Our Brains on Technology

Psalm 46-10“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” –Psalm 46:10

I read something interesting recently. Scientists have discovered that all of our electronic gizmos and gadgets may be doing yet another type of harm to our brains. (Or perhaps we’re allowing them to do this by not using them with care.)

Now I don’t have anything against electronic gizmos and gadgets. I listen to my mp3 player when I run. I check in on social media sites several times a day. I prefer typing on a keyboard to writing with a pen. I take my cell phone with me wherever I go.

But that’s why I found this study interesting.

You see, lately I’ve been longing for silence more and more. I leave the music off while driving in my truck. I say, “That’s enough,” and shut down my computer for the day. I often sense my eyes and my ears and my brain telling me to remove the noise—for a little while, at least, —so I let them rest by doing non-electronic things.

And that’s what this study has found we all need.

The scientists discovered that after we take in new information, our brains need downtime to process it. They need time to chew it up and absorb it, so it can stick with us. If we’re always taking information in without rest, the information can’t stay. So if we’re listening to music while talking on the phone while surfing the internet, we may think we’re relaxing, but we’re really stressing our brains out. Our electronic gizmos and gadgets allow us to multi-task like never before, but scientists say they are wearing us out.

I think this study shows that God knew what He was saying when He told us to “Be still and know that I am God.” If we really want to know something, we have to take time to be still. And what is more important to know than that our God is God! He will be exalted in the nations; He will be exalted in the earth!

Maybe this is why the things God taught me during my quiet time refuse to come back to me until I’m driving down the road in my truck or cleaning the floors in my home. Maybe mindless activity isn’t mindless at all—it’s time our minds can use to process and sort recent input. It’s also time our God can use to firmly stick His Truth to our brains.

Maybe this is why I learn best by rewriting headline verses and truths, praying about them, journaling my thoughts, and thinking about them in quiet moments over several days. If we want something to stick, we have to learn to be still.

Lord, please help us use technology wisely and well, turning off the noise when that is what we need. Remind us to be still, to know that You are God—to hear what you want us to hear—to carefully keep thoughts you want us to keep. Our minds are fearfully and wonderfully made—by You! Help us protect them, and use them in the way that You want us to. Thank You, Lord! For Your glory, Amen.


There’s No Making Friends with a Snake

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”Genesis 3:15

Sneaky ReptileWhen I read Genesis 3 last week, I had kind of a random thought about the story of the snake tempting Eve. The snake talked Eve into tasting the forbidden fruit. Eve shared it with Adam. Then, once caught, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake. Everybody turned on everybody. The world’s first sin not only separated man from God, it destroyed the peace that had existed between people and animals up to that point. A peace that we’ll enjoy again someday thanks to Jesus Christ:

“The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest”Isaiah 11:8.

(You can read all of Isaiah 11 to learn more of what this prophet said will come because of Christ.)

Scholars have different opinions about that crafty reptile in Genesis 3. Some say he was Satan in disguise. Some think maybe animals could talk before the Fall and that Satan recruited the snake to help him out. Others think Satan possessed the snake. I don’t know which is true, but Eve didn’t seem surprised to find herself having a conversation with a snake. If my dog ever talks to me, I won’t remain so calm.

The way I see it, though, in Genesis 3:15, God says He’s going to put enmity between the snake and the woman, between its offspring and hers. Satan was already her enemy, already cursed. So I’m thinking God was actually referring to the snake. If so, perhaps the serpent is supposed to be an on-going, physical reminder to us of spiritual dangers we cannot see. Perhaps, somehow, snakes are meant to remind us that Satan is lurking where we least expect to find him. We need to be vigilant to avoid temptation.

