Friday, January 30, 2009

Favorite Ingredients Friday for January 30

The theme at Favorite Ingredients Friday today is items one might take to a Super Bowl get-together. I decided to share this favorite appetizer/snack recipe.


2 cups walnut pieces
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or use a couple tablespoons of dried parsley flakes if you must)
2 tablespoons finely minced onions (the dried will work; use 2 tsp.)
1 or 2 minced garlic cloves (optional)
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Toast the walnuts: Spread them on an ungreased baking sheet and place them in a 350º oven for 7 to 10 minutes until nicely toasted. Watch them carefully. When they’re done, transfer them onto a large plate and let them cool.

Put the three cheeses in a large mixing bowl and work them with the back of a wooden spoon until blended. Add the remaining ingredients (except the nuts), and mix them with a spoon or your hands until everything is evenly blended.

Chop the nuts with a hand chopper and work 1 cup of them into the cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When the 15 minutes are up, put a large piece of wax paper on your work counter. Spread the nuts on the wax paper. Divide the cheese mixture into two portions and place one portion on top of the nut-covered wax paper. Using your hands, shape the cheese mixture into a log, rolling and pressing it into the nuts as you shape. Wrap it in plastic wrap and follow the same procedure to make a second cheese log from the remaining cheese mixture. (If you prefer to make a cheese ball, scoop the entire cheese mixture onto the nut-covered wax paper and shape it into a large ball, again rolling and pressing it into the chopped nuts as you shape. ) Wrap the cheese ball or logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 cheese logs.

This recipe has been a family favorite for years, and it always goes over well at events I take it to. It's nice because you can make it well ahead of time and keep in the fridge until you're almost ready to use it. Just pick up a box or two of crackers and you're all set. I took this to a gathering in early December and took along the snowflake-shaped Ritz® crackers to accompany it. I like to make the logs rather than a cheese ball because they stay neater looking -- just slice and serve.

To see what others have shared for Favorite Ingredients Friday, head on over to Overwhelmed with Joy and check out the links.

Show & Tell Friday for January 30

It looks as if today I will finally manage to post something for Show & Tell Friday. I decided to share some of the winter decor around my home. We are going to have snow up here for a good long time yet, so I might as well celebrate it!

A wintery welcome to you! When I undecorated the Christmas tree, I decided that the cardinal, dull gold jingle bell, and pretty red skates all deserved new homes on the front door wreath. I took the "Merry Christmas" bow off, but left the red wooden bead garland in place.

On the dining room table I piled various snowflake ornaments into a candy dish that looks as if it's been carved from ice. The quilted snowflake mat under the dish was made by my friend Marilyn.

Here is how I decorated the middle shelf of my hutch for winter. The creche occupied this shelf during the Christmas season, keeping the true meaning of the season central to my decorating. Now the snowmen are on this shelf. A friend gave me the nifty snowman basket in the center via a Yankee swap one year. The cute wire-handled snowmen I found in our local hardware store at an after-Christmas sale a few years back. I love their look -- glittery, yet primitive at the same time. The card behind them is one I bought myself just to use in decorating. The two snowmen on the right came from a dollar store years ago.

The next shelf up looks much the same as it did at Christmas, but I have taken down the pop-up Santa snowglobe and replaced it with another bottle brush tree. The "Snow" card on the right was made by a dear friend.

Here's how I have decorated my kitchen island for winter. Winter is such a great time to stay in and bake! I was given the red recipe box by my mother. It's one she started using as a teenager. The old spices came from her spice cabinet. The old cookie cutters were my grandmother's. The Gooseberry Patch books are not old, but they fit the theme. I tied it all together with a little table mat I sewed up from fabric my daughter had given me.

In the living room, the first thing to catch your eye might be this beautiful jigsaw puzzle in progress. It's called "Walking to Town" and is a White Mountain Puzzle. The picture is by Vermont artist Fred Swan. Isn't it gorgeous? I scanned a Christmas card to put this same picture on my computer desktop. The puzzle was a gift from a dear friend. That winter sky is a challenge!

Here's the garland over the picture window. The garland stays in place year round and I change the trims seasonally. I have trimmed it with snowflakes and icicles for winter.

And lastly, a closeup of one corner of the garland to show you the beauty of the shimmery icicles and snowflakes. The snowflakes came from The Christmas Loft. The icicles were some I found at Wal*Mart on an after-Christmas sale one year.

So that is my wintry show & tell for today. To see what others have shared for Show & Tell Friday, head on over to There is No Place Like Home

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Quiet Time

I promised I would share an example of what my own personal quiet time is like. I hesitate to do this, because I want people to understand that a quiet time is just that -- personal -- and it is going to vary from person to person and even from day to day in each person's life. Nevertheless, here's basically what I do.

