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July 11, 2018
The Upper Room

Read 1 Samuel 7:8 – 12

Then Samuel took a stone . . . and named it Ebenezer,
for he said, "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

-1 Samuel 7:12 (NRSV)

When I sang the words "Here I raise mine Ebenezer hither by Thy help I’m come . . . ", * I had no idea what Ebenezer meant. Then I read First Samuel and learned Ebenezer refers to a stone memorial that Samuel built to remind the people how much God had helped them. The word itself means Stone of Help.

I recognize the Lord’s daily help in journals, which I now think of as Ebenezer journals. Each day I make a list of ten things I am thankful for from the day before. I also make a list of prayer requests. The thank you lists are often answers to the requests.

No matter the year or date, as I flip open the pages I am always struck by God’s faithfulness. I am especially thankful for these records on days when my faith questions God’s answers or his lack of answers or his timing.

When we remember God’s help “thus far,” like Samuel we can give thanks. And as we raise our Ebenezers, we need not doubt future help.

* "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," words by Robert Robinson, 1757

Thought for the Day -- How can I remember God's faithfulness?

Prayer--Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing our prayers. Help us shout, “Ebenezer,” when we give thanks for past help and when we worry about future help. Amen.

Prayer focus: Those who doubt God.

True Identity

The Secret Place
July 13, 2009

Romans 8:14-17

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
- Romans 8:15 (NKJV)

Robbery is something that happens to other people, not to me—until someone took my wallet. Talk about feeling violated, vulnerable, helpless, mad, and angry. I cried from the combination of all those ugly feelings—like someone had hit me in the gut with a two by four. How could this happen?  I felt sick thinking about my identity in the hands of a stranger.

 It helped me feel better when I thought about my most important identity—a Child of God. We don't need a number or a card for that identity.  God loves us so much that he gave his Son to die for our sins.  If we believe this, we have a wonderful new identity, an identity no one can take away.  We are adopted children of God.  Other Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And God prepares an eternal home for us, where robbery doesn’t happen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for my most precious identity of all, as your child. Amen.

Cast Out Fear

Friday, December 5, 2014
The Upper Room

Read Psalm 40:1-5

Moses said to Joshua, “It is the Lord
Who goes before you. He will be with you;
He will not fail you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed.”

-Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV)

On the news I saw that the storm damage was horrific. Reporters interviewed residents who were not yet allowed to return home to see what damage their homes might have suffered. Victims wondered: Is my house still standing? How much damage? How do I face the future?

Fear of the future can include so many different forms: job insecurity, fear for a loved one’s safety, financial challenges, and medical crises — to name a few. My personal fear of the future is this: in the next day or two, I will find out the results of a mammogram. My mother died of breast cancer, so I’m at increased risk. I’m usually able to give my cancer fears to God, but since the mammogram, the worried thoughts have multiplied and wreaked havoc with my imagination. Like a flood, the thoughts have been overwhelming me, and I have felt as if I were drowning.

But in the midst of this anxiety, Bible promises reassure me that the God who has always stood by me in the past is with me today and is already in my future. I realize ugly and difficult stuff may lie ahead, so I strive to have faith. I know that I can trust God no matter what I face.

Thought for the Day -- With God beside me, I can be fearless.

Prayer--Loving Father, help us to remember that you are with us in all circumstances. Cast out our fear of the future. Amen.

Prayer focus:Breast Cancer Patients

In God We Trust

Love is a Verb – Gary Chapman’s compilation
January 31

I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

—Psalm 16:8

In God we trust.

I repeated those words as I touched a special dime in my pocket. I had found it on the car seat on the way to the funeral home. At the time, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, but even as I picked up the dime, God said, “Trust me!”

I put the dime in my pocket. My attitude changed, and I enjoyed hearing others’ remembrances about Dad and sharing my memories. With a dime, my heavenly Father comforted me when I lost my earthly father.

Since then I have found other coins—usually dimes—when I needed God’s comfort and guidance most: when receiving radiation treatments, when scared about test results, during Mother’s final illness.

