Waiting with Expectant Hope

Recently, my mom took several flights traveling throughout the south-east and mid-western United States. There were many delays due to weather, airport shutdowns, and various other factors. Needless to say, she experienced plenty of waiting and ample displays of humanity in distress. Waiting well is hard. Stress and fear have a way of crashing over us in the blink of an eye, especially if we aren’t paying attention and mindful. We lose our marbles! Guilty!

Waiting is part of life. I don’t know a single person who isn’t waiting for something. We’re waiting for our flight to take off, waiting for a phone call, healing, to finish school, retirement, or the next step – Whatever that looks like. Maybe we’re just waiting for lunch time! It can be tempting to look at waiting as a waste of time. Waiting can present time for anger and fear to grow in our minds, occasionally spilling out and on to others.

If waiting were viewed through the lens of God’s providence, our waiting goes much deeper. What if the practice of waiting became an opportunity for us to trust God more and grow in relationship with Him? Rather than grow impatience, we grew expectancy and trust?

Waiting well. Tony Evans talks a bit about waiting well in his book, Detours. (It’s an encouraging, easy read. And personally, very timely.) Take a look at his list on waiting well, and being patient with detours.

“With anticipation.

With hope.

With longing.

With expectation.

With desire.

With faith and obedience.

These things, and more, dissipate doubt. It dissolves despair.”[i]

I appreciate how Dr. Evans presents us with the fact that waiting well dissipates doubt and dissolves fear. Waiting with faith puts our focus on to eternal things, rather than the earthly and temporal things. That being said, our waiting is almost always with the earthly and the unknown. Though mysterious, God’s character is known and revealed through His Word – His goodness surpasses all. That is what we can put our hope, longing, desire, and expectations in.

“I wait for the LORD; I wait and put my hope in his word.

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning –

more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD.

For there is faithful love with the LORD,

and with him is redemption in abundance.”

Psalm 130:5-7 (CSB)

As watchmen on the wall of a city, I can imagine that it would be easy to let our imagination run rampant during the wait for dawn. Those wee hours before daylight, darkness doesn’t seem to have an end. It’s always coldest just before dawn. We grow desperate for light. If you’ve ever waited in the wee hours of the morning after a long night with a sick child, you know the feeling. Desperation and exhaustion.

Will today be the day for __________ ?

Let’s be expectant for God to show up in the unexpected, and in unexpected ways.

What are you waiting for, with God? What promise are you faithfully standing on? Would you join me with hope and expectancy, trusting in His providence and sovereignty as we wait?

He is our God of faithful love, and with Him is redemption in abundance!

Love you so much, siblings in Christ.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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[i] Evans, Tony. (2017) Detours, The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny (pg. 169). Nashville, TN, B&H Publishing.

Led Into the Wilderness

When we hear the word wilderness, I’m guessing that we are transported to one of two places. We go to a remote area and experience the beauty and majesty of creation with awed expressions, or we shrivel with thirst and loneliness in parched and deserted places.

Wilderness. Where do you go when you hear that word?

I’ve been in Exodus for my personal quiet time lately, so I’ve been seeing the second of our two options. The reality is that at some point in our life we will find ourselves in a wilderness-season of life where we feel lost and parched, perhaps even wrestling with the enemy, ourselves, or God. In the wilderness, we’re more vulnerable to attacks and the worry for lack of provision is always at hand.

As the Israelites were being led by God in the exodus from their slavery in Egypt, they were not taken by way of the road nearby, rather they were led into the wilderness. He led them around, taking the road pocked with detours. God knew the hearts of his people, how they would react and what they needed. The road nearby would have led the Israelites straight to the Philistines, and he knew the Israelites would have changed their minds and chosen to go back to bondage if faced with war. They weren’t ready.

What seems to be the right, easy, and more direct route is not always the best.

Rather, God led his people into the wilderness where they would learn to trust him for provisions and guidance. They would learn to be His people, and that He would never leave or forsake them. And in all of this, God would be glorified.

God is all about his glory and not in a selfish and narcissistic manor. It’s God’s glory being revealed in such a way that brings us, and others, into closer relationship with Him. It’s about giving God credit for who he is and what he is doing. When God leads us by way of the wilderness, it’s an opportunity for an upgrade into a deeper relationship with Him. Through this, we come into contact with His glory and reflect it back to Him.

