Heavenly Father,

We made a surprisingly close connection with a very interesting older man from church. We just knew Ken two short years, but he became like family. He was known by another name at church, the “Cookie Man.” That’s because he almost always brought some of his famous homemade cookies to share with everyone. He even had a label for his delicious cookies: “Sarasota Ken’s best soft ginger cookies in the world.” I believe they were. Even during the times he was without a job, he still somehow brought cookies to share. I think any profit from the few he sold went to bake more to share! I will miss those cookies—even more, I will miss his big smile!

We know he has brothers, sisters, sons and grandsons he dearly loves, because he told treasured stories of them all. We have only got to meet one son—the one who stepped way out of his comfort zone to care for his dad as long as he possibly could. Even in the last few weeks, when he was in a facility on hospice care, you could always see Mark’s mark that showed he had been there to care for his dad (clean clothes, his favorite Steelers shirts, TV turned to his favorite football game, OU Blanket, notes to the staff, drinks…) The father and son might have butted heads in their time, but there was overwhelming evidence of true love there. I’m praying for Mark as he feels the loss of his dad’s presence and the loss of taking care of him.  I pray for the rest of Ken’s dear family who I may never meet before heaven. It’s amazing how Jesus bonds us all in Your family, Father.

Lord, it seems my cheering section in heaven is growing as more friends and family have a glorious get together in Your very presence. I know I will join them any time between now and if I reach 115 years old. Once Ken feasts on Your glory and all the wonders he sees, I have no doubt that he will enjoy the feast at Your table because that thin man sure did love to eat! We will miss sharing meals (and his  ginger cookies) with Ken…until we meet again, dear friend! I know he is enjoying the full glory of You, our Heavenly Father, and You have another one of Your loved ones home with You!

*****

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 

 “…for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”      2 Corinthians 5:7-9

*****

 

Prayer Prompt-

Father, am I living prepared to die?

Heavenly Father,

I’ve seen the look of both trust and non-trust as an early educator—in parents and in children. Trust is critical. Parents drop off their precious babies in the morning. Since I cover a lot of different classes, I am in a lot of situations where the parents and the kids don’t know me the first time we meet. They have no idea whether they can trust me—other than I have been hired as a trained professional at this particular center. They are not just dropping off their laundry, they are leaving their most treasured vulnerable loved one in my care. Even when they attempt to conceal it, they are looking me over trying to decide if I will cherish and care for their babies even half as good as they do. They clutch their babies tightly even while trying to convince their kids they will be fine. The babies are also looking me over. They are usually a better judge of character than adults who have heard too many bad reports. Little children know when they are loved and enjoyed. They can see love in the eyes and in the heart!

Father, the more I read and hear Your word, the more I realize how important trusting You is. You have beautiful plans to bless us, if only we will look into Your heart and see how good and holy and loving You really are! There is no one more trustworthy. You love us so much more than we can ever imagine or describe. It can be delightful discovering more of who You are every single day of our earthly lives and beyond. Yet far too often, we clutch hearts with fear. We hold on to our circumstances and the people we love. We are not sure we can really trust You.

Lord God Almighty! Do we think we can do better than You? Are we trusting in our weak human understanding more than Your divine knowledge that created us and everything around? Do we truly believe we can care better for our loved ones than You can? Do we tend to trust only in what our mere eyes can see instead of You—who knows all there is from the beginning to the end? Father, help me look into Your heart at all times and trust who You are. You loved us so much that You sent Your Son Jesus to die once and for all for our sins, and rise in victory so we can live for all eternity. All we have to do is trust You! (Even if it seems like a tiny trust at first.) I suppose we will be forever growing in our love and trust of You the more we get to know You—and place our treasures, sins, concerns, fears, situations, dreams and loved ones in Your hands!

 

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“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved, As the scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts  in him will never be put to shame.’”  Romans 10:9-11

 

Jesus said in John 14:1: “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.”

