• Posted on June 13, 2011

about how it’s not just me

 

lonely boy

I keep up with Michael Hyatt’s blog pretty regularly. He’s full of great advice about life, leadership, software, and just about everything else. A couple days ago I was reading through some of the comments on his blog and was shocked. The post was about Evernote (an app I’m trying for the third time in the hopes of finally getting digitally organized), but people were randomly insulting him. They insulted his typing, challenged his motives, and some were just downright nasty. Of course, he handled them with grace.

My first response was anger. I was tempted to reply to the rude commenters and defend him, but that’s not my place. My second response? Comfort. I thought, “It’s not just me.” I’m amazed how often people use the most bizarre and arbitrary circumstances to attack others. Turns out, I’m not the only one who gets attacked.

It’s funny how much others’ struggles can reassure us.

I’m increasingly convinced that “it’s not just me” is one of the most comforting realizations we can come to in our lives, no matter the topic. In a little over a week, I’ll be leading a group of fantastic girls in a Beth Moore study on insecurity. We definitely need it. I wrote about insecurity a while back after coming to the “it’s not just me” conclusion. In response to that blog, I received numerous comments and text messages and emails from girls who were going through the same thing.

The Bible is filled with examples to comfort us in knowing it’s not just us. Whether our problem is anger or lust or depression or greed, we can look to the Bible and find others who have struggled with the same things. Some of them handled their situations in godly ways. Some of them not so much. Either way, they’re great examples.

The “it’s not just me” is another reason community is so important, especially in a church setting. I absolutely LOVE the small group we attend (we call them Gospel Communities because, well, that’s what they are). Not only are the other members fantastic, but it’s incredibly reassuring to be completely transparent about your struggles and have several other people chime in with, “Yeah, I deal with that too.”

Last night I spent an extended amount of time in a conversation with a beautiful friend in my Gospel Community about a major struggle in both of our lives. Because she empathized with some of what I was going through, she was able to speak directly into me and reassure me not only with godly advice, but with solid scriptural references to back it up.

Sometimes I get really selfish in my marriage. And it’s not just me. Sometimes I base my self-worth on others’ opinions of me. And it’s not just me. Sometimes I let all the little things get to me and allow that to affect my relationships with everyone around me. And it’s not just me. Sometimes I get angry at God for not handling situations the way I want him to handle them. And you know what? It’s not just me.

Consider this a PSA encouraging you to get involved in a small group community if you don’t already have one. It’s the most reassuring, encouraging, teaching, and comforting experiences I’ve ever known. I learn from the others in the group and I’d like to think they learn from me as well.

What are some situations about which you’ve been comforted by “it’s not just me”? Are you involved in a church community/small group? What’s the best part of that community?

  • Posted on June 11, 2011

about popcorn prayers & recipe boxes

 

Prayer Box

When I really got serious about following Jesus in summer 2007, I knew right away I had to start a regular quiet time with him, praying and reading the Word. My prayer life was awkward. I have a healthy dose of ADD, so my prayers for people were like popcorn. As I remembered someone, I spouted off his name. I had no idea what to pray for most people, so my prayers went something like, “God, please bless Bob. And Sue. Oh, and Joe. Also Tom. Mary too.”

I developed a bizarre neurosis that I was forgetting people, and if I forgot to pray for someone, God wouldn’t bless him. It’s highly narcissistic and obsessive, but it’s the way my mind worked. So I’d start at the top of my family, with the grandparents, and work my way down through aunts and uncles and parents and brothers and cousins, etc. Then I’d go through all my coworkers and friends and mere acquaintances. But since I’ve lived in several places, I worried about the people in the cities I used to live. I’d have to pray for the people I knew in Fort Worth or Tulsa or California or at this college or that college or this old job or that one, and if I couldn’t remember someone’s name, I felt awful and would pray the most vague prayer over that person’s face in my mind.

It was awful. I was stuck in some terrible blend of OCD and ADD and legalism. I loved talking to God but hated praying for other people. The responsibility was much too great.

I couldn’t keep going that way. I started journaling, and whoever’s name came to mind while I was praying, I’d pray for that person. I took more time praying for each person and learned to pray over specific needs. I learned to see stories or elements in Scripture that reflected others’ dilemmas and prayed for similar things in their lives. But I was still frustrated with my prayer life. It felt so forced and ineffective.

Several months ago in my quiet time, I got an idea for an organized prayer box. It’s just a recipe box with dividers and notecards. Each divider is a different section of things I pray about, and each notecard is a specific person or prayer request. My dividers are things like, “Friends, Unbelievers, Ministries, Missionaries, Lubbock, USA, Personal,” and seven more. I also have an “Every Day” divider. I start each quiet time with the Every Day things: Confession, Praise & Thanks, Ronnie (husband), Stone (stepson), and a few cards of friends with immediate needs. Other than the Every Day section, I pray over only the top card, note the date and specific prayer, and put the card to the back of the stack. Some sections I go through each card twice a week, and some sections I only make it through the stack once a month.

Let me tell you – my prayer life has drastically improved. I get excited to pray. The constant writing and moving of the cards keeps me focused. The organization keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I write verses on the back of cards as I come across one I want to pray over a specific person. I save the cards as they’re filled so I can review them later and see how God has moved in our lives.

I created a couple prayer boxes as gifts for friends, sold a couple to friends, and have a few left on Etsy to purchase (although right now I’m currently using one of the ones listed and secretly hope no one will want to buy it, because it’s grown on me). Click here to view the boxes on Etsy. Or if anyone wants to make his/her own prayer box, I’d be more than happy to share the dimensions and details of everything. Just email me.

What are some of your frustrations with prayers? Have you thought of any creative ways to pray? What helps you most in your prayer life?

  • Posted on June 09, 2011

about bible plans & questions

 

This morning I finished reading the Bible again. I started January 10 and typically read five days a week, eleven chapters a day. I read 10 consecutive chapters and one or two Psalms a day. I’ve tried different ways of reading through the Bible, and going straight through it seems to work best for me. Other reading plans leave me confused, although they definitely have their benefits. (I’ve been considering reading through it chronologically next time around.)

By the way, if you’re looking for a reading plan that will work for you, YouVersion is an invaluable resource. I actually just print off this pdf and mark off the chapters as I read them.

Anyway, I’m amazed at the new lessons I learn every time I read through it. Any other book I’ve read multiple times would be boring and predictable the fourth or fifth time around (except perhaps House of Leaves, but I haven’t read it enough times to know for sure). But when reading the Bible, I continuously notice new lessons, both big and small.

So tomorrow I’ll start again with Genesis 1. I want to retain as much as possible and keep my notes organized, so I started a list of questions to answer while I read. Ideally, I’d answer the questions for each chapter, but if I stick with the schedule of 11-12 chapters a day, that seems a tad too ambitious and daunting. Perhaps I’ll answer the questions for each day rather than each chapter.

These are the questions I’m considering:

  • What did I notice for the first time?
  • What are some things I noticed previously?
  • What are the things I’d like to research or learn more about?
  • What other verses/passages/stories does this bring to mind?
  • What life applications can I take away from this?

How about you? What helps you retain what you read? What are some questions you ask yourselves while reading through the Bible? Do you read straight through or mix it up (some OT, some NT) or rely on a One-Year Bible?