This is the book that God’s daughters truly need! Alli is so encouraging, yet straightforward about where our strength, value and wholeness comes from. She starts out the book with a powerhouse statement, “For Christians, however, a woman belongs in only one place: squarely in the center of wherever God has sent her” (pg.4). At the end of each chapter, she gives the readers something to remember, discussion questions and action steps. I believe this book is for every woman. They will find the definition of their true selves and where their strength truly comes from!
Focus-Cleere Cherry Reaves
Such a blessing in a small book! Cleere gives the readers weekly devotionals based on one word. She includes multiple verses and a focus tip for the week. I recommend this book to women who feel like they don’t have time to deep dive into a four hour long devotional time everyday because life is crazy. This book is one that can be reused over and over again and shared amongst friends and other women.
Your Hospitality Personality-Morgan Tyree
This book is such an encouragement for each person, whether you consider yourself hospitable or not. As you read this book, you will discover more about yourself and those around you. Morgan starts out by having the reader take a hospitality personality test so they can discover their type. Then she spends the next 15 chapters describing how each personality is in each situation, who they are around and how to overcome their issues when it comes to hosting. She also had different people give their tested ideas to help the reader.
This book is a very interesting, eye opening and quick read. It is interactive with the reader and will cause them to think and analyze how to be there for those around them. One line from her book that will hit home with a lot of readers is, “Expectations can often inhibit potential intimacy” (pg. 87). I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to best serve the people who are in their lives and the ones to come.
An Interview with Andrew Huff, Author of Cross Shadow
All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. There’s always more to the story, and she can’t rest until she uncovers it. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid the truth. Given his prior life, he thinks hiding the truth can protect those he cares about. A journalist out for the truth and a pastor avoiding it sounds somewhat backward, but that’s where Christine and John find themselves in Andrew Huff’s Cross Shadow (Kregel Publications), the second installment of the Shepherd Suspense series.
When Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, she vows to get to the bottom of the crime and prove his innocence. Christine wants to investigate on her own, but when John arrives, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of intrigue, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation and in trouble far deeper than they expected. A chain of events reveals a bigger conspiracy than either could have imagined involving a robotics defense contractor, a private military company, and an assassination plot.
With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive. In the face of danger, will John’s former instincts kick in? Will he turn back to his old ways?
Q: For those who may not have read A Cross to Kill, tell us a little bit about John Cross and his past.
CIA assassin John Cross found himself at a crossroads in his life during a covert operation in Spain. He walked in on a Catholic Mass at a historic cathedral while tracking his target and couldn’thelp but get caught up in the majesty of the building. Instead of fulfilling the requirements of the mission, John found an English Bible at a local bookshop and spent the night reading it. Convicted by his sin, he gave his life to Christ and resigned from the agency.
In an effort to pay penance for the targeted killings he was personally responsible for, John embedded himself in a small church community in rural Virginia and served the various needs of its members night and day. Impressed by his commitment to caring for them, and in need of leadership, the congregationoffered him the chance to be their pastor. Thinking it might be another step toward paying the price of his past sins, he accepted, though he continues to hide the truth about who he used to be from the members of the church.
Q: How did John and Christine, the leading lady of Cross Shadow, meet?
On occasion, John would accept the call from the CIA to participate in rescue missions during his off time from serving the church. He was dropped into Amman, Jordan, on one such mission only to discover that the person he’d been sent to exfiltrate was Christine Lewis, a beautiful American journalist about to be executed by her captors. Using only a stun gun and his hand-to-hand combat skills, John stayed the execution and escaped with Christine. After he disappeared and all knowledge of his existence was denied, Christine made it her mission upon returning home to locate the man who saved her life.
Through a contact in Washington with mysterious ties to the intelligence community, Christine was given a hint to John’s true identity in the form of an address. She’s instructed to go there on Sunday, and when she arrived, she found John preaching a sermon in the small country church. John’s instinct was to run, but something caused him to trust her and reveal his story. Christine wanted to protect his secret, but forces beyond her control appeared, and she was caught in the middle as a choice from John’s past came back to haunt him.
