Prayer walks

This post originally appeared in print for the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series.

I love walking through our neighborhood early in the morning, listening to the birds and waving hello to friends watering their flowers. My two year old also enjoys walks (with lots of snacks, of course) so this is something we do almost everyday. Earlier this year, I had a decision to make regarding my work that would affect our family in a big way. I pretty much knew what I needed to do, but it was still a very tough decision to make.

Daphne (my daughter) and I would go on our daily walks and I would wrestle relentlessly with myself; internally debating the pros and cons of each choice before me. I tried to empty my mind by listening to music or podcasts, but the silence still felt cluttered. I needed wisdom and confirmation and all I heard was noise. I was seeking clarity in all the wrong places. Instead of asking God to guide my steps, I was blindly forging my own path just hoping He would tag along. 

I was reminded of these words from James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The very thing I was seeking to help my decision-making was wisdom, and that’s the very thing that God promises He will grant when we ask for it faithfully. My answer was always right before me. I just didn’t have eyes to see it clearly. 

After I read that verse from James and started prayerfully asking the Lord to guide me, our daily walks became a source of inspiration and comfort rather than internal chaos. I prayed through every step; thanking God for His divine guidance and presence, and asking that He continue to carry me as I entered in a new season of transition. Now I can’t walk through my neighborhood without praying. Sometimes my words are tearful, other times they are filled with joy, but every single time I am reminded that God is with us and He is for us. He meets us in our mess and slowly starts to declutter, offering a better and more righteous way. I made my big decision mid-March and although it still was not easy, I know without a doubt it was right. It is deeply comforting to know that you are in a place God has called you. That is the nurturing work of the Holy Spirit, found (for me) most often in prayer. 

I encourage you to take time this week and work intentional prayer into your daily rhythm. Maybe it’s a neighborhood walk like mine, or a drive to the grocery store, or even 10 minutes alone with your coffee each morning. Open God’s Word and pray for wisdom. Ask for comfort, joy, and peace, and know that He will hear you. 

How to choose a devotional

Anytime I am speaking on the topic of women’s ministry, I’m almost always asked the same question: “What daily devotional do you recommend?” I don’t have a problem with the question itself, but I do fear we are putting too much hope in supplementary reading rather than direct knowledge of Scripture. This is where I could get on my favorite soapbox topic of Bible literacy… but we’ll save that for another post.

Let me first say this: You should always start with prayer and your actual Bible. Don’t trust another person to tell you what the Bible says. Her mind is not yours. Your success with using a devotional guide is directly tied to your own knowledge of the Bible. In the words of Jen Wilkin, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” (adapted from Romans 12:2).

However… a daily devotional book is not a bad thing. I am a busy mom and wife who does not have alone time until at least 8:30 pm. A quick devotional read in the morning and at lunch helps focus my mind and heart. I’m picky about devotional books because I’ve found (and purchased) a ton of crappy ones. Let me help you navigate those millions of choices with a few tips that have aided me over the years.

Here’s my five tips:

Start with Scripture.

We must approach devotional books as supplementary to our Bibles. If you open a daily devotional and find musings about feelings or opinions before you find a Scripture reference, I would advise you steer clear. Although many faith based books currently marketed to women look beautiful, they do not always include the density needed for a true understanding of the Bible.

Look for consistency.

Does the author hop around to a different, random passage each day? This often happens when writers are looking for a Bible reference to support their commentary, rather than writing a commentary in support of the Bible reference they have chosen. I suggest finding a devotional guide that walks you through a particular book or passage in a consistent manner.

Stick with your season.

Many devotionals are written with a particular audience in mind. This can be very helpful. The devotional I am using now (listed at the end of this article) is about praying for your kids. The author walks you through the entire Bible in 365 days and uses her commentary to point readers toward our own good Father. Remember: The Bible is about God, not you.

Presence of prayer.

If the devotional you are looking to purchase does not mention prayer or does not have daily prompts to lead you in prayer, I wouldn’t bother buying. Prayer is an essential part of Bible study. Many devotionals have specific prayers while others provide a general guide. Either way, always look for an importance placed on prayer.

Phone a friend.

Wondering if the book you’re looking at is worth it? Ask a friend you trust. Have her read it with you and think critically about the commentary. Discuss it weekly or however often you can; just don’t forsake the communal aspect of your learning. Get connected with a small group at your church and see what kind of things they are reading. Ask your pastor or ministry leader what supplemental reading they enjoy (trust me… we want you to ask).

What I’m currently reading: Praying through the Bible for your Kids by Nancy Guthrie.
Another favorite I’ve read: Savor by Shauna Niequest.
Other great places to start: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, In All Things by Melissa Kruger, Beautifully Distinct edited by Trillia Newbell, and the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

Beauty everyday

This post was originally print in the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series.

The past few months have been tough on everyone. Whether you lost your job, started working from home, or cared for yourself (or a loved one) while sick – there has been a lot of anxiety to go around. Our world is dealing with big questions like pandemics, racial injustice, and human trafficking. Our families are dealing with questions equally as overwhelming; like sending our kids to school or attempting remote learning. All of this feels like too much to carry most days. 

When we find ourselves slipping into worry, we have to make a choice. We can either sit in those anxious thoughts or get moving. It isn’t practical to just forget about the things that make us worry, but we do have the opportunity to stop and breathe for a moment. We can change the current of our thoughts simply by being still and trusting the Lord. A great way to practice this is by seeking beauty in your everyday life. 

I wake up around 6:30 am every morning. First I make coffee, then I grab my Bible and sit in prayer for a couple minutes. Some mornings my prayers are deep, but most mornings they sound something like, “Help me find the good today” or “Open my eyes to the things I am missing.” 

As David wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage.” I choose to see beauty and goodness in the stillness of my neighborhood on early mornings. The smell of freshly brewed coffee makes me smile. And just reading God’s word is enough to bring me to tears on most days. 

The scent of wildflowers, a perfectly flipped pancake, a bountiful garden in harvest… These are all reminders of God’s goodness. His creation reflects His own beauty, and by His grace we get to enjoy it. Look around you today at the things big and small, and ask God to show you something beautiful.