Satan LurksAs I’m writing this, I realize there are groups of reptile-loving people who work really hard to convince the general population, children in particular, that snakes don’t need to be feared so long as we respect them. I have pictures of all three of my boys in classroom or VBS (Vacation Bible School) settings where someone from the local zoo came to visit and speak, then had each child present pose for a picture with a snake around his neck. Two out of three of my kids were really reluctant to participate. And my middle son’s picture is priceless. His mouth is frozen in a forced smile with gritted teeth; his eyes say, “I’m smiling because you [zoo photographer] said I have to. Get this thing off my shoulders before I die!”

There was definitely some enmity there in spite of the reassuring zoo personnel.

To be clear: I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about snakes. And I have no problem with programs that teach children more about them. These can be fun, and, in a way, whether the snake professionals see it this way or not, these programs look toward that future day of peace with hope. They teach people that there are ways to safely handle some kinds of snakes, creatures our God created, but they always urge caution (I hope) and stress that some of these reptiles are extremely dangerous. Given the opportunity, they will bite. There’s no way to really make friends with a snake.

What a perfect analogy!

Satan wants us to believe he’s safe, so we’ll let down our guard and give in to temptation. But given the opportunity, he’ll always bite. Let’s not try to make peace with temptation. It’s better to heed God’s warning, keep our distance, and stay safe.

Father, make us aware of Satan’s schemes. Help us to recognize temptation for the danger that it is. Give us the courage and determination to step away. We don’t want to make friends with anything that will harm our relationship with You. Amen.


Trust Is the Word for 2015

TrustI’ve often heard of people choosing a word to focus on for a new year. It’s an instead-of-making-resolutions kind of thing. I’ve never participated in this game, but in this new year I am going to. There is a word I cannot get out of mind, therefore I have no choice. Especially because I know the reason I can’t get it out of my mind is because God is the one whispering it there, over and over and over again. Trust, Janet. Trust.

For too long now, my word has been Fear. I didn’t choose it. Not consciously. Not deliberately. But I’m tired of having my heart ripped out of my chest, stomped on hard. It hurts. Like a wounded animal crawling into the bushes to heal before the enemy attacks again, I’m hiding and holding my heart and begging the world not to beat it anymore.

But that’s not working out so well. In protecting myself from life, I’m missing out on it. God says, “Trust me with your heart.” I’m ready to place it in His hands.

Wait. Didn’t I already do that once when I was six-years-old? So when did I take it back? When life began to hurt and hurt again.

Jesus didn’t betray me, though. He’s given me no reason not to trust. In fact, He said this life would hurt. “In this world you will have trouble,” He said. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Take heart. Be brave. Don’t fear. I guess I should have paid more attention to the second part of that verse. Fear should never have become my word.

When I look at the lives of Peter, Paul, John, Job, even Jonah—I see they all hurt. Jonah just didn’t handle the hurt so well. He, like me, maybe, also enjoyed the shelter of a plant—until God took it away. Not to hurt. To teach. I like to believe Jonah learned . . . eventually.

Mary hurt, too. Mother-heart hurt, perhaps the most devastating kind. A sword pierced her soul when it pierced her son’s side . . .

Yes—even Jesus hurt. More than anyone. Ever. Yet He chose to trust, “Not my will, but Thine.” He chose for us and for the glory of God’s name.

When life hurts me, I must choose the same.

No good comes from choosing fear. God calls us to trust for good. For our good. For His glory. Forever! Amen.

I want to explore this concept in 2015. I want not only to come to understand it but also to breathe it, to live it, to know it first before the fear. I want to sing with Steven Curtis Chapman, “This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be. But this is how it is. Our God is in control.” I want to say with Ann Voskamp, “No matter what unfolds here, He is always good and we are always loved. Let go.” I want to let go of the fear that pulls me into the false security of the heart-guarding hedges, so I can walk free in Jesus’ light.

I must practice trust.

I invite you to join me. I’m going back to my blog vacation now, but I’m going to start practicing trust right away with the God Who gives me opportunities to do just that. (Perhaps more opportunities than I want, but exactly as many as I need.) When I return here, to Wildflower Faith, no later than January 8, trust will be the year’s dominant theme.

