“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
This is the question that Mother Theresa famously asked everyone she came into contact with. Most of us are somewhat familiar with the legacy of Mother Theresa. But what does Mother Theresa have in common with Rosa Parks, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom and Joan of Arc? These women span different generations and cultures, yet they are all women who did something beautiful for God. They lived their lives in surrender and in turn were agents of change in their generations, influencing thousands for the Gospel.
‘Eric Metaxas is the author of the New York Times bestseller Amazing Grace, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God, and thirty children’s books. He is founder and host of Socrates in the City in New York City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Marks Hill Review, and Fist Things. He has written for VeggieTales and Rabbit Ears Productions, earning three Grammy nominations for Best Children’s Recording’ .
I haven’t read 7 Men, the first book by Eric Metaxas in this series – but I have enjoyed his book on Dietrich Boenhoeffer, and having a keen interest in history, when ‘7 Women’ became available to review I jumped at the chance. I’m familiar with the lives of Hannah More, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Susanna Wesley, but some of the other women included in this book were new to me, and I was intrigued to learn of their influence.
7 Women is a historical rather than theological account of the lives of seven influencers of culture, and it is a greatly encouraging and interesting book. I was fascinated by the details of Susanna Wesley’s life, and was encouraged by her faith and commitment to Christ despite the innumerable hardships that she faced. Imagine losing nine children in infancy, and three in adulthood. In fact, all the women included in this book experienced significant suffering. A compelling read, but perhaps the book could also have included application questions in each chapter that are relevant for us today. This book has much material that could be used for devotional purposes.
This book is a gift to the literary world and to the church. If you are someone who likes reading about historical figures, you would probably enjoy this book.
Here is a little taste of this book: ‘One reason I find St. Maria of Paris rather compelling is because of the striking similarities between her life and that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Both were brilliant and grew up in an elite intellectual atmosphere; both shunned religiosity and pietism and both smoked and drank. Both were profoundly enamored with Jesus being fully incarnate and with his humanity he connected us to God…Both wrote brilliantly and both knew their writings meant nothing if they didn’t live them out. Both were less interested in meeting the expectations of their own church denominations, [St Maria’s was Orthodox], than meeting the expectations of God Himself. Both understood it was the duty of every Christian to stand up for the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis, and both were murdered in concentration camps just weeks before the war ended…Finally, I wish to include this great woman because many of us know Christian heroes from the Protestant and Catholic traditions, but few of us know of the heroes of the Orthodox tradition” (Eric Metaxas, 7 Women, Nelson Books, 2015, pp. 86, 87).
Recently I was intrigued to come across the term ‘Crafternoon’. A ‘crafternoon‘ is a lazy, lovely way to spend an afternoon crafting with adults or with the kids. I’ve always believed that everyone has a creative bent in them. Wasn’t it Picasso who famously stated that every child is an artist?
For my daughter’s birthday this year, we decided to opt for an ‘Arty Party’ theme. Even if you consider yourself to be creatively challenged, an ‘Arty Party’ can be pulled off relatively easily. All you need is 2-4 semi-structured crafty activities and if you lack inspiration, look to none other than Pinterest for some crafting inspiration. While we usually have parties at home, this year we had my daughter’s party at ‘Gone Potty’, a ceramic paining franchise. This turned out to be a smart idea, as I think I might have ‘gone potty’ if I had hosted a party at home on this particular week. The week of her party turned out to be a crazy week with a lot going on, including three lots of visitors, kindergarten finishing, school starting, a Polynesian cultural festival performance, a soccer prize giving, and a seriously ill relative.
For our Arty Party the children were engaged in two main crafts, interspersed with a few eats and the cutting of the cake. For the ceramics, the children each selected a ceramic plate, bowl, cup or ornament to paint, and these were later fired and glazed.
I also had a few other little activities up my sleeve, as young children don’t take too long to complete art projects. I found some wooden letters in a $2 shop, and each child painted and decorated the first letter of their name and were able to take it home in lieu of a loot bag.
In my party planning box I also had a game of art history memory (see free printable below). While perhaps a little too mature for four to six year olds, the kids did enjoy looking at the famous artworks.
For the food I kept it really simple. I didn’t even need to bake anything this time! I filled little noodle boxes with:
1 small packet chips
1 mini chocolate
1 triangle cheese
four triangles fairy bread
The kids were also given mini ice-creams which went down a treat! Each noodle box had a helium balloon tied to it which the children could take home along with the noodle box. For drinks, each child received a ‘creative juice’ and straw.
