Step #6. Practice Prayer

season

First words that come to mind when I tell you that there are eight days until Thanksgiving and thirty-four until Christmas? I’m guessing rest and renewal don’t make the cut.

The expectations of this season are so high that what often gets side-lined in preparation for these holidays is time with the Lord in prayer.

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” –Rick Warren

Today I want to talk you through the idea of rest and renewal through prayer. I believe with all of my heart that if we invest in this time, the reward will astound us.

Now when I mention prayer, some of you immediately feel more rested. For some of us, prayer is as comfortable as pulling on comfortable sweats.

For others prayer can feel like fitting into a suit we purchased in 1998… it’s a ton of effort only to end up feeling uncomfortable, out of date, and defeating.

This is coming from the perfectionist who served up rote prayers for decades and felt uncomfortable with free-styling prayers that went longer than two or three minutes. Prior to finding freedom, my prayers were giant lists of names and sins. I prayed for the requests and needs of others and asked for forgiveness for all the wrong I had done. Much more than that and I began worrying about the construction and content of my prayers. Simple tools like ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication only made me feel nervous. My mind wandered and I lived in guilt. I didn’t want to pray.

And yet.

God invites us to pray. Jesus demonstrates how to pray.

If we desire to have our hearts tuned to sing God’s grace we must spend time communicating with Him.

stepStep #6. Practice Prayer.

The truth: I know I should pray so much more than I do AND I often feel as though everyone else prays more and enjoys it far more than I do.

Sybil MacBeth seems to feel similarly and writes in her book Praying in Color, “…But a short attention span and a proclivity for daydreams hamper my efforts. Five or six sentences or breaths into a well-intentioned prayer, I lose focus…. The words of my prayers and the words of my distractions collide in an unholy mess. On a good day, when words flow with more ease, I become so impressed with my successful articulation that I become the center of my own worship. It is not a reverent sight.”

If prayer is something worth doing, then it’s something worth practicing. We aren’t seeking perfection, but communication with our Father. Write, color, draw, sing, walk, speak, just start somewhere!

I know why I must pray in spite of any perceived shortcomings. I must pray because of the deep hunger that stirs inside of me to know the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is our direct way to connect with Him. “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Psalm 66:20.

luther

In prayer we find a connection to the One who holds our worth, our futures, hopes, fears, dreams, and longings. Jesus lived through prayer, learning to speak God’s words, to do God’s will, and to pursue God’s glory.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following and learning,

Ginger

 

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

12 Ways to Stay in Tune this Season

season

November is upon us, but we need not fear the upcoming calendar. Pinterest may have you pining to do more with your decorations, but my goal this month is to remind us to stay focused on our hearts. I need this encouragement on a daily basis! The usual stresses of the season don’t just happen for homeowners and parents. Students are preparing for finals. The working crew is trying to eek out as much vacation time as possible, and we are all seeking to create amazing moments for our favorite people. This season piles expectation upon expectation, and I’m not just talking about Christmas. Somehow Thanksgiving and Christmas get rolled into one and the exhaustion creeps in earlier each year.

Yesterday I mentioned one of my favorite hymns and my theme for the rest of 2013.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

My prayer is that my heart would keep in tune with God’s grace and not drift sharp or flat.

If you’ve ever played an instrument you know how easy it can be to let things slide out of tune. You lose your focus, forget to check, the weather changes… so many things play into the perfection of the pitch. So let’s keep the pitchy notes at bay and stay engaged in the process.

Today kicks off 12 Ways to Stay in Tune this Season.

STEP #1. Demonstrate GRATITUDE!

An attitude of gratitude is completely counter-cultural. Everything about our culture tells us we will be happy if… we get the right stuff, have enough house, take the big vacations, have the best body… and on and on. Thankfulness should be our daily rhythm because it’s the truth. We have SO much to be thankful for.

“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.” St. John of Avila

Gratitude is like a muscle; we’ve got to work it out. So while I LOVE combing Pinterest to find projects and things to beautify my house, maybe I need to start walking through my own house and pin post-its of thanks for the blessings I DO have. The growth could start by simply thanking the baggers at the grocery store. Or maybe it looks like voicing my thanks to the Lord in the morning and listing out my thanks in a journal before I go to sleep.

I love the trend to list thanks in November on social media, but what if that same attitude could continue throughout the year. What if we took up the challenge to ONLY use social media to spread an attitude of gratitude rather than gloating, complaining, or arguing?

