Praying the Bible (or Hope for my Prayer Life…)

Praying the Bible Whitney | Hope for My Prayer Life | One Radiant Home

“But when I pray, frankly, it’s boring.”

And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel like praying. And when we don’t feel like praying, it’s hard to make ourselves pray. Even five or six minutes of prayer can feel like an eternity. Our mind wanders half the time. We’ll suddenly come to ourselves and think, “Now where was I? I haven’t even been thinking of God for the last several minutes.” And we’ll return to the mental script we’ve repeated countless times. But almost immediately our minds begin to wander again because we’ve said the same old things about the same old things so many times. 

“It must be me,” we conclude. “prayer isn’t supposed to be  like this. I guess I’m just a second rate Christian.”

No, the problem is almost certainly not you; it’s your method…(Praying the Bible p. 14-15)

Don Whitney has a way of getting right to the heart of a matter. I remember feeling the same way when I read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life a few years ago.

A couple of days ago, Shawn asked me to pray about something for him. I broke down in tears, frustrated that my pattern of prayer is almost exactly what Dr. Whitney describes. I knew I wouldn’t really pray for him the way that I knew I should. Shawn handed me Praying the Bible and encouraged me to read it. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’ve read other books about praying scripture and clearly they haven’t really helped. But since it was Don Whitney, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what he said.

I was immediately drawn in by the first chapter, where it felt like he was inside my head. His years of pastoral ministry and teaching seminary have allowed him to see that prayer is a common struggle among believers and that almost all of us have these thoughts as we try to pray. This was confirmed as I talked to some ladies at church that seemed to be struggling in the same way.

Dr. Whitney’s method isn’t new or groundbreaking. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea if it was. An effective prayer method must stand the test of time and transcend cultural barriers. It needs to be something that worked for the disciples and people throughout church history. It needs to work in America, China, and Europe. The solution, Whitney says, is to pray through a passage of scripture, particularly a Psalm.

It sounds simple, and it is. I recommend reading the book for more details about how to choose scripture and what a daily prayer routine might look like. Dr. Whitney has a way of writing that makes him feel like a wise, trusted friend sharing what the Lord has taught him, as you meet over a cup of coffee. Several years ago, we had the chance to hear him speak and meet with him in a small group as we shared a meal afterward. In person, he is as genuine as he seems in his writing and his years of wisdom spill out into every conversation. This is the picture of him that I have when I read his books

After a couple of days, I can’t say that my prayer life is “fixed,” but for the first time in a long time, I feel like there is hope that my prayer life can become more than what it has been.

And what if we could teach our children to pray like this now, saving them from the years of struggling to have an effective and vibrant prayer life in the future? Yes! I want my children to leave my home equipped to pray.

Praying (from Psalm 119) that the Bible would be my hiding place and my shield, that I would hope in the word of God and turn to it continually as I pray, and that we may teach our children to keep their lives pure by guarding it according to the word of God and through prayer.

Posted in Radiant Living, Reading | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer So Far

We have moved into our new house and are settling in. It’s a little bit surreal to own a house with plans to stay indefinitely. I’ve been avoiding writing anything about this because I know many of you might be wondering what happened with our plans for ministry in England. It’s a long story…another whole post. For now I’ll just say, after months of unsuccessful job hunting, prayer, and seeking the Lord, it seemed good to stay where we are. The Lord has shown us a future for our family here and we are following with small steps as we wait to see his plan unfold.

Queen Anne's Lace | One Radiant Home

So, we bought a house. It’s the 2nd house we’ve owned, but the first we’ve owned and planned to keep for more than a couple of years. After a year of renting in a subdivision neighborhood, we are thankful to have a property that allows the older children to run and play freely. I’m also thankful to have a place where I am free to decorate and change things without asking for permission. It’s wonderful to have that freedom after years of renting.

Digging in the Dirt | One Radiant Home

K with a 4 leaf clover | One Radiant Home

L with Queen Anne's Lace | One Radiant Home

J peeking | One Radiant Home

We were able to close on the house before our lease was up on the rental house. During the 3 weeks of overlap, we spent some time painting and working on some other updates around the house before our stuff was moved. A couple days after we moved in, we also had some work done on the driveway by a friend of ours that has a concrete business. The kids were entertained for hours watching the men pour and spread the concrete sidewalk and watching the tractor spread gravel.