My quiet time has three basic components: prayer, Bible reading, and Bible study.

I usually have my prayer time first. That works out better for me, because if I wait and do that last, or in the middle, things start to happen. The phone begins to ring, or someone needs me to do something. So I like to pray first, before the interruptions begin. As I mentioned, I have a time of confession, then a time of praising and worshiping God, then a time of praying about my character flaws and specific issues (areas that need work in my life), then a time of praying for the needs of others. You can find the details in my posts on using a prayer journal. I plan on a half hour for my prayer time. Occasionally it is more or less than that.

Next I have my Bible reading time. This can be done in many different ways, as I detailed in my post on Bible reading. I allow a half hour for my Bible reading; it often takes less time than that depending on the method I am using to read through the Bible.

Then, my Bible study time. Some days I don't have time to sit down and work on a Bible study, but I am studying my Bible each day anyway because I work every day on preparing my Sunday School lessons for the coming week. Again, there are many different ways of studying the Bible. One of the easiest is to use a Bible study book or booklet where you write out answers to questions. I highly recommend the Elizabeth George Bible studies. She has written studies on the life of Sarah, the life of Mary, Proverbs 31, and the books of Luke, Judges/Ruth, 1 Timothy, James, Esther, Philippians, 1 Peter, and Ephesians. (These are not expensive books. They're available at, or you can find them on Amazon,, and   ThriftBooks as well.) I have worked my way through Bible studies, literally inched my way through them one question at a time, and you can do the same. You don't need to block out large amounts of time for this.

The SOAP method of Bible study is also something that I highly recommend.  You can do this with just one or two verses at a time and it is incredibly helpful to your spiritual growth.  (I should add that some people don't think the SOAP method is a good idea because it can be easy to take verses out of context and miss their real meaning and application.  When I use this method, I always make sure that in observing the verse -- the "O" in "SOAP" -- I look at the context and see who it's speaking to, the time frame, the verses before and after it, and more.) 

So that is my quiet time in a nutshell. Some days I will sing a hymn or chorus, particularly when I am praising God for one of His attributes or for His Word. I will find a song that fits with what I am praising Him for. Some days I will open my prayer time with a reading from a daily devotional book like Streams in the Desert,  just to set the tone for my quiet time.

In summer, I love to have my devotions outdoors or on the screened porch. In chilly weather, curling up with a cozy throw or in a rocker in front of a crackling fire makes for a nice quiet time. A cup of tea, hot cocoa or coffee is nice to sip on too.

I want to emphasize again that we are all at different ages and stages in our lives. I happen to have an empty nest and I also have the blessing of being a stay-at-home wife. Most mornings I do not need to be out of the house at an early hour. So I can take this luxuriously long time for my devotions. Many of you, I know, cannot. Especially you young moms with babies and toddlers. I want to emphasize to you not to beat up on yourselves because you don't have the time that I or someone else might have. This is not about designing the perfect format for your devotions. It's simply about spending time with your Lord each day. He knows all about your children, your responsibilities, and your schedule. If you can only take 5 minutes for each of these components to your quiet time -- and if those 5-minute segments are separated by an hour or more -- that's still fine. Start with 5 minutes. Then aim for more the next day, asking God to give you the time you need to spend with Him. The important thing is to spend that time with Him each day and to work at doing so consistently. As you do, the blessings will be so great that you will not want to miss a day. May God bless you all as you seek to implement a quiet time into your daily lives!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quiet Time 101

Recently, a couple of people have asked me about my quiet time with the Lord. What do I do? What does a typical quiet time look like? Well, let me begin by saying that it's probably different for everyone, because we are all in different ages and stages of life. I don't think there is any one "perfect" way to have a quiet time, and when you think about it, that's appropriate, because we are imperfect people. The most important thing is that you take time to meet with the Lord each day, preferably at the beginning of the day. How much time you spend and exactly what you do is going to vary from person to person.

In this post I want to share some basic thoughts on having a quiet time, or personal devotions, or time with the Lord, or however you prefer to title it. Then I'll write a second post describing my own typical quiet time. The information I'm sharing below is a combination of my own thoughts, things my pastor has shared over the years, a workshop I attended on personal Bible study, and ideas from various books I've read. I can't recall at this point what information came from which source, so I really can't give credit where credit is due, unfortunately. I could write out the quoted Scripture verses here, but I encourage you to take a few minutes and look them up on your own.

Devotions defined. What is a quiet time? It's a time you spend alone with God and His Word. It's a time to learn what God has written in His Word, so that we might learn to do and apply what is written there. The Bible was written for each one of us -- it applies to our past, our present, and whatever the future may hold. The Bible is our personal letter from God. When we pick up our mail, we pay much more attention to our personal letters than we do to the impersonal form letters. So it should be very important to us to spend time reading our personal letter from God!

