Three Ways Play Helps us Pray


Spring is coming, and all living things are eager to proclaim it. The geese, back from their winter vacation, have assembled a small army at the pond where I walk. They squawk loud orders at each other and at anyone else trying to slip quietly by. Dogs, always happy to be released from the hold of winter, take deep sniffs of the thawing ground as their owners gaze up at blue skies. People wave as they pedal on bicycles, and children laugh as they race to the park swings. Soon gardeners will be planting seeds and selecting flowers.

Spring does not hurry, and neither do those who revel in it. We love the season’s slow, mindful pace, and we readily get outside to play.

What if time to pray was welcomed like time to play? 

Many of us, however well-intentioned, do not pray with thoughtful ease. Maybe it seems intimidating or useless or less important than other things. Maybe we are not sure what we believe or how to begin. Perhaps we are afraid God will not listen or we will do it wrong…

The reasons why people struggle to pray are as unique as the individuals themselves.

The importance of prayer is taught in the Bible, sermons, books, and devotions. And, prayer tools like Bible reading plans and journal writing certainly help us. But, like being in school, our lessons in reading and writing are limited in what they teach. As students in God’s classroom, we long to go out and play.

Studies show kids learn better in school if they have time to play. Are adults really any different? If recess activities help children develop socially, cognitively, and emotionally, then wouldn’t an adult’s developing prayer life benefit in similar ways? How can we use play to help us pray?

1. Play Promotes Confidence in God

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV

When we play in healthy, enjoyable ways, we grow confident in our skills and in who God made us to be. We tend to be nicer to ourselves when we are having fun. Expectations and attitudes are lighter, so we can learn about our strengths and weaknesses with less judgement.

With some thought, we may even see how God uses the activities and hobbies we enjoy to teach and love us. Play encourages our trust and confidence in God’s good works to grow.    

 2. Play Encourages Praise

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Psalm 24:1 NIV

Engaging in play opens up our eyes to the world and the place we hold in it. Indoors or outdoors, the activities that bring us joy help us feel fully alive and present by heightening our senses. If we spend our leisure time with others, then we receive additional benefits of companionship and combined learning.

Spending time doing things we love brings contentment and helps our sense of gratitude thrive. Play brings us joy, and joy reflects praise to the One who created us all.

3. Play Boosts Creativity

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

When we have fun, we let go of worries, schedules, and commitments. We become more receptive to the ways God is speaking into our lives. As we play, our minds enter a creative state where we can easily lose track of time. Thoughts freely wander and open up avenues for ideas, problem-solving, and self-assurances to form.

Taking a break from our daily routines allows us to spend time with God and see the ways he might be trying to use us. Through play we can evaluate our gifts, talents, and resources, and then prayerfully consider how to use them to serve God and others.

Know God In and Out of the Classroom

In school, cordial relationships form as we work in the classroom, and more substantial friendships are forged on the playground. Both are necessary for learning and development. Similarly, a classroom type respectful relationship develops with God through study and learning. And, a different, deeper relationship can evolve with him on the playground of his creation.

He made you so you could share in his creation, could love and laugh and know him. ~Ted Griffen

Life, in its hurry, can make us feel like we should skip recess time with God. We are pressured to know and to serve him, often more than we are encouraged to just enjoy him. Eventually, our lives and our prayers become depleted. Then, we are less eager to learn from him. As our best teacher, God wants us to pray, but he also wants us to play.

Remaining mindful of God as we pursue healthy hobbies or interests brings increased confidence, newfound praise, and heightened creativity to our prayer life. Time spent in play can make us more receptive to God’s plans for us, and help us better align our prayers with his will. 

Scripture tells us: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NLT). Spring is coming! It is okay to twist in our seats with anticipation. God loves to join us on the playground. Press on in faith, my friends!

Related Posts:

Walking at a Dog-determined Pace

Bucket lists, God’s Plans, and the Redwood Forest

Where Joy Flows From

Learning to Pray

The Serenity Prayer: a Road Map for Peace

Peace is scattered like breadcrumbs up the Oregon coast. Stop at any state visitor center, and the receptionists will enthusiastically circle its varied locations on an area map. They do not specifically tell you serenity resides here and there, but you can see it on their faces as they gesture and describe the points of interest along your route. With a sigh and well wishes, they send you off to discover peace for yourselves along the winding highway.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hold a road map to peace in our hands at all times? One that told us the way to travel, the turns to avoid, and the attitudes to keep? As I was thinking about this lately, the first few lines of the Serenity Prayer came to mind:

God grant me the serenity 
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

These words of reassurance may ring familiar to your ear as well. Here is the lesser known, second part of the prayer:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as he did, this sinful world 
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right
If I surrender to his Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with him forever in the next.