Watching the Concrete Workers | One Radiant Home

Pouring the Concrete Sidewalk | One Radiant Home

Our neighbors are family from our church with children ranging from teens to baby. Everyone has someone to play with. I haven’t really seen my big kids in a couple of weeks! They disappear into the woods to play after lunch, stop in for drinks every now and then, and show up at dinner time. Their favorite day so far was the day we had heavy rain causing flash floods. Who needs a pool when you have a temporary pond in the yard? I barely snapped a picture of the boys as they were running by!

Playing in the Mud | One Radiant Home

The previous owners had a wonderful raised bed garden setup. We helped them plant before closing, and now we are enjoying buckets of blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more zucchini than we can eat. We also have several cantaloupes growing and are anxiously waiting to try them!

Blackberries | One Radiant Home

Garden Harvest | One Radiant Home

Blackberry Cobbler | One Radiant Home

And finally, a few photos of the kids…

C and the Kids | One Radiant Home

The Kids | One Radiant Home

Brothers | One Radiant Home

J 5th birthday | One Radiant Home

Posted in Dwelling, Gardening | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on The Fringe Hours

A few weeks ago, I read The Fringe Hours and felt compelled to share my thoughts on the book. My intention is not to disparage the author or her thoughts, but to examine the book and its themes in light of God’s word. I have spent many hours praying and thinking about how to share my concerns in a way that is loving and thoughtful. I hope that you will read my thoughts with that in mind. 

If you read Christian women’s blogs, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about a book called The Fringe Hours. I follow the (in)courage blog, where the author and her friends are leading a video book club during the month of March. When I read their introduction to The Fringe Hours, the premise was intriguing to me—finding pockets of time in your day to pursue your passions.

Like the author, Jessica Turner, I’m often asked how I manage to get so much done with 6 kids. I intentionally leave margin in my schedule so that I have time to pursue my creative passions, but I’m not always able to explain why or how I do this. I picked up The Fringe Hours hoping that Jessica’s thoughts about priorities and time management would help me to clarify and articulate why I make the choices that I do.

Thoughts on The Fringe Hours | One Radiant Home

In a sense, it did. But not the way I was expecting it to. I went searching for my own answers. While The Fringe Hours offers a lot of practical advice about time management, scheduling, and priorities, I walked away feeling like something was missing. There was a lot of application, and perhaps inspiration, but there were no answers to the “whys” and “hows.”

After watching the video introduction and first chapter discussion of the book on (in)courage, I realized that Jessica didn’t set out to write a book with answers to the “whys” and “hows.” She envisioned a practical book about time management for busy moms. Personally, I was hoping she would dig into scripture more and discuss more of the biblical reasoning behind her ideas. (Because there are good reasons to make time for yourself and pursue creativity! And as Christians, we should always be looking to God’s word to guide our decision making.)

For example, why should we make time for ourselves? Does the Bible really support that? How do we actually make decisions about how we should fill our time? What are the gospel implications for time management? Is it right to be seeking after our own happiness? I found myself asking these questions and filling in a lot of these gaps as I was reading, but I kept wondering how other women were answering these questions if they were reading the book without a strong knowledge of scripture or knowledge about where to find the answers.

I think that women need to know why they are making decisions. The topic of this book is difficult. Women are busy, overwhelmed, and burned out. They need to be gently reminded that there is more to life than just getting through each day. Some of the women that pick up this book are likely on the verge of tears and looking for hope. I think the natural response is to hold back the hard things, so as not to push them over the edge. But without a strong foundation in scripture and dedicated pursuit of the Lord, daily time management techniques will only be a temporary fix to the chaos.

To the casual reader, The Fringe Hours seems to suggest that our ultimate goal is our own happiness. Based on other things that Jessica has written, I don’t think that’s the message she intended to convey. It’s just that there isn’t enough explanation to clarify. I would have loved to see a Biblical definition of happiness. Our happiness is found in Christ. The Bible says we will only be satisfied when the emptiness in our soul is filled with Jesus. “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

I know when people hear that, they tend to think that they should be reading their Bible and praying during all of their free time. They imagine that holiness and happiness are opposites. But happiness and holiness are not at odds. They work together! This is what I think needs to be explained in more detail. God actually put that longing for happiness and pleasure within us to draw us to himself. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) Our delight— our happiness—comes from the Lord. When we seek Him, our desire becomes for his glory. We find true pleasure and fulfillment in seeking the glory of God. John Piper says “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” So we don’t have to choose between happiness and holiness. Happiness is found in holiness. And holiness is found in living, working, and enjoying life for the glory of God.

