Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #3

Are you ready to take on the third common objection I hear when I suggest the practice of prayer journaling? It’s probably the most popular one of all, and with good reason. It’s legitimate!

Hurdle #3: I just don’t have time—I can barely manage to brush my teeth every day. I hear ya. I recall when my first child was born and I was on maternity leave. My husband would return home from work at the end of the day and find me still in my bathrobe—I had two college degrees but I couldn’t find a way to take a shower while I was caring for my newborn. Happily (for all of us), I settled in to a routine and managed to figure out how to fit in appropriate personal hygiene. Here’s the ugly truth, girlfriend: For most of us, it’s all about priorities. And taking that first intentional step. And maybe setting your alarm a few minutes earlier, or giving up some social media time, or asking for a little help in the mornings if needed. In later chapters of my book, we go over some tips and tricks to finding the time to spend with Jesus. Prayer journaling will soon become part of your routine.

Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #2

We are on to hurdle #2 of our series of 6 Prayer Journaling Hurdles we can all overcome. Take a big breath and leap into prayer journaling! You won’t regret it!

Hurdle #2: I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up somehow. You are God’s beloved child. Remember? Beloved! This is your time to just sit back and be his daughter while you journal. If you stumble and fall and stop journaling for a while, forgive yourself (He does!) and get back to it as soon as you can. No one is keeping track or tallying the score. Just the fact that you’re reading this post and have a desire to talk more to God already makes him smile. He is delighted by your effort and intention. You can’t mess it up.

(Taken from my new book, “Praying with a Pen: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling” available October, 2017. ) 

Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #1

Have you always wanted to try prayer journaling but have had reservations? Are you uncertain how to begin? You’ve come to the right place, sister! This is #1 of 6 objections/concerns I hear frequently when I discuss prayer journaling. Let’s jump these hurdles together, OK?

  1. This is just too weird. “Writing to God” could be something really foreign to you, I know. Many Catholics, especially those of us who are—(cough, cough)—middle-age, are unfamiliar with this notion of talking to God beyond using the prayers we were taught as children. During the twenty-plus years I spent away from the Catholic Church, years when I attended a Protestant church with my husband and children, I learned many wonderful things from my Christian brothers and sisters. One of those blessings was the importance of unscripted conversation with Jesus. They made it all so…simple. Uncomplicated. Personal. I had missed that lesson in my Catholic upbringing, and unfortunately, many from my era did too. Younger Catholics may find it just as challenging. Let’s face it: In a world that increasingly seems to barely recognize God, informal prayer can be challenging no matter what age we are. But through prayer journaling, informally conversing with Jesus eventually became more comfortable for me, and it will become more comfortable for you as well. After a few weeks, all of the “weirdness” will disappear, I guarantee it!

(Taken from my new book, “Praying with a Pen: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling” available October, 2017. ) 

Tiny Revelations

Don’t Taste It!

Every once in a while, a television commercial truly entertains me. Instead of fast-forwarding past it (or, more accurately, having my hubby fast-forward past it), I want to watch and enjoy it. Mostly, it’s been the insurance company commercials that make me hit the pause button and giggle. The “Mayhem” commercials influenced me enough that I named our adopted hyperactive/unpredictable/destructive stray kitten after the character. The “Jake from State Farm” commercials spawned Halloween costumes for my husband and me—he being Jake with the red shirt, name tag and, of course, khakis, and me as the suspicious wife in my robe with a phone in my hand. And I cannot get enough of the synchronized swimming dogs in the Farmers Insurance commercials. They just crack me up.

My current pause-worthy commercial is from Geico. It features a bevy of raccoons feasting on leftovers in a dumpster and having a very human-like conversation about whatever is tickling—or terrorizing— their taste buds.  “Oh man, this is terrible. Try this. It’s awful,” one raccoon says to his buddy. “It’s like mango, chutney… and burnt hair.”

I laugh out loud every time.  Isn’t it so true that when we taste something bad, we want others to experience it too? I did it just the other day at a restaurant in a city known for its foul tap water. “Ugh! This water tastes like gravel,” I told my husband. “Taste it!” He didn’t fall for it. In fact, rarely does anyone over the age of 8 ever fall for this request. So why do we even bother asking?

I think it’s because we humans like shared experiences. We want affirmation, we want a co-experiencer, we want to pull someone else in so we can revel in mutual disgust! It’s much more fun to lament in a group than to complain or criticize in private.  And it’s harmless…as long as the subject matter is harmless. Bad water, spoiled food: harmless. Talking about people: not so much.

