Holding onto God’s Hands

jesus hands

Psalm 73: 23-24 I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, or years when everything goes wrong? Health issues, financial problems, family struggles, or the death of a loved one—these are all things that can rip the joy from you, zap you of your strength, or leave you wondering if God is even out there.

How often, during these times, do we think our prayers have gone unanswered? Or that God has turned his back on us? Or that he doesn’t care?

Even if our faith runs deep, it is easy to get into that rut of believing the worst. It’s human nature. But I assure you, God will be with you every step of the way. He won’t stop at just walking beside you. He will, as the scripture says, hold you by his right hand. He will be your teacher, counselor, and mentor. He will guide you through the rough times, if you listen for his voice and search his word.

I knew a woman who had lost her first and only child to crib death, or SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The impact of that child’s death rippled through our small church with the force of a tsunami. A short time afterwards, I found her in one of the Sunday school rooms cleaning the toys, wiping off the shelves, and singing. When she sang, when she prayed, or even when she shed her tears across the altar, she believed God was her strength. He held her hand, and guided her through the valley of the shadow of death.

But most of all, she knew God had led her baby into glory. And that one day, he would lead her through, too. She’d be able to hold her child in her arms once again.

This is his promise to us. A promise we can count on.

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Launching Your Book With Power

 

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How do you launch a book with power?

When we neared the launch date for our book, The Shepherd’s Song, we began to become anxious. Pressure built. How could be good stewards of this book that we felt God had place in our hands? What to do? We read, we Googled, we asked our friends but nothing seemed quite right. Then, we remembered.

The basis of the book had been prayer. We had prayed together during the writing of the book. We had prayed for each other and we had enlisted a prayer team to pray. The answer was simple. We would launch the book with prayer. But how?

Forty days out from the release of the book we began a forty day prayer launch. We prayed first for God to give us 40 people who would pray for 40 days. We put the request out on social media and we had 164 people sign up to pray with us. God blessed us abundantly.

This is how we set it up:

We created a list on Mail Chimp with a sign-up form that we posted on Twitter and Facebook and sent out to our newsletter list.  t was a simple request for anyone who wanted to join the prayer launch for the book.

We sent a one-sentence email prayer by Mail Chimp to the 164 people each morning for 40 days. Like these short prayers:

Put this book in the right hands at the right times.

Prepare the hearts of the people in Germany for this book.

Bless the marketing team as they plan for this book.

Bless the readers to accept God as their Shepherd.

For 40 days we all prayed. Then the book went out!

So, how do you evaluate the success of a prayer launch? You can’t measure the results in numbers. But here are some things that happened afterwards.

During an event at a church in South Carolina a woman we did not know came up and introduced herself. She said, “I prayed for this book.” A few tears were shed!

A woman in North Carolina was one of our first reviewers on Amazon. Her life had been changed by the book as she prayed for others to be moved by God’s Word.

Several of the prayer partners wrote to tell how the daily prayers had been used by God in their own lives on a particular day.

Best of all we were reminded daily that the book was God’s and not ours. That He would use His ways to share His words. That we had no need to be anxious.

What do think about a prayer launch? Some of you may have been part of this one. We would love to hear about it from your perspective.

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

www.WritingSisters.com

 

Shepherd Song

 

 

I Wish I Could Google God

Photo/KarenJordanIf only I could “google” God for answers to life’s problems. Then, I could just type a question and get one right answer—the Truth.

As a writer, I don’t always come up with the best questions to ask to find the solutions I need. And at times, I don’t know what to pray when I’m burdened by life challenges.

So, I wish I could enter a word or phrase into my Internet search engine, trusting that God would grant me the exact direction I needed.

As I share in my family’s struggle with their painful issues, I don’t even pretend to know how to help them manage their lives. How can I intercede for someone else, when I don’t know how to pray about my own problems?

Many days, I can’t even express the concerns of my heart. But I’ve discovered some powerful promises in the Bible that help me navigate through the turbulent waters of my worry life.

How can we find rest from our stressful lives?

… Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NLT)

 How can we know that God hears our prayers?

 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. (1 John 5:15)

What if we don’t know what to pray?