The Serenity Prayer, composed in the 1930’s and published in 1951 by Reinhold Niebuhr, exists in several modified versions. Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step program groups use the prayer to bring a sense of peace, acceptance, and purposeful action to their members. It has a long history of helping people find peace by trusting God.

Although the Serenity Prayer is not actually part of the Bible, many Scriptures connect to the prayer and its wisdom:

God grant me the serenity

Right away, the prayer’s first few words highlight a needed reliance on God’s presence in our lives. This prayer acknowledges serenity is not something we can achieve on our own; peace depends on a higher power — God.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NLT

To accept the things I cannot change

There are circumstances, events, and people in our lives we cannot change or control. Accepting this fact, instead of wrestling with things we are unable to fix or understand, frees our minds to focus on productive activities and gain a sense of purpose.

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 NIV

Courage to change the things I can

Over time, unhealthy behaviors and attitudes make us feel defeated. They lead us to believe there is no hope for change, but this prayer encourages us to ask God to give us the courage needed to overcome problems within our control.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

And wisdom to know the difference

Often it is hard to know what we can change and what we cannot. Giving a problem a “time-out” so we can think about it rationally, instead of reacting quickly can grant us wisdom. Sometimes, consulting with others we trust or those with similar experiences helps us too. God’s wisdom comes to us through these things, as well as in Scripture verses, prayer, quiet activities, or stillness.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time

Although many of us would like to predict, prepare, or even avert the trouble we face tomorrow, God did not give us supernatural powers. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” One day at a time, one moment at a time, one blessing at a time is the way God unfolds life for us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:26-34 NIV

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace

Instead of just handing us peace, God often allows struggles to strengthen faith muscles used to acquire peace. He teaches us to let go of situations we cannot control, to pray, and to trust in him. As we get better at accepting unavoidable hardships and at enduring with faith, we live with more and more of God’s peace by way of the Holy Spirit.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

Jesus came to earth not to rid us of our sinful nature, but to save us from it. When he chose to die on the cross for us, our sins died with him. The eternal life his death grants us is not something we have to earn. It is a free gift, received by believing in him. Through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, he guides us in living an abundant life now. Following Christ’s way of living in a sinful world leads others to see his likeness in us, and hopefully stirs within them a longing for that as well.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT

Trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his Will

Living with faith means learning to trust God’s timing and control. His plans to make things right may not be understood in our lifetimes, but he is always faithful in fulfilling his promises. Surrendering to his Will shows we recognize we will never have all the answers or be able to make everything right on our own.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next

Jesus’ life and teachings provide a model to follow so that we can live a “reasonably happy” life while here. Although we will face trouble, he tells us to remain courageous in anticipation of the perfectly divine, eternal life which awaits us.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT  

The Serenity Prayer unfolds peace like a road map; its words provide direction and point out areas for rest along the way. It is a good map to keep in our back pockets, in case we get lost. We can refer to it when life sends us on a detour or when the weather looks bad. And, the map maker himself is only a prayer call away. Press on in faith, my friends!

Related Posts:

Seeking Three Kinds of Peace 

While We Wait on God

The Worry Fight

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Sometimes, it is hard to see anything when we are walking in the rain. We keep our heads down and we try to move ahead. With our minds set on drier destinations, counting blessings tends to be an afterthought.

Likewise, giving thanks during the metaphorical storms of life does not come naturally. Blessings are harder to see when we are awash in emotion. However, if we mindfully seek God’s gifts while proceeding through difficult circumstances, we can always find them.

A Story of Giving Thanks…

Granted, crazier things have happened. But, I am truly surprised when the receptionist at the hospital’s surgery and procedure center recognizes me. With her artsy flair of untamed hair and funky glasses, one understands why she is not easily forgotten. But me, noticeably lacking in pieces of flair — I am more apt to slide by unnoticed.

