Christmas Love Letters from God: A Review and a Giveaway

christmas-love-letters-coverGlenys Nellist has done it again.

The author of Love Letters from God brings you another powerful book for children that will open up their hearts and help them feel God is speaking right to them.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys tells the magnificent story of the birth of Jesus.  She begins with the story of Isaiah’s good news found in Isaiah 9, when he delivers a message of hope to the people:  a child will be born and He will be the light of the world.  He will deliver us and rescue us from the darkness.  He is our hope.

The book then tells each part of the Christmas story, capturing the hearts of all who read it:  Mary’s song, Joseph’s dream, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the Shepherd’s visit, and the Wise Men’s gifts.

What I love about this book is the simple, yet powerful way Glenys delivers the wonderful story of the birth of Jesus.  Her words make you feel that you are right in the story, experiencing it along with each person.  Her words draw the reader closer to Jesus, making you realize that His birth was meant to save you.

Besides the story, Glenys also provides the reader with two other pieces to this book:  God’s Perfect Promise and a lift-the-flap Love Letter from God.  God’s Perfect Promise is a nugget of truth from Scripture that the Lord writes to remind us of His perfect promise in Jesus Christ.  They are short, easy to remember verses that will allow a child to treasure that verse and recall it when they need to.

To me, the Love Letter from God is the most special part of the book. Every child that reads each letter tucked inside this book can insert their own name and read the letter as if God is speaking right to them.  And at the very end of the book is a lift-the-flap letter where the child can write their own love letter to Jesus, which is their gift to Jesus.

I read this book aloud with my 9-year old daughter.  She and I took turns reading the stories and inserting each other’s names into the letter.  When I asked my daughter what she loved about the book, she said the letters were the most special part of it.  At the end of the book, she wrote a letter to Jesus in the “My Gift to Jesus” lift-the-flap letter.  Here is what she wrote:

Dear Jesus,

I love you!  I am so glad that you were born.  What were Bible days like? 

I love you,  Shelby

That sweet letter brought tears to my eyes. Christmas Love Letters from God opened my child’s eyes and allowed her to see the love that Jesus has for her.  It opened her mind and her heart to wonder what life was like when Jesus was born.  And it also allowed her to express her love to Jesus.

One thing I was not expecting, though, was how this book would affect me.  Let me tell you…this book, I believe, is not meant just for small children, but for all children of God, even 40-year olds like myself. I felt God speaking directly to me through the words of Glenys.  The letter found in Joseph’s dream went straight to my heart:

“Never be afraid to say yes to me.  When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart – whatever I say, whatever I might ask you to do – remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you, too.”

I am so thankful for the ways that the Lord speaks to us.  He can use a book designed for children to be the tool He uses to speak directly to our hearts.  And when He speaks, you know it’s Him.

I highly recommend Christmas Love Letters from God . This not only would be a wonderful Christmas present for your child, but it would be a great family book as well.  You could use this book as a family devotion as you sit around the table for a meal or at night before bed.  You could read a section of this book weekly or each day leading up to Christmas Day.  You could speak each family member’s name into the letters.  You could use the verses of God’s Perfect Promise as your Bible verse to memorize each week.  You could also pray that Scripture verse over each child in your family, inserting their name as if God is speaking directly to them.  So many ways to use this book for a child or for your whole family.

I am excited to share that one person will win a copy of this special book! Zondervan is giving away a copy of Christmas Love Letters from God.  To enter, all you need to do is comment on this post.  A winner will be announced on Monday, October 24.

To see a video of the book, check out this link:

Glenys Nellist







The Prayer Collector

We know God as our Healer, Friend, Savior, Prince of Peace, Heavenly Father, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Creator and many other things.  But have we ever looked at God as a collector of prayers?

In Chapter 17 of The Circle Maker, Mark says, “In much the same way that God bottles our accumulated tears (Psalm 56:8), God collects our prayers.  Each one is precious to Him.  Each one is sealed by God.  And you never know when He’s going to uncork an answer.”

I’ll admit that I have never viewed God as a prayer collector.  I have looked at Him as the One who answers our prayers, but not really as collecting them.

Imagine for a moment that every time you lift up a prayer, God grabs it tightly and gently places it in the box marked for you.  Every prayer you speak over someone or something, He hears and He does not forget.  Each prayer is precious to Him because you have lifted it up.  You are special to Him and He collects these prayers and will answer them when it’s time.

One important thing we tend to forget, though, is that when our prayers go unanswered, we feel as if God hasn’t heard us.  Or that He doesn’t care about us.  We feel that our prayer has been lifted up only to be discarded by God.  Like it’s not worthy of being answered.

