Posted by: pollyw | September 11, 2020

Back to School Stress: How to pray it through

image by: pollyw.wordpress.com

Back to school used to bring on a wave of anxiety in my heart that summer was over and drudgery was returning for the kiddos. But this year, the back-to-school anxiety is a face I don’t recognize. Usually, it looks a lot like shopping for clothes and shoes to get ready for the return of the drudgery and these traditions ease us into getting used to the idea of back to school.  It kind of reminds me of a big, slow-moving furry monster with obligations in tow, ready to gather our children and usher them back into the buildings while summer fun sadly waves from the sidewalk.   

But this year, the anxiety monster is very different. It feels like a full-on, in-your-face dare to even attempt normalcy. Like a reality show that has a plot twist in every episode. It feels like a drill sergeant screaming at us to “Make a decision! Home or school??!” “Bus or no bus??!” And when we show up to school, suddenly there is a whole universe of faces looking in from home, so now we have to bring a “device” to a live action school so that we can include those who are staying home. And by the way, the devices are on their way for the in-person students – they will be here in December. At the end of the semester. Huh? Another plot twist?

Top all of this back-to-school anxiety with a new plot twist — college has entered the picture for our family. College, the institution that once seemed like that big city cool kid whisking you off to new adventures has come in looking like the fear character from the children’s movie “Inside Out”. And guess what? College is right to be scared, because curveballs are being thrown at our college kiddo daily in many shapes and forms. Masks all around campus, in person classes mostly cancelled, random COVID testing, and students being shuffled off to the quarantine dorm for 14 days. Our college student is on his own episode of “College Survivor” this year.

So yeah, there is stress. But the big thing I keep reminding myself is that God is bigger than all of this. These curveballs that are being thrown at us, they don’t surprise Him. He is walking through this fire with us. He is walking through this fire with our children. In fact, as I look through the Psalms, which I love to do when I am feeling completely overwhelmed and just need to hang out with God in His Word, using His Words, I see some hope.

Right here in Psalm 28. Apparently, I have prayed this before during an overwhelming time because I have put a small smiley face next to this verse. Psalm 28:7

In the version I am reading, it says:

The Lord is my strength and my shield

Yes, Lord, I need to know that I am not my own strength, You are! And not only are You my strength, You are my shield. A shield in front of me, Your shield in front of me, means I can relax and know that You are in control. That no matter what is thrown my way, You are my shield. Today is the kind of day where I will crouch down behind that shield, Lord, and let You take over. I’m worn out, I’m going to soak in this shield protection You are offering. I might try to peek around the edges of the shield when I get worried stirred up in me again, but I love Your patience with me, and You will remind me to stay behind Your shield. That is where my heart and mind are safest.

But that’s not all, the verse goes on to say:

My heart trusts in Him and I am helped.

Trust…I think I can do that. It’s either trust in the worries and focus on them, or trust in Him to get us what we need. Yes, when my heart feels worried, I will remember that when I trust in You, I am helped. In fact, I am going to name the worries by name so that I can really get a handle on what I am trusting You with.

Lord, I am trusting You with my children and their emotional, physical, and spiritual health as they go through this. I’m trusting You for my husband and me — to make the right choices for our family in the middle of what feels like chaos. And we are trusting You to guide us and protect us.

Whew. I feel a little better, how about you?

Here’s today’s challenge. It’s not too complicated: Write this verse, or another one, on a notecard and post it where you will see it today. As you start to worry, speak His words back to Him and be specific about what you are trusting to Him and how He is helping you already.

Okay, I’m going to write it down as soon as I post this. Where’s my pen?

Do you have a favorite Bible verse to pray back to God during the chaotic times? Please share it with us in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

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Posted by: pollyw | June 28, 2020

How to Pray Scripture through the Chaos

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Normal. Not a word you think much about until it’s not around. People keep talking about the new normal that will settle in once the pandemic slows down. COVID-19 has thrown us all a curveball this year.