If you wanted to have a Crazy Crafternoon or Arty Party at home, there are many more activities you could plan. All you would need is a few ‘ingredients’, many of which can be found around the house, and a whole lot of patience for mess!
Some suggestions are:
Any toilet roll craft
Any egg carton craft
Squirt gun painting
You could even have a cupcake decorating session as part of the afternoon tea (only for the really mess tolerant!)
You could make spring hats from paper bowls and plates….
And my favourite? Crayon daisies:
And if you are really feeling brave, you could try anything with copious amounts of glitter! The world is your oyster. What are some other ideas you have for an Arty Party? I’d love to hear your ideas.
A war room is any place that is used to provide centralized commands or battle plans. While frequently considered to be a military facility, these are typically used by governments or businesses. And war rooms can also be used for another purpose – prayer.
This is the subject of the recently released film ‘War Room’. Produced by the Kendrick brothers, ‘War Room’ would have to be their best film yet. In the style of Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Courageous, ‘War Room’ is a faith based film that inspires the viewer to believe in the power of prayer. Despite the harsh secular reviews, this is an encouraging and engaging film. The official synopsis reads:
‘From the award-winning creators of Fireproof and Courageous comes WAR ROOM, a compelling drama with humor and heart that explores the power that prayer can have on marriages, parenting, careers, friendships, and every other area of our lives.
Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Tony and Elizabeth Jordan’s world is actually crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. While Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation, Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara, and is challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan of prayer for her family. As Elizabeth tries to fight for her family, Tony’s hidden struggles come to light. Tony must decide if he will make amends to his family and prove Miss Clara’s wisdom that victories don’t come by accident.
In theaters now and filled with more of the authentic characters loved by millions in previous Kendrick Brothers’ films, WAR ROOM is a vivid reminder that prayer is a powerful weapon.’
I came away from ‘War Room’ greatly encouraged to pray fervently. While this film may be preaching to the choir, it reminds Christians that instead of fighting each other, we ought to be fighting our real enemy. War Room also encourages every Christian to be on fire for God rather than being “lukewarm” (illustrated in a scene with a cup of coffee) and to take up the mantle of spiritual warfare to see our families, communities, and nations transformed.
War Room delivers compelling drama and good acting performances. Karen Abercrombie makes a fine performance as the delightful Miss Clara, despite only having one other film credit to her name.
While the secular world has rubbished this film, War Room is still enjoying success at the box office. It seems that faith based films are making a come back. My task for the weekend is to carve out a war room in my closet!
‘Our generation were the generation that burnt our bras. But we were never in danger of burning out.’
Burnout seems to be such a key issue for our generation. Many in this day and age seem to be experiencing burnout, and varying degrees of this. We frequently hear of the term ‘burnout’ thrown around, but what does this actually mean? Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic stress (e.g., work overload) and has usually been related to occupational stress. But it’s not just people with high stress jobs that burn out. Anyone can burnout. There is growing evidence that personality traits such as perfectionism play an important role. The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression. In fact, the view that burnout is a form of depression has been supported in several recent studies.
Burnout robs someone of energy and opportunities. There are many reasons for burnout, but the good news is that there are many ways of preventing it. Sometimes it stems from disillusionment and the reality vacuum that exists between our expectations and the reality we find ourselves in. Sometimes we may not even be aware that we are experiencing burnout. Sometimes the motive of burnout can be pride. We may be reluctant to delegate to others, feeling that we ought to carry everything ourselves. We can keep going and going, and we don’t see that there is anyway out. People will always let us keep going. We have to learn how to say No and how to exercise boundaries in a healthy way. Just because someone is capable and willing, doesn’t mean that they can be overloaded. There needs to be a fine balance.
Do you feel like the grace has been lifted? Burnout can be a gift, as it can be an opportunity to re-evaluate our lifestyle. How do we know if we are experiencing burnout? Highly sensitive people are very susceptible to burnout. (Take this test here: http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/). Often there are symptoms such as fatigue, flu like symptoms or general malaise. You don’t have to be in ministry to be in burnout. Many household managers and mothers experience burn out too. Single mothers are especially prone. Maybe you feel that you have pressures on you that are day in and day out. Entrepreneurs and business people can experience burnout too because they carry so much pressure for such a long time. Burnout isn’t always caused by a negative stress, it can be caused by following your passions too. I almost burned out from blogging and writing last year, because I tried to write one rather lengthy blog post a week. With all my family commitments, this blogging commitment was unsustainable, and so I cut my blogging commitment right back, and I cut out several other commitments too. I am learning to feel when things get too much and can pull back. I have control over my own schedule, but some people don’t if they work for someone else.
