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Posts Tagged ‘The Upper Room’

We continue to be humbled by the response to our first book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads! It has remained on the Upper Room Books top ten books list for most of the past year since publication. We have been so blessed by all the stories of you who have read the book, used it as a Bible study, made prayer beads, developed a deeper connection with God, etc. So great!

We’ve also heard many of you asking for a follow-up book, and so I’m thrilled to share with you that book #2 will be here before we know it! Another Bead, Another Prayer: Devotions to Use with Protestant Prayer Beads will also be published by Upper Room Books and should be available January 2015. I am particularly excited about it because I co-wrote it with my husband, Max Vincent!

You’re the first to see a preview of the new cover!

Cover design for Another Bead, Another Prayer

As you can tell by the subtitle, the book is a collection of devotions designed for use with Protestant prayer beads. It includes four sections: praise, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving, with seven devotions per section (you know I love the number seven!). Each devotion contains a full devotion – including prompts for each set of week beads, as well as a listening meditation. The listening meditation is one simple phrase that can be said repeatedly with each bead to help you listen for God’s voice.

We will keep you posted as it progresses through the editing and publication process! Meanwhile, we covet your prayers for us and all who are involved in its production!

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I have always loved children’s books. Indeed, my fantasy job is to own a children’s book store (I could be Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail!”). I love the illustrations, the stories, the messages. I have kept many of the books my son has long since outgrown (according to him). I especially love anything by Doreen Cronin or Eric Carle.

That’s why I’m so excited to share this resource with you, created by Hanna Schock. I got to know Hanna as we both went through the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation. During that time I learned that Hanna shares my love for picture books. And using her experience as a teacher, curriculum designer, and school psychologist, Hanna has developed an amazing new ministry resource called “Picture Book Theology.” She takes “secular” picture books – those books that aren’t written specifically to have a theological message – and identifies ways they can be used to help communicate theological concepts such as forgiveness, hospitality, grace, etc. How cool is that?!?

With her blog she has made a commitment to post 1 review of a picture book every day for an entire year. That’s 365 books! With each post she provides a short summary of the book, then offers her thoughts for how the book can be used to teach theological concepts in Sunday School classes, VBS, children’s church, and other opportunities for ministry. Each review includes at least one Scripture connection as well as ideas for how to apply the book’s message.

Today is Hanna’s 100th post, and it happens to feature a book that has connections with prayer beads! The Memory String is a book about a young girl who is struggling to accept her new stepmother. She has a string of heirloom buttons that she holds tight to remember her mother (who has died) and other happier times. In her review, Hanna talks about how the book can help children think about using prayer beads to help them in times of grief, loneliness, etc.

Hanna has found several other books that have connections with prayer beads. As a result, I have invited her to write a guest blog post for us, which I’ll post in the next week or two. In the meantime, I invite you to check out her blog, subscribe to it, and see all the wonderful books she has reviewed!

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We did it! Thanks to your support and votes the Christian Small Publishers Association has named my book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads, their 2014 Book of the Year in the Christian Living category. How cool is that?!?

A Bead and A PrayerAward_Seal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am deeply humbled by this honor and so appreciative of your encouragement and response to the book. I’m also thrilled because I know this award will help even more people learn about prayer beads and how they can enrich their prayer lives.

Kudos to Upper Room Books. This award honors their hard work, vision, and gorgeous publication as well.

Glory to God!

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A Bead and A PrayerFor those of you who haven’t heard, my book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads, published by Upper Room Books, has been nominated by the Christian Small Publishers Association in the Nonfiction/Christian Living category. How cool is that?!? I am so humbled and amazed by this.

The winner is chosen by the public, which means you can cast your vote by clicking here. The deadline for voting is March 31st. You can only vote once, but you don’t have to cast a vote in every category; you can vote in just one category if you prefer.

The winners will be announced some time in April. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for your continued encouragement and support!

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The following is a reprint of a devotion I posted a few years ago:

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent.  I always love this time of year.  Well, I love it and dread it.

I love it because I recognize that it is a wonderful opportunity to focus on being disciplined – a disciple – for Christ.  To take inventory of my life and do some housecleaning: out with the old and ineffective ways of being – those things that are preventing me from being in right relationship with God; in with the new and more intentional ways of being a Christ-ian.

