Heavenly Father,

You absolutely deserve first place in my life. After all, You thought of me and breathed life into me…and not only me but all there is! You truly are first!

First- because You have always existed and brought all creation to life

First- because You reign above all powers and authorities on earth and in heaven and anywhere there is

First- there is no one like You, though many attempt to live as they are first

First- You lovingly pursue each generation from my ancestors, to me and to great grandchildren yet born

First- I can trust You above all

First- You are my first love—yet I can only love You because You loved me first

First- All knowledge, wisdom, peace, joy and love comes from You first

First- Forgive me when I try to put my own ways instead of Yours first

First- Life is sweet when I think of You first thing even before opening my eyes in the morning

First- Things go smoother when I come to You first as challenges threaten my peace

First- All my other relationships are richer when I put You first

First- When life is good and when life is hard, I want to run to You first!

First- I want to give my life for You because You gave Your life for me first

First- I want to know You better because You knew me first

First- And when I take my last breath, I want to see you First!

******

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1-2

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:4

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”  Revelation 22:13

******

Prayer Prompt-

Lord, what have I put first?

 

Faithful Loving Lord,

You did it again! You are at work all around if we just keep our eyes open and watch. My sweet neighbor’s husband left this world eleven years ago after living life to the fullest through all kinds of health trials. He was given an extension of life from a young donor’s heart on April 22, 2002. The day he was given that new heart, my neighbor walked in her back yard and saw the very first clematis bloom of the year. It meant so much to her! Every single year since on April 22, the first Clematis blossom of the year opens up to warm her heart. Last year, she gave me a clematis starter. Knowing how much it means to her, in honor of her husband, I planted it on a lattice between our houses where she can easily see it. Both her and my vines had both been coming out early when a late hard freeze knocked back all the new growth, including the emerging buds. Yesterday afternoon on April 22, I walked outside and there was the first flower opened up despite the freeze-burnt leaves and drought we have had! I’m so glad I was watching for it!

My Forever Sister’s group opens up our weekly time together with each one of us sharing a report of how we’ve seen You at work in the past week. At first, everyone was reluctant to share. At the beginning, they couldn’t think of things to report. Then they start watching! It is incredible to see how the group changes as they watch so they will have something to report. We’ve heard accounts of You opening up parking places at the right time, saving from accidents at the last moment, divinely appointed meetings at just the perfect time, crazy ways You orchestrate things in our families, work and city, and surprising ways You answer our prayers. Some of those same ladies who couldn’t think of a thing when we started can’t wait to report the latest account. Everything changes when we look to You and watch for Your presence in our lives.

Lord, You promised us that when we seek You with all our heart, we will find You. Help me not fall for the distractions, fears, worries and temptations of this world which attempt to have me look at fleeting, worldly things. Remind me to purposely draw my eyes back to You, though I cannot see Your physical form. We definitely see the evidence of Your nearness all around when we are watching. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord!

*******

“You will seek Me and find Me when you with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.”  Matthew 26:41

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

*******

Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, though I can’t see You, I have faith in You and seek You…

Heavenly Father,

Today is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing which forever changed all of us in Oklahoma City. There was so much shock, horror and devastation that happened in an instant that beautiful spring morning. One of the most heart-wrenching things was watching as little babies, toddlers and preschoolers were carried out of the wrangled mess—some miraculously alive, some critically injured and most were dead.  These little ones were in the first center to provide care right in the parent’s federal workplace. What a lovely idea to let children be near their parents all day. At that time, who would have imagined such a thought of destruction would even enter anyone’s mind? These children were the ages of those we care for at my work. It was an act of hatred and a deliberately planned scheme to kill and destroy both adults and children. Even that horrible act that was meant for evil turned into something good through the power of our Lord.

Responders gave everything to search for and save lives. Survivors helped one another find ways out of what was left of the buildings. Everyone realized how precious each person was- even those co-workers that once got on their nerves. Almost every person in Oklahoma was somehow involved in dropping off supplies like work gloves, shovels, boots, food, drinks, water at drop-off places everywhere. People showed up to cook and serve the rescue teams, to pray with them and counsel them. Prayer was going on everywhere—in homes, churches, and businesses—individually and in groups; not only in Oklahoma but around the world. In the aftermath, stories of heroes, miracles and life-saving “coincidences” came out. The church next door which had its huge stained glass window blown out and shattered into pieces became headquarters for responders and investigators. Spiritual and physical needs were being met in the midst of the battle. Calm Waters, a group that was started to help the children, survivors and responders who suffered any kind of loss from that evil event still ministers to people today through all kinds of loss.