What are some solutions to prevent and heal from burnout?
We need refreshment today more than we have ever needed it. Before electricity was invented, people got up at sunrise and went to bed when the sun went down. But now we can spend all hours watching television or surfing on the internet. Very few people are comfortable enough with themselves to just be. If we aren’t careful, the pressures of the world can affect us. Our own bodies will set our limits. Jesus took time out and rested. And we can abide in eternal rest as we abide in Christ. Sunday can be reserved as a special Sabbath day of rest. Growing up in the 1980’s, I can’t remember how old I was when shops opened on Sundays. I think it was in the early 1990’s. Before shops opened seven days a week, Sundays were a day of family time. Has burnout increased since families work different hours, and we no longer observe a Sabbath? In the Old Testament, people had a Sabbath once a week, but they also had Sabbath years where the soil was put to rest.
I don’t want to become legalistic about the concept of a Sabbath, but have we lost the wisdom to teach people how to rest? We are doers. Jesus however was just with the father. He knew that there is a time to labour and a time to rest. Today however, people seem to devalue the concept of rest. They often work all day, travelling in heavy traffic, come home to families and all the demands that go along with that, and then commit to volunteer in their church. Although volunteerism is very healthy, there still have to be boundaries. But even good things can wear us out as well. Churches have things going on all the time. It can be demanding. We need to be able to say that even if we want to participate and serve in all the events that are going on, we cannot do all these things. We are all wired differently too. What is it that brings rest to me? What brings joy and peace? What brings pleasure?
In the Bible September is Rosh Hashana – the biblical new year. Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” It is a time to begin again, letting go of past mistakes and grabbing hold of God’s grace. It’s so easy to be drained of energy throughout our daily life. Deadlines, bills that nee to be paid, family, friends, housework, health; we all have lots of plates to spin. While nervous energy can help us accomplish things, it can also wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. It’s critical for our bodies and minds to rest. Eight hours of sleep per night can lengthen your life expectancy and support your immune system. And try meditating on the Word of God. If we aren’t in the Word, we won’t be well nourished. Give yourself the right to say No. Spend time with God today so that you can run strong in rest and refreshment. We don’t need to allot every single minute of every day to an activity. Sometimes wasting time can be healthy for us! Prioritize resting your body and mind and you will wake up with a spring in your step! Enjoy the soul change this spring! There is hope for those in burnout, and those carrying burdens that are not theirs to carry. They will run free.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
#Spring Clean by changing one thought, attitude or habit.
Two books that address issues related to burnout are: ‘Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One Has Time’ and ‘Good News For Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps and Bad Advice.’
If you want a book that will make you laugh and think, Jen Hatmaker’s latest book ‘For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards’ is just that book. And this book is also for anyone who has ever struggled with feeling like they don’t measure up. Wait….isn’t that most of us? Funny and thought provoking, ‘For the Love’ has been rated as the number one best seller in Christian living on Amazon.
Jen Hatmaker is a mother to five children by birth and adoption, a pastor’s wife, popular speaker, blogger, best-selling author and star of the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. She is known for her books 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. She is also known for her tell-it- like-it-is authentic, real and humorous writing style.
Hilariously and insightfully written, this book is about people. And it’s about how we need the grace of God to deal with the challenge of fulfilling part of God’s mandate for us, which is to love others well. Refreshingly honest, Jen Hatmaker tackles challenges that many women face today across different life domains, such as marriage, parenting, friendship and church life. She reveals how to:
- Break free of guilt and shame by dismantling the unattainable Pinterest perfect life.
- Learn to engage our culture’s controversial issues with a gracious approach.
- Be able to love and release the burden of always being right.
- Identify the tools you already have to develop real-life, all-in, ‘know-my-junk-but-love-me-anyway’ friendships.
- Escape impossible standards for parenting and marriage by accepting the standard of “mostly good’.
This book was a fun read. It had moments of depth, and moments of shallowness. I especially appreciated the chapter on missions, and I would highly recommend this to anyone contemplating a short term missions trip. This book covered a wide range of topics and felt a little disjointed at times. Liberatingly honest, the strength of this book is in the way that it conveys truth and wisdom about serious issues while remaining lighthearted. Whether you are a Christian or not, single, married, a mother, a professional, perhaps you are someone who has been hurt in church, there is something for everyone in ‘For the Love’. An affirming book for all women, renewing their value and worth.
