Decorated with Love

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One of my favorite pictures of my mother, Louise Spencer Luffman. In her late 20s.

My mother was a keeper of all things. Not like a hoarder; our house was always clean and orderly. Everything in drawers was neatly folded and things on closet shelves were boxed and labeled. When Mother died and we cleaned out the house, I found a little notebook where she had recorded the contents of every room—probably done in those last years at home when she looked for ways to fill her days.

I remember a conversation Mother and I had once about several bud vases she kept on a shelf in the living room. I told her she could buy those vases for $1 each and I didn’t think anyone meant for her to keep them on display, but her response was that someone had cared enough about her to give her flowers and she was going to keep the bud vases right where they were.

Growing up, when I would clean my room, I would sometimes go through things that I thought were entirely worn out and take them outside for “throw away.” Mother would go behind me and rummage through everything and bring much of it back inside. When I later married and had a little girl, Mother would bring her my old costume jewelry that she had salvaged and my daughter loved it.

As I aged and matured in my understanding, I came to see Mother’s collecting in a different way. I realized the memories that were attached to things of her past. I especially loved Mother’s albums of many photographs kept through the years. A day came when she would tell me that I should take any of them I might like—that she didn’t need them anymore.

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A very early picture of my parents. They married at 15 and 18. I’ve wondered if it was made the day they married.

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Me with my snowman when we lived on Church Street.

She would also say of her many keepsakes “If you see anything you want, just take it.” Sometimes she would mention a particular item and tell me something about it and then ask if I would like to have it. Her stories and her mementos became precious to me, more valuable than I could ever explain.

Much of what Mother gave me is in my kitchen. There are also some things of my grandmother’s there. I enjoy telling friends about the pieces that live in my kitchen and one friend said she loved my house because of all the stories belonging to each piece. Still another friend said something I will always cherish: “You decorate with love.” I had never thought of it like that, but she is right. I have adorned my kitchen with things that make me happy, things of fond memory. My highchair with its many coats of paint, a piece Mother loomed when she was 18 and I had framed, my grandmother’s buttermilk pitcher that Papa bought for 50 cents, my mother’s grease crock for keeping the bacon drippings, a framed copy of my grandmother’s recipe for chicken and dumplings—a dish she was known for far and wide.

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Mother’s loomed piece in center made when she was 18, two crocheted pieces above and below.

No place in my house feels as comfortable to me as my kitchen. Like my mother and grandmother, I love to cook and bake and that accounts for part of the comfort. However, I know it is also because I feel a special warmth standing in the midst of family memories. I’m grateful for a mother who kept things and then shared them with me.  Every cherished memento says “I love you.”

Pecan Waffle with a Side of Kindness

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I’ve had some serious issues with my eyes since July and have been seen several times a month by an eye specialist for close watch and treatment. A few days ago, returning home from an appointment that went especially well, I felt a little celebrating was in order. The day was cold and damp and a pecan waffle and cup of coffee seemed perfect.

For a pecan waffle, I needed a Waffle House, and though I would pass two on my way home, I felt I was to go to one in particular. I couldn’t make sense of it, but it was as if some happy little experience awaited me there.  

They weren’t busy at 2 in the afternoon, so I had picking choice of where to sit and I slid into a booth near where the food was being prepared. A waitress quickly appeared and said, “This is not my station, but I can get you some coffee until Doris can get here.” Soon, Doris came and asked for my order. “Pecan waffle,” I said. She nodded, turned, and repeated the order to the cook. Then, turning back to me, she said, “Do you want just a plain waffle?” Odd, I thought, but repeated I wanted a pecan waffle. Doris turned again toward the cook and said “She wants a pecan waffle.” “Yes, I have it,” the cook said. No hint of frustration in his voice, just kindness. I could not miss the kindness.

While I waited, someone I assumed to be a manager appeared and Doris went up to him to tell him something she needed in the way of a uniform. He told her yes, he had ordered it for her. Again, there was noticeable kindness in his voice. 

