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Heavenly Father,

As I was outside by myself struggling to hang up a banner, I earnestly prayed that one person who needed encouragement would see that large sign that read “Ladies’ Night of Encouragement” and be drawn to the special night we were planning at our church which would, in turn, draw them to You. That was probably about 20 years ago. There was a huge turn-out with lots of ladies who needed encouragement…but one stood out to me. It wasn’t just that she had the only rich dark-skin in a sea of much paler-skinned women; it wasn’t that she walked in with a big beautiful hat and lovely scarf lightly thrown over her thin body dressed in style down to her spikey heels while most of us wore jeans and nice casual tops. That was the night Deborah walked into my life. She’s been my sister-in-Christ ever since and we have gone through many joys and challenges since.

I cannot count the times she has credited that Night of Encouragement as a turning point in her life. There was no doubt in my mind that she was the one You had me pray for as I put that banner up. Of course, we both know it wasn’t a women’s evening that changed her life…it was You- through Jesus Christ! You just happened to use that event to join her together forever with Yourself and with me and the other ladies.  That was at a very hopeless period in her life and she knew she desperately needed some encouragement…so she came. We have prayed, laughed, cried and worshipped together ever since. Much has changed in those 20 short years since that night. It has been mostly both of us who have changed, as we have grown in You, Lord!

Now we are planning a similar event; in fact, Deborah will be giving her testimony at one point. Only this time instead of being one night, it will be a WEEKEND OF ENCOURAGEMENT. I decided after seeing what You’ve done in Deborah’s life when I prayed for one person to come as I hung that banner 20 years ago, this time I’m praying for many women to come and find true encouragement in You! Lord, Your encouragement doesn’t just last one night, or a weekend, or 20 years- it is so rich that it is always spilling over to others. May this Weekend event be overflowing with Your eternal encouragement in Jesus’ name!

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“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

“Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak .”  Acts 13:15

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, How can I share encouragement  with others?

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Heavenly Father,

There have been many times in my life that I have felt very unlovable. There have been many voices throughout my life telling me that I am not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, educated enough or exciting enough to be loved. Some of those voices come from society, media or, at times, even from friends and family (even when they didn’t mean anything by it). A lot of the time, the voice seems to generate from my own mind. Then there are times, it seems like the truth. I absolutely know I am acting in an unlovable way. I get a glimpse of my old ugly nature…with its selfishness, irritability, unforgiveness, or unjust pride. I wonder how in the world anyone could love me. How can my husband love me? How can my family love me? Even more, Lord, how can You love me?

I will never forget standing with the husband of a friend of mine when they were going through severe marriage problems which resulted in some nasty fights. He looked across the room where his wife was speaking to someone else. He said, “How can anyone so beautiful be so ugly on the inside?” Lord, You love me even though You know everything about me. You loved me when I was still a sinner. In fact, even though You saw all the ugliness, You loved me so much that You sent Jesus to sacrifice His life for me so I could be Yours forever.

Yes, even though I am Yours and You are mine, I still hear those voices trying to convince me I am unlovable. All I have to do is be still in Your presence and be enveloped in Your love to know I am more loved than I could ever imagine. I can never be good enough to deserve Your immeasurable love. Yet the more I love You, the more I trust in Your love which has never wavered even in my most unlovable moments. Let me grow in love from the inside out as Jesus grows in me! I am loved, therefore I can love in Jesus’ name!

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“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:9-12

Jesus prayed in John 17:25-26: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them.”

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me trust in the love You have shown me in Jesus Christ by…

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Heavenly Father,

Even my most loved relationships can turn into an enemy in a second if I’m not careful. It can happen from a simple misunderstanding, a disagreement, or simply when I’m caught off guard in a weak moment. I know it doesn’t just happen to me…but to every single one of us. It helps so much to remember who my real enemy is. It is not my spouse, child, friend, or even the person we’ve never met. Father, help me always be aware who the true enemy is!

Our true adversary is always scheming- trying to pit us against one another. He tries to turn different races, groups, political parties, churches and families against one another. He even tried it on Jesus. One of Jesus’ closest earthly friends tried to sway Him from going to Jerusalem to meet His death on a cross (the very thing He was born for). Jesus told the enemy “Get behind Me, Satan!” Jesus realized Peter didn’t know he was being used by the enemy to trip Him up. We shouldn’t be surprised that Satan works behind the scenes to divide and conquer, to stir up bitterness and hatred, to pit us against one another. The enemy works his wiles to cause us to turn on one another instead of to You, Lord. It is a ploy- a military trick that I do not want to fall for.

