Learning to Pray- God, please help

God please help October

God, please help… for many of us, it’s our first prayer, our first time reaching out to God. It comes in the midst of tears or as a whisper in the night or a cry of anguish when we are in way over our heads.

Help, I lost my job
Help, I’m losing my mind
Help my kid to love me again
I’m so lonely, help me
I don’t know what to do, help
Help, I have cancer
Help, she’s going to leave me
This pain is unbearable, help me
Help, I can’t do this
help, I can’t stop doing this
Help, I hate my life

We don’t have to be taught how to ask for help. We’re born knowing how. We know how to cry out for a diaper change, or a bottle, or to be burped. Help! It’s as natural as breathing.

But somewhere along the way we grow up and start taking care of ourselves. We start buying into the myth we can become educated enough, rich enough, powerful enough not to need help.

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help.

Even Jesus asked for help. He often went off alone to pray so we don’t know what he said then. But we do know what he prayed on the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane the night before his death. (Matthew 26) He was vulnerable and honest in asking God for help and asking for help from his companions.

In her wonderful book Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers, Ann Lamott said, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making. Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.”

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help. When we know this and accept it, asking for help can again become as natural as breathing. In the asking, we realize God is already there, close as breath.

So let’s learn to pray by re-learning to pray.
It’s not important how you say it.
Just say it – real, raw, honest.
It’s as easy as finishing a sentence-
God, please help…

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Learning to Pray- God, please help © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

4 Ways to Practice Forgiving Yourself

Amber Rae

Amber Rae

Recently, I began following Amber Rae on Instagram @heyamberrae. Again and again, I’m inspired by her gift for sharing wisdom and life helps in simple and effective ways.

Her Amazon bio says it well, “Her writing blends raw, personal storytelling with psychology and neuroscience, and has reached over 5 million people in 195 countries.”

This week she shared 4 ways to practice forgiving yourself. I immediately asked for permission to reprint it here and she kindly agreed.

I know of so many who struggle with this side of forgiveness, including me. We can forgive others, but we continue to withhold that same grace for ourselves.

When we withhold forgiving ourselves, its actually a form of pride. We’re saying our sin, our mistakes, are greater than what Jesus can offer us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I pray these reminders from Amber Rae will help you claim forgiveness and freedom in Christ. – Lisa <><

4 Ways to Practice Forgiving Yourself 
1. Use guilt as a compass.
Guilt shows us that our actions conflict with our values. It helps us course-correct.

2. Watch out for shame.
Guilt = I made a mistake.
Shame = I’m a mistake.
Forgiveness = I’m learning.
Wisdom = What did I learn from this?

3. Imagine what forgiveness feels like and try this:
write yourself an apology letter. You let yourself down, too.

4. Let go of what you cannot control.
Do your part, own your mistake and let go. We can’t control how others receive our apology or how they forgive.

For more from Amber Rae, check out her website and her latest book, Choose Wonder Over Worry. 

Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them

adult beautiful blur casual

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I’m in a Bible study right now which asks me to read multiple chapters of the Bible per week. To help me finish the work, I began listening to a recording of the passages I was to read. It started as a practical solution but has become a favorite way to read the Scriptures.

The benefits I found:

1. Pacing
A great recording moves through the Scriptures at a steady pace. I better understand the grand sweep of the passages. It also keeps me from getting distracted or sleepy.

2. Pronunciation 
The reader knows how to pronounce every difficult name and location so I learn how to pronounce them as well.

3. Enjoyment
Listening to a gifted reader is delightful. It reminds me of being read to as a child. It makes reading the Scriptures feel communal rather than lonely.

My favorite Scripture recording is available free of charge through BibleGateway.com.

  • Go to their site or app
  • At the top of the page type in the Scripture you want to read
  • Next to the Scripture, change the translation to New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
  • Press search. It will take you to the Scripture.
  • Just above the Scripture, you’ll see several options including sharing or printing the Scripture. To listen to the Scripture, click the audio icon on the far right. It’s that simple.

This translation is read by celebrated actor Sir David Suchet. His reading style is simple, soulful, and engaging.

Blessed reading!

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Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures

speak lord listening

Do have trouble hearing God speak to you through the scriptures? Have you ever read the Bible and the words feel distant- like they were meant for another person in another time?

Hear this Good News-

  • You’re not alone. Many struggle with this.
  • You’re not slow. It takes time and practice.
  • You’re not getting the silent treatment from God for whatever reason you’ve invented. God is already reaching out to you. God already knows you, loves you, and yearns for a relationship with you. God wants to speak to you and with you through the scriptures.

On to the tips!

1. Use a modern translation
The King James Version is beloved and beautiful, but its like reading Shakespeare. It’s a challenge. Try using a modern translation like the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or my new modern favorite, The Voice.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
This may seem obvious, but its a gift often left unopened. God wants to be heard and is ready to help.

