Friday, October 30, 2009

Finer Things Friday: English Village Atmosphere

When I am stressed or tired or simply wanting to escape from the desert, I like to read books about small English villages. My favorite authors of such books are Miss Read, D.E. Stevenson, and P.G. Wodehouse. Miss Read's Thrush Green series is set in a tiny English village, D.E.Stevenson has settings in Scotland as well as England (Miss Buncle is a great book to start a D.E.Stevenson collection), and P.G.Wodehouse's rollicking tales feature a young English aristocrat (Wooster) and his butler (Jeeves), who live in London but often visit country estates.

Finer Things Friday is hosted at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prayer Resources: Praise

The Prayer that Changes Everything, by Stormie Omartian
From the popular "Power of Praying" series, this is a personal look at how important it is to praise God, reasons to praise and the blessings of praise. 316 pages, short chapters with study questions, available from Lifeway and Amazon.

31 Days of Praise, by Ruth and Warren Myers
If you only buy one book on the topic of prayer--this should be it! This book taught me to pray and praise. It's filled with scripture-based praise-prayers and instructions on developing the “heart-habit” of praise. (My copy is filled with beach sand and candy cane stickiness and coffee stains; it's well-loved.) 157 pages, daily format, available from Lifeway and Amazon. No study questions, but a facilitator could lead a group through this book, using the scripture references to dig deeper into the subject.

Praise Patterns: Magnifying God with Mary of Nazareth, by Ruth J. Leamy
Praise Patterns examines Mary's prayer and discusses the names of God that her praise suggests. This study calls you to remember God's name as He proclaimed it in the Old Testament, look at Jesus revealling that name in the New Testament, and respond to God's name as the Holy Spirit prompts us to spiritual growth. Historical and contemporary praise quotes will encourage you to express your own praises, and the practical ideas will assist you to insert moments of praise into your everyday routines.
To read excerpts from the book, click on READ: Praise Patterns on the label section of this blog (left hand side, scroll down). Available to order here.

I would like to expand my Praise library. Do you have a favorite study on this topic? Please leave a comment and share the title.


Prayer Resources: General Studies on Prayer

Lord, Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days, by Kay Arthur
Basic instruction on prayer, based on The Lord’s Prayer. From the back cover: “Practical insights to help you know how to pray, what to pray, and what to expect when you pray."
Options: 192 page book in daily format with discussion questions (at Amazon or Lifeway)
or 144 page workbook titled Lord, Teach Me to Pray for 5 session DVD series (at Lifeway).

Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey
This honest and personal discussion of questions about prayer includes the topics of Keeping Company with God, Unraveling the Mysteries, the Language of Prayer, Prayer Dilemmas and the Practice of Prayer. Includes many personal testimonies. Options: 352 page book (at Amazon) or 103 page workbook for 6 session DVD series (at Lifeway)

Disciple’s Prayer Life: Walking in Fellowship with God,
by T.W. Hunt and Catherine Walker
This extensive study is meant to be used by a small group. I think it would be appropriate for a group with members of varying spiritual maturity. Topics include family prayer times, gratitude, confession, praying with others and unanswered prayer. Handy perforated memory verse cards in the back of the book. Lifeway describes the book this way: “Helps adults learn to pray experientially - based on prayers of the Bible. Through personal, daily study and 13 weekly small-group meetings, you will discover practical truths to strengthen and deepen your prayer life.” At Lifeway.

Passionate Prayer, by Catherine Martin
My favorite prayer resource, this is a detailed overview of prayer; accessible but deep. 30 Day format, includes study questions. Includes studies of Biblical prayers, quotes from famous books on prayer and suggested formats for prayer journals. I suggest that if you study this in a small group, you spread it out over 8 or 10 weeks--don't try to fit it all into 30 days.
Book available at Amazon or DVDS for group study available from

Also from Catherine Martin: Passionate Prayer, a Quiet Time Experience.
This is a book of Quiet Times on the subject of prayer, with journaling suggestions, study questions, and quotes from classic Christian authors. Great for solo study or discussing in a group. Ideal for someone just beginning to have a quiet time, an experienced believer who wants to refresh her devotional routine or someone whose routine is often interrupted. It could be used to follow a study of Passionate Prayer, but neither book requires the other. Available at Amazon or

A Woman’s Call to Prayer: Making Your Desire to Pray a Reality,
by Elizabeth George
Practical guidance for beginning the habit of prayer, becoming more organized and consistent in prayer, and overcoming obstacles to prayer. Also includes advice on praying when hurting, overwhelmed, worried or needing to make a decision. If you are currently praying for wisdom in a particular situation, this would be a helpful book. 288 pages, includes study questions. At Amazon.

With Christ in the School of Prayer: a 31 Day Course in Christian Prayer,
by Andrew Murray
Classic study on prayer and the Holy Spirit’s role in prayer. Recommended by Ruth Myers, Catherine Martin and others. 104 pages, at Amazon.
Also from Andrew Murray: 365 Daily Devotions on Prayer. At Amazon.

Do you have a favorite book about prayer? Please leave me a comment.


Words of Praise on Wednesday

Lord my God, You have done many things--
Your wonderful works and Your plans for us:
none can compare with you. (Psalm 40:5)
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You
because You have redeemed me. (Psalm 71:23)
May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens;
God is our salvation. Selah. (Psalm 68:19)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gloating and Tulips and Godliness

Fall in the desert is the beginning of Gloating Season. It's rather fun to call my friends back home in the Pacific Northwest: "Oh, I'm sorry you had frost this morning--it's 75 here today and the kids played outside for hours." Of course in the summer when it was 115 here, my friends in the Northwest were cool and comfortable.

