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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 4:6-7

Afternoon rays highlighted splatter-spots dappling my kitchen window. I corralled piles of dishes toward the sink. The third time since breakfast. My hands trembled as I scrubbed the grimy counter. Why is it always such a mess? Recurring, ugly streaks, just like my failures in business and publishing. I tossed the rag at the sill.

I marched out the front door with an announcement to any ears in range. “I’m going for a walk.”

As I strode under the oak canopy, I grasped the air at my side. “Walk with me, Jesus.”

My morning time of prostrate meditation remains a precious way to center myself before the day’s mission begins. Bedside prayer also offers great benefit, laying all needs and offenses in divine hands. Sometimes, I wrestle with overwhelming angst and need to break out of my conventions to better connect with God. Fresh perspective unstops the ears of my soul.

This common need resounds from world headlines to the soul cries of our neighbors–financial crises, illness, general household chaos. Circumstances shatter our peace. Life whirls around our heads, distracting us from intimacy with the Lord. In this tumultuous life, we need help centering our spirits in prayer.

Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s new book, Praying Upside Down, offers novel tools to uncork conversations with God. She expands our view of divine interaction beyond the formulaic ideas of conventional prayer. A graphic designer, she crafts an artistic pathway to spiritual intimacy. Her analogies and suggested applications prove easy upon a reader’s eye and attainable to a beginner’s soul.

Have you ever struggled to focus? Railed at the ceiling as if it were a blockade? Or felt your heart too overwhelmed to summon a prayer? Upside down experiences might just refresh your mind and reveal the path to renew your weary soul.

If you’re interested in Praying Upside Down, find out more information from Tyndale or check out Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s website http://www.prayingupsidedown.com/

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A Florida sunset blazes across the horizon–our effortless version of the summer campfire. Temperatures hover near ninety degrees, and customer traffic doubled at the neighborhood pool store. Yesterday’s evening breeze swept away the last remnants of spring. While Midwest residents continue salting icy walkways, we’re dipping our toes into the next season.

Not that there’s any hurry. Life strolls along at a casual pace in the sub-southern peninsula. Flip-flops clap along the sidewalks year-round. On special occasions, ladies switch to heeled sandals. A number of fair-haired drivers refuse to accelerate for the sake of impatient youngsters. Don’t bother honking to rush them. They either can’t hear you or will enjoy the pretense of deafness at your expense.

The tropics harbor unique creatures and comforts. Our kids weather hurricanes instead of snow days and build sand castles instead of Frosty men. Northern children make jewelry from fireflies, but here we have lizards to hang from little earlobes. When asked about sharks and alligators, natives shrug.

“Stay out of their way, and the neighbors won’t bother you.”

Cockroaches pose a more imminent threat. At least the larger predators won’t invade homes. Unless you have a doggie door, of course.

Battling insects and minding the local monsters–small sacrifices to preserve us from scraping, plowing, and arduous winterizing. When the long yard work season tires us, vacation options abound. Dreamy weekends beckon, less than a gas tank’s trip away. From world-class theme parks to sugary beaches, we grin at those who ask why we choose to reside in the lightning capital of the world.

When visitors bemoan rattlesnakes or the free outdoor saunas, it fails to lessen my appreciation for home. I imagine such dubious folks could experience the same epiphany that once struck my parents during an ice storm. Perhaps then they would join the highway’s right-lane caravan. Straining to see over the steering wheel, their questions might change from, “Why would anyone live there?” to “Are we in Florida yet?”

Quality of life hinges on perspective. Each can opt to embrace or despise his circumstances. The key to a satisfying life rests in recognizing and joining God’s magnificent work. The Lord created beauty in nature and within our hearts to be celebrated, participated in, and shared.

There might be some who fail to appreciate the Sunshine State. I hope they find beauty and joy in their hometown. As for me, I gotta love Florida.

 

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:10

Rejoice in the Lord always…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:4-8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” — 2 Peter 1:3-4

 

Children’s sleighbell dreams dissolved from their slumber last night. Sugarplum visions faded before bedtime. A cacophony of wishes  from young lips and old circled the globe this season. The fortunate celebrated their satisfaction, while others clutched the pangs of unfulfillment on their way to bed. Seasonal anticipation shrivels with a turn of the calendar page. Other longings persist with little regard for date.

Wants and needs often construct dream content, the connection increasing during seasons insisting we expect happiness. Good dreams offer us the gifts and sustenance we desire or the restoration for which we thirst. Nightmares exchange hope for the peril we most fear.

The heart’s desire knits patterns for a common REM cycle, but wilder dreams exist. Not every notion grows from within. A dream beyond common notions strikes new vision into the sleeper. An unforeseen epiphany dawns upon the chosen one. Such a dream does not fade at a new calendar page. The refreshed dreamer rises with a passionate desire to obey the Lord’s call.

Before we tuck away the early chapters of Matthew and Luke with our Christmas decor, notice the divine messages offered in dreams. Scripture does not bother to mention ordinary notions entertained in slumber. Ancient folks longed for satisfaction, perhaps more than the average modern sleeper. Though we might relate to their dreams of want and need, the Bible omits the common content and cites the extraordinary dreams instead.

Beyond imagination, the Lord pressed His lips into minds and spoke through dreams. The Old Testament visions appeared centuries apart, but a heavy concentration of divine dreams occur as Jesus sets foot on the earth. God encouraged Joseph to wed Mary in a dream. The Magi received warning of Herod’s plot in a dream. The Lord spoke to Joseph again, urging him to rise from bed and flee to Egypt during the night. Unlike the visionaries of the Old Testament, the Lord inhabited the dreams of ordinary Gentiles and an impoverished tradesman. With the advent of Christ’s birth, the Lord established His plan to draw all of us near to His Word.

As Christmas Day settles behind us, the time of dreaming about a new year approaches. Common notions of resolution and wishes will fill the air until a strong wind gusts them away with the calendar pages. We can choose to dream of our own desires, as is customary, or listen for God’s voice. We can seek His purpose in waking hours, whether He visits our slumbering thoughts or not. Christ offers His presence within us at all times of day and night, every day of the year. He constructs a new way of thinking. Regardless of our material circumstances–whether fortunate or unfortunate by the world’s standards–He configures us with an identity of hope that revitalizes and exceeds life.

Will you choose to dream beyond common notions this year?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” — Romans 12:2