My high school senior didn’t know if he was going to have a graduation or not. Thankfully, he did.

My high school junior was in the middle of a water polo tournament when the referees told them all to get out of the water. The tournament was ending early because the schools were shutting down.

My sophomore gymnast practiced via computer in our living room. Everyone stayed lively on their feet to stay out of her way while she was doing aerials, handstands, and back tucks.

My two middle schoolers learned how to manage their time and also email teachers through the online schooling. Our house became an orchestra practice room and an art studio for their electives.

My elementary kiddo attended weekly tech meetings with the digital lab held by our district and had scavenger hunts after his school work with his teachers and classmates virtually.

I know everyone has had similar experiences. We thought that if we could just get through the school year, things would return to normal. Well, they haven’t. And, in fact, it looks like it will be affecting us into the next school year.

We were taken by surprise with all of this, but God wasn’t. And still isn’t. As the cycle of closings starts again, it can feel chaotic and a lot like that movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray’s character lives the same day over and over.

In the chaos, I have to remember that God is still on His throne, His Word is still true, and He still has big plans for us. During times like these, the best thing I can do is grab my Bible and start praying His Word back to Him. It reminds me of His promises and it helps me put into words what I don’t really have words for right now.

Here’s how it looks when I do this. When I don’t have the words and my brain is racing, I often turn to Psalms. It is very easy to find. Just open your Bible in the middle, and you should find yourself there. Go ahead, try it with your Bible. If you aren’t at Psalms, you’re probably pretty close.

Looking at the passages I landed on, I find one that stands out to me and that sums up what I want to talk to Him about. Today I see Psalm 119:65-66 is talking about wisdom and discernment, and I could really use those right now in the middle of this chaos, with the different information on the news and the decisions we need to make this summer and into the next school year to keep our family safe.

Here is the verse (in the amplified version):

“You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your promise. Teach me good judgement (discernment) and knowledge, for I have believed and trusted and relied on Your commands.”

Now when I’m praying this back to God, I’m personalizing it to the situation I am praying about. I’m thanking Him for dealing well with us, things could be so much worse. I’m asking Him to teach me judgement and discernment and to give us knowledge about decisions we will be making in the middle of this chaotic world situation. He knows what is going on, so I am going to Him for guidance. I don’t have to figure it all out. He tells us to ask for wisdom and He will give it to us. So, this verse reminds me that I am His. My family is His. He will give us wisdom when we ask.

Praying His Word back to Him and personalizing it is something that reminds me who He is and what He has promised He will do. I can trust Him and I can lean on Him.

What verses do you like to pray back to Him? Leave it in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Posted by: pollyw | December 1, 2019

Praying the names of God — Elohim

I love the idea of praying the names of God in the Bible. His many names refer to various aspects of His character. Elohim is the first one mentioned in the Bible, in the first verse, no less. “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth…” Genesis 1:1

Elohim is defined as the strong, creator God. (definition from Tonyevans.org)

Now, where do you need the strong creator God in your life? What situation in your life can you lift to Him and call on His ability to create something from nothing? Is it a relationship? Is it a work situation? Is it a personal issue you are struggling with?

Praying using Scripture isn’t a magic formula, or a guarantee, it’s a way for you to really know His Word and get it deep into your spirit. It’s a way to apply His Word to your life. So, if I pray that I need the Lord’s creative, Elohim spirit in my life today over a particular situation, I am reminding myself, with His own words, that He is able to do that. Praying that name back to Him is helping to build a stronger relationship with Him through understanding more of His character, and building that trust that He can create something out of nothing.

This does not give me a free pass to sit back and do nothing myself, it helps me to keep a look out and listen for what He would have me do in the situation I am lifting up to Him as Elohim. Where does He want me to go in that particular circumstance? It also reminds me to keep an eye out for what amazing thing He might do in that situation.