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

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Prayer Prompt-

Lord, who do I turst…

Glorious Father,

Anything that is living is always changing. It never stands still. A favorite saying in Oklahoma is “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. It will change!” That’s not only true for the weather, but for life itself. We are always going through different seasons in our lives. Whatever we have gone through in our past has already happened. We may not be able to change that, but when You are made the very center of our lives, You take all the good, the bad and the ugly and turn it into something glorious as we hold it before You. All praise and glory to You, Father! The hurts, pains, disappointments, mistakes, sins, abuse, darkness do not have to hold us captive all our lives. Through Jesus Christ, we are made free and You carry us from glory to glory into the next season of our lives! Thank You that my life did not stand still in darkness!!

Whatever I am facing right now will not stay this way. Whether it feels like a blessing or an overwhelming trial. Each moment is to be savored for it will never be exactly like this again. Babies grow up. (Sleep will come again). The “terrible twos” do not determine that child’s future personality. You can carry on deep conversations with teenagers one moment and be stabbed in the heart by their words the next. Your parents can be strong and invincible one moment, and frail and vulnerable the next. No one but You, Lord, knows when our last earthly breath will be, so help me to enjoy this particular moment which will never happen again. It is precious (even when it happens to be painful) for You are making something beautiful through every single moment we live with You.

You are the only One who holds the future. I might as well not dread it, for what I fear may never even happen…and if it does happen, You will be at work in that particular moment as well. You love me with Your perfect love and I can completely trust You for this particular moment and for all eternity! Life circumstances, the people in my life, my health, my plans, my dreams—are all always changing. But all is well because, You, my Loving Lord, never change! You are God and I bow before You in ever-growing love and adoration!

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“I the Lord do not change.”    Malachi 3:6

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”     James 1:17

 

“And He (Jesus) said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”  Matthew 18:3-4

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, do I trust You through all changes?….

Dear friends,

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the whole Bible is packed full of meaning for those who are grieving. It comes in the middle of a story of Jesus’ good friends who happened to be siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus came to the sisters when their brother died. He “wept” at the sight of His beloved friend Mary weeping. Weeping is not the same as a tear rolling down the cheek. Those who grieve usually know what weeping means. It comes deep from within. It is full body, mind and spirit crying out in anguish. Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus because He knew Lazarus was going to be brought back to life. The Son of God wept for the broken human heart He felt in Mary’s weeping. He cried along with her.

Sometimes believers think it’s not ok to grieve if we truly believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus knew all about eternal life and He wept. Martha believed in a resurrection-to-come for her brother yet she still grieved. That’s when Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Yet Jesus still wept. Even now, our Savior sits on the throne and intercedes for us. I often wonder if He cries with us when we grieve. Even though He knows our loved ones have left this world, He cries for those left behind. He sees and knows the pain that no one else could fully understand. He knows. He weeps with us.

We weep and grieve for our loss- not for our loved one’s gain. Jesus’ weeping does not last forever, for our Lord knows the true joy to come. He sees what we cannot see- our loved ones life with Him, our own coming resurrection, the joyful reunion with our loved ones with NO MORE goodbyes, and most of all our complete joy as we come home to Him. Dear friends, your weeping will not last forever (although many believe it will at the time). Go ahead and weep, but not as one without hope. Jesus weeps with you right now, knowing that the day will come when there will be no more tears or death.

Love and prayers.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet  and said, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 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 11:32-35

Heavenly Father,

My yard is full of stories. The Live Oak tree in my back yard was a dinky six-foot tall tree with two small trunks about 1 ½ inches in diameter twenty years ago when half of a massive elm tree fell on top of it during a major storm. It was bent clear to the ground under the weight of half of a full grown tree. I thought for certain it was gone. It even had a big crack in the base of the trunk. When my husband cut the weight off of it, that small tree sprung back upright straight as an arrow pointing to the sky. I watched it over time, thinking the damage probably destroyed the main part of the trunk, but it continued to grow stronger than ever. Today, it shades our whole patio we built below it. We enjoy its shade as we sip coffee, read, and entertain family and friends under it.

A few days ago, my husband cut down a big branch of another tree I asked him to remove. (He likes his chainsaw!) A twelve-foot branch fell, standing up on its end right on top of a beautiful tender Hosta Lily. That same Hosta froze all the way to the ground in a late freeze earlier this spring. Even under all the harsh conditions, it is coming out lovelier than ever. Every single plant has a story. Not only is my small yard full of broken stories that are flourishing with life…but the whole world is!

