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How to Celebrate Lent with Your Family

Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As a child, I remember the solemn mass of Ash Wednesday and being anointed with ashes in the sign of the cross on my forehead. As an adult, I attend a Protestant church, but I’ve always loved the traditional church calendar recognized by the Catholic Church. There is something special about marking the start of church seasons, don’t you think? 



What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is called Ash Wednesday because of the practice of putting ashes on worshipers foreheads as a sign of humility before God and as a sign of mourning for the death and destruction that sin brings into the world.

What Is the Purpose of Lent?

The season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with Holy Week: Holy Thursday, (Maundy Thursday),  Good Friday, and concluding the Saturday before Easter. Today, Lent is used as a time of prayer and preparation for Easter. We can look inward to see what needs to be confessed and changed in our lives. Some Christians fast and/or give up something for Lent as a sacrificial offering, while others focus on doing good deeds to help others. 

I love author Ruth Haley Barton’s take on Lent. She makes us think deeply by recommending we all ask ourselves this question, “Where in my life have I gotten away from God, and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?”

Ideas to Make Lent Special

As Ruth’s question suggests, marking the time of Lent in a thoughtful way will help you to prepare your heart for Easter. Perhaps you could even invite a family member or friend to join you in this journey. If you have young children, they may enjoy starting their own mini-ministry (see the last bullet point) or reading short prayers or scriptures with you. Here’s a list of suggestions, or feel free to try one of your own.

  • Give up a favorite food as a sacrifice to God.
  • Work on breaking a bad habit you have.
  • Add a new beneficial habit that you’ve been meaning to start that will improve either your body, soul, or spirit.
  • Practice Lectio Divina, also called sacred reading.
  • Practice a spiritual discipline that sounds interesting: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, self-denial, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, or celebration.
  • Read Lent selections from the Book of Common Prayer or other prayer books.
  • Start a mini ministry of encouragement. Each day find some way to encourage others: a quick note, a piece of candy, a hug, and so on. (More on mini ministries coming soon).

Let’s all take some time to settle in with God during the season of Lent. We’d love to hear your ideas on making this a sacred season. Please share below in the comments.

Blessings,

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Re-Adventing Advent: Let Go of the Familiar & Find the Divine

Advent

How can you go about “re-adventing” Advent and Christmas in the midst of the unfamiliar, the challenges of 2020? What does this look like for you and your family? If you’re feeling discouraged about your holiday celebrations, hold on. In this video and PDF, we have some suggestions.



That’s the topic we shared with a group of MOPS moms in St. Louis. We were honored to be invited to speak with them for an Advent event. Due to Covid, we recorded a video instead of speaking in person. We thought it might be helpful for others too.

Mary and Joseph in Isolation

In this Re-adventing Advent video, we discuss how Mary and Joseph responded to their unusual situation that first Christmas. Life changed in an instant for both of them. They had to deal with challenging circumstances and outright danger as they were isolated from family and friends and all that was familiar.

We also are having to give up much of the cherished and familiar in our lives this year. Let’s discover what we can learn from their example as we journey through an Advent and Christmas that looks different this holiday season. How can we make it special?

We hope you’ll join us by listening to the video. We’ve also listed some ideas in our Re-Adventing Advent PDF (available at the bottom of this post) that you can download and use through the season.

Ultimately, our prayer for you is that in Re-Adventing Advent 2020, as you have to let go of the familiar, you will find the Divine.

Thank you for journeying with us. If you would like more resources on Advent, you can check out our book Advent-urous, Seeking Jesus This Season and join our Advent Facebook group. We’d love to hear your comments on how you are re-adventing Advent this year. Questions? Contact us here.




Advent: How To Celebrate the Season

Advent

Advent is just around the corner (it starts on November 29), and what better way is there to get our minds off of ourselves (or Covid or politics or …)  than by cozying in with God as we prepare for the arrival of Jesus as Messiah?



Journey with Us

We would like to invite you to journey with us through Advent. This has been a challenging year, and I think all of us could use some time to seek God and prepare our hearts for the holiday season. Mary and I will be leading a group of fellow adventurers on our Advent-urous: Seeking Jesus this Season Facebook group. Simply click on the link to check out the group and join. We’d love to have you. 

We will be using our Advent-urous Kindle devotional book that is available on Amazon. (It happens to be free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.) This is a light time requirement. We have one reading/theme per week (5 weeks total) with suggested activities to explore the theme as little or as much as you’d like over the next seven days.

