Come to the Table

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Matthew 26:26-30

As I read these verses today, a line jumped out at me that I’ve never noticed before. The focus had always been on the bread and the body, but notice what they did following Jesus’ last supper: they sang a hymn.

When I’m struggling with prayer time, when I’m struggling with drawing nearer to God, music breaks the barrier, be it just listening or singing along, letting the lyrics be my prayer. Nothing reaches deep inside, touches me, as music does.

So I leave you with a song for today, an oldie, but the lyrics will never age: “Come to the Table” by Michael Card.

The Prayer Journal

If you are anything like me, a typical prayer goes something along the lines of this:

“Dear Jesus, thank you so much for the blessings in my life. Thank you for the warm weather this weekend and…hmmm, if it’s going to be nice tomorrow, I could probably wear capri pants. Or maybe a light cardigan. Maybe the green one? Wait, is that clean? I can’t remember….oh yeah, Jesus, thank you for the good day I had today, and please be with my friend who is going through a lot right now… I should set up a coffee date with her. Is she a Starbucks or a Scooters kind of person? I wonder if she’s busy this Saturday… wait, wasn’t I praying here? Uh, Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and for your sacrifice. Huh, next week is Easter Sunday. We should probably go out of town to visit my in-laws because it’s been a while since we’ve seen them…”

(Needless to say, my prayers aren’t exactly things I’d like to be immortalized.)

However, one thing that I used to do, and I’ve recently come back to doing to revitalize my time with God, is prayer journaling.

I started keeping a prayer journal shortly before college, and wrote in several different journals for four years straight. For me, my prayer journal was a bit like a diary, but instead of writing “Dear Diary,” I would address it “Dear Jesus.” I poured out my heart to God about whatever was on my mind, from worrying about my exams and boy problems, to wondering if I was being a good witness on campus and living my life the way God wanted me to. They really helped me focus my prayers on God, and made me see how selfish many of my prayers were, because I focused on MY wants, instead of others’ needs.

Journal and penSadly, I got out of the habit after college, and have only intermittently written in a journal since then. But I recently decided to start this habit back up again, because I miss how close I felt to God when I journaled. I believe keeping a prayer journal is two-fold: 1) it helps you stay focused when you pray, because writing out a prayer (especially by hand!) makes you really think about what you are talking to God about, and 2) you’re talking to God!

As Lorna pointed out on Monday, a husband and wife can’t stay close if they don’t communicate, and I’m not just talking about the big stuff, like how much money to budget for your savings each month, and what school to send the kids to. I talk to my husband all the time about the little, mundane things that I won’t remember in two days time, like how good the music was at my Zumba class, or the silly Facebook meme that made me laugh.

While God is the maker and ruler of the universe, guess what? He cares about YOU! He wants to hear all the stupid stuff, wants to know about the little hurts in your life, or the small triumphs. He already knows you intimately, but I think He delights it when YOU initiate that intimacy back with Him by sharing your secret thoughts with Him. It doesn’t matter how small; Jesus cares about it all.

Light: My Word for the Year

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” Isaiah 60:1-2

Light. That is the word I’ve chosen to focus on this year.

It seems as though everywhere I look, darkness prevails. I don’t mean physical darkness, but darkness in the form of disease, suffering, fear, and evil. It surrounds us and we can’t get away from it. Terror seems to be commonplace these days, getting closer and closer to home. Our nation and our world is a mess.

But that is not how God intended for us to live. He does not want us to live in fear. When the fog of darkness covers our world, God demands that we “Arise and shine,” so that God’s light within us will be visible to all. That means we are to act Christlike in the midst of the tragedies that surround us. That’s not always an easy thing to do, but the darker our world becomes, the more His light is needed. We need to humble ourselves, judge not, and love more. That will be a difficult task for me in many ways, but I also know I must try and then try some more. Hopefully with His help, I can be a little more like Him.

I would give anything to have the world back that I grew up in, but at times that seems like an impossibility. But according to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

From my knees, I must confess my sins and ask for forgiveness while praying on behalf of our nation that He will provide healing to our land. Only our Lord can be the light that pierces this darkness. As followers of Him, we must join together and help that light grow, especially if He commands us to act.

“With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26.

 

3P’s of Writing

3P's of Writing

Writing. It’s so easy yet so hard. My writing process is a bit of a mix. I call it the 3P’s of Writing. Praying, Pantsing, and Plotting.

Prayer is an essential part of the writing process for me. I’m a left brain thinker. Which means I’m organized, structured, keep good notes, don’t over commit and don’t under commit. This is a great way to live life, but as a writer it stunts the artistic side. I easily get caught up in editing, structure and social media more than the writing.

So before I write I pray.