Q: What are some of the relationship challenges John and Christine contend with? Why does Christine seem to be second-guessing their dating relationship?
Throughout the events of A Cross to Kill, John and Christine are drawn to each other like two magnets. After Christine gives her life to Christ, they decide to see if a dating relationship will work. What they find, however, is that neither is sure what such a relationship should look like as new believers. While the chemistry is still strong, their dates are consumed by John’s compulsion to train Christine in survival skills. Christine loves the small community of Rural Grove Baptist Church, but blossoming spiritual relationships and potential job opportunities keep her tied to New York City. Christine begins to wonder if her connection to John was anything more than an infatuation with his story.
While both are struggling to separate their identity from each other, the biggest challenge in their relationship comes from the lack of communication, both in the sense of the distance between them and also a lack of trust. John struggles to reveal more of who he really is for fear of driving Christine away while Christine struggles with planning her life around John for fear his plans might not align with hers. The tension in their relationship stems from their hesitancy to be truthful with one another when simply sharing their feelings would bring many of these struggles to light.
Q: Both John and Christine seem to have a problem with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Why does this keeping popping up as an issue throughout the story?
John’s life prior to Christ was built on one lie after another, and he’s been oblivious to how that has continued to be the case, even in the wake of his conversion. For him, there’s also an objective to the lie, because he is convinced that he needs to deceive others in order to protect them. John thought his only lie was hiding his past from the members of his church when in reality he’s been lying to himself about who he is and what he should do about it. Finding forgiveness for the lives he took was only the first step of John’s journey toward becoming the new man God has called him to be.
Christine has less of a problem telling the truth and more of a problem obsessing over it. To her, there’s always more to the story, and she can’t rest until she uncovers it. Sometimes, however, she finds herself willing to bend the truth in order to get at the truth on something else. New to Christianity, Christine is still learning about the balance between grace and truth, too often erring on the side of the latter at the expense of the former.
Q: Without giving away too much, can you tell us about the situations they encounter this time around in Cross Shadow?
With the first story, A Cross to Kill, we were introduced to the characters and saw what happens when John’s cultivated small-town life clashes with the fallout from his previous career. For the second book in the series, I wanted us to spend more time with Christine and see how her past might draw them back into a world of danger. Only now she sees the world from a new perspective based on her relationship with John.
On her way to an interview with a new network, Christine spots a suspicious character on the subway who turns out to be a suicide bomber. With the aid of an off-duty NYPD officer, Christine “defuses” (not literally; John didn’t train her to do that!) the situation and is thrust into the spotlight a second time. As if that wasn’t enough, in the middle of it all she learns the shocking news that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Dallas, Texas. Christine vows to get to the bottom of the crime and prove his innocence. But when John arrives to shadow her, it starts a chain of events that reveals a far deeper conspiracy than either could’veimagined involving a robotics defense contractor, a private military company, and an assassination plot.
Q: Christine is a national news reporter and in Cross Shadow has some opinions of her coworkers and how the network covers certain stories. What do you think her take would be about the current news of the day and coverage of events?
Before her kidnapping in Jordan, Christine felt at home among her colleagues at the network news division she works for. But upon her rescue and return, she can’t help but feel like most of the work happening in news is less about presenting truth and more about shaping it. I think she’d sense the same in the way news is covered currently, and she would be bothered by that. At the same time, she’s committed to the profession, and I think she would want to work to effect change from the inside.
When I created the character of Christine, I saw her as someone who went into the job believing she was an agent of change in the world, only to be stripped of her idealism by her captivity. Rather than turn cynical, the experience grounds her in reality and opens her eyes to the possibility that human beings can’t fix what feels broken about the world. That’s how her journey leads to John, then ultimately to Christ. She’s searching for something truly good and right. I think because of that, she’d be less interested in the sensationalism of today’s news and more in understanding the reality beneath the headlines.
