Where's Jesus on Summer Vacation?

Posted on June 16, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 1 Comment

For me, summer is a hard time for quiet, alone time with the Lord. There is no consistent schedule provided by school or church programming. Many people take numerous trips or vacations during the summer. I also tend to do quite a bit more, soaking up those long summer days, so I am just not inside as much.

It seems like YEARS ago since I made my New Years Resolutions and set some spiritual goals for the year. Some things have been working okay (some things not at all), but the change in the summer schedule sure doesn’t help my consistency in reading my Bible or praying.

So how do you keep Jesus in summer vacation? How do you find time to spend with the Lord, when your life feels without structure or you’re constantly traveling? 

Here are some things I have tried before that could work for you:

1. Just try for a Daily Ritual. I talked about this back in January, but instead of feeling like you have to complete this HUGE list of spiritual accomplishments each day, figure out one thing you can do this summer, that no matter how chaotic your day, it stays consistent. For you, it might be reading a chapter of the Bible before going to sleep. Or, praying a verse for your husband every morning while drinking your coffee. One thing you do each day that doesn’t change.

2. Put your phone to good use. When traveling, I feel like I would have to pack a separate bag for all of my quiet time stuff (Bible, journal, books, concordance, etc.) Because it can feel like a pain, I often leave them at home and put my phone to good use. I will take a picture of the verses I am praying over in my Husband journal. I will use a Bible app on my phone to read through Scripture. I will have a Christian audio book on my Audible app so that I have something to listen to while on the road. My phone ends up helping me stay focused on vacation when I don’t have other resources available.

3. Use your active time as a way to pray. Summer is a natural time to be more active, as lots of people will walk the dog, take a bike ride, or run on the beach. I’ve talked about Prayer Walking before, and using your active time for prayer is a great idea. Out for a bike ride with the family around the neighborhood? Change it into a time to pray for your neighbors. Watching your child play on the playground for the 100th time? Try praying for your child’s different body parts as ways to serve the Lord (his hands to be giving, mouth to be encouraging, head to be wise). 

4. Add some good books to your list. I read a lot less during the summer months, but many people read a lot more. If you’re snagging a book to read this summer, try one that is about or points you towards the Lord. You can check out some Christian books I have read this year and last year to get some ideas.

5. Give yourself some grace. I also don't put too much pressure on myself...I am going to miss a few days here and there, and you know what? No big deal. Give yourself a dose of grace!

What ways do you remember Jesus during the summer? Any suggestions for the less structured, care-free summer days?

Posted in Books, Daily Ritual, Jesus on Vacation, Prayer, Prayer Walking, Praying for Your Husband Journal, Praying Scripture, Summer

Praying for Your City

Posted on June 11, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

I live in a wonderful city; we just love living in Greenville, SC. It has a vibrant art scene, great outdoor opportunities, an incredible walkable downtown, excellent restaurants…I could go on and on.

As much as I love so many things about Greenville, there are many people who live here in great need, without homes or jobs, just really needing help. The United Ministries here in town offers a Greenville Poverty Tour, giving a history of certain neighborhoods, and driving you to different areas that are in great need. It is amazing to me that many of these neighborhoods are just blocks away from the vibrant and cultural downtown.

Praying for my city is something I don’t always think about doing. It’s easier for me to pray for specific people or specific needs, but praying in general for my city can feel overwhelming. However, this city needs prayer, and many people that live here need Jesus.

Here are some different ways I have been praying recently for our city; it’s just a starting list - I would love to know your thoughts:

• Unity for churches and church leadership
• Specific organizations that help those in great need (in Greenville, I regularly pray for the Harvest Hope Food bank, Miracle Hill, specific soup kitchens, the Frazee Center, Homes of Hope, some orphan and adoption ministries, etc.)
• Gospel preached boldly in our city and in our churches 
• That our family and others will live more missionally, with God opening doors to new opportunities
• For God to intersect my life with people I can help and assist
• Small businesses in the area
• City and people living here will come to know Jesus and stand in awe of Him
• Peace and prosperity for our city
• Elected officials who help govern and run our city

Praying for my city is not something I think about all the time…what about you? I’d love to know any thoughts or suggestions on what you would add to the list above

In what ways do you pray for your city? 

Posted in Prayer, Praying for your City, Praying Scripture

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Posted on January 12, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 2 Comments

In the 5th grade, when I was packing for summer camp, I threw in some Sunday dresses I didn’t care about getting dirty. They were old, some I hadn’t worn in a while, but in my head, I figured it was camp, so why did it matter.

When our first Sunday arrived, and I pulled out a dress with hand stitching and a huge collar, I remember being mortified. The other girls had cute acid-wash jean skirts and matching scrunchies. It was the first time I remember feeling WAY out. I wanted clothes that made me feel cool and popular, as my appearance was not cutting it.

I’ve been telling myself lies every since.