Until then (or until the words demand to be written again), Merry Christmas once more! Enjoy the season. Celebrate our Lord!


Words Aptly Spoken to Help Us Forgive

Words Aptly Spoken“I release you from my hurt feelings. I free you from my reading of your motives. I withdraw my ‘justified’ outrage and leave you clean and happy in my mind. In place of censure, I offer you all of God’s deep contentment and peace. I will perceive you singing, with a soft smile of freedom and a glow of rich satisfaction. I bless you my brother [or sister]. You are a shining member of the Family of God, and I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind.” –From The Quiet Answer by Hugh Prather

I found this meditation in the devotional book I am reading this year: A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck. I wanted to share it with you because it’s one of the most beautiful tools I’ve ever seen to help us through the often challenging process of forgiving an offense.

I don’t think I’d ever speak these exact words to someone, though that could be healing for both parties if one came to another seeking forgiveness for something especially hurtful. Rather, if I were praying about a need to forgive someone and found myself struggling to do so, asking God to help me with each element of this quote, daily if necessary, could really help me. Prather even ends the quote by saying, “I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind,” which leads me to believe this was his intent in writing it. (I’m adding his book, The Quiet Answer, to my TBR list, so that I can find out!)

The next time someone hurts your feelings or offends you in a way that requires forgiveness, place this meditation where you can see it daily, asking God to help you phrase by phrase so that your heart and, hopefully, the other’s will eventually be blessed with peace.

Father, when we cling to our hurt feelings, we build walls that entrap us. Please help us through the hard work of forgiveness, so we can be set free. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Note: I’m linking this post to the Hearts for Home Blog Hop.


Testing New Ideas

“Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food? Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”Job 12:11-12, NIV

DSC01967eMy husband has always been pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. The more exotic the better for him. Me, not so much, though I am becoming more willing to experiment. A little. Just a little. My favorite is still a cheeseburger with fries. (Though now I have to enjoy this without the soy-filled bun.)

When our boys were younger, if my husband ordered something unique at a restaurant, he’d sometimes offer to pay the boys (a nickel, a quarter, on occasion even a dollar) to give the new food a try. They rarely took him up on it. They knew that some things, like happy taste buds, are much more important than extra spending money.

If they did decide to try the new food, though, they were always so cautious! They’d touch it with the tip of a tongue. If it didn’t bite them first, they’d nibble just the tiniest bit. If that didn’t poison them, they’d try a small bite. Of course, if one approved, they all wanted to try the food—expecting to get paid, of course.

Wise adults probably don’t need to be quite so careful when tasting new foods. But this is how we’re to test new ideas.

  • First, we pray for wisdom.
  • Then we determine if the source of the words is trustworthy.
  • Next we read or listen carefully to be sure we understand.
  • Finally, we compare and contrast the new idea with words we know to be true: those coming from the Bible or from trusted Bible teachers who’ve proven their determination to study God’s Word and present it accurately.

We don’t accept the new ideas as healthy ones unless they pass these tests.

As we grow older, if we’re persistent about testing words in this way, we’ll become more familiar with God’s Word, we’ll come across fewer new ideas, and we’ll more quickly ascertain what’s worth our time and what’s not. God’s wisdom and understanding will have taken firm root in our life. We’ll know where to go when we need healthy words to nurture our souls.

Lord, please teach us to test new ideas with caution as if tasting a new food. We want to grow in wisdom, to fill our minds and hearts with words that honor You. Amen.


Asking Too Much of the Wrong One

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.”Isaiah 31:1

Only JesusThe Phantom of the Opera is one of my all-time favorite movie musicals. I’ve seen it four times now. At first, I thought Raoul, one of the main characters, was a bit of a Christ figure. Then I got to the end of the movie and wondered if maybe Christine was the Christ figure. Now I’ve decided that Jesus just isn’t anywhere in this movie, as beautiful as it is. And that’s precisely why everything goes so wrong.

