ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.29.2016

“Don’t be afraid.”

Jonas may have dumped 42 inches of the white stuff on West Virginia and 30 in New York, but here in Virginia Beach (where we had accumulations of “up to an inch!”) we had our own problems. Roads turned icy, schools shut down, and the birds outside my window huddled on the rooftop, daring each other to jump.

Matthew 10-29 (2)

Seriously. They would hop to the edge, look down, and then egg each other on, like a flock of middle school boys. “You first.”

Not being all that up on my ornithology, I don’t know how much sleet hampers a bird’s ability to fly, but from the looks of these guys, it must be a lot. Either that, or they just forgot who they were in the storm.

I get that. And maybe you do, too. When life turns cold and nasty, it can be easy to forget who we are, or how much we are loved. Which is maybe why God put in that part about the birds, when he sent his disciples out into a world that would hate them. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Jesus asked. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

If you feel snowed under by problems or persecution today (whether it’s one inch of them or 42!), why not use this passage as a springboard for prayer? Just put your name (or the name of someone you love) in the blanks, and remember that no matter how gloomy the forecast is, God is still in control.

Heavenly Father,

When ____ feels burdened by hatred, rejection, or some other hardship, remind him/her that you are in charge. Let ____ know how much he/she is worth in your eyes, and help ____ not to be afraid. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.25.2016

Trash Talk

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I realize that “trash” is not the most captivating subject for a blog, but two things happened last week that made me want to write about it.

The first was on I-64. I was driving behind a minivan when a napkin suddenly flew out the window. Oh gosh, I thought. Some poor mother is up there with a car full of kids and now they have started throwing stuff. Been there. Even had to turn around on the highway when the thing that blew out during a family vacay was Annesley’s blankie.

But then came another napkin, followed by a paper bag. And finally, a cup. Clearly, lunch was over, and this was a deliberate dump.

So I did what no one should probably do anymore, what with road rage and all. I floored it like I was Bo Duke and pulled alongside the perp. He turned out to be a big, hairy guy, alone in the van. He looked like he was about my age.

(Which got me thinking: Hadn’t he grown up watching the Crying Indian ad? He had to have seen that one.)

The guy saw me and started laughing. Are you CRAZY? I mouthed, giving him my best “Mom is so NOT happy” face. He laughed even harder.

And then he gave me the finger.

Robbie would say that I was the crazy one, and that I am lucky that the guy didn’t have a gun. I say the guy’s lucky that I didn’t have a gun. And that I’d grown up with a mother who never really sympathized with my problems; rather, she made me pray for all of the bullies and mean girls and kids she said were “just jealous” (isn’t that the best Mom line?) of me. One time, after a boy had hit me in the back with a basketball as we walked home from school (I ran, after that), Mom made me go back out into the road (since she knew he had to walk past our house) and curtsy, saying, “Have a nice day, Peter.”

And I did.

(Yeah, you read that right. I curtsied.)

At the time, I am sure I wished my mother had checked to see if my back was okay, or at least gotten on the horn with Peter’s mother to let her know what a nasty boy she had. But Mom’s parenting style tended to run along biblical lines, and she was drawing from 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

For better or for worse, that nugget stuck. And when VanMan made his little hand gesture, I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t exactly curtsy, but I could pray. And so I did. I prayed for that hairy guy for like the next five miles, that he would be blessed, and that his family would be blessed, and that he would know how much God loved him, and that he would be kept safe as he trashed America’s highways with his to-go wrappers. I covered that guy in so many blessings that I could hardly see straight.

And you know what? It made me happy. Praying for that guy – heaping blessings on his big old head – turned my indignation into joy. And even if I never see VanMan again (and I kind of hope I don’t), I just know he has some good things coming. Maybe he won’t litter so much, once he realizes how much God loves him. And who knows? Maybe he’ll even shave.

The second thing that happened wasn’t nearly that interesting. The second thing that happened was that Robbie and I were on a hike with some friends, and we saw a trash can beside a beautiful lake. I stopped to snap a pic, and I am pretty sure Robbie mocked me when he explained that I was always pulling out my phone to take pictures for this blog. “Oh good,” our pal Ralph said, “Because now she can write about trash.”

So I did.

And Ralph? May God bless you today. May he shower his goodness on your family, may he keep you all safe, and may you know how very much you are loved.

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.22.2016

Friday Prayer to Know God Better

Ephesians 1-17

There are plenty of things that set Christianity apart from other world religions, but my favorite distinction might be the fact that we serve a God who knows us, and who invites us to know him back. He doesn’t want us to just know about him; he wants us to know him on an intimate, personal level – as a savior, redeemer, Father, and friend.

There are all sorts of ways this relationship can flourish. We can get to know God through reading Scripture. We can pray. We can hang out with people who reflect his love and his character. And we can open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, the one whose job it is to leave God’s imprint on our hearts and minds.