“Hmm, hey, you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” she asks. “You look familiar. Nice to see you.”

I nod. “Yes, it’s been several years,” I say. “I can’t believe you remember me.”

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV 

Thanks for Kindness

Three years ago, life was moving too quickly, transitions were happening, and health concerns of family and friends seemed overwhelming. I sat in the waiting room behind this same receptionist, trying to keep worry from eating up my insides. Bustling around her desk, the receptionist greeted incoming patients and their loved ones with a reassuring presence and calm step-by-step instructions. I noticed a big button pinned on her shirt which the other receptionists did not have. It read, “I GIVE FREE HUGS.”

On that day, I, someone who rarely initiates any public displays of affection, surprised myself by boldly accepting her hugging offer. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for people who throw kindness around like confetti and who lift the spirits of everyone they meet.

Thanks for Humor

So, here I am again in the same waiting room. The circumstances are different, but still concerning. I buy a cup of tea at the café and find a chair by the long set of windows. Scanning the waiting room, I take in the large maze of walls, windows, and partitions. Each division or pod creates a somewhat private waiting space for family and friends.

A family of ten trails in and sets up camp in a pod close by. It is early and the adults are disheveled, in need of coffee. Their children twist around impatiently on the floor at their feet. After awhile, I notice a boy, about four years old, pushing a toy truck up a chair leg and across the laps of his adult companions.

Exasperated he says, “Do we REALLY have to stay here all day?!”

His mother answers, “Yes, your dad is having surgery today. We have to be here.”

He grumbles, “Man! Now my whole day is ruined.”

I smile and stifle the laughter rising up. I love the unfiltered honesty of children. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the humor that turns a serious moment upside down and shakes it all around.  

Thanks for Thoughts and Insights

Gazing out the window, I take a sip from my cup. Through the windows of a building across the street, I watch a preschool lesson in action. A teacher is speaking and the children are eagerly listening — as little ones will. They reach out excitedly to each other, hold hands, and quickly form a circle anticipating what is to come. Then, suddenly, whoosh! Together, their tiny hands toss a multi-colored parachute up high in the air. It balloons up, then gently floats down to rest. They smile and jump about, ready to do it again and again.

My mind flashes back to playing this parachute game when I was young. Never athletically inclined, this physical education activity was one I actually looked forward to. As I watch the parachute across the street rise and fall, I think about the ups and downs of life. Hard times come and go. We’re in the thick of trouble, and then we’re not.

Like a parachute jump from an airplane, our free fall in a difficult situation can feel like it goes on forever. We pray God would hurry up and deploy the parachute already! But, so often we must wait in our uncomfortableness. God knows the landscape ahead better than we do and he has a plan. As our instructor, he encourages us to rely on his wisdom, care, and grace. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the way he comforts and speaks to us when we get quiet and listen.  

God’s Will

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

The second part of this Scripture, regarding God’s will, can be confusing. Does God want us to be thankful for the bad things that happen to us? Further study clarified Paul the Apostle’s meaning. He says to give thanks in all circumstances. Note this is different than saying give thanks for all circumstances. Awful and evil things in this world are not from God — we do not need to be thankful for them. Our thankfulness is for his presence with us in trouble and for the good he brings forth from it. God’s will for us is to use gratitude — in all circumstances — to find peace and rest regardless of changing events and emotions. 

A Formula for THANKS

Whatever our day brings, we can look for traces of God’s presence with us and give thanks for his care. Some blessings or gifts are easily identified like food, shelter, family, activities, income, etc. Others, like the ones below, are blessings that come from within.

T = Thoughts – God quietly speaks to us in our thoughts through the Holy Spirit. Referencing Scripture can help us discern his voice from other distractions and feelings.

H = Humor – God lightens our load through the gift of laughter. He puts people and events in our path which make us smile.

A = Acceptance – God points out things we have been reluctant to accept. He shows us where we are stuck, what we need to do, and who we need to forgive.

N = Nature – God calms our emotions with the many beautiful gifts of his creation (e.g. rainbows, sunrises, wildlife).

K = Kindness – God cares for us through the kindness of others.

S = Shine Opportunities – God provides us opportunities to shine his light by being a blessing to others.