Q: Trying to protect Christine from danger puts John in the middle of some moral quandaries. How does he handle himself mentally and spiritually in those situations?
The battle waging in John from the beginning is the tension between who he is now and who he was trained to be. His focus has been singularly placed on the act of killing. But what he’ssuddenly faced with as he pursues a relationship with Christine and continues to serve as the pastor of his church is that the instincts drilled into him carry other moral prices as well. The more the situation in Dallas unravels, the more out of control John begins to feel with his own mental and spiritual status.
At the same time, he’s committed to protecting the innocent and preserving life, so he works to redirect his instincts to achieve those two goals. That’s what complicates his relationship with truth. If he’s convinced that what he’s doing is for the greater good, he’s quick to compromise on deception and manipulation. This is a struggle I have and have seen in others. By lying to ourselves about our intentions, we can sometimes make choices that are inconsistent with what we say we believe.
Q: Does John’s prior profession and the choices he made ever come back to haunt him?
Oh, all the time. The truth about the Central Intelligence Agency is that you never truly leave the Central Intelligence Agency. So,John keeps getting pulled back in, even when he says he doesn’twant to. The only problem is that he was really good at what he did. And not just the assassination part. Which begs the question: Should he go back? Was he only running from guilt when he decided to leave?
In Cross Shadow, we also examine his choice to accept the pastorate at his church despite being young in his faith and untrained for the ministry. From the outside looking in, he doesn’tseem like the best candidate to truly lead the church toward growth. Those were real questions that not only were present when I was writing the first book but have also been asked by readers afterward. I can’t wait for you to see how the story continues for him.
Q: What kind of research goes into writing about a CIA agent?
It does get tricky, especially when writing about members of the Special Activities Center (the CIA’s division for covert operations). The most important thing for me about writing these characters is to never make it feel like they’re learning any of it for the first time. Since we’re often in their perspective, there are certain actions they might take or things they might say that need to be second nature to them. That needs to be balanced with making sure the reader can follow along. This means I need to know my stuff!
A lot of my research comes from scouring the internet. (I’m sure the CIA knows how many times I visit their website.) But I also research movies and books too; other writers before me have done their homework, so I love to learn and be inspired by how someone else might have crafted the world of the United States Intelligence Community. A great book specifically on the CIA’s targeted killing programs is called Surprise, Kill, Vanish by Annie Jacobsen. It didn’t come out until 2019, so I didn’t have it as a resource for the first book, but I surprised myself with how accurately I was able to write some things with the then more limited knowledge about this particular aspect of the CIA.
Q: How long have you been working on the Shepherd Suspense series, and have you always wanted to write?
I worked on A Cross to Kill for several years beginning in 2014. The series didn’t start to take shape until two years ago after I signed with Kregel Publications for the book to be published. I originally wrote A Cross to Kill as a stand-alone novel, though I’dbe lying if I said I hadn’t already thought about what I might do to continue the story with the characters. What I found most helpful in planning out the series was asking myself what lingering questions I had from the first story, and there were enough that the plots for the second and third books came relatively easy.
While I didn’t start attempting to write until I was an older teen, my passion for storytelling has been a part of my life from an early age. One of my favorite pastimes growing up was to tell stories using action figures (mainly to myself, but often with my brothers). I was also into art and would occasionally adapt those stories into drawings. I even made some short films based on stories I would write. In some ways, novels feel like a more recent addition to my repertoire of formats to tell stories in.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you as a new author following the release of your first book?
The biggest surprise has been the season following the release. I looked at the specific date of release as something akin to a movie’s opening weekend and expected there to be a lot of excitement over it immediately. I don’t know if you know this, but a book is very different from a movie, and while the release day was exciting, it’s been really fun to watch new readers discover the book over the months following its debut last October. I’m still getting reviews and messages about it (which is probably laughable for other authors to hear, but hey, I’m still new at this).
