Help Me Raise My Gaze – A 5 Word Prayer from Sharon Hodde Miller

Hi friend!

October is going to be a great month on this blog for this reason: I’ve silenced my fingers on the keyboard to hear from some of my wisest friends. I wrote forty 5 word prayers in the 5 Word Prayers Devotional Book, but I wasn’t able to cover it all. So I saved a seat here and invited some friends with focused passions and insights on topics we struggle with to help us: about self-focus, racial unity/love, doubting God, and mental health. I can’t wait for you to read their wisdom all month.

First up is my dear friend, Sharon Miller, the author of brand new book, Free of Me: Why Life is Better When it’s Not About You. Sharon has wrestled with the self-help culture that pitches promises of fulfillment but rings empty and has mined important truth through the process of finding her place by looking only to God.

In my personal endorsement of Free of Me I write: “What a gift to our me-first culture. This book is a sweet discipling on every page. I’m grateful for the message of Free of Me and the lives it will truly set free.”

I believe in the message Sharon writes in her book and the message of 5 Word Prayers. I’ve asked Sharon to write her own 5-word prayer, that it might be a spark to ignite deeper intimacy with your Creator, as you take the focus off you and place it on God. I can say firsthand that this shift in focus for me has completely changed my life (and something I constantly have to pray to do).

Help Me Raise My Gaze

It’s hard not to look in a mirror, isn’t it?

Most of us can’t walk past a mirror—or any reflective surface—without checking ourselves out, and I am among the worst! When I was in college, I was eating lunch with an older woman from church. She was a mentor to numerous women my age, and we sat across from one another chatting while we ate. Out of nowhere she interrupted herself and asked, “Is there a mirror behind me? You keep looking past me.”

She craned her neck around and, sure enough, there it was. A mirror. I had been looking at myself the entire meal.

This story still embarrasses me to think about, but it’s also a common behavior. Looking at your reflection is practically a human reflex. If you walk by a mirror, you are going to take a look. We all do it.

This reflex is powerful. It’s so powerful that we apply it to nearly everything in our lives: relationships, possessions, appearance, career. We look to these things and ask, “What do they say about me? What do they say about my worth?”

I call this the “mirror reflex,” and the mirror reflex is so powerful that we even do it to God. We open the Bible and ask, “What does this say about me?” We turn to Jesus and ask, “What do you think about me?” The answers to those questions are important, but the mirror reflex is so compelling that we run a particular risk:

If we always begin by asking, “What does the Bible say about me?” we might not ever reach the point of asking, “What does the Bible say about God?”

This is a temptation we all face, so much so that it has even shaped Christian teaching. Many messages run heavy on our identity, our purpose, and our worth. All good things. But if this is the majority of what we speak and what we hear, it slowly places us at the center of God’s story.

It also places us at the center of the gospel. As if Jesus came to earth and died, simply to help us like ourselves.

We need to fight this temptation, and we need to resist the mirror reflex. Because as much as God loves us, and as much as He restores us, a human-centered gospel cannot save. Our faith will be powerless if, at the end of the day, it’s mostly about us.

And so we ask God to raise our gaze off of ourselves and onto Him. We ask Him to disrupt the gravitational pull of our self-focus, and re-orient our souls toward Him. We ask His Spirit to help us achieve what we cannot do on our own, and to fix our eyes on the One who sets us free.


Sharon Hodde Miller is a pastor’s wife, mother to two small boys, and author of Free of Me. In addition to earning her PhD, Sharon has blogged at SheWorships.com for nearly ten years, making God’s Word accessible to women everywhere. She has been a regular contributor to Propel and Her.meneutics, and has written for RelevantChristianity Today, (in)courage, She Reads Truth, and many other publications and blogs. She speaks regularly on topics ranging from leadership to body image to Scripture. She lives with her family in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Order 5 Word Prayers!

Prayer Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

Do you find yourself frustrated in your communication with God? Does a thriving prayer life feel completely out of reach?

The strength of your prayers lies in your heart intent, not your word count. Discover a new joy in your conversations with God!