Activities

Many of our activities are simple and don’t require lots of preparation or resources.

  • For example, for the first Sunday, one of our activities is to try a new prayer posture.
  • Another is to pray by candlelight.
  • There are a few others that take a bit more preparation, but we tried to do a nice mix between the two.
  • If you wish, you can then share your thoughts and activities on our Facebook group page as you journey through the week.
  • For 2020, we’ve updated the book with a poem and a Christmas Eve Liturgy read aloud that you can add to your Christmas celebration with your family and friends if you’d like.

We hope to see you in our Advent-urous Facebook group. Just let us know in the comment section if you have any questions.

Advent Podcast

We wanted to share another resource with you. Several years ago, we recorded an Advent podcast. We hope it also helps prepare you for the season as we delve more deeply into the Christmas story.

Happy Advent!

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Timely Ways to Pray for the USA

With all that’s going on in America this year, have you ever felt discouraged about the state of our nation? I know that Mary and I have. In the late spring, and into the summer, we were feeling stressed. Truth be told, we’d felt like that for a few months. We both had a lot of changes going on in our lives, even without Covid-19, the election, and the chaos in our cities.

Called to Hope

However, as the summer progressed, God was drawing us back to the basics, and one of the things that meant was back to our Only By Prayer website. We did a major revamp of the site and went into a planning frenzy. As we sought Him for what that looked like, God reminded us that Jesus calls us to be people of hope and to faint not. One powerful tool that we always have when we need to fight the enemy and his schemes is prayer. Rather than despairing of ever seeing things change for the better, God reminded us to be a catalyst of change for the better.



Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’

Lamentations 3: 22-24 NKJ

Pray for the USA

Patiently, He impressed upon us the importance to stop moping and to start praying for the USA more and to mobilize others to pray too. With that said, we’d like to give you an update on what’s in the works here at Only By Prayer so you can join us if you’d like. 

  1. Facebook prayer group. We revamped a Facebook group we started four years ago and renamed it Pray for the USA. We then launched an event called 5 Days to Fast and Pray for our Nation in August. To our surprise, as of October 2020, God has brought over 800 people to the group to pray. Thank you, Lord! We’d love to have you join us as well. It’s a non-partisan group, and we do not allow any political arguments on the page — just praying.
  2. October Event. We are ramping up for our next event on Pray for the USA: 5 Days to Pray for the Election. This is another virtual prayer event held on October 28, October 29, October 30, November 2, and November 3. We are adding 24-Hour Prayer to this event in addition to our daily prayer topics. Be sure to check out the details. 
  3. Pray for the USA Prayer book! As we were organizing the prayer group, we realized how hard it can be sometimes to pray specifically about issues that are happening in our country. Mary felt God leading us to write a 31-day book of prayers targeted to culturally relevant issues of our day. Again the Lord came through. We recently finished this short book called Pray for the USA, and it’s now available for sale on Amazon. You don’t have to have an actual Kindle tablet to read it. You can download the Kindle app for your phone or computer and read it that way. We think you’ll find it helpful to pray through the relevant issues of our day. It only takes about two minutes or so to pray each prayer. If you happen to be a member of Kindle unlimited, you can actually read Pray for the USA for free. If you do purchase it/read it, we’d love if you’d leave us a review on Amazon.
  4. ThanksLiving event. In November we are hosting our 12 Days to ThanksLiving event. It will run from Friday, November 13, to Tuesday, November 24. It will be held entirely on our website and is completely free. Details to follow soon.
  5. Advent devotion. In late November through December, we will be leading a group through our Advent devotional (also published on Kindle) called Advent-urous: Seeking Jesus in the Season of Advent . This starts on Sunday, November 29 and runs through December 24, with a bonus week after Christmas. 
  6. 3 Weeks to a Healthier You. In the works for January 11-29 is a new venture we are starting called 3 Weeks to a Healthier You, Body, Soul, and Spirit. More information to follow on this, but we are excited because the body segment will include an exercise program developed just for our group by certified fitness trainer Sarah Lewis. Sarah is also available for online training in these Covid times if you’e interested.

Join Us

Finally, we thank you for your support. We hope you join us for Pray for the USA and however many of the other events you wish. We’re excited for the upcoming months and how God is working in each of our lives during these difficult times. We pray He is encouraging you and your families too. Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below. May God bless you!