When the subject is people, girlfriends, that’s when we can get into trouble. It’s a slippery slope. We can be tempted to gossip, slander and tear down. Did we have a poor customer service experience in a store? We want to plaster it all over Facebook. Did someone disappoint us? We are drawn to tell others in our circle all about it. Did a co-worker make a mistake? We can’t wait to let others know about it at lunch. We want them to “taste it” too, whatever “it” is. This is a bad habit to get into–one that has eternal consequences. We can’t fall for it, friends! As Saint Paul warns the Ephesians in 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” When you are tempted, or when you are in a group that is giving in to the temptation to gossip, slander or tear down, take action: Say a prayer, tame your tongue, change the subject, walk away. Don’t taste it! It’s worse than gravel and burnt hair—it’s sin.

We (me included as a repeat offender) need to put a clamp on this kind of “sharing.” Proverbs 11:13 teaches us: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered,” So…let’s not reveal secrets. Let’s be trustworthy. Let’s vow to keep a lid on the destructive talk. When the subject is a puzzled palate, go ahead—invite others to taste it! It’s all in fun. But when the subject is people, let’s keep it covered, build each other up and give only grace to those who hear!  Deal? Deal.

And we can all just keep on wondering what mango, chutney and burnt hair tastes like…

Praying with a Pen, Tiny Revelations

Praying for Little Things (or Die, Stupid Wind!)

The air was ten-degrees-below-crisp as I stretched my hamstring muscles and tried to get ready for a run/walk/trudge down the road. It was early morning but The Wind was already at an unfriendly level and I needed to give myself a pep talk. I can handle ten-degrees-below-crisp, but ladies I despise wind in my face. This is a problem because I live in the flatlands of rural America, you know, where “the winds come sweeping down the plains.” All day. Every day. When it’s not breezy, people around here are kinda spooked: “Nice calm day, isn’t it? For now?” I should be used to it, as I have lived 90% of my life in this area. But I am not. Like an angry old woman, I still shake my fist at The Wind when it makes me catch my breath, or nudges me off course, or blows my hair into rats-nest tangles.
In past winters, The Wind got the best of me on my daily walk attempts. I would high-tail it back to the house, not even making it to the end of the driveway if the wind was too strong for me. I gave up, admitted defeat, waved a white flag of surrender after about 3.6 seconds. Diet and fitness goals notwithstanding, I was not going out there to be battered about like one of those inflatable clown punching bags. I would retreat to the house, search out a chunk of a Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree candy bar (side note: a little bit of heaven on earth) and stew about my thwarted diet and fitness goals.
This winter I decided things were going to be different. I was going to ask my good friend the Holy Spirit for the extra fortitude I needed to take on my nemesis. Now friends, let’s get real here for a sec: Over the course of my lifetime I have had to ask the Holy Spirit for the fortitude to handle much more onerous tasks, believe me. On the scale of challenges for which I need Divine Assistance, wind in my face is not even on the radar. Still, I know God is interested in both the big and small obstacles in our lives, and I figured the fact that I liked to pray on my walks/runs would give this dilemma a little more weight with the Almighty. So I gave it a go. I prayed for resilience against The Wind.
Well, guess what. Outside of the few days when the temps dipped below humane levels, or the road was encrusted in death-defying layers of ice, I’ve been out there! In The Wind! Walking, jogging, wogging, whatever it is that I do. I’m feeling better, I’m getting outside, I have more energy and I’m keeping the winter blues at bay.
Granted, I bought thermal jogging pants, insulated sweatshirts, a hat with a pocket for those little warming blocks, fuzzy running gloves, head warmers, a hilarious fleece kerchief-type thing that goes over my mouth and nose and, yes– running goggles. People, I look like an escaping bank robber with bad eyes and a misshapen head coming down the road. But I’m out there, by golly, running against the wind just like Bob Seger wants me to do. With my uncoordinated yet highly effective attire and a prayer for strength before I leave the house, “The Wind” has been reduced to just “the wind.”
What have I learned? I pondered this in my prayer journal one morning this week. “God is truly invested in my day-to-day life,” I concluded. He is not just to be called on for the big honking problems I have. He wants to walk with me—and you–all throughout the day: through the highs and lows, the interruptions, the ordinary frustrations.
He wants to walk with us through the wind, the literal kind and the figurative kind. He wants to hold our hands and help us through it all, day by day, hour by hour, step by step.
I like this concept of walking through the wind of my daily life with Jesus.
And bonus—he doesn’t mind what I look like while we’re walking.