Prayer:

Lord, you are Elohim over all of the situations in my life. You are Elohim over me, You created me. Please help me to let Your creative spirit flow in my life and bring the awe and wonder to many tired situations that I am constantly struggling with. I ask for You to create Your something from my nothing in my strongholds (You can name those things you are struggling with here.) Lord, thank you that You can bring a creative solution to any problem, and You can fill every void with Your creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Image by Polly W.

 

Step 4 of Six Steps to an Easier Bible Study Time — How to make it through the dry season

(Part of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series)

As a Christian, it is easy to find yourself in a dry season with your time in the Word. Life gets busy, you feel overwhelmed with the everyday things, you are exhausted, you get the idea.

I like to hang out in Psalm 119 during the busy times of my life, when my quiet times start falling to the wayside, or if I find myself not looking at His Word every day. It serves as a signpost pointing me back to the good times I have had with the Lord through His Word. Reading parts of this psalm when I am in a dry season, always makes me want to delight in His Word because the psalmist makes it sound so great. I use the psalm as a “prayer template” to pray His Word back to Him and know that He will restore my delight in His Word again. Ready to jump into the refreshing water that is His Word? Let’s go for a swim!

As we all know, dry seasons can happen in our walk of faith. It could be due to a busy schedule, stressful transitions, or sometimes, plain old lack of sleep. There are a million reasons you might have lost that spark you first had for God’s Word and it sends you into a spiral where you feel like you aren’t connecting to Him like you used to, but the really great news is that you are only a prayer away from getting that spark back.

Look through Psalm 119 (warning, it’s long!). Find a verse that really speaks to where you want to be in your relationship with God and His Word. Here is one I really like:

You are my hiding place and my shield. I put my hope in Your Word. Psalm 119:114

Ask yourself some questions as you read the verse. For this verse, I might ask: Are there any fears you have as you find yourself in a dry season? It is completely okay to have them. Write down (or just think about) your top two or three worries. What would it look like for God to be your hiding place (refuge) and shield from those situations? Let Him know that if those things you are worried about do come to pass, you will put your hope in His Word. You can trust Him.

Memorize this short verse and pray it to Him continually today as situations and worries come to mind. Not in a “lucky phrase” kind of way, but in a true, heartfelt, “I’m relying on You to be my refuge and shield in this specific situation” way. Then tell Him that you are putting your hope in His Word.

Here’s a way that you can pray this verse back to God:

Lord, thank You that Your Word says You are my hiding place and shield. I have some worries that have been rolling around in the back of my head (silently name worries here). I am going to put my hope in Your Word, and I am so glad that you are my refuge and strength. I do not have to rely on me…it is all You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Great job! Keep your eyes open for His protection today, and be full of hope. He has you there for a reason!

 

Image by Polly Warring

Step 3 of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series — Live With a Verse for a Day

Today, I will let you in on the easiest way to incorporate God’s Word into your life when you have limited time. All you need to do is to live out your day looking through the filter of one Bible verse. Every event, situation, and worry will be held up next to this verse. Even if you think it won’t apply, consider this verse when thinking about every occurrence in your day.

For example, the verse from my morning devotional on the YouVersion app today was Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 NET version

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I can be a bit of a complainer when I feel down. Honestly, the first thing I thought when I read this verse was, “That sounds like a lot of work for today.”

To the general public, I can appear pretty optimistic most of the time, but the self-talk that goes on inside my ever-moving brain can dwell on the negative. As usual, though, the Lord had picked out this verse on purpose for me today.

This past week has been a bit rocky with the transition to summer for my kiddos and new practice hours for my older ones in athletics. What used to be the lazy days of summer have morphed into a frenzy of early mornings, late nights, and constant checking of who needs to be where at what time. It takes a week or two for us to get into our summer groove, and today proved to have some hiccups.