Devotions are not optional. They are as necessary for our spiritual survival as food and water are for our physical survival. We are in a literal battle against Satan and his helpers; they are out to make us useless Christians and destroy our testimony. That can actually be accomplished if we are not in God's Word daily. We need God's Word to combat the devil. When Satan begins to accuse us, we need to follow Christ's example and use God's Word to refute him. (Remember how when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He consistently quoted God's Word, saying, "It is written..." and Satan departed from Him. Read it for yourself in Luke 4:1-13.) If we don't know the verses, they won't come back to us when we need them. And we can't know the verses if we don't read, study, and memorize the Bible.

Devotions are necessary for our spiritual growth. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study God's Word. 2 Timothy 3:15 tells us what His Word is for: doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. Having devotions should be so important in our lives that we consider it a daily necessity like brushing our teeth and combing our hair. We would only neglect these things if we were too sick to do them!

Pray before beginning devotions. A good prayer to use before beginning your devotional time each day is Psalm 119:18. It's good to aim for the same time for your devotions each day -- early morning, before you really get into your day, is ideal -- but be realistic. The Lord knows all about your day and your responsibilities. If you miss a day with your devotions, don't waste time getting upset with yourself, and don't give up. Start in again the next day.

Bible reading and study should be part of your devotions. If you don't have time for an actual Bible study, then just read your Bible. Ask the Lord to show you what He has for you from His Word each day. Read carefully. Jot down that special verse or verses, and ask God to help you apply it to your life. You might want to memorize it!

Some different approaches to Bible reading and study. Here are some ideas:
* Study a particular book of the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you toward a book that will be just what you need to study right now.
* Study a particular character in the Bible. Find out what made that person strong in the Lord, their weaknesses, how they may have failed or succeeded.
* Think of a particular weakness in your own life. Search out the answers in God's Word that will help you deal with this weakness.
* Use a study book or booklet where you write out answers to questions.
* Use a daily devotional book -- but be sure you study, and pay more attention to, the accompanying Scripture references.
* Study your Sunday School lesson, whether you are student or teacher.
* Read the Bible through in a year or more -- but don't stop your reading each day until you've learned something you can apply to your life.
* Read a chapter of Proverbs each day, corresponding with the day of the month. For example, on January 27, you would read Proverbs chapter 27. Ask God to show you something to apply to your life.
* Read through the Gospels-- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Doing this is a wonderful way to observe Jesus, our Savior, in His daily interactions with people. Since He is our Example, it's very helpful to see how He handled life's daily challenges.

A prayer time should also be part of devotions. The basics of your prayer time should be: asking God to search your heart to show you sin in your life, which you can then ask His forgiveness for; praise of God and His attributes; thanksgiving for all He has done for you; and praying for the needs of others as well as yourself. You can keep a list of requests, or you can use a prayer journal to organize the requests as I do. As an encouragement, you might write down the date you first prayed for each request and then note the date when it is answered, giving praise to the Lord as you do so.

Some helps to seeing answered prayer:
* Choose a certain time and place for prayer each day (Matthew 6:6)
* Pray specifically so you will know when God answers (John 16:24)
* Pray according to God's will (1 John 5:14-15)
* Thank God for what He has already done (Philippians 4:6)
* Be ready to do your part to see prayer answered (1 John 3:22)
* Be an example to others in your public and private life (1 Timothy 4:12)
* Be prepared for spiritual warfare. Remember that Satan does not want you to have devotions. He will fight you on this!

There are other things you might add to your quiet time. You might make this the time you work on memorizing Scripture or reviewing passages you have already learned. Singing a hymn or chorus is another way to praise God during your devotional time.

Entire books have been written on this topic. One of the best is A Place of Quiet Rest, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Many of Elizabeth George's books are helpful as well.

Whatever format you decide to use, just take the plunge and begin your quiet time today. If you've tried before and failed to have devotions on a regular basis, try again. Keep picking yourself up each time you fall and get back on the devotional track again. You can count on the fact that God will use this time to make an amazing difference in your life!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A surprise on a wintry day

I have an interesting story to share today! At least, it's interesting to me and I imagine it will be to many of my readers who live in or have lived in northern New England. On Wednesday, I was working at my sewing desk, which is positioned in the dormer window of our bedroom. This window looks out on our tall wild apple tree. There are several dozen apples still hanging from the branches. They are a dark russet color now and some are frosted with caps of snow.