Father, remind me when I get hurt, angry or irritated who the real enemy is. Help me to love and pray for the one who appears in the flesh to be my enemy. Let me answer Satan’s attack with love and not be fooled by his destructive plan. Let me love You and love the one who is being manipulated to appear to be my enemy. Let my battles be fought in the spiritual realm with Your heavenly host on my side to knock down the enemy’s attempt. Don’t let me fall for the evil scheme that pits us one against the other. Remind me that my enemy is not flesh and blood (no matter what color the skin is; no matter what language is spoken; or no matter if they live in my house or on the other side of the earth) The real enemy is in the spiritual world and has already been defeated…I just need to remember that and call on You in the battle. Jesus has given me the authority to tell my real enemy to get behind me and Him! We each have to do it in Jesus’ name!

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“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers , against the authorities , against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:10-12

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   John 10:10

 

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”   1 Peter 5:8-9

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”  Luke 10:19-20

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me love and pray for those in the flesh who I think of as my enemies and overcome the real enemy. This is who I need to love and pray for…

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Heavenly Father,

Lots of photos are taken in the summer- at the pool, on vacation, at camp, during family get-togethers. These snap-shots may seem simple yet they are forever stored in our souls with eternal ramifications… little spontaneous moments where heaven and earth merge- when love reigns.  This past week, my house and my heart has been extra full (and my body and mind extra exhausted!). We’ve had lots of time with grandkids of all ages. I am reminded that these precious snippets of time can’t happen if we don’t take time to be around people we love. Not every second will seem eternal, but the ordinary moments that we sometimes least expect turn into forever memories that help shape our lives.

 

When You are involved, Lord, little moments become magnificent! Moments like: driving a van load of grandkids home after Vacation Bible School, the kids initiate and delve into a deep discussion on Jesus, heaven, angels and demons while I quietly drive and listen… a team of cousins dig a deep hole in our backyard trying to reach a beach or lava or China (whichever they hit first!)…with the most natural touch, an aunt who can swim way better than I can teaches her niece and nephew how to love the water…my granddaughter finally makes it to 6th grade at Vacation Bible School where I am her teacher,  and she gets to hear many testimonies of how You have worked in our family’s life…four grandchildren who have all gone through that 6th grade class and now help lead it plan the annual scavenger hunt without my help…everyone shares memories of the most important men in their lives…hands are held around the table while we all pray together…kids catching fireflies, roly-polies, and worms…sidewalk chalk art covering our front sidewalk welcoming  other cousins…sharing popcorn,  popsicles and ice cream…braiding each other’s hair and sleeping all over the living room…

In the midst of all those summer moments, forever memories are made, character is developed, family bonds are formed, and we all grow exhausted! Summer is not so structured and there are more chances for spontaneous moments together that deepen relationships. It may get messy, loud, tiring…but these moments are cherished. Things that seem so simple become the stories shared at many family get-togethers for years to come. Father, help me slow down and enjoy these special moments which will never happen again! Thank You for all eternity filled with priceless moments of love- no matter what the season!

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“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”     Deuteronomy 4:9

 

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”  Proverbs 17:6

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”   1 Corinthians 13:13

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me find love in every moment by….

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Heavenly Father,

When I first held my babies, I didn’t think it was possible to love anyone any more than on that first day. On my wedding day, I couldn’t imagine loving my husband more than I did as we exchanged vows. I recall meeting one of my best friends the first time. Little did I know, she would become such a huge part of my life. No matter what relationship I look at, it can always grow deeper. It takes time, sharing life together, going through joys and trials together, being committed to one another…laughing, crying, praying, forgiving, working, playing and just being together. All of these help our relationships grow deeper. Yet the most vital part of deepening any relationship starts with our relationship to You, Lord!

I don’t just want to know You by name. I want more than an occasional conversation or visit at Your house. I want more of You! I want my relationship with You to be the most treasured, the most high, top of my list of relationships. You’re the One I wish to share my innermost thoughts, dreams, fears, joys, days, moments and forever with. I want to trust You more, enjoy You more, grow in You more, and walk with You more. Though I hunger and thirst for more of You, I am also completely satisfied and at peace when I am with You. For You are all I need. There is no doubt that You will never ever leave me. We have all eternity ahead of us. I will never stop growing more in love with You for there is always more to love!

However, You have always loved me with Your full measure.  Even when I ignored You and tried to live without You, You loved me the same. You were patient in Your pursuit of me. You loved me so much that You sacrificed Your very own Son Jesus when I was a sinner so I could live with You forever. There is no greater love! No matter how much deeper I long to grow with You, You are deeper still. The strange thing is the more in love I grow with You, the more love I have for everyone else. There’s no end to Your love. The deeper I grow in my relationship with You, the deeper all my other relationships grow.

