April McGowan

A Psalm a Night – Journal Through the Bible

Journal through the Bible

20160322_080551-1I’ve kept a journal for years (my favorite are the Leuchtturm 1917 for paper quality and construction). I would jot down my rambling thoughts, things that had happened throughout the day and finish with a prayer time. Before I sit down to write anything on my blog or on my latest novel, I always prayer journal. I want to make sure my motives are right, my words come from a place of honesty and point back to the Word Himself. Writing is my prayer language. I know for some it’s worship music and singing; for others, their prayers are spoken aloud; for another, theirs are quiet and said mentally. There’s no one way to pray, just as there’s not one right way to carry on a conversation. As long as we come humbly and respectfully, it’s all good. God calls us all into a relationship with Him–and we can’t go further in that relationship if we don’t spend time with Him. It’s like I’ve taught my kids: how well do you think you’d know me if we only spent five minutes or less a day together? Not very well. How much more does God want to know you and want you to know Him? You’ve got to spend time with each other to do that.

About ten months ago, I felt the Lord calling me to get to know Him on a deeper level. Reflecting on a couple Bible studies I’d done where I’d copied the chapter of the Bible being studied, I thought that would be a good way to refocus my journal ramblings. So after much prayer, I began with the book where the authors were praying, singing, and crying out to the Lord in very honest and transparent ways: Psalm. Who wrote the Psalms? The most prolific author was David, who wrote over 75. The rest were penned by Asaph, The sons of Korah, Solomon, and Moses.

Little did I know, this would begin a new kind of prayer life for me. Since that first night in June 2015, I’ve filled some five journals, and just ordered my sixth. I would write a whole Psalm, if not too long. If it went over six verses, I’d break it up. The point wasn’t to rush through, but rather meditate on the words, the author, their intent and getting to know the heart of God on a more intimate level.

Have you ever watched a movie where the actors have a significant accent and walked way with you using that accent? Writing does that, too. And as I copied the Psalms, I found myself praying in the tonePsalm 6 2 to 9 of the author–and of the ultimate Author of them all. I learned how much our Father wants to hear from the depths of our hearts, how He longs for us to cry out to Him and rejoice with Him in a beautiful synchronicity of petition and worship.

I’m a lover of taking verses that mean something deeper to me and applying them to photos and keeping them on my phone for study and easy access. So, as I went, I made note of those. Before I knew it, I had so many I had trouble keeping track of them and was running out of memory on my phone, so I made a Pinterest page to gather them in one spot. Check them out here April’s Pinterest. Feel free to download them and save them to your phone.

Psalm 1

Since I began this journey with my Bible studies, I’ve copied James, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Now with my prayer journal, I’ve copied the Psalms, Ephesians and I’m currently prayer journaling through Philippians and Revelations (concurrently with a study I’m doing through Bible Study Fellowship). Through this, I’m getting to know the Lord on a deeper level, and see Him in yet another dimension of personality and intimacy than ever before.

Psalm 112 6 to7

Have you ever journaled through the Bible? What was your experience like? Did you keep up the habit of spending time regularly with your Lord? I’ve only missed once because of illness in the past ten months. This wasn’t out of a mundane routine–but because this time with Him has become so special to me. I find myself turning to Him more through the day, staying in that place of communication and worship so much easier than before. Because the more time I spend with Him, the more time I need to spend with Him. The more time I want to spend with Him.

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Another Brand New Year

579297_3776472893353_1699285100_nWe’re wrapping up the old year and bringing in another brand new year. Goodbye 2014. You were a challenge to me. I had some of my greatest writing achievements (a second book published, up for some awards, won an honorary award) this year. I also faced a long bout of multiple illnesses–it was a very hard spring and summer.

People I’m close to faced some pretty unimaginable trials last year–many are carrying on into the new year. I’d like to say tomorrow is a brand new day with no problems in it–that it really is altogether new and spotless, that being a new year carried some guarantees of wellness and will be trouble free. But I can’t. This new year will have high points and low for everyone I know. But I take comfort we can face anything if we’re trusting in the Lord.

