Nehemiah 1:4 — I mourned, fasted and prayed
Nehemiah 1:5-11 — FULL PRAYER
Nehemiah 2:4 — With a prayer to the God of heaven
Nehemiah 4:4 — Then I prayed
Nehemiah 4:9 — But we prayed to our God
Nehemiah 5:19 — Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
Nehemiah 6:14 — Remember, O my God, all the evil that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 9:4 — Cried our to the Lord their God with loud voices
Nehemiah 9:5-37 — Then they prayed (FULL PRAYER)
Nehemiah 13:14 — Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services.
Nehemiah 13:22 — Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.
Nehemiah 13:29 — Remember them, O my God, for they have defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.
Nehemiah 13:31 — Remember this in my favor, O my God.
My sword is kept at my bedside, left open on this morning to a letter written by a sojourning servant of our Lord.
My belt is draped around my bedpost, and when I fasten it on I remember who is the truth in this world, and the next, and that I am to be brave in sharing his gospel with all who will listen.
My helmet is strapped firmly under my chin as I kneel at my window in prayer. He reminds me I am his warrior, but also in need of saving.
My breastplate covers my heart, keeping me in right relationship with my Lord. While my love is protected by its metal, I am to keep my heart open to show his grace and love to others who struggle as I do.
My shield leans against a wall, and I take it up in faith before I leave my room to deflect any fiery arrows that come at me from my enemies before I’m fully awake.
My boots go on last so that I may walk in readiness to share his word and stride confidently through the battles in my future.
My armor is heavy, but the weight of my sin is greater. I am ready to fight the good fight, and if I’m badly wounded or slayed, I’ll be recognizable on the battlefield as a soldier in his army.
At the shallowest crossing, I passed over the creek still full and rushing from the morning’s rain shower. The valley was wet and dreary, and I felt something evil about the way I was headed. Dawn had broken hours before but the dark clouds seemed to keep the night from escaping. The trail was washed clear of debris. Fallen leaves, loose rocks and twigs had slipped off to the side and the path before me was brand new Earth. I kept a steady pace despite unsure footing and followed the trail up a small hill into a tree-lined stretch with no branches above. Ahead, coiled in the mud, the serpent waited for me. He was a brilliant orange — a color unlike anything in the wild that day. He lie there, watching. I kept my pace, to my surprise, unafraid of what disaster or temptation he might bring. Through his slithering tongue, he asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” and he watched for my reaction with round black eyes as cold as glass beads. I could sense he had planned to say something more, but was surprised by my boldness. I began to feel that evil was nothing more than fear, and that if I wasn’t afraid, there was nothing that could consume me. I looked down and saw a faint white circle on his back that seemed to be a sign of his weakness, and I buried my heel into it — a deep strike clear through to the damp earth. I moved my boot and the serpent was instead a tree root, exposed by the fresh rain and washed clean. The sky was still overcast but after this confrontation, the forest was more filled with light. I went on walking and left the dead root to rot in the gloom.
The morning broke when I lifted the cover on my book and began reading the words of the Holy One of the universe. My room filled with brilliant light and I darkened the lamp I’d turned on to see. The text before me was a letter and in it was all that was revealed to the apostle John by our Lord, Jesus Christ. I’d tried many times before to comprehend the messages these words contained — the symbolism and poetry he uses to reveal his soul to us — but I always come away disappointed for losing my way, and not coming to know him deeper.
I began to read again, first the letters to seven church congregations, and I saw for the first time Christ’s nature of gift giving to all with what he calls “open hearts”:
— Ephesus, a feast on the Tree of Life in God’s great garden.
— Smyrna, a victor’s crown of life.
— Pergamum, a meal of hidden manna and a shining white stone emblazoned with the secret names of those who receive them.
— Thyatira, a royal scepter and authority over all the nations.
— Sardis, a walk in fellowship with the Savior, dressed in white robes, and their names forever written in the Book of Life.
— Philadelphia, being made pillars in the sanctuary of god with the name of New Jerusalem written on them.
— Laodicea, sitting on Christ‘s throne.
The victorious in him receive the most astounding gifts in the universe, and they are attained by repentance, unwavering faith and commitment to his word.
Then John was lifted up into the throne room of God to record his best explanation of the visions he saw there. What must have felt like a dream or hallucination was also a word-struggle to match the beauty of the scene:
— Christ, on the throne and shimmering like a stone.
— The “beginning and end” surrounded by angels and elders and other creatures in worship.
— Flashes of lightning and clapping thunder from his seat.
All worshipped Jesus as the lamb whose sacrifice brought us all to God.
Christ then opens the seal that reveals to us what must happen before we join him in his kingdom.
The words sink into me. My heart floods with deep knowledge of him. The Christ of my heart, rejoices. The angels who protect me sit and listen to me read.
I take up my pen to try as the last living apostle did to use language to express the marvelous feelings of these visions.
What if all the love in the world — all that we can imagine possible — was suddenly drown out by even more love? Oceans and oceans of it, lakes and brooks … cascading, steaming and even stagnant in places for us to enter and wade? The Lord Jesus is coming to all of us with gifts that last an eternity.
I put my pen down momentarily, fully knowing I couldn’t capture what I was feeling. He is too resplendent for art, and that is how I know his revelation is truth. Only our Lord can reveal to us gifts our mind can’t possibly fathom — with love that can’t possibly seem true.