I prayed this verse back to God a few times this morning, and when I did, He was faithful to give me answers. He was letting me know that I needed to focus on the good in a situation, not the “should”. Focus on the heart of the child and their immediate emotional needs, not the plan I had for the day. Using this verse, the Lord transformed a frustrating “goal blocking” situation into a chance to connect heart-to-heart with one of my children. I’ll take heart connections over frustrating dialogue any day.

Seeing my daily interactions through this verse can carry on later tonight as I choose what to watch on tv or what sites I find on the internet. Will I focus on the good, pure, and lovely things going on in the world, or will I obsess about the bad things that are happening to famous people. I’m not advocating unplugging from the world, just not getting laser-focused on things that I might be drawn to that will end up dragging me down, emotionally and, ultimately, physically as I get depressed thinking about all of the bad things going on in the world.

I am going to follow through on this verse today and focus on the good things that the Lord brings to me today, instead of worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. When I forget to apply this verse, I will be nice to myself and look for the peace and calm that comes when I put the filter of God’s Word back into place for the day.

I wonder what verse He will give me tomorrow?

Leave a comment when you get a chance and let me know how you apply God’s Word to your life. I read every comment, and they really make my day!

 

 

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Image by Polly Warring

Step 2 of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series — Using easy online tools

And now, for the long-awaited step 2 in this series. You are going to learn about some tools I use to dig into God’s Word. Sometimes, it’s so common to read a passage and not quite understand how it applies to your life, or what it even means. Someone might talk about a passage and you think, “Is that what the Bible really says there?” We are to be like the Bereans and keep our teachers and each other accountable by checking what is said with God’s Word.  To do that, you need to understand God’s Word for yourself. It all starts with talking to God as you read His Word. Ask for His wisdom to help you understand. (Paul talked about the Bereans here in Acts 17:10-12.)

. A good start is to buy a reliable study Bible in a version that you can understand easily. One of my favorite first Bibles was “The Student Bible”. It assumed I didn’t have any background knowledge in theology and was an easy read to find background and context in the notes as I read the Bible. My parents gave me a study Bible when I graduated from college (thanks Mom and Dad!). I loved it. It was full of notes on each verse and gave a thorough background for chapters.

One good thing about the internet — there is no shortage of good Bible tools available. You just need to make sure they are teaching sound doctrine, and not their own agenda. Here are a few free online tools that I like to use.

I love, love, love the website EnduringWord.com by David Gudziak. The online commentary is free (scroll to the bottom of the home page). His commentary is very relatable and full of information. He takes it verse by verse and even includes information from other commentaries. This is my go-to source these days for explanations of difficult passages. I often use it to flesh-out my understanding of common verses and usually learn a new way to look at a familiar passage.

The YouVersion app is a free Bible app that I have enjoyed for quite some time now. They have new content to keep your quiet time fresh and free Bible studies categorized by subject/group. There are videos and text versions to available. Under their “Read the Bible” tab, you can access various Bible versions of a verse you are studying. I like doing that. It usually brings a new perspective into play. I like using the NIV, NAS, NET (it has asterisks you can click for original word explanation), Amplified (expands on words like a thesaurus), and Hawaiian Pidgeon translation (found that one through a youth pastor). Side note: My dad was stationed in Hawaii when he was a young sailor, and some of the Hawaiian phrases made it into our family vocabulary. I was surprised how some of the Hawaiian version sounded slightly familiar in a few places because of Dad. It’s a fun version to read and compare to more familiar Bible passages.

When I first started really learning to apply the Bible, I would hear Beth Moore say, “Now in this passage, when it says “cry”, it doesn’t mean the-tear-trickle-down-the-face cry, it means the all-out-pull-your-hair-and-cry-in-anguish cry.” I wanted to know how to find that out for myself. (I don’t speak Hebrew or Greek.) I asked a friend how I could learn the different words and their original meanings and he showed me how to look it up in the Strong’s Concordance. (Thanks, David!)