Another surprise has been how much I enjoy hearing the varied aspects of the book that different readers enjoyed. Of course, I know and love that each reader is their own unique person, but as an author, you are always trying to reach as vast of an audience as possible. And while many readers have let me know how much they love similar things, it’s been a lot of fun to hear the personal connection each individual has to certain themes or characters.
Q: What can readers expect from the final installment of the Shepherd Suspense trilogy, Right Cross?
A Cross to Kill featured a small-town setting with international intrigue. In Cross Shadow, I flip the script, and we get to go with John and Christine to a bigger city to solve a personal mystery. With Right Cross, both the locations and plot go big. I like to try and write the thrills of a Mission: Impossible movie onto the page with my novels, and the final book in the Shepherd Suspense series is the most M:I of them all.
At the same time, the characters have grown. They’re no longer wrestling with questions of identity and purpose. With a newfound confidence in their standing before God, they get a chance to be who they were ultimately created to be. And I’ve had so much watching that unfold. I can’t wait for readers to do the same!
Learn more about Andrew Huff and the Shepherd Suspense novels at www.andrewhuffbooks.com. He can also be found on Facebook (@huffwrites), Twitter (@andrewjohnhuff) and Instagram (@andyhuff).
Not From God Review-Kaitlin Chappell Rogers
This book y’all…this is power! Kaitlin goes through 10 different narratives going on in our minds that are not from God. She guides the reader through the associated verse, a brief section of encouragement and truth, and finishes with a section to remember, replace and reflect. This book is a very easy read, but one you will come back to over and over again! I would recommend this book to anyone who struggles with thoughts of not feeling enough or too much. Also for people who feel like they need to be people pleasers or compare themselves to others. Everyone needs to hear these truths and learn how to walk in the narrative that God truly has for you!!!
I Am David Review-Jimmy Evans
In this book, Jimmy Evans looks at the life of David. He looks at how David was still considered on of the great kings, even with all of his faults and missteps. He reminds us that greatness is what we are seeking, not the world’s definition, but God’s. He addresses nine different characteristics of David and relates them to the reader using 10 lessons and a study guide. One of the many quotes that stood out to me was, “Worship is the true foundation for all other relationships to grow upon” (pg.96).
I believe this book will serve as a great reference and study for any individual who is wanting to find the greatness that God has created them for. It has something for everyone and will challenge the reader to dive deep into their own beliefs and find God on the other side.
Comparison Girl-Shannon Popkin
The world loves to make us feel as though we have to compare ourselves with others. Shannon takes the reader through the process of becoming free from this need for comparison. She breaks it down so that it can be used into a 6 week Bible study. Shannon writes in a way that makes you feel like you are sitting down with her drinking coffee and working through these issues. This book is a great tool for women to learn how to learn how to appreciate their differences and love themselves as the created daughter of God. Also how to love others for how they are created. I would definitely recommend this book for every woman! Also for them to share it with the younger girls so that they can start out on a different level than what we did.
Guest Post-Barb Roose
Part 1 of an interview with Barb Roose,
Author of Surrendered:
Letting Go & Living Like Jesus
If COVID-19 has taught us anything so far, it’s that we are not in control. When life gets hard, aspects of the future are uncertain, and we’re at the mercy of other’s decisions, we want more power over the situation. However, those are precisely the times when we need to learn how to surrender, just like Jesus did. In Surrendered: Letting Go & Living Like Jesus, Barb Roose leads readers in a study of Jesus in the wilderness to show that when our need to fix things takes over, that’s when we need to embrace God’s plans rather than our own.
Roose wrote the Surrendered Bible study for the weary woman who needs to let go of control-loving behaviors and learn to live like Jesus in the midst of the hard times or during the heartbreaking circumstances each person will face at some point in life. There are problems in life that can can’t be fixed no matter what we do, and living out the phrase “Let go and let God” is much easier said than done. She asks readers to consider if it is possible that giving up on what they can’t change is God’s path to peace for their life.