I dread it because it is not something that happens easily or comes naturally.  My natural tendency is to schlep away the hours watching reality t.v., eating chocolate and spending too much time on Facebook.  Lent challenges me to be aware of those natural tendencies that are keeping me from God, to confess them, and then to practice being disciplined.  In doing so, I develop a greater awareness of God’s grace in my life and the ways in which He is calling me to follow him, even to Jerusalem and Golgotha, and to the joyful Easter resurrection that follows.

This week’s prayer bead devotion is focused on that Lenten journey.  It begins with confession so that we can understand where we are currently and identify those areas in our life that are keeping us from being fully present with God.  It then gives us the opportunity to listen for what God is saying to us – the ways in which He is calling us into a greater relationship with Him, and then to name those disciplines we can take on and practice during Lent.  Finally, it reminds us to ask for God’s help, for it is only by His grace that we can take up the cross and follow Him.

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitatory Bead: “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up, left everything, and followed him.”  (Luke 5:27 – 28, NRSV)

1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, forgive me for my sins that keep me from being your true disciple.

1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to confess your sins.

2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, help me to listen for your call.

2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to listen to the ways in which God is calling you to discipleship.

3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, I commit to practicing the following disciplines during this season of Lent.

3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the discipline(s) you will practice during Lent.  Don’t feel pressured to come up with seven different disciplines – one for each bead.  Instead, you can use the beads to think about the ways you will practice even one or two disciplines.

4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, grant me the courage and grace to be your disciple and, in doing so, to know you more deeply.

4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to pray for courage and grace throughout this Lenten season.

Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen

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Happy Epiphany! I hope your Christmas season was filled with the joy and wonder of the birth of the Christ child!

This week’s devotion is one I wrote a few years ago. It is also included in the appendix of my book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads. I offer it here again because I think the season of Epiphany is a mystery to so many of us. Sure, we know it is about the journey of the Wise Men, but so what?!? What does that mean for our relationship with God? This devotion is designed to help us think about its meaning, particularly, how the wise men offer an example of worship of the newborn King.

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitatory Bead: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10 – 11, NIV)

Resurrection Bead (optional): Christ is born!

1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, you called the Magi to you, sending them a star to guide them to Bethlehem.  Help us to recognize the ways in which you call us to a relationship with you.

1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to listen for, recognize, and consider the many ways in which God calls you to a relationship with Him.

2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, the Magi obediently and gladly followed your star to Bethlehem, fulfilling your plan for them.

2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the ways in which you can joyfully and obediently follow God’s will for you.

3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, upon seeing your son, Jesus, the Magi fell down fell to their knees to worship him.

3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to offer your praise and worship to God.

4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, having worshipped you, the Magi freely and joyfully offered their gifts to your son, in response to your own gift of love to the world.

4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the gifts that you have to give as an offering to God, in thanks for His gift of love for you.

Resurrection Bead: Christ is born! Alleluia!

Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer

Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen

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Happy new year! I pray you are experiencing God’s blessings this Christmas season and have had a wonderful first day of 2014.

The year 2013 was transformative for me in so many ways. It began exactly one year ago today. As many of you know, I had written the Prayer Workshop on prayer beads for the January/February 2013 edition of The Upper Room. It was the first time that anything about prayer beads had been included in The Upper Room, and we were all curious – and a little nervous – to see the response. I remember sitting in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas with my husband and son on January 1, 2013. Together, we watched the stats page on this blog as the number of “hits” skyrocketed over a matter of hours. Little did we know how accurately that moment would capture the spirit of 2013 for us.

In 2013 we:

  • went from 15,000 hits to 150,000 hits to our blog;
  • witnessed an avalanche of orders for prayer beads from our Etsy shop;
  • tried desperately to keep up with the phone calls, letters, emails, blog comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. from people who wanted to learn more about prayer beads for Protestants;
  • failed to keep up with all the phone calls, letters, emails, blog comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. (please keep trying!)
  • hired three high-school students to help us in the Studio, in addition to putting various family members to work;
  • worked with Upper Room Books to publish our first book, A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads;
  • received the extremely gracious response to the release of our book;
  • fielded many requests for retreats and workshops;
  • celebrated the news that Upper Room Books wants us to write a second book on prayer beads;
  • made plans for me to be able to spend more time in the Studio for 2014; and
  • (best of all!) joyously received countless testimonies from you about how the prayer beads have helped you connect or reconnect with God, return to the church, find peace, experience healing, pray with your families, etc.