Remaining mindful of the many gifts God provides may not change a difficult situation, but it does change our outlook. Gratitude helps us gain confidence that God is with us, and he is working all things together for our good. As our faith in him grows, so does our hope. And, hope in restoration from our God, a God who loves us, is always firm and secure. Press on in faith, my friends!

by Jamie Trunnel

There’s bound to be puddles in your path.
Showing up as people, places, and things like that.

Some race through
Causing quite a splash.
Solving problems fast;
Missing meaning as they dash.

Others wade in,
Then get stuck.
Wallowing in trial;
Living in muck.

The lucky proceed
Like playing chess.
Seeing beauty ripple
From trouble’s mess.

Find this poem and many others in my new book Simple Wishes . The poems and color photos in Simple Wishes were inspired by the easily overlooked blessings in life. It makes a great gift for someone you are thankful for. All profits are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with gratitude for the work they do.

Other Related Posts:

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Small Surprises from God

Walking at a Dog-determined Pace

This is the Day the Lord has Made

Where Joy Flows From



The Worry Fight

Have you fought a few rounds with worry lately? More often than we would like, many of us find ourselves in the ring trying to knock worry out. We fret about things like beauty, money, success, health, family and …. even worry itself! Gradually, worry becomes a fact of life, part of the human condition, or something we expect to come with responsibility.

We stay in the ring, routinely fighting one worry after another, even though we know our efforts are futile. There’s no winning against worry, and we know this. It doesn’t solve anything, but tossing it around in the ring seems to make us feel productive somehow. Then, circumstances change and our current worry opponent becomes weaker. We’re ready to take off our gloves, but then a fresh worry shows up and relieves the old one. So, we stay in the ring, and we keep swinging.

One day a large, unfamiliar worry shows up in the opposite corner. This fight drags on longer than the rest. The punches surprise us. We can’t stay on our feet. Staggering and out of options, we fall against the ropes.

Where do we go from here? Have you been there? I have. I spent a lot of my life in the ring fighting worry, day in and day out. One opponent after another, I stayed on my feet. But, one day the worry was too big and too unknown. It wore me out. I spent some time hanging on those ropes, searching for a way to end the fight with worry.

I read what God had to say about worry. Did you know the Bible tells us ‘not to fear’ hundreds of times? Some sources say 365 times — interestingly, the same number of days in a year. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear God never intended us to fight with worry at all. How did he intend for us to cope?

Humbly Seek God’s Help

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

In Christianity, humility means to hold a modest opinion of one’s importance and abilities in relation to God. Humbly seeking God’s help requires us to overcome any barriers like pride, shame, or even ignorance which stand in the way of our relationship with him. Admitting we cannot find answers on our own opens the door for God to help. Our prayers start a relationship with him, thus serving him in one of the best possible ways.

As we grow in faith, we realize that no problem is too big or small for God. Everything that happens to us concerns him because he loves us, no matter what. We were not meant to handle our problems without his help. However, if we don’t ask him for help, he certainly lets us try (free will). God does not occasionally want our worries. He does not only want to hear about certain things. God wants every concern; he wants ALL our anxiety.

Trust God’s Care and Plans for You

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3: 5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

When worries weigh heavy on our hearts we try anything to remedy our situation – even more worrying. Urgent situations may cause us to forget to pray or to delay it. We might doubt God’s ability to help us. Or, we might wonder why God would even want to help us. Prayer can become our last resort. Trusting God with “all your heart” means trusting him FIRST, not last.

God wants us to rely on him. We cannot control or fully understand our circumstances, but God does. He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to help us find our way. Prayer provides the time we need to free our conscience and voice concerns. Do our problems magically vanish? No. But, prayer can relieve worry by rejuvenating us with God’s hope and new direction. Scripture brings us reassurance and helps evaluate decisions. We start noticing how love shows up for us in times of trouble, and we may discover how our experiences can help us love others. Trusting God, in good times and in bad, helps us discover paths away from worry. 

Share the Load

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

Many of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible use farming metaphors. Farming was a common activity people could relate to. A yoke is a harness worn by oxen to pull a load behind them and complete work. In this Scripture, Jesus asks us to share the yoke with him, so he can help pull our burdens in life. Our troubles may not be removed, but Christ’s strength makes our load lighter and more manageable.