Turns out there are free online concordances everywhere. It is kind of neat to find out the context of the passage by looking for how the word was originally viewed in that time. (Here is a page where you can click on the highlighted words to see their original meanings in Greek (NT) or Hebrew (OT)  for Psalm 1). Using a concordance can help you picture the scene more vividly in your mind. You can also end up running around in circles if you get too much into chasing down meanings versus looking at the text as a whole. God wants us to understand and apply His Word as we read it. I might need to do a post on how to use the concordance.

My last tip: Look in the children and youth section of your local Christian bookstore for books about the Bible. They can take big subjects and simplify them for the youth and children.

Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tale fame, has done an amazing job of adding “meat” to children’s ministry by creating a series of videos called, “What’s in the Bible?”. They tackle books like Leviticus with sound doctrine and a really fun variety show format for kids. My children even learned all of the names of the Judges of Israel from one of the songs on the Judges video. (Seriously, when you get done reading this and making a clever comment below, go watch it — these guys are funny.)

Tony Evans, a Dallas preacher who is a regular on the radio, has some books out for kids that would be great for adults (I’ve read them). The one I really like talks about the Names of God and explains each one while giving a way to remember what it means in a kid-friendly way. He has another one on the Armor of God.

Bruce and Stan’s Guide to the Bible is written for adults and is for you right-brained visual folks out there. It really helped me understand the layout of the Bible when I was first learning it. Of course, their sense of humor helped make the whole thing not so intimidating, too.

 

I could talk about this stuff all day, but I better let you get back to what you were doing. Let me know in the comments if you try any of these sites/resources out, or if you have some resources that have helped you. I don’t receive any compensation if you follow these links, I just wanted to make them easy for you to find.

Leave me a comment if you get a chance. I read each and every one!

 

 

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Image by Polly Warring

“I Just Don’t Get It” series 

Step 1: The Proverbs Pause

Today, I am going to start a series that has been a long time in coming. I wanted to give it a name that reflected the angst a lot of us feel when we first decide to make Bible reading a part of our everyday lives. We make the decision that we need to have God’s input in our day, I mean it is His inspired word after all. We grab a Bible, open it up, and ten minutes later, we are confused, overwhelmed, or just plain bored. Like a diet, within three days, our resolve is gone because we haven’t seen any results.

Usually, I would start with an intro why Bible reading is important, how God has changed my life through it, and how to get a Bible that works for you. We don’t have time for that, this is the internet, some of you are already about to click on to the next thing. But, don’t do that, I’m starting right now.

Here we go: I call it “The Proverbs Pause”. Grab a Bible, one with real pages, or digitally produced. If it’s a real pages one, turn to the middle of the book. That should get you around the neighborhood of Psalms. Proverbs is the next book over. Now, before you start reading, pray. Ask God to teach you something in His Word. This is important. Don’t skip praying. It doesn’t have to be a big production with a bunch of thee’s and thou’s, just a simple, “Help me understand.”

Okay, you are in Proverbs, you have asked the Lord to help you know what you are reading.  I’m starting with Proverbs because it is full of great sound bites. Our society loves sound bites — quick, easy ways to say something wise. Proverbs is highly readable and can even be entertaining. For example, Proverbs 26:14 says, “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” Short and to the point. (And something that pops into my head easily when I am prone to procrastinate by taking a longer nap.)

Now, for the Proverbs pause. Proverbs chapters 26 and 27 are a good place to start. Let’s look up a Proverb and try it. Look up Proverbs 26:20.

My version says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

Let’s break that down. Most of you know how a fire works. You gather wood, light it, and a fire happens. To keep a fire going, you know that you have to add wood every once in a while. The funny part is, you don’t usually have to add a lot of wood. Just enough to keep it going. Well, this proverb says that quarrels work the same way. Gossip is the wood that fuels a quarrel. Nice illustration, and easy to remember. Also, very convicting… My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes.