As if this was not wonderful enough, 2013 was also the year in which I experienced God’s true healing from a childhood trauma. It was an answer to a long-held prayer, and the result of God’s work through The Academy for Spiritual Formation, my spiritual director, my therapist, my family and friends, and yes, the prayer beads. As a result, I am finally able to live from a place of peace, rather than from a place of fear. It is all I ever wanted. And so much more!

Thus, it is with great joy, hope, and peace that I enter into 2014. I am looking forward to seeing how God continues to guide all of us in this journey of beads and prayer. I hold you up in my prayers. May you be blessed . . .

Kristen

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If you haven’t already seen it, the September/October 2013 edition of Interpreter magazine (published by United Methodist Communications) features an article titled “Practices of the Ancients Aid Modern Prayers.” It is a wonderful article that talks about the benefits of contemplative prayer, and includes an interview with me on prayer beads.

As a follow-up to the article, The Upper Room and Interpreter magazine are offering free “Teach Us to Pray” webinars. The next two webinars are:

  • Thursday, September 26 at 7:00pm CDT: Ancient Prayer Practices – looking at the Jesus Prayer and body prayer and the use of labyrinths and Protestant prayer beads.
  • Tuesday, October 22 at 7:00pm CDT: Prayer Practices for Today – looking at intercessory prayer with The Upper Room’s Living Prayer Center, prayer journals and the prayer of examen.

To register for the FREE webinars, click here.

I will be one of the presenters for the September 26th webinar. I would love to have you join me!

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If you’ve heard me speak or read my book, you know how I got started collecting – and later making – prayer beads. But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, the prayer beads have led to the most profound moments of healing for me, addressing wounds from an early childhood trauma. That’s why I believe so strongly in their benefits to prayer, to our spiritual lives, to our lives in general.

Here is my story. It is in the form of a sermon I preached in January 2013 at The Academy for Spiritual Formation. I’ve written before about how I’m currently participating in Academy #34. It has been life-changing for me and many others. I’ll talk more about it in later posts. For now, if you are interested in knowing the story behind the prayer beads, read on . . .

“Fringe Moments: A Sermon on Abandonment and Hope”

Based on Numbers 15:37 – 41

It was a warm summer day. I know that because I was wearing my favorite Holly Hobbie halter top and matching blue shorts. And I know that because I and my friends had spent the whole afternoon playing hide-and-seek. I loved that game. I was very good at finding those hiding places that no one else could find – those super duper, totally awesome hiding places.

At some point, my friends went inside. I don’t remember why but I remember knowing that they were going to be back out pretty soon, and so I waited. I sat on the sidewalk and then lay back in the sun to look up at the clouds.

That’s when he approached me.

He was a young guy, maybe early twenties. He had blonde hair and was standing next to a bicycle. He flashed a wide smiled and said, “Hi.” “Hi,” I said. “Looks like you’re enjoying the sun,” he said. “Yep.” “Hey, I’ve got to gather some newspapers for a friend of mine and there’s a lot of them. Would you willing to help me?” he asked.

Of course I would. I loved helping people. I was always offering to help my mom. I liked feeling responsible and helpful at the same time. Even though I was seven, it made me feel older. “Sure,” I said.

And that’s how on a warm summer day, at the age of 7, I walked away with a complete stranger.

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, we didn’t pick up any newspapers.

The damage had been done. But what made it worse was that young, blonde-haired guy with the bicycle threatened me. He told me that if I told anyone about what he had done he would come back and kill me and my family. I believed him. I had no reason not to.