Joy overflows from a heart that understands the gospel; understanding that we fall short of God’s glory everyday, that we can’t do anything to restore that relationship, and that we deserve eternal separation from God and his perfect holiness. BUT Jesus, fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life and took the punishment that we deserved so that we could be restored to God and live with Him eternally. This is the gospel, the good news that should affect our lives at every level, including the way we spend our time each day.

When the gospel is missing, true happiness and fulfillment are missing. But when we find ways to use our gifts and talents and hobbies to the glory of God, our hearts will be truly rested and satisfied. I think of Eric Liddell, the Olympic gold medal runner, who said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” I love that! Eric loved running, and used it to point to the glory of Christ. And we can do the same with the activities that we enjoy!

Let me share a couple of examples from the book, so that you can see practically how the gospel fits and why the book feels incomplete without it.

In chapter 2 Jessica talks about pleasing everyone to the point of emptiness. She says that the idea that we need to be everything to everyone is a lie. That is true! But then there is no follow up conversation about how to fill that emptiness, or reassurance that Jesus is everything to everyone so that we don’t have to be. There is some mention of using your God-given talents to serve people, but even serving people will not be ultimately fulfilling without an underlying desire to delight in Jesus and bring glory to His name. The emptiness that comes from doing too much will never be filled by doing something to feel good. But unfortunately, that is the impression I’m left with when the gospel is not a part of this conversation. We need to be examining the motivations and desires that inform our choices. When our motivation is to glorify God, then we will find happiness that lasts.

Another example…on pg. 50 she says, “In our mess, God makes us strong—in imperfection you can shine bright.” Yes! But how? She doesn’t say. I believe it is an allusion to 2 Cor. 12:9, which says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” But her paraphrase is incomplete. Following that, Paul says, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We are strong because of the grace of God in our lives. We “shine bright” with the power of Jesus Christ, in order to point the world to His strength and not our own. We must be willing to humble ourselves before the Lord, confess our weakness, and receive His power. Then Jesus will shine brightly through us.

Though there are more examples, I hope you can understand how the gospel could have been more intentionally woven into the ideas in this book. To allude to the power of Christ without a sharing the gospel is a disservice to the readers. Without the gospel, the message is incomplete. If you are interested in the topic of this book, please read it with discernment and a Bible close at hand.

Though there is much more to say on this topic, I’d like to keep this post a readable length. Here are a few resources for further reading if you are interested.

  • If you are looking for a book about living intentionally, that is filled with scripture and is Christ focused, I recommend Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson.
Posted in Reading | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Thoughts on The Fringe Hours

God Made Beauty for Our Enjoyment

As a person that loves creative arts, I often ponder how my creative pursuits relate to my desire to bring glory to God with my life. Why are we drawn to beautiful things? Why, when I walk through a garden, do I want to go draw the flowers and make them into a fabric design? Because God made beauty for our enjoyment…

God Made Beauty for Our Enjoyment | One Radiant Home

Recently I read Welcome to the Story: Reading Loving, & Living God’s Word by Stephen Nichols. The whole book is worth reading, but I was particularly struck by some thoughts in the chapter on creation that relate to beauty and creativity.

The creation account in Genesis provides a lot of insight into the creativity of God. I think I often read through the creation account very complacently. I’ve heard it since I was a small child in Sunday School and the powerful imagery that should provoke amazement and worship is sometimes lost in the familiarity of the story.

Gen 2:9 says that God made every tree that is both good for fruit and pleasing to the eye. We can infer a lot from that statement. God created the trees for fruit, to sustain life and meet a physical need. I think we usually see that part. We know God provides for our needs. We see the utilitarian purposes for the things that God made.

But he also created trees that were “pleasing to the eye”. Their purpose was beauty, for our pleasure. In other words, God created beautiful things because he wants us to enjoy them! From an artist’s perspective, this is a refreshing reminder. God is glorified when we enjoy the beauty of his creation, when we are inspired by the beauty around us, and when we seek out beautiful things and places.

I think we often overlook the beautiful things that surround us everyday because we are busy. And we just aren’t looking for them. It takes practice to see beauty in the small things.

I have found that I often see beauty more easily through my camera lens. I look at things differently when they are framed or very close-up. I don’t think you have to be a professional photographer to practice looking for beauty that way. Try it! Get your phone camera out and look for beauty in the details.

Or go outside and sketch what you see. No one has to look at it! It’s just for you. But when you try to draw things, you will begin to see details that you missed at first glance. I think that good artists notice details that others miss, because they have trained themselves to look for the small things. But you don’t have to be an artist to focus on small pieces of beauty around you. Study one flower or tree. Look at the colors and textures. Search for patterns and designs. When you start to see them, you’ll find yourself praising God more often throughout the day.