3. Eliminate distractions
Find a quiet place. Read the passage slowly, prayerfully, out loud, three times.

4. Insert your name into a scripture
Many passages are well suited for this. You simply replace some nouns with a blank for inserting a name.

Let’s try it with John 3:16-17. Read the passage. Now read it again inserting your name into the blanks. How did the experience change?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

For God so loved __________ that he gave his only Son, so that __________ who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn __________, but in order that __________ might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

Now let’s try inserting your name into a longer passage, Psalm 23, NKJV.

Psalm 23
The Lord is __________ shepherd
_________ shall not want
He makes __________ to lie down in green pastures
He leads __________ beside the still waters
He restores __________ soul
He leads __________ in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake

Yea, though __________ walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
__________will fear no evil
For You are with __________
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort __________

You prepare a table before __________ in the presence of __________ enemies
You anoint __________ head with oil
__________ cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow __________
All the days of __________ life
And __________ will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever

BONUS- You can also insert the names of other persons as a way of blessing them, encouraging them, or praying for them.

What other scriptures would be great for inserting a name?
What other tips do you have for hearing God speak to you?

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Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Discovering Jesus- a Bible Reading Plan for Beginners

bible hold handsA friend of mine works in the mental health wing of a hospital. Many persons with little to no spiritual background begin exploring faith while they’re there for treatment. They’re interested in knowing more about Jesus and in reading the Bible, but don’t know where to begin.

She asked for a simple Bible reading plan to get them started. Here’s what God and I came up with: Discovering Jesus- a Bible Reading Plan for Beginners.

I hope it’s helpful for you. I’d love to hear how you’re using it. – Lisa <><

  • 30 Bible Readings
  • 6 readings per week for 5 weeks
    • Week 1- Jesus’ birth through the calling of the first disciples
    • Week 2- a sampling of Jesus’ ministry
    • Week 3- a sampling of Jesus’ parables
    • Week 4- Holy Week, Jesus entering Jerusalem through his death on the cross
    • Week 5- Jesus’ resurrection through his ascension
  • Reminders for Sunday worship and rest

CLICK HERE for a PDF of the reading plan suitable for printing

Day Events in the Life of Jesus Christ Scripture
Sun Worship and Rest
Mon Birth and Infancy of Jesus Luke 2:1-38
Tues Jesus, a Child at the Temple Luke 2:41-52
Wed Jesus’ Baptism Matthew 3:13-17
Thur Jesus is Tempted and Rejected Luke 4:1-30
Fri Jesus’ First Followers- The Fishermen Luke 5:1-11
Sat Jesus’ First Followers- The Tax Collector Matthew 9:9-13
Sun Worship and Rest
Mon Jesus Heals Mark 5
Tues Jesus Teaches (The Sermon on the Mount) Matthew 5-7
Wed Jesus Performs Miracles Matthew 14:13-33
Thur Jesus and Nicodemus John 3:1-21
Fri Jesus, The Good Shepherd John 10
Sat Jesus Raises Lazarus John 11
Sun Worship and Rest
Mon The Use of Parables Mark 4:1-34
Tues Parable: The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37
Wed Parables: Humility and Hospitality Luke 14:1-24
Thur Parables: Lost and Found Luke 15
Fri Parables on Prayer Luke 18:1-14
Sat Parables: Faith in Action Matthew 25
Sun Worship and Rest
Mon Jesus Enters Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) Luke 19:28-48
Tues The Last Supper (Holy Thursday) Matthew 26:17-35
Wed Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet John 13:1-35
Thur The Vine and the Branches John 15
Fri Jesus Prays and is Arrested Luke 22:39-23:25
Sat The Crucifixion of Jesus (Good Friday) Luke 23:26-56
Sun Worship and Rest
Mon The Resurrection of Jesus (Easter Sunday) Matthew 28:1-10
Tues Jesus Appears to the Disciples Luke 24:13-49
Wed Jesus Appears to Thomas John 20:19-29
Thur The Restoration of Peter John 21:1-19
Fri The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20
Sat Jesus Ascends to Heaven Acts 1:1-11

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Discovering Jesus, a Bible Reading Plan for Beginners
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Get in the Game- Reading God’s Word for Yourself

football players in blue jersey lined under grey white cloudy sky during sunset

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

It’s time for the big game. How are you going to experience it? Are you going to…

  • Skip it and read about it the next day online?
  • Have someone tell you about it?
  • Watch it on TV?
  • Purchase tickets so you can watch it live from the stands?

What would it be like to actually suit up and get in the game?

How we engage the big game can be a metaphor for our life. Are we going to sit on the sidelines or watch it from afar or step out on the field and engage?

I’ll be honest. The idea of suiting up for a football game is absolutely terrifying to me. I am a wee little person and not in the best of shape.

Then it hits me. How many times have I said that about engaging life itself?

  • I’m not built to do that.
  • I’m not a professional.
  • I’m not trained. I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m too frail. I’m too busy…
  • I don’t want to risk embarrassing myself.
  • I don’t want to hurt the efforts of the team.