Q: There may literally be no better time for this specific Bible study to release! Tell us about the theme of your new study, Surrendered.
In light of what our world is experiencing right now, I would totally agree! Who knew that toilet paper would become the hottest commodity in America?
My new Surrendered study is written for the weary woman who needs to let go of control-loving behaviors and learn to live like Jesus in the midst of hard times or during heartbreaking circumstances that we all face at some point in life.
Q: Surrendered focuses on Jesus’s time in the wilderness. How do you use the wilderness as a metaphor for the reader?
The wilderness is a spiritual symbol for those long, difficult and uncomfortable seasons in life. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Yes! I’m in a wilderness season. This is going to be great!”
Usually triggered by change, our wilderness seasons are often characterized by spiritual confusion or a long-lasting situation that seems to press the “pause” button in our life. Wilderness seasons are frustrating because there are no quick fixes and we often have no control over how long it will last or ultimately, how that hard situation will turn out.
Yet, the wilderness season is a beautiful invitation for us to experience God in new and powerful ways. As we travel through hard days or heartbreaking times, the wilderness is often a place where we experience God’s might power, abundant provision and comforting presence in ways that we never have before.
Remember that both Jesus and the Israelites spent time in the wilderness. Jesus’ forty days model for us how to live by faith during his wilderness seasons while the Israelites forty years teach us valuable lessons on what can happen when we allow fear to overrun our hearts in hard times.
Q: It’s not a sin to be tempted, so why do we feel so much shame and guilt because of our temptations, after all, Jesus was tempted?
While it’s not a sin to be tempted, we’re often feel shame around the source of our temptation. Once we feel shame, silence and isolation quickly follow. Satan loves to show up in our spiritual isolation, but that’s when his lies stick the most. As long as we’re silent, we’ll struggle against Satan’s assault on our own—and that’s dangerous for us!
However, Jesus showed us that we can find victory over temptation and avoid getting trapped in spiritual isolation by fighting back with scripture and relying on the Holy Spirit.
Q: We’re seeing a lot in the news about stockpiling due to future uncertainty. Let’s talk more about God providing what we need for today, and how you began practicing your “Principle of Daily Bread.”
I believe that God takes care of His children at all times, especially hard times!
When my adult children were young kids, I used to panic if I couldn’t immediately repurchase or replace something that broke or ran out. One of the ways that I used control to push back against the panic was to join the coupon craze. I’d spend hours each week clipping coupons or printing them. I’d haul home handfuls of free toiletries or snacks and store them in a closet that I called “my stockpile.”
However, a season of life came when I couldn’t even afford the newspaper to clip the coupons. Eventually, my stockpile went away, and I hit a spiritual rock bottom. I began to reflect on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:11, “give us this day our daily bread” and realized that I’d placed my faith in a stockpile, not in God.
The “Principle of Daily Bread” means that I will trust that God will provide exactly what I need for the day in front of me. Like the Israelites had to wait for God to provide manna each day, I learned to wait for God to provide and stop letting the amount of food in my cupboard or the amount of money in my bank account, determine my level of peace or joy.
Q: How is Surrendered designed to be used? What other resources are available to groups?
I wrote the Surrendered study for the control-loving woman who is exhausted from trying protect what she loves, fix what’s broken or trying to get everything in her life back on track. This six-week Bible study invites participants to follow Jesus’ footsteps into the Judean wilderness and immerse themselves in studying how Jesus overcame those trials and temptations.
As I dream about the control-loving woman who knows that she needs to let go, I dream about a supportive community of friends who will take this journey toward surrender along with her. Surrendered is a study that should be experienced and shared with others!
The Surrendered Study includes a participant workbook, leader guide and DVD.
Q: What are the components of each week’s study? Are there daily lessons too?
Each week’s study includes specific letting go topics as well as application exercises and various. There are five lessons combining study of Scripture with reflection and application. As part of the study content, you’ll find Extra Insights; a weekly Memory Verse; a Daily Surrender Prayer and short, memorable Surrender Statements to stock your Surrendered toolbox.