I spent a few brief and glorious days in Chinle, AZ this fall. The landscape is one of wilderness, far removed and not on the main road. You have to be on-purpose in your travels. But in that dry and desolate, starving for Light, corner of our beautiful land – I see an opportunity for the glory of God to burn so brightly that it would be undeniably His. I am expectant!

No doubt we will have trials and tribulations in our life, we are guaranteed it. What if we came to a place on our quest with the Lord where we could rejoice when our travels take a jolting detour into the wilderness? Where we are expectant for God to show up in wondrous ways and give Him the glory. What if we came to a place of spiritual maturity that in our ‘wilderness’ season, we choose to experience the unique beauty and majesty with awed expressions?

Two questions for you : Would you be willing to join me in prayer for the Native American men and women of our nation? Pray for their salvation, restoration, healing, and wholeness.

Whether you are walking the wilderness road right now or not, where are you seeing the glory of God shine? How might you reflect that back so others can see His light?

I’m seeing Him shine through in glimpses of answered prayers, small bread crumbs on the trail. Therefore, I will stay the course; little by little as he is lighting the path. Praise Him!

I encourage you to read Exodus 13:17-14:4 sometimes this week as you give Him glory.

With gratitude,

Amy

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Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

 

Constant Companion

Do you ever feel completely alone and lost? Whether physically or mentally, feelings of being alone or away from God’s presence can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in that rut of thinking when our earthly plans, or even plans that we believe with 100% certainty that God is ordaining, go totally awry with a dramatic life detour.

Don’t you just love when God begins to speak something over you in not one but two places. Presently, I’ve been reading Genesis in during my quiet time, and for fun it’s been Tony Evan’s book, Detours. (It’s an easy and relevant read. Go for it.) The story of Joseph came up simultaneously over the past week, in both locations.

While in Genesis 39 the phrase, “The LORD was with Joseph” stuck out to me like a bruised thumb. In fact, it’s used three times in that particular chapter. This covenant making, covenant keeping LORD proclaims through scripture that he was continually with Joseph in times where most would feel lost and alone.

As Joseph was being sold as a slave to Potiphar, an officer to Pharaoh in Egypt, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:2)

As Joseph was being accused, stripped of his responsibilities in Pharaoh’s house, and thrown into prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:21)

As he served in prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:23)

Throughout these detours into slavery and prison, Joseph’s respect and desire to serve God is revealed. Out of his fortitude and desire to not sin against God, Joseph stands for what he believes to be true – no matter the cost. I believe we see a maturity taking place as God provides opportunities for growth in his faith and character.

Joseph’s big mouth and haughty attitude got him into trouble in the first place (Gen. 37), but God never left his side. We are all a work in progress, and we serve a God of completion – even if it takes some drastic detours to get our attention. I have more questions than answers through these chapters in Genesis, but one thing is for sure. God does not leave His children.

Generations of our spiritual brothers and sisters are told countless times by the LORD that he would never leave them or forsake them, promise. I believe that promise is carried on to us too. Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always,” I believe that’s a promise we too can hold on to.

No matter where you find yourself in this present moment, God is with you. I believe that with every fiber of my being. Our Great I AM is always with us, and will never leave or forsake us.

Put your name in the space provided, it’s taken from Genesis 39:21.

But the LORD was with ___________ and extended kindness to him/her.

How might you be able to open your heart and mind to knowing you are not alone, but securely in the LORD’s presence? Could you be willing to patiently extend your hand with me in receiving His kindness today?

Comment below if you’d like, and I’ll be joining you in prayer over these things.

With Gratitude,

Amy

but the lord was with joseph and extended kindness to him.
Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Trusting Promises

Living as if God’s promises are true, that takes some faith. It’s hard in a world full of promises that aren’t taken seriously or broken, and easy to become cynical. God’s Word is full of promises, some are specific to individuals while others are for a family line, there are even promises made to all of humanity for those who would call upon God’s name and believe.

When was the last time you took God at His word? Trusting what He says to be true, and acted on it?

Since starting our berry farm, we have experienced one summer of record drought and one with record heat and accompanying drought. Several times during those two summers, excitement filled my heart when we saw rain clouds. But nothing. After weeks, a hopeful heart turned to one of doubt. I knew it would rain at some point, I just didn’t believe it to be any time soon.

1 Kings 18 opens with the land of Samaria experiencing a deep drought and the prophet Elijah receiving a promise from God that there would be rain. A lot happens in the in forty-four verses of 1 Kings 18 between when God promises Elisha rain and a small cloud brings rain to parched land. Elisha trusted God and acted on his faith, knowing that God’s promise would come to fruition.