 … the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Rom. 8:26-27)

What if you don’t believe that you can hear from God? God’s Word answers, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me … ” (John 10:25 NIV).

What are you worried about today? Philippians 4:6 encourages us, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns” (MSG).

I still wrestle with how and what to pray at times. I am thankful for the recorded Word of God. It serves as a lifeboat that I can rely on when unexpected storms roll in, or when I need to pray for others who are drowning in their ocean of worries.

Father, we need you, but we don’t know what to say.
Thank You for Your Spirit, Who guides us when we pray.
Holy Spirit, intercede—You alone know our needs. Amen.

Will you share a promise from God’s Word that has helped you find direction?

Four Promises for Facing Self-Induced Pressure or Deadlines

Photo/KarenJordan“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NLT).

Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe because of self-induced pressure or someone else’s expectations of me. And at times, I get tired even thinking about trying to follow through on all of the commitments that I’ve made as a freelance writer.

But I know that “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:17 MSG).

So, when I finally sit down and bring my feelings to the Lord, I remember His promises of freedom, strength, provision, and peace.

Freedom from judgment. Romans 8:1-2 reveals the promise that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death (MSG).

Strength for our weakness. God also promises to give me His strength in my weaknesses. In 2 Cor. 12:9-10, I read,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become (MSG).

Provision for our needs. And did you know that God also promises to provide all that you need in Christ Jesus? “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19 NLT).

Peace through prayer. So, if you’re struggling with self-induced pressure or fighting a battle with judgment or condemnation, I encourage you to stop what you’re doing for just a moment and voice your fears and needs to God. He promises to provide His peace through prayer.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Phil 4:6-7 MSG)

How do you deal with your self-induced pressure as a writer?

Praying Psalm 23 for Writers

Sheep

Sheep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord is my Shepherd:  Sheep are stubborn, fearful, and crowd followers, like people. We need a shepherd to lead us. We must surrender our life and work to God.

Lord, you are my Shepherd. I place myself and my words under your authority.

I shall not want: God is all sufficient. When we trust God to provide for us, we can let go of the wants of ego. He redefines success.

Lord help me to want what you want for me and for my work.

He makes me lie down in green pastures: Writing is endless and the refreshment of rest and renewal is essential.

Help me find the balance of work and rest.

He leads me beside still waters: We know the difference between our own exertion and divine filling when the words flow like gentle waters.

Lead me to inspiration and fill me to overflowing with your words.

He restores my soul: We are strongest in the areas where we have been healed.

Restore my spirit, Lord. Heal me that I may heal others.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake: He provides that daily connection that guides us in the truth, as we write–for His glory, not ours.

Help me always to know the truth and to remember that I do my work for your glory, not mine.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me: We give deeply of ourselves and our experiences, making us vulnerable and easily hurt. We fear exposure and criticism and we receive it, but we don’t need to fear it.

Protect my heart, Lord.  Help me to be bold in my work and not to fear criticism.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil: God gives us provision in the midst of our problems and he continues to protect us.

Thank you for your provision. Anoint my head to protect me from the small things – the annoyances and thoughts that distract me.

My cup overflows: Every good gift comes from God–the good days, the letters and notes of encouragement from readers, the joy of seeing a life change because of the words He has provided.

Thank you, Lord, for this work and the abundance in life with you.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever: It is not for this world that we write. It is for eternity.

Lord, accept the offering of my words. Use them as you will.  Lead me, provide for me, protect me. I will follow.   

Amen

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers: The Writing Sisters

http://www.WritingSisters.com

Living More Renewed in 2013

Did you make any resolutions for 2013?  Okay, now the convicting question, are you keeping them? Whether 2012 was a fruitful year for you, a dry, challenging season, or somewhere in between, the new year offers a fresh start—a new beginning filled with a renewed sense of hope for the future. However, our 2013 won’t look much different from past years unless we make some changes. Resolutions are often our way of acknowledging the aspects of our lives that need a little tweaking.

This year, I made a resolution to live life more fully renewed and spiritually refreshed through a greater commitment to prayer. Would you consider joining me in my quest to become stronger and more fully devoted to Jesus than ever before?