Some favourite quotes from ‘For the Love’
–Folks who thrive in God’s grace give grace easily, but the self-critical person becomes others-critical.
-We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.
-There’s a difference between humility and insecurity, and self-effacement does no one any favors.
-How many trot out that tired cliché—“I’m waiting for God to open a door”—and He’s all, “I love you, but get going, Pumpkin,” because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work.
-A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child.
-I worry we consider “success” to be a product of the parent’s diligence more than the child’s.
-Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute, but silence is the kill shot.
-Loneliness can be a prison, but we have keys. You needn’t wait for someone to open the bars.
For more information, visit JenHatmaker.com
- I received a free copy of this book as part of the Booklook Bloggers Programme. I was not required to write a positive review.
Cancer. The giant C word. It’s an awful business. And it’s often been described as the ‘elephant in the room’. I know so many dear people who are battling the cruelty of cancer right now. We all do. Sadly it’s everywhere. Today in New Zealand it is Daffodil Day. Daffodil Day is the Cancer Society’s most important fundraising and awareness campaign in the country. As well as providing an opportunity to raise awareness of cancer in New Zealand, Daffodil Day is a major source of funding for the Cancer Society. Yes this fundraiser is a little controversial due to the testing of cancer drugs on animals. But whether you are against this fundraiser or you would happily shake a bucket on Daffodil Day, we all want to support those who are going through cancer. And their loved ones.
Even health professionals can feel awkward about having cancer conversations with patients who are newly diagnosed. And if we are a friend, neighbour or family member of someone who is suffering, it can also be hard to gauge whether the person with cancer wants hugs and a listening ear, or whether they simply want to be left alone. Perhaps they don’t want to reiterate their story to every person they meet at the supermarket. What do we say? What do we not say?
Most cancer patients report that they find out who their real friends are while they are undergoing treatment. And if we want to be that caring, empathetic friend, our support needs to be tailor made to suit the person. Firstly, we can aim to be wholly present for the person. We can arm ourselves with information (from credible sources) and learn more about the diagnosis before we communicate with our friend. The person with cancer may not want to talk about the details for many reasons. If there is information that is unknown or not shared, don’t push for more. Prepare yourself for changes in the person’s appearance. Instead of commenting on appearance, perhaps start your visit by saying “It’s good to see you” instead of commenting on any physical changes.
- Ask permission—before visiting, and before asking questions. Try not to give advice. And make it clear that saying no is okay.
- Make plans for the future—this gives your friend something positive to look forward to. Flexible plans can be easily changed in case something comes up or your friend needs to cancel or reschedule.
- Be comfortable with sadness—do not ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings. Listen and reflect back with they are saying.
- Make time for a weekly check-in phone call. Let your friend know when you will be calling, and let your friend know that it is okay to not answer the phone.
- Offer to help with practical tasks, such as taking care of children, taking care of a pet, or preparing a meal. Many people find it hard to ask for help, and your friend will likely appreciate the offer. However, if your friend declines an offer, try not to take it personally. Many of us find it hard to receive help for one reason or another. There are many great online tools that make help coordination easier. See: http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com http://www.takethemameal.com and http://www.mealtrain.com.
- Here are some other suggestions of practical help:
- Shop for groceries and pick up prescriptions.
- Help with chores around the house, such as getting the mail, taking care of pets, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of plants and flowers, and taking out the rubbish.
- Delivering meals and baking in disposable containers.
- Schedule a night of takeaways and movies together.
- Baby-sit children, take them to and from school and evening activities, and arrange for play dates.
- Organize a phone chain and/or support team to check on your friend regularly.
- Call, email, or text regularly. Let your friend know it’s okay if he or she doesn’t reply.
- Drive your friend to an appointment. You can take notes during a doctor’s appointment or keep your friend company during a treatment session.
- Go for a walk together.
- Think about the little things your friend enjoys and makes life “normal” for them. This could be helping to decorate for a holiday or weeding the garden. If there is something your friend would usually do, there are many ways you can make it a bit easier for him or her to do it.
- Offer to pray for the person. Here is a prayer app that helps one to remember to pray for those on a prayer list. See: app.prayermate.net
- Follow through on a commitment to help.