Recently we attended a memorial service at that church across from the Murrah Building, which is now the OKC Memorial. In a peaceful chapel, is a beautiful rosette stained glass window with a depiction of Jesus’ head that was undamaged from the blast, surrounded by other salvaged pieces that form a beautiful message: “The Lord takes broken pieces and by His love makes us whole.” It is so true that Jesus makes all things new.

******

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that  the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”  Ephesians 1:17-23

*******

Prayer Prompt-

Lord, no matter what evil I see in the world, help me see Your holy power and authority…

Heavenly Father,

I almost made a big mistake AGAIN! I know better. My horticulture parents have taught me well. I just got carried away cleaning out my flower beds, preparing for spring flowers. I was cleaning out dead growth from last year’s annuals…when I pulled up a dead looking stick. I had already pulled it up when I noticed a tiny sprout of new green growth. As quick as I could, I planted it back into the soft soil and watered it in. I think it might still make it. It was a perennial which dies down almost to the root and is always a little late sprouting out.

It reminded me how precious life is to You. Jesus told us to be careful pulling weeds…it’s hard to tell when they are still dead-looking or tiny sprouts exactly what they are. He told us to wait to see what that life might produce. That poor dead-looking plant I pulled without thinking will make a beautiful carpet of purple Verbena blooms all summer long. Lord, help me be even more patient with people and not just discard them without hope. The very ones who might appear dead and worthless could turn out to produce an abundant crop of flowers and fruit that will glorify You! All they need is some more time and newness of life that comes when they ask Jesus to live in them.

Lord, I think back to before Your life was born in me through Jesus Christ. I was just as dead-looking but new life springs up wherever Jesus lives. And He lives in me and with me! Thank You for not pulling me up and throwing me away. I am so grateful for Your eternal love and patience. Most of all, I am eternally grateful for Jesus’ life that runs through me and causes new growth to burst out of the fullness of my spirit. I cannot make it happen. Jesus is the life!

*******

“Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.  The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9

*******

Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me be patient and pray for the “weedy” people in my life with the hope they will have new life…

Taken by Chris Barton this morning west of Terry Watson’s house.

Posted by Janet Barton on Friday, April 13, 2018

Heavenly Father,

Today is another historically high fire danger alert due to drought and high winds, with fires in Oklahoma already consuming over 200,000 acres. The smoke and ash blew into Oklahoma City from 80 miles away causing severe issues for those with repertory challenges and giving us city folk a taste of what our rural neighbors are going through. The photos of burnt-to-the ground homes, livestock and vehicles are heart-breaking. Thoughts of those attempting to fight the fire under such dangerous conditions are unimaginable. I know of at least one death from someone fighting the fire. Lord, as devastating as these fires appear, I hold on to the hope to come!
There are many who are in the fire today—not just those in NW Oklahoma fires…but those caring for a terminally ill loved one or a special needs family member, those who are in the military wondering what comes next, those who still live “under fire” from previous military fights, those who recently lost a loved one to death, those who are waiting on a diagnosis, those with a mental illness, those who were recently laid off from their job, those who were attacked and robbed, those who are in a domestic violent situation, incarcerated, or in a financial firestorm, or in the midst of any kind of fiery battle. There is hope both in the fire and after the fire. Our only true hope is in You, Lord, realizing Jesus is with us in the fire.
The fire may seem out of control… and it most certainly is out of our control, but You have promised to never leave us or forsake us. That includes in the midst of the fire! Father, we have all seen the lush new growth that comes out of the ashes. We hold on to You and are trusting You to bring forth that new life in us as the fire burns away. We pray for everyone in the line of fire and ask that You cause lush new eternal life to spring forth from what the enemy meant for destruction. Help us to hold Your hand as we walk through the flames and on the charred aftermath. Then let us take joy in our life with You which cannot be burned up.
*****

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
Jesus walks with us in the fire when we trust in the Lord as shown in Daniel 3:24-28: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”

********
Prayer Prompt-
Lord, I trust You as I walk through the fire of…

Heavenly Father,

I’ve had the honor of witnessing a lot of “first few steps” since I’m a mom and grandmother to many…and a teacher in early childhood education. Some little ones wait a lot longer than others to attempt to stand and walk. They seem to be quite comfortable where they are being held, coddled, fed and “ooed and awed” over. They may even have to have a lot of coaxing. Some walk holding on to something forever before they let go to step out on their own. Other little ones can’t wait to start charging through life so they get up to take those steps earlier than most. Yet, it’s inevitable to have a lot of cheers when the first step happens.