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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.’” Matthew 22:37-39

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:16b-19

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  Revelation 22:17

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, I want more of You…

 

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Heavenly Father,

Recently, I had my last meeting with a young woman I’ve had the honor of ministering for over a year. A crazy but beautiful friendship has developed during our regularly scheduled times.  I have to admit, I steered clear of her for a while. I was a little guarded around her. I recall telling You she was too much for me. She was not living in reality and had some of the strangest ideas about spirituality. I believe I even told You that she was not near ready to change her life. Did You just smile, Lord? Anyway, I was kind to her and prayed for her- yet kept a wall up for a while.  She had a way of trying to shock me with her ideas and history. Nothing took away my resolve to keep bringing her to You. A lot has happened in the past fourteen months.

There was never a sudden dramatic change but a steady slow metamorphosis which has taken place right before my eyes. It was nothing that I could do or the program she was in could accomplish… although I know the prayers we all prayed for her made a difference. As I met with her for the last time, this tough young woman tried to act like she was not afraid, but I believe she was worried about leaving the safe cocoon she’s been in. As we visited, hope for the future came alive as we discussed her next step. We both came into the meeting with a little trepidation about her going out into the world. But as always, when You are at work, things turn out completely different than what we can imagine or plan.

By the time we both left, we were a little sad to think of no more regular times together…but we were both filled with hope for her future. We were both sure it was time to move forward. We hugged and prayed a precious goodbye. Afterward, my husband drove me to the lake just in time to catch the most glorious sunset. It was like Your way of saying it was the end of a beautiful chapter. Lord! Yet sunsets are always followed by sunrises- a new beginning. Father, may she shine out with Your glory as she steps into her new beginning. In fact, I have a new beginning, as well. We all do!

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”     John 10:10

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.’”   Revelation 21:5-6

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:27

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, what do I need to say goodbye to so I can have even more life with You?…

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Heavenly Father,

My double brother and sister are leaving this week to go as missionaries to Trinidad/Tabago. They are our double siblings because they are both brother and sister by marriage and through Christ! My husband and I had the honor of going to their commissioning Sunday evening. Their relatively small church sends out missionaries around the world. In fact, the long hallway is filled with photos and information about each missionary and where they are serving. One of the main goals of this small church is to send out missionaries around the world and support them through prayer and finances.  A few faithful people in this church are making an eternal impact for God’s kingdom around the world. That includes through  my husband’s brother and his wife!

Having been involved in the sending- out of missions the last several years, I’ve had the honor of making forever friendships with many serving on mission in foreign lands. We get to hear of their day-to-day struggles and triumphs. I have felt for them as their children grow up on foreign soil, then leave them to come back to the states. I‘ve helped pray through the struggles as these children caught between two worlds have to adjust to a new culture. I feel for my friends who are countries apart from their grandchildren while I enjoy the nearness of mine. I watch as young parents raise their kids in a land without all the conveniences and comforts of America. We’ve prayed through malaria, arrests due to beliefs, scary ordeals, VISA issues and corruption in the governments they live under. These missionaries don’t always have someone they can share their conflicts and joys with. They can feel isolated and under stress. Yet they continue! My double brother and sister could have easily lived on his military retirement, but instead they felt the call of God to be sent out. They answered. We’ll be praying and encouraging them along with their home church.

It was a little strange to hear them being commissioned and sent out by their local church. I felt the call on my own heart to be sent out; perhaps not to a foreign field but in the mission field right where I am. It all starts with You, Father! You sent Jesus from heaven to us. Jesus sends us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. Father, I accept my calling, too. Let us all go out into the world with the saving grace of Jesus Christ. After all, we’ve been commissioned by Your Son!

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“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” John 20:21

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Don and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”        Matthew 28:19-20

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.’”    Matthew 9:36-38

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, where do you want to send me?

 

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Heavenly Father,

As I was working on a new flower bed for our church’s landscape, a young woman came looking for help…any kind of help. This thin girl said she was in her twenties but I felt like she could have easily been a teen run-away. She had come to our church before and showered and been given food. I happened to be by myself last Saturday so though I wanted to help her, I also needed to be on extra alert. Her words were jumbled and at times did not make any sense. It was hard to say if there were mental issues as well as drug problems. I continued to work as I listened to her talk, trying to assess the situation. I quietly asked for Your wisdom, protection and guidance.

She was living on the streets or wherever she could find. It’s such a dangerous life and she was so young. Throughout our conversation, she kept asking for water, food, a shower, make-up, a backpack, shampoo. She must have asked for water at least 20 times. Even after taking a shower in our church and giving her a large drink of water (part of which was thrown out), she continued to ask for water. It must be an obsession. What she really needs is Living Water.  She mumbled something about having to have water to survive. Father, unless something changes, she might not survive the streets. Yet she wouldn’t let me take her to a shelter. I know many people who choose this way of life. I kept asking about her family- who she could go back to and find shelter. When she told me of her mom, I dialed her number in another state. She was at least able to leave a voicemail for her mom.

