Prayer Summer 2013…

My church is doing a summer prayer series, and one of the recommended readings is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. While I have already read this book, I am actually really excited to read it again and gain fresh perspective on it.

Yesterday was the start of a summer small group I am leading. I am excited about the group, and I am really looking forward to seeing where God leads each of us. One of the things we are doing is, today we are kicking off a 21 day prayer challenge. I am looking forward to it, but, I am even more excited to see how He chooses to reveal Himself, and all the ways He is going to answer prayers this summer. I am fully anticipating looking back on this summer and realizing how many amazing and crazy things started this summer. I am fully expecting to be blown away, even though I have no idea in what way or what area of my life. I just know I am excited.

My biggest goal this summer is to gain a larger understanding of who God is, and for who He is to be immensely expanded in my life.

I am not looking to do things ahead of God, instead I am praying and expecting Him to show up immeasurably more than I can even possibly anticipate. I figure, my imagination is pretty large and pretty extravagant… And yet, God is bigger than that, which means I think He is going to show up in some pretty intense ways in the next 21 days, 40 days, and over the course of the entire 2013 summer…. (And likely beyond.)

While I certainly have a list of specific things I am praying for and through, mostly I am just focusing on starting new habits. I am purposefully spending more time with God, but also being sure to intentionally pay attention to and create space for Him to speak to my open and listening heart.

If you would like to join the 21 day prayer challenge or the 40 day prayer challenge with me, give me your address and I will be sure to add you!

In case you have not figured it out, July’s blog theme is prayer. Should be interesting!

Share your stories with me!

What are you praying for this summer?

Reading Life Again…

I always seem to have seasons where I devour books, anything I can get my hands on is gone within a day or two, and then, there are times where reading is the last thing on my list of to-do’s. Lately, in the last two weeks I have gladly found myself entering back into a love of reading anything I can get my hands on.

What I love about what I am currently reading is it resonates deep down inside of me. It changes me or reminds me of who I am and who I want to be. Sometimes the reminders are good things…. and other times not so much.

Currently, I am reading three things that are literally breathing life back into my dry and achy soul.

The first, and not even a cliché read is my Bible. I have found a new love for what I am reading, and I have stopped trying to force myself to read in the order that my “Read the Bible in a Year” schedule has listed. Instead, I read where I feel pulled, and then just mark that off. Eventually, I will read the whole Bible, but for now, I am reading and finding it filling my life, heart, soul, and mind once more. The Bible is just one of those books that truly has the ability to speak to me and heal me… or remind me of what I was created to do. It challenges me not to lose heart, and it lovingly (sometimes convictingly) reminds me that it is actually not up to me to control things, just to be faithful and follow as hard as I am every single day after Christ. Always the best reminder.

The second book I am plowing through is, Love Does by Bob Goff. It is speaking to such a specific part of my heart that I had begun to forget about. In the book he talks about whimsy, and how love literally does stuff, it does not sit still or wait or speak about the theory of love, it does. Not to mention, Bob Goff is literally crazy, and I wish I could have lunch with him and pick his brain because I want his brand of crazy Christian. Seriously, this may be a bucket item list. I have had Love Does for almost a year now, and yet somehow I never quite got around to reading it. Now, I actually understand why, I needed it for this particular time in my life to remind me of how much I love following Christ, and the freedom and fun that I get to have in that pursuit. I highly encourage you to read this book, and let it remind you that love does stuff… Without expectations, it just does.

The third book I am reading, is actually my second time I am reading it, and it is the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Part of the reason I am re-reading it is because my church is having a Summer Prayer Series, and this book is the recommended reading. The first time I read this book it changed the way I pray entirely, and I am excited to read it a second time, and allow it to do the same thing, change me in a new and fresh way. I plan on adding Draw the Circle to this, and do a 40 day prayer challenge this summer as well. I literally cannot wait to see what God reveals to me, says to me, and the ways he will heal me this summer. I wait expectantly, and excitedly… Because let’s be honest, I have a crazy imagination, but God’s is better than mine! 😉

I love reading, truly I do; but, I fall in love with reading all over again when it feels like a healing balm on my heart, mind or soul. These three books are that for me right now, healing and restoring… But, more than that, they are changing me, and changing my perspective of my situation and myself.

This summer, pick up a couple of books, make the time to read them, and then give them space to change the perspective you have of your situation or of yourself… Then, let’s swap stories!

