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[A.J. Gregory] [A.J. Gregory] New Subscription

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What’s Wrong with (my) Prayer


I like routine. Structure. Order. Lists. I really like lists. I have a daily “To-do/goals" list on my Mac that I, at some point, transfer to my phone that ultimately gets written down on a Post-it Note next to all of the above. Pointless? Maybe. But it makes me feel better. Like I’m in control.

While I’m pretty good at getting stuff done, being organized, and meeting deadlines, I sometimes cling to regime more than wonder. And awe. Surprise. Chance. Possibility. Without those things, life can get stale. Boring. (yawn, I’m falling asleep already.) Dare I also say, caged?

I find I have the tendency do this with prayer, too. For years (and I admit at times even now), this spiritual discipline fell on the bedrock of the Bible verse that says: “You have not because you ask not.” That’s pretty heavy stuff (especially when it’s plucked out as a sole statement out of context).

So I make sure to ask. For everything I can possibly think of. Usually with my lists. And usually propped up with Bible verses. You know, extra measure to be sure my laundry list of requests is guaranteed the opportunity to be accommodated.

Now, praying for things and praying with lists and using ancient scriptures in prayer are not bad things. They’re great. Important. Good stuff. But for me, this process seems guided to a large part by fear—fear of not receiving a blessing, guidance, or wisdom just because I didn’t ask. It’s like I think God’s saying,

“Looks like you got in that car accident today because you didn’t pray for safety. Sucks to be you, I guess.”

“Missed your kids in your prayer this morning? Yeah, they’ll be smoking crack and in jail when they’re fifteen. When are you going to learn?”

“Did you know that the lady from church who just lost her sister didn’t get an extra ounce of comfort from me because you didn’t mention her name to me this morning? Shame, shame, shame.”

Of course I believe that when we put out our intention and make what we want known, we give God something to work with. But I’m learning that a constant babble fest fueled by fear to cover my bases and put the ball in God’s court gives me ajada. Anxiety. It depletes me. It zaps what’s supposed to be an engaging and deep spiritual experience.


I love what the award-winning poet Kathleen Norris wrote. “Prayer stumbles over modern self-consciousness and self-reliance, a remarkably ingenuous belief in our ability to set goals and attain them as quickly as possible….no wonder we have difficulty with prayer, for which the best “how-to” I know is from Psalm 46: “be still and know that I am God.”

I sense something here—a new direction.

More possibility, less false self-assurance.

More stillness, less talk.

More faith that God’s got my back, less micromanaging from me.

More surrender, less control.

More space, less noise.

contemplation_dear God

The process of being continually recycled is becoming aware of old practices that may need some revisiting. Rethinking. Recreating. I’m not saying praying with lists is getting entirely tossed with the trash, but I’m creating room for a bigger picture. I’m not sure what it looks like yet. I just feel it needs my focus. And for the next few weeks, that’s what I’ll be blogging about.

Recycling prayer. What does that look like for you?

Waste, God Recycles



A few weeks ago, a friend called me to say her six-year-old daughter reprimanded her while she was brushing her teeth. As her mom swished, gargled and spat, the girl noticed the water running. And the little one flipped out. Her face flushed with anger, she yelled with the force of the Hulk. “Mom! Don’t waste water! Don’t you understand? It’s all we have!”

My friend and I shared a good laugh, but honestly I was a little embarrassed. I do the same thing sometimes. I don’t realize how much water I waste. (Not to mention I’m so behind on recycling.) Most of us need to do a better job preserving our natural resources and recycling whatever is recyclable. You know, save the planet people!


But maybe you’re like me. Maybe you waste more than water. Maybe you toss glass bottles into oblivion instead of giving them the opportunity to be salvaged. Or maybe you waste your time. Or energy. Or attention. Or money. Or talents. Maybe thinking about what you have wasted or even continue to waste in life makes you embarrassed. Or want to hide.

I’m no stranger to waste. At times, I gamble away my time and my emotional, mental, and spiritual energy in exchange for dumb things. Like wallowing in personal shame and guilt and missing out on being present to others. Or being so distracted by my own shortcomings I shortchange the grace I’ve been given.waste-of-timeTo some degree, we all waste something. Some more than others. Hey, we’re human. But in the same vein, we’re growing (hopefully). Becoming more aware. Surrendering. Becoming. Though I squander stuff, I’m also a woman who has received mercy, peace, and frequent soul renovations by the one I call the Great Recycler—God. Day by day, layer by layer, He works in and through me.

He uncovers. He excavates. He explores. He shapes. He shifts. He renews. I like that. I need that. Less waste, more recycling.


More thoughts to follow. For now, are you guilty of wasting? Are you overwhelmed (in a good way) by recycling? Have you seen God’s recycling program evident in your life?