Throughout the study there are practical exercises that will provide you with real-time opportunities for reflection and create next-step action plans for your life, whether that might be working on a spiritual breakthrough, destroying a mental stronghold, or following through with a Spirit-led act of obedience that God may be asking you to do.
Each daily lesson should take about twenty to thirty minutes. These lessons will help you prepare for the discussion and activities of your weekly session, if you are meeting with a group. Though you can do the study individually and reap benefits, it is designed to be done with a group for encouragement, support, and accountability. As you gather to watch the Surrendered DVD, you also will have the opportunity to share what you are learning and pray together.
Each video message is designed to follow and complement the content that you have studied during the week. Whether or not your group watches the video, it’s so helpful to share your struggles and victories in your journey to surrender. As you do, you’ll encourage one another and find strength to complete the study and put into practice all that you’re learning.
Ultimately, women can discover that the blessing of living a surrendered life is a healed heart, a calmer mind and open hands that willingly accepts or surrenders whatever God allows.
Q: What are some ways women can creatively come together to do the study as a group, even if they aren’t able to meet in person?
While I hate the difficult circumstances that the COVID-19 outbreak has created around the world, but I love seeing how God dropped some opportunities in place before we realized that we needed them. Here are a few wonderful opportunities that are available during these wild times:
Here’s some exciting news! One of the ways that I want to serve women in the midst of the virus crisis is to provide an online gathering for them to do the Surrendered study. So, I’m hosting the Surrendered Online Study beginning on April 22. I’ll be doing live teaching on Wednesdays in a private Facebook group and then, Thursdays will be our group discussion day. I’m excited about this because many women can’t meet with their groups, and I don’t want that delay to keep them from experiencing the Surrendered study. More information is available at barbroose.com/onlinestudy/.
Here are a few other ways that women can experience the Surrendered study:
1. AMPLIFY – To help groups stay connected and continue to study the Bible together during this time of social-distancing, Abingdon Women and Amplify Media are making the video sessions of Surrendered: Letting Go and Living Like Jesus available for free for group members to watch at home from any device. Sessions will be available free of charge from April 7 to June 30, 2020.
View the video sessions at https://my.amplifymedia.com/amplify/series/unitedmethodistpublishinghouse/32668-surrendered.
Amplify Media is a streaming service allowing churches large and small unlimited video access in order to discover, customize, and share diverse resources that encourage deeper discipleship and equip churches to pursue their mission with greater impact.
Learn more at AmplifyMedia.com.
2. DIGITAL DOWNLOAD – Each individual session of the Surrenderedstudy is available for digital download at cokesbury.com/surrendered.
3. ONLINE GROUPS – I’m so encouraged and inspired by women’s Bible study and small group leaders across the country who are so dedicated to leading their groups in these challenging times. I’m also a group leader at my church, too! Like many group leaders, our group is leveraging technology like Zoom, Facebook Groups and other platforms to meet together online.
Surrendered: Letting Go & Living Like Jesus
A Study of Jesus in the Wilderness
By Barb Roose
Available April 7, 2020 from Abingdon Women
Paperback ISBN: 9781501896286 / $16.99 ~ eBook ISBN: 9781501896293 / $16.99
Paperback ISBN: 9781501896309 / $14.99 ~ eBook ISBN: 9781501896316 / $14.99
ISBN: 9781501896323 / $49.99About the authorBarb Roose is a popular speaker and author who is passionate about connecting women to one another and to God helping them apply the truths of God’s Word to the practical realities and challenges they face as women in today’s culture.
Roose enjoys teaching and encouraging women at conferences and events across the country, as well as internationally, including national platforms such as the Aspire Women’s Events, She Speaks Conference, and the UMC Leadership Institute.