Revising Life Goals…

I have a fairly extensive “bucket list” that I have been compiling for a few years now… However, I am completely revising the list to organize it differently and add more to it. In Mark Batterson‘s book  The Circle Maker he shares a list that is impressive to say the least, but is also incredibly inspiring. He has his list broken down into different categories, such as his experience goals, goals he wants to share with others, giving goals etc.. And, the more I have been thinking about it, the more I realized that so many of my goals are awesome, and I intend on keeping them, but I like his way of organizing them better. I like the idea of separating out the different goals based on areas of my life, which then actually has created more space and creativity for my goals.

So, while I am not done revising my current “before I die” list… I do think I have an idea of categories I want to use to separate them out into… (and likely add more things to each list) Experiences, giving, traveling, and personal..

This list is not complete, they are not in any particular order, and I have crossed through the ones I have already accomplished, but I am fairly confident these have more added to them later, but I think this is a good place to start:

Watch either the sunset or sunrise from each side of every ocean: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, Southern
Have a croissant at a French cafe 
Go wine tasting at a vineyard in Italy 
Ride an elephant
Go dog sledding
Go on a Safari in Africa
Scuba dive
Ride a camel in the desert
See the Pyramids at sunset 
Drink whiskey at a pub in Ireland
Go on a multi-day biking trip
Tube down a river
Visit ancient ruins
Stand on the Great Wall of China
Learn to roll in a kayak
Learn to snowboard, and ski
Learn to wakeboard and water ski
Drive a sports car over 100mph
Stand inside the Taj Mahal
Ride through the Panama Canal
Go Sky diving
Horseback ride through a coffee plantation
Go to the Kentucky Derby
Go white water rafting
Live in a house with a window seat and wrap around porch
Tango in a milonga 

Go parasailing 
Go paragliding
wim with bioluminescent plankton in Puerto Rico
Climb a volcano
Climb a glacier
Go rock climbing
Watch the sunrise or sunset over the Grand Canyon
Watch the Northern Lights 

See a shooting star 
Ring a church bell
Move somewhere new alone
Go on a cruise

Participate in a giant food fight

Climb a mountain
Ride a helicopter
Choose fifty favorite places to relax and connect with God
Attend the enitre summer Olympics  
Zip line through a canopy  
Drink lemonade on the front porch swing on warm summer night  

Have a big wedding celebration with everyone I love
Christen a boat

Be in Spain for running of the Bulls (but not participate)

See a glacier in Antarctica 
Learn to surf 

Learn to paddleboard  
Dive with Manta Rays in Hawaii  
Spend a night in a treehouse 

Swim with a whale  
See and/or climb Mt. Kilomanjaro and Mt. Everest
Snorkel the great barrier reef in Australia
Ride a gondola in Venice

Set foot on all seven continents 
Set foot in all fifty states
Cross the Canadian border
See Cuba 

Straddle the equator on two continents
Take a road trip across the U.S.
Have an exceptional time in Greece
Attend Loy Krathong, the sky lantern festival in Thailand  
Take a month long vacation without computers    
Attend La Tomatina in Spain 
Live in another country for a year 
Go to Fiji  
Spend a summer touring Europe
Go to Hawaii with my family
Go to South America with my sister

Make butterscotch from scratch (I have a recipe.. now I just need to get all the ingredients and do it!)
Build a house from start to finish
Get art in a gallery 
Attend a Black and White Ball
Grow vegetables in my own garden 
Be a published artist
Write a book or novel
Be conversational in five languages: 1. English 2. Spanish (this one comes and goes) 3. Sign-Language 4. Greek 5. German

Get my second degree black belt
Get a tattoo (I have two)
Do two pull ups
Go berry picking and make completely homemade pies
Own a very large dog 
Make my own perfume 
Organize a retreat
Learn all the Latin ballroom dances: Argentine Tango, Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, Cha cha, Bachata, Rumba, Mambo, Bolero, Samba 

Start and run my own business
Form a workplace with people I love
Make my own list of the hundred best things to eat 
Go a day without speaking 
Plant a tiny orchard 
Run a 10k
Throw a block party
Shoot every major gun: Pistol, Shotgun, Rifle, Muzzleloader, Revolver

Start a fire without a match

Run a half marathon
Blog consistently for 10 years
Finish and publish “Facts of Life” 
Own a Beach house with friends

Help someone get through college
Do something for someone they can never repay
Tithe my whole life
Start a non-profit or help run one
Buy stock on my own
Get in the habit of grand loving gestures 
Be debt free by 35
Use my work to improve lives

Remove money as a concern from my life
Gift 1 million dollars to missions (not tithing)
Help my family become debt free
Give people in ministry free vacations at the beach house

A lot of these actually go in a couple categories, but are best “housed” in the particular category they are in. And, as always, this is ever changing.. or rather, ever growing. I feel much better about this list now that it is separated out into categories instead of just a solid list… Many thanks to Mark Batterson and his book The Circle Maker for the inspiration to do it this way!

