Heavenly Father,

The last few months I’ve been doing a lot of pruning on trees and bushes. I grew up watching my horticulturist dad prune. He taught me well. If someone watching me didn’t trust my pruning abilities, they might think I was butchering if not killing the poor tree. If the tree could talk, it might be screaming out- not understanding what the beloved gardener is doing. It appears to be harmful when the cutting starts, but pruning in the hands of a gardener who knows what they are doing is an art. There is a vision of what that tree is capable of becoming. It may be the same tree, but the pruner sees a new creation in an ever-better form. The selective surgery is done, knowing it might take seasons (or perhaps years) to fully develop into the design the gardener has in mind. But the gardener is willing to wait for it to grow into its design.

Father, You are the Master Gardener! You have been doing some major pruning lately. Though it might hurt for a while, I trust what You are doing. I trust the fresh strong growth You are bringing out. I submit to Your design for my life and those who I care deeply for. There are times You cut out a perfectly healthy branch because You know another new fresh branch will come out where the other was cut away. You cut out the dead wood that’s just taking up space and not producing any new life. You cut away one branch where two are rubbing against each other. The constant friction will rub open wounds on both branches, giving entry ways for all kinds of diseases and insects. Then there are times You simply dig up a shrub after pruning and move it to a new location where You need it         to flourish and produce.

Lord, though I may squirm or even wrestle under Your pruning; though I hear the cries of those I love who are undergoing pruning- I am already seeing new shoots of life coming out where the pruning took place. Those new buds will make strong branches which will produce much fruit in Your kingdom. Thank You, Lord, for the loving way You tenderly prune with such beauty and purpose in mind. Let me submit willingly to Your Master hand. You made me and You know what You designed me and those around me for. Let us flourish and blossom under Your all-knowing care. I love you , Lord, even when there’s pruning!

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”   John 15:1-5

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”   Colossians 1:10-14

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Prayer Prompt-

Lord, where are You pruning me? Help me submit to You loving design…

Heavenly Father,

I spent yesterday watching preschool kids’ faces enter the building seeing gold dust (glitter) sprinkled all down the hallway to their classes. They checked their leprechaun traps to see if they caught one but all they found was a mess left behind. Playground time was spent watching children decked out in green searching in every corner and under every piece of playground equipment for gold the tiny Irishmen might have left behind. Eyes were glued to the ground as they worked together and alone to collect their ultimate treasures. They barely noticed the lovely day, the birds chirping and flowers popping out. Their entire focus was on filling up their little bags and cups with gold riches. They found quite a bit…little pea-sized river rock spray painted shiny gold. They kept racing back with glee to show us their latest discovery clutched in their dirty sweaty hands. (The parents were not always quite as excited about taking home the gold treasures as they were!)

Father, how often do we go off on a wild gold hunt for something we believe is what we really need when it is about as valuable as those little rocks? How often have I been distracted from the true treasures of life to chase after something that is empty and meaningless in the scheme of eternity? Our world is full of such glittery attractions…money, fame, wrong relationships, drugs and alcohol, entertainment, staying youthful, keeping fit, partying, self-indulgence… Many of those are not bad, if they don’t become our main focus, our idol. It’s amazing how much of our time, life and energy can be spent chasing after something we think will fulfill us only to discover it doesn’t.

Father, will You show me when I start to get sidetracked by chasing after some glittery thing that is becoming too important. Will You remind me to keep my focus on You and all that is eternal and truly valuable. As I watched these beautiful children scramble around looking for riches, I thought how they were the real treasures. In spite of their occasional acting out and throwing fits, they are worthy of investing my love, time and energy into…as are their families, my co-workers, my own family, friends and strangers. The true eternal riches of life are loving You, Lord, with all my heart, mind and soul which spills out into loving others. I am rich indeed!

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“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”   Matthew 22:37-40

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”  Romans 11:33-36

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, show me what I truly treasure…

Heavenly Father,

Part of my nature wants to put down roots and stay in one place forever. I fall in love with people very easily. You have shown me how to love You with all my heart… and to love others deeply. That’s why it is so challenging to leave a place filled with those I cherish. You are calling us to step away from the local church we love and to follow You into the unknown once again. I still recall walking down the aisle and making a commitment to be a part of this church we have grown to love so dearly. You had just called us from another church we dearly loved and led us into the unknown that time, as well. Little did I know that three of our young sons would marry wonderful girls they met in the youth group at this church…that more of our family would surrender their lives to You while at this church…that we would bond with the most amazing generous believers…that we would grow in prayer, study, worship and fellowship together…that we would share the joy and hard work of ministering to literally thousands of travelers through our annual Journey to Bethlehem… that we would witness the births and deaths of those we love…that we would see so many find new life through Jesus Christ…that we would see preschoolers and elementary children we helped teach grow into strong servants of Jesus.

Who would have known at that first “hello” that we would be forever changed through our encounters with these incredible people? You did, didn’t You, Lord?! You knew the plans You had to use them to affect our lives and our lives to affect theirs. That’s how You work! “Helloes” are far more significant than we could ever realize- whether they are for a short time or a lifetime. I’ve seen what happens when You work through a “hello” to a stranger off the street, a neighbor, a co-worker, a future spouse, a newborn grandbaby, a foster child, in-laws, someone I’ve stood in line with at the grocery store, a teacher, a student… Those first encounters are ripe with eternal possibilities when You are involved.

