Standing on Brave Shoulders–Plus a Giveaway

Plus a Giveaway (1)

 

Candles filled the concert hall and God’s Spirit hung heavy, but this was no ordinary night of worship. God was calling us out, writing our destinies into existence.

Only 20 years old, I stood alongside the other graduates in a special commissioning service. Our ministry mentors were instructed to challenge us, calling us by a new name.

When my turn came, Paula paused to think. Finally, she scribbled out a word, folded the paper, and passed it to me.

I wanted to accept this new name, embrace it, but another claimed my life. Everyone could read the name “Timid” etched across my life.

How could I live the word “bold,” the word she prayed over me so brazenly?

Sometimes it takes years for God to fan our prayers into flame. I lost that piece of paper, but over the years, I clung to the hope it gave me.

It took a brave woman to call out the brave woman in me. In fact, it’s taken an army of brave women.

Courage begets courage, doesn’t it? We learn bravery by seeing it in action.

For instance, I needed to see my friend Fran Geiger Joslin run a publishing company, after starting it on a leap of faith.

I needed to watch Mary DeMuth live the message of her books, while daring to imagine and set in motion the Re-story Conference.

I needed to watch Heather Creekmore choose endurance and faithfully steward the message God has given her.

Seeing my friend Lea Ann Garfias choosing to be brave and launch her must-read book, Rocking Ordinary, helps me stare down fear and slay my own dragons.

We all need this kind of inspiration. That’s why I’m excited to tell you and hopefully give you a copy of the American Woman’s Bible (Thomas Nelson 2016), a study Bible that includes stories of the brave women who helped make America.

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I know I don’t need to tell you about the many bold woman who, fueled by faith, shaped our country. Their stories speak about gumption, hospitality, and sacrifice.

Their stories, past and present, remind me to be brave—how one act of bravery ripples out into the world, inciting more bravery.

On days when we don’t feel courageous, snapshots of godly woman like Ruth Bell Graham, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt, lend us tenacity and strength.

Henrietta Mears had it right when she said, “Faith is caught rather than taught.” This quote and many others from woman like Flannery O’Connor, Emily Dickinson, and Dorothy Day inspire readers and fill the pages of this Bible.

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Bold woman speak the truth to each other. We borrow and lend courage. We help each other live new names and new stories.

The Giveaway

I have two copies of the American Woman’s Bible  that I would love to give you, one hardback and one leather bound.

Here’s how to enter: If you haven’t already, like my author page on Facebook and let me know in the comments below. In a week, I’ll put all the names in a hat for a drawing and contact you if you won.

Would you consider sharing this post on social media, maybe even tagging a brave friend, too? Thanks for being brave!

3 Reasons You Might Need a Nap

_Sleep Drunk_

My son’s naptime reminds me of a scene from Honey I Blew Up the Kid.

Instead of a giant toddler ransacking Las Vegas, the only thing giant-sized in this house is my kid’s tantrums around noon.

I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood recognizes the signs. Whining morphs into crying and eventually turns into full-blown screaming.

In these moments of desperation, we play a game called “horsey wants to run.” It calms him down.

Yesterday, I scooped him up on my back and galloped toward the bed. Between giggles he said, “I don’t want a nap.”

“But you need a nap,” I said in my horsey voice, neighing and then trotting up the stairs.

“But I don’t want a nap.”

Can I just come right out and say it? If you’re cranky or anxious today, you probably need a nap too.

Adults need proper rest but often refuse to sleep, not realizing how it affects us. We lumber on like cranky toddlers, wide-eyed at the next Netflix episode or strung out over late-night comedy.

If you fall into this category, here’s three reasons you need more sleep.

  1. Creativity flows from rest.

Americans suffer chronic sleep deprivation, averaging less than 7 hours a night. That’s bad news if you make a living as a creative thinker. Loads of studies link proper rest to creativity.

Turning in early at night allows me to rise before the sun. That way I can get things done.

Often we’re duped into thinking sleeping less leads to more productivity, but that’s not the case. Going to bed early can increase work performance.

  1. Tired Brains Can’t Focus

Creativity isn’t the only thing that hinges on quantity and quality of sleep. Our attention spans and memory improve with eight hours of Zzzz’s.