As I glanced out at the apple tree and admired its wintry beauty, I noticed a bird swooping down to nibble on one of the frozen apples. "Probably a blue jay," I guessed, noting that it was a fairly large bird. What a surprise! The bird was a robin! I tried hard to get a good picture of it through the window, as I knew I would need proof that I had seen a robin in January. I did manage to snap a couple of photos with the robin in them, but it is not clear. If you look closely, you may see the robin near the top right side of the photo in the last tree to the right.

The robin returned yesterday and I have seen it again today.

It made me think of this little poem by Oliver Herford:

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

I certainly never expected to see a robin in January. I've heard that there are some robins now who do not fly south, but I never expected there would be any of them wintering this far north in New England.

It was a neat reminder to me of God's care for all of His creatures. Even more, it reminded me that even in the midst of dark, wintry circumstances in our lives, God is with us, caring for us and providing for us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nine for '09

Goals, that is! January is 2/3 over, but I have had these goals in place since the beginning. It's high time I posted them here.

1. To make my daily quiet time with God ever more meaningful. To add to my prayer journal as a means of doing that.

2. To eat reasonably, exercise, and drink plenty of water every day, and get a decent amount of sleep each night.

3. To continue to grow in the areas of godly speech and diligence in work. (These goals, as well as those listed in #4, are some that I set some time ago as a result of my study of Proverbs 31. They've been on my prayer list for myself ever since.)

4. To continue to grow in the practical skills of homemaking, money management, and time management. This includes sticking with the housekeeping routines that work for me and becoming much more faithful in doing them daily. In addition, I'd like to make this the year that I finally declutter my entire house. I also have a goal to spend less money on groceries this year, remembering the principle that money not spent is money saved.

5. To continue to grow spiritually and to use my talents and my spiritual gifts for God's glory. I have so many things I've been learning through my study of Psalms that I am anxious to share here on my blog, for example. I'd love to do more Christian writing -- articles, books, whatever -- in addition to my yearly summer devotional for kids.

6. To use my God-given interests and abilities to help bring in some household income. To this end, I want to expand my A-store and do more with it, and possibly even have an Etsy shop. I'd also love to find the time to do more writing for publication.

7. To be more of a help to my husband. To save enough money to be able to go on a weekend getaway a couple of times a year. To be an effective prayer warrior for him. To make our home more of a refuge for him.

8. To be more of an encouragement to all of our grown children and their spouses, as well as to our grandchildren.

9. To nurture my creativity. To try and create something every day. To finally get some of our many photos into scrapbooks. To post in my Christmas blog more often and to work on Christmas projects all year round.

Those are my nine basic goals for this year. I am looking forward to 2009 with great anticipation of what God will do!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Thought for the day

One of my goals for 2009 is to completely declutter the computer room/home office. If I can spend even 15 minutes a day on this project, I know it's achievable. To that end, I've begun decluttering our oldest file cabinet. One thing that came to light today was an old scrap of paper torn from a small loose-leaf calendar. The thought for that day was so challenging to me, I thought I would share it. I must add that the author is unknown to me.

The Bible verse referenced at the top of the page is Colossians 4:6a -- "Let your speech be always with grace."

And here is the thought concerning our words:

"A famous publisher declares, 'If you are an articulate person, you utter some thirty thousand words each day.' If these words were put in print, they would amount to a fair-sized book every day. These books would, in a lifetime, fill a college library. All these books are from the same author, all reflecting your life in your own words. And not a book can be withdrawn from circulation. The thought is a bit frightening. It emphasizes the fearful responsibility that goes with the gift of speech, and also the glorious privilege that is inherent in speech seasoned with grace."

This thought from a tattered old calendar page challenged me to be more careful to see that my speech is seasoned always with grace. What about you?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Framed in fabric...

Crafting fun!

One really neat way to "frame" a cross-stitch picture is to use fabric to turn it into a wall hanging. I just did this with a belated Christmas gift for a loved one, and was so pleased with how it turned out. I do apologize for the edges of the calendar you can just see hanging behind the project. I wanted to get a photo very quickly.

I had seen a similar saying to this as an embroidered, framed-under-glass piece in a catalog. I tweaked the saying a bit and used graph paper to "translate" the words into back stitch. I stitched this on fiddler's cloth for a rustic look. The one in the catalog was matted in two dark prints (black and brown, I believe). I liked the look of the dark colors, so chose brown and dark green to pick up the colors of the stitchery.

Some time ago, I also used this method of "framing" on a cross stitch piece I had stitched years ago and which was just sitting around in a stack of unfinished projects. Again, I was very pleased with the result. I have this stitchery hanging near the area where I sew, where it fits very nicely.

If you have never tried framing stitchery with fabric, it's very easy. You can either use all the same fabric as I did in the lower photo, or two different ones as I did in the top photo, for a patchwork look. I suppose for certain projects that one could even use four different fabrics and that might be very effective.