Sharing the yoke allows us to focus on the work we can do and leave the rest up to God. Worry only distracts us from seeing the ways God is helping. Dwelling on the what if’s stall us from walking forward in faith-filled directions. Those directions might include things like asking others for prayers and support, exploring resources, taking care of our health, seeking professional help, or enjoying God in new ways. Focusing on God’s guidance and results, instead of worry, makes us more productive in our circumstances.  

Find Peace and Rest

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

As God in human flesh, Jesus knew what suffering lay ahead. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, he was overcome with anguish and deep sorrow regarding the agony ahead (Matthew 26:36-39). Yet, because of his faith in God’s sovereignty and good, he left willingly with the Roman soldiers who came for him.

His pure heart had never felt guilt, anxiety, or fear until he chose to become sin for us. By accepting our sin while on the cross, he endured not only physical torture, but infinitely worse, a spiritual separation from God (Matthew 27:46). Because of his sacrifice, his believers will never experience this kind of separation from God; they receive the gift of eternal life.

As believers, we never have to endure anything as horrific as Jesus did. But like Jesus, we must remind ourselves not to fear because we also trust God is in control and working things for good. Faith allows us to face concerns one day at a time and remain assured God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). 

Before he died, Jesus told his disciples he would send peace to dwell within his followers through the Holy Spirit. Our faith ignites the Holy Spirit to offer peace, so even in the most difficult circumstances we know we will be okay. The world cannot offer us that kind of lasting peace.

Fighting worry requires us to bring all our best moves, fancy footwork, and endurance. We’re good fighters, but eventually worry wears us out. Crawling to the ropes, we try hoisting ourselves up. Beaten, tired, and struggling, our minds run out of options.

But wait…someone is on the other side of the ropes. Offering a hand, he pulls us clear of the ring. Turn around. Look at worry now. He’s dancing around, throwing jabs in the air, and searching for an opponent. He can keep swinging. We are done. As our friend and rescuer says, “It is finished”.

When you run out of options, you run into Jesus. 

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” -Mark 6:50 (NLT) 

Press on in faith my friends.

Dear God,

Thank you for your gentle reminders not to worry. You show love and care for me daily through your blessings, people, and opportunities. Keep my eyes open to the ways you work on my behalf so I do not take any of it for granted. Continue teaching me humility so I bring more worries to you in prayer. When I get caught up trying to fix or control circumstances, help me remember to trust your plans and come to you first not last. Help me focus on what I can do instead of worrying about what I cannot. Lead me in finding the plans you have for me. As I feel and see the way faith lightens my load, I pray my peace will also grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Related Posts:

Learning to Pray

Psalm 23: A Shepherd’s Meanings and Motivations

Embracing God’s Plan

Trusting God Along the Eagle Trail

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Where Joy Flows From

For me, the trickiest part of kayaking is just getting in the boat. Stepping off the dock one foot at a time into a rocking, unsteady object is a bit unnerving. Will it lurch suddenly in the wrong direction when my unbalanced weight makes contact? Can my other leg join the effort quickly and precisely enough to thwart disaster? Or, will my typically clumsy nature land me in the lake?

Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband who understands my worries and is familiar with my lack of grace. As I step from the dock to the kayak, he steadies me with his hand and offers lighthearted reassurances that I will not get wet.

Once I am in the boat, my anxious perspective makes a dramatic shift. As I push out from the dock’s wooden planks, I find myself immersed in blue. Blue skies and blue water for as far as my eyes can see. I breathe it in. My body relaxes and my mind becomes calm. Troubles seem removed…distant. I feel like nothing can disturb my peace. I think this must be what joy feels like.

If you’ve been in a kayak, you know balanced paddle strokes keep you moving ahead. Strokes pull through the water front-to-back on one side and then the other in rotation. Staying on course amidst waves requires holding the paddle straight, strong, and steady on the side you want to turn towards.

Much like waves hitting a kayak, we meet challenges in life which rock and impede the course we travel. Often, a mindset of joy is difficult to maintain. Where does joy flow from in the Christian faith? What actions support keeping it?

Seven Steps to Joyful…

1. Mindful 

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

The word mindful means to be attentive and insightful. From a Biblical perspective, being mindful is devoting our attention to God through prayer, Bible study, or reflection. This invites the Holy Spirit to help us let go of trouble and set our minds on peace.

