Thank You, Lord, for making us the sheep of Your pasture.

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
~Psalm 100:3

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a children’s book written by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, is a about a little boy who gives a mouse a cookie and one thing leads to the next until the mouse wants another cookie to eat. Something like that happened to me recently as I prayed this verse.

It is the favorite verse of Gloire, who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As I prayed for him, I remembered that he is a sheep of God’s pasture on another continent. I gave thanks for the people at the Christ’s Hope Care Center in his village who shepherd him and make sure he has food, clothing and an education.

Then I started praying for my two year old twin granddaughters who are very attached to their “baa’s.” These “baa’s” are soft sheep puppets that they sleep with, play with and take with them as often as they can. As I prayed, in my minds eye I saw them cuddling their “baa’s” them under their arms. They are the sheep of God’s pasture and I am thankful for their mommy and daddy who cuddle and shepherd them. (I am also thankful that when a “baa” gets lost, new ones can be found on Amazon.)

And praying for the twins reminded me of my one-year old granddaughter. Just last week, I baptized her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with a few grandmother tears. In the ceremony her parents acknowledged that like themselves, she is one of God’s sheep.   I am thankful they are a family seeking to live daily in God’s pasture.

As I thought about God’s pasture, I prayed for others to know how God has lovingly made them to be his people. And then I am back to praying the verse all over again.

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
~Psalm 100:3

Books by Numeroff and Bond enrich and delight the lives of children and adults. Verses like Psalm 100:3 and others can enrich our prayer lives and bring delight to the Lord, our Shepherd!

Thank You, Lord, for making us the sheep of Your pasture.

Thank You, Lord, for Your forever throne.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hate wickedness.
~Psalm 45:6-7a

Easter Sunday is a celebration of God’s authority in our lives. We no longer look upon the cross as an instrument of death but as a scepter of the One who loves righteousness and hates wickedness. We are no longer subjected to hopelessness because Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again.

As children of God we are the subjects of a compassionate King.  Henri Nouwen reminds us that God’s authority is different. “It is a compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen.”

And so it is on Easter Sunday (and every Sunday) that our hearts worship with thanksgiving at the throne of Jesus who has risen indeed.

Thank You Lord for Your forever throne.

Thank You, Lord, for Your splendor and majesty.

Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
~Psalm 45:4

I find that Palm Sunday is a necessary pause Holy Week begins. It is God’s invitation to take a few deep breaths, proclaim with others “Hosanna!” and remember again that “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13) These words are exclamations punctuating Jesus’ earthly ministry in which the lame walked, the blind saw and the dead were raised. And so like the crowd we celebrate these miracles by watching Jesus ride victoriously and by anticipating what is yet to come.

The Psalmist reminds me to take necessary pauses in order to punctuate what God is doing in my life. It is not only on Palm Sunday that I can watch the Lord ride victoriously and anticipate the awesome deeds of what is yet to come in my life and yours. It is everyday, I can behold the splendor and majesty of Jesus miraculously upholding the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness.

Thank You, Lord, for Your splendor and majesty.

Thank You, Lord, for listening and attending to the voice of our prayers.

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
~Psalm 45:1

I am still sitting with this verse. Instead of giving up something for Lent, I have pondered these questions: With what pleasing theme is my heart overflowing? How is my heart overflowing with a pleasing theme? When does my heart overflow with a pleasing theme?

But have you ever noticed how quickly pondering transitions into praying:  Lord, how does my heart overflow with a pleasing theme while officiating the funeral of a close friend?  Gracious God, what pleasing theme will comfort and cause the hearts of his family and friend to overflow ?  Jesus, when will the heart of his widow overflow with a pleasing theme again?

Lent is like this.  We ponder the pleasing themes God writes on our hearts.  We prayerfully acknowledge our great need for grace to overflow into our days.  And we learn to highly praise God for listening and attending to the voice of our prayers.

I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
~Psalm 66: 17-19

Thank You, Lord, for listening and attending to the voice of our prayers.

Thank You, Lord, for being the pleasing theme our hearts overflow with.

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
~Psalm 45:1 (ESV)

My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
shaping the river into words:
~Psalm 45:1 (MSG)

Beautiful words stir my heart.
I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.
~Psalm 45:1 (NLT)

On Valentine’s Day, I read Psalm 45 and the words of first verse stirred my heart. What better day to pray this verse than on the day when hearts and lovely poems are so prevalent! But that day was just the beginning. I have checked in with my heart often in the past two weeks to determine if the theme overflowing it is pleasing to the Lord.