To begin, just measure your finished stitchery horizontally and note down the width of it. Also figure out how wide you want your "frame" to be. (I planned for the one in the top photo to be about 2", but it ended up wider because I took less of a seam allowance than I planned. The frame for the lower photo is about 1.5".) Plan on a half-inch seam allowance and cut your top and bottom frame pieces accordingly. (Don't cut the side pieces yet!) For example, if your stitchery is 8 x 10" and you want a 2" frame, you would cut the top and bottom frame pieces 3 x 8". Pin and sew your top and bottom frame pieces to the top and bottom of the stitchery. Press the seam toward the frame pieces. Press on the right side too. Trim off any frame edges that don't line up with your stitched piece.

Now for the side pieces. You will measure vertically now, the length of the stitchery which has now become greater because of the top and bottom frame pieces you sewed to it. Again, using the example of an 8 x 10" stitchery with a 2" wide frame, you would cut the side pieces 3" by whatever the finished length of the piece turns out to be -- about 12" if I figured correctly. Again, pin and sew the side pieces in place along each side of the stitchery/frame piece. Press the seams toward the side frame pieces. Press on the right side too and again trim off any frame edges that don't line up with your stitched piece.

Now you will make a backing piece for your stitchery. You can either use fabric that matches your frame, or something generic like white, black, or ecru since it isn't going to show much, if at all. In the top photo I used a matching green print. For the one in the lower photo I used white. Simply measure the finished piece and cut a matching piece to use for the backing. Sew the two pieces together with right sides facing, leaving an opening for turning. Turn right side out, press, and then hand-sew the opening closed.

For hanging the finished piece, you have several options, and these are probably best done before sewing the backing on, but I didn't do this in either case. In the top photo, I sewed loops of folded bias tape to the back by edge-stitching with the machine (and in the process closed up the turning opening, so I could skip the hand-sewing step). It looks fine, but would have been better if I had basted the loops in place before sewing the two pieces together and turning them. In the lower photo, I hand-sewed a piece of wide bias tape to the back to use as a casing. In both cases, I used dowels and hangers recycled from old calendar towels to hang the stitchery from. You may well think of a better way, but this worked for me.

You might like to try this quick and easy way of framing your stitchery. I probably wouldn't use this for a really "heirloom" type of project, but for things you don't have a lot of time or effort invested in, it's a great solution to the framing dilemma.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Using a prayer journal

[I'm updating this post from 2009 by adding photos and a little more information.  The posts about my prayer journal are the most read ever on this blog.  Some readers have asked for photos, so I'm adding them in.  As I noted in my other updated post, these are not artfully staged photos.  I simply opened up my shabby, well-used journal and snapped some pictures I thought might be helpful.  My prayer journal is an everyday workhorse and is not fancy.  The most important thing is that it maximizes my prayer life and increases its effectiveness.  A prayer journal can do the same for you, so read on.]

As promised, here is a repeat of the information of actually using one's prayer journal. Putting a prayer journal together is fun and inspiring, but using it in one's prayer time is such a blessing!

Before I begin, I'd like to say a word about prayer requests. A number of people have asked me how I deal with the short-term, more urgent prayer requests which we get at church, from friends, or via our church’s prayer chain (email or phone). They felt these requests would be hard to keep track of on an ongoing basis in a prayer journal. And they’re right. I don’t put these sorts of requests in my prayer journal.

If I get a request for someone at church, I usually write it down in the notebook I keep with me for sermon notes. That’s usually enough to keep that request in my memory for when I pray for that person during the week. When it’s answered, I can cross it out. If I get a request via phone or email, I’ll jot it on a post-it note. When the prayer is answered, I toss the paper.*

The prayer requests I keep in my prayer journal are long-term ones. For example, for my grown children I pray for things like this:
• Closeness to God
• Spiritual growth
• Wisdom for parenting
• Wisdom for marriage
• Wise use of finances
• Wise use of time
• Use of spiritual gifts and talents... etc.

Now, as to actually using my prayer journal on a daily basis. The first section I come to is Adoration -- where I have a number of pages concerning the attributes of God.
 So I turn to the attribute for the day -- I keep a marker in this section so I praise God for a different attribute each day. As I praise Him for, say, His omniscience, I can also thank Him for the fact that He knows all about me and every circumstance of my life. I find that praising God for His attributes first sets the tone for my prayer time.
This page praises God that He hears our prayers
This section also includes pages to thank God for various spiritual blessings -- first, for Himself, then for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit, for the Bible. Then there are so many other spiritual blessings, like salvation, redemption, sanctification, and so on.  These pages follow right after the attributes of God pages, so each time I get to the end of those pages, I move into thanking God for His many spiritual blessings, continuing to move my marker along each day
This page thanks God for the spiritual blessing of His Word
Next, I come to Agreeing -- that is, agreeing with God about my sin. In this section I have a number of pages concerning character flaws and sin issues in my life. Again, I keep a marker in this section so I pray concerning a different problem each day. This makes a huge difference in my life, because these issues don’t slip off my radar screen. I am praying about them on a regular basis.
These reminders are on the divider for my Agreeing section.  At the right you can glimpse the first page in that section, dealing with procrastination.
Also in this section, I have a section called Health and Energy -- detailing the daily need for eating healthfully, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, etc. Again, since these are areas where I am prone to get lazy, it makes sense to have them here where I can pray about them every day. Again, I just pray about one of these areas each day. It would be easy to get carried away and pray for every area every day, but that would be overwhelming and much less meaningful.
Next, I come to Asking. Within this section, I start by praying through the requests for Every Day. These would be ongoing, long-term requests for my husband, children/spouses, grandchildren,  and close friends.
 I have recently (in the past five years or so) added a page called Decisions to Make which I look over every day.  It's filled by now and covered with "PTL" notations as I praise God for how He has given wisdom for each decision, so it's time to add a second page.
Next, I pray through the requests I have allotted to different days of the week. On Monday, for example, I pray for missionaries. Again, the requests I pray for missionaries are not short-term urgent requests (although I do pray for those needs at other times) but are ongoing, long-term things like protection, boldness, opportunities to witness, fluency in language, times of refreshment, etc.
You can refer to my post on How to Make a Prayer Journal to see what I pray for on other days of the week.  Topics include friends, church, extended family, our country, personal petitions, and so on.

*  Each day I also pray for a portion of our church family. And this is where those prayer requests I get at church or via the prayer chain come into play. As I pray for, say, Sue Jones (made-up name) I remember that Sue is having a biopsy next week, and pray about that.

So that is pretty much my prayer time in a nutshell. I have found that my prayer time is so much more effective and so much more of a blessing to me as I use my prayer journal. I hope that those who are making their own journals or those who receive them as gifts will find them as helpful as I have found mine to be.

Enriching one's prayer life by use of a prayer journal

[This post is the most read post ever on my blog, with over 8500 page views.  I've been wanting for awhile to update this post and to add some pictures, as one commenter had asked me to do.  Now I'm finally finding a few minutes to do so!

Let me say, too, that these pictures are not fancy.  I didn't stage them in any way, just opened up my journal and snapped some photos.  That's appropriate, because my prayer journal is not fancy either.  It's just an everyday workhorse.  That said, feel free to click on the pictures to enlarge them if you want to read something.]

One of my ongoing goals is to deepen my prayer life. To that end, I'm going to be adding some pages to my prayer journal in the "Adoration" section -- pages dealing with spiritual blessings God gives us as His children. As I thought about this, and as I had my prayer time this morning, I was struck by the thought of what a blessing my prayer journal is to me, and how it has revitalized my prayer life over the years I've been using it and adding to it. I am quite sure that if our house caught fire, I would run for my prayer journal before grabbing anything else!

So, although I've shared about my prayer journal here at my kitchen table before, I thought that today the Lord would have me share again how to make one. Maybe some of you have a goal to deepen and enrich your own prayer lives. If so, a prayer journal can be a wonderful help in doing so. Here are the basic guidelines. Next, I will post about actually using the prayer journal on a daily basis. Hope this is a help to someone today!

My Prayer Journal

For years I jotted down prayer requests on scraps of paper stuck in my Bible, or wrote them in the notebooks I used for taking notes in church. Many of them I kept in my head. One of my unspoken prayer requests for a long time was just to be able to organize things so I could pray more effectively. So one day I bought a little spiral-bound notebook and began to try and organize my prayer requests in sections so I could pray for different things and people on different days. That worked for quite awhile, but not quite as well as I had hoped. Then my daughter went off to college and took a class called Study of Prayer. They made prayer journals as a class project. I was so impressed when I saw what a prayer journal could look like -- and with its potential as a helpful tool for one’s prayer life. I studied the journal my daughter had made and gathered my own ideas from here and there. Then I began to put together my own prayer journal. It has become every bit as helpful as I envisioned it would be.

I suggest getting one of the smaller binders -- mine is approximately 7 inches by 9 inches. Larger ones would be fine, but the smaller one is easy to keep with your Bible. I prefer the kind with a clear pocket on the front and back covers, to slip your own “cover art” into. Mine has a colorful picture on the front cover, along with the words “Prayer Journal” and a favorite quotation on prayer. On the back cover there’s another colorful picture (I cut these from Gooseberry Patch catalogs, as these picture many of my favorite things) , part of a poem about prayer, and a verse (James 5:16).  [Sadly, Gooseberry Patch no longer sends out a catalog, but sells online.  I have saved many, many of their old catalogs, though, and use them not only for my prayer journal but for the personalized cookbooks I like to make for wedding gifts.]

 I cut card stock sheets in half to fit my binder and -- after punching holes in them -- used them as dividers for the different sections. I used index tabs to label the different sections. I cut white paper in half, punched holes on one side, and used these to write my actual requests on. For the special people in my life, I have their photos (stuck to card stock with clear photo corners) right across from the page with my prayer requests for them.

Back when I started my prayer journal, these smaller binders were not easy to find, and supplies to fit them were even harder to locate.  Now,  my local Wal*Mart carries them, along with colorful plastic dividers and filler paper of the right size.

Whenever I come across something that will help me in my prayer life, I incorporate it into my prayer journal. For example, one mission board made available a bookmark listing basic, biblical ways to pray for missionaries. I cut this up and scattered the different requests on the card stock divider for my “Missionaries” page.

Every time I pray for missionaries, I have before me some concrete ways to pray for them.

Below are my basic guidelines for putting together a prayer journal. Feel free to adapt them for yourselves.


Of course there are a multitude of ways you can organize your prayer journal. This is a combination of what my daughters learned in a college class and what I came up with myself. My prayer journal is still a work in progress!

My prayer journal consists of 3 basic sections -- Adoration, Agreement, and Asking. Each section has categories within it.

Section I -- ADORATION

A. Praise.
1. Attributes of God. Choose 10 (or more) attributes of God that you want to praise Him for. Make a page for each one. For each attribute, write out at least 3 Scripture verses which mention or describe that attribute. Some examples of attributes would be holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, omniscience, etc. At the bottom of each page, write a brief statement or prayer describing why you praise God for that particular attribute.  If you need help finding relevant verses, try looking up the attributes of God in a Bible dictionary.
Praising God that He hears our prayers
B. Thanksgiving.

1. Spiritual blessings.
a. God
b. Jesus Christ
c. The Holy Spirit
d. The Word of God
(For each of these spiritual blessings -- and you could certainly add more, like salvation, sanctification, etc. -- write out at least 3 verses that describe that particular blessing. Then write a brief statement or prayer describing why you thank and praise God for that blessing.)
Praising God for the spiritual blessing of His Word
2. Material blessings.
(List as many material blessings as you like -- food, home, etc. Write out a relevant verse for each and a brief statement or prayer thanking God for them.)

3. National blessings.
(List our blessings as a nation -- a free country, privilege of voting, etc. Add a verse if you wish and write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these blessings.**)

4. Physical blessings.
(List physical blessings -- good health, the health of your family, etc. Write out a verse if you wish and then write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these blessings.)

5. Family blessings.
(List your immediate family and other relatives or friends you are specifically thankful for. Add verses if you like and write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these folks.)

Section II -- AGREEMENT.

A. Character flaws
(List several of your character flaws or areas where you are prone to sin. [I personally have listed 23 of these so far -- not that there aren’t much more than that!] Make a page for each one. For each flaw or sin, find and write out several helpful verses. [Proverbs is a great source for these verses.] At the bottom of each page, write a summary of why each flaw or sin is not pleasing to God, and what behavior He would have you to work at instead.)
These encouraging little reminders are pasted into the front of my section on character flaws and sin issues.
B. Health and energy needs
 (This is a category I've added in the past few years. It includes things like praying for a healthy body, praying to be more disciplined, praying about things like healthy eating, exercise, sleep, and more.  I include in this section a page reminding me of God's purposes for my life, information about planning and scheduling to help me achieve His purposes, and more.
Section III --ASKING.

A. Every Day -- Make a page for each person you plan to pray for every day. List the things you plan to pray for in their lives. I have a page for my husband, each of my children and their spouses, and one for some dear friends.
This great reminder is at the beginning of my "Asking" section.
And then, in addition to folks I pray for every day,  I pray for some specific categories on specific days.

B. Sunday --List the things you will pray for on Sundays. (I chose to pray for our church services, pastor, Sunday School teachers, visitors, music, nursery, etc.)
C. Monday -- List the things or people you will pray for on Mondays. (This is the day I chose to pray for missionaries. I also pray for a portion of the people in the church directory each day [about one-sixth of the names each day*, and at this point my prayer journal has also evolved so that I pray for a number of friends each day as well]).