- As much as possible, treat the person the same way you always have. Ask about interests, hobbies, and other topics not related to cancer—people with cancer sometimes need a break from talking about their illness.
- I know just how you feel.
- You need to talk.
- ‘You’re so brave’ or ‘You’re so strong’. This puts pressure on the person to pretend that they are always brave.
- I know just what you should do.
- I feel helpless.
- I don’t know how you manage.
- I’m sure you’ll be fine.
- Don’t worry.
- How much time do the doctors give you?
- How long do you have?
- Let me know what I can do. (Instead, offer specific ways you can help or other things you can provide if they need it.)
- I’m so sorry this has happened to you.
- If you ever feel like talking, I am here to listen.
- What are you thinking of doing, and how can I help?
- I care about you.
- I’m thinking about you.
- I don’t know what to say. (It is better to be honest than to simply stop calling or visiting because you feel uncomfortable).
Giving a gift is one way to show you care about someone, but be mindful not to give your friend anything that advocates a specific treatment as a cure for cancer. It’s important to respect their treatment choices and their coping process, whether it is how you would cope in the same situation or not. Keep gifts tailor made to your friend.
Some ideas include:
- Magazines, audio books, novels, books of short stories, or gift cards to purchase reading material
- CDs or gift cards for downloadable music
- DVDs of movies, TV shows, or documentaries
- Accessories (earrings, bracelets, scarves, ties, hats), makeup, or beauty items
- Note cards or a journal
- A video message from family and friends
- Gift certificates for massage, spa services, restaurants, or museum/art gallery passes
- Gift cards to grocery stores
- A housecleaning service
- Craft or hobby supply kits (scrapbooking, drawing)
- Pajamas or robe, lingere
- Flowers or plants
- A weekend away at a holiday house
Sometimes we may wish to send a card to someone suffering with cancer. But many cards have inappropriate wording on them. Here are some fabulous cards for cancer sufferers. The slogans say it all. See:
We can also honour our friend by making contributions to related charities, or raising money through sites such as Givealittle: http://www.givealittle.co.nz.
If the person agrees, we could plan a party when treatment is finished or on anniversary dates. Always check with the person with cancer before making party plans, and show them the list of those to be invited.
Loved ones of those with cancer will also need just as much support. A cancer diagnosis is just as devastating for a spouse or loved one. The above tips can apply to spouses and loved ones too.
To make a donation this Daffodil Day, please see: http://www.daffodilday.org.nz.
You know the sort of book that you can’t put down and instead end up reading til the early hours of the morning, only to be tired the next day? Well ‘The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live An Amish Life’ by Amish foodie and cookbook writer Sherry Gore was just one of those books. I’ve always had a fascination with the Amish. Their way of life is so interesting to me. I like their crafts, their recipes and their sense of community. So when I saw that this book was available to review I simply jumped at the chance. What many people don’t know is that Sherry Gore wasn’t born Amish. She was born into a modern family, but then became a Christian and felt called to live an Amish/Mennonite life. Raised in a broken family, Sherry Gore grew up feeling emotionally neglected. Several mistakes had left her feeling broken, alone and traumatized.
Sherry struggles on, and then one morning she walks into a church and has a revelation of Jesus and His grace and love.
Seeking an escape from the darkness and desperation of her earlier life, Sherry makes a fresh start for herself and her children as she seeks to follow the literal interpretation of the Bible’s teachings on head coverings, simple dress, and a focus on Jesus Christ. Then to her excitement, she discovers that there is a community that would be a good fit for her. They are called Amish and Mennonite, and ‘she realizes she has found her people’.
The plain choice that Sherry made is not for the faint hearted, and Sherry Gore is one of the few people on earth to have successfully joined the Amish from the outside. That is what makes her story so interesting. Her later life hasn’t been easy either, and sadly one of Sherry’s daughters passed away earlier this year after a long battle with illness. This memoir is a fascinating, easy read. It’s a testimony of how God can bring about healing and transformation, from a young person living on the streets, to someone healed, whole, and thriving in community.
Check out this blog for more Amish inspiration: http://www.notquiteamish.com
‘The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have.’ This title recently caught my attention. But wait…..is an argument-free marriage even possible? Fawn Weaver, the best-selling author, award-winning marriage blogger and founder of the ‘Happy Wives Club’ certainly thinks so. In ‘An Argument-Free Marriage’, she invites readers to consider investing twenty-eight days in learning how to live together without arguing.
