Picking up hitchhikers

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Would you pick up a hitchhiker?

I sped by the two hitchhiking women as I left my little mountain town headed toward Reno.

And then it clicked–they were locals, ladies I had seen about town from time to time. So I stopped and put my car in reverse, watching in my rear view mirror as they jogged toward me.

They were on their way back to Reno where they now live — and had come back to town for an errand. An older, weather-worn woman and a younger woman, late 20s or early 30s–pregnant and sunburned. No wonder. They had walked half the forty-two mile distance before they had gotten rides to my town.

“Thank you,” the older woman said. “The winds were something terrible.”

They shared a large plastic bottle of sparkling water back and forth.

We made small talk about the weather. I wondered about their circumstances and reason for attempting such a trip, but I kept my questions to myself.

“You’re an angel,” the older woman said as I pulled to the curb in downtown Reno. “Thank you for picking me up again.”

Again?

“You picked me up some years ago.”

Even though I had no memory of picking anyone up before and even though mental red flags were waving about their “errand” and even though I dropped them off outside a casino, I decided our encounter was a divine one.

You just never know what form angels will take.

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Are you a first responder?

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Are you a first responder? I don’t mean an EMT or fireman or someone in law enforcement. They are amazing . . . and certainly deserve our respect and admiration and support.

But I’m talking about prayer.

When you read on Facebook that someone has been in accident or is in surgery or otherwise ill, do you immediately respond in prayer?

When a problem comes up at home or at work, do you respond in frustration or anger . . . or in prayer?

Prayerwalking taught me that prayer that should be our first response rather than a last resort. Seeing the needs in my community prompts me to pray. When I hear a family arguing, I ask the Lord to bring peace — and Himself — to those folks. When I see graffiti as I drive through Reno, I ask my Father God to be the father of those youth. When the teens in my English classes are hurting about a friend in need, I pray that the Great Healer will love on them all.

I’m becoming a first responder, because I have found that prayer is the best problem solving strategy.

I invite you to find out more about first response in prayer and other prayer topics in Daily PrayerWalk:

 

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New-fashioned prayer meeting

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Many churches have had a history of the Wednesday night prayer meeting, when families would spend an hour or so at their places of worship — children with special Bible lessons and adults in prayer for one another.

While that old-fashioned practice has waned in the last couple of decades, a new one is taking its place — an online prayer gathering.

One pastor, Bill Giovanetti of Neighborhood Church in Reddinghas an online prayer meeting Wednesday nights on his Facebook page. Weekly he invites his Facebook friends to post a prayer request — asking those who post to pray for at least the person above them in the comments.

Bill says he grew up with Wednesday prayer meetings, many of which have been supplanted with regular small group meetings. However, he says he doesn’t lament the end of the traditional prayer groups because so many more are now meeting online. He sees it as “an increase in prayer” instead.

He has found that the online prayer group has borne much fruit: “I actually hear from people from my grade school days who probably aren’t saved but who remind me when I forget. . . . They love it and say it gets them through their week.”

Bill has two suggestions for those who want to start an online prayer meeting:

  • Emphasize that the purpose is NOT for counseling and advice–but simply for prayer.
  • Do not post specific prayers, which Bill says could make the “place less safe for those who would ask for prayer.”

Just imagine how many people could feel supported if we all either started a Wednesday night prayer meeting online — and how many needs could be met!

I’m starting one this week! See you online in prayer!

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Answer to prayer

The delicious scene in my classroom this week.

The delicious scene in my classroom this week.

There’s not supposed to be any of that praying stuff in public schools, but it happens anyway. Not out loud very much, I’ll admit, unless it’s a desperate or angry outburst.

However, my high school students were the answer to my prayer this week — and I was the answer to theirs.

After a picnic honoring our little town’s volunteers Sunday, I was left with a carload — yes, a carload — of desserts. Those temptors, though, were NOT ALLOWED into my house. I’ve lost more than thirty pounds over the last year — and they are also not allowed back into my “house.”

So, I decided I would take the yummies to school Monday. After all, everything edible disappears rather quickly from the faculty room. But then I remembered that my peers were all on diets and could possibly throw the cakes and cookies at me. Not a good way to start a Monday.

What to do, Lord?

Just then David waved hello down the hall — certainly a sign from God. And I hauled the hefty remainders of a full sheet cake, a decadent devil’s food cake (appropriately named), and dozens of cookies into my room, where I made a banquet-sized layout.