Sleepy people often show signs of ADD or ADHD. If you’re having trouble concentrating, go take a nap. This article can wait.

Almost everything can wait.

Think of it this way. So much of your quality of life depends on your concentration and memory. Is finishing that book or late-night TV really worth it?

3. Sleepiness makes you feel like you’re drunk.

Recently, I stayed up way too late, relishing every moment I could spend with a group of witty, like-minded people.

I made a mistake.

It was late, and as the night waxed into morning, my body cried out for sleep, but I ignored it. Maybe you’re ignoring some of the symptoms, too.

  1. Forgetfulness
  2. Incessant yawning
  3. Giddiness
  4. Speed blinking to keep your eyes open

After a few nights of this routine, one thought plagued me—I feel drunk. Though no wine or spirits flowed, I found myself babbling and laughing incessantly.

Turns out, I’m not alone. Studies show, missing sleep can make us feel and act inebriated. I call it “sleepy drunk.”

That week I babbled on into the wee hours, but struggled to keep my mind for wandering during the day. My emotions, too, were a wreck.

While we’ll all have late nights sometimes, make sure they’re the exception to the rule.

Sleep does our minds and bodies good.

That little morsel of wisdom is worth drinking to—as long we’re drinking coffee (and decaf after 1 p.m.).

I would love to hear from you! How does sleep affect the quality of your life?

 

Laugh or Cry—Just Live Your Crazy, Quirky Life

me and mike

“Just be. Do you know how to just be?” my mother asked as I jetted out the door.

“I’ll try,” I said, waving goodbye to my kids.

Truth is I’m not so good at “being.” I’m a doer who loves to keep moving. Perhaps you are too.

When busyness beats heavy on our lives, sometimes we need to push away and find a quiet place. For me that happened a couple weeks ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

I even took the time to watch the Chewbacca Mom’s video. (I practically live under a rock, so you know that the entire internet saw this video.)

When I saw Candace Payne laughing hysterically, I didn’t need for the successful authors to explain personal branding to me. Candace’s video brought it all home. Just be yourself, your crazy, quirky self.

Just be.

For me, this means I need to lay aside people-pleasing.

Last week at church, I heard Matt Chandler preach this thought-provoking sermon, where he said all our idols stem from four basic sources:

  1. Comfort
  2. Control
  3. Approval
  4. Power

While I might struggle with all four, the approval idol holds a stranglehold on my life. It keeps me measuring up to other people’s standards. It ruins authenticity and shatters confidence.

Here’s the thing about idols. The devil doesn’t want us to see the ways our hearts crave and praise other things. He loves busyness because it masks our idolatry.

Those five days I spent at the writer’s conference gave me time to pause and listen to the silent driver behind so many of my decisions. So much of my fear is rooted in the idol of approval.

Finding some breathing room in the midst of life’s chaos also means we can reconnect with the One who conquered sin—the stunning One that heals and cleanses us of idolatry.

At the conference—besides running smack dab into my disease to please—I cried a lot. I even broke down crying in front of several well-known authors.

I cried tears of joy at the realization I’m not the only struggling writer. I broke down in frustration. I wept as I laid down the writing/approval idol.

I even teared up during pitches to agents and publishers, too. You know what? I don’t even care if everyone remembers me as “that weepy girl.”

It was real. Turns out just being requires honesty. Maybe Candace Payne has raucous laughter, and I have buckets of tears?

God wants to set us free moment by moment as we live and breathe in His presence.

What are some ways you can slow down and create some breathing room in your life?

How to Hit Home Runs in Real Life

Don't LoseFocus

I remember the heat, the red dirt of the field, and my coach feeding the yellow softball into the pitching machine.

And with an explosion of power and a WHACK—the ball soared over the center field fence.

Instant home run. Oh, how I wished that had happened during an actual game.

With raised brows—and grabbing a ball from the bucket—my coach simply said, “Let’s try it like that again.”

I never did. Sure I had great hits afterward, but I never hit the ball over the fence again.

Maybe I lacked the muscle, talent, or discipline. I don’t know.

A decade and a half later I’ve begun to see that hit as hundreds of variables colliding in just the right way—like an amateur golfer who hits his first hole-in-one.

