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Morning by Morning

Since I no longer have kids in school and no longer work outside the home, my daily schedules have deteriorated, and my morning devotion time has suffered. I’ve been more concerned lately about getting on the internet before our data cap begins than I have been with consistent prayer and Bible reading. Sometimes my devotional time has been in the evening, sometimes in the morning, and sometimes not at all.

I confess–I talk the talk better than I walk the walk.

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So today I’m preaching to myself. If you need a little nudge to create or restore a regular habit of morning devotions, join me in visiting some scriptures that will remind us what we might be missing.

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Listen, God! Please . . . I need your help . . .
Every morning
    I lay out the pieces of my life
    on your altar
    and watch for fire to descend.   Psalm 5:1-3   MSG

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Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.
    for to you I entrust my life.   Psalm 143:8, 10   NIV

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If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
    I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.   Psalm 143:8    MSG

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[Wisdom says,] Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
    don’t squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
    awake and ready for me each morning,
    alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
    to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.   Proverbs 33-35   MSG

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He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.   Isaiah 50:4   NIV

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What if devotions in the morning just won’t work for you? Is God displeased? I don’t think so. For years I had a spiritual “quiet time” when my kids had their afternoon physical quiet time (naps). You are so precious to Him, He wants to hear from you and spend time with you, any time, anywhere.

But for me, in the season of life I am now enjoying, morning prayer and study time is where I should be. I need to form a consistent habit that will work for my current set of circumstances.

What about when we forget or when we willfully spend those allotted minutes on Facebook instead of Philippians?

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!   Lamentations 3:22,23   MSG

I’ve been humming the hymn based on these verses today:

“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see.”

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My prayer for us all:

May the clear light of the Scriptures and a consistent time of prayer with God brighten our days and burn away the mists that cloud our thoughts.

Trifecta

The pain was real, even if the cause is now forgotten and buried in the dust of twenty-some years’ passing. But I do remember the heartache I felt that day–

pain that made me wonder if God cared,

pain that prompted me to cry out for assurance that I wasn’t alone in my sorrow.

God, listen! Listen to my prayer,
    listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
    just when I need you so desperately. Psalm 102:1,2   MSG

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Later that morning as I passed a window on the west side of the house, I saw three birds perched in the tall shrubbery:  a male cardinal, a male goldfinch, and a male indigo bunting.

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Was it a coincidence that these three birds, arrayed in primary-colored feathers, should be sitting

. . . in the same bush

. . . at the same time

. . . on the side nearest the window

. . . soon after I had prayed for comfort?

What are the odds?

Call to me and I will answer you.   Jeremiah 33:3

I called. God answered.

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Sometimes He answers our prayers in a vibrant, multi-colored “yes.”

But what if God answers differently?

Sometimes, for our own good and the good of others, He must say “no.”

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.   Psalm 22:2   NIV

Sometimes the answer is “wait,” and we learn to lean close to our Savior and rest, however impatiently, in his grace and loving-kindness.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,   Psalm 130:5,6   NIV

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The word “trifecta,” (originally from the world of betting on horse races) now also describes a situation where three components come together at the same time 1 or an accomplishment that “involves three successful outcomes.” 2 

The cardinal, goldfinch, and indigo bunting’s appearance was an avian trifecta of reassurance during a painful time in my life.

God hears and answers our prayers with the trifecta of replies: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” Each is a successful outcome of the prayer process.