Okay, your turn. Find a proverb with the “something is like something” format and try this out. You read the first part and picture it in your mind. In our earlier example, we would picture a campfire or a fireplace. The fire is going nice and strong, but it will go out soon, as the wood is consumed. It will only keep going with more wood. Then, we read the next part “without gossip a quarrel dies down”. Interesting. We usually want quarrels to die down. So, this Proverb gives us a hint at what will help a quarrel die down. Stop the gossip. Now, I can ask God to remind me about that as I go about my day and be on the lookout for Him to point out when I am feeding the fire of a quarrel. You can do the same with your verse. Be on the lookout for its truth in your life today.

I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment in the section below and let us know how the Lord works this into your life. Do you have a favorite Proverb or verse to keep in your thoughts all day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: pollyw | August 28, 2017

Hope in Hurricane Harvey

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(image courtesy of tpsdave from Pixabay)(Verse courtesy of YouVersion app)

rose pic for blog with proverbs 16
Image by: Polly W. Caption by: YouVersion

 

Procrastination. It sounds like such an innocent word. I mean, it has the word “pro” in it, so it even sounds like it might be a good thing. And “nation”, that sounds pretty important. I am not necessarily the queen of procrastination, but I am definitely in the royal family. With six kiddos, if I were the queen of procrastination, we would probably starve, and never make it to events. As a member of the royal family, we don’t starve, but do repeat main dishes often, and we do make it to events, but sometimes a few minutes late.

All that to say, it can be an issue with me. Well, this morning, in my YouVersion Bible App, under the reading called “Proverbs to Remember Two”,  the Lord showed me a proverb that can help me think in a different way when I am leaning toward procrastination. Here are four ways He did that with Proverbs 16:3.  This is the verse (in the NET version):

Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

1. Commit… That first word says it all. So many times, when I am procrastinating, commitment is missing. I’m not “all in”. In the YouVersion app and in my handy dandy (free) commentary Enduring Word, they pointed out that the word used here in the original Hebrew means “roll to/upon”. Now what would rolling have to do with committing? Turns out it means “to roll”, as in to roll a burden to someone. Like it is too heavy to hand over, so you have to roll it over to the person who is helping you out. I can relate to this definition. When I am procrastinating, the burden feels soooo heavy. Something easy, like making a phone call that needs to be made, can seem as complicated as trying to solve world peace, just because I am procrastinating. A commentator (Watke) also pointed out that the original meaning of this word indicates a finality. That we are to “roll it unto the Lord and leave it there”.

2. So what are we supposed to roll? Our works. That can be anything. It doesn’t have to be the big stuff. Phone calls, chores, projects, dinner planning, it all goes in there. God created the universe, but He is also all about relationship, so He cares about our big and small stuff. He wants all of it…all of us. From the Enduring Word site, they pointed out that (Kidner) said, “Our activities and plans will be no less our own for being His, only less burdensome, and better made.”

3. Who are we committing them to? The Lord. Not our company, not our family and friends, but to the Lord. Then, what happens with Him will filter down into our relationships with our company, family, and friends.

4. What does it mean for our plans when we commit our works to the Lord first? The commentary (Enduring Word) points out that usually we commit our thoughts to the Lord first and then the works follow. It turns out that the Bible tells us it happens in reverse, too. We can commit the works first, and He will provide everything we need to make a plan, so the work can be done. This is great news for me, because when I am procrastinating, all I can see is the huge thing that needs to be done, and my thinking takes a vacation. This way, God’s Word says He will not leave me alone to flop around in my own confusion, He will establish my plans when I commit the work to Him. That makes me feel better!

So, there you have it. Commit your works to the Lord, and He will help you by laying out and establishing your plans. To me, that sounds like He will help me during the biggest phase of procrastination, planning how the project will get done.

Do you think you could pray this verse back to the Lord when you find yourself stuck? Leave a comment and let me know where this could help you. I’d love to hear from you!!

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