’t let it go.

forgiveness corrie quote

Forgiveness is an invitation to shift our point of view–to remember that this person, no matter how reprehensible their actions, is a person for which Jesus died. Forgiveness invites us to remember that hurt people tend to hurt people and that fear, pain, and brokenness may lie underneath. Forgiveness is a call to remember that our God still redeems.

We don’t do it on our own. As Corrie Ten Boom has so beautifully written:

I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. The Hiding Place

God gives us the love we need to see from his perspective if we will only ask. It might look like this:

  • God, how do you want me to see this person?
  • How should I pray for him?
  • What boundaries do I need to have with her?
  • How do you want to work in the midst of this situation?
  • Show me what it looks like to safely love this person.
  • Father, what is your heart for this person? How do you want to show your grace?

Every conflict is an opportunity to respond out of God’s storehouses of grace. What if we learned to move to intercession instead of judgment? To pray that God would work in this person’s life to fulfill the purpose he called them to before they were born? What if we prayed that God would demonstrate his grace in this situation and overwhelmed this person with his love? Would we finally get to see heaven start breaking loose?

To forgive, we need to get heaven’s point of view. As we learn to see through his eyes, God gives us the love and grace we need to forgive.

This post is Part 3 of a 5 part series on forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.



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Forgiveness: Looking to Jesus to Heal

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Every now and then I like to introduce people to my friend Blue.

Blue is a large lump of blue playdough I roll into a ball. No lumps, no cracks–just Blue in all his smooth roundness. Then we pass Blue around the group and invite people to insult Blue and tear off a chunk of dough. Poor Blue gets called stupid and ugly. People tell him no one likes him. A few people punch him or stomp on him. Blue shrinks piece by piece till he gets back to me, half his size and jagged edges all over.

So then we put Blue back together. One by one we tell Blue we’re sorry and pay him a compliment or two as we mash our torn pieces back on. Blue gets stitched back together as he makes his way around the circle, but it’s not the same. He’s whole–mostly. But he’s not a perfect ball anymore. Blue has lumps, craters and cracks. One side is bigger than the other. There are thumbprints and dents where all the handling has bruised the dough.

I feel like Blue some days. Life–people–they take chunks out of you. The job you loved and invested yourself in for years vanishes overnight. Friends stop returning calls. You and your husband keep tripping over the same sore spots you’ve navigated for years. That person has it out for you and takes their pound of flesh a bite at a time. Church seems like a safe space till you realize we Christians can gossip with the best of them. And like Blue, you’ve got some pieces missing.

We all do.

What we tend to do is sit there like lumps of dough, waiting for the people who hurt us to come put us back together. It doesn’t work. Sometimes it doesn’t work because they don’t care. Maybe they don’t see the wounded people in their wake; maybe they just don’t care who they’ve hurt. Either way, they aren’t coming back to bind us together again.

Sometimes people do try. They apologize, try to make restitution–and we should welcome that when it happens. But just like smushing playdough back on the ball, apologies can’t really make us whole again.

See, wholeness isn’t a people thing. Wholeness is a divine thing; it’s what God does in us when we let Jesus reach down into those hidden, jagged places and heal our sin-sick souls. We struggle sometimes with forgiveness because we’re still looking for the person who hurt us to come fix us and make it better. And they can’t.

Jesus will.

Forgiveness requires us to change our perspective. We stop looking outward at the people who hurt us. We stop looking inward, gnawing at our pain. Instead, we learn to look up. Jesus is the great soul-healer. If we want to forgive, we need to look to Jesus to heal our pain and make us whole.

How do we do that? We ask. Loudly, softly, weeping, screaming–whatever it takes. Jesus, this happened. It hurts. This is how I feel. Will you come and make me whole?

And he does. It might look like Jesus showing us that he’s been with us all along. It might be God reminding us of who he is–Redeemer; Protector; Provider; Faithful Friend. It might be that the Spirit testifies to us of who we are: Child; Precious one; Redeemed; Chosen; Adopted; Gifted; Beloved. Forgiveness flows from knowing who God is and who we are to him.

Because when we know those two things, that’s when Jesus makes us whole.

This post is the second part in a 5 part series.

5 Steps of Forgiveness

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.



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Praying Upside Down

I’ve never been an artist. I can doodle and craft, but words are my playground. I’ve never had that extra something artists do that helps them see the world in color and capture truth on a canvas.

But last year I helped (read: was a warm body) in an art class for our homeschool co-op. As the teacher talked about things like seeing shapes, contour drawing, and drawing upside-down, I caught a little glimmer of what she was talking about. The next Sunday I found myself looking at the hymnal rack at church and breaking it down into shapes so I could sketch it next to my sermon notes. I had begun to find a different way of seeing.