And so I walked back home to find my friends waiting for me. They were ready to play again, and had been wondering where I was. I didn’t tell them. Instead, I sat with my head in my hands and just stared. “What’s the matter with you?” they asked. They were confused by this sudden change in their playmate. I remember one of them saying, “She must not feel well.” I didn’t say anything. And when my mom called me in for supper, I didn’t say anything to her either. I stayed completely silent. I found a hiding place – a super duper, totally awesome hiding place deep within me – a place I knew no one would be able to find – and I buried that horrible secret.

There are no words to describe how I felt. But abandonment might be a good place to start. Here I had just been victimized. My life was shattered; my childhood, my innocence, and sense of wonder and security, instantly gone. And I had no one to comfort me. No one to weep with me. No one to tell me this wasn’t my fault. No one to seek justice on my behalf.

And where was God in all of this? Why had God allowed this to happen to me, a bright, spunky, little girl with a pixie cut and a love of Barbies and Donny Osmond? Why hadn’t God rescued me? Surely, He could have reached down and picked me up and flown me to safety. But He didn’t.

Yeah, I’d say I felt abandoned.

I know that’s how the Israelites felt out there in the desert. Sure, God had led them out of slavery and towards the Promised Land. But in between, He had left them to wander and languish in that stinking desert. They weren’t getting anywhere. They were hot and tired. Tired of sand, tired of bugs, tired of manna. How could God do this to them? How could He leave them here? Wasn’t it bad enough in Egypt? Now they had to endure wandering in the desert? They were hungry. Their kids were dying. They were battling sickness and snakes. And God was seemingly nowhere to be found.

So they began to act out. They built idols out of gold. They began to break the commandments. They complained loudly and incessantly. They even talked of going back to Egypt! Things were getting out of hand.

That’s when God decided to intervene. Not that He hadn’t before. This wasn’t the first time. Just before this passage, in chapter 6, God had taken the time to give the Israelites His blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;                       The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you His peace.

This had satisfied them for a while. They didn’t feel quite so abandoned. But eventually, the Israelites forgot the blessing and went back to feeling abandoned.

So God said to Moses: tell the Israelites to take the fringe on their garments and knot it and hold on to it. While they held onto it they were to remember that “I AM the Lord their God,” and to remember the commandments. Doing this, God said, would make them holy.

Now, I can assure you that if I were an Israelite who had been stranded in the desert for twenty years, and my children had known only sand and manna; if I had begun to believe that God had abandoned me; and if God had come to me and said, “here’s some fringe,” I would have said, “Really? Fringe? How in the world is that supposed to make things better?!?” I would have felt cheated.

But indeed, it was the perfect gift, as any gift from God would be. For God knew the Israelites’ limitations. He knew that no matter how much He had promised, no matter how much he had intervened, and no matter that He had taken the time to give the Israelites His personal blessing, the Israelites were human. They were in the middle of the desert. They were struggling. They were physical beings who needed something concrete to hold onto. As much as they wanted to have faith in a God they couldn’t see, there were times when they needed something tangible to hold onto and be reminded that God was with them. And fringe was everywhere. All garments at that time were made with fringe. Everyone would have access to it. Everyone could do this seemingly minor thing and be reminded that God was with them. God had never abandoned them.

In 2009 my family was vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina. We stopped for dinner at Salty Dog’s, a cheesy little seafood restaurant slash biker bar in Maggie Valley. After dinner we were walking out of the restaurant. My husband and son were ahead of me, already out the door. As I walked through the foyer I distinctly heard a voice say, “You need to make rosaries.” “Huh,” I thought. “How strange.” And I kept walking.

For the next several days, I thought about that voice. It had been so clear. And aside from the fact that it came from a biker bar, it kind of made sense. For more than twenty years, I had collected rosaries, though they never did anything more than hang on my wall. I certainly never used them to pray. In fact, I didn’t pray much at all. I think, deep down, that little seven-year-old still didn’t trust that God would really hear her prayers.

The voice kind of made sense, too, because I had a Master of Theological Studies – all of this seminary training- that I wasn’t putting to use. And I was a bit crafty. I don’t want to brag, but I can hold my own in a room full of basket weavers. Still, I’d never made a set of prayer beads.