Your spiritual walk ended on an offshoot, lost somewhere in the wilderness, a dead-end trail in dense trees. Your tracks were grown over and covered. You led many astray — a woman you loved, other women you didn’t, and two boys you never knew looked up to you. Bringing hurt to us through heavy drink, hands, lips and even feet, our example of husband and father ruined the woman and men in us.
But turn around now. Look behind you. The trail has reappeared and, through forgiveness, the way has been made clear. The way you came before is free and the evils gone like the dew. Look up at the light filtering through the budding branches. A brand new way — back to our hearts — has opened in glory!
In your uncompromising love we place our faith to forgive the errors and evils ways of ones we never thought we’d forgive. Your love is so overpowering, we forget what miracles it brings about, in ourselves and in others. Though you are love and you possess all that it is, we offer what we can back to you. We love you, your Son and your Holy Spirit.
Thank you for being a perfect father and for your example that rekindles our hope in what has failed us on earth!
My prayer this morning took me to the place where I was created. I was somewhere that felt close to God but in darkness and not yet filled with his light. I was lying in a space without floor or ceiling or even shape. I was there waiting, in a body and with identity, but not fully formed or feeling. I was at peace unlike any I’d ever felt, and yet I didn’t know what peace was and had no experiences to compare it with. In this timeless moment, both sleeping and awake, I was full of joy but with no reason, not knowing there was anything more to anticipate. I was an idea — God’s idea — and I could feel he had plans for me. There was a way forward for me, but I had no sense of the world or even direction. I did not know myself or him yet. Still, I knew I loved him. When I realized this love, intense light began to surround me. I felt myself take shape. I could hear him draw up his breath and release it into my new body. What he breathed gave spirit and soul, life and purpose, love and courage. I was alive and on my feet, standing in all his glory — sharp white light tinged with gold arched around me, and I felt for the first time the very heart of God. His spirit told me: “In this life that I have gifted you, you are to spend every moment trying to get back to this feeling and the one who gave it to you. Your purpose is to help others discover it, too. The moment of your birth … in spirit. The way back to your eternity in my kingdom.” He blessed me, my mission, and set me down among all he created with all the love I would ever need.
Reading the Passion Translation of the Bible is like “spiritual ecstasy.” If you have no clue what that means, you will once you read this text. The translator, at times, uses a very “high” translation, drawing out all the loveliness, poetry and vibrancy of scripture. I’m enamored with it, especially the book of Psalms. For an example of the Passion’s take on the text, here’s Psalm 23:
The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps
so that I can bring honor to his name.
Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit,
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!
In the place where the angel appeared to me, I lie face down. Every day — morning, noon and night — you will find me here praising the Lord for the miracle he delivered me. I seldom dream and even less frequently am I able to recall them. This was more real — a vision in semi-awakeness. I was sound asleep when I sensed a pull on my elbow. I rolled onto my side and looking across my body, he was there — bent toward me and pointing out the row of windows in the north wall of my bedroom. I didn’t feel drawn to climb out of bed to see if there might be a sight out there for me to see. He was the vision — the angel himself. All white: His clothes, body, hair. Not glowing. Not vibrant. Not ghostly or frightening. Just a white figure against the background darkness of my bedroom. I fell back to sleep and eventually woke up, going about my morning without the slightest memory of what happened in the night, until mid afternoon when I suddenly remembered and spent the next few hours trying to decipher what this visit meant. I landed on the Biblical reference in the book of Daniel and his prayers three times daily at his window — faith under the threat of death for worshiping his God. The same Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s pit and through the Lord’s protection stood among them unharmed. But what did that mean? The Lord is clearing a path for me — protecting me from my enemies as I grow bolder for him. As my mission takes me nearer and nearer to those who don’t see him in this world, he thickens my skin, he readies my words, and he lets me see who can be lifted into the light and who will remain in darkness. And more fervent prayer … you will find me in the space between the window and my bed, where the strange figure was, thrice daily. Me, not quite Daniel, facing Jerusalem. Me, not quite ready, trying in vain to be as glorious as the angel who God created a little higher than man.
Dear Gertrude Julia Sophia Plummer,
This morning, at the lowest I’ve felt in some time, I found your confirmation book in a used bookstore. I took it down from the devotional shelf in the faith section. The inscription was signed by your pastor in July 1914 when you were 15 years old. I’m assuming it was with you the rest of your life, and while there’s no way to verify this, holding your devotion it became clear to me that the confirmation of Jesus as your Lord and Savior stayed in your heart and never left you.
I wonder how this book, which may have meant much more to you than mere cover and pages, found its way to this place and why I would find it here, today, of all days and of all moments. When I needed it. Seeing your name and your pastor’s handwriting humbled me in a way I can’t explain. You suddenly became very real, and the life you led an inspiration that made my troubles seem small and common. Filled with your heart for the Lord, I carried on with my day, gradually recovering from the problems that drove me away from everyone. And my day returned to normal — in fact, it manifested into something far better than that.
Wherever you are — and to whomever left your book here, either by accident or purposefully — thank you. You are an angel now, and probably were before. And I’m that much better for my brush with your spirit.
Much peace and love,