I’m so left brained, God has to activate the right side when He needs me to use it 😉

When the good Lord puts a book on my heart He gives me the basic concept of the book, ie: Transformation, Loving Like Jesus, Prayer, etc. Each day I read in whatever spiritual growth book I’m currently reading, I check out the daily Jesus Calling devotion and I journal my prayer. As I meditate, listen to podcasts and pray throughout my days, the Lord puts the book on my heart. One chapter at a time. Most often He gives me a new chapter heading and the rest stems from that one title. This is the pantsing part of my process.

Just today I felt stuck. I needed an example of someone is scripture to visually provide the concept I was trying to get across. A real life example of what the concept looks like. I’ve been struggling with this particular part of my book for a while now. I woke up this morning and went through my routine. Then the Lord gave me exactly the example I needed. While I’ve yet to write it out, I make my notes and keep trekking along, one chapter at a time.

Since I’ve lately been writing non-fiction this works for me.

I just let God lead.

While I don’t know how or when the book will be finished, God does and His story I’m telling anyway, right? So while there are times this particular process is frustrating it works and it’s all to His glory.

The plotting comes at the end. As I generate my table of contents based on my chapter headings, I look at all of the them and determine the order in which they should go. Looking for a beginning, middle and end to bring about a full life cycle concept of the book I’m writing. Then I go back through the finished product and rearrange it to fit my table of contents and proposal outlines.

It sounds a bit backwards, but it works for me and that’s all that counts. If you are stuck in your writing journey try using the 3P’s of writing and see how it works for you!

 

Question: Can you relate to the 3P’s of writing or does it bring about more confusion?

How You Pray

We’re taught as children to say the Lord’s Prayer. Even I, as a non-church going child, knew the Lord’s Prayer. You hear it at weddings and funerals. Many people I know say the prayer daily, and while there is nothing wrong with that, I’ve come to understand there’s more to that prayer than recitation.

In Matthew 6:9 Jesus said, This, then, is HOW you should pray.

Not what you’re to pray, how you’re to pray.

Let’s break the prayer down:

  • Recognizing God: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Right here we are to treat God with reverence. The only true God. Holy is His name. Prayers should be directed first and foremost to Him. He is holy.
  • Authority in God: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Next we accept His will, not ours, and accept His will as the authority over all-not just in this realm but in the spiritual realm, also. He is sovereign. 
  • Thankfulness of God’s Provision. Give us this day our daily bread. God gives us all we need, if we trust in him. A few scriptures later Jesus expands on this. Matthew 6: 25 – 26 states, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? He is faithful.
  • Seek Forgiveness. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us. He forgives us when we have a repentant heart. And as He has forgiven us, we are to forgive others. He is loving.
  • Seek Deliverance. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil This is where repentance comes into play. All of us are susceptible to temptations. Not that God leads us into it, but we ask that he lead us from it, delivered from the evil that would come between us and God. He is omnipotent.

Many times I feel as if I’m only asking and never recognizing God enough in my prayers. I have to return to the example Jesus gave on how to pray. When I turn my attention toward God, He is magnified and I am minimized. My weight is lifted when I remember how to pray instead of what to pray.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect and give thanks for the blessings God has given us. Though the calendar says it comes only once a year, every day should be Thanksgiving the way I see it. To be honest though, I need a reminder sometimes to be more gracious even if it comes in the form of a holiday.

The following prayer is taken from Ephesians 1:15-23. NIV

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

“P” is for Persecuted

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:12-13.

He warned us. God told us from the start that following Him would not be easy.

That is so true. It seems like every time I listen to the news I hear of horrible attacks on Christians, especially in foreign countries, persecuted simply for spreading the gospel. These missionaries go into these areas knowing the danger involved, yet they go anyway, putting their own lives at risk in the hope that at least one person will come to know the Lord. These people are perfect examples of the life God wants us to lead. Never be ashamed or frightened to acknowledge your faith in Christ.

Every day Christians suffer for practicing their faith and it’s not necessarily in the form of physical attacks. Public prayers can bring on a lawsuit, saying “God bless you” in a high school classroom can get a student expelled, and employers can forbid their employees from saying “Merry Christmas.” And that’s just to name a few. Persecution comes in all forms.

I’ve often wished that Christians everywhere would come together and make our voices heard, stopping (or at least putting a dent in) the persecutions that follow us at every turn. How wonderful if we had the courage to stand up to those who say we can’t pray in classrooms or talk about our faith in public. I can’t help but think that it would make a huge difference.

This is my hope for our September prayer series here at Inkspirational Messages. Hopefully, I can remember to act on my own words and pray that all Christians will join together to help bring peace to the persecuted. Not only abroad but here at home as well

GOD BLESS MOM AND DAD

EllenMerrick2012ReducedOn Saturday, August 25, 2013, we will move our youngest child into a dorm room, leaving her there, 200 miles away from us.