Meet Tiffini from The House of Belonging

By now you may have heard the word on the street about the amazing giveaway I’m doing to celebrate my book launch: a beautiful 24 X 36 wooden sign (frame included!) with the 8 declarations from Put Your Warrior Boots On, made by the exquisite House of Belonging. 

GIVEAWAY:  If you haven’t put your name in the hat to win this for your home, CLICK HERE or find me on Instagram – @lisawhittle (ends at 6pm ET TONIGHT)! 

Though wildly popular, it dawned on me that you may not be familiar with The House of Belonging, and I want you to know that there’s so much more behind this partnership – there’s a reason why this company is so powerful and why it’s founder, Tiffini, has become my true warrior sister.

Her story is a beauty from ashes testimony. It is the truest example of a Jesus Strong life.

I’m honored to introduce her to you, today.

Friend, please meet Tiffini.

 


 

Q and A

1. Tiffini, I have to admit that what drew me to you at first was your beautiful art. I am a home décor freak, always wanted to be an interior decorator, and I followed The House of Belonging and just fell in love with the art. But not only was the artwork stunning, it was the words on the art that drew me in. They were powerful and I knew they came from a deep place. Can you tell me a little of how HOB started?

That is hard to answer in a short paragraph! I love sharing it though. I humbly hear that often. The art drew me, but the words kept me. That is our Papa isn’t it? That words matter. HOB was birthed out of my journey. A rescue mission, we love to call it. In 2010, I knew in my bones that something was stolen from me. Something was missing + I knew I had to go to my Papa to find it.

I was suffering from the inside out. I had arrived at the end of myself and risked my whole world
falling apart (and it did for the most part) as I began letting the spinning plates fall. One by one.

My kids + I had been through over a decade of crazy. Insane, spiraling cycles ending up in me being in an impossible situation to ever get out of. Humanly speaking. While no one else saw our pain.

God did + He was always waiting. Always acting. I chose to take His hand in rescue. House of Belonging was born in a basement with myself and my oldest daughter, who does all of our designing, and the vision that Papa gave me. All of which I could never have seen what was coming and what still is still ahead. I liken it to walking through fire. It was gutting. The birthing. Still is.

It is now a family affair. All 5 of my children work at HOB (I have 4 grown children, 1 teenager + 7 grandchildren).

 

2. Before we even became friends, my friends would send me screenshots of your warrior apparel – your hats and such – because my rally cry is, of course, to Put Your Warrior Boots On and they knew we were kindreds in that. What is it about the word warrior that means so much to you?

I spent all of my life as an orphan. I don’t mean in an actual orphanage. I have biological parents. I have a relationship with my mom, but not with my biological father. I had four step-fathers. Coming from a childhood of hard places, I never felt I belonged. I didn’t know how to have human relationships, and I didn’t know what trust was or how to handle emotions. As children, we learn early on to protect ourselves in whatever ways we can.

I was completely out of control on the inside, but I never gave up. I believe I was born a warrior in the womb. I first heard God when I was 9. I believed it and from that moment on I had conversations with Him.

The day that changed the course of my life was when Holy Spirit breathed me to life through the story of Gideon in Judges 6 + 7. How He saw me. Who I was as His daughter. My identity was a beloved warrior daughter. All of it coming from Him. From His living words. Ever since then He speaks to my identity. Not to the orphan who grew up believing she was unlovable, weak, powerless and never enough.

Now, warrior beats in my chest. As warriors, we have our Father’s heart. It is a warrior heart for rebels, survivors + revolutionaries. A fire that will ignite in broken hearts through His Word to Papa’s heart. We are born in the battlefield of real life. And as warriors, this is where we find our identities, our belonging.

 

3. You have a campaign called “words matter.” Tell me about how words have the power to change and transform, especially words from The Word?

Words matter because they are the threads that weave the stories. Suffering stories are my heart. I am a former sufferer for suffering’s sake until God invited me to come + see the mystery of suffering and look in awe and wonder at what He does with our suffering. He isn’t the cause of it. He is the rebuilder of it.

My heart is teaching others how to enter into other’s pain and not have to fix it, tell it religious antidotes, and even participate in real-time ways.

Eugene Peterson says it best, “In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and if they will let us join them in protest and prayer. Pity can be nearsighted.”