The more readily we express thanksgiving, the less room we have for negative thoughts and words. So let’s be intentional and let’s be proactive. Ideas for active gratitude:

1. Volunteer with those less fortunate
2. Write thank you notes
3. Purposefully call, text, or e-mail to tell someone why you are thankful for their presence in your life
4. Memorize a verse about giving thanks: “… Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
5. Go around the table and have everyone say what they are thankful for
6. Get a paper tablecloth and record your blessings
7. Speak your gratitude out loud even in challenging situations: “Thank you for another diaper to change… for a daughter who is healthy, arms that are strong enough to lift her, hands that are able to love her in this way.”
8. Make eye contact and say thank you to any service staff you come in contact with: waiters, drive-thru employees, clerks… you get the idea!
9. I keep hearing about people getting “Boo’d” for Halloween or “Egged” for Easter. Someone start giving “THANXED” blessings on doorsteps. Hah! Leave a cornucopia of encouragement and thankful notes for the house.
10. Let your prayers begin with thankfulness and praise!

Any other ideas?

 

The list is just a start, but I hope it stirs your thoughts. If we want to live more fully in tune with God’s grace, a thankful heart is the perfect launching point.

“The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks-take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks-and He miraculously makes it more than enough.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Following,
Ginger

Oh Give Thanks!

Forgive the silent blog this week. My family is visiting from Texas and I haven’t wanted to spend a moment in front of a computer screen. We’ve been planning the big meal, playing games, enjoying the Phoenix weather, and just loving being together. I am so thankful for this week.

I hope and pray that you find joy in giving thanks this week with a table for two or a table of twenty. May stress fall to the wayside and be replaced with laughter. (After all, when you stop up your drain with potato peels and you have to clean your turkey in the bathtub, what is there to do but laugh?!) 

May your heart be filled with the fullness of joy!

“Oh Give Thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for his mercy endures for ever.” Psalm 136:1

With Thanks,
Ginger

Savor

Savor this...

I know the world is shifting to shopping lists and twinkling lights… but I just wanted to take one more day, hour, or even minute just to breathe in and breathe out.

Be still.

Journal.

Draw.

Pray.

Take a quiet walk.

Remember.

Read.

Dwell.

And give thanks for what the Lord has done.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Psalm 106:1
See you on Monday at the start of a new season, my friends!
With Thanks,
Ginger

Oh Give Thanks!

Oh Give Thanks

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
 Serve the LORD with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

 Know that the LORD, he is God!
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise!
   Give thanks to him; bless his name!

 For the LORD is good;
   his steadfast love endures forever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100, ESV

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful For: God’s Timing

Five years ago this month I pulled into the city of Phoenix with my parents. My dad was driving the rental truck and my mom and I (in my silver Elantra) had spent the majority of New Mexico and Arizona listening to a book on CD about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. It’s crazy what the brain chooses to remember…

As I look back I can’t help but be thankful for the odd and winding road that brought me where I am today: sitting at a kitchen table in Arizona, writing and speaking for a living, and looking forward to giving thanks with my husband and his family tomorrow.

Home.

How did this happen?
Today I’m thankful for:
-A breakup that caused me to finally hear You say, “It’s time to move on.”
Carey, whose own brave steps encouraged me to follow her lead!
-Parents who not only encouraged my dreams, but literally helped me to move them across the country.
-A job that allowed creative freedom and challenged me to develop all sorts of skills.
-Uncomfortable first steps that led to great relationships in unexpected places.
-Days of loneliness that taught me there was only One place to turn.
-Strict studies at BSF that brought wonderful friendships.
-Rejection that taught me to question whether I believed that God really loved me and if His love was enough.
-Broken cell phones, dead car batteries, fender benders, and broken appliances that reminded me that stuff doesn’t matter.
-Challenging work experiences that forced me to confront situations rather than run from them.
-Texas connections in the middle of Arizona.
-A no letter regarding an internship in Uganda.
-Two months in a really uncomfortable housing situation.
-Things that I wanted and asked for that never came to fruition.
-Trials that drove co-workers and friends even closer together.
-Visitors who flew in just to remind me they cared.
-Countless bouquets, plants, letters, packages, and phone calls so that home never felt too far away.
-Failure.
-Experiences I wouldn’t have chosen.
-Painfully difficult conversations.
-Countless “firsts” (auditioning for local theatre, on-line dating, moving everything into storage, writing a musical, running a 10k, eating Indian, Thai, and Ethiopian food, travels…)
-E-harmony.
-That nothing happened in my timing.
-Blog friendships.
-The lesson to get out of the car even when I felt like driving home.
-Opportunities to try new things.
-The huge addition to my family.
-Lots and lots of tears.
-Lots and lots of love.
-The gracious provision of a Heavenly Father who writes the best life stories.
I’m thankful for all of the things I might not have chosen.
“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.” James 1:16-18, The Message
With Thanksgiving,
Ginger