The conditions lined up—the right pitch, speed, and wind. The perfect swing of the right bat meeting the ball at just the right spot, that “sweet spot.”

Life is like this, isn’t it? Sometimes circumstances line up, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opens to us—a great job or running into the person you end up marrying.

On that day 15 years ago the only thing I really did right was to keep my eyes trained on the ball.

Focus.

Keep your eye on the ball. It’s simple advice that coaches hand out in T-Ball dugouts.

Though I haven’t touched a bat in years, I need this maxim now more than ever. Work, marriage, and motherhood grapple for my attention, and it’s easy to operate in emergency mode, where I lose myself to the day’s distractions.

Sometimes I convince myself that I control outcomes, but I know the only thing I really control is my level of focus.

Maybe your own dreams are sidelined, and it’s time to prioritize them again. Click To Tweet

We can work on our swing, sure, and improve our technique. But maintaining focus seems to trip up even the most practiced athlete.

Staying focused requires a mental fortitude, what my longtime coach and mother always called, “mental toughness.”

We must practice the art of training our eyes on the ball. But even still, every batter reaches a point where the ball falls out of their peripheral vision. Around mid-swing or so, batters must rely on muscle memory and . . . chance.

After every swing, there are only two outcomes—a hit or a strike. All we can do is try to connect with as many pitches that come our way, and know that God is in control of the outcomes.

And even if we strike out, we need to go down swinging. Because in the game of life, there’s always another pitch coming.

Living with Fear? Break UP with Fear for Good

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Fear began stalking me a couple of years ago. I admit, I let it follow me at a distance for years.

But then I made one of the biggest mistake of my life.

I allowed Fear to move in, along with all its baggage. Once inside, Fear drudged up daily anxiety. Before I knew it, panic plagued my sleep. I even started grinding my teeth, breaking several in the process.

Fear took over my life, steered my every decision, and wringed joy clear out of my life. Fear held me hostage from writing for so many years.

Can I just confess something to you? I have MAJOR social media anxiety. My face flushes and my pulse rises before I hit “publish” on this blog, Facebook, and even Twitter for goodness sakes.

I’m afraid of snarky comments from Internet bullies. I’m scared of people laughing at me, or worse, thinking I love the limelight.

See the fear I’m up against?

For years, I’ve lived in a Fear-spun prison, but that ends today. This week, my writer friend Heather Creekmore challenged me to blog once a week “no matter what”—and to post to social media.

I’ve taken her up on the challenge, and I’ve learned a two huge things about Fear.

#1 If we want to break up with fear, we must defeat unbelief.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Fear’s ugly underbelly is unbelief.

We evict Fear from our lives the same way we kick an abusive boyfriend to the curb. And I’m not talking about getting a baseball bat—but calling in the authorities.

For years, I tried to rid myself of Fear, but it always came back. This time, though, I’ve taken my unbelief to God—the ultimate authority—and asked Him to help me kick Fear where it hurts.

I asked for faith—raw belief—the unshakable kind I can’t stir up on my own. All I can say is, it’s working.

#2 Fear looks scarier than it is.

Remember Scooby Doo? As a kid I lived for the big villain reveal at the end. Once Wilma or one of the others took off the villain’s mask, we saw the truth. Beneath the costume, a person appeared.

This reminds me of Fear. Fear wears a disguise, always duping us into believing the worst case scenario. Click To Tweet

But something wonderful happens when we muster the courage to face it. When we look under Fear’s mask, we will probably laugh at ourselves for being so afraid.

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Instead of a big, hairy monster, we see an ordinary problem that God’s already given us the grace to handle.

Do you need to sever your relationship with Fear? With God’s help you can put an end to that toxic relationship.

Will you join me the challenge to kick fear in the face? Leave a comment below about a fear you’re up against, and I would love to pray for you this week.

I’m looking forward to our discussions here every week.

Hope for Those Feeling Weak

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I need you to tell me that I’m enough.

I texted my husband this message the way a sinking ship shoots up a flare.

Perhaps you’ve been in a similar sinking boat of emotions, feeling run down, depleted, or small.

Worthless, even.

