Christian Living Blog

Resources for your faith journey

Prayer & the Laundry by Julia Roller

It was Martin Luther who said, “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

I always have the same reaction to this quotation: Guilt. Capital-G Guilt. And I’ll be honest with you, I sometimes also think, Three hours? What in the world would God and I talk about for three hours?

Sad, isn’t it? I have always believed that prayer must be at the center of my relationship with God, yet I can’t think of one single morning that I set aside three hours to pray.

Especially since becoming a parent, I’ve always been more attracted to the Brother Lawrence school of prayer. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French monk, described a way of praying that he called practicing the presence of God in which he was in constant communication with God even and especially while he was doing tasks such as washing the dishes. Nineteenth-century nun Thérèse of Lisieux also echoed these ideas in her Story of a Soul, writing that Christ was most present to her “not during my hours of prayer … but rather in the midst of my daily occupations.” What better type of prayer practice for a busy mom, right?

Yet I find it hard to be Brother Lawrence. Sometimes I go for hours if not days without being in communication with God at all. Perhaps because I am more of a spiritual beginner than Brother Lawrence, I seem to need some more concrete reminders as a way to connect with God.

In exploring different times of prayer, aided in particular by Richard J. Foster’s life-changing work, Prayer, I have come to believe that there are as many ways to connect with God in prayer as there are Christians and that it’s OK to dabble in lots of different kinds of prayer. It’s also OK , when you find the ones that really work for you, to stick with them. Here are some prayer practices I find helpful.

1. My church prints beautiful prayers of confession each week in the bulletin. When I particularly like one, I cut it out and tape it to my bathroom mirror so I can pray it while I brush my teeth or wash my hands. This would, of course, work with any prayer, from a selection from the Book of Common Prayer to a Psalm.

2. The Prayer of Examen. This Ignatian form of prayer really resonates with me. I like the idea of examining each day and looking for God in it. My practice is to pray the Examen at night before I fall asleep. My version of the Examen has three parts: 1. Where did I see God that day? 2. How might I have shown Christ to another that day? 3. Where did I go wrong and/or where do I need correction? I find I sometimes do this entire prayer in a minute or so. Other times, I spend much longer on one or other of the parts, usually the last. Of course, the next step after thinking over where I went wrong is asking for forgiveness and the strength to do better next time.

3. Praying with my children. This prayer practice is my favorite and also my most consistent since it’s a part of the routine. We pray before meals and most importantly, before bed. I love praying for and about them in their hearing, but especially I love hearing their prayers. My three-year-old is likely to thank God for trains and, on special occasions, for the members of his family. My six-year-old favors expansive, all-inclusive prayers in which he thanks God for EVERYTHING in the world, ALL the animals, and ALL the blessings God has given him. You can feel the power of these heartfelt prayers. I love it.

4. Contemplative prayer. I love this kind of prayer and when I have the quiet time, this is what I do. Sit in a comfortable position (for me, usually in my office chair) and be silent, listening for God’s guidance. When I find my thoughts drifting to my to-do list or what I am going to make for dinner, I repeat the word “Jesus” to focus me. I set a timer so I don’t spend the entire time wondering what time it is, and I usually only do a few minutes at a time, maybe 5. (Oh yes, that’s just how spiritually advanced I am!) I like to think of this practice as God-led therapy.

But these practices don’t mean that I have given up on praying during daily tasks. In fact, as much as I like the discipline of sitting still for contemplative prayer, I still struggle with making that a consistent part of my practice. I more reliably experience times of contemplation while I am in the shower or on a walk, any time I can take advantage of the combination of quiet and a familiar routine.

Kathleen Norris writes beautifully about this kind of prayer in her book The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work.” She describes the motion and the repetition of tasks such as walking, baking bread or doing laundry as offering both a rhythm for prayer and also the space and freedom for our minds to brainstorm. Inspired by her words, I tried another kind of prayer the other day. While I normally watch TV while I fold laundry (making it hands-down my favorite household task), this time I decided instead to sit in silence at the kitchen table rather than the couch and pray over each item as I folded it. At first I prayed earnestly over each workout top and each pair of my husband’s soccer shorts, and then, well, I started to get a little tired of thanking God for my healthy body, for my husband’s strong legs and his love for the game. I wonder if God might even be tired of my repeated words too as I started to think, Wow, I have a lot of workout tops and How in the world did he go through so many pairs of soccer shorts this week? Is he playing in the middle of the night? Instead, my thoughts drifted toward a couple who is thinking of leaving our church and the hurt they are feeling, then toward some friends and family members who are suffering health problems. As I brought them before God, the folding went faster and before I knew it, I was done.

