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The strength of Paul Miller’s book on prayer is the way he takes prayer from that of a separate activity to one that integrates it into all of life. Miller uses every day experiences from his own family life to illustrate this integration. I found it to be a practical, inspiring and interesting read.  Here are just a few of the lines from this book that I highlighted:
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A Reason We Struggle with a Praying Life

“Everywhere we go we hear background noise. If the noise isn’t provided for us, we can bring our own iPod. Even our church services can have that same restless energy. There is little space to be still before God.”
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The Need to Make Space for God

“You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly.”
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Make Anxiety a Springboard to Prayer

“Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we’ll discover that we’ve slipped into continuous prayer.”
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Come Messy

“The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness (Mt 11:28). Come overwhelmed with life. Come with our wandering mind. Come messy. Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do. They come as they are, runny noses and all. Like the disciples, they just say what is on their minds.”
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A Childlike Spirit vs. a Cynical Spirit

“The opposite of a childlike spirit is a cynical spirit. Cynicism is, increasingly, the dominant spirit of our age.” The author confesses, “Personally, it is my greatest struggle in prayer. If I get an answer to prayer, sometimes I’ll think, it would have happened anyway. Other times I’ll try to pray but wonder if it makes any difference. Many Christians stand at the edge of cynicism, struggling with a defeated weariness. Their spirits have begun to deaden, but unlike the cynic, they’ve not lost hope.”
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I Can’t Cure Myself!

“Often we are too weary to figure out what the problem is. We just know that life–including ours–doesn’t work. So we pray, ‘Father, Father, Father’. This is the exact opposite of Eastern mysticism, which is a psycho-spiritual technique that disengages from relationship and escapes pain by dulling self. Eastern mystics are trying to empty their minds and become one with this nonpersonal  ‘all.’ But as Christians we realize we can’t cure ourselves, so we cry out to our Father, our primary relationship.” (Last week I wrote a review of the popular culture book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. When Ms. Gilbert spoke of prayer it was in the context of eastern mysticism. The lack of relationship with God the Father was something that saddened me deeply about her spiritual search.)
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Write God’s Story for You in a Prayer Journal

“Many of us rush around without much conscious knowledge of the pilgrimage God is carving out for us. When tragedy strikes, we’ve not learned the ways of God, so we have no frame of reference from which to respond. So, we slog through life, missing the divine touches. Writing in a prayer journal helps us take stock of our location on the journey. We can become poets, artists with our soul. When we keep a prayer journal, we can reflect on what God is doing on the patterns of our Father’s care instead of reacting to life. If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. If we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have a busy soul.”
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Verdict: Highly recommend this book!
©Brenda Pace, 2010

Here’s a little fluff for Wednesday. “RUE” is another online decor magazine for you to enjoy!


from istockphoto.com

Lately, I’ve described my life as characterized by having a lot of things going on. It feels like there are many loose ends flying all around me.  There’s not enough information or accomplishment for any one thing to close a loop, so the loose ends dangle.
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Last week I received an email from a friend who sensed what I described above: I had a lot of things going on. She mentioned that she had been impressed to pray for me, and was further impressed to send me some Scriptures she had been reading that morning.
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Her message and the Scripture were such encouragement! Here are the Scriptures and some thoughts they generated:
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He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).
All the things that feel like loose ends are not loose at all. He is holding ‘all things’ together! There’s a plan and in His time it will unfold. I took such comfort from these words!
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Whoever speaks, is to do as one who is speaking the utterances of God whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11).
My desire is to have a ‘so that’ story at the end of this journey.  “So that in ALL THINGS God may be glorified!” Amen!
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I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Loose ends can be exhausting. Sometimes it feels like I’m spinning my wheels and not making any progress on any of the ‘things.’ Thank God for His strength!
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For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God (Hebrews 3:4).
Many of the loose ends hanging around me have to do with building a house. This Scripture made me chuckle. Yes, God has a sense of humor!
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My friends, be encouraged to know that He is holding all your loose ends and He will make sense of it all in His time.
(Thanks Ginger for the encouraging word from THE Word!)

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p.s. Sweet Caroline just sent me a link to a video that “ties” into the words above. You have to watch it! Click on the phrase/link below and it will take you to the YouTube video. Amazing!