I can barely whisper this bully of a word. I certainly don’t want you to know how I’ve cowered in its shadow most of my life.

Worthlessness is the single thread running through all my issues—all my hang-ups and failings.

Am I enough? Am I worthy of time, attention, affection?

This slave driver runs my life, driving me to prove myself to the world, but here’s the good news. We can choose to bask in God’s love.

We can trade worthlessness for wild love. Click To Tweet

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My friend Mary DeMuth just wrote a whole book on this subject. In Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy, Mary teaches us how to defeat the 10 lies that kill our worth.

If you find yourself engulfed in the flames of insecurity, this book extinguishes fire.

It teaches how to get off the treadmill of perfectionism, how to unshackle your worth from your to-do lists.

And I’m learning so much from it, bookmarking page after page, like this gem:

“If our worth is settled, we no longer have to run around this life desperately trying to prove it. We no longer have to use people’s opinions to feel better about ourselves. We can give up trying to do so many things in order to garner applause.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing things out of worry, fear, and guilt.

When we know God’s audacious love deep in our bones, “we live an abundant life based on our worth. We become irresistible to others who are hungry for our settled sense of worth and worthiness,” Mary writes.

So, when I’m tempted to believe my worth hinges on my productivity—how well I’m measuring up to my to-do list, I remember the truth.

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This book ya’ll!—if you buy and read one book this year, you won’t regret this one.

You are wildly, wonderfully loved. You don’t have to live with roller-coaster feelings of… Click To Tweet

 

 

Bound for Bangkok

A Bangkok peanut salesman. Photo by Tord Remme, via Fllickr.

A Bangkok peanut salesman. Photo by Tord Remme, via Fllickr.

Photo by Mike Behnken, via Flickr.

Photo by Mike Behnken, via Flickr.

Ten years ago, while sitting in the breakroom of at work, I overheard a colleague tell a bad joke. I only remember the sophomoric humor ended with the punchline “Bangkok.”

I remember laughing a little too late and worrying that this joke-teller, a senior copyeditor at the newspaper, might doubt my knowledge of geography.

Since I billed myself as a “global citizen,” this bothered me.

I studied international relations in college, made sushi with my Japanese roommates, and waited tables alongside students from Nepal, Pakistan, Lebanon, and all across the Middle East.

When work slowed at the restaurant, we quizzed each other with games like: “Name the capital cities that begin with the letter ‘B.’”

Brussels, Budapest, Buenos Aries. I don’t know if I would have listed Bangkok back then.

I never dreamed I would visit Thailand’s capital city, home of the “reclining Buddha,” the Grand Palace, and a whole lot of spicy street food. Isn’t it just like God to take us to places we don’t plan to go?

God recently opened the door for me to teach pastors how to write and publish in their native languages. In June, I’ll travel to RREACH’s Global Proclamation Congress, where more than 5,000 pastoral trainers will gather from all over Asia.

Through two seminars, I’ll pass on my passion for good writing and God’s Word, and how these go hand in hand.

I work for a nonprofit that publishes Bible resources in languages that need them most. Authenticity Book House is like the Wycliffe of Bible commentaries.

Through ABH, I’ll help give away thousands of Bible commentaries to pastors who need resources.

Did you know 95 percent of pastors worldwide receive no pastoral training whatsoever? That’s 450 pastors with no training to every 1 who receives the gift of education.

Would you consider praying for me as I travel to Bangkok?

  • Would you pray for strategic partnerships with editors and translators?
  • And for us to give away 1 million free downloads.

If you would like to consider supporting this Bangkok trip financially, a gift of any amount is appreciated. You can give here, but please add my name and “Thailand mission trip” to the notes section.

I would love to hear if you’ve ever been in or near Thailand. What was it like?

Has God ever taken you somewhere you thought you’d never go?

Grand Palace, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Grand Palace, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

 

Water taxis in Bangkok, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Water taxis in Bangkok, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

The Myth of “One Day”

The MythofMore

For years I thought I could finally relax, finally rest and feel satisfied once my world was in the order.

Once my house was cleaned . . .

Once the kids were in bed . . .

Once we could save a little money . . .

Once our careers really got of the ground . . .