Prayer Circles…

So, I realize, and somewhat feel like the majority of my posts are about prayer lately… Thankfully. I am fairly confident this trend will continue for the entirety of 2012, and I am incredibly thankful and excited that this is the season I find myself in right now… Sure beats the last two years.

Anyway, last night my small group finished the book The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I highly recommend it to everyone. After a whole lot of chatter, a lot of laughter, the leader threatening to move me and the other leader due to our easily distracted focus, and several announcements that lead to tangents about randomness, we finally got into discussing the last 10 weeks and what we have discovered in our small group. We talked about the things we learned, the things we were amazed by, excited by, the prayers we circled, and of course we spent quite a bit of time praying. This time we each took a turn in the center and whoever felt lead prayed until it was quiet for a bit, then we would say amen and switch to the next person.

If you are not a Christian, have never laid hands on someone and prayed for them or been on the receiving end of a moment such as this, I can only imagine the cultish thoughts running through your mind. However, I assure you, this was only of Christ, and if you do not believe in Him, I would love to talk to you more and answer any questions (even if they are about the seemingly cultish practice of laying hands on people and praying), so please feel free to e-mail me (really for any reason)

While we have circled and prayed a couple times before, this time it was different because we were praying just to pray over each other, not to lift up any particular problem or issue. What came of it was one of the best and most heart felt hours I have experienced in quite a while. All of our shoulders got tired as we laid hands on one another, and the body heat of everyone so close posed a few challenges, but, the peace and calm that settled over us as we came together on behalf of each other was inspiring and encouraging to say the least. To get in a room with 15 or so twenty or thirty something’s and lift each other up in prayer, it truly creates a bonding experience, and to be totally honest is pretty humbling at the same time.

One of the other girls and myself kept “stealing” the other one’s prayers which was more than amusing to realize at the end that our hearts were of the same accord, and that both of us were feeling burdened to pray LITERALLY over the exact same things with the exact same wording. Several times I could not help but smile, laugh or fight away tears as people prayed specific, meaningful, and bold prayers over each other. I was amazed at the number of things people remembered to pray for that had been brought up weeks upon weeks ago, and I was encouraged by the unfiltered love and care spoken in the circle.

While I could end this blog post there and feel satisfied that I had covered the topic as a whole, I would be incredibly remiss if I did not mention or talk about what I felt and the impact being in the center of the circle had on me. First, and probably most amusing, having around 15 people’s hands on you is.. heavy haha.. But, the entire time everyone was praying I found myself keenly aware of each and every hand on my shoulders, arms and holding my hand. Yet, the most profound thing were the words uttered over me, on my behalf, and into my heart. Honestly words cannot describe the complete humility I felt, and how much I was, and maybe am more so now aware of the fact that I did not deserve that, and some of the things people said were incredibly meaningful, and they had no way of knowing that except for the fact that we serve the same amazing God and the same Holy Spirit talks to us. I laughed at a couple of the prayers (such as me finally being able to get a real bed instead of the air mattress I have been sleeping on for four years), and I was touched by the prayers of thanksgiving for my friendship, laughter, joy, and a slew of other things tucked away in my heart. I was so grateful for the petitions that were uttered for several prayers I have had for a while… And, as silly as it may sound, being a touch person, having everyone lay their hands on me while praying truly changes the impact it had/has on me. 🙂

Lastly, while I am sad to see the small group end next week, I am really excited and hopeful for the things that God is going to do, has set into motion, and the ways in which He is going to use these friends to not only impact my life and the community around us, but just all of the ways He has set into motion His plans because of this small group and the fervent prayers we have uttered over the last 11 weeks. I am so blessed and I am so thankful that a completely random situation lead me to this place.

The two leaders of the small group prayed for a couple months prior to the start of our group for God to bring the “right” people, God did exactly that. Every single person in our small group was there for such a time as this… and the world will never be the same.

Where Two Are Gathered…

We stood in a circle and prayed, we talked to our savior, thanked Him for blessings, asked for favor, and petitioned for guidance and clarity for things to come. We asked for God’s healing touch, for Him to intervene, and to give us words to speak and ears to hear…

I honestly am not entirely sure how long we prayed, but what I do know is, it has been a very long time since I have stood in a circle with friends and prayed about anything and everything on the hearts of those standing next to me.