Thankful For: Memories

Island Turkey

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Best Thanksgiving Memories:

  • Getting to drink soda. (It was easy to get me to say thanks.)
  • Going to a movie every year… nice tradition.
  • Spending it freezing in Jamaica.
  • Almost rolling over when the car was stuck in the snow in New Mexico (no yelling by my parents in this moment.)
  • Sledding in the sand dunes of White Sands, New Mexico.
  • Filet Mignon instead of Turkey one year.
  • Snorkeling in Mexico and eating on the beach.
  • Turkey Sandwiches in Ohio with D’s family.
  • Really fun times with cousins.
  • Standing in a giant circle dressed up, holding hands, and praying together.
  • Precious times with loved ones.
  • Going around the table and saying what we were thankful for.
  • Having so many reasons to give thanks.

The only common denominator about Thanksgiving in our house regarding “plans” tended to be getting dressed up to eat. I’m pretty sure the time changes, the relatives change, and what we do during the day changes as well. Some years we’ve gone to see a movie, one year we were on a cruise, football is generally on, and we sit at the table long enough for Grandma Ann to force feed a fifth course of food into my dad.  The constant in three decads of Thanksgiving is the One from who all the blessings flow!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

What’s one of your favorite Thanksgiving memories?

Following,
Ginger

Thankful For: Traditional Eats

Pie!

When I was little (read: up until college) I would fill my Thanksgiving plate with dark meat, ketchup, crescent rolls, and maybe carrot sticks for good measure. I didn’t really care for the food of Thanksgiving.  But I’m learning more and more to appreciate the food and traditions we associate with this day of Thanks.

I always watch those crescent roll commercials with the New England family in their sweaters as they joyously pass the rolls and watch as “Father Dear” carves the turkey. I’ve never once seen a whole turkey at our table. We’re buffet people. The dishes of food do not end up on the table until Grandma Ann is lamenting once again that no one has eaten anything – crescent rolls aside. I asked one year if we could have the turkey on the table. The response, “Why?” The turkey did not make it to the table except in slices on our plates.

Our Thanksgiving traditional menus… 
Grandma Ann and Grandpa Joe’s:
• Turkey
• Stuffing
• White Rice
• Sweet Potato Casserole
• Baby Pearl Onions
• Crescent Rolls
• Cranberry and Orange Relish
• Asparagus
• Pumpkin Pie
• Pecan Pie
• Vanilla Ice Cream

Grandma Doris and Grandpa Glenn’s:
• Turkey
• Stuffing
• German Noodles
• Green Bean Casserole
• Sweet Potato Casserole
• Crescent Rolls
• Canned Cranberry Lump Thing
• Beats?
• Chocolate Pie
• Lemon Meringue Pie
• Pecan Pie
• Pumpkin Pie
• A bazillion deserts that sit in Tupperware on the washer and dryer

And of course, neither table was complete without that great American condiment, ketchup.

This year, who knows what new traditions I will get to enjoy!  D and I are staying in town to enjoy a feast with friends and family.  Fingers crossed as we attempt to smoke a turkey!

Thank you God for this food.

Which fabulous foods are unique traditions to your family?

Can’t wait to hear from you…

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Giving Thank$

Harvest Time

The title isn’t a misprint.

Today’s Thursday Tip is all about further training in the art of giving thanks.  Check out the video post:

Here’s to turning thankfulness from a state of being into a state of doing!

Following,
Ginger

One Holiday at a Time

I very much want to celebrate Thanksgiving before jumping over to Christmas.  I understand those of you who have already moved to Christmas scents, music, and beverages.  I get the idea that every day should be a day to give thanks.

Savoring the Season

But then I read the procalamation reminding us of the true source of Thanksgiving… and I made my own declaration to revel in THIS holiday before embracing the next.  I want to share it with you today.  I had never read it before, but now it sits freshly typed in a pretty font on my fridge.  I’m hoping to read it each day- and if I can finagle it, to have it read each year on the day of Thanksgiving.

Sit down and read this one slowly… and give thanks!

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime, truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

 Abraham Lincoln – October 3, 1863

Following and giving thanks,
Ginger