You need to be perfect.
You’ll never be as good as her.
You can’t ever get your act together.
You’ll never be able to overcome that sin.
You have to be funny for people to like you.

I am constantly talking to myself in my head. Constantly telling myself things, evaluating situations, and weighing myself against the odds. My mind is a constant story, being written each day by the words I tell myself and the words I believe.

But so much of the story I am writing is just not true.

These lies are like thin ice, ready to sink me at a moment’s notice. Ready to give way when I lean on them too hard. 

A few years ago, I noticed I was listening to these lies more and more, so I grabbed a small blank journal and decided I needed a different story. I was sick of the words going through my head, and I needed some truth to combat these lies.

On each page of this new journal, I wrote a different lie I believed, and then underneath it, I wrote a real Truth from God’s word.  

On my page that said, “you can’t get it all together,” I wrote, “And he is before all things and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17). On the page that said, “I can never overcome this sin,” I instead wrote, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3).

Over the years the pages filled and the lies changed, depending on what I was going through. There are many days when the lies still win out. Instagram and Pinterest help speak the lies loud and clear. But, there are also the days when I find myself speaking a new story into my days, Truth over the lies, hope over the vast monologue of not-good-enough.

I highly recommend taking the time to write down the lies you tell yourself, and then finding Scripture to speak truth into your life. If you don’t know if something is a lie, ask a good friend (I have done this countless times!) Here is a list you can print to get started…I have this list stuck in my Bible for easy access (click on it to print PDF).

How can you speak Truth to yourself today? What lies do you believe?

*Many different authors I have had the privilege of reading have talked about this great idea…Annie Downs in Perfectly Unique, Kate Conner in Enough, and most recently Lara Casey in Make it Happen. Great books to further read about finding your worth and truth in God.

Posted in Lies and Truth, Praying Scripture, Resources, Start Fresh

Daily Rituals: The One Thing I Can Count On

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 2 Comments

I recently (and reluctantly) read Rachel Macy Stafford’s book Hands Free Mama. I loved so much about the book (it made my top books of the year) and have found that it has changed my perspective on how I can live FOR the things that are important to me (instead of living BECAUSE of what’s in front of me.)

In the book, Rachel encourages you to set up Daily Rituals with your children, so that “no matter how chaotic the day is, your child can always count on that one period of meaningful connection.” She gives examples such as morning snuggles, or after-school snack time, or walking the dog together. A time to connect daily in a meaningful way. What a great idea to implement with your kids.

And what a great idea to implement in your time with the Lord

The New Year is always an exciting time of renewal and hope, with feelings of starting fresh and really accomplishing something great. But, it always kind of fizzles for me…my resolutions feel like another to-do list that just can’t compete with my real to-do list. One has to give, so my idealized view of how I’d like things to go gets pushed aside for the reality of my situation.

I usually come up with this great list of spiritual “things” I want to do each year. For example: 

• Read through the whole Bible
• Memorize __ number of verses
• Pray every day
• Find a new way to get involved in ___ ministry
• Read the Bible with my son every day
• Use Scripture in parenting
• And more...

    My spiritual resolutions become this HUGE list that sounds awesome, but let’s be honest, it ain’t gonna happen.

    So, this year, I’ve decided instead to try out a Daily Ritual…I want to do one thing that no matter how chaotic my day is, I can count on this one meaningful connection with the Lord. It is something I can come to expect daily, to count on, despite what else is going on.

    For this year, I’ve decided my Daily Ritual is going to be to read and think about a Scripture verse before starting my work time each day (planning to use this list as a guide). I work fervently and intensely during my son’s afternoon naps, to get everything done in that short, glorious amount of time. But, I’ve found myself charging so hard and fast into the work that I forget WHO I am really working for. 

    So, this year, I want to add that one Daily Ritual. To have one thing in my life that no matter how chaotic my to-list can feel, or how much work I need to accomplish, I know that before it all, I am going to stop, pause, and pray over a Scripture. I want this to the be thing I can count on. The thing I can expect. The one thing I can add to my routine that will make me pause.

    What do you think about starting a Daily Ritual? What would you add this year?

    Posted in Books, Daily Ritual, Prayer, Praying Scripture, Start Fresh

    Remembering to Pray

    Posted on January 06, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 1610 Comments

    My memory is very good in some areas, and very bad in others.  For example, I always remember who took the trash out last and whose turn it is to pay for our coffee drinks. I always remember to gently remind (read: practically yell at) my husband to remove all saws and tools from the kitchen table before dinner. I have no trouble remembering these things.

    When it comes to prayer? Big ‘ole lost space in the brain.

    Many of you (myself included) have probably started the year with some great goals for praying this year (with lots of you starting your Praying for your Husband journal this week!) It’s so easy to start the year strong, but if you’re like me…so easy to let it all fall to the land of forgetfulness very quickly.