People often hear me exclaim, “Yes!” when I find a coin and ask why I’m so excited. I tell my dime story and explain how touching the special dime in my pocket reminds me to trust God’s presence, promises, and love. At other times, it reminds me to love others.

Carrying a tangible object can remind us to trust and share God’s love.

A Walk to the Library

Love is a Verb -- Gary Chapman's compilation
April 11

For he has not ignored or belittled the
suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.

- Psalm 22:24

Instead of driving, I decided to walk to the library after lunch. An elderly man in front of me had stopped to look at a motorcycle parked on a front lawn.

"Hello," I said. "Be a good day to ride that bike."

That's all I said. The man started talking. Within minutes I learned that he and his terminally ill wife lived in a building next to the library. An aide was caring for his wife, and this allowed the husband a few minutes away from the apartment, but not from his problems. "The hardest part," he said as tears flowed, "is that she understands everything I say to her, but she can't talk, can't even ask for a glass of water."

Usually I talk and want to fix things, but I heard a voice within me say, “Listen, just listen.” When we said goodbye at the library, I knew the One who understands our sorrows had arranged this encounter. I felt joy knowing God had used me. Since then, I’m a better listener.

Sometimes we love best when we just listen.

Need Forgiveness?

Thursday, July 5th, 2007
The Upper Room

Read Romans 3:21-26

If you do not "forgive" others,
neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses.

- Matthew 6:15 (NRSV)

"GIVE us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also for- ..." (Luke 11:3, NIV). I couldn't finish the word, the sentence, or the Lord's Prayer. Forgive? How do I forgive the stranger who two days ago took my wallet?

Shock, anger, and fear again combined to make me feel sick. Instead of praying to forgive, I continued to pray that this person would just take the money rather than use the information in the wallet to steal my identity.

During the next weeks I continued to try to forgive, but my words were not sincere. One day when I felt less angry, I decided to pray that somehow this person would come to know Jesus, to learn that he died on the cross so our sins might be forgiven. Just as I prayed this, a voice within me asked, "And what sins do you need to have forgiven?" Other than not forgiving the one who sinned against me? Within minutes other sins came to mind.

I finally realized that I am just as much a sinner as the person who took my wallet. God created both of us. Jesus died on the cross for both of us. This thought helped me to forgive and to begin the healing process.

Thought for the Day -- What do I need to ask forgiveness for?

Prayer--Loving Father, forgive us. Help us, in turn, to for-give others as we pray, "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation." Amen.

Prayer focus: Victims of crime in my town

Thank You -- Times Ten

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004
The Upper Room

Read Luke 17:11-19

Jesus asked,
"Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?"

- Luke 17:17 (NIV)

MY mother stayed with us while she recovered from cancer surgery and received 25 radiation treatments. Beyond thanking God that her surgery went well, my prayers were focused on requests. Yet when I read the story about the ten lepers, I knew that Christ most wanted to hear me say, "Thank you."

"What do I have to be thankful for?" I asked myself. I challenged myself to think of 10 things from the previous day. It took some thought, but I started with thanksgiving for safety in travel on snowy roads to and from the hospital. Then I remembered the phone call mother had received from a friend back home, an encouraging e-mail from one of my friends, the energy to shop for groceries, the money to buy the groceries, a pot-roast supper that smelled and tasted good to all of us, my husband's offer to help with the dishes, the sunshine, mother's optimistic attitude about the radiation treatments, and a warm house. Amazing! I had come up with 10 reasons to be thankful. It felt good, really good.

I have made this a daily practice. Some days it's easy to think of 10 things; some days it's not. Now when something positive happens, I often think, That's going to be a thank-you tomorrow. In turn, that has caused me to say, "Thank you, Lord" at that moment.

Thought for the Day -- What 10 blessings from yesterday can I thank God for today?

Prayer--Dear God, we thank you for your son Jesus and all that he teaches us. Amen.

Prayer focus: Cancer patients and their families