How much further from the truth can that be?

So what can we do to teach our kids that God does hear us and He does answer prayer?

One idea is to have a Family Prayer Box.  Have each family member write down prayer requests (one prayer per slip of paper).  Collect these prayers in your own family prayer box (make sure to put the date on the slip of paper).  Every night when you sit around the dinner table or before bed, have each family member draw a prayer request from the box, drawing until all of the requests have been taken out.  Then pray individually for each request.  After you pray, place the request back into your family prayer box.  As prayers are answered, you can take them out and place them in the “Answered Prayers” box.  This will allow your family to visually see that God does hear us and that He does answer prayers.

This activity will help your family see God as The Prayer Collector.  What a great visual to see that the prayers we lift up are collected by God and answered in His time.  Not our time, but only His time.  And what a great way for you also to give thanks and praise to God as you transfer those collected prayers over to the answered prayers.

Journal Questions
1.  What do you think about this view of God as The Prayer Collector?

2.  What prayer do you feel has been lost by God because it has gone unanswered?

3.  Write out a prayer to the Lord, viewing Him as The Prayer Collector.  This could be a prayer of forgiveness, a prayer of thanksgiving, or a prayer of petition.

ASAP Prayers

img_8192 We live in a world where we can get most anything instantaneously.  Need to contact someone?  Call their cell phone.  Want someone to answer you immediately?  Text them.  Love a song?  Download it onto your iPod or phone.  Need an answer for something?  Google it.  Don’t have time to cook?  Run through the drive-through at your favorite fast food restaurant.  Want a new recipe?  Find it on Pinterest.  Want to catch up on your favorite tv show?  Watch it on Netflix.

Anything you want, right here right now, you can pretty much get.  And we have become accustomed to this mentality, too.  We have even rolled this thinking over into our relationship with God.  I mean, who else can give us anything we want at any time, but God, right?

In our prayers, we ask God for many different things:  healing, forgiveness, provision, wisdom, peace, and so much more.  And many times, even if we don’t say it out loud, we are thinking that we really want God to answer our prayer.  Like right then.  Or for sure in the next day or two.  We aren’t even thinking that our prayer might not be answered at that time.  We want our prayers answered and we want them answered now.

Mark Batterson calls this the ASAP approach (p.196).  We need this God, and we need it as soon as possible.  Please don’t delay, Lord.  I’m not sure if we can make it.  I don’t think I can take this much longer.  Please, hurry up, God!

We get in this frame of mind that what we ask God for needs to happen now.  And if it doesn’t happen now, then it needs to happen really soon.  If our prayer doesn’t get answered, then we stop praying for it.  We think that God either doesn’t hear us, doesn’t care about us, or thinks this prayer is not worthy of being answered.  As Mark says, “we stop circling” (p. 196).

What we need to realize, though, is that the only prayer answered instantly from God is that of forgiveness.  We know that God forgives each one of us no matter what we do.  All we have to do is ask.  So there’s no question of if or when He will forgive us.  As soon as we ask, we are forgiven.

All other prayers that we pray are not guaranteed to be answered right away. God doesn’t promise that He will answer at that moment or in a few days.  Wouldn’t it be great if He did, though?

What Mark wants us to remember throughout this whole book….Keep Circling!  We need to get out of the mindset that our prayers need to be answered ASAP, and we just need to keeimg_8194p praying.  We need to trust that God hears us and that He will answer us.  We should leave behind any doubts or frustrations we get when our prayers aren’t answered quickly.  And may we all remember the words of Paul from Colossians 4:2:

“Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving.”  (AMP)

Finding Your Prayer Ritual

img_80815:00 am wake-up call.  Take shower.  Put on clothes.  Take dog out to use the bathroom.  Put on make-up.  Say good-bye to husband as he walks out the door anywhere between 5:30-6:00 am.  Dry my hair.  Fix my breakfast.  Fix my kids lunches.  Feed dog.  Read my Bible.  Pray.  Wake up kids.  Read Bible some more.  Yell at kids to get up again.  Take out dog so he won’t poop in the house.  One kid up and going.  Yell at other one again.  Fix kids hair.  Listen to them complain about not wanting to get up and go to school.  Fix their breakfast.  Remind them to brush their teeth.  Yell again because one kid is still complaining. Get in the car.  Drive to school.  Pray with kids before they are dropped off, asking God to forgive us for yelling and complaining so much.  Tell kids I love them.  Drop them off at school.  Go to work (or to workout depending on day).

