Praying With Our Eyes Wide Open

Literally.

I know, I know. It goes against everything we learned growing up. Bow your heads and close your eyes. To do anything different seems awkward.

But within my four walls, I welcome the difference, always praying with my eyes wide open. When it comes to praying with others, however, I cave to tradition.

 

I don’t want to look weird or feel out of place — and my spirit groans every single time.

 

The only way I know how to describe what happens the moment I close my eyes to pray is to compare it to a Twilight Zone episode called Little Girl Lost. A child accidentally falls through an opening in the wall and enters a different dimension. She cries while floating around in the dark, trying to reach for her dog, who suffered the same fate.

Okay, so that’s a tad dramatic but it’s true. I close my eyes to pray and everything goes dark. Everything except for the distractions. They bark louder than any dog I know.

 

Is it Unbiblical to Pray with Our Eyes Open?

 

It’s not. There’s nothing in the Bible that says our eyes must be closed to communicate well with our God. When Jesus feeds the 5,000 he prays looking up to heaven. Were his eyes open? I believe so.

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” Matthew 14:17-19 [emphasis mine]

God doesn’t pay attention to what we wear, if we’ve showered, or if our hair is mussed or perfect. The tradition of closing our eyes is both understandable and honorable. We all want to be fully present, whether our eyes are open or closed. But since our conversation today is focused on the former, here are some tips for avoiding distractions:

 

How to Avoid Distractions When Praying With Eyes Wide Open

 

  • Look up! Jesus set the example. The sky is vast and full of God’s glory. Like the ocean, it reminds us of our smallness and that is good.
  • Journal prayers first. Write down the specifics first, and then pray. This way, when praying with our eyes open, the things we want to pray for surface quicker. Distractions, at least for me, tend to happen more when my heart/mind isn’t warmed up.
  • Whenever possible, pray aloud. Hearing the words help to cement them in the heart. By the same token, praying out loud also helps me to “hear” the sins that are trying to squeak in the back door of my heart. Sometimes the simple tone of my request says it all. Combining the two ⏤eyes open and aloud⏤changed my prayer life.

 

Other Times We Can {and Should} Pray with Eyes Wide Open

 

  • When driving. Or when the guy on your bumper scooches up just a little too close for comfort.
  • When we’re outside. “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.” Job 37:14
  • As we go through our day. Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to be alert in prayer. Staying attuned to the beauty and heartache that surrounds us every day gives us continual reasons to walk and pray throughout our day.

Writing is often cathartic and this post is one of those moments for me. If praying with my eyes wide open isn’t unbiblical and if my spirit groans when I try to pray like everyone else because of pride, I need to confess it and move forward in faith. Because this is what we know:

Eyes open, eyes closed. It matters not, as long as the heart is engaged.

 

 

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Did you notice the new title Creative Pauses…from the Tiny House on the Hill? I share a little more about the why behind the newly revised on my About Page.

Thank you for stopping by for a visit! I’d love for you to stay awhile. If you’d like to become a part of the Creative Pauses community, simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy day and they automatically land in your inbox. Once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of helpful tidbits on drawing nearer to God and loving others well.

So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you! 

The Life-Changing Results from Praying in Every Room of Our Home

Praying in Your HOmeThe morning I spent praying through our home back in January is a morning I won’t soon forget. Perhaps you remember this post I wrote back when limbs were exposed, and so was I.

I can’t say for sure why turmoil erupted from within when I began tapping the keys for that post. Maybe it’s because I shared about my struggle with depression. Or maybe it was revealing my fear of a test result or the fear that my prayer walk through our home may be taken as mystical rather than biblical. My guess is that pride and the enemy were vying for victory as they each tugged fiercely on the rope. Turns out, neither won.

The response from the post was overwhelming. Comments, emails, Facebook messages, etc., confirmed that I am not alone in this desire to have my home immersed in God’s presence. Nor am I alone in the desire to experience palpable peace and an underlying current of joy more powerful than the hundreds of volts running through my home.

Since praying through each room nine months ago, I’ve observed specific ways prayers have been answered.

House Prayers

Front Entry {Prayed in January}

For guests entering our home to feel welcomed and cared for by us, and ultimately, the Lord. To cultivate an open home, regardless of how clean or messy our house is at the moment. For God’s blessing and protection.

How Prayer Is Being Answered

We’ve had more guests in our home in the past nine months than we had in ten years at our last home. Trust me, I know this isn’t anything to brag about. I share it only to say that now when I struggle to open our home at inopportune times, I recall my prayer in January and quietly proclaim, This is Your house, God. Be glorified. And my soul hits the re-set button.

 

Den {Prayer in January}

For the conversations in this room to be edifying and glorifying to the Lord. To be filled with joy, laughter, and family-building moments. It was also in this room that with outstretched arms I prayed for any spirit not of God to flee, in the name of Jesus. There was no room for the spirit of fear, discouragement, or confusion in our home.