One by one I pointed my juniors and seniors toward my room and let them take what they wanted. Oh, yes, the State of California still does not want sugary foods disseminated during school hours. But this was BEFORE school hours, so I decided it was okay.

And that rationale was quickly justified when one of those boys said, “Mrs. McHenry, you are the answer to my prayer today.”

So, I’ve been thinking: Could you be the answer to someone’s prayer today? And could that involve cake? You decide.

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Are you the answer to prayer?

I didn't think cherries would be the answer to my prayer.

I didn’t think cherries would be the answer to my prayer.

I was feeling pretty empowered this morning with my new pruning saw. My loppers a week ago were just not enough to tackle a snowball bush that had gotten completely out of control. But the new saw was cutting through everything — until I got the thing stuck between entangled branches.

I need help, Lord! 

Almost immediately I heard a voice: “Workin’ hard?”

I turned around to see an elderly gentleman walking past my home with a grocery bag in his hands. “Yes!” I said. “Always!”

I had to smile. He wasn’t actually what I was picturing as help.

“Here,” he said, reaching into his bag, “I’ve got something for your hard work.” And he pulled out a handful of bing cherries.

My very favorite fruit — “better than candy,” I always said.

I smiled, put out my hands, and thanked him. “God bless you! Have a great day”

“I am,” he said. “I am!”

I set the cherries down on a bench on my porch and returned to my stuck saw. With new determination I pulled hard and the saw broke free. A minute later I had the shoot cut down.

Sometimes a simple act — even a handful of cherries — can be an answer to prayer. Sometimes WE are the answer to someone else’s prayer — maybe even that ride to church that another person needs or a word of encouragement or a helping hand.

There’s an expression going around: Love Does. I agree. Love is not just words — it is demonstrated.

Similarly, I wonder if this is also true: Prayer Does. I know that God says “Be still” sometimes, but what if we stepped out in faith anticipating the answer.

I am just believing that Prayer Does. What do you think?

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Not tire[d] of prayer

A deflated tire can inflate our need for prayer.

A deflated tire can inflate our need for prayer.

Ping!

A dashboard light came on, indicating that one of my tires was low. I was twelve miles from home with another thirty-plus to Reno, where I would inspire and organize church folks to prayerwalk around three local public schools and two college campuses in just over an hour.

Feeling a little desperate, worried, and clueless about what to do in the middle of nowhere, I stopped and did what any woman might do — call my husband and play a little helpless, hoping he would offer to rescue me. He didn’t. But with his coaching, I headed back onto the highway and made it to our church.

As I prayed my way along the highway, I realized God had me right where he wanted me — desperately trusting him. However, because I absolutely knew that God wanted me at that prayerwalk event, I could also boldly and confidently pray that he would show up bigtime as we prayerwalked those schools that morning. He did!

Desperate confidence is my new approach to prayer. I desperately need God for every single moment of my day, but I can confidently, even audaciously ask him for the big things of life beyond my reach.

Try on some desperate confidence today. It seems a little oxymoronic, but I think it’s just how God wants to meet us.

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Beach glass and shells

Beautiful, yes, but more beautiful is our new "familia" from Cape Verde.

Beautiful, yes, but more beautiful is our new “familia” from Cape Verde.

When Craig and I vacationed on the Oregon coast two summers ago, I walked our long beach many times hoping to find one single piece of beach glass. Didn’t happen.

However, on the island of Sal I could have picked up enough to fill a punch bowl.

It was a magical place, Sal. One of the islands of the Republic of Cape Verde, it sits in the upper half of a group of ten volcanic land dots that form a right-facing V off the coast of West Africa. The sand is finer in texture than any I have seen on the two coasts of America and on Hawaii. The island is desert-like — sparse and barren — but all you need to feast your eyes is the green-blue and grey-blue of the water.

I also looked for shells and found sea-worn pieces. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t find whole ones, but then I decided that worn pieces of shells and glass are richer finds.

I too am wearing away, and that fact is a good thing. The judgmental Janet of young adulthood is refining a bit. Formerly critical eyes see beauty more easily — in places, people and experiences.

Yes, we were on vacation on Sal, but the focus of our trip was son Josh’s wedding to his lovely Benakar, whose family lives in Cape Verde on two of the other islands.

Our borders and family reaches and perspectives were expanded in so many ways. We now are “familia” across continents.

I have a large collection of perfect shells throughout my house, gathered from beaches and gift stores over decades. But my treasures now will be the worn pieces of shells and beach glass found just feet from where my son and his bride covenanted to love, honor and cherish — reminders of our expanded familia and work God has been doing in my heart.

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