I want somehow for Words Matter to give a voice to all kinds of suffering stories with a myriad of endings, not all fairy tale endings, but God-story endings that invite us to dare to be fully awake in our own suffering. To partner with Papa in the mystery. To give those who live lifetimes of suffering a voice, affirmation, and acknowledgment instead of isolation, shame, and loneliness. We do not know how to enter into pain without religion. We must enter in with living words AND Papa’s heart with relationship.

 

4. What is it about the 8 declarations on this custom piece you made for me that resonated with you, and which one, in particular, do you personally need to most remember?

I LOVE them all, you’re talking to a word girl ;D

But for me, declaration #2 (I Know What I Believe). The cross is everything. It is central. It is the gospel. BIG GOD. BIG GOSPEL.

 

5. I can’t believe you are a grandma! What do you most hope for your kids and grandkids as they walk through this world that seems to have gone crazy?

To know their God, their identity, and their stone.

Their identity is their stone. Their story.

That they throw that stone into the chaos. Sharing God’s shalom with the world in chaos.

Friend, I can’t wait to meet you one day! I am championing you on from here. I am humbled to war with you. To be on the front lines with you. Don’t you ever stand down. Keep giving voice to the cross… to every single one of your declarations. You will be challenged daily, but I want to encourage you that the world in chaos needs the gospel in real time. In real people who are Jesus followers in every way of the word. Who don’t fall away when suffering and persecution come.

I love you.

 

Connect with Tiffini & The House of Belonging!

 

The Signature Collection 8 Declarations Sign (as seen above) will be available beginning June 1, 2017.

Order 5 Word Prayers!

Prayer Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

Do you find yourself frustrated in your communication with God? Does a thriving prayer life feel completely out of reach?

The strength of your prayers lies in your heart intent, not your word count. Discover a new joy in your conversations with God!

When Jesus Doesn’t Calm the Storm

When Jesus Doesn’t Calm the Storm

Hi friends!

I need to tell you a few things about Adam Weber, the guest writer of my blog, today. 1) He’s the founder and pastor of one of my favorite churches in America, Embrace Church. Anytime they ask me to speak there, I say yes. Warm, thriving, Kingdom-focused. These are the words that come to mind about Embrace. Oh, and he’s like 30. Ok maybe not 30. But close. I’m actually not sure but you get the picture: young to lead a dynamic 6-campus, one of the fastest growing churches in America. I attribute it to his humble heart. 2) He’s my friend. Not all pastors where I go and speak become my true and legit friends. Adam became one. 3) He’s written a book called Talking with God that is a really important book I hope you will go out and buy. It de-complicates prayer, which is something I’m passionate about, especially right now. Did I tell you I just finished writing a book called 5-Word Prayers? Right. I did. Coming in October. Adam and I are on such the same wavelength.

I asked Adam if I could share this post with you because it’s beautiful, and it’s something I needed to read. 

I’ve had some storms I’ve wanted Jesus to calm lately. How about you?

 

 

 

When my oldest was born, we lived hours away from family. I was a rookie dad, and when it came to the birth of tiny humans, all I knew was that it was supposed to all happen like clockwork. We did the pre-baby classes. We were ready. Just go to the hospital. Labor. Baby comes. Baby cries. Mom holds baby. And there would be nothing to worry about, right? Which was true. Until it actually came time for Hudson’s birth.

My wife Becky was at work when her water broke. I picked her up, and we drove to Saint Joseph East hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. All was great until near the end of labor. Hudson’s heart rate started going all over the place, and the doctors decided he needed to come out sooner rather than later.

As he was coming out, it became clear that something was terribly wrong. I could see it on the faces of the nurses. Out of nowhere, fifteen different people, doctors and nurses, appeared in the room. The heart monitor was beeping, and Hudson was blue, not making a sound.

Wasn’t he supposed to start crying? Then I saw it. The umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around his neck. Instead of handing us our baby to hold, they quickly took him away and a team of people worked frantically to help him breathe.

In that moment, my heart was torn into pieces for someone I had seen for less than a minute. I was scared. And broken.

All I could do was cry out. Literally, I was crying as I prayed. I didn’t even think about it. The words just came out from the deepest part of me.

God, are you sleeping?

Is he going to be okay?