Maybe you are better with words. Try writing a detailed description of a garden. Discipline yourself to slow down and observe your surroundings. Nurture an ability to see beauty in the details that others miss.  Point them out to your children and friends. Find pleasure in the simple things that God has placed around you to point you back to him. Then praise God for his creativity!

Praying that I see the beauty God has placed in my life to point me back to him, and praising him for learning to see beauty in the small things.

I’ve linked this post to “What I Learned” at Chatting at the Sky…though this is definitely something I’m still learning!

Posted in Creative Projects, Radiant Living | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain

I’ve always enjoyed reading. In elementary school, the librarian held books behind her desk for me that she knew I would like. I often read under my desk when I was bored in class. I stayed up late reading by the light of my night-light to finish books that I couldn’t put down.

As a newlywed with a busy working husband, I spent hours reading through many of the classics that I didn’t get to read in high school. I studied sewing, craft, and cooking books to develop my homemaking skills. I read a lot of books related to my psychology degree while I was finishing that. When I found out we were expecting, I read tons of parenting and nutrition books. And I have always enjoyed supplementing my Bible reading with theology and devotional books.

Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain | One Radiant Home

At some point during the last 2 pregnancies, my ability to read went away. It sounds strange, I know. You can’t explain it unless you’ve been there. I would read the same thing a dozen times and still walk away not knowing what I had read. In late pregnancy and the newborn days some of it may have been related to lack of sleep, but I know that wasn’t all of it. I had plenty of creative energy. I even started my sewing pattern business to keep myself challenged in other ways. But reading just seemed hard.

Even a year after the last baby was born and I was feeling mostly “normal” again, my ability to read anything more than a blog post was still gone. It’s not that I didn’t try to read books during that time, but I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t really process anything I read. A few months ago (at least 18 months removed from pregnancy), I decided that I had to do something. I missed reading.

My lack of reading was affecting my spiritual growth and my relationship with Shawn. We enjoy conversations about the books we are reading, the spiritual implications of the thoughts presented, and the assumptions that drive the authors. But we missed that intellectual aspect of our relationship too. We missed having more to talk about than what we did that day or what the kids were learning (and not learning!). We talked about circumstances, but not very much about ideas. For us, those conversations are essential. They build a closeness, a feeling of oneness, that is vital to the strength of our marriage.

My lack of reading was also effecting my writing. I wasn’t feeding my deeper thoughts and have struggled to write anything more than family updates. How can I share anything worth reading if I’m not feeding myself with thought-provoking material? How can I write what I’m learning if I walk away from my Bible reading grasping for just a tiny bit of understanding and application?

I needed to read again.

So, I came across an article, which I can’t even remember now. I know I’ve seen several similar articles though, talking about how technology and reading quickly on our phones and computers has affected our “deep reading” ability. Our brains need to practice deep reading skills or they begin to forget those pathways. I realized then that my “mommy brain” problem was probably gone, but that it had been replaced by the brain laziness that comes when it’s not challenged with deep reading.

I decided to try to reconnect those pathways by pushing myself to “read deeply,” but I chose a book that I knew I would enjoy. I love the BBC miniseries North & South, but I had never read the book. I thought it was a good choice because I was familiar with the story, but the writing was more complex and required some thought. I ended up finishing it in about a week.

I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but for me, that was all it took. My brain kicked back into to gear and I started devouring books again. When I did some planning for the new year, I made a long book list. (There are always tons of great “the best books I’ve read this year” blog posts at the end of the year, which are great for ideas and book reviews.) I wanted to be reading intentionally. I’m using the list as a guide, but I’m also reading other books that come up and seem helpful.

I’ve read around 15 books already this year on a variety of topics. For each book, I’ve written a few thoughts—sometimes just a few sentences and sometimes a lot more—about what I’ve learned and my general thoughts about the books. There are a couple that I really loved, books that will stick with me and give me much more to write about and think through.

I hope to share some of my thoughts about the best ones soon. In addition, I have some other thoughts to write again, so I’m thankful that the Lord has restored my “deep reading” ability and my desire to think hard and write more.

Praising the Lord for restoring my ability to read deeply, and praying that my thoughts will be an encouragement to those that read them!

I know from talking with other friends that I’m not the only one that has struggled with this after having babies. What about you? Are you feeling stuck like I was, or have you found a way to “snap out of it” somehow? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Linking to: Raising Homemakers, My Joy-Filled LifeLadies Collective, Women with Intention

Posted in Radiant Living, Reading | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments