Unexpected blessings catapult our faith into high gear and steady our walk of faith.
I didn’t realize how much so until last week when I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. As I’ve done over the past nine years, I showed up eager to fellowship with friends, meet new ones, and hone my craft.
But this year was different. And it had nothing to do with Covid.
At registration, I planned to attend everything the conference had to offer. But soon after arriving, I sensed God might be calling me to something unexpected. My southern-fried raising tried its best to guilt me into doing what I always did because, well, it was the expected, “right” thing to do.
I’m learning, however, the only thing right thing to do is to follow God’s plans.
So, instead of attending the a-mazing large group meetings and classes, I took a seat in the Clouds coffee shop and simply made myself available, with a lavender latte in hand.
During my time in the coffee shop, God:
brought dozens of attendees by, making it possible for me to share wholehearted smiles and hellos. (We had a lot of new attendees!)
allowed me to pray with others right there on the spot.
let me be a listening ear to several who were carrying heavy burdens. More than once, someone said, “I’m so thankful you were here.” And in return, I echoed the same sentiment to God.
enjoyed the laughter that surrounded the shellacked table.
blessed me with friendships with the volunteers working behind the counter.
Looking back, I see how a few specific prayers prepared me to follow God’s leading, resulting in unexpected blessings:
Three Prayerful Ways to Prepare for Unexpected Blessings:
Pray for God’s agenda, period. In the weeks prior to the conference, I prayed for various things like staying healthy, the removal of any pride or selfishness from this ol’ heart, and being available for however He might want to use me as a conduit of His love and kindness.
Pray for bravery. Because we can all agree that following God’s agenda and not ours (or anyone else’s) isn’t for wimps.
Expect the Unexpected. I admit that when I first sensed the Holy Spirit pointing me to the cafe, I bristled a bit, knowing it might disappoint some people I love and respect. (My name is Cathy Baker and I am a recovering people pleaser.)
On the final day of the conference, a friend put this “Office of Cathy Baker” sign on the cafe table. Here’s one of fourteen pictures taken in my “office” *smile*. It’s a favorite because it includes Pepper Basham, along with her latest release, Hope Within the Pages (Doors to the Past).
(I’m sharing my various visitors to the “office” on Facebook over the next week or two. I’d love for you to stop by and say hello!)
Do you sense God might be calling you to serve Him in an unexpected, possibly out-of-the-norm kind of way? We’d love to know!
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We’re a bunch of women who love Jesus and desire to encourage and be encouraged through biblical fellowship.
Each day, holy pauses are shared in the form of prayer, God’s Word, gatherings, or free downloads that help us to connect (or re-connect) with God and others.
Whether they know it or not, today’s teenagers face a formidable enemy.
They always have. After all, it’s during the teen years we form friendships, notice every pimple, start dating, and unfortunately, come face-to-face with the mean girls. But our culture has never been as anti-Christian as it is today, dismissing (even ridiculing) truth and accepting happiness as its “holy grail”.
Teenagers need us to stand in the gap on their behalf. If not us, then who?
Having reflected on my own teen years and the damage left behind in my twenties, I had no wisdom to offer my own two sons. So when I became a Christ-follower at twenty-seven (they were two and six), one of the first things I did was to begin prayer journaling. In it, I prayed a variety of prayers for them, many of which have come to fruition, now decades later, thanks be to Jesus alone.
It’s never too soon to start praying for our children, and it’s also never too late.
The enemy aims for the mind because if he captures it, the rest is gravy. We can pray for a hedge of protection around their minds ⏤ what they see and listen to.
See: That they’ll have no desire to view pornography, and will be protected from seeing it or encouraged to view it. And if/when they view harmful things, that they’ll repent quickly and not believe the lie that it’s who they’ve become. May they “see” and believe in God’s nearness instead.
Listen: That he/she will have the desire to fill their ears with godly influences ⏤ people, music, podcasts, etc.
2. To know and believe they are loved by parents
Rebellion has been around since the first piece of fruit was plucked from the tree. Similarly, the enemy whispers in our teenager’s ears, does your mom/dad really love you, care for you, and have your best interest in mind? When praying for our teens, we join forces with the One who created them and knows how to fight this battle. We can pray for the truth they’ve been taught to penetrate the lies, for the Lord to surround them with godly people who will speak truth into their lives, and for them to see us as we are ⏤ broken and scarred, but relentless in our love for them. If we need to ask for their forgiveness or make a wrong right, then we humbly do this, demonstrating what love is truly about ⏤ not being right, but humble.
I wish I’d known as a teenager that remaining sexually pure was God’s way of protecting me, not depriving me. It’s why I fervently prayed for my boys to remain pure so they could enjoy all the benefits and blessings that naturally flow from obedience. We pray specifically for God to lead our sons and daughters to dates/spouses with the same desire to remain pure before they are married. That both would have a greater desire to honor God than temporary pleasure.
Yes, for our teens, but mostly for us ⏤ parents, grandparents, and influencers. For wisdom to know how to discipline, when to speak and when to remain silent, and utter dependence on God for it. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5)
5. To hunger and thirst for God
Because we know that if this happens, all else falls into place. (“Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33)
Prayer was never meant to stay within four walls, or spoken from a well-worn chair, or coupled with coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, praying in my favorite spot with coffee in hand is a delight. But when I look at Jesus, I see how He prayed in the wilderness, solitary places, on a mountain, in crowds, gardens, and with children.
Jesus prayed with the same ease as His next breath, making the most of every opportunity.
As I look around, I see spring everywhere — in outdoor activities, flowers, trees, and on the labels of my sinus meds. The struggle is real. But every season offers its own unique opportunities for prayer, and spring is no exception.
So, where are some places we can make the most of every opportunity to pray this season? I’ll get the ball rolling with eight ideas:
Depending on the time we visit, we might see women running, children climbing on playsets, or couples circling it hand-in-hand.
We can pray God will bless the efforts of those taking the time to exercise. Are children climbing monkey bars? Pray they’ll come to know Jesus at an early age, for their protection (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), and for their parents. Also, seeing couples enjoying time together is a reminder to pray that they’ll be a good and godly influence on other couples (and we will too). So, let’s get to dusting off the devilish yellowish-green powder covering the park bench and take our seats!
Walks in Our Community
We walk in our neighborhood and pray for various families as we pass by their homes. So let’s stretch our prayer muscles and find other places in our community to pray. We can circle our children/grandchildren’s school in prayer or a small business that’s struggling. Let’s circle our church, praying for the pastoral staff and their families. We can also pray as we pass by the police station, fire department, and other places where dedicated men and women serve our community and country.
In the Garden
You know the old saying that we’re closer to God in a garden? Maybe it’s older than we think. After all, life began in a garden and the union with God was perfect before fruit was plucked and eaten.
As we dig into the earth, let’s consider those who need a holy heart tilling ⏤ for the Holy Spirit to begin preparing their heart for His Word, and that truth will sink deeply in their heart and mind. Pulling weeds? What a beautiful reminder to pray that we ourselves will also have a well-tilled heart.
At the Beach
Many southerners make their way to the beach during spring break, weekend trips, and early vacations. I have a feeling we’re not alone. (I hope we’re not!) While sitting on the beach, scoop up a handful of sand. Notice the number of granules, even in one pinched finger’s worth. Psalm 139 says God’s thoughts toward us outnumber the grains of sand. Do you, or someone you know, need to be reminded of God’s goodness, care, and attention? Pray and if you want to give them a tangible reminder, scoop sand in a Ziploc bag. Also, watching the mighty waves curl, crash and ease their way to the shore reminds us of God’s power and strength. Let’s pray for this power to move in our present circumstances, as well as others. A week’s worth of similar ideas is included in my devotional guide for the beach. (Not an affiliate link.)
The Farmer’s Market
We see a smorgasbord of fresh vegetables, flowers, jams, honey, and jellies⏤the fruition of hard work behind the scenes. It’s a great opportunity to pray for those who plant, water, fumigate, and can fruity goodness. Pray for their health, blessings on their work, and success.
At the Zoo
Who doesn’t enjoy a visit to the zoo, especially before the double-whammy hits ⏤ humidity and mosquitoes! Kids and kids-at-heart marvel at God’s creativity — the colors, habits, shapes, and their innate ability to survive. There’s no better place to praise God for surrounding us in His handcrafted beauty.
Maybe it’s hard to imagine being able to pray while whipping around curves and stopping for lunch at our favorite mom and pop cafe but thanks to breath prayers, it’s possible.
Intentionally “taking” our prayer life wherever we go opens our eyes to spiritual truths and opportunities we would miss otherwise. And no greater example of this is Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
Let’s welcome Crickett Keeth back to Creative Pauses from The Tiny House on the Hill!
How would you describe your time in prayer? Do you do most of the talking, or do you pause to listen?
When we hear the words pray or prayer, we tend to think of speaking, not listening. When we pray, we talk to God, asking for things and expressing our feelings about what’s going on in life.
But prayer isn’t to be one-sided. Yes, we talk to God and make our requests known, but we also need to take time to listen to His response. I don’t mean we sit and wait for a small (or booming) voice to whisper words to us. In all my years as a Christian, I have never heard God speak to me in an audible voice. But we can listen to God in other ways.
We pray by listening as we read God’s Word.
While you’re reading and studying the Bible, ask God to give you wisdom and guidance. Listen to what He’s saying through His Word. If something stands out to you, pray about it as the Holy Spirit prompts you.