Abram lived a lifetime, some of which was in the same land God promised him. He lived as if God’s promise to him were just that, a promise.

Joshua was promised success and prosperity upon staying on track with God’s law and ways. And lived like it.

None of these men were without mistake in their trusting God and living according to those promises, they were in every way human. But they trusted and followed the one who made those promises.

We are called to faith, which requires trust; trusting when God says go, and when he says no. That trusting kind of faith requires action even if that action is seen or felt in no other place than our heart or mind.

We are promised His Holy Spirit. (John 14:15-17) Am I activating a relationship with His Holy Spirit and trusting that I have that connection?

We are promised wisdom, if asked in faith and without doubting. (James 1:5-6) Am I asking for wisdom and believing with open hands and without doubt, that I will receive it?

We are promised peace in response to seeking the Lord through prayer and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts. That peace is one which surpasses our understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) When my heart is troubled and peace is nowhere to be found, am I seeking Yahweh-shalom, the Peace Giver?

God is a trust-worthy Father. We have a choice each and every day to choose to trust Him or not. Will today be in our strength, or according to His? With Elisha, a lot took place between the promise and the reality of that promise. Faith and trust go hand-in-hand, it takes faith to keep choosing to believe.

We have so many promises in scripture, but let us be sure to take them in context. As we faithfully trust Him, what promise can you choose to live by today?

With gratitude,

Amy

“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” 2 Corinthians 3:12 (CSB)

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Photo by Skye Studios on Unsplash

Growth and Vulnerability

January and winter, I think it could be a gardener’s favorite and least favorite time of the year. The seed catalogs are eagerly awaited surprises in the mailbox, then drooled over with pen in hand as we dream of the coming season. Then, a longing for dirt under our finger nails grows to near desperate levels as we countdown the days and watch temperatures like a hawk. Spring seems to be so close, yet so far away as a longing for fresh growth increases.

My word for this year (2019) seems to be ‘growing’ – it’s fitting, given I was a plant science major in college. But this year it’s more than just growing plants, it’s growing a trusting faith and vulnerably surrendering to a process that I can’t always see. Growing children who are happy and maturing, growing a farm that started from a dream, growing relationships that are more valuable than gold. Growing a deep relationship with my Creator, rooted in love and trust. It’s embracing growth that happens little by little, in places often unseen.

As plants grow they are vulnerable to the elements, easily broken or bruised, and tender. I wonder how this might be reflective of our growth? Newness is always exciting, but it’s just that – new and tender. If a seedling is separated from its soil and transplanted into a larger container too soon, it becomes a set back. More fertilizer causes cells to grow too fast, resulting in weak branches. Too much water, and roots suffocate. Too much sunlight can burn tender leaves.

Good, quality growth takes time, patience, attention, and hopeful trust. The investment can be risky. What if I plant a seed or nurture a dream, and it fails to grow? What if I step way out of my comfort zone only to be met with nothing in return? Is growth worth being vulnerable? I believe it is. Without that risk, life is boring and flat – stagnant. When I think about growth, its full of life, wonder, and mystery.

God is a gardener. Within the first two chapters of God’s Word we’re told, “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden…” (Genesis 2:8) In John 15:1 Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” In that same chapter of John 15, Jesus goes on to tell us that we are to bear fruit. We are called to growth and cultivation. We are called to love one another; that sounds pretty vulnerable to me. Yet in that space of tender growth, we are called to a place where we can trust the Gardener. Entrusting ourselves into His capable hands and process.

Last week on the blog it was all about growing in 2019, and asked the question about where God might be growing you this year. Today – What does being vulnerable to growth look like for you right now? What step can you take? It doesn’t have to be this huge life changing decision, just a small step. Marathons are completed one step (or stride) at a time.

This list of scriptures on growth from Propel Women may inspire you in this season.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)  {Photo Credit}  

Growing In 2019

“Don’t ever change!” – This phrase is written in yearbooks and place of nostalgia through the ages. Then someone said it to me a few days ago. I’ve never cared for the phrase, though I understand the thought and heart behind it. Something about it just irks me. We all change, there’s no stopping it. We are meant to change. God on the other does not; He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

As created man and woman, we are meant to grow and change our entire lives. The young people in our household are in a stage of life where they are growing by leaps and bounds. Their pant legs and shoes remind me on a regular basis. It’s exciting to watch them grow! I’ll be turning another decade soon, and I’m excited! I want to keep growing – not in size like my children but in maturity of heart, mind, and spirit.