Fawn asserts that contrary to popular opinion, conflict in marriage is not necessary. Me? I’m not so sure. I would argue that conflict is inevitable in any marriage. There will always be pressures in life that squeeze a marriage over time. It is not the absence of conflict in a marriage that makes a marriage happy and successful. Rather it is how conflict is handled that determines how healthy one’s marriage is.
Weaver asserts that there are 3 things that are essential in creating an argument-free marriage, and that these can be replicated in any relationship one desire’s to last a lifetime (marriage, siblings, parents, children):
- ‘Understand and obey the law of acceleration’.
- ‘Stick to the original emotion’.
- ‘Keep at the forefront of your mind this indisputable fact: that tomorrow may never come’.
I find that many books on marriage say the same things, and this book wasn’t my favourite on the topic. The author writes: ‘This book is personal. This books exposes every inch of my marriage in hopes that each person will find and create the marriage of their dreams. It’s possible…and you hold the power in your hands…today’. Rather than addressing the issue of conflict in marriage, much of the book was focussed on her own marriage, and the tone was rather self satisfied at times. The author claims to have an argument-free marriage, but it’s worth noting that the couple don’t have children, and while children are wonderful little blessings, raising them can often add significant stress to any marriage. However, there were many pearls pf wisdom in this book. And Fawn has delivered in this book what she does with her website: disseminating encouraging messages about how marriages can thrive. I’m off to call a ‘cease fire’ on arguments for 28 days!
Take a look at the following clip. Fawn is a very engaging speaker.
‘I’m a mother of little kids, I don’t have time to pray. I barely get time for a shower!’
‘I have a busy job, and my boss requires me to work really long hours.’
‘I have to help care for my parents as well as run a business.’
Do any of these sentiments sound familiar? I’ve read many books on prayer over the years. One that comes to mind is the classic by Bill Hybels – ‘Too Busy Not To Pray’. But that’s just it. We are so busy these days. I’ve recently cut several commitments out of my schedule, yet I still feel busy. Perhaps this is just the season of life I am in with young children. One of the commitments I cut out was the role of Prayer Coordinator at church. You’d think I would have more time to pursue prayer now that I have omitted several commitments. But still, prayer is often the first thing to fall on the back burner. Even people who have roles such as ‘Prayer Coordinator’ struggle to pray. We are all in a battle and the enemy fights us to pray and read God’s word, because he knows that when we pray and believe the word of God, things happen.
Sometimes I have been guilty of filling my schedule with activities, leaving little room to spend time in God’s word and prayer. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we need to feel pressured to pray. Many people feel under immense pressure today. Many parents work long hours in jobs just to put food on the table. Some of us are just plain weary. Or perhaps we are overwhelmed by all the needs we see around us. We hear of horrifying things happening to Christians in the Middle East. And around us are those suffering cancer, those with marriages in turmoil. Friends with sick parents, depression, chronic pain or colicky babies. We might wonder, where to start? Jesus himself understood weariness. In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 11:28), Jesus teaches us “’Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”
We are never condemned for our failure to pray. Instead, God graciously and gently invites us to fellowship with him. Haggai admonishes us to prioritize God’s work: (Haggai 1:9) “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”
In our family we have been working on a few strategies to bring prayer back into the centre of our lives. Prayer is one of our values in our family mission statement, and short of putting a blanket over our heads to pray (like Susannah Wesley did), we have developed a few simple prayer strategies. One is a prayer jar. We write down prayer needs the we know of and pray for one or two of them at dinner time.
Last year I developed a little prayer timetable. Prayer needs are broken down into praying for one area per day.
One day I would love to have a prayer room, as depicted in the film ‘War Room’ which is about to be released this month. From the producers of Fireproof and Courageous (which I found encouraging if albeit a little cheesy), this film is geared to be the most powerful film yet. ‘War Room’ explores how pursuing prayer can have a dramatic positive impact upon marriages, parenting, careers, friendships, and every other area of our lives. Many areas of our lives can sometimes feel like a war zone. Maybe we too, need a war room where prayer strategies are planned for the battles that we face. Because we all face battles.
I my pursuit to prioritize prayer, I am challenged to take a break from distractions. For all the time that I spend on facebook, I could be praying. We all have 24 hours in the day, and even if we are in a really busy season, we have small pockets of time where we can pray. Let’s prioritize time spent with the Lord, even in the busy seasons of life. We need to keep on keeping on. I am really not a morning person, but I might even be challenged to get up early one of these days!
. . . I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:147)
. . . Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went
off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)