I love David’s prayer in Psalm 25. “Show me your ways,” he says, “Teach me. Guide me.”
I love what David is asking for. And I love what he’s not. He’s not asking God to show him the way or the path or the truth. He’s asking God to show him his ways.
Because there’s a difference.
A lot of ways might appeal, a lot of paths might look good, a lot of what we see and hear might be convincing. But if we want to be confident that we’re on the right road or making the best decision, we need to let God direct our steps. Let’s make this psalm our Friday Prayer:
Show ____ your ways. Teach ____ your paths. Guide ____ in your truth. (Psalm 25:4-5)
To a lot of people, “righteousness” is a dirty word. It smacks of finger-pointing, judgment, and pride.
But it’s not, at least not in God’s lexicon. When he uses the word, it brims with refreshment – with things like honesty, justice, and grace. And when he calls us to pursue righteousness as a lifestyle, it is his invitation to let our lives line up with his commands – not so much for his sake, but for ours.
Because living like that – letting God’s righteousness shape our actions, as well as our attitudes – leads to good things! As the Bible puts it, “The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.” (HCSB)
If a life marked by peace and quiet confidence sounds good to you (and it sure does, to me), make this verse your Friday prayer. Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:
Make your righteousness real in _____’s life; may it result in peace and quiet confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
So Robbie and I have been working our way through the books, Lists to Love By, and guess what? I’m realizing afresh that what the Bible says about the words we speak (“The tongue has the power of life and death”) is really true!
And I need help.
I want my words to be helpful and encouraging. I want them to build people up. I want to be someone who gives life – not death – in the things that I say, whether I’m talking to Robbie, my kids, or anyone else.
If you want that too, why not join me in making Ephesians 4:29 your Friday prayer? Here it is. You can pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:
Let no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up, that it might benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.”
If you’re using the Bible in One Year (a free reading app that comes with commentary; click here to get it), you read about David’s distress – and God’s incredible deliverance – in Psalm 18 this week. God hears David’s cry and, after an earth-shaking display of majesty and power, he reaches down – “all the way from sky to sea.”(MSG)
If you find yourself in David’s place (pursued by foes, feeling overwhelmed and entangled, or just needing to know that your Daddy is there, and that he hears you), take heart. “He rescued me,” David says, “because he delighted in me.” I like how the Message translation puts that line: “I stood there saved – surprised to be loved!”
God delights in you.
God delights in you! And he is ready to save.
So…ask for his help. Call on him. Make Psalm 18:16 your prayer, knowing that you (and your children, if you’re praying this prayer for them) are never out of God’s reach:
Reach down from on high and take hold of me; draw me out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16)
It’s January 27. How’s that New Year’s Resolution working out?
According to a couple of brainiac professors at U.Va. and the University of Zurich, most of us have higher expectations that we can successfully take on a new goal when it syncs with a new time period. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether we want to drink less, hit the gym more, or stop gossiping, we figure that our chances for an effective launch are better if we start on the first of the year. Or the month. Or even, actually, on a Monday.
Trouble is, just having a fresh start doesn’t mean that the same old temptations and obstacles won’t pop up. You can read the U.Va. findings by clicking here, but if what you really want is some Divine help, why not ask for it? The Bible says that God’s mercies are new every morning (talk about a fresh start!), and that it is his grace that teaches us how to live wisely and well.
Here’s a prayer you can pray for yourself, or for someone else who might need God’s grace in 2017 (and beyond!):
Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Show _____ how to turn his/her back on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life…one that is starting right now! (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV and Titus 2:11-12, MSG)
Earlier this month, I told you how much I like Mark and Susan Merrill’s books, Lists to Love By for Busy Wives and Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands. Those are great for strengthening marriage, but what about all the other relationships in our lives?
What about our other family members? Or our friends? How can we improve connections and strengthen ties with our parents, siblings, and in-laws? What about teammates and coaches…or that tricky roommate…or the co-worker who always seems to find a way to pinch our last nerve?