This lesson is a continual one for me. Open yourself up to God, and God will guide you along the path you need to travel, not necessarily the one you planned.

Julia Roller is the author of Mom Seeks God, the story of her journey to reconnect with God through ten essential spiritual practices that she did her best to fit into the chaotic life of a mom with small children. She lives in San Diego with her husband, two sons, and miniature dachshund.

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
April 16, 2014 at 9:30 am Comments (0)

Relationship Resolution – Guest Post by Deb DeArmond

 

This time of year brings the hope of new beginnings, fresh starts, and yes—the New Year’s resolution.

For most of us, the resolution is easy to make. We’re quite clear about those things that need our attention. There are those that fall into the “start” category: eating more healthfully, exercising regularly, or keeping your desk clean and tidy. There are some in the “stop” category as well: smoking, overeating, and texting while driving. Identifying the resolution is the easy part; finding the resolve to make it a reality is another matter entirely.

Resolve, according to the dictionary, means to decide or solve. In other words, make a choice to solve an issue or problem. It goes on to say resolve may also be expressed as, “determination, steadfastness, tenacity, doggedness and firmness.” Not easy, but possible.

Life is always about the choices we make and the resolve to see it through determines our success.

For some of us, the holidays may have produced a tension-filled gathering or two. Weird Uncle Harold caught you alone and recited his entire new conspiracy theory about global warming. Your cousin Frederika may have taken great pleasure in telling you all about her newest career success, pausing only to ask you about your job search, “How long have you been at that now, dear? Nearly a year, right?”

We all have those in our extended family that make us wonder how we ended up in the same tree. Not to worry, the holidays are few and far between. Besides, these folks can even add a bit of comic relief at times.

There is another relationship, however, that may bring a sense of dread, nerves, or even hurt when you know you will be together. One that’s close to the bone where the meat is really tender and is more difficult to dismiss. I’m talking about the toughest love triangle most women will ever encounter: the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship.

What makes this so challenging? These two women love the same man and should find a bond over their mutual affection for the man in the middle. Sadly, it doesn’t usually work that way. Even in Christian homes and families.

In preparation for my book, Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships, my daughters-in-law and I talked with hundreds of women through focus groups, online surveys and interviews. 96% of those who completed our survey identified themselves as women of faith and of that group, 97% of that group, self-identified as Christians.

30% reported the relationship with their woman-in-law was bad, which they described as difficult, filled with criticism, or simply off-balance. More than half (57%) said the difficulties in the relationship were either mostly their fault, or they at least equally shared the responsibility for the failure of the relationship. These numbers are nearly identical to those in a survey conducted on the popular website iVillage in October 2010 where there were no statistics on faith.

How can it be that our faith provides us no advantage in this area of our lives? Especially since 79 percent reported their faith was foundational to their daily lives and guided their decisions and actions?

As believers in Christ, we live in a world that endeavors daily to shape our thinking, and our opinions. It’s difficult to avoid the powerful influences we’re exposed to every day. Add to this the real experiences we have observed or the stories we’ve heard from friends or family who have found hurt, disappointment, or sadness in their MIL/DIL relationships. Our own expectations may be low in this regard. We expect little, so when little shows up, we are neither surprised nor alarmed. It is what it is. And we do little or nothing to address it. We’ve fallen in lockstep with a worldview that does not represent who God asks us to be. We must challenge this lie.

God’s Word is our user manual in this life. There’s wisdom and instruction on every topic we will encounter, including our family relationships. The Bible will guide our path if we will allow it to do so. The stereotypical view of the MIL/DIL relationship is so bleak it creates a perfect opportunity for the Christ-follower to demonstrate the impact of the Lord in our lives by choosing to do it His way and not the world’s way.

There is good news. One of the most significant survey results revealed that 70 percent said they would be willing to make the effort necessary to improve the relationship if they knew how. So here are a few tips to help you make 2014 the year for a fresh start.

•    Check your heart. Have you contributed to the difficulty in the relationship? Have you honored God’s word in this relationship? He asks us to love one another, to prefer others above ourselves. Have you honored your son’s choice of wife? Have you honored your husband’s mother? If not, ask the Lord for forgiveness. Then ask her. It’s a good place to start.