I told her all the things she was asking for were only temporary help. What she really needed was a brand new clean life with Jesus Christ.  As much as I wanted to save her from the life she is living, I couldn’t keep her from choosing a path that leads to a deeper walk into death- away from You, Lord. She is living in survival mode, trapped in a life of hell. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I prayed with her. I was overwhelmed with Your love for her and the grace You long to give her for all the things she’s done. As much as I longed to help her make that step into new life, You desire it for her even more. You sacrificed Your very own Son so she could have eternal life…but she’s not ready to accept it. How sad it was to watch her walk away. Father, I know You will be with her, continually calling her home to You.

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I’m praying for this to happen to her: “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”   Luke 15:17-24

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, give me a heart like Yours for the lost…

 

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Heavenly Father,

My granddaughter is a young mom of two little boys. She had a really bad day the other day. All moms do. Some days, mothers feel like they are never doing enough. Sometimes they feel guilty for almost no reason at all. There are times they feel inadequate thinking they are not very good at being a mom. What about those times your child acts out or throws a fit in front of all kinds of faces that seem to be thinking, “You should be doing this or not doing that!” How about those times when you seem to be telling your child to do something and it’s like your voice is simply background noise…then dad walks in and says one word and everyone shapes up! Being a mom means having your heart break because no one seems to understand your child’s special needs, or your child cries himself to sleep because of cruel comments of another kid or adult, yet more unbroken promises of another parent,  or deep wounds,  illness or poor choices  which  you can’t protect your child from.  Being a mom can be deeply painful.

Being a mom is also one of the most satisfying jobs there is: like when your toddler hugs you because you’re the most important love in their life, watching your child give their long-awaited allowance to a homeless man, watching your teen overcome a long-time fear, watching them grow and develop as the unique and miraculous person You created them to be. What a joy to watch how You, Lord, take everything that has ever happened in their life and blend it all together for good.  How rewarding to carry on adult conversations with this person who once couldn’t even talk and depended on you for food, shelter and protection.

My granddaughter might have had a challenging day, but someday she will barely recall the harsh trials and will only stand in awe at the men those little boys have become. She will be able to laugh at the hard memories and stand amazed that she played a part in who they have become. Father, today I pray for all the beautiful moms I know (the foster moms, adoptive moms, bio moms, grandmothers) who may be having a good or a bad day today. Lift them up, bless them, refresh them, and strengthen them so they can go on loving and encouraging their children. May they love whichever children You have placed before them with Your love…because You, Lord, not only created the heart of mothers; You have the heart of a mother. Let us love with Your love.

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“How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37b

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord, for his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”   1Samuel 1:27-28a

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…”   Isaiah 49:15-16

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, You have loved me even more than the mother who carried me in her womb by…

Mom in chair

Heavenly Father,

People take one look at my mom and think she is a frail little woman. She recently fell and damaged her hip again. The ER doctors and nurses take a look at this fragile old lady and tend to talk to me instead of her. It doesn’t take much time for them to realize she is fully in charge of her own decisions and completely understands what’s going on. She is the strongest weakest person I know. She still works every day, tutors once a week, runs a 4-H club, teaches Sunday School… In fact, she was carrying plants outside her greenhouses when she tripped and fell backwards onto her hip that’s already been replaced once. The business was closed but my brother was on the property. She called him on her cell phone to casually ask if he could come take a look at something whenever he got a chance. She said there was no hurry (neglecting to mention that she had fallen and couldn’t get up!) He continued to work, finding her about 45 minutes later. She had pulled herself from the point of fall about 30 feet to try to pull up on some steps so she could see if she could stand (which she couldn’t!) That’s where he found her on the step…when he called an ambulance.

Although my mom is unable to move on her own at this point, she is far from helpless. She may need assistance moving but as long as she has her phone and her papers, she is working! She spent all day the past two days immovable in a chair making phone calls to her 4-Hers who were meeting about camp and record books. There was much to do! Then, of course, she had to call everyone to let them know their Bible study had been postponed for the night. She’s worried about being a burden to her children right now. We are concerned she will try to move herself again before it is time!

Father, it is a blessing and an honor to care for those who have traveled so boldly before us…those whose minds are still super sharp like my mom’s and for those who do not always comprehend what is going on. They have journeyed some hard roads, survived some rough trails, provided and cared for us. Now, it is our turn to care for them when they let us! Sometimes we have to be creative in helping them so it’s not too obvious.  Lord, show us how to care for the weak with Your love, treating them with respect and honor – the way we hope to be treated in our weakness. I can think of several dear friends who have been faithfully caring for their loved ones who couldn’t make it without their tender care. Give us Your eyes to see, grace to help and love to share with those who are weak in some way.

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“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.” Psalm 41:1

“He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight.” Psalm 72:13-14

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself…” Romans 15:13a

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, who have You placed in my life that is weak and needs my loving help?