Gloating Season comes again in the spring, but that is the season when I miss home the most. I miss the adventure of coastal weather, the rainbows and the blossoming trees, but most of all I miss the flowering bulbs: daffodils, crocus, and tulips. A year or two after we moved here, I really wanted to recapture a spot of Northwest spring, so one March day I bought a pot of tulips and set it in the window box outside my kitchen window. The very next day they were wilted, and I realized that tulips were simply not designed to endure seventy degree days. I've read that if you want to make bulbs grow and bloom in a warm climate, you must dig them up and store them in your refrigerator for a certain length of time. The cold is necessary for the blooms.

In our spiritual lives, growth and fruit are often formed through trials--we might describe them as the chilly seasons of life. In fact, in the book of James we're told that the trying of our faith produces patience. I've heard Christians say that we should never pray for patience because God will answer us by sending trials. I can understand a bit of the logic behind this idea, but I am not sure that it takes into account the wisdom and love of God. He wants what is best for us and what will bring glory to Him. I cannot believe that He has a stockpile of trouble He's just waiting to pour on us if we pray the wrong prayer. We know that He wants us to pray for godliness (and patience is an ingredient of godliness) and I believe that we can trust Him to follow His good plan for us. Trials will be a part of that because we live in a fallen world, but God in His grace and wisdom speaks to us through the tough times, using the chill of trouble to produce beautiful blooms of godliness. If God has prompted you to pray for a certain character quality, a specific fruit of the Spirit, or godliness in general, rest assured that He is working within you, and He has already arranged the circumstances you need to bloom. He will be with you every step of the way, whispering His words of live in your ear. Pray confidently!

I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-10)

--adapted from my book Sacred Signposts

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Words of Praise on Wednesday

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light aroundme will become night"--
even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12)
The Lord will send His faithful love by day:
His song will be with me in the night--
a prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42:8)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finer Things Friday: Pottery Mug

Coffee and tea are definitely some of life's finer things. Drinking a hot beverage from a handmade pottery mug is even finer. We look for pottery mugs when we travel, and I order one from etsy now and then. One of my favorite sellers is Sunrise Mountain, maker of the mug shown here. We never buy more than one of a particular mug, preferring to have an eclectic collection. I love to linger over my tea upstairs, looking over the palm trees at the mountains on a sunny morning.

Finer Things Friday is hosted here.
The photo is from Sunrise Mountain's etsy store.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Words of Praise on Wednesday

In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You
and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3)
For Your faithful love is before my eyes,
and I live by Your truth. (Psalm 26:3)
Give the Lord the glory due His name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of [His] holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
Sing the glory of His name;
make His praise glorious. (Psalm 63:2)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Woman's Heart That Dances

A Woman's Heart That Dances compares the Christian life to a dance with the perfect Partner. Author Catherine Martin blends biblical encouragement, role models from Scripture, and examples in the lives of contemporary women. The book glows with her love of dance and passion for Jesus. I know very little about dance, but Catherine's descriptions are clear and compelling as she shares her experiences as both a dancer and a Christian. She talks of accepting Jesus' invitation to dance, leaning into His embrace and following His lead. Catherine offers practical advice such as “Don't be afraid to say no to some good things in your life in order to say yes to the best—time with your Lord” and “Always remember that your devotion to the Lord is a dance with Him, not an academic acquiring of facts.” I especially appreciated the chapter titled “Steps,” describing the spiritual steps we all have in common, as well as the individuality of each person's dance with Jesus. I recommend this book to new believers and experienced Christians who are seeking refreshment and new passion for the Lord.

Download a free chapter here.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Finer Things Friday: Russian Sacred Music

I like to lisen to music while I study my Bible or write, but I find most vocal music distracting. This week I downloaded Sacred Songs of Russia by Gloriae Dei Cantores from Itunes. The music provides a gloriously worshipful atmosphere, but since the words are Russian (and I don't understand Russian) they don't distract me. I can also play this downstairs the next time my kids are upstairs listening to one of those educational CDs that is great for memorizing math facts as well as driving Mama crazy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Words of Praise on Wednesday

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.
(Psalm 62:1-2)
You are my hope, Lord God,
my confidence from my youth. (Psalm 62:7)
My salvation and glory depend on God;
my strong rock, my refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:7)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recent Reading

The Real Mary, by Scot McKnight

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer (for the umpteenth time, it's the best bathtub reading)
Friday's Child, by Georgette Heyer

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years -- the latest Donald Miller book. The best since Blue Like Jazz. Excellent. Funny. Challenging.

Artists in Crime, by Ngaio Marsh -- Similar in flavor to an Agatha Christie mystery. I loved it.

I'm in the middle of
My Heart's Cry, by Anne Graham Lotz -- this woman can preach like her father but has the poetic expression of her mother. Wow.
A Woman's Heart that Dances, by Catherine Martin -- a heartwarming description of the Christian life as a dance
(My Heart's Cry and A Woman's Heart that Dances complement each other; I'm glad I'm reading them both in the same month.)

The Sacred Echo, by Margaret Feinburg -- This is a new author for me, and I love her!
When Life and Beliefs Collide, by Carolyn Custis James -- If you lead a women's Bible study, you should read this book--you'll be encouraged. If you are a sit-in-the-pew-once-a-week Christian, you should read this book--you'll be challenged. If you're in the midst of a crisis, you should read this book--you'll be comforted.