Would you be with my new son?

Help him to breathe, Lord.

Father, I’m scared!

If you struggle to “pray,” do you know how to yell? Can you scream? Have you ever cried out to God? Shouted at the sky? Shaken your fist in the air? Maybe you’ve been praying for years and didn’t know it.

***

The night Hudson was born, I cried more than I thought was humanly possible. My eyes hurt because I cried so much. Thankfully, the next morning Hudson was cleared by the nurses and I was able to hold my healthy son. I give thanks for Hudson daily, and I only wish every story ended like this. I wish the storm was calmed every time. Sadly, that’s not the case.

What happens when the storms come, we cry out to God, and the worst still takes place? What happens when it feels like God is silent?

Have you been there before? Have you endured a storm that seemed to shake everything, including the foundation of all that you know about God? I without question have been in this place.

Sometimes I don’t pray because I question whether it will change anything. Does it really matter if I do? Other times I don’t pray because I don’t want to be disappointed by God. What if I pray and nothing happens? Will it shake my faith in prayer? Will it shake my belief in God?

For the past five years, my dad has had a pain issue. The pain has completely altered his life. He went from being one of the most active, healthy people I’ve ever known to lying in bed a majority of each day because of the pain. Mom and Dad now have a bed in their living room so he doesn’t have to be alone in the bedroom during the day. He walks with a cane. He is in constant pain. It’s horrible.

I can honestly say that I’ve never prayed more faithfully for anyone in my life. I’ve prayed for years that he would be healed. On my knees, crying out, yelling at God—I’ve done it all. Yet in spite of my cries, Dad’s condition has continued to worsen. Even now, I cry just thinking about it. I want so much for him to be healed.

I could attempt to explain the unexplainable. I could offer reasons and explanations to your questions and mine, but at times there simply aren’t any. None that satisfy. I’ve found that trite answers only cause more hurt than good.

When I ask my dad his thoughts on what he’s going through, specifically the times his very life has been in jeopardy, he’s the first to admit that he has questions too. At times he cries about it. Having had to retire early, he’s worried about finances. If something were to happen to him, he worries about my mom being alone. Yet he’s also quick to say that more than ever before, he realizes that God is truly good, that he’s in control of all things, and that he’ll provide everything we need. He’s realized that even death itself isn’t a bad thing.

A few years ago, Dad had a surgery and had complications afterward. He had to go back into surgery again that same day. Before being wheeled into the operating room for the second time, at one of his worst moments, he asked my mom to play the song “10,000 Reasons” on her cell phone so he could listen to it.

It’s a song that talks about praising God, and all the reasons that we have to thank God, regardless of what we’re facing. Matt Redman reminds us that though our days may draw to a close, our souls will still “sing your praise unending.”

I can’t say it any better. I guess my dad is choosing to focus on Jesus in the midst of the storm. In the end, isn’t that what storms do? They remind us of what’s important. They remind us who is in control. They remind us to keep focusing on the main thing—Jesus. And if we keep talking with him through the storm, we might come to understand that he’s all we’ve ever really needed.


Adam lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He likes typewriters, drives a Rambler, cheers for the Cincinnati Bengals, has 4 chickens, and a dog named Daisy. He’s the Lead Pastor of Embrace, a 10-year-old church that has grown to 6 campuses in two states.He and his beautiful wife, Becky, have four kids. Fun fact: He once made worldwide news when a turkey vulture fell out of the sky and onto his back porch during an ice storm. Google it.

To order Talking With God, CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

If You Need to Remember the Great I AM

**Friends, please welcome my friend, Michele Cushatt, to the blog. She’s just released a new book called I AM: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because Of Who He Is, and I hope for your sake you will go get it. A few things you should know. 1) Michele’s my real life friend, as in we have spent overnight together, shared meals, prayed & cried and regularly text. She’s the Michele in the opening story of my next book, so that’s a fun fact for you. :) 2) I’ve watched her walk through cancer, and she is a wrestler, lover of God, and deep well. Any hard question she will ask herself, first. 3) I endorsed her new book, I AM: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is because it ministered to me and is a tool I can eagerly recommend to my friends to go with your daily Bible reading. So do yourself a favor and get it, today. For real. And I don’t say that often.