In my prayer time recently, I began to feel uneasy. Some of the things I’ve been praying for a very long time. Was I praying right? Did I have the right words, the right faith, the right posture? Was my heart right, my intentions good enough? At that point I was reminded that I could never pray right enough to convince God of anything. You see, I’m imperfect. I sometimes have selfish motives. I can’t see the big picture like God does (who planned our Lord’s birth over thousands of years down to the last detail). I don’t know if removing a trial from a loved one’s life will, in the end, be a detriment instead of what God intended using it for (drawing them closer to Him usually figures in that equation). In fact, when it came down to it, I didn’t know anything at all. Well, except one thing–these circumstances I prayed for, they all needed God’s hand of strength, of peace, of patience, of healing. The details were not up to me, they were up to Him.

Jesus said to pray. I pray. Jesus said to ask for whatever I need in His name. I do. He also prayed the night before his arrest and conviction: “Not my will but Yours be done. *

That removes a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? At the end of us and our ideas of how things should be, it’s enough to pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” I know I can pray that with all confidence because I trust Him. I know His attributes: He is the God of love, of mercy, of strength, of peace, of comfort, of provision.

Trust comes in every relationship as intimacy deepens. You share, they share; you listen, they listen; you’re there for them, and they are there for you.

Do you trust in the One who hears our prayers? If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, if you’ve never admitted your sin and need of Him and asked Him into your heart, then that first step of intimacy is missing from your life. You’ll never learn to trust Him if you’ve never met Him. Relationship with Him begins with that simple prayer.

But then it goes on. It has to or you’ll never get to know Him the way He’d like you to. Think of it this way: It’d be as if I met you on the street, we had an amazing bonding experience, and then you never spoke to me again.

I pray this new year will be full of blessings, but especially full of intimacy with our Lord. I pray for Him to work out His full, perfect will in your life.

* Verses used Luke 22:42 John 15:7 Luke 11

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Stairway to Heaven

file0001539946518Everyone has seasons in their lives of joy and hardship. Sometimes the hard ones feel like they go on forever, though. We’ve gone through many years of health hardships. They don’t seem to stop, but continue to ramp. You can take a break from activities, you can take a vacation from your job—but you can’t get away from your health.
Imagine with me a staircase.

The stairs take you up. The first few get your blood pumping, the next set start taking a bit more effort and you breathe harder. You keep on going, looking toward the end, but now your breath comes in gasps and pants. You have to stop and grip the rail, but there’s no place to sit down. Sweat trickles down your back, so you take off your coat, and keep climbing, because there’s no going back—there’s just up. If you have a disability, you might be pulling yourself along by that rail, one shaky foot, one sweaty palm, at a time.

On a real staircase, there are landings. If you’re climbing at a park, there might even be a well-placed bench for you to take a breather, a respite, a time of recovery—a drink offile7681283666881 cool water. It might be pokey, and uneven, but it’s a bench, and you’re grateful for it. After you catch your breath, you continue on, and then the path, or the stairwell, turns a corner. You’re still tired, but not as tired as you were. You had a break. The best thing is, you know soon there will be another landing, another place to take a break—or you’ll have reached the top.

But, what if there are no landings?

What if those stairs just keep climbing? You crane your neck, squint your eyes and all you see are more and more stairs. That’s where we’re at. These past few weeks, I’ve been praying for a landing.
memories_past_stairs_230426_l

Maybe you’re with me on those stairs, climbing relentlessly, praying for a break. Maybe it will help you to know you’re not alone. I’m here, too. We can hold each other’s hands as we go, pull each other up over that next step, urge each other along. Pray for one another. Jesus is there with us, He’s got your hand and mine.

Let me know if I can pray for you. You can message me privately on this page, or leave a comment below. Either way, I’ll see you on the stairs.

Psalm 73: 23-26 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (full passage here)

John 10:25-30 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (full passage here)

Philippians 4: 6 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. (full passage here)

 

 

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