While I stand behind the fact that God’s character is unchanged and unchangeable, I fully believe He is a God of growth. God’s word encourages growth, therefore change. Take a look at God’s words through Paul to the churches in Philippi and Colossae.

“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment.” Philippians 1:9

“We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growth in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:12

As we turn the corner of 2018 and begin 2019, would you take a moment and join me in reflecting on how we’ve grown and changed this year? How have you grown in Christ? In connection with God’s Word? Within your family and relationships? Professionally?

Where would you like to grow this coming year? How can you be intentional about it? (And not just the first two weeks of January.)

God never changes. We on the other hand are in a constant state of change, whether we recognize it or not. Let us grow in a positive direction. As the gospel grows and bears fruit, we are to do the same. Would you join me in this challenge to start 2019?

What area is God guiding your heart to grow in?

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“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment.” Philippians 1:9  {Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash}

 

Open Wide

The other day, my to-do-list seemed to grow faster than I could keep up with. Overwhelmed, I had placed another helping of ‘Yes, I can do that!” on my plate. Unfortunately, when my commitments get bigger and a little out of control, my quiet time with Jesus suffers and I neglect to sit and read Scripture, journal, or pray.

Psalm 81 is a call to obedience. Perhaps the people of Israel also struggled with prioritizing God over ll other tasks. I know I had a hard time this particular day, and began to let that to-do-list encroach upon my time with Him.

God declares, in Psalm 81:10, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” In that quick and unfocused quiet time, I did not open my mouth wide. Instead, I barely parted my lips; I opened myself up to just a smidge of what God had prepared. The temptation of getting started on my tasks  for the day was greater than my desire to be filled with God’s Word. I opened my mouth to be filled with something else rather than what I genuinely need to feast on each day – time with Jesus.

In Psalm 81:10, God speaks of provision and release from bondage. Jesus has delivered us out of slavery and into freedom. And He who is faithful to deliver us from sin, shame, addiction, or that to-do-list is also faithful to provide for our every need. God declared, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” That, dear sister, is a promise.

Later that morning while I was working on our farm, conviction whispered to my heart. I stopped, dropped my tools and looked up to heaven. With a repentant heart, I closed my eyes, opened my mouth wide, and asked God to fill me up. He did. My day no longer seemed daunting;  instead it became a chance to offer each item up to the Lord and ask for His strength and wisdom. I was no longer tackling things in my own strength, but God’s. I wasn’t tempted to shut God out, and instead partnered with Him. Be encouraged! Take him up on that promise, open yourself wide and be filled.

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This devotional first appeared in Journey, April 2018, LifeWay Press.

Give Thanks In Everything

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The last couple weeks we’ve taken a brief look at verse 16,  “Rejoice always,” and then verse 17, “Pray Constantly”.  Today we peer in to our third and final directive found in verse 18, “give thanks in everything”. It seems a bit cliché to write about thankfulness during the week of Thanksgiving, but it fits. This series on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is all about posturing our heart towards the Savior, and I know no better way than a heart full of gratitude.

The concept of gratitude is everywhere, signs adorn the walls of our homes and journals have been specially crafted in order to focus on the idea. Along with tangible reminders surrounding us, hundreds of studies have been done on thankfulness and gratitude. According to one article, thankfulness has the ability to improve our physical and psychological health, reduce aggression, enhance empathy, improve our sleep and self-esteem.[i] These are just a few of the benefits a heart of thankfulness can offer.

It turns out these studies have uncovered what I believe to be part of God’s original design for our heart, soul, mind, and strength – thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that it is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks – at all times. While these three directives do not exhaust the will of God, they impact our obedience in fulfilling other aspects of God’s will. If a heart is not postured with thanks 365 days a year, I fear it will be incrementally more challenging to fulfill the individual details of God’s will as they are presented.

The story of Jonah comes to mind. He didn’t exactly tell God “thanks” for sending him to Nineveh. Rather than taking a posture of ‘thank you for using me’ he initially goes the opposite direction. This is a complex story in the Old Testament involving pride and hypocrisy, there is much more than a lack of gratitude involved. Yet I believe it may also serve as an example to us in the context we’re focusing on today. God’s will for the Ninevites to repent came to pass, yet Jonah’s experience in joining God in that will was nothing short of a challenge for him.

Giving thanks for everything cultivates an active and growing spiritual life, while fostering relationship with our Creator and others. Gratitude invites abundance. Through aggravations of this earth, impossible situations, and deep heartache, thankfulness has a way of lifting our eyes to the One who is higher and completely sovereign. Practicing gratitude provides contentedness, it holds an element of humility, ushers in peace, and provides space to experience God’s victory!