If you haven’t yet seen this movie but want to, I must warn you that this post contains some significant spoilers. The last thing I want to do is spoil a great story, so please don’t read on if the movie is one you’ve been wanting to see. Then again, the movie is ten years old this year, so I’m feeling pretty certain you’ve already seen it if you ever wanted to.

A few days ago, I wrote about the danger of putting someone else in God’s place in your life, both to you and to that person. The Phantom of the Opera displays this truth clearly. It’s a cautionary tale, and don’t we just love those (so long as we don’t have to live them, our lives becoming a tale of caution for everybody else)!

Let’s take a look at one of the most beautiful songs in the movie, All I Ask of You. Pay close attention to Raoul’s promises and Christine’s requests:

Didn’t you just love that?! Please don’t be offended that I’m going to pick on these two just a little bit. They’re mostly only saying the kinds of things that most people who are falling in love say to one another. In context, however, Christine really is in danger. The Phantom is stalking her. He wants total control of her life. On some level, he wants to live through her, receiving, as her teacher, credit for all the musical success she achieves. Raoul, knowing this, offers to be Christine’s freedom, guide, protector, shelter, and light. All Christine asks in return is that he promise her that all he says is true. Their love isn’t that of two human beings who realize their limitations but want to share a life. Raoul is offering what he can’t provide, and Christine is asking that he promise to come through.

Unfortunately, though Raoul may have been a gifted man,* he is no savior. We see this truth for ourselves a few hours later in the movie. Raoul finds Christine in the opera house’s chapel. She is frightened. Raoul has come up with a plan to end the phantom, once and for all. This plan uses Christine as bait. Evidently Christine is no longer certain that Raoul is capable of all he claims. She tells him that if he goes through with his plan, the phantom will take her. The phantom will win.

Raoul doesn’t listen. The phantom takes the girl. Then he captures and threatens to kill the boy. In the end, Christine has to save Raoul, who is utterly humiliated.

And that’s what happens if ever we try to put someone in God’s place or try to claim that place for ourselves. Jesus wants to be our Freedom, Guide, Protector, Shelter, and Light. (He is the Teacher who deserves all credit for our successes, too.) Only He can love us in the way that Raoul promised to love Christine. When we find ourselves frightened, perplexed, or in danger, His help is what we need.

Jesus, thank You for Your love, freedom, guidance, protection, shelter, light, and teaching. We know that all You say is true. We joyfully place our confidence in You.

Note: I realize Raoul and Christine’s story isn’t the primary theme of either the book, musical, or movie. It’s really about the power of compassionate love to help a monster find his human heart. But the lyrics to the song prompted me to explore this theme as well. Thanks for following my thoughts down this little rabbit trail.

*For those who didn’t catch the reference, the actor who played Raoul also starred in a short-lived television series called A Gifted Man.


Reflections on Reading for a Restful Day

Books!Well, I didn’t end up resting as much as I’d hoped yesterday, so I’m trying again today. Don’t worry, though! I have three blog posts wandering around in my head that I hope to move onto the computer screen next week in the form of a short series. I’ve been reading through Isaiah and am finding some serious words to ponder there!

I’m just playing today, though (while the washing machine does my laundry . . .) I found this fun quiz for book lovers at Books and Beverages. Since talking about reading is almost as much fun as reading itself, here are my answers:

What are your top three book pet hates?

  1. Finding folded corners in place of bookmarks
  2. Receiving a used book ordered on-line that was labeled Like New but looks like it’s been through the washer a few times
  3. Having books that are part of a series in different formats (hardback, paperback, digital) instead of all matched

Describe your perfect reading spot.
A comfy couch by a window with lots of sunshine coming through

Tell us three book confessions.

  1. When I was in high school, I folded corners instead of using bookmarks. (I’d seen somebody do that on TV. I don’t remember who it was, but she was a bad influence.)
  2. I don’t go to the library very often, but getting a new library card is always a top priority whenever I move to a new home. If I have access to a community’s library, I know I belong. (I wrote more about this in one of the devotionals in my book for women who move often, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway.)
  3. I love Kindle Freebies, but they are usually last priority on my TBR list. Books I’ve promised to review come first, then books I chose to purchase. This tends to be true even if the Kindle Freebie is one I would have purchased had I not found it for free.