Something is going on with this waitress and the staff, I said to myself. They are taking care of her! There must be some manner of concern for Doris and they have decided to help her however they can. Memory was obviously a problem, but it wasn’t annoying anyone. Maybe she had a sick husband or mother or child that she was caring for and needed this job. Maybe she was the one sick or in a serious financial situation. Whatever it was, it was a beautiful thing to see Doris’s co-workers and supervisor walking with her through it all. When I paid, Doris said “I enjoyed waiting on you.” Oh, Doris, I mused, you have no idea how much I have enjoyed your waiting on me!

Now, that’s it. The end of my little side trip to the Waffle House. The reason I wanted to tell you about it is because we are in a seriously angry place in our nation and I loved seeing people helping people. No ego problems, no complaining, no tongue wagging about Doris’s memory. Just people doing what they could to help, for whatever the reason. I needed this little smile maker and heart booster because I am weary with the out-of-control behavior I see daily on television. I am tired of posturing by politicians who have been too long on the job. Their intention is to impress, but my reaction is disappointment. I am sick of seeing out-of-control adults, and even more, their encouraging young people to act out the same way. This is far more than angry, inappropriate words; it is deliberate damage to properties that don’t belong to them and injury to people who don’t agree.

I’m just too old to ever understand this. I grew up in a time when you respected authority or paid the consequences. My voting in elections has never been strictly one party or the other; I’ve been independent. Sometimes my candidate has won, sometimes not, but once it was over, I accepted it. Yes, I’ve been on the side of an election where the winner left a bad taste in my mouth and fear in my heart, but I didn’t let those feelings rule me, I ruled my feelings. There’s a little matter of what God has to say, as well: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong” (Romans 13:1-3 NLT).

 

What I witnessed in a Waffle House on a cold afternoon was a gift from the Lord. Had I not gone in expecting something good to happen, I might have missed it; but I went in with an expectation of blessing and I sure received it. The pecan waffle was great and the sane and caring behavior of people even better.

 

 (Doris is not the real name of the waitress.)

My Samantha

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It hurt to watch her confusion. She was in a corner of the room trying to find her way out, turning first to the left and then the right. Not able to bear it any longer, I went to her and helped her find her way. Samantha is my 15 year old Siamese and she is going blind.

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Always with Richard.

We got Samantha when she was just four weeks old and weighed one pound and she was, from the beginning, my husband’s cat. She bonded so with Richard that she took every step he did and when his truck pulled out of the driveway, she would stand at the kitchen window and cry. Needless to say, Samantha grieved hard when Richard died.

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Samantha, kindly posing for a good shot in December 2016

In August of 2016, I noticed a significant change in Samantha’s vision. One day she had some minor near vision problems, and the next day (it seemed) she was walking into furniture and walls. Samantha’s vet saw the cataracts but couldn’t explain why the change was so sudden. I was frightened for Samantha, concerned she might injure herself. I was told to keep everything just as she remembered it; no rearranging of furniture or putting anything new in her pathway.

I was encouraged when my daughter told me of a friend’s cat who was blind and had lived a number of years with quality of life. I began speaking to Samantha when I neared so I wouldn’t frighten her. If I find her unsure about a direction, I talk her to the place. If she is unsure about her aim for my lap, I lift her to me. It seems there are times she can see a little more than others and I haven’t figured that out yet.  It doesn’t seem to be connected with lighting.

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Chloe gets her picture made, too.

At first, Chloe was puzzled by it all. Samantha would jump from my lap into Chloe’s space unintentionally and Chloe would think it was a call to play. When she responded in play and Samantha would run from her, Chloe was perplexed. It didn’t take long, though, for Chloe to understand there was something new going on with the cat she had shared space with for nine years, and she began to make adjustments for her, just as I did. One temptation I have to constantly fight is to do too much for Samantha. I know she needs to do as much as she can for herself.