Lord, I see people all around who are either broken, going through a storm, or under tremendous pressure. Some of the brokenness is a result of personal choices; other times it is simply part of this life. It might seem like the end of the world to them, but I know You are at work. You are allowing their circumstances to cause them to grow stronger, to develop deeper compassion, to help their trust in You to flourish though they cannot see the outcome, to bring about eternal life through Jesus Christ under what appears to be death…Whether it is in my life, my family members’ lives, those I love and those I barely know, I trust You are bringing new life out of the brokenness. May we all stand up with our scars of brokenness, offering our own personal story of brokenness to flourishing with the glory of Jesus’ eternal life growing in us.

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…” Psalm 34:18-19

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me surrender to You my brokenness of_________

 

Heavenly Father,

I usually go out in my yard at least once a day this time of the year just so I can see the changes and growth from the day before. There is so much joy in watching for each new sprout and flower. I may have planted them, but I surely do not have the power to make them come to life and flourish. I simply give them a little water and fertilize occasionally but these plants are a lot of fun to watch grow from tiny plants to lush bushes producing miraculous fruit and flowers.

It may be the most rewarding to rescue plants about to be discarded. I can see their potential so I prune, transplant in the right place and nurture them along until they are thriving. Before you know it, they are blessing everyone around including me. My yard is full of plants carried over through the winter. Most people would have thrown them away because they looked so damaged or dead…but I have witnessed how You work, Lord! You specialize in reviving and bringing life to worthless looking things and people! All it takes is Jesus Christ! He makes all things new!

As much as I love watching for new growth in plants, what I am blessed with in a far greater way is watching new growth in the people around me. What a joy to see someone that the world would discard as useless begin to show new signs of growth from the live-saving spirit of Jesus who came to rescue them. You love to take the broken, winter damaged, almost dead, worthless-looking people and infuse them with the glorious new life of Jesus. What beauty and fruit emerges! Not because of anything we could do except believe and accept the new life You give us through Your Son’s death for our sins and resurrection for our new life. I know…because You are always transforming me! Jesus’ life flows through my veins. But I also love watching the new growth You are bringing out in those around me! Glory to Jesus who makes all things new!

*****

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything. But only God, who makes things grow.”  1 Corinthians 3:6-7

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. This is My command: Love each other.”  Jesus in John 15:16-17

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” 2 John 1:4

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me see eternal life through Jesus Christ growing in myself and others…

 

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!

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“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

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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.

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“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

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Prayer Prompt-

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

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.”

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

Most Holy Lord God,

How I praise You for being the highest authority there is! There are three different situations in front of me today where “officials” have been called in to determine outcomes. On the outside, it can be very scary to have someone else make such critical decisions over people I care so deeply about. One concerns a great grandson who could be forced by the court to be in an unsafe setting. Another of those situations is about a young neighbor I used to care for as a child who just became a ward of the state due to mental illness. The third situation is about a little boy whose care is being investigated when I have seen a whole team of people go far above and beyond to help him. It is impossible to trust earthly authorities make the right decisions concerning these young people I love so much.

However, when I recall that You reign above all courts, governments, agencies, and nations, I can rest in my trust in who You are. As I remember that my love for these three is simply a poor reflection of Your unending, staggering, lavish love for them, I can truly put their care in Your hands. You never make a mistake. You can help them in far better ways than I or anyone else can. In fact, even though earthly authorities sometimes mess up and make a wrong decision, You can take that mistake and turn it into something glorious. I look forward to seeing how You will work through this. I can trust You, Lord.

Lord, today I place all three of these loved ones in Your care. I trust that You will make far greater things happen than I could ever dream of or imagine. No matter what things look like right now, I trust the outcome to You. I trust the ones I love to the One who loves them more. I absolutely know You are at work on their behalf and even in the lives of all those involved- including any earthly authorities. Thank You, Lord.

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“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’” Matthew 28:18

“”For by Him (Jesus) all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:16-17

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.’As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  Isaiah 55:8-9

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Prayer Prompt-

Lord, show me what I need to trust to Your authority…