When was the last time you cried during a book?
I was reading A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander. In one scene, a main character is forced to institutionalize her father who suffers from dementia, and he becomes angry and violent because of it. The injustice of the situation, the girl’s pure motives being so misunderstood by the one she was trying to help, broke my heart. I had to set the book down and come back to it on another day.

How many books are on your bedside table?
None. I have little piles of books-in-progress scattered all around the house, but there are none on my nightstand.

What is your favorite snack while you’re reading?
I rarely eat while I read. How would I turn the pages? I do drink coffee while I’m reading, though.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.
Besides The Bible, I recommend Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. (That’s right! I did it! Just three!!!! If you want more recommendations, though, visit my GoodReads page.)

Show us a picture of your favorite bookshelf on your bookcase.
One shelf? One bookcase? I don’t understand the assignment.

Write how much books mean to you in just three words.
God. People. Books.

What is your biggest reading secret?
I have a carefully developed system for managing my TBR list and its sub-lists and for choosing which books to read when. It’s kind of like a food pyramid for my reading diet, existing to make sure I don’t ingest only dessert (Christian fiction) but read a little bit of everything I love: biographies, classics, Christian non-fiction, writing, and psychology.

  • How would you answer some of these questions? Any book confessions of your own to make? Feel free to leave comments about your own reading habits. I look forward to reading them!

A Wildflower Declaration with an Invitation for You

Warning: This post may be a little random. I have a declaration to share and an invitation for you. My thoughts may wander as I try to explain. That’s okay today! Wildflowers tend to grow wherever they please.DSC01419e

And this post is all about collecting wildflower thoughts to grow our faith.

I’ve been a little frustrated since I launched this blog last October, but I only figured out why a few weeks ago. It’s so obvious, I feel a little silly. Here’s why:

When I launched Wildflower Faith, I wanted to do this blog the right way. Blogging experts seemed to emphasize the need for a schedule, for regular features, for predictability. So I came up with a schedule of regular features to share with you predictably.

I soon discovered, though, that what was on my heart on any given day didn’t always fit my blog’s schedule. I’d have one message on my heart and another that I had planned to write and only enough time to write one of the two. If I chose to stick to my schedule, I’d try to write the other at a later time. But it wouldn’t be quite the same. If I chose to write what was on my heart, I’d be pleased with the result, but I’d still feel like I let you, my readers, down on some level. I’m pretty sure that was false guilt, but the perfectionist in me felt it just the same.

As I wrestled with this dilemma, God gently drew my attention to the name of this blog: Wildflower Faith. Then He drew my attention to the header. You know what? Those are cultivated flowers pictured there!

I was aware of that fact when I designed the header, but I really liked those flowers, and I pretty much take pictures of whatever flowers I happen to find anywhere. So I was okay with that little inconsistency.

May 1 2014 QuoteBut now I’m not. That header will be going away sometime in the next few days. And my blog cultivation schedule is going away effective immediately!

To be honest, I’m pretty sure the only change you’ll notice is the disappearance of On My Mind Mondays. That’s the only feature I’ve been truly consistent with schedule-wise. (That’s because, given the choice, I tend to choose my heart over my schedule most of the time.) I do believe in the importance of Bible memory, though. From now on, when I write about single Bible verses in an On My Mind kind of way, I will label those posts for that category to encourage you to keep on memorizing God’s Word. I just won’t do this every Monday.

As for other features, I will keep writing all of them. But not necessarily in a predictable way. From here on out, I will always choose to write what’s on my heart over what’s on my schedule. As far as life itself is concerned, that’s not always the best way to go. God usually expects us to make disciplined choices. Discipline leads to wisdom and maturity. The discipline part of this blog will be my commitment to writing here regularly. The content, however, will be dictated by the heart. This blog is where I share mine.