But I decided to trust the voice. I began doing research, and that’s when I learned about Protestant prayer beads and I realized that’s what this calling was about. That led to making and selling beads and leading workshops and writing about it. You know about that part. But it also led to my relationship with The Upper Room and, specifically, Johnny Sears, who wouldn’t leave me alone until I signed up for The Academy for Spiritual Formation. Great idea, I thought. It will give me time to explore this calling.

But The Academy has ended up being so much more. For it has been here that I’ve begun to heal from that childhood trauma so long ago. Mind you, I’ve had years of therapy and worked very hard to deal with it, but here at The Academy I’ve had major breakthroughs, really profound insights that tell me I’m finally making progress. Yes, God wanted me to be here to explore this quirky calling. But the real reason was so that I would finally experience the healing that only stillness with God could bring.

I was sharing this with my husband after session #2. “How amazing,” I said, “that I thought I was going to The Academy to explore my prayer bead calling, but it’s ending up being more about my healing.” He started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You don’t see it, do you?” he said

“What?” I asked.

“That voice at Salty Dog’s – the one that told you to make rosaries – that was your fringe moment. That was God reaching out to you and offering you something to hold onto so that you would know – once and for all – that He had never abandoned you. Not when you were seven, not now, not ever.”

We have all experienced periods of abandonment. We’ve suffered violence or other trauma; we’ve endured divorces or the death of a loved one; we have lost jobs, been told we are not good enough, or been rejected for who we are. No matter the form, we have all plumbed the depths of despair and wondered where God was.

But, hopefully, we have all had our fringe moments as well; those times when God’s light breaks through the darkness to remind us that He is with us. Those times when God uses ordinary, everyday objects like fringe or beads to reach us. Those times when God uses everyday, ordinary times like sitting at our desk or driving to the grocery store to get our attention. Those times when God uses everyday, ordinary people to remind us that “I AM The Lord your God.” I AM. And I AM has always been.

Take your fringe. Take your prayer beads. Take whatever you can grab onto. Let that be a reminder that God is the GREAT I AM. And know this: we are never alone. Yes, bad things happen and there is evil in the world, but God is always with us. We have never been abandoned.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Soooooo, my book was published. Maybe you heard. If so, you certainly didn’t hear it from this blog, given that I haven’t posted since May.

I can offer a lot of good reasons/excuses! I’ve been busy with:

  • Prayer beads! I led prayer bead workshops and signed books atThe Upper Room’s  SOULfeast and the GBOD Conference on Ministry with Children. Following the book’s release we had an increase in prayer bead orders, requests for speaking engagements, and people wanting to talk about the book and/or the beads. And we’ve been working hard to make 500 sets of chaplets for The Upper Room, which is going to sell them in a boxed set with the book for Christmas.
  • Family! My son was, of course, out of school for the summer. We stayed busy keeping him entertained and even went on a family vacation.
  • Church! I was Craft Leader for our Vacation Bible School. (Enough said?!?)
  • My other job! Prayerworks is still not my full-time job. I work part-time as Coordinator for The ADA Legacy Project. It’s a great new organization that I’ve helped to create. It’s dedicated to preserving the history of the disability rights movement; celebrating its milestones; and educating the public and future generations of advocates. If you’re curious, please check it out. Our new website will be launched next month.

Those reasons are all true and valid. But they aren’t the real reason I haven’t blogged.

The truth is that while I was thrilled – and thankful – that the book was being released, I was also just a wee bit terrified. I know that may sound a little goofy, but there you have it. The book was going to be released to the world for all to see, which left me feeling vulnerable, exposed. As we got closer to the release date my anxiety grew. I found myself avoiding the blog, social media, Etsy, etc.

I share this not because I’m looking for sympathy. Indeed, I’m doing very well. I survived the book’s release –  no lightning strikes or other calamities. I even celebrated. It really was exciting and I have been humbled by the response.

Instead, I share this in the spirit of being authentic. I want to be honest about why there’s been no activity here for several months: good, old-fashioned, common variety fear. We all deal with it, some more than others. I happen to live with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of it. But Isaiah 41:10 (CEB) tells me, “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” And so I will not fear.

With this blog post I pledge to get back in the game. There’s so much I want to share and so many discussions to be had about prayer beads. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Don’t be afraid.

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