My prayer for us all:

May we continue to turn to the Lord with our heartaches and thankful hearts. May we seek, recognize, and accept God’s answers to our prayers, confident in His great love for us.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.   Psalm17:6   NIV

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What I do, God, is wait for you,
    wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
I wait and pray. . .   Psalm 38:15   MSG

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Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!   Psalm27:7-9   MSG

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A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!   Matthew 15:22   NIV

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Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.   Psalm 4:1   NIV

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Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!   Matthew 7:9-11   NIV

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I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
    I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
    I’m so full of answered prayers.   Psalm 13:5-6   MSG

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goldfinch and three sunflowers photo by Barb Briggs
indigo bunting photo by By Dawn Scranton from Cornwall, Ontario, Canada (Indigo Bunting) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Rescue (corrected)

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An open letter to survivors of domestic s.e.x trafficking, who are being restored to Light and Life at centers like Wings of Refuge:

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Dear brave Sisters,

I don’t know your names, and you don’t know mine, but that’s ok. I have heard about your courage and the hard work you’re doing in your journey toward healing. Please, don’t quit. Stay on the path even when things get rough.

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Verses in the first chapter of Colossians  (9-14) express some of what I wanted to say. I paraphrased and elaborated:

Since the day I heard about you, I have been praying for you and asking God to fill you up to the brim with understanding of His will for you.

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I pray for wisdom, too, so that you will know how to live your life, how to make good decisions about your future.

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I pray that you will be like a beautiful tree in a garden, bearing fruit and growing stronger and taller each day.

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When the road get rough, I pray the Lord will give you endurance and patience. Then one day you’ll be walking down the path and realize joy is there, walking with you.

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The Lord has rescued you (and me–all of us, really) from the domain of darkness so that now you can live in the kingdom of Light.

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That kingdom belongs to God’s Son (the Son He loves), and we get to be part of it because we have forgiveness in His Son, Jesus.

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The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26   NIV

I pray this blessing for you, one of Light and Love and Peace. Amen.

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My sincere apologies to those of you who received a draft version of today’s post again. I am so embarrassed!

Thanks to Barb Briggs for sharing her photos of crocus and the crown of thorns.

Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey

I began my part of the necessary clean-up before mowing the grass around the old chicken house by tossing scrap metal into the “recycle” pile.  Then I placed long, glass shards into a five gallon bucket–gingerly, even though I wore leather gloves.  Window panes, leaning against a rusty, fifty-five gallon drum, had been knocked over. The glass had shattered and was now half hidden in last year’s brown grass.

I could imagine the possibility of my grandchildren someday running barefoot through a sprinkler in the grass or lying on their backs watching the cumulus clouds bloom and sail away, and I would want the lawn to be safe for them.  It hadn’t been for me.

“No bare feet!”  my parents cautioned me fifty-some years ago, soon after we had moved to this acreage.  The summer-lush grass hid dangerous bits of metal and broken glass because cars had been junked behind the many sheds, and no one had picked up the debris.  Pieces continued to work out of the dirt years later.

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I futilely wished I could have gone back all those decades ago and prevented the previous owners from leaving the vehicles to rot and rust.  I also wished I could have gone back a few months and moved the glass to a better location, but I don’t have a time machine.  I can’t change the past or its consequences. It is what it is, and it was what it was.

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The following story is an edited version of a true tale of a trip to Cambodia told by Walt (a retired farmer and nurse) one Sunday morning in church.

. . . and I promise to connect junked cars and Cambodia.

Walt’s story:

Against the advice in the guide book, I decided to travel to an area in northern Cambodia for a couple of days to visit a small mission medical station and orphanage that I had been told about by a medical social worker in Poipet.  Normally I would not choose to travel to this area because northern Cambodia is the second most heavily land-mined area in the world.

Because of my nursing background, I worked side by side with the missionary nurse and a doctor from Korea to help a mother in labor, who was a victim of a land mine.  In spite of all we did, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter.  It was obvious that we would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, since we had no incubator (or electricity to run one).  Although we were near the equator, nights were often chilly.  The nurse used cotton wool to carefully wrap the baby.  My driver, who had been stoking up the fire, was asked to fill a hot water bottle to provide gentle heat for the baby.  He soon came back, distressed that it had burst.  (Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates).  It was the last hot water bottle.