It is pretty difficult to explain to anyone not there the feelings and promptings you experience when you stand in a circle and praying to the God of the universe… The feelings that wash over you when you know He has heard your prayers is one that has to be experienced, not explained.

While we were praying I was struck by how quickly these people have become my friends, and how quickly we have all chosen to trust one another with prayers and hurts. I am not only amazed, but incredibly grateful to be a part of this group, and to watch the men in the group work to lead and pursue God in ways that so many other men simply choose to remain ambivalent on instead. I know so many truly amazing men, and have been blessed with many of them being related to me or be some of my best friends, but it never stops causing my heart to swell with gratitude to God and pride for the hearts of the men when they earnestly seek God and the role He has asked them to play.

I was humbled by the prayers that the girls prayed over each other and the honesty and compassion that flowed out of each of their mouths. While I know some absolutely amazing women in my life, several of which are my mother, sisters or best friends… These women that stood next to me and the prayers both spoken and those only uttered from the heart were tangible. I was amazed by these men and women who find themselves in a city consumed with power and politics, and yet are able to sidestep all of it to seek first the Kingdom of God. How blessed am I to stand and pray with them and be encouraged by them?

All I could think of throughout the entire time we were praying is how thankful I am to be a part of this group, how blessed I am to get the chance to know these people, and just completely overwhelmed by all of the things God is doing in each one of our lives.

And, all of this because we stood and prayed together…

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” – Matthew 18:19-20

Angels Fighting…

I have always really liked the passage below, but I was reminded of it again last night as I was reading the Circle Maker. I like how we get a glimpse into the spiritual realm… I do not really understand how or why it took 21 days, and the thing that makes it even more real is how natural it seems that Michael had to replace the angel in order for him to continue on his way… Talk about a fight!.. How did they not get tired?

“Then he said to me,
‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future‘” – Daniel 10:12-14

Today, I am working on praying through… Because what if the delays have little to nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the spiritual battle being waged right now? I honestly have no idea, the delays in answers could be God’s plan, could be purposeful to grow me, could be due to someone else’s situation or growing… but the idea that there are actually instances when the delay has more to do with the spiritual side than the physical intrigues me.. and offers a weird sense of encouragement.

I think part of what I find so encouraging is the idea that it actually has less to do with me than it feels like sometimes. I know it sounds odd, but I treasure the moments when I realize there is so much more going on than I was aware of, more to take into account than just me and my perspective.. That God actually has a bigger plan than I am aware of, and that more people, more angels, and more is involved all around than just me, my little problems, my prayers, and… well me. I find it humbling to realize that angels are indeed fighting for me because it serves as another reminder of just how important I am to my Lord… And, it also serves as a reminder how undeserving, but how much my sweet savior loves and takes care of me and the things I cannot see or understand.

Bold Yet Humble Prayers…

Tonight at my small group we were discussing The Circle Maker, which is a fantastic book about prayer… We watched an accompanying video, and then talked about various things that stood out to us, that we were struggling to understand or were just excited about. One of the biggest things we settled on discussing is, how do you pray bold expectant prayers, yet remain humble? What does that look or even sound like?.. Does that offend God?

We mulled over these questions, and did not necessarily come to any concrete answers…

How do we pray humbly before our God, yet approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to pray expecting God to answer?…
Is it a cop out to say “if it is your will…” at the end?..
Is that our “back door” way of saving our faith so we have an explanation in case God did not answer?

HOW do you pray boldly to your Lord, Father, Savior, yet humbly?

There is a scripture in James 4 that talks about how we have not because we ask not…. and how even when we do ask we do not have because we do not have pure motives… How does that fit into it all?

Are there really prayers and miracles that God does not answer or grant because we do not pray for them?…

How does this fit into God knowing everything, yet granting us free will?… Is it really that dependent on us to pray in order for God to move?…

I definitely have a few thoughts on these things.. and I have a few vague passages of scripture I am going to have to go refresh my memory on… But, I think for right now, I need to mull over this and… Pray about it some more…

Tomorrow, we start our small group’s 21 days of prayer. I am excited, I am amazed at the things that happened in January when I did this prayer challenge… so, I am looking forward to the things God is going to do this time. However, mostly I am looking forward to becoming even more acquainted with the voice of God in the next 21 days. I mean, I am looking for some definite answers to things going on in my life, some direction and guidance.. and some miracles to happen. But, mostly I just want to feel to a much greater degree the familiarity to God’s voice in my life.

I want to learn what it means, what it looks like to pray bold, yet humble prayers before my God.