That is my morning ritual.  And it’s usually a crazy one at that.  It often involves a lot of yelling, but only because that one child just won’t get out of bed.  But by the time we get in the car, all is well.  My mornings are filled with a hurriedness that I don’t like.  And I get up at 5:00 am so you think 2 1/2 hours is enough time to get it all done before we walk out the door.  I try to get stuff done the night before if I can, but sometimes I forget or I’m just too tired from the day’s activities.

I’ll be honest, though, the one thing that has gotten pushed further down on my morning ritual list is my time with God.  I get so stressed about getting out the door that I run around like a chicken with my head cut off and I often times cut short the one thing that matters the most.

In chapter 13 of The Circle Maker, Mark says:  “One important dimension of prayer is finding your own ritual, your own routines (page 159).

I have gotten distracted by those things that don’t matter.  I need to find my prayer ritual again.

Some of you may be asking why in the world do you need a prayer ritual.  Just sit and spend time with God and pray.  And while all of that is great, the one thing that helps me is having a focus; things to make sure I do while I spend time with God.  This includes reading the Bible, reading devotions, praying, singing, and keeping a prayer journal.  And while I don’t do each of these every time (due to one of many excuses), I actually long to do all of them.

I am using the First Five App by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  I love this app because we study a book of the Bible and 1 chapter from the Bible that day.  I make sure to read the Scripture first and then read the devotion that P31 Ministries writes.  Combining those two helps me dig deeper into his Word and learn more about Him.

Another part of my prayer ritual involves singing.  I love being able to put in my earbuds and belt out a praise song.  Of course, I can’t really do that at home early in the morning with everyone asleep, but I can sing softly for sure. I love the times I spend with Him when I do get those brief few minutes to myself and can sing loudly.  Those are some pretty awesome worship moments with the Lord.

And of course, prayer is a must for a prayer ritual.  I learned a good way to pray when I was a child and I use this method when I spend my quiet time with God.  It’s the acronym ACTS:  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Adoration…Show God how much you adore Him and give Him praise.  Confession….spilling your heart to the Lord and seeking forgiveness of your sins.  Thanksgiving….giving God thanks for the many blessings He has provided you with.  And Supplication…lifting up all others in prayer before you lift up yourself.  Using the ACTS formula has helped me stay focused and made me excited and wanting a desire to spend time with God daily.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking….rituals aren’t good because they can become remote and you can lose your heart and desire to want to serve and worship Him.  And that’s why every now and then, switching up your normal ritual and doing a new thing is a good idea.  That might include changing your space (I love quiet times with the Lord in our sanctuary or outside), reading a new book of the Bible, reading a new devotion, reading new books, praying in a new posture, singing different songs.

Batterson discusses Daniel and his routine of prayer each day (page 141).  Once Daniel had heard of the new law of no one being able to pray to God, he found his new prayer ritual.  He decided to pray three times a day with the windows wide open.  He didn’t care who would see him.  He just knew and believed that he was following what the Lord wanted him to do.

What is your prayer ritual?  Do you have one and need to resurrect it?  Or do you need to start with a brand new prayer ritual?  Whatever the case, God longs to spend time with you.  Do you long to spend this same time with God?

Journal Questions

  1. Read Daniel 6.  Why do you think Daniel continued to pray even though it was against the law?
  2. What is one thing you need to do more of in your prayer time with God?
  3. What are some of the rituals you have every day? How does this distract you?

The Power of Prayer Posture

prayerI know I probably say this with every post, but The Circle Maker is truly changing the way I think and pray. And this section on thinking long is no exception.  These four chapters are filled with inspiring stories from Mark’s life about dreaming big, praying hard, and thinking long.

In chapter 13, Mark discusses prayer posture.  He says, “If words are what you say, then posture is how you say it” (page 152). Types of prayer postures that come from Scripture are: “kneeling, falling prostrate on one’s face, the laying on of hands, and anointing someone’s head with oil” (page 152).  Have you ever prayed in one of these types of posture?  I think I have tried all of these, although I haven’t anointed someone with oil, but someone has anointed me with oil.

I can remember a time when I was a child and I prayed by falling prostrate on my face (although at the time I had no idea it was a type of prayer posture).  I was sick with a stomach bug.  I had just thrown up and went back to my Mama’s room and fell on my face, crying out to God to take away this sickness.  I did not like throwing up and my stomach hurt so bad.  Who knows why I can recall that memory only to say that I was praying with a deep desperation for God to take away my pain.