That’s why “Goodbye” is so hard to say. Yet a goodbye blessed by You is also filled with eternal promise. I think of the times I’ve had to say “goodbye” as my children left home, as my husband or other dear family and friends passed from this life to the next, as students move up, as You move us apart from people we love, as we start a new chapter… You are enlarging Your kingdom, spreading Your love and truth, planting new seeds while letting the ones left behind mature and scatter their own seed. “Helloes” and “goodbyes” are both part of Your design and both are filled with eternal hope. I’m just so grateful that You will never ever say “Goodbye” to me and that each day holds a precious new “hello” from You as we grow closer to You and to Your eternal Home where there will finally be no more “Goodbyes.”

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Joshua 1:9

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”   2 Corinthians 13:14

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, thank You for the eternal “helloes” You’ve had me say to…

And for the promise of no more “goodbyes” to….

Heavenly Father,

Today marks the next step on an incredible journey with You, Lord. What a joy to go to sleep at night and know that not only will You be with me all night…but You already have this day and all the rest of my days covered as well. I can truly relax and enjoy the adventure. I know I haven’t always trusted You as much on my journey as I do now…and I’m sure my trust will continue to grow as we continue on this expedition. I can remember many times of panic when I came upon a deep pit in the road. I couldn’t see the bottom of that hole and there seemed no way across it or around it…but over and over again- You have made a way where there was no way. There have been times I stood at the base of steep cliffs or a treacherous uphill climb. You know I’m terrified of heights; yet You tenderly encouraged me to start the climb, one step at a time when I could not even see the top of the mountain. You have helped me do what was humanly impossible to do on my own.

What a thrill to make it to the top of arduous climb, trusting You one foot hold at a time. The view at the top showing both how far I had come- along with a peek at the road ahead was breath-taking. You have led me through valleys with the shadow of death darkening my way only to bring Your glorious light for every step the way. You have arranged for me to lie down in lush green pastures with You when I needed rest and recuperation more than I knew. You have been my oasis in the desert when there was no relief of shade or drink in sight and given me living water to restore my soul so I could tread through the desert one step at a time.

The times I have kept my eyes on You instead of the obstacles, You have pointed out beauty all along the journey- sights I might have missed or taken for granted if I wasn’t following Your lead. Not only have You shared magnificent sunrises and sunsets at just the right time; You point out babies’ first smiles, sweet moments with friends and family, divine encounters with strangers, doves sitting above me, children running to hug me, love in the eyes of my grown children for their spouses and children, strength in the weak, hope in the weary, new life in those left for dead, peace in last breaths, the surprise of Your presence at every turn in some new way. I love the journey with You…most of all- because You love me and I love You. So I find joy in Your presence! Hmmm…what will today bring? More of You.

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“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:5-6

“Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.”   Psalm 25:4-5

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me keep my eyes on Jesus today as we go…

Heavenly Father,

Today I am thanking You for twenty-one years of a blessed marriage to a good man. When my first husband told me the night before he died that I would marry a good man, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I couldn’t possibly think of loving anyone else. After heavily grieving the loss of my first soul mate, I had to deal with the incredible loneliness and void where he had stood next to me for 18 years of marriage. I told You, Lord, that I would remain single the rest of my life if that’s what You wanted for me but confided how much I missed being married and serving together with a husband who loved You. I asked that if You wanted me to be married, You would pick someone out because I saw the best in everyone and I might make a mistake. I told You I would not go looking but that You would have to place that man right in front of me…And You did.

You placed a good man in my life and showed me he was Your choice. I have always been sure from that moment on. We have gone through a lot of life together. For one thing, who else would be brave enough to marry a woman with four children when he had 3 of his own? We’ve been through blending our families, illnesses, deaths, births, raising children and teenagers, family issues, financial issues, church challenges, multiple trials…We’ve gone camping and hiking in 29 degree weather, gone on missions, vacations and adventures together. We’ve had disagreements and made up. We’ve discovered our differences make us stronger as a team. We’ve kept each other warm and froze one another with icy feet. We’ve stood by one another when trials come. We’ve faced many ups and downs side-by-side and covering one another’s back. We’ve cried together, cooked together, played together, worked hard together, ministered together, read the Bible together, prayed together and worshipped You together.

You had a great idea when You put us together. In fact, You had an amazing idea when You designed marriage. You placed us together to complete each other. I love that marriage is a profound mystery…a picture of Jesus and His church. It’s incredible to me that my husband loves me despite my short-comings and mistakes. He looks past my wrinkles and impurities and sees the beautiful bride he loves. I realize more fully each passing year just how much I respect this good man You’ve placed in my life. Thank You for Jesus’ looking past all the imperfections of the Church and seeing His glorious Bride. We fit together with Jesus. We are made complete and beautiful in Him. We are in You and You are in us! What a glorious marriage!

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“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”  Isaiah 62:5b

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me be the Bride You can rejoice over…