The one that usually pops into my mind is, “I don’t want to get hurt.” Engagement goes hand in hand with risk.

We can sit on the sidelines of life. We can also sit on the sidelines of engaging God.

It’s easy to pick a devotional and read it, listen to a podcast, or say “Amen,” at the end of someone’s prayer. It’s easy to watch the preacher preaching, the teacher teaching, the worship musicians singing and playing their instruments for the glory of God. Thanks to online streaming, we don’t even have to change out of our PJ’s.

At their best, these beloved Christian practices draw us into the presence of God. Yet, so often, we are merely observing someone else’s encounter with God. We’re on the sidelines.

There’s nothing which can replace our own encounter with God.

As the old saying goes, “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” Our faith, our engagement must be our own.

You know this. It’s one thing to watch a couple marry. It’s another to be the bride or the groom.

The beauty of this life is encountering God ourselves. The miracle of it all is the Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior, wanting us and wanting us in the game.

There are so many ways this can happen. One of the primary ways is through reading the Word of God for yourself.  

There were years and years and years in my own Christian walk where I faithfully read devotion books. Devotion books are great. You read an inspiring testimony. You learn something new. But, they’re someone else’s encounter with God and God’s Word. They’re the view from the sidelines.

My faith changed radically when I started engaging the Word of God for myself. When I suited up and stepped onto the field and sought an encounter with God.

What do you need to read God’s Word for Yourself?

1. You need a plan. Click here for my post on the best Bible reading plan.

2. You need a designated place and time to read. Set an appointment with yourself and God and keep it.

3. You need a Bible Buddy, someone who is also reading the Scriptures. There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and AA works. Never underestimate the power of support and accountability.

4. Discover which type of engagement best works for you- listening to the scripture via an audio Bible, highlighting passages as you read, memorizing scripture, doodling or creating art based on what you read, etc.

I’m a writer, so journaling helps me engage God through God’s Word. My favorite Bible Journaling pattern is SOAP. The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. It was developed by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii.

S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word into your journal.

O = Observation

  • What does this passage tell us about God?
  • Our world?
  • Ourselves?

A = Application
How will your life be different today because of what you have read?

  • Lessons to be learned
  • Examples to be followed or avoided
  • Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
  • A character trait of God revealed
  • Deeds to start, continue, or stop

P = Prayer
Include themes from your reading in your prayer time. I like to pray a keyword or theme from the passage over my prayer list. I keep my prayer list in the back of my journal.

I’d love to hear how you’re getting in the game. Leave a comment to encourage and inspire others. – Lisa <><

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Get in the Game- Reading God’s Word for Yourself © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

 

Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect Bible reading plan.

  1. Not too much reading per day, not too little
  2. Easy enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a seasoned saint
  3. Five days per week so you can catch up if you miss a day or two.

The search did not bear fruit; it only delayed me reading the Bible at all. (Excellence is a virtue. Perfectionism is its evil, twisted shadow-side.)

Here’s the truth- There is no perfect reading plan.

The important thing is to just read, to intentionally and regularly seek God through God’s Word.

It’s essential. This is how we learn what God’s voice sounds like, who God is, who we are, and what God desires for us. This is how we hear God speak into our lives day after day after day.

So, let’s get reading. 

If you have a favorite Bible Reading Plan great! Use it!

If not, consider using my favorite plan – the 5 Day Bible Reading Plan by the good folks at Lower Lights Publications.

Here’s why I think it’s the best.
1. It’s free.

2. They update the reading schedule dates for each new year, but the reading plan itself stays the same.

3. It’s easy to print and slip it into your Bible or journal. (8.5 X 11, folded in half) You could even paste it into planner or hole-punch it for your planner.

4. There are boxes to check next to each day’s reading assignment and each week’s assignment. (a built-in habit tracker)

5. You can start anytime during the year.

6. It’s designed with grace. 5 reading days per week. There are days when I miss. If I use a 7 day a week plan I get behind and I get discouraged and I drop out.

7. It’s flexible. Do all the suggested readings and you’ll read through the entire Bible in a year. Or choose just the Old Testament readings or just the New Testament readings. Or choose the Old or New Testament plus the Psalms.

8. In this plan, you often read straight through an entire book of the Bible. There are some exceptions.

9. Big bonus- you read the Bible in chronological order rather than book order. This opens your eyes to the grand sweep of the Biblical narrative. It’s especially helpful to read the overlapping material in 1 2 Samuel, 1 2 Kings, and 1 2 Chronicles side by side. Plus, you will read one of the Gospels in each quarter of the year.

Well, there you have it, the best Bible reading plan I’ve found. I’d love to hear how it works for you.- Lisa <><

Bonus: Check out Steve Harper’s post entitled A Transforming Use of Scripture for insights on our motivation in approaching the Scriptures and the process God uses through Scripture to make us new.

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Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.