•    Pray for her.  And I don’t mean one of those, “Oh Lord! Show her I’m right and she’s wrong,” kind of prayers. Pray for her in her role as a mother, a wife, a career person. Lift up her needs and her desires and ask God to bless her in all she does. Pray she softens her heart toward you, or be open to your approaching her about improving the relationship. It’s hard to lift her before God and curse her in conversation at the same time.

•    Resolve to become family, starting today. You might be saying, “But you don’t know what she’s done to me or said about me to others. I don’t see her as family.” You’re right; I don’t know what she’s done. But the Lord does. He knows firsthand about the heartache that comes when betrayed by those who should love you. But He chose to come to us anyway. Choose to follow Him in overcoming personal preference and past hurts. Let them go.

So who should make the first move? The one who’d like to make her heavenly Father smile! Whether you are the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law—either of you can start the process. Resolve today to live together in a way that will unite the family and honor the Lord.

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, DeArmond focuses on topics related to the family and women. Related by Chance, Family by Choice (Kregel Publications, Nov. 2013) is her first book and is focused on relationships between women-in-law. She is co-founder of My Purpose Now, a website devoted to Christian women 50+. Read more from DeArmond at Family Matters and My Purpose Now. Readers can also connect with her via Facebook (AuthorDebDeArmond), Twitter (DebDeArmond) or Pinterest (deb_dearmond).

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
December 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm Comments (0)

Interview with Stephen Owens, author of Set Free

 

Stephen Owens is a little different from most authors I interview. As far as I know, he’s the only author I’ve interviewed whose father was murdered. By a hit-man.

I have to admit, I was feeling a little intimidated by the thought of interviewing him. I’m a fairly sensitive person, so murder is not something I like to think about a lot, at least I try not to.

However, sometimes it’s inescapable. Our world is filled with people who carry out evil acts, leaving loved ones to live with the consequences. Just a few weeks ago, a high school teacher was murdered by a student in the next town over from CBD, in Danvers, Massachusetts.

And last April, I attended the Boston Marathon to cheer on my brother who ran the race. We were a couple blocks away from the finish line when the attacks happened, but the impact from those few moments has lasted much longer. Since then, I’ve found myself thinking about why people make choices to harm others more than before, and I’ve wondered, “Would I be able to forgive if someone harmed my loved one?”

This was the situation before Stephen Owens for many years, in the wake of his mother Gaile’s decision to hire a hit-man to murder her husband, and Stephen’s father.

Stephen was only 12 years old at the time. He was angry for many years. Understandably so, he lost both of his parent in a short time. His father died, and his mother was sent to prison. However, as time went on and he started his own family, the persistent possibility of reconnecting with, and forgiving his mother wouldn’t let go. And finally after 23 years, Stephen reunited with Gaile.

I’m a bit in awe of this. I know that as Christians we’re supposed to forgive, but we don’t always. Sometimes, it seems easier to hold onto the unforgiveness like a security blanket. It becomes our identity. We don’t know who we’ll be without it.

I’ve heard a quotation about unforgiveness by Margaret Stunt that says “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, and hoping the other person dies.” I think we can all relate. When we hold back forgiveness, we hold onto the pain of what happened. This affects us emotionally, and as recent medical studies have suggested, physically.

There is remarkable freedom to be found when we forgive, and Stephen Owens is the first person who will tell you this. As I look at Stephen’s story and think about my own little grudges and hang-ups, how can I not forgive? And pray for the grace to continue.

 

Stephen Owens Interview for Set Free: Discover Forgiveness Amidst Murder and Betrayal

 

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
November 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm Comments (0)

Interview with Cynthia Ruchti – Ragged Hope

At the most recent ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writer’s) Conference, Christianbook.com’s fiction editor Dianne Burnett sat down with author Cynthia Ruchti to discuss her newest Christian Living title, Ragged Hope.

In Ragged Hope, Cynthia shares true stories from her own life and the lives of others, to offer hope to women who may be struggling in their walk. Sometimes our lives change dramatically, but not as the result of our own choices. Sometimes, we face great sorrow or pain because of the poor choices of others, or because of an accident, or a freak circumstance. These circumstances can dominant our lives, but we don’t have to let them. Acceptance and joy are possible, as you’ll see in the lives of the remarkable women who share their stories in Ragged Hope.

Click Here to watch the video interview with Cynthia Ruchti.

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
October 14, 2013 at 11:52 am Comments (0)

Interview with 3 Time Grammy Winner Ashley Cleveland

I don’t get to talk to Grammy Award winners every day. A couple of weeks ago was the exception. Ashley Cleveland, singer/songwriter and all around very talented person, has just released a new memoir, Little Black Sheep.