If you or someone you love wants to get to know God better this year, this simple prayer from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a great place to start:

Heavenly Father,

Give ______ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that he/she/I may know you better. (Ephesians 1:17)

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.15.2016

Friday Prayer for Patience

GalatiansIf you saw yesterday’s post (well, if you managed to hang in there all the way to the end), you know that patience is more than the ability to wait for something. It is the ability to wait well.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote that patience involves things like deferring anger and being content to bear injuries. Warren Weirsbe (another Bible brainiac) likens patience to “courageous endurance without quitting.” Taken together, these definitions encompass pretty much everything from not being easily offended, to trusting God’s timing and his purposes, to hanging in there on something as seemingly unspiritual as learning to play the piano or pilot a plane.

Clearly, patience is a virtue worth having. So are all of the other traits outlined in Galatians 5:22-23. Why not pick one of these attributes (or all nine!) and pray it into your life this year, or into the character of someone you love?

Here’s how the Amplified version of these verses might look, written out as a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the Holy Spirit who lives in _____. May the fruit [result] of the Spirit’s presence in _____’s life be love [an unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how ____ acts while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Amen.

 

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.14.2016

Waiting Well

So this week, a friend told me that she met someone at her church who likes my blogs because she thinks they are “so funny.” Uh-oh. If that’s you, can I just apologize in advance? Because what I want to write about today is seriously not funny.

I am going to write about waiting.

Which is what I did for 97 straight minutes last week. Standing up the whole time. In a line. To make an appointment. For a passport. At the post office.

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See? Not funny.

Oh sure, there were some funny parts. Like, after about 20 of us had been standing there for an hour (they recommend arriving by about 7 a.m., since there are a limited number of appointments to be had and it’s first come, first served), we heard noises behind a locked door that made us think a clerk was coming. Turns out, it was the janitor. “Yesterday,” he said, pushing his mop, “was a real mess. Nobody came. I don’t know if they are gonna come today or not. So what you all are gonna need to do is just keep waiting.”

Granted, that doesn’t sound all that funny now. At the time, though (having stood there, fresh out of bed and without any coffee, for 56 minutes and counting) I thought it was kind of hilarious. Especially when the white-haired gentleman five people ahead  of me looked back down the line and said, “I’m from the government. I’m here to help.”

Now, I don’t have anything against the government. Well, not the post office people, anyway. They mostly just want to sell stamps. Even the big guy who finally showed up to take names (“You people are gonna have to back this line up, now…that’s right…all the way back, behind the red line”) was just doing his job. And do it he did. All 30 of us (the line kept growing) scuttled backwards, like so many crabs. Or maybe penguins, only in reverse.

Okay, so who does that? I mean, who gets up at 6:00 in the morning and skips their coffee to go stand in line at the post office for 97 minutes, and then waddles backwards with all of the other sheep when the man with the clipboard says to Get Behind The Red Line??

Robbie wouldn’t have. He would’ve taken one look, walked out, gotten online, and paid some passport service an excess upcharge overcharge to expedite the whole process.

But not me.

For me, it was a matter of principle. I was standing in line with my Fellow Americans. If the Russians could do it (and I was pretty sure 97 minutes on a cold tile floor would be amateur hour, to them), then by golly, so could I. I would wait all day, if I had to.

There remained, however, the matter of how to pass the time. (I’m a get-‘er-done kind of gal, and when the janitor showed up with his less-than-encouraging prognosis, I started rifling through the change-of-address and hold-mail forms to see if there was anything that could be considered stationery.)

My pal Lisa says that when you have to wait, you should pray for everyone else who is waiting. So I tried that. I prayed for the college girl at the front of the line (she’d collapsed at about the 37-minute mark, announcing to nobody in particular that she was getting ready to study abroad and she didn’t mind the post office floor). I prayed for the older man who was not really from the government. I prayed for the pair of African American guys, two places ahead of me, who kept shaking their heads, like they’d been accidentally cast in a bad movie. And I prayed for my new friend, Naida, who was just ahead of me in line and who gave me her cell phone number when she finally had to leave, asking that I text her with any information that might help make her next attempt (this was her second) more successful.

And then I started praying for other people I knew. The sick. The discouraged. The destitute. All the people, in other words, that I was beginning to feel jealous of. (Like my mother, who broke her wrist on New Year’s Day and now has what seems like her entire left side  wrapped in ice and pins and splints. At least she has John to bring coffee and turn on the Netflix.)

I guess I could have stood like that forever, waiting and praying behind the red line until I collapsed next to the study abroad girl, but it was finally my turn. And I was one of the lucky ones; I got an appointment. To come back later that day. (Powerball fans, eat your heart out.)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I am an idiot, and the fact that this whole thing turned into a blog has only made a bad situation worse. That’s what I thought, too – until my phone rang as I was pulling out of the post office parking lot. It was my friend Annesley, calling to fill me in on her family’s start to 2016.