What about your hands?  What are you doing with your hands when you pray?  We teach our kids to fold their hands, bow their heads, and close their eyes to pray.  But, what if when we pray, we turn our hands up.  Mark says that this represents a “posture of receptivity.  We actively receive what God wants to give” (page 152).  When we pray with our hands faced up we willing to accept all that God has to bless us with.  We are open to God and His will.

I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  One of the classes I had to take was a Counseling class.  In that class we learned that when we meet with someone to counsel them we need to sit in a positive position, which includes open arms (not crossed) and uncrossed legs.  This signifies to the client that we are listening and we are hearing what they are saying.  If we crossed our arms or legs this symbolizes that we are closed off and don’t want to listen.  It was hard to make those changes as my normal sitting position is arms and legs crossed!

I have taken what I have learned in that counseling class and applied it to my prayer life.  If my posture is closed when I’m praying then I’m thinking God thinks I am not open and receptive to all that He wants to bless me with.  I try hard to remember to sit with hands open, to kneel, to lay prostrate on my face.  I want not only my words to say, “I am ready, Lord”, I want my prayer posture to say it too.

In that same chapter, Mark discusses how powerful your proximity to the person, place, or thing you are praying for can be.  He says that proximity “creates intimacy, authority, and is a way of marking God’s territory” (page 154).  He also goes on to say that “physical contact creates a spiritual conduit” (page 154).

The day I read that passage of the book, I was going to visit a friend and her daughter.  My friend’s daughter had just gotten home from being in the hospital for two weeks with an infection in her spine.  I had not been able to go to the hospital to see her, but had been praying daily for her healing.  When I went to visit her that day, I told her what I had read in The Circle Maker and asked if it was ok for me to pray for her right then and also to lay my hands on her back to where she felt the pain.  She and her mom immediately said yes and we prayed.  Right then and there.  And what an amazing, Spirit-filled prayer time we had.

Laying on of hands is a very powerful prayer posture.  Any chance I have of praying for a person, I try to pray with them at that moment they ask me to pray for them, and if I’m close to them, I will pray by laying on of hands.  Like Mark said, there’s just something about being near to the one you are praying and being able to physically touch them and speak God’s healing upon them.

As you pray this week, pay special attention to your posture.  How are you positioned when you pray?  Are you closed off or does your body show God that you are open to His blessings and that you surrender yourself to Him?  Are you falling at His feet or are you too busy to even sit still to pray?  Are you kneeling?  Are you spreading God’s power by laying on of hands?

My challenge to you is to practice one of these prayer postures this week.  And if you can and are in close proximity to the one you are praying for, lay your hands on them and pray for them.  It will be a blessing to both you and the one you are praying.

Journal Questions

  1. Do you think about your posture when you pray?  What is one change you can make in the way you pray?
  2. The Bible is filled with examples of people who fell prostrate on their face and prayed.  Read Genesis 17:1-6, 1 Chronicles 29:20, and Matthew 26:36-39.  Why did the people in each of these passages fall on their faces and pray?
  3. Read Acts 8:14-25.  What did Simon offer the apostles when they laid their hands on them?  Why did Peter tell Simon he needed to do?

Circling Our Children in Prayer

img_8048Being a parent is the greatest gift God has given me.  A gift that isn’t easy, but one that should never be taken lightly.  The responsibilities we have as parents are endless and sometimes can be overwhelming.  When I start to think about the myriad of tasks I must accomplish today when it comes to my children, I become exhausted and just want to call a time-out. I am a chauffeur, cook, homework helper, disciplinarian, encourager, supporter, cheerleader, reminder, teacher, protector, spiritual leader, and much more.

I believe the primary role we play as a parent is spiritual leader.  That role includes praying for and with our children, teaching them about God, showing God’s love to them, showing them how to live a Christian life, taking them to church, reading the Bible with them, having family devotion times, and keeping in constant communication with them about the Lord.

In chapter 9 of The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson talks about the responsibility of circling our children in prayer.  He discusses how we need to know our children well enough to know what promises of God they need to circle.  What this means is that we need to be praying Scripture over them. He gives the example of one of his children who is fearful.  So, they circle Philippians 4:4-8 (page 104).  He also prays Luke 2:52 over them (which is the scripture of Jesus as a boy and how he grew in wisdom and favor with God and man).