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The gift arrived when I least expected it. And when I most needed it.

A small corked jar, no bigger than a thimble. Filled with dozens of yellow-brown mustard seeds, each smaller than the head of a pin.

For months, I’d been struggling with my faith. After too many years of physical pain, I came up for a brief reprieve only to face a vast sea of spiritual pain. For nearly five years, I’d prayed for God to deliver me from cancer and suffering, to restore my life to health and protect my family from further heartache. Beyond my own prayers, thousands of friends and family and strangers offered up theirs. Add it all up and it equaled far more than a thimble jar filled with faith.

Even so, illness and death continued to stalk me. In spite of my pleas, God didn’t seem inclined to intervene.

What about my mustard seed of faith, God? I thought You said it was enough.

With books and Bibles and journals gathered around me, I searched for answers and wrestled with the God I’d always loved. I still loved Him, still believed in Him. I just didn’t understand Him. I didn’t understand His promise of power coupled with His apparent unwillingness to deliver it. We’d prayed. Fasted. Believed promises and memorized Bible verses.

Where was God?

Thus, my friend, Traci, sent mustard seeds. A Matthew 17:20 reminder for the girl who feared her fragile faith and nagging doubts meant she was a terrible Christian after all. With one glance at her thimble-sized jar, I remembered:

It isn’t the size of a girl’s faith but the presence of it that counts.

I wonder if the disciples experienced a similar angst when their best efforts to heal a boy came up short. They’d been given power to heal diseases and cast out demons. By that point, they’d done it enough times to feel a measure of confidence that healing would come once again.

Only it didn’t. No matter how many times they tried. So the boy’s father asked Jesus for help, and Jesus came through. When the disciples asked why their efforts didn’t produce results, Jesus said simply, “Because you have so little faith” (Matt. 17:20).

So little faith?

I’m confused. It seems to me they had far more faith than most.

But the disciples’ shortage of faith wasn’t a lack of belief in the power of God. They knew Jesus was able. They didn’t doubt His reality or capability.

But their expectation wasn’t sourced in relationship. They’d failed to submit their will to the will of their Father. Only there, in full submission, is a mustard seed of faith a powerful mountain- moving thing.

I do not know why some mountains move and others remain firmly in place. I’ve seen people of tall and true faith baffled by God’s lack of response. And I’ve seen people stuck in a mire of doubt and unbelief surprised by a miracle their faith doesn’t seem to deserve.

I know that belief and faith are critical pieces of this spiritual journey to the glory of heaven. But I also know that Jesus believed fully in God’s ability to deliver when He begged for deliverance the night before His death. He had more than a thimble-sized jar of faith, and yet God chose not to move His mountain.

Or, perhaps, His mountain moved after all. In the size and shape of a tomb-sealing stone. In a moment, faith moved it from here to there, and the Son of God walked out, alive.

No, God didn’t move the mountain of His crucifixion. But God moved the mountain of His death in a beautiful resurrection.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor can I unravel the mysteries of our unfathomable God. But perhaps the greatest faith, a mountain- moving faith, is one that bends low. One that submits to the will of the Father and allows the power of God to move in ways we wouldn’t have imagined.

In our tiniest mustard seed of faith, we too have access to that kind of power.

When we bow our desires to the plan of a God we love and trust, we have access to a far greater power than we’ve ever known. Resurrection power. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you and in me. That means when we pray for mountains to move, they move. Sometimes it’s the mountain right in front of us. Other times, it’s the bigger mountain we don’t yet see.

I still pray for healing, hoping God will grant my heart’s desire. I still pray for a body that’s renewed and a life that’s long.

But I also pray those healing prayers on bent knees, knowing God may choose to move a mountain bigger than this one.

Either way, I can trust Him to empower me. Even if all I can muster up is a mustard seed of faith.

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About I AM:

Pulling from her experiences of raising children from trauma, a personal life-threatening illness, and the devastating identity crises that came to her family as a result, Michele creates safe spaces for honest conversations around the tensions between real faith and real life.

The words of Michele’s most recent book — I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of cancer during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reasons why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.

Michele and the love of her life, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long run, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele at michelecushatt.com.