Parachute PrayerICThat said, there is still a time and a place for cultivation–whether we’re talking about flowers or faith. The various spiritual disciplines available to us are gifts from God to help us with this. In 2008, I started writing Parachute Prayers (originally on an older blog) to help us cultivate the practice of praying continually. (Watch for my book on this discipline, coming soon!)

This week, I’ve started something new:

QTH 4If you follow me on Google+ or Facebook, you may have noticed my Quiet Time Headlines. My goal with these is to help myself become more intentional about watching for God’s messages for me as I read His Word and pray each morning. Often, as I move from one passage or study guide to another, I’ll stumble across a theme. I pray about these and try to put them into concise terms that I’ll remember as I go about my day. It occurs to me that you might benefit from this, too. And so, I’m posting them on Google+ and Facebook.

Some of these headlines may be so involved that I’ll decide to develop them into blog posts to share here. Others may prompt questions for discussion that I’ll share along with the headlines themselves. Some days, I may just post one simple thought or Bible verse. Then again, there may be days when God says, “No lessons today, child. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company.” There may be days when the message is just for me. There will be days when life gets in the way. In other words, I reserve the right to not post these every single day, but I will post them as often as I can.

I invite you not only to read the headlines I share but also to share your own as comments on the Google+ or Facebook posts. If God is speaking to your heart, then you have something to say–and we’ll all benefit from pondering the words you contribute. Let’s help each other to be more intentional about claiming truths to carry with us all throughout each day!

Thank you for reading my ramblings, declaration, and invitation today! I’ll be back with a regular, devotional post soon. Blessings to you!

Janet Reeves


Psalm 51:6 on My Mind

NewOMM“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” -Psalm 51:6, ESV

In his sermon yesterday, my husband mentioned that marriage counseling, articles, and books are more popular than ever in today’s society–and yet divorce rates continue to stay high. I immediately knew why. I’m reading a book about nutrition right now. As the author makes suggestions, I often think, “That’s a great idea, but it won’t work for me.” I’m guessing that’s what a lot of people are saying as they go to marriage counseling or read the articles and books. I’m absolutely certain it happens in other areas, too. We seek wisdom then reject it by telling ourselves lies that stop us from implementing good ideas. And then we suffer for it.

(Note: I’m not saying we should implement every piece of advice we hear from a counselor or read in a book. Some of this advice really is just, plain wrong. We need to ask God to help us discern truth and implement it as He leads.)

New SpiralThis week’s On My Mind verse deals with that. It comes from Psalm 51–David’s prayer of confession after his affair with Bathsheba, murder of her husband, and confrontation by the prophet Nathan. Evidentally, David realized he’d been telling himself a lot of lies. You can read the rest of the Psalm to see what he did about it. It’s one of my favorites–a beautiful example of how to approach God when you realize you’ve done wrong or if you feel you need a check-up to be sure your heart is right.

Psalm 51:6 reminds us that God wants us to tell ourselves the truth. He wants us not only to acknowledge that it’s a good idea, but also to incorporate it into the deepest layers of our lives. Some versions use the word womb instead of inward being. Imagine that! God wants truth to begin growing inside of us from our earliest moments of existence! He wants to work His wisdom deeply into our lives.

Psalm 51-6As we memorize this verse this week, let’s pray that God will help us to recognize and implement truth in every aspect of life. Let’s pray He’ll reveal the lies we tell ourselves, so we can replace these with His truth in order to live healthier and happier, God-glorifying lives.

Thank You, Lord for delighting in truth in our inward beings. Teach us wisdom that we’ll live to honor You. Amen. 

Note: The pictures in this post are of my brand new spiral set of index cards. Beth Moore gave me this idea several years ago through her blog. Each week, I write out my new verse and place it by my computer where I’ll see it often. When I finish a spiral, I toss it in my purse, so I can flip through the verses to refresh my memory whenever I find myself in a waiting place on the go.