Philippians 2:1-18 offers some guaranteed-to-work tips for every relationship. (They work because, basically, they compel us to think and act more like Christ.) Read the whole passage by clicking here, or start with just two little power-packed verses and turn them into a Friday prayer for yourself or for someone you love:
Help _____ to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, cause _____ to value others above him/herself, not looking to their own interests but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
I wasn’t much of a Girl Scout. I finished my stint with the Brownies, but no sooner had I graduated to the green dress with the awesome badges-sash when my mom (who was a Den Mother) suggested that I might quit. I don’t think it was the prospect of cookie sales that damped her enthusiasm (we loved those, still do); all I can think is that maybe she made one-too-many sit-upons:
We made them – lots of them – to take along on our Big Camping Trip. But, for reasons that were never entirely clear to me, we never actually went camping. We went to the library. Where the sit-upons worked just fine.
All of which is to explain why I can read, but I cannot build a fire. The closest I ever came to having to build one for myself was in college, when a few girlfriends and I decided to skip the mayhem that was Fraternity Bid Night and go camping. Armed with a tin of Jiffy Pop and a bottle of wine, we drove to the outskirts of Charlottesville, parked our car on the side of the highway, and started hiking. Never mind that we didn’t have any wood (or, for that matter, any sit-upons); we had an entire semester’s worth of unread Wall Street Journals we’d subscribed to for an Investments class, and they burned remarkably well.
All of which is to further explain why, when it got cold this year and I threw a log into the fireplace, my husband looked at me like I was crazy.
“What?” I said. “I am going to put some newspaper in there. What’s the problem?”
“You can’t burn one log by itself,” Robbie explained. “You need a bunch of them.”
Robbie grew up on a farm. He lived in a drafty old stone house with charming fireplaces that a smallish person can actually stand up in, and his fire-building prowess (coupled with his ability to drive in the snow, which no boy I had ever dated could do) had me smitten from Day One. And so, when he said I needed more firewood, I knew better than to challenge his wisdom. I added more logs.
And maybe this is a stretch, but I couldn’t help but think about fire-building when I read this from @DailyKeller on Twitter:
If we are made in God’s image, and He is three persons – then at our fundamental core we are made for community.
I know Tim Keller is a big City Boy now, but I’m guessing that he has been camping. Or that he grew up on a farm. Because even though he doesn’t come right out and say it, I think what he really means is that people are like firewood. We can sputter along on our own, but if we want to realize our full potential – if we want to burn brightly and well – we need to spend time with other people, people who will ignite our faith and kindle our understanding of God and his purposes.
People with whom, and through whom, we can get to know Jesus better.
Do you have friends like that? If not, ask God to give you some. He’s the one who originally said it wasn’t good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), and that we are supposed to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17). He knows that we flourish in community. Here’s how he puts it in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Two are better than one. We are created for community. And friendship, I think, is a blessing that God wants to give us.
Sometimes, though, the connections he ordains don’t look like we think they will. Be alert to the unexpected, life-giving friendships that might be in store for you this year.
And don’t be afraid to pursue them. Perhaps you know an older person who loves the Lord, and who might be willing to mentor you in the coming year. (It can’t hurt to ask.) Or maybe your church has a Bible Study or an Alpha Course you could join. Or maybe you’re feeling ambitious enough to start your own group. You could invite a few friends to come over and try one of Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods, or maybe do one of the online studies offered by the gals at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
And wait. I just had another idea.
If you home or apartment is small, and you don’t have enough chairs for everybody, you could just go ahead and make your own sit-upons. It’s easy. All you need is a couple of vinyl tablecloths, a hole punch, some yarn, and that stack of old newspaper you’ve been meaning to burn…
(And okay, so while you’re making new friends and punching holes in your tablecloths, I’m gonna be taking a little vacay. I’ll still post Friday prayers, but the mid-week blogs won’t show up again until early February. Until then…lots of love! – J.)
January is a often a time for reflection. For evaluation. For looking back…and, even more, for looking forward.
For me, it’s a time when I think about things like work and purpose. I want to be sure I am investing time and talent the way God wants in the year ahead, and I want him to help me get the job done.
One of my favorite “work” prayers comes from Psalm 90, which is a prayer that Moses prayed. Here’s what he asked God to do; feel free to borrow this one for yourself, for someone you love, or maybe even for your church, organization, or business:
May your favor rest on ______. Establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
Okay so maybe you haven’t even started the Rick Warren Bible Study book I told you about last month, but if you are married, I’ve got something else you just HAVE to read. Seriously. (And besides. The College FBS Bowl Games are over and season 2 of The Crown doesn’t come out until sometime next fall, so what else are you gonna do?)