She is the author of the Surrender: Letting Go and Living Like Jesus,I’m Waiting, God: Finding Blessing in God’s Delays,Joshua: Winning the Worry Battle and Beautiful Already: Reclaiming God’s Perspective on Beauty Bible studies and the booksWinning the Worry Battle: Life Lessons from the Book of Joshua and Enough Already: Winning Your Ugly Struggle with Beauty. Her writing has been featured in many magazines, and she also writes a regular blog at BarbRoose.com. She is the host of the bi-monthly “Better Together” podcast.
Roose lives in Toledo, Ohio, and is the proud mom of three adult daughters. Her perfect day includes sleeping in, taking a long walk outside, shopping for shoes and eating two big bowls of chocolate peanut ice cream.
Visit Barb Roose’s online home at barbroose.com. Readers can also keep up with her on Facebook(BarbaraRoose), Twitter(barbroose), and Instagram(barbroose).
Instaprayer: Prayers to Share Guest Blog
I’ve been creating calendars full or prayer prompts for almost five years. I’ve designed keychain prayers, online prompts, and now (with the release of InstaPrayer: Prayers to Share) a whole book of them.
But still, I think a lot of people wonder, “What exactly IS a prayer prompt, anyway?”
Think of it as a prayer starter. Do you remember the old game show “Name That Tune?” They’d play three notes (or four or five) and the contestants would try to recognize the song. If you’re anything like me, though, the rest of the song keeps playing in your head. It doesn’t stop on the fifth note.
Sometimes the hardest part of prayer—or any conversation—is figuring out how to start, so you can use my prayer prompts as visual aids to jump-start your prayers. They help you bypass whatever routine prayers you’re used to saying and open your mind to new possibilities. New prayer needs. New ways to look at people.
Let’s look at the prayer prompt above. You can take it literally—for instance, there were just bad tornadoes down south. You might start by giving thanks for those who survived, and asking God to help them as they work through the process of clean-up and repairs. You could pray for the linemen who will be restoring electrical service, and for those who are temporarily without a home or job. You could pray for those who build homes, those who donate to relief efforts, and those who have done so in other circumstances. You might pray for missionaries, or pastors, or community leaders who make a concerted effort to help people in the aftermath of disasters of all kinds. Or use the “down south” part of my earlier statement to think of all your friends and family who live in the south. Picture a map as you work through and pray for those who come to mind.
If you know that a weather storm is coming, you might be moved to pray for the homeless that do not have shelter, and then pray for the people and agencies that work with them. You might ask God how you can offer help to someone whose circumstances are more challenging than your own. You might give thanks for the home that shelters you from the weather, and pray for each of the people who live there with you. Empty nester? You can pray for those who started life in your home and moved on. Or start by praying for your own household and expand it to praying for your neighbors, your community, your schools, your workplace, your world.
You might take the prompt metaphorically—who’s in a life experience that feels like a storm?Someone with a dark cloud of depression or anxiety. Someone living through intense grief or disappointment. The friend who’s nursing her mother through her final days. Those of us isolated and lonely at home right now, or worried about sick loved ones, or fearful about lost jobs and income. The woman who just mentioned the anniversary of her miscarriage—and then you might pray for her other children, her partner, her support system. Maybe you’ll be led to pray for those who are without a job—you can ask God to provide for them, to take care of their family, to meet their needs and be present in their life. Which could lead you to pray for your own job, your boss, your coworkers, your career—or ask God for direction to pursue your passions.
You might pray for a storm you’re going through, asking God to give you faith to walk on the water, like Peter did when in the boat with Jesus. Then you may feel like giving thanks to God for those whose faith has taught and inspired you, or those who have helped lift you up in prayer as you’ve gone through a hard time. Maybe the worst of the storm is past, but the consequences remain—there are still mud puddles every time you try to take a step forward. Ask for direction, wisdom, endurance, patience.