Once I attained my ideals I thought the emptiness—the gnawing hollowness and discontentment would fade. I thought once I achieved “enough,” I’d be satisfied, but that day never arrived. Click To Tweet

I finally did get my house cleaned, and the kids in bed, and a little money saved. Our careers really began to fly, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something.

Meanwhile, I had dinner to cook and soccer practices to cart the kids to. We bought a house in the suburbs, the kind of neighborhood I never thought I’d live in, with a lake and manicured lawns. Time slipped by and I kept sensing the hollow feeling, that I was meant for more and made for more.

I totally misinterpreted this restlessness. I pushed myself to produce and do more. And boy did I have things to do with the diapers and dishes stacking up. And then, in what must have been an act of insanity, I volunteered my husband and I to take over the youth group at our church. In the flurry of activity and then a new baby, I kept coming up empty. I knew the answer was in Jesus. Of course I did.

But I was Eve staring at that piece of forbidden fruit, dissatisfied with the known. Always wanting more.

The Path to Lasting Satisfaction

That first sin crippled mankind’s ability to live loved by destroying mankind’s relationship with God. The world has never been the same.

I picture sin’s entrance into the world a bit like the movie The Wizard of Oz, only in reverse. When Dorothy reaches the way to Oz, the yellow brick road, her world transforms from black and white into a Technicolor dream. Sin, on the other hand, left humans in grainy black and white, the absence of God’s presence.

Sin’s devastation wreaked havoc on the union Adam and Eve shared with God. It ended their strolls their the garden. I can’t imagine the regret Adam lived with, the gaping absence of God’s nearness. The pain he must have suffered the remainder of his life. How do you live in harmony with all of nature, wielding the greenest thumb of all time, only to battle with the ground by the sweat of your brow?

To know Love himself, but then lose intimacy with him? To go from ultimate satisfaction, finding identity in God alone, but to have that ripped away only to face frustration and discontentment?

Imagine winning an all-inclusive vacation package, complete with decadent food, expensive drinks, and an opulent suite, only to be kicked out of the resort. A few days later, you sit hungry and alone, eating leftovers out of a restaurant’s trash can on the other side of the island. You remember the taste of the creme brulee, the bubbly feeling of champagne in your mouth.

When you’ve tasted perfection how do you return to bland food?

The ache for more that we all experience is the echo of eternity written on our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). Click To TweetPerfect Love continues to woo us—the dissatisfied and disappointed, the forbidden-fruit eaters, the fail-ers and the unfulfilled. We don’t pursue God without him first pursuing us. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit first draws them (John 6:44). God invites us to seek fulfillment in him.

He longs to rescue us from eating out of the trash heap so we can be his guests at a never-ending feast.

Author’s note: The above is an excerpt from my work in progress, a book about chasing contentment in God.

4 Reasons I Quit Using My Bible App

Why I Quite Using Add heading

I never meant for my phone’s Bible app to replace my Bible. It just sort of happened.

Gradually, YouVersion was the only way I read the Bible. It started off great. I kept track of where I left off. I could listen and read simultaneously, which added depth to my reading.

Then laziness set in and I only half-heartedly listened. Here’s where it gets embarrassing. At some point I discovered all the multitasking I could do while listening to my Bible . . . like play Solitaire.

Even as I completed my reading each day, I wasn’t getting anything out of it. My mind wondered, and when I used my phone app, it wondered A LOT.

I can’t even tell you the number of times I opened the wrong app. Call it muscle memory, but my fingers seemed to always find Facebook or Twitter. And just like that twenty minutes vanished.

So I’m quitting my Bible app and here’s four reasons why:

1. I’m going back to my leather Bible because I want my kids to see me reading it. I want them to see me pacing around the house with my nose in the Book, not the app. God knows they see me often enough with my phone. I want them to know mommy reads her Bible.

2. I miss holding the soft leather cover and flipping the thin pages. I love to underline and write in the margin. I know you can do that in the app, but it’s not the same as inking a sentence I hope my grandchildren will one day read. Turns out, Crossway makes a Bible for scribblers like me. You can check it out here.

3. I want to linger on the pages. Since the app the quality of my Bible reading has slipped big time. I love the Bible app in a pinch and for those who wouldn’t otherwise read it, but I know me. I tend to hustle through. I don’t want to read the Bible the same way I read my e-mail or text messages.