Get a jump on Valentine’s Day and check out Mark and Susan Merrill’s brand new books, Lists to Love By.
There’s a volume for “Busy Husbands” and another one for “Busy Wives.” I love them both.
For starters, Mark and Susan are refreshingly honest. Susan is a high-energy, creative, can-do gal who figured that the “game” of marriage would be easy. “I thought the hard part would be finding a husband,” she confesses, “not living happily ever after.” And Mark (a highly organized, very disciplined guy) admits that he had his own expectations dashed, early on. He thought that most of the bumps that came along in their marriage could be solved if only Susan would “think and act more like me.” Right.
They also know their stuff. Mark and Susan have spent the past 20 years delivering books and radio shows and blogs and podcasts all designed to help people love their families well. They have research and experience and things like Google Analytics coming out of their ears, and they know what works. And what doesn’t.
And finally, Mark and Susan make it all very do-able. Each book offers 30 lists, along with step-by-step instructions on how to use them. Couples are challenged to examine their expectations about marriage (see above), evaluate how they are doing (you’ll find handy quizzes and thought-provoking questions), and make improvements that will lead to a more intimate and fulfilling relationship.
I’ve been thumbing through the lists in my book, trying to pick one or two to share with you. Trouble is, I like almost all of them. Even the ones that make me squirm, like LIST 8, which lets me know (point #3) that my man “desires conciseness.”
(Which I understand, except when I think that what I have to say is fascinating.)
(Which is often.)
LIST 18: 7 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your Husband in Public.
LIST 26: 10 Questions to Ask Your Husband Every Year.
LIST 21: 8 Creative Ways to Flirt with Your Husband.
LIST 10: 8 Keys to Understanding What Your Husband is Really Saying. Because we all need a good translator, now and then. And pity the guys, who have a harder time. Their version of this list includes NINE Keys to Understanding what Your Wife is Really Saying. Like, “What are you doing today?” means I’ve got some things that I want you to do today.
(To which I would say, “Duh.” And Robbie would say, “Ahhh. Good to know.”)
And here’s the thing about lists. When I used to write financial planning books (which Robbie still considers a Red Sea-style miracle), I learned that simply tracking expenses (which is the first step in establishing a workable budget) actually makes people spend less. In other words, just listing stuff – just thinking about your spending habits – can make a positive difference.
I can’t help but believe it’s the same thing with marriage. Just thinking about things like misplaced expectations, or areas for improvement, can’t help but make things better. And with pros like Mark and Susan in your corner, offering tips without judgment (“Take small bites,” they advise), you start to feel like a better marriage – a good marriage, one that you like – really is possible.
My goal is to conquer all 30 lists in the book, but you know what? If I can nail even just one of them, it will be a win. We’ll have a better marriage than we did yesterday. And, encouraged by that success, I will be motivated to keep going.
And so will Robbie.
Or at least, that’s the plan. I haven’t yet given him his book of lists. But I am about to.
(But not while pursing my lips.)
(Because LIST 24: 5 Ways to Use Body Language to Connect.)
(Note: I first posted this prayer two years ago, but as I stare down the pile of bedsheets, tablecloths, and dirty socks and towels that represent Christmas Past, I feel like I need it today. Maybe you do, too. Because some prayers are like laundry: You just gotta do them again.)
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the full house and the empty nest is the amount of laundry that needs doing. For years, particularly when we had four children all playing different sports, my life had a rhythm all its own:
Wash. Dry. Fold. Repeat.
Partly to break up the monotony, and partly to attach some sort of meaning to an existence that seemed to be measured in soccer games and grass stains, I started using the laundry cycle as a prayer prompt. I looked up a few verses about clothing and pressed them (a-hem) into service.
Here’s one of my favorites. This year, instead of groaning over the laundry pile, why not try this prayer when you pull a load out of the dryer? It might not help you find that missing sock, but at least you’ll be investing in something that lasts beyond tomorrow:
Heavenly Father, let _____ know that he/she is holy and dearly loved. Help _____ to clothe himself/herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)