Recently, I was reading Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (NASB95).” As I listened to God’s Word, He convicted me. I stopped reading and began to pray: “Lord, Your Word tells me I shouldn’t be anxious about anything. But, to be honest, I am anxious about a lot of things today—my future, this decision that’s looming over me, the situation in our country, deadlines I have to meet. . . Lord, I confess I’m worried. But how do I stop being anxious?”
The second half of the verse answered that question. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” He was instructing me through His Word how to deal with my anxious thoughts. I listened to His Word and began to pray. I wrote down everything I was anxious about and began to pray about each area, thanking God He had it under control. He gave me peace that I could trust Him to take care of my needs and the things I was worried about.
Praying by listening doesn’t mean we sit in silence and wait to hear God speak audibly or through random thoughts. We listen to His Word and begin praying His Word back to Him as it guides, convicts, and strengthens us.
Take a verse this week and practice praying by listening to His Word.
We pray by listening as we journal.
I love to journal and write down my thoughts and prayers. What am I struggling with? What am I thankful for? What is going on in my life today? God guides me on how to pray as I journal, and I often write out my prayers.
Journaling helps me listen to God in several ways. It gives clarity about situations. It helps me verbalize what I’m thinking and feeling by putting it down on paper. Writing out my prayers helps me think through what I’m praying about. As I write, God brings things to mind and helps me process thoughts and situations. When I journal, I’m listening to God and praying as I write.
Take some time this week to journal your thoughts.What’s going on in your life? What are your needs? How do you view God in this season? Write out a prayer.
We pray by listening as we worship through music.
Worship music (hymns and contemporary) encourages me and challenges me. I love to listen to worship music as I drive to and from work each day. It prepares my heart for what’s ahead and helps me process the day on the way home. There are times I push pause on the music and start praying because of something I’ve heard in the song. Sometimes, it’s a phrase that has convicted me, and I want to confess sin right then. Other times, the words move me to pray about a situation. As I listen and sing along, the words and music lead me to worship and meditate on His attributes.
This week listen to worship music in the car or at home. Listen to the lyrics and see how God speaks to you through them. How does He use the words to move you to prayer?
What would you add to this list to help you pray by listening?
Crickett Keeth is the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where she writes and teaches women’s Bible studies. She is the author of The Gift of Rest, Sumatra with the Seven Churches (co-authored with Sandra Glahn), and her newly released study from Moody, On Bended Knee. Crickett was on staff with Cru for ten years and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching regularly at her own church, she also speaks at women’s conferences and retreats. Learn more at crickettkeeth.com.
And can we agree that few things in life are more intentional than growing a garden? We scout out a sunny spot, prepare the soil, choose the plants, and pluck them in the ground. I know a little something about this because growing up, we had a large organic garden⏤back before organic was cool.
In the springtime, we planted tomatoes, peppers, corn, and okra. In summer, insects were plucked off stems, and in the fall, decaying tomatoes whizzed past us in hopes of pelting the other person with the ripe scent of rot. Good times!
But in the winter, we rested, as did the ground.
The garden soil was still, but it never stopped receiving nutrients from the layers of organic matter dad churned into the earth just before the first frost. Earthworms continued to weave their way through red clay, as we have here in the south, aerating the soil and making it healthier for the next season.
During the winter, rest also happened inside our house as we enjoyed the fruit of our labor from the prior year’s garden. And receiving the Burpee Seed Spring catalog generated as much excitement as the lemon blueberry bundt cakes baked most Sunday afternoons. (Trust me, that’s a lot of excitement!)
So what does a wintering ground have to do with creating holy pockets of stillness?
Just because a ground appears still and lifeless for a season doesn’t mean life isn’t teeming below. And just because we choose to be still doesn’t mean a holy bustle isn’t happening within. In fact, our still moments are the most productive moments of the day.
Imagine the peace and assurance the Israelites must have received from this passage as they left Egypt. In stillness, these words from the Lord can calm the storms raging below our surface⏤fear, worry, bitterness, etc.
On the outside, we’re all smiles. Beneath the happy expression is a heart that is anything but. Recent events, deciding whether or not to take the vaccination, wondering what the year holds, and job concerns elbow their way through an already crowded heart. But in stillness, we remember God’s sovereignty and wait patiently for Him, His timing, and His ways.
If Jesus can hush an angry sea with three words, surely we can still ourselves long enough to hear them too. *smile*
Holy pockets of stillness don’t need to be added to our day — they already exist in the ordinary moments.
Outdoors. Walking or sitting outside, we close our eyes. What gratitude rises from what you see, smell, or hear?
Folding laundry. Consider putting a scripture verse on the wall to meditate on while you fold.