How Prayer is Being Answered

Conversations have taken place on our couch this year that I never dreamed possible. I still struggle with fear in some areas but when I had the same exact test done in July that I had in January, there was no fear.

 

Kitchen {Prayer in January}

For Brian and my family to feel loved (not cursed) by the food I prepare for them. To receive creative ideas in ministering to others through food and meals. For me to make wiser choices in my food selections. {I’m still reaping the consequences from last year’s stress-mess.} To embrace the mundane work of my hands for His glory.

How Prayer is Being Answered

With increased guests and family visits, the kitchen has naturally become busier than normal. But a special “thank You, Lord” shot to the heavens when I recently served a large meal that would’ve normally sent me running. Brian asked, “Who are you?” I smiled because I knew it was more about Whose I was than who I am.

 

Where You Create {Prayed in January}

My writing desk is in our little sunroom. I prayed that every word penned would take flight for God’s glory. To lean into, depend on, and rest in Christ for not only the work but also the results. For an outpouring of creativity. To seek to know {by experience} God more deeply, not to seek to be known by others.

How Prayer is Being Answered:

I’m not sure where to begin with this one. Since January, I’ve published two books and several more are following. Let’s just say that when I “heard” God tell me that I was treating my calling more like a hobby (on the same afternoon I prayed throughout our home), everything changed in an instant. I began working on my first book within five minutes⏤literally. Two and half months later, the first book was available on Amazon. To God be the glory!

It’s for these reasons⏤and so much more⏤that I decided to create this free e-book for my subscribers. As an added bonus, I added sensory tips for each room!

 

If you’re a new subscriber to Cultivating Creativity, welcome!

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“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado

Which room in your home do you feel could use a little prayer today?

 

One Way to Answer When Wisdom Calls + Journal Giveaway!

Do you hear her?

“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1 NIV)

Perhaps it’s because I followed unwise whispers for my first twenty-seven years (and saw the devastation of those choices) that now, I can’t lean in far enough to hear wisdom’s voice.

God says if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, and He will give it generously and without fault. (James 1:5) He is our one true source of wisdom.

 

“He who walks with the wise grows wise.”

 

Even though Proverbs 13:20 isn’t directed toward our relationship with God, it certainly rings true just the same.

So earlier this year, I added the practice of reading one Psalm a day, in order, and the Proverb that corresponds with that particular day to my morning routine.

 

It’s funny how one tiny but intentional tweak can breathe new life into a quiet time!

 

I can’t explain it, but knowing what I will read before I open my Bible helps me to stay focused. Without a specific direction, my brain skips around like a little girl who just downed a second box of Skittles. It’s painful to admit how often I’ve allowed that one silly snafu to trip me up over the years.

But on April 8th, I read this Proverb:

“Listen to wisdom’s instruction and be wise. Do not ignore it. Blessed is the man [and woman] who:

  • listens to me
  • watching daily at my doors
  • waiting at my doorway

… for whoever finds me, finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 8:33-35

I grabbed my needle-thin pen and carefully drew a line beneath the words listens, watching, and waiting. 

 

I couldn’t look away.

 

Although I’ve read the book of Proverbs many times over for the past thirty years, it’s the first time I noticed the number of active verbs on the way to wisdom. So I began praying:

What’s one way I could be more attentive to the beauty and value discovered in wisdom? Before the question had time to escape my brain (as so many things do), the idea to keep a master list of what I learn about wisdom took a seat and made itself right at home in my heart.

 

So what’s one way to answer when wisdom calls? Create a Topical List Journal.

 

Within minutes, I plowed through my pile of empty journals. When I spotted the luggage cover, it reminded me that we’re all sojourners, not stayers, so it was the lucky winner.

Now, in the mornings when I move my way through the book of Proverbs, I read through a chapter in its entirety first. Then, I circle back to list what I learned about wisdom, like:

  • She is a tree of life to those who embrace her. (3:17)
  • Wisdom = straight paths. (4:11)
  • Nothing we desire compares with wisdom. (8:11)
  • Wisdom loves those who love her and those who seek her find her. (8:17)
  • The LORD brought wisdom forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old. (8:22)

I sit speechless as I consider the benefits of listening to wisdom’s voice (and the woes if not). Seeing these truths in a list-form format helps me to digest them easier and reflect on them longer.

But you and I, we know it’s not about making a list or finding the “right” journal. And it’s not about becoming wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7) but rather, lifting words from living pages (Hebrews 4:12), and allowing truth to pierce our good ideas, our take on things, and what we think others want to hear.

“Look for wisdom like silver. Search for it like hidden treasure. If you do this, you will understand what it means to respect the LORD, and you will come to know God. The LORD is the source of wisdom; knowledge and understanding come from his mouth.” Proverbs 2:4-6 ERV

 

Do you hear her calling?

 

Writing down what we learn about wisdom is a good place to start, but maybe the Holy Spirit is tugging on your ear about a different word or theme. The subjects are endless because the Word speaks to every area of our lives.

 

  • Is there one area in your life you’re struggling with right now? That may be your first subject.
  • If you don’t have a journal handy, no problem! Office supply nerds like me seem to always have a stash hidden away, but right now, we’re blessed to just have toilet paper and paper towels, so write it down where ever you please — notebook paper, your phone, dinner napkins (oops, those are also hard to find!).
  • Taking an extra second or two to jot down the scripture reference will save time in the long run. Trust me.
  • Read the verses aloud as you write them down, and then ask God to show you how to apply the truths. We’re after a heart change, not head knowledge.
  • See this as a treasure hunt! Because it’s exactly that, regardless of the subject.

The wise ones search for what is theirs in Christ, and when they search, they find it. And when they find it, their ears open to hear and obey as one who just discovered the greatest treasures this side of heaven.

 

Are you ready to join the hunt? Share the subject that popped in your mind while reading this post and you’ll automatically be entered into the Topical List Journal giveaway! (Subscribers, you get an extra vote!)

 

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Searching for ways to think of others during the quarantine? Click here to read “30 Meaningful Things to Do if You’re Self-Quarantined.

I’d love for you to be a part of the Creative Pauses community! Simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>> (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days, and once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, along with ideas on ways we can draw near to God and love others well. So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

30 Meaningful Things to Do If You’re Self-Quarantined

Well, those are words I never expected to type, but here we are.

I’m not in a panic over the Coronavirus, but it’s true that some, perhaps many of us, may end up self-quarantined or otherwise homebound. But here’s the thing:

 

Every opportunity holds the potential to become meaningful.

 

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise — making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15,16

 

Below are thirty ideas to consider if staying inside for a while. I pray they’ll become the catalyst for spreading hope, encouragement, and truth, to others (germ-free!):

 

  • Set aside fifteen minutes to scroll through Facebook to collect prayer requests. Jot them down and set aside time to pray specifically for each person. Well-meaning “likes” don’t always result in prayer, but they can today! If the Lord brings to mind a certain scripture verse while praying, share it with the person. Our extra minute can encourage them for days.
  • Turn on praise music and sing to the Lord or better yet, sing acapella.
  • Create your own music list. Fill it with songs of hope and peace.
  • Start a new Bible study. If you don’t have one on hand, try an online study from Proverbs 31, LifeWay studies, and free studies from Jen Wilkin.
  • Complete the last study you didn’t finish.
  • Hibernate in prayer.
  • Turn everything off. Listen to the birds. Watch them. Study them. Let these tiny creatures serve as a reminder of God’s intimate care for you. (Luke 12:24)
  • Cook a vegetable meal. Before you pick up the fork, read Proverbs 15:17 aloud: “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Invite conversation: How does this apply to our family? How can we “put feet” to this verse in helping others?
  • Take a James 1:17 stroll. “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” As you walk outside, intentionally search for God’s good gifts surrounding you⏤an unfurling blossom, a flower’s scent, the sun breaking through clouds, etc. Embrace the goodness of God and let it carry you heavenward throughout the day.
  • Take tea for two, you and God.
  • Finish the current book you’re reading. Then, go the extra mile and leave a review on Amazon. Bonus points if you do the same on Goodreads, and don’t forget to add it to your reading list while you’re there.
  • Start a new book. If you know the author, message her along the way sharing what encourages you or a phrase that stood out to you. If a quote stands out, consider posting it on Facebook and Instagram to encourage others (and the author).
  • Call a different person each day. Many of us prefer to text but let’s delight someone by laying aside our preferences and call instead.
  • Text two people each day with one purpose in mind: to encourage.
  • Pray for your children/grandchildren. Jon Bloom’s 7 Things to Pray for Your Children is a favorite.
  • Pray for your adult children.
  • Pray for the lost. Tim Challies’ 18 Prayers to Pray for the Lost is a great place to start.
  • Draw a line down the center of a page.
  • Plan for the future. Sometimes our immobility is simply a rest area on the highway of life. It gives us unexpected time to pray, think, and mull over ideas.
  • Create mini-love notes and place them in sock drawers, on mirrors, cereal boxes, or inside his/her Bible.
  • Is it raining? Engage those God-given senses!
  • If you’re up for it, work or play in your yard. Plant flowers, pull weeds, plunge seeds into the ground.
  • Create simply for the joy of creating.
  • Create a vision board. Go through magazines, clip inspiring quotes and pictures OR create an online version via Canva (free). (Watch for an upcoming post on this subject!)
  • Write morning pages. Not sure how? Click here for one of the best breakdowns I’ve read (other than Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.)
  • Start a gratitude journal. Is there a better time to focus on our blessings?
  • Do a prayer walk through your home.
  • Set up a prayer journal.
  • Read scripture verses on peace. Write them down. Memorize at least one and lean on God’s promises with the same warmth and confidence a child bends toward her mother.
  • If you’re a Creative Pauses subscriber (you are awesome!), enjoy your free resources (Scripture-Based Coloring Pages, Praying Throughout Your Home, 10 Ways to Show Up for Others This Summer, etc.). If not, then pull up a chair and join in the fun! Simply type your email in the top right-hand sidebar >>>> and start enjoying your free resources immediately.

* Click here for a downloadable PDF print of the list above.

 

The Coronavirus situation gives us, the hopers and believers of the world, opportunities to share Christ in ways we’ve never had before. Becoming more intentional in how we care for others — emotionally, physically, and spiritually — during a time when many are focused on themselves, might just make an eternal difference.

 

Yes, we plan and use our resources wisely, but above all, we love selflessly.

 

Is there one particular idea above that stands out to you, or do you have one to add to the list?

 

 

 

 

An Introvert’s Journey Toward Biblical Community + Starbucks Giveaway!

Because surely biblical community and coffee go hand-in-hand.

For instance, remember the eavesdropping that took place in a North Carolina cafe last October? (If not, you can read about it here.) My being tucked away in a dark corner of a coffee shop isn’t unusual, but my willingness to interrupt the conversation of two young women I’d never met? Highly unlikely.

If you know me or have followed my writing for two minutes, you know I’m an introvert to the core. I love people but quickly crumble inside without ample space to breathe. Tapping keys, not stranger’s shoulders, is more my style.

 

But God.

 

Two words that weigh as heavy as the world He came to save.

 

Who needs Once Upon a Time when But God starts the story of every believer?

My story began three decades ago, but God used two young strangers as a catalyst to reboot my sluggish spirit.

“God wired us for biblical community. Yes, even us introverts. Since moving to the country, I’ve sensed a tug to be involved with women at a nearby campus. I don’t know one woman yet, but God does and I look forward to seeing what He will do. Want to join me in praying for God’s lead on that particular adventure? (I’d love to pray for yours too!))” – from my post, The Day Eavesdropping Inspired This Titus 2 Woman to Tears

I touch on the answer to this prayer in a follow-up post, The Night This Titus 2 Woman Hosted a Tea Party. Biblical community involves more than simply gathering together, but spending time with our small group women, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know me feels like a healthy first step for this late-blooming introvert.

In fact, after I type this post, the list-making begins in preparation for our church’s women’s retreat this weekend. And this might be a good time to define the word journey, as used in the title of this post.

Journey: a passage or progress from one stage to another (dictionary.com)

Staying home, drinking coffee from my afternoon mug (yes, that exists), writing, playing with my grandkids, organizing organizational books currently stuffed in a cluttered closet⏤these are comfortable places for me. Traveling, sharing a room with even the best of choices (and she is!), being with truly wonderful people 24/7, and all that goes with this is not comfortable for me.

 

But God is doing a new thing, I perceive it.

 

He is making a way through my comfort zone, providing refreshment in a place that’s long felt deserted.

 

I have a long way to go on this journey with much to learn, but God is helping me progress from one stage to another. He’s not asking me to become someone I’m not. Instead, He’s empowering me to become someone I could not possibly be without Him.

Yes, the enemy whispers there’s too big of an age gap for connections to be made this weekend, but a young woman once told me that Titus 2 women are needed — and we Titus 2 women need them too. So I prepare with an excitement that’s surely not natural.

And to think it all began in the corner of a crowded, dimly-lit coffee shop.

“Practice of true community involves responsibilities and actions that do not come naturally to us.” – Jerry Bridges, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia

 

In keeping with the definition of a journey, where would you say you are in relation to pursuing biblical community?

a. sipping lavender lattes in the cafe corner? (pre-clueful)

b. receiving words from strangers that could be a “direct message” from God? (open to receiving)

c. feeling oddly awkward that God might be up to something you didn’t expect? (contemplating)

d. taking steps to put yourself in the path of biblical community? (still clueless but desiring to become more like Christ to the point of obedience?)

e. signing up for a women’s retreat or other gatherings that are not normal for you? (becoming a comfort-zone crusher!)

f. fully integrated into biblical community (refusing to allow natural tendencies to overrule God’s supernatural power, putting the gospel on display in beautiful and unexpected ways.)

I’d love to know! Share in the comment section and you might just win your own eavesdropping session at Starbucks. {Told you I had a long way to go!}

 

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