He then goes on to talk about how parents are prophets to their children.  He tells the story of some friends who felt a nudging from the Lord to speak prophetic words over their children.  They prayed and asked God to reveal words that were “descriptive and prescriptive” (page 104).  Then they took these words, had them framed and hung them in their child’s room.  And they prayed these words over their children, too.  Later in life, their children would tell them about how these words really spoke to them over the years.  Mark and his wife went on to do the same thing with their kids, too.

This section really got me thinking.  I pray for my children every day.  I pray with them every day, but I can honestly say I have never prayed Scripture with them. I guess it’s because I never even thought to do that.  The Circle Maker has opened my eyes to a whole new way of praying.  What better way to speak God’s Word to them than to pray it with them.  I am definitely going to start doing this for both of my children.  And I even want to speak prophetic words over them and hang them in their rooms.

Does all this make you feel more overwhelmed in your role as a parent?  I hope not because it’s the most exciting role we play.  What a gift God has given us.  And we need to give our children back to God by circling them in prayer, speaking blessings over them, and trusting God to take care of them.  It’s an act of surrendering them to God, and that, my friends, is so hard to do, but it’s what I believe God calls us to do.

Are you ready and willing to begin circling your children in prayer? 

Journal Questions

  1.  To begin circling your children in prayer, I think it would be helpful to make a list of Scriptures that you could pray over them.  What areas in life is your child struggling with?  Find Scriptures that will help them in whatever area they need.
  2. What keeps you from surrendering your children to God?
  3.  Read 1 Samuel 1.  How did Hannah surrender Samuel to God?  And why?

**Book Recommendation       One book I want to recommend for you to read is “The Family Blessing” by Rolf Garborg.  It is a book about speaking blessings over your children.  And that involves praying Scripture over them.  It’s a wonderful book that I feel goes great with this section in The Circle Maker about circling your children in prayer.

Don’t Give Up

Forget it!  I give up!  There is no sense in praying about this anymore.  God obviously doesn’t want to answer this one.  It’s pretty evident because of His silence.  So I’m not going to pray because it’s useless.

Ever felt this way before?

Frustration and hopelessness take over your heart…crowding out the belief you have that God hears and answers your prayers.  It is such an overwhelming feeling and all you know is that God isn’t answering so you just throw in the towel.

This is a place where I am sure you have been before when it comes to your prayer life.  And it’s not a good place to be.  Your faith in God and your belief that He answers prayer is slowing fading away.  You want to desperately hold onto the prayer, but there seems no point.

My friends, I am here to encourage you to get out of this mindset.  It’s not good and it’s exactly what Satan wants you to do.  He wants you to forget about God.  He wants you to believe that God doesn’t care.  He wants you to to quit and give up.  He wants you to lose hope in our God. He wants you to fail.

On page 89 of The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson writes:

The reason many of us give up too soon is that we feel like we have failed if God doesn’t answer our prayer.  That isn’t failure.  The only way you can fail is if you stop praying.

How many times have your prayers gone unanswered and you have felt like a failure?  You might have felt you failed because you didn’t pray hard enough.  Or your prayer wasn’t good enough.  Or that your prayer wasn’t as important as other prayers God answers.  Or you didn’t pray in the right way with the right words.  Or maybe even thought you failed because your prayer was a little silly.

When these thoughts begin forming in your mind, you give up.  You say forget it.  You stop praying.

My friends, I am here to encourage you not to give up.  God hears you.  God loves you.  God cares about your prayer.  No prayer is too silly.  No prayer has to be prayed a certain way.  No prayer is more important than another to God.  No prayer you pray is worthless.

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”.  This doesn’t mean that every minute of every day you are praying.  It means to keep circling, keep going, pray continually by remembering thoughts and promises of God.  Speak to Him all throughout your day.

When we continue to pray and not give up, I believe that God surrounds us with songs of IMG_8035deliverance (Psalm 32:7).  It might not be in the time we think it should be (because our time is not God’s time), but He will deliver us and free us.  However, if we give up and stop praying we won’t receive deliverance.  We won’t find freedom from the things that weigh us down.  We won’t feel those sweet songs that surround us.

I don’t like to fail.  I especially don’t like to think I have failed at praying.  But like Mark says, “the only way you fail is if you stop praying.”

Keep praying.   God hears you.

Journal Questions

  1.  What was the last thing you gave up praying for because your prayer never got answered?
  2.  Read Psalm 34:1-4.  How can you continue to praise God if your prayers are not answered?
  3. As I posted on our Facebook group yesterday (and quoted Mark), we need to praying through the Scriptures.  Psalms is one of my favorite books to pray through.  Start at the beginning and work your way through all 150 chapters.  In your journal write down what speaks to you.  Pray through it.