In Little Black Sheep Ashley shares her journey, rocky and raucus as its been. Growing up in the church didn’t guarantee faith as part of her life; her parents divorce and alcoholism shaped her development and self identity more. And as Ashley grew into a young woman and into adulthood she chose the path of least resistance, leading to drugs, alcohol and a promiscuous lifestyle.

Yet, fortunately for all of us, she also discovered music. In music, Ashley found her natural gift and a way to fit into the world that made sense. And it was through the unplanned birth of her daughter, Rebecca, that Ashley first started on her journey to faith in Christ.

In preparation of the interview I listened to some of Ashley’s music and watched some videos of her performances. Here’s a video of her singing her song, Little Black Sheep after which the book is named.

I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to our talk and check out her memoir.

Ashley Cleveland Interview

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
September 13, 2013 at 11:44 am Comments (0)

Let It Go by Beth Guckenberger

Let it go.

Those three words have done more for my personal pursuit of happiness than almost any other combination I can come up with. My relationship with let-it-go started on a walk I took more than five years ago with a missionary friend who was on sabbatical. I asked her innocently what she had been learning.

“I have been seeing a counselor since we’ve been back.” she starts out. “And I am realizing (with his help) that I care too much. I care so much that when what I want or who I like or what I envisioned doesn’t happen exactly as I desire, my whole world becomes negatively impacted and my mood changes.”

“But what’s the alternative?” I ask, “Not to want, not to like, not to envision? That doesn’t sound right.” I didn’t want her feeling anxious, but numb sounded even worse.

“No,” she says, smiling, with a freedom I had yet to discover for myself, “I still want, I still like, I absolutely envision, just when the results aren’t ideal, instead of managing my disappointment, I allow myself to care only so much.”

We continued our walk for another hour or so, I wrestling with how unspiritual that sounded, frankly how compromising, and I prayed for her that night (like good missionaries do for each other).

Then, about a month later, one of our foster daughters blows it. Badly. I feel my evening and my mood begin to go south, I find myself wanting to protect her from the natural consequences (against my better judgment) and put her actions in a light that made us both look better, when my friend’s words come floating back to me. Care, but not too much. I think on it awhile, and the load lightens.

Wow. Honestly, with those words a release happened. I realized I do care, but not at the expense of my other familial relationships, not to the extent I am going to throw away my night. It was her life; she made her own choices and now faces her own consequences. I care about all of that, but…not too much.

It sounds so unspiritual, I almost wrote this blog anonymously. Who wants to admit to mediocre caring? I do feel deeply about Jesus, and my marriage, and my children. I do care about the world, and orphans, and the Old Testament. I care passionately and fiercely and yet kind of with a loose grip. Wholly, yet loosely.

As a result of this now-adopted personal philosophy, my blood pressure rarely rises when planes are late or grades aren’t perfect. I just shrug when dinner burns or the movie wasn’t worth the ticket price. I care, but not too much. Try it; it has led to many happy detours, serendipitous conversations, and plan B perfect days. It has led to relaxed children, less wrinkles, and profound trust.  It has frankly led to happiness.

Beth Guckenberger is the mother of a bunch of biological, a bunch of adopted and a slew of foster children.  She and her husband direct Back2Back Ministries and just moved back to the US from Mexico where they served for sixteen years.  Beth is the author of several books on the journey of their life abroad, including her latest release Tales of the Defended Ones.

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
August 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm Comments (0)

Stasi Eldredge Interview: Becoming Myself

A couple of weeks ago I chatted with Stasi Eldredge about her newest title, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You. In this volume she encourages women to seek healing from their pasts, even as she shares about her own struggles with self-worth, and addiction. Her honesty is refreshing. She also addresses some seldom mentioned issues women face, such as the impact of hormones, our relationship with our mothers, and friendship among women.

Healing is a process, whether it’s healing from a poor self-image, a difficult mother/daughter relationship or making peace with our bodies. But it’s one that we can all make with God’s help. As we grow and heal, becoming more His, we’ll start to become more of who we were meant to be.

Stasi was a delight to speak with. Her warmth and authenticity came through the phone line. I hope you’ll take  a moment to listen to our interview.

Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You: Author Interview

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
, ,
August 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm Comment (1)

Bread and Wine – Interview with Shauna Niequist

Not too long ago I chatted with author, speaker and blogger Shauna Niequist about her latest release, Bread & Wine: Finding Community and Life Around the Table. I had no idea how much I would enjoy this book when I first picked it up. Filled with stories about family, relationships, faith and hand-picked recipes, it felt like Shauna and I were sharing a meal together and dishing about our favorite foodie treasures. And beyond the obvious community and table aspects of Shauna’s stories, she also shares  from her heart. I found her reflections encouraging, faith-inspiring and nourishing to my spirit as well as my imagination.

I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to Shauna’s interview and check out Bread & Wine.

Bread & Wine Interview with Shauna Niequist

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
June 12, 2013 at 11:17 am Comment (1)

Guest blog post by Debora M. Coty

I hope you’ll enjoy this guest blog post by Debora M. Coty, which features an excerpt from her new book, Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolates.

 

Top 10 Fears Women Face

Debora M. Coty

In my travels as a speaker, I’ve encountered countless women like me who have spent years running from their own personal fear monsters.

Some fears have names and specific countenances; others are faceless, frightening creatures that lurk in the shadows just out of sight. But we know they’re there. We feel them. And we yearn to boldly step up to those fear monsters and yank off their masks.

That’s why I wrote Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate. It’s time we treat fear like the unwanted gift it is and exchange it at heaven’s customer service desk for something we can really use: power, love, and self-discipline.

In order to pinpoint real fears women struggle with on a daily basis, I conducted a survey of 500 random women between the ages of 18 and 80. I was surprised at the results – I fully expected fear of being alone to rank among the top two or at least three (maybe because it is in my own life), but it was number six! There are five other fears that trouble us gals even more.

Just for fun, take out a pad and pen and see if you can guess what the top ten fears of all the women polled were. Dollars to doughnuts your own personal fear monsters will show up somewhere on that list.

Okay, are you ready to see how good a guesser you are? Here are the top ten fears in descending order:

1.    Loss of a loved one (spouse/children/parents)
2.    Debilitating illness/terminal disease
3.    Failure
4.    Old age/senility
5.    The unknown; the what-ifs
6.    Loneliness
7.    Dependency on others
8.    Rejection
9.    Specific critters (e.g. snakes, roaches, rats)
10.    Being judged unfairly

Other common fears that were mentioned often but didn’t make the top ten were trying new things, purposelessness, depression, the dark, flying, public speaking, and disappointing others.

So how did your personal fears compare with those of your peers?

You know, our fears spotlight what matters to us most … those hidden corners of our life in which we trust Papa God the least.

Girlfriend, those are the hot spots we need to work on. Because fear first worms its way into our thinking processes, then it affects our actions. If we allow fear to continue to wreak havoc in our lives unimpeded, it can eventually erode our self esteem, relationships, and even our faith.

But remember, we can’t embrace change until we let go of fear. And change is a product of that power, love, and self-discipline we talked about earlier. A change from imprisoning phobias, destructive anxiety, and unproductive fretting. A change from worries that keep us stretched tighter than size 8 jeans over a size 12 tushie.

A change that will enable us to boldly step up to our fear monster, grab his beard and as his mask falls away, find that what’s beneath there isn’t really frightening at all.

*******************************

Discover more about defeating fear in Debora’s new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate.

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
May 23, 2013 at 11:46 am Comments (0)

Happy, Happy, Happy – Interview with Phil “Duck Commander” Robertson

Perhaps you’ve tuned in to the popular reality show on A&E, Duck Dynasty, and met the Robertson family before now. However, until my recent interview with Phil Robertson for his new memoir, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commader, I was unfamiliar with the show, their company Duck Commander, or Phil Robertson himself. After the interview I can say I learned quite a bit. Not only about ducks and duck calls, but about Phil’s spiritual journey from a rebellious and self-destructive young man to a devoted family man, earnest follower of Jesus, and a ground-breaking entrepreneur. His manner surprised me as well. Here’s a man who owns a multi-million dollar company, is the star of a top-rated television show, but his attitude was low-key and unconcerned with his fame. I found Phil honest, disarming, and above all filled with gratitude for “the good life” he is now able to enjoy. One the Robertson clan’s mottos may be “Fear the Beard,” but after talking to Phil, I wasn’t afraid, instead I felt encouraged.

I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to Phil’s interview and check out his story behind the cameras in Happy, Happy, Happy.

Happy, Happy, Happy Interview with Phil Robertson

Share This Post With Friends: Facebook Twitter Google del.icio.us StumbleUpon Digg Furl Technorati Reddit MySpace LinkedIn
May 9, 2013 at 10:46 am Comment (1)

« Older Posts