Laminin by Louie Gigleo

©Brenda Pace, 2010
This Sunday is designated as Gold Star Mother Day in the United States. It is a day to for people to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter while serving the United States Armed Forces. Here is a devotion from the One Year™Yellow Ribbon Devotional that I wrote inspired by the Gold Star Mothers. I’m praying a special prayer of blessing and comfort today for all who have lost sons and daughters on the battlefield.
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When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss.–John 11:17-19 NLT

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Driving through the streets of American towns today, it is not uncommon to notice a small rectangular flag hanging in the window.  The white, trimmed with red banners will hold either blue or gold stars.  These stars indicate that someone in the family is serving in the military (blue), or has died in service to their country (gold).

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This small tribute to military personnel traces its roots to a British mother who lost her son in WWI.  Recognizing that “self-contained grief was self-destructive” (1), this mother set out to organize a group of women, who like her had lost children in military service.  Their purpose was to provide comfort to one another, but also to supply TLC to veterans who were hospitalized.  These women became known as Gold Star Moms, and their mission of loving service spread across the ocean and is alive and well today.

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There were no gold stars in the window of Mary and Martha’s home in today’s scripture, but it was evident they were grieving.  Theirs was not a self-contained grief as manifest by the many people who were present.  In Jewish life it was customary for a group to gather to help others grieve, so much so, that often people were hired for this purpose.

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In the midst of grieving the sisters individually confronted Jesus to ask why this had happened.  Why didn’t God intervene?  The normal thoughts and questions of why, and if only, were extensive. The example of today’s scripture communicates that not only is it healthy to share our grief with others, but it is healthy to share our grief with the Lord as well.  In this case when Christ arrived, he raised Lazarus from the dead, not to have him permanently live on earth for he died again.  But, he was raised as a demonstration of Christ’s power showing that one day we will all be raised to live with him forever.
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Immediate help in our grief comes from the Lord through his spirit.  But, a permanent answer when we have lost a loved one who is a Christ follower is the eternal life we’ll share together in the resurrection.

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Lord, you knew sorrows and were acquainted with grief.  Help me in those times of sorrow to not shy away from those who would benefit from my support. Remind me that they don’t need me to tell them I understand, or that their grief will pass, or they are being tested, or any other platitude.  Instead help me to be willing to be a friend who will share in their sorrow and extend your grace.  In your name, amen.

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(1) www.goldstarmoms.com, American Gold Star Mothers, 2128 Leroy Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008.

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October 7 entry from The One Year ™Yellow Ribbon Devotion by Brenda Pace and Carol McGlothlin, Tyndale House Publishers.

©Brenda Pace, 2010
A Woman on a Spiritual Quest
I confess that I didn’t know the hype surrounded by Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat Pray Love when I picked it up months ago. Not sure how I missed it, but I did. The story sounded like the innocent quest of a spiritual seeker. I’m all over that type of quest. So, I ventured into Ms. Gilbert’s memoir of a year of her life devoted to finding God.
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First, let me state that I believe Ms. Gilbert had a sincere encounter with God wooing her during a difficult season of her life. (Difficult season is a relative term here. In this instance she was unhappy in a marriage with a husband who from all appearances seemed to love her and be a fine person. It seems the bottom line was, she was just unhappy and unfulfilled.) What ensues following her ‘cry to God’ on the bathroom floor however, appears to me to be a self-centered, narcissistic approach to finding god within, (no, the lower case g is not a typo).
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Eat, Pray, Love and Shop on QVC
Let me just say state bluntly that  I’m disturbed by the interest and enthusiasm over this book and the movie that was introduced this summer. (Not to mention being a little taken back by the feel good products that have followed as shown here.) I don’t know, this consumer touch coupled with the hefty advance the author was given to bankroll the year of ’searching’ takes away from the authenticity of the search. Am I wrong?
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We must Eat, Pray, Love TRUTH!
I will admit that Elizabeth Gilbert is a talented and engaging author. Her description of Italy and its culinary delights made me want to pull out those FF points immediately and book a flight!  I got off the train after Italy though. Her encounter with Eastern mysticism in India and free love in Bali left me cold…and sad. It also left me concerned that others who are seeking would follow this same self-gratifying path. But then, I had another really sad thought: how often do we package Christianity as a ‘feel good,’  self-gratifying quest? Oh…and then there’s consumerism–have you seen some of the crazy stuff sold at Chrisitan bookstores?
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Reading this book and being made aware of its wide acceptance among women has convinced me more than ever of the need for women to become theologically grounded in the Truth of God’s Word. I am challenged as never before to live a life that displays this Truth and teach it with fervor!
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A Response
After reading EAT, PRAY, LOVE this is my prayer:
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May I EAT God’s Word and be filled with an overflow to share with spiritual seekers!
Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16 NAS
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May I PRAY God’s Kingdom come!
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 NIV
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May I LOVE with His Love!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 NAS
Verdict: Don’t waste your time. Pray for spiritual seekers to find Truth!
Is anyone else disturbed by this ‘me’ approach to spirituality? Do you see the same thing happening with Christianity?
©Brenda Pace, 2010
I have exercised great discipline to not subscribe to magazines the past few years. I could go magazine poor! I have found other ways to feed my delight in design. There are some great design blogs that I have found and will be sharing a sample for YOUR viewing pleasure each Wednesday. (I can tell I’m in ‘nesting’ mode during this time of transition!)
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One of the print magazines in the design genre`I really miss is Domino. A former Domino editor has pioneered an online magazine called Lonny with a hint of Domino’s flavor. Click on the latest cover and the link should take you to the magazine site.  Enjoy the view!
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Lonny magazine August Cover

