Praying Circles Around Your Children

I’ve read several of Mark Batterson’s books including In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy DayWild Goose Chase and The Circle Maker.  Praying Circles Around Your Children is a shorter book based on the principles and scriptures found in The Circle Maker.  I read the entire book in two sittings, but it could easily be read through in 60 – 90 minutes.  Batterson does a good job of building on what he wrote about in The Circle Maker and made it applicable to parents.

He shares stories not only from his own experience of raising three children, but also from parents he has met through his various speaking engagements. He also receives emails from people who have read his book and take time to share their stories.

I was challenged by this book to be in regular prayer for my children.  Batterson emphasizes the importance of not giving up when it comes to praying for various things.  One quote from the books states it well:  “We need a paradigm shift.  We need to start praying ALAT prayers – as long as it takes.”  He shares stories from people who prayed on a regular basis – some for several years – for their children before answers came.

Many times when you read books like this and you have older children, you get the feeling it is too late.  Batterson addresses that as well.  He writes specifically to those who have teenage students.  “When they enter middle school or high school or college, we need to intercede for our children.  Pray that they will make the right friends and the right choices.  Pray that their conscience will keep them on the straight and narrow.  Pray that they won’t just survive; pray that they will thrive.”

Praying Circles Around Your Children not only encourages parents to pray, but offers practical ideas on how to do that.  If you are a parent, this book will be an encouragement to you.

90 Days – a Refreshing Read

There are many different devotional books on the market.  This one truly was a refreshing read.  As I read each day I found something that seemed to jump off the page, either a statement made by the author or the scripture that was chosen for that day….sometimes both.

Alcorn’s format was fairly simple and straightforward.  He chose a scripture to start each reading, followed by his own thoughts, experiences or a story from someone’s else journey and then concluded it with a brief, but meaningful prayer.

If you are one who has either grown up in the church or been a part of a church for an extended period of time, you probably have learned the art of the “giving the church answer.”  Alcorn faces some of the difficulties of life in a real way and allows the scripture to speak to that experience.  Where some devotionals may gloss over some of life’s obstacles, the author of 90 Days faces them with insight from God’s Word.

If you are looking for a devotional tool that will strive to speak to the journey of following God and seeing His goodness in even the ugliness of life, this book would be a good pick.

For more information on this book and to read an excerpt, check out this link.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

If you would like to offer a rating on my review, please visit my review page.

Well Wishes and Five Bucks

Today was my birthday and my Facebook is full of birthday wishes and greetings.  I use Facebook mobile so every time something is posted to my wall or a message is sent, it comes as a text message to my phone.  Suffice it to say that my phone was buzzing pretty much all day.

While I realize that the birthdays of your friends on Facebook are listed on the right column of your news feed, it was still nice to have people take at least a few seconds to say “Happy Birthday.”  I received messages from high school friends, family members, youth group students and former youth group members.  Kind of a fun addition to the day.  So, if you were one who sent a birthday message…thanks!

Another cool thing happened today that had nothing to do with my birthday.  I went across the street to pick up some sandwiches and I saw a gentleman from our church.  He came up, said hello, introduced himself (just to make sure I knew who he was) and then he shared some encouraging words.  He mentioned a couple of things in my ministry that he appreciated and encouraged me to continue doing what I do.  Then he said I had a $5 credit at the cash register.  Before he came and spoke to me, he gave the cashier five bucks to apply to my order.  I was caught off guard and moved by what he did.  It would have been enough for him to say the encouraging words that he did; the five bucks was an added bonus.

It was a great reminder to me how the little things we do for others can be encouraging.  Facebook comments.  Small gifts.  Written notes or spoken words.  All those can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Tim Sanders’ Xbox Story

A few years ago I heard Tim Sanders tell this story. It has made it’s way around the internet and may be familiar to some. I think it is such a powerful example of the impact of our words and the things we say (or perhaps don’t say) to those around us.

A few years ago, I gave a keynote speech at a technology conference about the dangerous high-tech/low-touch management style in which e-mail replaces face-to-face contact, even when the manager’s employees work in the same building. It’s possible, I argued, that you could work for months without much real human contact with your co-workers or your boss.

Then I invited the audience to ask me questions or share stories. A few days later, I received an e-mail from someone I’ll call Steve, a manager at a software company. In the note he admitted, “I’m guilty as charged. I’m exactly the type of manager you described. What should I do?”

I told him to take immediate action by spending time thinking about the contributions each one of his nine employees made to the company and to him. Meet with them in person, I said, and give them the recognition they deserve. The rest will take care of itself. About a week later, Steve sent me a note I’ll never forget as long as I live. The subject line of the e-mail was “Xbox Story.”

Steve told me that he’d met with engineers personally that day, making one positive personal and one positive professional comment. Two days later, one of his engineers (let’s call him Lenny) entered Steve’s cubicle just as Steve was arriving at work. Carrying a box wrapped in brown paper and topped with a bow, Lenny told Steve he wanted to give him a gift. Steve unwrapped the box and found a remarkable prize: an Xbox gaming system and a copy of the John Madden Football video game. Steve was thrilled.

Steve hadn’t given Lenny a raise for as long as he could remember. So Steve asked Lenny where he got the extra money for such a lavish gift. Lenny looked him straight in the eye and said words no manager ever expects to hear: “I sold my chrome-plated 9mm semiautomatic.” Lenny told Steve that though he had worked at the company for two years, in all that time Steve had never asked Lenny a single question about himself.

Lenny had moved to town from Denver the day after he buried his mom, who had died suddenly. Lenny’s mother was his only close friend and only real confidante. So Lenny moved to a new city and took a job at a company where he thought he would make new friends. But, he said, “People here aren’t very friendly. No one ever speaks to me in the halls or the lunch room.”

Lenny said that his only friend in the world was the Internet. So he logged on daily to look for solutions and found several.

“Suicide chat rooms,” he said. “They’re filled with other people just like me. And they told me what to do.”

Lenny saved up for several months and bought a chrome-plated, 9mm pistol, which he stored in a cigar box. Every night when he got home from work, he’d open the box and look at the gun. The end of the chat room program is “the final approach,” which was where Lenny had recently arrived.

“And then, the other day,” Lenny continued, “you freaked me out. You come into my cubicle, you put your sweaty arm around me and you tell me that you admired the fact that I turned in every project one day early. You also told me that I had an incredible sense of humor over e-mail, and that I made the whole group laugh when times were stressful.

“But then you told me, ‘Lenny, I’m glad you came into my life,'” Lenny whispered as he moved closer to his boss. “I went home that night, put on Kurt Cobain and started my nightly routine. But when I opened up the cigar box, as the light reflected off the chrome, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. And for the first time I was afraid to die. At that minute, I was off the program. I shut the cigar box and put it in my backpack. I took it back to the pawnshop that sold it to me, and they gave me a few hundred bucks. I thought to myself, ‘What do I want to spend this money on?’

“Then I remembered that you had been bellyaching for a month over e-mail that your financial controller at home, aka your wife, wouldn’t let you buy the new Xbox gaming system because you had a new baby.”

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Lenny said, “Sir, in exchange for my life, my soul, this gift is for you.”

(Here is the link where I re-read this story: http://www.mpiweb.org/Archive/220/38.aspx)