“All right,” the nurse said, “I will keep the baby close to me.  We will sleep as close to the fire as we safely can.  I will keep the baby free from drafts.  ”

The following day I joined the doctor and my translator for a time of prayer with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with us.   We gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby.  I explained the problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, a ten-year-old girl, Ruthy, prayed with blunt conciseness.  “Please, God, send us a hot water bottle today.  It will be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead.  So, please, send it this afternoon.”  While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she will know You really love her.”

As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot.  Could I honestly say “Amen?”  I just did not believe that God would do this.  Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so.  But there are limits, aren’t there?  The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from America.  If anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle for a mission station near the equator?

That afternoon, while I was working with the nurse, removing metal fragments from the leg of a six-year-old that had been too close to an exploding land-mine, we received a message that there was a delivery motorcycle at the front gate.  By the time we reached the compound gate, the delivery cycle had gone, but there on the porch was a large twenty-eight pound parcel.  I am kind of an emotional guy, and I felt tears pricking my eyes.  We decided not to open the parcel alone, so we sent for the orphanage children.  Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot.  We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it.  Some thirty or forty pairs of little eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.

From the top of the box, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted  jerseys.  Eyes sparkled as we gave them out.  Then there were the folded bandages for the patients.  The children looked a little bored.  Next came a box of mixed raisins and nuts.  Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be?  I grasped and pulled out a brand new, rubber, hot water bottle.  I cried.

A little girl had asked God to send it, but I had not truly believed that He would.

Ruthy was in the front row of the children.  She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly.  Her eyes shone!  She had never doubted!  Looking up, she shouted,  “Let us go over to give this dolly to that little girl, so she will know that Jesus really loves  her!”

Walt concluded:

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by the nurse’s former Sunday school class in the state of Colorado, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle to a mission station near the equator.  And one of the girls in the Sunday school class had put in a dolly, for an Asian child–five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “that  afternoon.”

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.   Isaiah 65:24   NIV

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Before Ruthy prayed, God had answered her prayer–in the past.  He used a Sunday School class in the United States to answer a prayer not thought of until five months later by a child in Cambodia.  God is not limited by space or time when answering prayers.

Jesus . . . said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.   Matthew 19:26   NIV

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the BBC TV show, “Dr. Who,” it is a tale of the the Doctor’s (and companions’) heroic adventures in a space ship capable of time travel.  The Doctor is one of a human-looking race called the Time Lords, who are not bound by space or time.

Although we might wish we had a time machine like the Doctor’s TARDIS to right past wrongs, even those as small as the rubble of abandoned cars, we don’t have that kind of power.

But God does.  The great “I AM” is not bound by space or time.  He is the Creator of both, the original Time Lord.

Having trouble grasping how time works, how God can put in motion the answer to a prayer before the need and the prayer have happened?  Even Time Lords have a little trouble making it clear.  Here the Doctor tries to explain time:  it’s “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey . . . stuff.”

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photos by Barb Briggs

  linking with Michelle DeRusha

  linking with Laura Boggess

Thankful 30: Day 24–Praying

I have joined Emily’s* 30 Day Challenge:

I’m challenging myself to post a picture every day during the month of November (30 Days To Be Thankful For) and to add a caption as to why I am thankful. — Emily

Day 24

I am grateful for the women in my prayer group.  These are their hands.

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A few years ago, that still, small voice whispered, “You need to pray,”  first to one woman in our church, then another, and another–so a small group of women began to meet during the Sunday School hour for prayer.  I can’t tell you why the others joined, but I could echo the disciples’ desire in Luke 11:1–“Lord, teach us to pray.”

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Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.   Psalm 54:2   NIV

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I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.   Psalm 17:6   NIV

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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Romans 12:12   NIV

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God is teaching me more about prayer, and  I am blessed to be in the loving company of these women as I learn.

Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.   I Peter 4:7,8  The Message

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See Thankful 30 page for every day’s entry.

* name changed

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