“We all picked fruits of the Spirit to pray for this year,” she said, referring to the list outlined in Galatians. “And when I did a little research on patience, I discovered that it’s not just about waiting. The Amplified Bible says–”

At that point, Annesley drove into a tunnel or something, and our conversation got cut off. I couldn’t believe it. Seriously? I had to wait to find out what patience meant?

I couldn’t. I googled Galatians 5:22-23 in the Amplified Translation. Here’s what it says:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Ahhh. So patience (the kind the Holy Spirit forms in us) is not just the ability to suck it up and stand there. It’s the ability to wait well. It’s how we act while waiting – what we think and say and do.

Boy, was I glad I had chosen to pray, rather than telling the clipboard guy what I really thought about his passport operation. And honestly, it could have gone either way.

I share this story not to toot my own horn (because really, I think we can all agree that Robbie’s approach to getting a passport probably makes the most sense, no matter how patriotic of a line-stander you try to be), but to give you something to do next time you find yourself having to wait. Don’t get your undies in a wad. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t start writing thank you notes on federal forms.

Instead, take the opportunity to pray. It’s not something we make a lot of time for, these days. But waiting happens to all of us, and if we step back and see the unexpected gift of time as an opportunity instead of a burden, everything changes. We get to slip our hand into the Almighty’s, partnering with him to accomplish his good purposes on earth.

Which, when you stop to think about it, is a mighty fine way to spend 97 minutes.

(And P.S., I am happy to report that Naida texted me yesterday to say that she had gotten her passport, after only three tries. Is this a great country, or what?)

 

 

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.08.2016

Friday Prayer for Your Athlete

1 Corinthians 16-13-14

Whether you’re praying for a seven-year-old soccer star, a high school varsity point guard, a collegiate lacrosse player, or a grown-up weekend golfer, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 pretty much has ’em covered!

Turn this power-packed verse into a prayer for your athlete, or pray it for yourself today (even if the biggest thing you’ve got to tackle is a pile of dirty laundry).

Heavenly Father,

Help ______ be on guard, to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous, and to be strong. Prompt ______ to do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.06.2016

Breaking Your Enemy’s Teeth

IMG_3164If you’re doing Tim Keller’s The Songs of Jesus devotional book this year (it was the “everyone gets a copy” stocking stuffer in the Berndt house and, even though it’s only been a few days, it’s safe to say that the book has already gotten way more use than the posture braces that Santa left under the tree in 2013), you read Psalm 3 this week. It’s a short one, and for those who don’t have the Keller book or a Bible handy, here it is:

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down in sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

Now, there was a time when I would have read this psalm (or similar ones where David is getting chased by people who want to kill him) and think, “I can’t really relate.” I mean, I don’t feel like I have a lot of “foes” or people who “assail me on every side.” I love the parts in Psalm 3 about God answering me or helping me sleep in peace, but breaking teeth? Excuse me? I can’t think of anyone (even those girls who would never sit with me at lunch, back in middle school) that I would wish that one on.

And I said as much to my running partner, Lynne. She’s my go-to gal on a lot of Bible head-scratchers, and she fielded this one with her customary wisdom and grace.

“Jodie,” she said, “you might not have enemies in the way that you think of them, as in real people. But what about fear, or doubt? What about sadness, discouragement, insecurity, and worry – or anything that keeps you awake at night?”

Ah. She had a point.

But she wasn’t finished.

“You know we all have an enemy,” Lynne continued. (And I did; the Bible says that “our enemy the devil” prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour.) “Don’t you think Satan wants to assail you? And don’t you think he can use things like fear and uncertainty to get the job done?”

Ahhh, yes. Yes he can. And when I began to picture discouragement or fear as my foes, it suddenly became very easy for me to pray that God would step in and render them toothless!

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Yes. That is our dog Khaki. I know it’s not a flattering shot, but…those teeth. I had to show you.

(And alert blog readers will note the fluff of white, just below Khaki’s chin, which explains a lot. When she doesn’t have to wear a Christmas Sweater, she’s actually a decent-looking dog.)

Anyhow.

I don’t know who – or what – you are facing today. But if you feel like you’re under an attack of any kind – whether a real person is conspiring against you, or if it’s things like fear and worry that are taking a bite out of your joy – take Psalm 3 and wrap it around yourself. Call on God, and let him be your shield.

From the Lord comes deliverance. May his blessing be on you today.

 

 

 


ARCHIVES: January 2016


01.01.2016

New Year; New You!

2 Corinthians 5-17

I was looking for a verse about “newness” to kick off 2016, and I came upon 2 Corinthians 5:17. Look at how this verse is written in the New Living Translation:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

What a terrific promise! Let’s use this verse as the basis for our Friday Prayer today, praying these words for ourselves or for someone we love as we look expectantly toward the year ahead!

Heavenly Father,

Remind ____ that she belongs to you. Don’t let her dwell on past mistakes or failures; rather, help her put her confidence in you, knowing that the old life is gone and the new has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 




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