Taking time to avoid distractions wakes us up to the various ways God speaks to us. Our issues become more apparent and decisions get confirmed. We may notice the same message coming at us in different ways and from different sources. Being mindful tunes us into the many ways God works to reach us, reassure us, and help us.

2. Thankful 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1 New International Version (NIV)

Becoming mindful naturally leads us to become more thankful. When we take note of God’s messages of love and guidance around us, we recognize how blessed we are. Soon our habit of thankfulness begins to outweigh our desire to worry and complain. As we appreciate more of what God does for us, our relationship with him becomes closer. We feel encouraged in both trouble and opportunity. Thankfulness leads us to appreciate what we have, teaches us to learn from problems, and helps us discover the ways God is working for our good. 

3. Prayerful

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

Powerful prayers begin by relying on our thankful habits. Praising God for his love and forgiveness helps us frame our requests to him.

God is not picky about where or how we pray. He simply wants to hear about our challenges and the requests we have for ourselves and others. The load we carry becomes lighter when we tell him our fears, confess our sins, and ask for his help. Spending time in prayer eases our burdens and brings clarity to the dreams God has placed in our hearts.  

4. Truth Full

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Along with prayer, a knowledge of God’s promises or truths found in the Bible brings us closer to him. Seeking him means discovering who he is and what he wants for us. Spending time learning about God’s love and wisdom fills us with his truth. It makes us truth full. Scripture teaches us about hope, strength, and how to live our lives. When we feel lost, the Bible provides a place to go for help and direction. Becoming full of God’s truth builds confidence in faith and leads us to carry out his plans.

5. Dutiful

 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)

Dutiful means conscientiously or obediently fulfilling one’s duty. Becoming mindful, thankful, prayerful, and truth full helps us work on understanding the actions God wants us to take to live joyfully. Sometimes obedience to God feels uncomfortable and goes against the ways of this world. Being a disciple often requires denial of self-centered desires in order to serve God’s purposes. Dutiful followers willingly make sacrifices and take action to bring glory to God’s name instead of their own. 

6. Peaceful 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Peace comes from a deep knowing that we have done all we can to follow God’s instructions. Continually looping back to being mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, and dutiful helps us reach the point of peace. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the calm stability of peace can be delivered even in times of chaos. Although life will not always go the way we would like, our work through these steps teaches us to rely on God’s help. Peace requires letting go of control and trusting God’s love to work for our good.

7. Joyful

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 1 Peter 1:8

Biblically speaking, our joy does not depend on whether things are going well or not. Many consider happiness and joy to mean the same thing. Biblical scholars, however, distinguish between the two in relation to Christian life. Happiness is defined as a feeling that is dependent on circumstances, and it is fleeting in nature. Joy, however, like peace, is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It can remain regardless of trouble, and it may even increase.

Once we find peace within ourselves, it becomes easier to observe and not get immersed in the swells of emotion that enter our lives. We still feel sadness, fear and other difficult emotions, but they don’t overtake us. With practice, our focus on God heightens our sense of well-being. We feel more even keel in the midst of trials. A calm satisfaction flows from the peace of trusting God with our circumstances – this is joy.

Experiencing joy through faith is a process. One that takes consistent time, preparation, and courage. Taking steps to become mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, dutiful, and peaceful teaches us about our God who loves us and is always with us. When waves come and rock our boat, we practice using these steps to get better at keeping our peace – maintaining a straight, strong, and steady course. We discover joy in the midst of it all.

Ready to do some work for joy? Step off the dock into the boat. Push off strong. Paddle left, paddle right. Keep paddling. Look ahead. I see blue. Do you?

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for giving me the tools I need to steady myself in this world and discover your joy. Help me grow more mindful of your presence and blessings that fill my life each day. Draw closer to me as I develop an attitude of thankfulness for those blessings, and as I look for your good in anything that comes my way. Guide me as I work on taking my life to you in prayer. Fill me with your truths and teach me how to dutifully apply them. Bring peace to my heart as I surrender control and trust in your care. May the joy from your Holy Spirit flow through me always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Other Resources:

For more on peace, read Seeking 3 Kinds of Peace

For more on other gifts from the Holy Spirit, read Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

For more on thankfulness, read Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Note Photo Credit: Photos 1, 2, and 5 in this blog are from The rest are my own.