When You Struggle to Find the Right Words

I don’t know how it is for you, but of all the elements of prayer, I struggle most with worship and praise. It’s not that I don’t feel worship and praise or believe that God deserves all worship and praise. All glory and honor and praise are His! I just sometimes struggle to find the words.

DSC01019eThat seems like kind of a strange comment for a writer to make.

Yet our almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God Who created the whole universe, Who exists in a realm we can only imagine for now, seems so far beyond any words I might be able to arrange as a loving offering to Him.

Thankfully, He doesn’t expect me to live up to my personal perception of what such an awesome God should expect. He gracefully accepts whatever I have to offer when I choose to offer Him my best.

Yet sometimes I still feel stumped. Prayer requests—I’ve got those. Confession—God’s Spirit lets me know what we need to discuss. Intercession—I’m aware of the needs of my friends and family, world, church, and community. Thanksgiving—This one is often mistaken for praise because it’s just so easy to slide from telling God how amazing He is into thanking Him for all He’s done. Thanksgiving is simply counting blessings and giving God due credit for each.

These elements of prayer (requests, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving) are essentially a matter of presenting the facts of each to God, anticipating His response when we have asked for one. Praise and worship, however, requires contemplation, creativity, even a touch of poetry. Praise and worship is a gift! God deserves to hear us express our deep love.

I wonder if David or Solomon or Asaph or any of the other psalmists ever struggled with this. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read some of their first psalm attempts? I wonder if they tried and tossed out some lines from first drafts, playing with the words until they sounded just right. I suspect they probably did!

We may not be able to read those first drafts, but God has given us a collection of their completed projects in the book of Psalms. When we struggle for words of our own, we can read these, pray along with them, and let them prompt words from us. Here’s an example, using the first four verses of Psalm 8 (The words in brackets are mine.):

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
[People all over the world can see your glory, Lord, just by looking up into the sky!]

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
[Your name alone is so powerful that even the most vulnerable find strength and courage when they praise You.]

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
[I can’t even begin to imagine how big You are, Lord! You’ve held planets in Your hands.]

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
[And yet You do care! You see each person You’ve created. You even know us intimately.]

DSC01029eWhen we pray this way, we’re agreeing with the psalmist’s words about God, offering extra praises as we think of them. We clarify the psalmist’s thoughts with our own words, cementing the understanding of our amazing God in our minds.

Since psalms are actually hymns or songs, we can also turn to the words in our hymnals for praise and worship words to agree with and expound upon, using the same technique:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” 
Blessed Assurance
[Jesus, Your Presence in my life gives me a taste of Heaven. I’m looking forward to living there with You someday!]

If you don’t own a hymnal of your own, you can Google the words to your favorite hymns and pray from your computer. Better yet, ask your pastor if there happen to be any retired hymnals hanging around in forgotten places at your church. As a pastor’s wife I know first-hand that most churches have some hiding somewhere where they aren’t doing anybody any good. Now that many churches have switched from traditional hymnals to overhead projectors there are even more! Your pastor may let you borrow one or have one to keep. (If your pastor lets you keep it, put a little extra in Sunday’s offering plate.)

[Dear churches that have no-longer-in-use hymnals lying around collecting dust in storage closets, please consider clearing out the clutter by giving them away to members of your congregation for personal worship and praise.]

I have one last praise and worship idea to share with you. This also comes from the Psalms. David wrote many of his psalms while sitting outside watching sheep. We may not have any sheep to watch, but perhaps we have children or pets we take outside from time to time. Or maybe we just like walking or running or sitting in the park and watching or flower hunting. If so, noticing the created world around us will fill our minds with words of worship and praise. If bowing your head and closing your eyes leaves you sitting in the dark with nothing to say, open your eyes and make note of all the wondrous sights around you that reveal the greatness of our amazing God.

Next thing you know, you’ll be writing psalms of your own. And God will be delighted to receive your worship and praise.