The 2 days my husband and I took walks along the beach near Monterey I felt my heart spilling over with the beauty and goodness of God’s creation. But the day 3 pages of a major academic paper disappeared in cyberspace was another story.  On that day my heart burst with despair as I rewrote the words trusting that the shape of the content would be even better the second time,

The days of March will be no different. There will be days our hearts burst with beauty and goodness.  And there will be days when our hearts are searching for a pleasing theme. But regardless, we can address Christ, our King, trusting him to reshape the content of our day!

Thank You Lord for being the pleasing theme our hearts overflow with.

Thank You, O Lord, that to You I can lift my soul.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
~Psalm 25:1

This sunrise appeared three-dimensional at first sight. Upon further reflection, the layer of fog appears to blend into the cloud cover as the sun struggles to complete its morning ritual. I am so thankful for God’s sunrises that are part of my morning ritual of prayer.

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Some days I struggle to lift my soul to the Lord because my mind is fogged in and my heart is clouded by concerns too difficult for me. But as soon as I start to recite the nine words above, my soul is truly uplifted. Then there is appreciation for and anticipation of God’s leading and teaching throughout the day.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
~Psalm 25:5

Thank You, O Lord, that to You I can lift my soul.

Thank You, Lord, for knowing the place where we will be placed.

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
~Psalm 12:5 (ESV)

I am always excited when the various Scriptures I am reading interpret one another. The Holy Spirit becomes my teacher in a more tangible way for a time. A few weeks ago, I underlined the verse above and found myself reflecting on my longings and where God will place me in this new year.

Then I read in Exodus 2:23-25:  During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery  came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

And I felt reassured that God saw me and knew not only my longings but also where I was to be placed. Then I happened upon what King David wrote about a place, and remembered that place is not only a verb but also a noun.

He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
~Psalm 18:19 (ESV)

In God’s kingdom, a broad place is not a normal place. It is a large space with enough room to turn towards God and more than enough room to grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s love. It is a place where we are transformed and can trust that God will place us in a place of safety.

Thank You God for knowing the place where we will be placed.

Thank you, Lord, for lifting up the light of your face upon us.  

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
~Psalm 4:7

This year it has been hard to move into the new year. I have felt like Rudolph on a “foggy Christmas Eve” waiting for Santa to come and say something. Of course Santa never came, but the Lord did and whispered the words of Silent Night to me.

Silent night…holy night…Son of God, love’s pure light…
Radiant beams from thy holy face..with the dawn of redeeming grace..
Jesus, Lord, at they birth.

After that I stepped back into the Christmas story and asked God if I missed something this Advent. When the Magi came to mind, I decided to follow their lead.  With tremendous resolve these men followed not just any star but “love’s pure light” star, and at the manger they saw the holy child’s radiant smile beam back at them. Moreover, I think it was the dawn of God’s redeeming grace which empowered them to return home rather than to Herod.

The day after Christmas a dear friend died after a six month battle with cancer. In the midst of my grief, I have let God’s pure light gently guide the manger. It is there I remember my friend and all the prayers we prayed together. And it is there I pray my heart will see what my eyes cannot: the same radiant beams and redeeming grace that ushered my friend home.

In these moments at the manger the fog has miraculously lifted, and the grief feels manageable again. As I finally step into the dawn of a new year, I find myself grateful for my friend who showed me so much good, for so many years.  And I am thankful for the Son of God’s pure light that will guide us in the year ahead.

Thank you, Lord, for lifting up the light of your face upon us.

Blessed are You, O Lord, who is come.

These words by Isaac Watts usher in the Christmas season with joy and a reminder the our Lord has indeed come.  Today as I pray for others, I am reminded there are many ways the Lord comes into our World each day.  I am thankful for the truth and grace God ushers into our lives in times of joy and sorrow.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

With thankful heart, may we repeat the sounding joy of our Savior who has come and reigns.

 Blessed are You, O Lord, who is come.

Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
~Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV)

The familiar words of Psalm 51 are a reminder that God creates, renews, casts near or far, restores and upholds. Even in the waiting of Advent God is active. Something happens in our hearts that often cannot be put into words until we celebrate the reality that we have not been cast away from the Lord’s presence. Just the opposite, God came to restore joy and salvation in our lives.

Simeon and Anna are my Advent superheroes. Each year I marvel at how they waited for the joyful revelation of God’s salvation.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
or my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:25-38)

In my mind’s eye I see their joy, diminished by waiting, fully restored as soon as Simeon and Anna caught a glimpse of their newborn King.

In the remaining days of Advent with clean hearts and renewed spirits, may the Lord’s presence restore to us the joy of our salvation.

Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores.