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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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I peered over the kitchen sink to check my herbs. Spider mites crawled over the remains of yesterday’s sprouts. A few hardy gnats swarmed among the carcasses of their siblings, which I’d doused with organic weaponry two days before. I emptied the last of my seeds into the not-so-jiffy pots and pried them from the tacky sill. With a sigh, I carried the remains outside. I laid them to rest on the deck between my dead squash and withering tomato plants, offering each doomed plant a parting spritz of insecticide.

So much for growing food. I should have known better. Though farming stretches back several generations in my family, the inheritance didn’t make it into my genes. Instead of nurturing life, my fingertips beget as kiss of death on all things green. I sometimes pity new plants when I bring them home, since few survive longer than a month. A quest to provide drives me to keep trying. With my counseling practice losing money and writing career mired in the doldrums, I had hoped to create something fruitful for my family.

Weeks after the herb funeral, I strode past the wilting houseplants on my dining table to gaze at the overcast day outside. A burst of green drew my attention to the abandoned jiffy pots. Was that…basil? The herbs gleamed with the sheen of a recent drizzle. Nearby, fresh growth sprouted from the tomato stalk. My plants thrived after I got out of the way.

Discouragement burdened my soul and I buckled under its weight. Fatigue dragged my body to the couch. As I closed my eyes, a silent plea rose from my soul.

 I need You, Lord. Let me rest in You.

I longed to be held with divine tenderness while supported by infinite strength. I sank against the cushions, imagining God holding me against His chest. Only His embrace could be softer than a cloud and reinforce with more power and strength than the musculature of a grizzly bear.

A ray filtered through the window sheers and caressed my cheek. I opened my eyes to breaking sunlight. The grey clouds had dissipated. From the dark, pungent confirmations of my ineptitude, a fresh thought sprouted in my mind.

I can’t grow anything, but God can make anything grow.

Only He begets life. Our participation offers relationship, but the Lord alone wields the power to bring life. And He can resurrect things we’ve left for dead.

I closed my eyes for a few more minutes, resting in the Son’s light. I’m praying for the Lord to make me grow in His ways. And, if He wills it, to grow whatever He likes through me–green or otherwise.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5).

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith? Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid,little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:27-32).

“’The kingdom of God is like this,’ He said. ‘A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head” (Mark 4:26-28).

 

I pry my tongue from the pasty mire on the roof of my mouth. Parting my chapped lips, I heave in a breath of sultry air. Perspiration streams down my legs as I trudge across the parking lot. I struggle with a dizzy urge to hustle out of the August glare. My body cannot muster speed as it fights through the soupy haze. I hope my lungs don’t melt before I reach shade. I stagger through two sets of double doors. Freon-chilled air caresses my sticky neck and shoulders. The air conditioning fails to quell the nausea in my core or settle my reeling head. Shelves of empty vessels, soda concentrates, and coffee pods stare at me from the walls. Packaged beverage machines line the aisles. None can rescue my parched body. I need water. And there’s none here.

In our arid world, it’s common to stumble into the wrong places seeking water. When crowds stream toward a shady spot, it glimmers like a refuge mirage. The environment hooks our senses and draws us in. The diversion promises relief from the harsh elements, but indulgent comforts prove shallow. Hedonistic balms spritz an oh-so-temporary soothing over the outermost layer of skin. They vanish into thin air before reaching the burning need within. Pleasing the senses cannot quench the soul.

Some of us grope for chemicals, alcohol, or sex as a respite for inner thirst. But false relief can take more innocuous forms, too. Shopping, food, or other benign endeavors become toxic when misused as hydration. Like salt, good things offer benefit when used for the proper reason and in appropriate doses. When poured into our spirit’s well in place of living water, even good things can parch us to death.

On my dusty journey, I often feel the heat sapping my strength. Discouragement threatens to force my rubbery legs to give way beneath me. I gasp for some fresh breath to revive me, to help me plod forward another mile. Sometimes I want to go shopping or head to the spa. If I indulge my flesh instead of praying through my frailty, I end up with a mouthful of sand. Nothing satisfies. Disappointment adds to my emptiness. Then I remember the obvious. Only the Fountain of Life can refresh my spirit. When I feel least able to pray, that’s what I need most. Turning to Scripture and prayerful meditation draws me near to Christ. He fills the dry, empty caverns of my soul and quenches my deepest need. My hope renews, and I thank Him for His patience with me.

After our reviving moments together, sometimes the Lord encourages me to visit the spa or the mall. But we go together, sloshing with the threat of splashing passersby. Instead of seeking fulfillment there, I remain piped into the Fountain so I don’t miss an opportunity to share His love and peace with someone else.

 

“All my fountains are in you” (Psalm 87:10).

They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
 For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:8-9).

When You’re Thirs-Tea….