I am trying hard to keep the balance of affection between Samantha and Chloe.I croon my love for both of them and tell Chloe how much I appreciate her helping me care for Samantha. I’m one who believes animals understand a lot of what you say and intuitively know the rest.

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Sharing some sunshine on the patio this past summer.

I hold to quality of life for animals, as does our vet. At 15 years of age, I won’t put Samantha through surgery. Neither will I shut her off in a room for safety sake. Right now she still finds her litter box and makes sure to cover well like the lady she has always been. She can find her food and water and reminds me when it’s time for a mid-afternoon treat.

Samantha, Chloe, and I will walk this journey together and when there is no longer quality of life for Samantha, I will let her go with the dignity and respect she deserves. There will be no way to avoid the heartache of giving her up. For now, we will make our time together as good as it can possibly be for the three of us. We will build memories. And give lots of love.

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My Samantha, winter of 2016

Mary’s Time with Elizabeth

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Every Christmas, I linger over the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel. I believe it was a rich time spiritually and I hunger for details. We know that the baby Elizabeth was carrying leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. And we know that Mary sang a beautiful praise to the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Beyond that, little is known so I ponder a bit on some probabilities.

It was right after Gabriel told Mary she would bear the son of God, that she departed for the home of her relative, Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea. Tradition has it the town was Ana Karim, a one hundred mile journey. Perhaps Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, arranged for her safe travel by caravan.

Mary could surely think of nothing else on her journey but the child who would come from her womb. She would bear the long awaited Messiah!  It sounded far-fetched, but Elizabeth would understand. For Elizabeth, like Mary, was experiencing an impossible pregnancy. Aged and far beyond childbearing years, Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Gabriel had said. Elizabeth would be excited for Mary. How good it would be to talk with her kinswoman about their visits from God’s messenger.

Young Mary would take over the household duties. I can hear her encouraging the elderly Elizabeth to rest. The house had been silent for six months—the time Zechariah had been mute due to his unbelief that Elizabeth would bear a child.  Mary would provide Elizabeth with much needed conversation; I think of the talks they must have had. Sobering talks, for sure, but I also think there was lots of laughter.  Don’t we always laugh when we are happy? And how could they not be happy?

I imagine Elizabeth’s husband, a priest, to be in constant worship. I see Zechariah on his face before God for long stretches of time. I see him, even in his inability to speak, leading Mary and Elizabeth in worship. Messianic prophesy was unfolding before Zechariah’s very eyes, prophetic scriptures he knew by heart. He was a part, for the son born to him would prepare the way for the Messiah. How many time, do you suppose Zechariah wrote to Mary “Tell me again what Gabriel said.” I see his face filling with awe and his soundless mouth forming words of thanksgiving each time Mary gave the report. Though silence had been imposed on Zechariah, it would not have stolen his joy.

In the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary gave. But we must not miss that it was also a time when she received. Elizabeth, by years and as the wife of a priest, would have given Mary exceptional advice, sharing knowledge and wisdom. Mary would have gone home a different woman, one better prepared for the role she had been designated to play.

Mary said in her song to the Lord (Luke 146-56) that He had been mindful of the humble state of his servant. I believe the time Mary spent with Elizabeth was part of the Lord’s being mindful of Mary. God always takes care of anything, even the things we don’t sometimes realize are by His hand and plan.

When You’ve Prayed All You KnowTo Pray

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I wrote this almost six years ago on what to do when we have prayed everything we know to pray. I post it again today for a friend who is feeling that way.

JESUS

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.
Sometimes that is the only prayer I have – and it is enough.
When I’m waiting for an answer that doesn’t come and I know no more prayers to pray, I utter His name — Jesus.
When the night is long and I can’t sleep, I whisper — Jesus.
When I’ve lost my way, I cry out to the One who has not lost me.  I pray — Jesus.
When I’m tired and I can’t see rest ahead, when all strength is gone, I breathe His name — Jesus.
When I am in pain, I remember the One who can heal, and I plead — Jesus.
If I’m afraid, I bear in mind that I have a Shield whose name is — Jesus.
He is my Savior and my Lord, my Shelter and my Comforter.
He gives me sanctuary under His wing and supplies me with restoration and peace.
He is the Holy Lamb of God, the One who comes with compassion and new hope.
He is my Faithful Friend and the Radiant Light on this earth’s journey.
He is the Way of all righteous, the ever-abiding Truth, and the Life of love and joy.
He is the Mighty and Eternal God

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words

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Now it was time to wait. I had come to receive treatment for a newly diagnosed eye condition. I was alone and with nothing to distract, I began watching and listening to the people around me.