I’m not going to provide a list of various ideas to practice more gratitude, because it starts with simply and authentically stating, “thank you”. Tell God! Tell your spouse, parents, kids, pastor, friends, grocery clerk – everyone. Can I challenge you to make it personal, direct, and specific? Reflect back to God what your thankful for throughout the day.

Would you mind sharing your experiences here? Leave a comment! Let’s encourage and inspire one another with how God is using this in your life right now!

It’s my prayer these verses, along with our verse in 1 Thessalonians 5, would be used to posture our hearts this season by giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.

I’m so thankful to God for you,

Amy

 

A psalm of thanksgiving.

“Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!

Serve the LORD with gladness;

Come before him with joyful songs.

Acknowledge that the LORD is God.

He made us, and we are his –

His people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever;

his faithfulness, through all generations.”

Psalm 100 (CSB)

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“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. 
Give thanks to him and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4 Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#2c2fdcc0183c

 

Favorite Sides

We’re doing a double portion on the blog this week. The regular Thursday post is coming your way, but I couldn’t resist sharing one of our family’s favorite side dishes. It came out of a magazine when I was a girl, and has become a staple on the table when the leaves turn every fall. So, as you plan your meal for Thursday (or another day this week) consider adding this to the menu. We think it’s spot on!

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Shameless plug for our farm and honey…which we are out of until next season.

Butternut Squash with Cranberries

  • 1/4 cup honey (I used less)
  • 1/4 cup frozen apple or OJ concentrate (I used juice or whatever is on hand)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (fresh)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup apples or pears (I use a whole fruit, whatever you have)
  • 1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed

Mix ingredients together, bake uncovered for about an hour at 350*, until tender.

Honestly, it’s hard to mess it up. I never measure anything when making this dish – dump and bake. FYI, the leftovers are even better!

Have a wonderful celebration this week, wherever you find yourself, full and thanks and God’s never ending love.

With gratitude,

Amy

Pray Constantly

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Last week we took a brief look at verse 16, “Rejoice always”.  Today we peer in to that second directive found in verse 17, “pray constantly”. It’s my prayer these verses would be used to posture our hearts for this season of giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.

I’ve heard it said that scripture tells us to fear not 365 times, enough for each day of the year. And while I’ve never counted those instances for myself, I did inquire and count how many times the holy scriptures speak about prayer. Looking up any form of the word pray, I discovered that it is used at least 545 times. That’s way more than one prayer per day. That’s relationship with a constant line of open communication.

In looking up some of those 545 verses a pattern began to emerge, one of remaining alert and persistence. We can see this pattern exhibited in the Old Testament story of Elijah and a rain cloud in 1 Kings 18:41-45. Elijah had been attuned to the Lord, communicating with Him. As the story unfolds, Elijah goes up to the summit of Carmel, bends down to the ground, face between his knees, and prays.

We see the pattern of remaining alert and persistence unfold as Elijah prays and then looks for the answer to his prayers seven times. Seven. Elijah repeatedly asked his servant to, “Go up and look toward the sea.” He was expectant, alert, and vigilant for those prayers to be answered. He persisted until there was an answer, a small cloud the size of a man’s fist. As Elijah prayed, I believe He was earnestly pressing in and standing on the promise God had made to him. “I will send rain on the surface of the land.” (1 Kings 18:1)

While we may not have physical promises of rain, this pattern can be established in our walk with God. Pray constantly, persistently, and be vigilantly expectant.

The word being used in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray, is prŏsĕuchŏmai. It’s a two-part Greek word, which means to pray to God and holds the connotation of going before God in prayer and worship.[i]

Prayer is a lot of things. Some of which is humbly going before God, not someone else or ourselves, in faith. It’s an opportunity to ask Him your questions, present your petitions, and worship. It’s relationship and communication in our quietness, words, and action. It is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus to pray constantly – His desire. He desires that constant communication with us, omitting nothing. He wants that with you and I, because we are His children.

Last week we focused on experiencing God through rejoicing always. Would you join me this week in really focusing on praying constantly? We have an open invitation to commune with our Father at all times. Let us be persistent and alert for those answers to prayer. He hears you.

With Gratitude, Amy

“May my prayer be set before you as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.” Psalm 141:2

“Devote yourself to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

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The table is set, all we need to do is show up – and pray. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 61). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.