You…and me


“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks  and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” ---Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ve been afraid to write. It’s been how long? A year? Ouch. I hide behind work. I hide behind my passion to create for others. I hide behind a teething babe who is growing too fast. I hide behind a toddler who cries out for me to squeeze awkwardly in the tub with her and make pretend flavored teas with Dora the Explorer bubbles. I hide behind my longing for a sense of community, a need I’m embarrassed to admit.

But the pull to come out is getting stronger than the pull to disappear into excuses (or laundry or book projects).

It’s not just about writing. Stringing a bunch of constants and vowels together with the hope of saying something that will make you think I’m brilliant. Or being so disciplined and consistent with blogging it becomes a mindless chore.

I’ve been awakened by you.

By old friends who ring nostalgia with fond memories. By new ones whose journey I’d like to witness. By a sister who is truly my soul mate. By a client who through the gift of storytelling has learned it starts with listening to others. By my talented friend Ruth who so magically couples vulnerability and strength (and has encouraged me to take this step).

And so, I write because it reminds me that I do love people. And I learn from and am inspired by them. And they’re like me. In a way, we’re all the same. At times, confident and shaky. Wandering and found. Loved and lost. Busy and breathless. Wondering and hopeful.

Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for reading. I hope to learn about you as time passes. Life can be hard sometimes, empty even when it's full. And it’s nice to nestle and rest a while in someone else’s soul.

So, tell me. What will I find in yours?



I’ve always loved the early morning. Like way before you can see hints of pink and orange gracefully stretch out and scatter across the horizon. I love the darkness. I love the quiet at home, save for strange noises like the sputters of the hot water heater and the squeaks from ancient floorboards.

Seems like my mornings these days are a much different picture than a few months ago—when by 4am, I was furiously writing, meeting deadlines, and crossing off my to-do’s with tremendous satisfaction, before my one year old would wake and we’d start our day. I was good. Efficient. Productive. Eager to tackle the next project that rolled around the corner. I was a go-get-em tiger. And I loved the back pats of approval and admiration from others. A beast, one client called me. Made me smile and proud. I felt worthy. Of what? I don’t know.

And then I got tired. And pregnant again. Or maybe the pregnant came first. Then the tired (and the sick and the migraines).

One thing was certain. It was time to be realistic in what I could handle. It was time for change. Time to reshift my priorities. Refocus my energies. Reconsider boundaries. And the god awful inevitable—the saying no part.

I tried to convince myself I could juggle two or three books and plan on working here and there during my second baby’s first few weeks. Deep down, I knew I was just desperate to hold on to the familiar. Or mostly, potential opportunities.

I didn’t want to say no. But I had to. I had to be sensitive to timelines and not dive into anything that would carry me into giving birth and the time I plan to take off afterward.

I told my agent this and passionately plead my case. “Give me projects,” I said. “But just not too many.” “I want to work, just not as much.” The more I babbled, the louder I heard, not my actual words, but conditions. Impossible demands. A lack of drive.

She’s sweet and understood. “Don’t worry,” she assured. “There will always be work.”

My inner critic spoke louder than her sincerity.

Whenever the word “no” comes out of my mouth, I cringe. And groan like a ten-year-old boy whose mother makes him kiss his old aunt who smells like Bengay and sports a five o’clock shadow.

I don’t hear my transition as reasonable, seasonal, and practical. I hear accusations that I’m lazy, a wimp, and can’t handle pressure.

“No more work for you.”
“Who will hire you if you take time off?”
“You’ll miss out on opportunities you can never get back.”

What really got the tears flowing yesterday was one fear in particular. It was quiet, a faint whisper I had to strain to hear. But once I did, it threw me off balance. Left me questioning. Wondering. Spinning out of a control I never had to begin with.

“You’ll be forgotten.”

Truth is, I don’t want to be forgotten. A part of me wants to white knuckle grab of hold of things that really just give me cheap gold stars, or compliments that fade into the distance as fast as they’re heard, or a “well done grasshopper” accolade from my agent.

And yet, I’m walking into a new season—a good one—with a different stride, a slower pace. Yes, adjustments are required. And some things will require me passing the baton and accepting a new one. And though some part of me feels at odds with the change, I battle my uncertainty in surrender saying like King David once said, “My future is in your hands.” I don’t know my next professional project or challenge, but I do know I have to grab hold of the confidence I have in God. That my future really is in His hands.

Great Unexpectations

I have a friend who I didn’t like for a long time. I had heard from this-person-who told-that-person-who-told-her-sister-who-told-her-hairdresser (or something like that) that she said something nasty about me. So ever since then, I held a grudge. She wasn’t aware of it. And through that grudge I was able to find things about her I didn’t like, that annoyed me, or that I thought were character defects. Continue reading