There are also a lot of cheers in heaven when each and every soul takes that first step of fait towards You—when they believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that You sent Your Son Jesus to die for our sins so we can have eternal holy life with You. As glorious as that is, how sad it is when people take that first step and decided that’s all they want to do. They are content to stay babies in their spiritual life with You. Lord, You have so much more in mind for us all. You didn’t give us eternal life to simply stay in the same place and not grow.

Jesus calls us each to “Follow me!” He promises to be with us as we take the next step and the next. There is so much to learn, see and do as we follow Him. We are not saved to just keep on living life any way we see fit. We are saved to live with You and for You—to build Your kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. We are always learning to love more, feast on Your word, practice Your instructions, and follow You into unknown places where we can’t always tell what’s up ahead. One thing, we do know—is after we’ve taken that first step to give our lives to You after You have given Your life to us—is that You are in the lead. You are the way. You will take us through any trials, hard places in the path and You will always be showing us greater things as we constantly learn to walk with You. Guide my next step, Lord.

*******

Jesus said in John 10:27-30: “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 can 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.”

 

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?”  1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-17, 24-25

******

Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me take up my cross every day to crucify my sinful nature and learn to walk with You in the Spirit…

Heavenly Father,

My son sent these photos of his children listening to me read a children’s book on Easter about Jesus dying on the cross and rising again. Since I was reading, I didn’t get to watch their faces during the story so it was a blessing to see their reactions caught in pictures. It is hard to hear about Jesus’ sacrifice for us as adults but it is not too early to tell children. Sometimes I think they understand the treasure even more than we do.

Our church sponsored a community egg hunt last Saturday. Before hunting little candies and trinkets hidden in eggs, some of us put on a drama to tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was amazing to see the faces of the children and adults who sat mesmerized (and it wasn’t even a fast-moving video!) After the drama, one of my dear sisters-in-Christ told the children they may have come to hunt eggs but Jesus is the reason. He is always first! He truly is the treasure we seek.

I recall another Easter, I sent a bunch of kids outside with empty eggs. They were to put some kind of new life (flowers, grass, etc.) in their egg and bring it to me. One little boy brought me an empty egg. I asked him where his new life was. He looked at me surprised I didn’t get it. “The tomb was empty! That’s why we have new life in Jesus!” Father, thank You for the greatest treasure ever in Jesus Christ! I may be far from being a child, but I will always be Your child, and I want to keep seeking Your treasure for all eternity!

********

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34

 

“In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”   1 Timothy 6:19

 

“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

*******

Prayer Prompt-

Lord, let me seek You as the greatest treasure…

Heavenly Father,

There is a strange mixture of overwhelming sadness and joy when I hear of a death of someone I know. This week the family-owned company my husband works for has been rocked by the death of two of its own. The president of this company leaves behind a young wife with little children, as well as his parents who have spent their whole lives working there. Another company member just watched her husband of twenty-two years die this afternoon. We have celebrated holidays, had company picnics and other functions together. We went to church with some of them. We are family. We have watched both men suffer and are so glad to have them finally free from pain and whole and healed in Your presence, Lord! We can indeed celebrate that!

Yet our excitement over their new lives is dimmed in the light of the pain we feel for those who are left behind to face life without them. I know You know the strange mixture of pain and joy. Even though Jesus knew He would raise his good friend Lazarus from the dead, He wept at the pain of those left grieving. How I wish I could take that all-too familiar pain away for the wives, their children and parents. I can’t. It is something they have to go through because they love. Never in history has there ever been another relationship exactly like theirs. Unique memories will rise up to honor and celebrate their special relationship.

To take away their pain would mean taking away the richness of their relationship. How I thank You for those deep lasting relationships that will span all eternity- that will pick up stronger and more complete than ever when we join them in Your home, Father. I might not be able to take away their pain, but I can weep with them, and listen as they recall special memories that become an even deeper part of their soul. I can be gentle with them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out stronger on the other side. Lord, most of all- I thank You that You will never leave them or forsake them. Nothing can separate them from Your love.  Father, I will continue praying for them during this difficult yet necessary time. Most of all, thank You that death is not the end but a new beginning!

*****

 

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.”  John 11:33-35

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His Holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:5

******

Prayer Prompt-

Father, who can I pray for who has lost someone to death?