    So, how can you remember to pray throughout the day?  Here are some ways that help me:

    1. Use some sort of prayer journal during your quiet time. I use Val Marie Paper’s prayer journal and the Praying for you Husband journal. I know a lot of people who also just use a blank journal for prayers. By writing down specific prayers and having specific verses to pray over, I remember to pray more often, just by the fact that I have everything already written down.

    2. Put your prayer journal out on your kitchen table or another central place in your house. Just physically seeing my prayer journal for my husband reminds me to pray for him. I rarely even open it, but when I glance at it, I remember to pray and just start doing it.

    3. Set an alarm on your phone. My deep, dark prayer abyss usually comes from about 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., and then from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. I have good intentions of praying throughout the day, but by 9:30, I am caught up in full-on work or full-on child time, so prayer gets forgotten. I set random alarms on my phone (not the same time every day) so that I will remember to pray when the alarm goes off.

    4. Change your phone or computer screen backgrounds. I will find a cool background online of a Bible verse or beautiful nature scene, and switch my phone or computer background often. I get startled by seeing a new picture, which makes me pay attention…which pushes me to pray.

    5. Take a picture of Bible verses you are praying on your phone. Each week, I take a picture of the scriptures I am praying for my husband in the Husband journal. When I am waiting at a traffic light, or in a doctor’s office, I flip to the picture and have the verses with me already. Big help with praying, no matter where I am.

    6. Set up some accountability with a friend. Find a good friend (or Bible Study group) to go at it with you. My great Bible Study group set up a texting accountability thing to encourage each other during our hard times of the day…it was great.

    7. Add Prayer to your to-do list. Now, don’t take this one the wrong way - I don’t think prayer is something you do to “check off” or “accomplish” and then move on. But, when I already have a big to-do list I look at constantly, seeing the word Prayer on it reminds me to stop and pray (before doing anything on the list!)  I will even write out specific prayer to-dos for each day, just so I remember to pray for different people and things. It helps me remember to pray, without feeling like I am just being a good, checkable Christian. And, I never actually "check it off" - just leave it as something to always do!

    8. Put a prayer list near your shower. I don’t get a ton of alone time during the day, so to me, shower time is glorious. I’ll post a Bible verse or prayer list near my towel or bathrobe, so I see it before I get in, so I think to pray for a situation or person in the shower. It’s like free, uninterrupted prayer time. Sweet!

    What ways do you remember to pray throughout the day? Have any tips or pointers for people trying to pray more often in the New Year?

    Make sure to check out the How to Pray Scripture post as well!

    Posted in Prayer, Praying for Your Husband Journal, Praying Scripture, Start Fresh

    How to Pray Scripture

    Posted on December 03, 2014 by Sarah Brown | 2 Comments

    Prayer is a mystery to me. My mind goes in continual circles of, “God is my friend and I’ll just chat with him,” to “this is really overwhelming and I have no idea what to say!” The mix of talking to Him about everything and having reverent awe of Him seem to war out in my prayer life.

    My perfectionist personality also wants to align my prayers in a nice check-list order, working through an acronym, balancing the friend vs. holy aspects of God equally, so I can mark off a prewritten list of prayer to-dos in an orderly fashion. A nice, neat, check-able way of praying. 

    And as this internal perfectionism rages in my brain, I think I often forget what is right there in front of me - God’s Word. I forget about the power that I have available to me. I try to figure out many different ways "to pray correctly”, when God’s spoken Word is printed clearly for me to use every time I sit down to pray. 

    As Paul Miller says in A Praying Life, I have the ability to “put the Word to work,” to use His already pre-printed, God-ordained, spoken Word as a way to genuinely pray.

    So how do I “put the Word to work”?  Here’s an example of how I pray Scripture using the Praying for your Husband journal:

    A few weeks ago, I was working through the Workplace week of prayer in the journal.  One of the verses listed to pray over my husband is Psalm 91:51: When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

    I read the verse, and then change it into a prayer for my husband:

    Dear Lord, may my husband call to you as his rescuer when he feels drudgery in his work. Be with him in days of trouble, in days that feel like they will never end. This week especially, help him to find honor in you, even when phone calls from certain customers make him feel dejected. Answer him Lord, that you will draw near and be real. Amen.

    So, I essentially turn a Scripture verse into a prayer for my husband, "putting the Word to work."

    When Brooke McGlothlin was trying to figure out how to pray for her sons, she says, “the only logical place I knew to turn was to the Bible. If the Bible is God’s Word…it seemed logical to pray God’s Word back to Him, asking him to accomplish it” in the lives of those we pray over.

    Praying scripture is powerful. It is not only God’s Word put to work, but it also keeps me from praying my agenda, fitting prayer into my perfectionism, and making prayer something I must “do right”, instead of something I do out of love.

    I want prayer to be a way I am glowing love into those dear to me, those in my local community, my local story.

    Do you pray Scripture?  If so, any pointers or tips on how it has helped you?


    Posted in Praying for Your Husband Journal, Praying Scripture, Resources