Or use the visual itself as your prompt. Pray for every woman you see wearing red, or a raincoat, or carrying an umbrella. Pray for the people inside any businesses with striped awnings or flags outside. The woman in the image looks like the situation is too much for her. Who else in your life is in over their head? Is lacking resources? Is in a position they’re not equipped for financially, educationally, or otherwise? Lift them up in prayer. And let your mind go from there.
Think Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the game that is based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which says that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Movie buffs challenge one another to find the shortest path between any specific actor and Kevin Bacon, who’s been in tons of movies. In college, I learned that following these connections or trails of thought can also be called stream of consciousness. There are different ways to look at it, but the idea is the same. Let one connection trigger another. The woman in the red coat > red uniforms > basketball team > your old basketball coach > your favorite teacher > college > college roommate. Woman carrying an umbrella > man walking with a cane > your grandfather > your grandparents’ neighbor, who just had a baby > a friend who recently became pregnant.
There is no “right” or “wrong.”Prayer can look a million different ways, just as we—all of God’s creation—are varied and unique. By definition, prayer is simply a conversation. Just as your discussions with friends might bounce from one topic to another faster than you can figure out the connections, your prayers can do the same. Because what makes prayer valuable and worthwhile is that it is time spent with God. A chance to deepen the connection, or simply allow your mind to focus more on God, so that you can see Him throughout your days.
I don’t always know what to pray for. Sometimes there are so many needs I don’t know where to begin. So I just pick a jumping-off point and start. Because along the way, God shows me things I didn’t think I knew, people I hadn’t otherwise remembered, and inspires me to keep talking. To keep listening. To keep reaching out to Him and making Him part of every day. Every conversation. Every thought. In turn, my love for Him grows and my mind stays fixed on Him.
It is my prayer that you will use the prompts I developed to simply start that all-important conversation, to keep your dialog with God running non-stop in the background as you walk through your days. Because He is good, and He is faithful, and He loves to hear from us.
My new book, InstaPrayer: Prayers to Share, released today!
Quarantine Continuing to Bring the Shift
The time that I have spent basically at home have brought forth a lot of issues and things that I have been avoiding. I usually spend my after work time with my friends, family or at my church, but right now, that is not possible. I haven’t had this much time to sit around and think about my life and the direction it is heading. I don’t know what is going to happen, but what I do know is that God is in charge, knows the ending and won’t leave me.
I have been spending time in His Word and in devotion. I have watched the daily check ins and noon prayer with my pastors. I have been focusing on a study that is bringing healing to areas of my life that have needed it for a long time. Those things have been great! I have also been blessed to still be able to work full time for my day job. I have not been any surer of these things.
I have also experienced more anxiety than I have in a long time. I can feel it coming and I try to just feel all the feels, but eventually it gets to be too much. There are times where I feel like I am losing it. I know that my feelings are an indicator of other issues and not to let them rule my mind, but it gets difficult. These are the times where I would like to say that I go and do battle in my prayer closet all of the time. Sometimes I walk around and let the anxiety wear me down until I am too exhausted to keep my eyes open. Situations that were big before are becoming enlarged and in focus now. I do not like this part.
God has been bringing the word, Anchored, into my mind so much during this time. That is why I changed the name of my blog and wrote it on my Bible. I believe this is a time in which God is bringing everything into the light. I believe He is calling me deeper into relationship with Him and wants me to look at every aspect of my life, both good and bad to get down to the basics. Sitting here, writing this blog, feeling everything, listening to music is putting me in a place that is confusing because I don’t know the outcome, yet renewing because I can feel a shift happening in my life. I feel it happening for the world because they are learning just how much is out of our control. I also see the same thing in my own life.
I know I am not the only one going through all of this. I am not the only Enneagram 2, hugger enthusiast, extrovert sitting in her office going crazy because of this upheaval. The thing that I have the most certainty in is that God is on the throne and He sees everything. He did not cause bad things to happen, but He has given us hope. He has also given us 365 examples in the Bible to not be afraid and not to fear. There is a peace that only He can give us. So, join me and look to the One who knows the ending and has us in the palm of His hands.