It’s hard.

When we started talking about “back to school” prayers, I admit that I selfishly coveted those prayers not only for my daughter, but for myself, as well!

collegemoveinThen I realized that I’m not alone. Most of my daughter’s classmates started classes THIS week, so I’m seeing parents post on Facebook about missing them, things not being the same, sadness, etc.

This prayer is for myself and my husband, and for ALL the nearly-empty-nesters out there that aren’t entirely sure that WE’RE ready for this next phase!

move_in_line

Dear gracious Heavenly Father,

You know many of us have mixed emotions these days. We go from “How wonderful that my child is going to college,” to “Why did they have to grow up so soon?”

We want them to grow up to be young men and women of God – and yet, we feel that our job isn’t over . . . is it?

Bless the moms and dads out there that are saddened by the silence in their home, the lack of dirty socks under the coffee table, the slamming doors and huge sighs . . . the random hugs, kisses, and jokes that only a parent and child can share . . . the tucking in at night . . . the rousting out of bed as late as possible the next morning.

It’s hard, Lord. You entrusted them to us, and the whole time we have them we are preparing to give them back. I’m just glad YOU are in control, Lord, and not me. I make a big enough mess of things as it is.

But you gave us the best job in the world – the job of PARENT. You blessed us with immeasurable gifts that we will spend a lifetime going over in our minds and in our family stories with our kids, and our kids’ kids, if we’re blessed with grandchildren.

Thank you, Lord. For your love, for your protection, for your Salvation. Bless them. Bless us. Help us through this transition as only YOU can!

In Jesus’ precious name,

Amen

Teacher’s Prayer – For Both New and Seasoned Teachers

j0439456I love all of the prayers that have been shared here – for students young and not-so-young, for teachers, for parents. Many in the Inksper group are sending children off to high school and college for the first, or last, time. My kids are both out of college now and both are elementary teachers.

My son, child #2, starts New Teacher Orientation today. This will be his first teaching job and he’s thrilled. And nervous. Excited and a bit scared. There’s so much to learn, to remember, to do. For years he’s worked toward his dream of teaching. Now that it’s here, he’s antsy to get started while wondering how he’ll get everything done before school starts.

He will be an amazing teacher. And that’s not just coming from a proud “mama bear.” Every evaluation during student teaching included statements like “You’re a natural. This is definitely the right job for you.” His substitute teaching jobs this past spring were reminders that, though he was flying a bit blind each time, it was exactly what he wanted to do. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’7″ which definitely makes him stand-out among the kids!

So as he starts his first year, I’d like to share a prayer I found recently. I offer it up for all first-year teachers, for those who’ve been teaching for decades, and for all those in-between who return each fall eager to be part of their students’ lives.

God bless each person who feels called to teach in some way – in public or private school, home school,Hands and school book Sunday school, college, fine art school…

Lord, let me be just what they need.

If they need someone to trust, let me be trustworthy.

If they need sympathy, let me sympathize.

If they need love (and they do), let me love, in full measure.

Let me not anger easily, Lord, but let me be just. Permit my justice to be tempered in your mercy.

When I stand before them, let me look strong and good and honest and loving. And let me be as strong and good and honest and loving as I look to them.

Help me to counsel the anxious, crack the covering of the shy, temper the rambunctious with a gentle attitude.

Permit me to teach only the truth.

Help me to inspire them so that learning will not cease at the classroom door. Let the lessons they learn make their lives fruitful and happy.

And Lord, let me bring them to You. Teach them through me to love You.

Finally, permit me to learn the lessons they teach.

Amen.

(I don’t know who wrote this – if you do, please let me know so I can give them credit.)

 

 

 

A Prayer for the High School Graduate

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the children you have brought into our lives. Bless the high school graduates, whether they’re heading to college for the first time or entering the work force. As young adults, guide them, protect them, and care for them as they prepare to step into the often scary world of independence. Help them adjust to the new circumstances in their lives and give them confidence to live a godly life when faced with temptations. Guide them in the path of study or career choice you have planned for them, assure them if they’re down or frustrated and point them in the right direction if their original plans don’t work out.

praying handsGive them wisdom and patience throughout the year, strength to speak up for those who are mistreated and the knowledge to know when it’s best to keep quiet. Help them to choose their friends wisely and not to give in to peer pressure. For those who already have Christ in their hearts, give them courage to stand tall and show His love, not only with their words but with their actions. If it is your will, Lord, place the faithful in the path of the non-believer, so that they may hear of your love for all people.

Especially bless their teachers, professors, or employers, Lord, giving them courage and endurance to show kindness and encouragement to the students or employees placed in their care. Protect our children, Lord, and wrap your loving arms around them, reminding them of your constant love.

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.