DaffodilsI must caution you that is just the kind of commitment the apostle Peter claimed to have before he denied His Lord three times.

Check out this adapted excerpt from my new Bible study on Peter—Eyewitness  to Majesty: Abandoning Self for Christ:

“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them…”But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” –Mark 14:27-30

Peter was claiming greater allegiance to Jesus than that of all the other disciples. Just like many of us, Peter desperately wanted to be strong and fully devoted to Jesus. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was overwhelmingly weak.

Peter didn’t realize a test of his commitment was coming. Satan had asked to sift him like wheat. Grain is purified by sifting. In Jesus’ day, the grain was placed into large sieves that were shaken vigorously, allowing the grain to pass through. Undesirable pieces or weeds were left behind.  I believe a sifting by Satan occurs when everything in our lives is shaken to the point where we have nothing to cling to except our faith, but trials of any kind can bring about some level of spiritual sifting. We come through those circumstances stronger and some weeds, such as discontentment or pride, have often been sifted away.

Just before Jesus was arrested and then crucified on the cross, the Son of God knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to His Father in such agony that He was sweating blood.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” –Mark 14:37-38

Jesus was not just informing Peter of his weakness. Jesus Himself was being tempted to flee the cross. His spirit was willing, but His flesh was weak. Jesus gained the strength He needed to overcome His flesh through prayer. If Jesus needed to pray to overcome temptation, don’t you think we should do the same?

Jesus’ sorrow overwhelmed Him to the point of death. Yet He was able to pray, “Not what I will, but what You will.” He got up from that prayer time strong and in total submission to God’s will. In contrast, Peter slept and rested while Jesus prayed. He had emphatically proclaimed he would not fall away. He wasn’t prepared for the sifting about to take place in his life. Jesus had warned him, yet Peter wasn’t listening. His spirit truly was willing, but his flesh was tragically weak.  Copyright © 2013 AMG Publishers, All Rights Reserved.

If Jesus needed to pray to overcome His flesh, we cannot possibly overcome temptation without prayer. Like Peter, our spirits may be willing, but our flesh is tragically weak.

To make prayer a priority this year, I’m setting two alarms to make sure I get up early enough to have my prayer time each morning. I’m also posting a prayer on my author Facebook page every Monday morning for accountability and to pray regularly with other believers. And finally, I’m meeting with three other women once a month for a time of focused prayer.

If you’re making a greater commitment to prayer, what are you doing to make that pledge a reality? Let’s live 2013 more fully renewed and spiritually refreshed—together.

Before the Lord

Hezekiah is helpless. His nights have been sleepless; his days worried and stressed. And now this—an ugly letter full of threats and taunts from Sennacherib, King of Assyria. He has nowhere to turn, except to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the One who can do something about it.

He walks up to the temple, spreads the pages out before the Lord and bends low, hands spread out in petition.

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it.

Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.

And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God…deliver us from his [Sennacherib’s] hand so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.’” II Kings 18:14,15,19

The powerful example of this story affected me profoundly. I have since followed King Hezekiah’s example with various things that overwhelm me. Things I know I cannot possibly handle on my own: the endlessly large parade of medical bills following my husband’s recent kidney transplant; a painful letter from someone; a letter from a reader who is hurting, sharing with me, and who wants my prayers and advice.

And for the past seven years, I’ve also applied this to my writing as well. I have prayed over rejection letters and hopeful queries. Before I submit a piece, a proposal, or publishable material – paper pieces of my heart – I spread the pages out (or place my hand on the computer screen) and petition God to guide these pages into the right hands.

I ask Him for the right eyes to read this work.

For my agent to have wisdom and discernment on where my writing would be best sent.

For both my agent and me to have diligence and determination without undue discouragement.

For readers’ hearts to be touched.

For me to write to His glory alone, every word committed to Him.

For me to honor God with my every written word, my every action, my every thought. After all, what I want more than anything is for my writing to help “all kingdoms on earth to know that He alone is God.”

And then, I hit send, or carefully slide the manuscript into an envelope and seal it, trusting God for the outcome.

How do you commit your writing to God?