4. I want to remember where stuff is. Remember Bible drills? I dominated at that game. The youth leader would usually say. “Take out your swords,” (meaning the Bible). Next we would race to whatever obscure book and verse they called.

Today, while thumbing through my Bible, I caught myself thinking, “Where is Galatians again?” Use it or lose it as they say. I’m already losing so much attention and focus to my phone. I don’t want to lose this too.

Don’t everyone go quit your Bible app. YouVersion and other apps are wonderful tools, and the app developers are pure geniuses. But for me, the decision seems right at this stage in my life.

I may still use it from time to time, when I’m in a waiting room or to listen to it in the car. I’m sure I’ll whip it out when life gets hectic, but I’m done with depending on my phone for my Bible.

I’m saving my phone for audiobooks and e-books, not for reading the Good Book. For that I want to hold it in my hands and flip the pages.

What about you? What’s your favorite way to read the Bible?

Laundry, Motherhood, Prayer

IMG_0007.JPGAs a child I daydreamed of monasteries and monks and what it would be like to cloister away all day to pray and read.

I love solitude, and I thought monks—with all their praying—were as close to God as you could get.

Ok, maybe I was a weird kid. But even as a child I saw prayer’s importance.

In junior high I scrawled my prayer needs into a journal, faithfully tending that list. By high school praying had etched itself in me, carrying me through two years of ministry training and then college.

I never really struggled to pray—not until marriage and motherhood, when diapers and dishes swallowed up my time. After kids, the question, “Have I prayed today?” quickly turned into “Did I remember to brush my teeth?”

On these days I appreciate the simple prayers—what Anne Lamont calls the “three essential prayers, “Wow,” “Help,” and “Thanks.”

Motherhood showed me how I complicated prayer. I treated prayer like an end itself—like a spiritual barometer—not the bridge to know Jesus.

I no longer see prayer like a subject we can master. It’s not a game we win or lose.

Imagine if we charted and measured how much we talked to our spouses or our children?

God doesn’t watch us from on high with a stop watch, calculating how many minutes we devote, just like I don’t carefully measure the minutes my sons spend with me.

But I do take note when they choose to snuggle up next to me. I notice their small acts of gratitude and love. God, too, notices when his children trust him enough to come—not out of duty—but out of love. God doesn’t judge us by the clock, but he does test our hearts for faith.

Sometimes we forget that mountains don’t move because of heavy-duty lifting in the act of prayer, but the faith behind the prayer—faith in the Mountain Mover.

We earth-dwellers so often forget that without faith we will never please God (Heb. 11:6).

As humans this confounds us. I can picture myself in that fanatical crowd after Jesus feeds the five thousand. They can’t wait to find out what they must do to accomplish God-pleasing work. Jesus’ answer still catches me by surprise.

He didn’t tell them to go to the synagogue to pray for hours or send them away pledging a laundry list of good works.

Here’s how John’s Gospel records it, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:29).

Believing. The true work of God is not in doing, but believing.

Allow that truth to sneak into your heart and smuggle out the fear your prayers don’t matter or measure up. Allow the grace-healing power of belief to set you free so you can keep trusting and talking to the One who offers unending relationship.

And when we begin to remember that our prayer walk is really a love walk, we’ll run to prayer

Practical Prayer Help

  • Don’t wait for quiet to have a “quiet time.” Solitude may never come, but God can calm your nerves and anxious heart when the house pulses with the busyness of life.
  •  Plan it. Set your alarm and coffee pot. If you want to develop a workout routine, habit experts tell us to lay out our clothes the night before. In the same way remove some of the barriers to prayer. Get your spot ready, complete with Bible, blanket, pen, and notepad.
  • Carve out time. Make what Ann Voskamp calls “hard stops” to pray. I think of these as little mini vacations from work and kids—time to connect with God, if only for five minutes.
  • Get sleep. Sleep might as well be a spiritual disciple because without enough of it, all the other spiritual disciplines falter.
  • Walk. For me motionless prayer so often lapses into sleeping, so I pace around my house to keep myself awake and focused. If you’re able, quit the house for a prayer walk outside.