That idea of seeing the world through an artist’s eyes is what drew me to Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book, Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God. In Praying Upside Down Stanley explores how concepts such as perspective, white space, and sketching can impact your prayer life. Stanley shares honestly from her own faith journey, and each chapter provides a fresh perspective on prayer as well as suggestions for creative practices to incorporate into your prayer life.

faith is

I appreciated how honest the author was about her struggles with God and prayer in this book. She writes from a place of faith, but she’s also honest enough to talk about what we do when we feel God has got it wrong somehow. How do we press through in faith and prayer when we struggle with grief and doubt? Her stories about the sale of her home and the loss of her mother were poignant and powerful. I also appreciated the communal focus of the book. Stanley rightfully places prayer in the context of community. Some books on prayer tend to treat it as a solo sport, and one of the strengths of this book is that the author reminds us that we both need to pray for others and to be prayed for.

One of my favorite parts of the book were the Prayer Palette suggestions included in each chapter. In this section Stanley includes prayer experiences such as creating a prayer string, writing a screenplay, trading prayers with a friend, and doodling as a record of your prayer focus. I appreciate her creativity, and there are several ideas she suggests I want to incorporate into my prayer time over the next few weeks.

There are several resources for the book on Kelly’s website, including video content, downloads, and an 8-week study guide for small groups or individual use. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to inject some creativity into their prayer life–artist or not.

I received a free copy of this book through the Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to give a positive review.



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Forgiveness: Acknowledging the Pain

forgiveness

I was blow-drying my hair when her face popped into my mind. With it came the swirl of emotions–anger, hurt, frustration, guilt. I started rehearsing my list of I-should-have-said and litany of next-time-I’m-gonna’s. Then I stopped.

God, what gives? I already forgave her, didn’t I? Why can’t I just let this go?

Anyone else been there? We know we’re supposed to forgive. Jesus said so. If we take the Word of God seriously, we can’t escape the scriptural injunction that we are supposed to forgive those who sin against us.

So when we are wounded, we try to forgive. We try to forget about it, push it down, move on as if nothing happened, and just let it go. Seventy times seven and all that. But it’s hard. And when we’re tired, stressed, or that same person spreads their mess over our lives again, we find ourselves back at square one.

We know we’re supposed to forgive. We just don’t always know how.

What we have to understand is that forgiveness is a work of the Spirit. Real forgiveness–the kind that heals us and sets us free–is a matter of relying on God’s power and not our own. We struggle to forgive because we think it’s something we have to do. It’s not. Forgiveness is a matter of letting God’s power work in us.

As I see it, there are five steps to forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

Forgiveness Begins by Acknowledging the Pain

We know the steps of the dance by heart.

I’m sorry. Oh, no big deal. It didn’t matter.

I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. What? It’s fine, really. It didn’t bother me.

We have the misconception that forgiving means what happened didn’t hurt or didn’t matter. That’s wrong. We don’t need forgiveness because it didn’t matter. We need to forgive because it does. Forgiveness is not saying “no worries–it didn’t matter.” Forgiveness is saying “Yes, that was wrong and it hurt. But I choose to forgive you and through God’s grace we can move on.”

If we’re going to forgive, we have to forgive something and we have to know what that something is. That’s why forgiveness has to begin with acknowledging and defining the pain. We need to be able to run our hands around the edges of the hole and identify it for what it is. Betrayal. Fear. Grief. Loss. We can do that by asking ourselves three questions.

  • What happened?
  • How do I feel about what happened?
  • Why?

Our process of forgiveness starts by being able to describe what happened. It might look something like this:

She gossiped about me.

He lied to me.

They stole from me.

He insulted me.

She embarrassed me.

What happened? Forgiveness starts by identifying the wound. If you want to forgive someone, you need to know what you’re forgiving them for.

But what happened is only part of the equation. Forgiveness doesn’t just take into account what happened. It also encompasses how we responded emotionally. What they did matters, but how you felt about it also matters. To forgive, we need to be able to identify what we felt and why we felt it. It might be expressed like this:

I felt betrayed because I thought she was my friend and she spread lies about me.

I felt hurt because his actions made it seem like our relationship didn’t matter.

I felt powerless because I couldn’t do anything to stop it from happening.

I felt foolish because everyone was laughing at me.

I felt sad because I realized he was only using me.

The “why” question is important because it forces us to dig down into our emotional responses. For example, anger is really a secondary emotion. If I’m angry at an event, it’s because of something has happened to trigger my anger. Maybe I was hurt, embarrassed, threatened, or accused, and now I’m angry because of what I felt in the first place. That “why” question may also help us identify that the real issue is not this particular inciting incident but past experiences or situations that were emotionally triggered by the current situation. If part of my emotional response is that the arrogant guy at work reminds me of a junior high bully or that a church conflict reminds me of things that happened in my family of origin, I need to deal with that deeper unresolved pain so that it doesn’t keep leeching into my present experiences.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t matter. Forgiveness means that it does, but we are looking to God as the healer of our hearts and trusting him to bring justice where it is needed. We begin by acknowledging the pain. We move on by inviting Jesus in to heal.



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