Our latest book on Amazon called Pray for the USA
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Cancel Culture, an Old Tactic

Cancel Culture

Cancel culture is alive and well in America today. 

If you dare to disagree with whatever “they” deem to be acceptable thinking on a topic or issue, the mob gangs up and cancels you — your social media presence, you job or business, whatever it is that is important to you and your livlihood. You’re now a cancel culture victim.



We see it on both sides of the political aisle, as people and companies are boycotted by those who disagree with them, all with the intent of destroying reputations, social status, and finances.

This ultimate rejection isn’t new. It’s an old tactic that’s been around a long time.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

John 10:10 Amplified

Satan is the original cancel culture maven. He wants you to fail, so he will do all he can to discourage you, steal your blessings of peace and  joy, kill your relationship with God, and destroy your life’s purpose and calling. In short, his desire is to cancel every Christ-follower. 

How do we recognize our enemy? Let’s look at a few of his tactics.

Sometimes the voice of rejection that is shouting the loudest in my head is my own voice. 

What? How could this be? Well, think about what you’re filling your head with. What thoughts are taking up the precious real estate in your brain, as Dr. Caroline Leaf is fond of saying. 

First, the enemy plants a negative thought in our minds, and before we know it, we’ve not questioned whether it’s true or not, but we’ve accepted it as true, and we let its poison have free rein in our minds.

For instance, after years of believing that God would equip me to do what He was calling me to do, the thought popped into my head that that wouldn’t be true for me any longer.  What God was calling me to do in this next phase of life was just too big for me to do, too audacious.

Who was Just Little Old Me to think that God would take the time to equip me to do this? I chewed on that thought, I hate to admit, for months, and my faith plummeted. I felt stuck, depressed, and lethargic. I wasted a lot of time in the doldrums by letting those thoughts run unchecked through my brain. 

Another problem is the voice of comparison. 

I don’t have to look very far to find those doing similar work as I am who are 

  • smarter
  • younger
  • better connected
  • more resourceful
  • prettier

By the time I’ve made it to the bottom of that list, I’ve forgotten all about the calling on my life and how God has equipped me in the past. 

But God hasn’t.

Finally, I started listening to the right voice in my head. The voice of the Holy Spirit who reminded me that I can do all things God wants me to do “through Christ who strengthens me.”

I stopped giving the negative voice in my head so much real estate and started thinking God’s thoughts. I realized that Satan was trying to cancel God’s purpose and plans for me in this next phase of life, but that on the cross God had already canceled Satan’s hold on my life. I just needed to believe it.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble] according to the traditions [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth — the teachings of] Christ.

Colossians 2:8 Amplified

If we didn’t have a choice in the matter, God would have never told us to “see to it.” It’s my choice what I think and what I believe. Don’t let Satan push the cancel button on your calling.

See to it that you find it and live it out. 

How about you? What is the enemy trying to cancel in your life right now? And what do you need to do to cancel him? Let me know in the comments below.




5 Days to Fast & Pray for our Nation

If your heart has been broken by the state of affairs in our nation, we’re right there with you. What can we do?



Join 5 Days to Fast & Pray for our Nation

5 Days to Fast & Pray

Mary and I invite you to join us August 10-14, 2020, for the 5 Days to Fast and Pray for our Nation initiative. We’re basing this week’s prayer and fast on the following verse:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

Here is a brief description of the group: This non-partisan group is for like-minded individuals who wish to pray in accordance with the truth of the Bible for the leadership, direction, and healing of the United States of America.

2020 has been filled with many challenges, and we think it’s important that as many people as possible are praying during this time.

Details

  • Join the Facebook group.
  • Pray according to the daily theme.
  • Try an activity.
  • Choose an optional fast: TV show, food or food group, meal, day, or technology.
  • Join in the daily Post & Pray on Facebook at any time of the day.
  • Attend the virtual live prayer time on Wednesday, August 12.

If the idea of fasting is holding you back, please don’t let that stop you. It is optional. If you’ve never done any type of fasting before and would like to try, we have several ideas that will allow you to try it out “gently.” Read through this previous post on fasting for some possibilities.

Thank you for considering this. Again, you can join the Facebook group here.We will be posting on the Facebook page leading up to the August event, and you will receive a 5 Days’ Prayer Guide to use as we get closer to the event. Our country needs your prayers. Please join us.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please respond to the end of this post. We’ll be happy to provide additional information.

Blessings,

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