Baking. Watching someone prepare dough for loaves of bread is marvel-worthy in my book. The slow ease with which they knead a simple mixture of flour and liquid into a work of art prompts me to want to do the same. Maybe we don’t bake bread, but we brew cups of tea and prepare meals. Both require a slowing-down of sorts. What if we embraced the quiet process instead of fighting it, choosing to practice stillness as God uses our hands to bring forth beauty?
With stillness comes rest⏤whether it’s a wintering ground or a troubled soul⏤producing a healthier, more resilient, and stronger life for seasons to come.
What’s one simple way you will create a holy pocket of stillness in your day? (There’s no right or wrong answer!)
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While there’s a lot I’d like to leave behind in 2020, my prayer life isn’t one of them.
For thirty years, I’ve celebrated the truth that God wants to be personally known, experienced, and trusted. But my time with Him hasn’t always reflected it. My intentions were good, but apparently, my excuses were sometimes better, widening the door for guilt to slither in and crack open the window for shame to join in the harassment.
In early 2020, I began reading Priscilla Shirer’s devotional, Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks. The title resonated with a deep desire to stop the cycle of good intentions.
And so I began the 90-Day journey with God.
I sat down with her devotional, the Bible, and my trusted journal. Within a week or two, I sensed the Lord creating a daily rhythm for our dedicated time of fellowship:
Slowly and prayerfully, read through the book of Psalms, one a day.
In no time flat, accusations disguised as whispers began to chatter:
You should be working through a study instead of just reading your Bible.
Why are you only reading “x” amount of verses?
You call this a valid quiet time?
But I did it anyway. And here’s what happened.
You know that elated feeling you experience when spending time with someone who shares a mutual interest? You could talk about (fill in the blank) all day long, and with a little caffeine, maybe all night! You leave their presence feeling energetic, encouraged, and ready to face another day, right?
That’s what happened when I began showing up with a holy expectancy! What will my heavenly Father reveal today? Not like a little girl on Santa’s knee, but a woman who’s incredibly flawed but hungry to hear from God and join in the adventure! (Even that desire is from Him, my flesh would prefer to be eating breakfast.)
During our dedicated time of fellowship, He reveals my sins: how I overdo sweets, the way I sometimes relate to my husband, and my lack of faith in various areas of my life, just to name a few. Some revelations are painful, but they’re necessary, and even a confirmation of His love. (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6)
God opens my eyes to spiritual truths I wouldn’t see or receive otherwise. He provides ideas for ministry, ways to love others, words, sentences, paragraphs, and a dream Literary Agent only He could’ve provided. The list goes on!!! (Multiple exclamation points = holy excitement)
Still, I prayed for weeks before creating this post.
You see, I wanted to make sure it was God’s voice (and not mine) prompting me to share how He transformed our time together. The last thing I wanted was to give the illusion that I had anything to offer but a willing heart, or that there was a “magic” formula for drawing closer to God, or that I was discounting the vital need for studying God’s Word in-depth.
We know the simple act of reading the Word and studying it is the difference between wading in a pool and swimming in it. And if there’s ever been a time when we as Christ-followers need to know the Word for ourselves, it is today. I did, however, learn that if reading is done prayerfully, there’s much to glean and is anything but a simple read.
I can only testify that the plan He unfolded for a season deepened my faith and infused our time of fellowship with a deep, abiding joy that I never saw coming.
So, how do we begin moving toward a more consistent prayer life in 2021?
Check the heart. What do we truly believe about our time with God? Is He present? Does He hear us? Does He respond? Am I willing to hear His conviction as well as His blessings?
Create a plan. Whether or not we consider ourselves a planner is irrelevant. We plan other worthy appointments⏤the doctor, work, hair, etc. Is He worthy?
Come with an expectant heart! This connects with the first point but it’s also a vital part of the adventure.
Prayerfully consider what plan God might want to unfold for your time together.
Equip our time with essentials beforehand: Bible, journal, “travel with God” journal, and pen.
*Bonus: Continue the engagement with God throughout the day!
Not only did God confirm that others might benefit from this post, but He also broke it down into bite-sized pieces for “(Re)Awaken Your Prayer Life.” Inside, you’ll find more information on the five considerations above (and the bonus!), along with inspiring verses and quotes in the form of coloring pages.
This free guide is a small token of my appreciation for subscribing to the “Creative Pauses from The Tiny House on the Hill” bi-weekly blog. It’s also available to current subscribers (love and appreciate y’all beyond words!).
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So, as we look forward to a new year with a fresh slate, what is one spiritual discipline you sense God is calling you to cultivate in 2021? Share in the comment section to be entered into a giveaway for your own leather “travel with God” journal!
P.S. For one week in January, an added bonus on ways to grow a more consistent prayer life will be shared each day. (And don’t be surprised if there’s a daily giveaway to help in those efforts.)
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