My eyes moved around the waiting room and took in the canes, walkers, and wheelchairs; the patients accompanied by family or friends. I thanked God that I didn’t need walking aid and was able to drive myself to the clinic. I wondered about each person there. Was theirs a longstanding situation or were they dealing with a new diagnosis as I was?

One lady sitting in a wheelchair across from me seemed asleep, but then she suddenly began saying to the two ladies with her that she wanted to go home. Did she want to go home because she wasn’t feeling well? Was she dreading what she might hear today? Her companions didn’t seem too concerned and barely acknowledged that she had spoken. They appeared to be working from a list of people, calling each one to leave a message of concern and express their love for them. Yet here was this lady right there with them receiving little of their attention. Isn’t it the way with people; we look for some good act to do when there is an immediate need right in front of us?

The staff moved about through hallways and doorways at a fast clip. Each one was focused on the work that was theirs to do. They were professional and friendly, having no side conversations with one another that didn’t involve patient care. Their demonstration of being highly skilled in patient and family interaction was impressive. They had either been hired well or trained well. Most likely, both had occurred.

I’m a people watcher by nature, but I become even more so when I’m in a healthcare environment. For more than 25 years I worked in healthcare and that has made me overly sensitive to staff that isn’t professional. In fact, I was at this very clinic because the first ophthalmologist I saw had a staff that interacted playfully with one another but very little with their patients. The physician was rushed into each room by staff and it felt somewhat like I was on an assembly line. After three visits, I determined to find a better fit. This was my eyesight we were dealing with and I needed the utmost confidence in every player involved with my care.

Did you know that over 90% of communication is considered non-verbal? What a person “hears” involves body language, tonality, and attitude. When I began teaching communication techniques in 1984, Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, graded it as over 90% even then. That old adage of “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is sound advice.

I left the clinic grateful to have found a physician and staff that care about how they represent themselves to patients.  That lets me and the others I watched in that waiting room relax into their care. We can come with confidence that highly skilled people are taking care of us and that goes a long way in how well we deal with our particular healthcare situations.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Nation Under God

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This past Election Day, many evangelicals believed that God’s man for this hour in our nation was elected. The numbers keepers tell us 81% of the evangelical vote went for Donald Trump. I am one of those evangelicals.

Conservatives believe that a school day opened with prayer and the pledge to allegiance is a good thing. We see it as putting God first, where He deserves to be. We believe our flag is to be honored and lifted high in respect and gratitude for those who have bravely fought for our freedom. We believe that our nation must come first as we work cooperatively with other nations.

george-washington-kneeling-in-prayer2President George Washington said “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” That belief was still held when Abraham Lincoln said “Unless the great God who assisted (Washington) shall be with me and aid me, I must fail; but if the same Omniscient Mind and Mighty Arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail . . . Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.” No one said it more clearly than President Ronald Reagan when he said “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

A friend called the day after the election and said she imagined I was very happy at the election’s outcome. I replied that what I felt most was relieved; relieved that God was giving us another chance to come back to Him. This mission of many to put God completely out of every public venue is misguided. Every faith is honored and given room today but the faith of Christianity. This is wrong and God will not be mocked. Want some proof of that? Read the stories in the Old Testament of those who did it their way rather than God’s way and see what they went through.