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Word is, tomorrow is the first day of autumn. Here in the south it is just a word. I don’t think there will be a balmy autumnal breeze to herald the official opening of the fall season. I am encouraged that it is coming!
Along with the leftover warm weather I took a peek out my window and grinned at a couple of summer floral leftovers. One lone blue hydrangea is hanging on to the memory of summer.

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Soon it will be cinnamon, apples and pumpkins.
So, until it lets go,  I will enjoy the scent of this lingering gardenia as I walk to my car.
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Happy Fall, y,all!

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You own the day, you own the night; you put stars and sun in place. You laid out the four corners of earth, and shaped the seasons of summer and winter (from Psalm 74, The Message).

www.istockphoto.com

I posted some thoughts from Richard Swenson’s book Margin last week. Here’s another simple statement that has ruminated from that book: “Only a body that is well rested, properly exercised, and correctly fed will be able to maintain its energy reserves in the face of serious stress” (Swenson, 125).
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Simple statement, right? Sounds so easy, right? Yet, it seems to be an elusive goal for me. I find these simple steps to be the most challenging assignments at this point in my life. Swenson provides some practical suggestions that I see as a need. The question remains, how do I get them off this page and into my life?

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If writing these steps on this blog will make me more accountable, here goes. In order to improve my physical health I will:
1) Exercise for sounder sleep
2) Decrease intake of fat
3) Decrease intake of sugars
4) Replace processed snacks with fruit
5) Eat a balanced diet
6) Drink a lot of water

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Swenson’s proposed outcome from making such changes is appealing: “If we perform our assignment well, we will find energy we never knew we had. We will work better, run better, feel better, heal better, and live better” (Swenson,142). May it indeed get off this page and into my life!
Am I the only one who finds this challenging? How do you make important things like this a part of your life?
©Brenda Pace, 2010

Good Saturday morning!

Here’s a great quote to begin the weekend…

“The very circumstances, new and peculiar as they are, in which you are placed, God can convert into new and peculiar mercies, yes, into the richest means of grace with which your soul was ever fed. the very void you feel, the very need you deplore, may be God’s way of satiating you with His goodness.”

- Octavius Winslow

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via www.mighty2save.com

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from Free Online Dictionary: tr.v. sa·ti·at·ed, sa·ti·at·ing, sa·ti·ates

1. To satisfy (an appetite or desire) fully.
2. To satisfy to excess.

adj. (-t) Filled to satisfaction.

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May your soul be fed and may YOU be satiated with His goodness today!

I read a couple of books recently that were recommended by my friend Becky.  Thanks Becky for pointing me to these books that will become resources for me to share with others—beginning today!

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Leading Women Who Wound by Sue Edwards and Kelley Matthews is a book I will heartily recommend to those involved in women’s ministry. Both Edwards and Matthews teach at Dallas Theological Seminary, but in the writing of this book they draw greatly from their personal experience of leading women’s ministry in the local church. The result is a practical book that addresses conflict from experience, research and solid biblical teaching.
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The author’s state that conflict is a fact of life.  “We can’t avoid it—but instead of openly discussing the disagreement, women tend to go underground with their conflict.” One statement from the book that I cannot forget and succinctly states the need for such a book is: “hurt women hurt women.”

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In vernacular that any woman can understand Edwards and Matthews provide a tool that challenges women to respond to conflict in an emotionally healthy and biblical manner. The discussion questions that follow each chapter make this not only a helpful resource for individuals, but also for leadership teams to work through together. There is even a chapter written to men who are involved in overseeing or working with women in leadership.
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Verdict: Recommend this book highly!