D. Tuesday -- List those you will pray for on Tuesdays. (I pray for special friends, near and far away, on this day.)
This is a prayer I wrote to pray for my Christian friends.  Most of the time, of course, I pray for them specifically by name.
E. Wednesday -- List those you will pray for on Wednesdays. (I pray for our church leadership on Wednesdays.)

F. Thursday -- List those you will pray for on Thursdays. (This is my day to pray for our country and for our extended families.**)
G. Friday -- List those you will pray for on Fridays. (On Friday, I have several individuals or couples I am praying specific verses for. I have a page for each person/couple. I have listed the specific things from each verse that I’m praying for them.)

H. Saturday -- List the requests you’ll pray for on Saturdays. (This is my day to pray for myself. I list concerns that I have for my own personal spiritual growth, the use of my spiritual gifts, faithfulness in ministry, etc. )

I. In the past few years, I've added a page  for "Decisions to Make".  I need to add another, for this one is filled up on both sides, with many "PTL" notations as I've seen God give wisdom for decision-making.
And this is the only downside of those plastic divider pages ... you can see through them.
* To pray for the folks in the church, this is what I do. Make one page for each day of the week, except Sunday. On each page, list about one-sixth of the names of the people in the church. Put that page in the section for the particular day of the week.

**  Since I spend an extended time in prayer for our country on Thursdays, I have chosen to place my page for "national blessings" behind my Thursday divider.

Of course you can adapt these guidelines to work better for you. I think that the more personalized you can make your prayer journal, the more of a tool it will be for you. I definitely recommend adding stickers, photos, etc. to add color and interest, and to jog your memory as you pray for special people in your life. Card stock dividers are colorful and very helpful, and index tabs for the different days are also helpful. You may also enjoy finding challenging, encouraging quotes on prayer to add to the journal. Have fun!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Reading through the Bible in a year... or more


 (Graphic is a freebie from Baptist Bible Hour -- a great source for gorgeous Scripture graphics)

It's January first, and I've just started again on my more-or-less annual trip through the Bible. I'm excited about the program I've chosen to read through the Bible this year. It's a method I've never tried before, and it's going to be interesting!

How about you? Have you ever read through the Bible -- all the way through? If you haven't, don't feel too badly -- you have plenty of company. It's unbelievable, but true: only about 5 percent of all Christians read through the entire Bible even once in their lives. So why not make this the year you begin the habit of reading through God's Word? It will make a wonderful difference in your life!

There are various ways to read through the Bible. One of my favorites is to use a one-year Bible. Mine is the KJV Daily Devotional Bible. Reading straight through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation may be done with the one-year Bible, where the readings are all planned out for you, or you may just use your regular Bible and read a number of chapters each day. The Reese Chronological Bible is a fascinating way to read through the Bible. I have read through this several times. If you do this, you may want to allow more than a year to get through the Bible. Another great approach is to read through a study Bible, taking time to read the notes and information about the different books and their authors along the way.

Or you can use any of a number of Bible-reading plans put out by various Christian organizations. One year I used a sort of topical plan where one reads from different categories of the Bible on the various days of the week. Sunday was Old Testament Poetry, Monday was the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Bible], Tuesday and Wednesday were Old Testament History, Thursday was Old Testament Prophets, Friday was New Testament History and Saturday, New Testament Epistles. I found this plan fascinating reading for most of the year, but it became unwieldy toward the end when many of the categories had been used up and I was slogging through the prophets for the longest time. Maybe there are other plans of this sort out there that are better organized. I hope so, because this method of reading the Bible is extremely interesting.

This year, I am trying something recommended by Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book A Place of Quiet Rest. I'll quote from her book: "Some time ago, a dear, older servant of the Lord recommended an approach to Bible reading that I have found to be a great blessing. He suggested dividing the Bible into six major sections, beginning in Genesis, Joshua, Job, Isaiah, Matthew, and Romans. Each day, read one or more chapters consecutively in each of those sections. Mark where you end up in each section so you can pick up at that location the next day.

"This has been one of the most exciting ways I have discovered to read the Word. Though penned by many different authors over a period of fifteen hundred years, there is a unity and coherence in the Scripture that can only be supernatural. Invariably, I find that what I am reading in one portion dovetails precisely with what I am reading in another."

My own plan is to read just one chapter in each section every day. I began today and it was such a blessing.

In addition to reading through the Bible, I am also studying God's Word in greater depth. I'm several chapters into Cynthia Heald's Intimacy with God, a wonderful Bible study of the Psalms, and am getting so much out of that study. I'm also studying Elizabeth George's Finding God's Path Through Your Trials with my ladies' Sunday School class.

January 1st is a great day to begin your own Bible reading journey. Why not get started today?

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish all of my friends a very happy and healthy 2009! May this year find each of us growing ever closer to our Heavenly Father!