Why would God pick Donald Trump to use? Someone who sometimes speaks crudely and bombastically? I can’t answer that any more than I can explain why God used a drunk (Noah) to build an ark to save humanity. Nor why He used a murderer (Moses) to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. God turned Saul of Tarsus from a man who strongly supported the execution of Christians into Paul, a great missionary and builder of New Testament churches. Maybe God chooses the unlikely to show His great power over all, to demonstrate that the impossible with man is opportunity with God. I can’t explain God’s choices but I can line up and respect them. If I cast my vote incorrectly, time will soon tell. And if I made the right choice, it will be an exciting time for America as we watch God shape and use President-Elect Donald Trump.

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:11-12 (NAS).

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Praying God’s Steadfast Love

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Many of us are familiar with the comfort received when we personalize Psalm 91. In verses like 3, we replace “He will deliver you” with “He will deliver me” and we go on in that manner of making the scripture our own. As we face our own trials and fears, we pray back to God the inspired scripture of Psalm 91.

I learned about praying Psalm 91 over myself from a woman long devoted to constant prayer. I was quite ill at the time. Then when my daughter became gravely ill, I taught her to use it in the same way. Sometimes I would read it over her, entering her name throughout, and she found strength and calm in God’s care for her.

There is another psalm that I use even more as a prayer and that is verse 4 of Psalm 6: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love” (ESV). Everything we need is in that one sentence. We call on God’s mercy and grace for whatever is our need; we ask Him for deliverance because of who He is and not because we in any way deserve such Love.

There are times when a scripture seems to jump into our vision. The words will magnify as if bolded. I consider these times as God reaching out in a personal way, giving us a scripture to claim in a time of need, and I encourage you to do the same. Thank Him for it. Write it down and pray it frequently. In so doing, He will inscribe it on your heart.

I especially love Psalm 6:4 because it is easy to remember and because it fully encompasses everything. I pray it over friends. For example, I will say: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver Christy’s life; save her for the sake of Your steadfast love.” I use it for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver our nation, save us for the sake of Your steadfast love.” It is a prayer we desperately need to pray in these days.

The word “steadfast” is an English translation from the Hebrew word “hesed.” Depending on the translation of your Bible, it may also read everlasting, kindness, or mercy. I have read different counts as to the number of times it is used, but all accounts have given it 200 times or greater, with the most use in any single book of the Bible found in Psalms, the scriptures used as the temple hymnal and devotional guide for the Jewish people.

There is great wisdom in praying the scriptures. We engage ourselves with God’s Word, we commit scripture to memory, and we pull power into our lives from the breathed words of God. Can we not imagine the delight of our Father when He hears us speak to Him in His language? He has declared a covenant with us and when we communicate with Him in this manner, we are claiming and agreeing with what He has said.

All scriptures of God’s love are for for us, yet I believe that if you search the scriptures that tell of His steadfast or everlasting love, you will find something that God will lift from the pages and personally give to you. I hope you will give it a try.

Here is a beautiful song about God’s everlasting love from Terry MacAlmon.

A Prediction for the 2016 Election from Pastor Tom Lindberg

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My pastor, Dr. Tom Lindberg of First Assembly Memphis, is a very positive and encouraging pastor, always. Yesterday in morning worship, he told us he wanted to make predictions we could count on about the November election. What he then declared was so uplifting I asked for permission to share it further. May you be blessed by my pastor’s wisdom.

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg
Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

A Prediction for the 2016 Election

          On November 8, millions of people will go to the polls to vote in our national election.  I have a prediction to make about the election.  I predict that on November 9,

  • The Lord God Almighty will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  • Jesus Christ will still be our Savior, Healer, and Baptizer.
  • The Holy Spirit will continue to fill His people with wisdom and power, and greater will be the One in us than he that is in the world.
  • On November 9 I predict the Bible will still be God’s eternal Word. Heaven and earth will fade away, but not God’s Word.
  • I predict God’s church will continue to march ahead in might and power, for the gates of hell cannot stop God’s church.
  • And I predict on November 9 that God’s plan for this world will not change. His plan still concludes with “the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel.  The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.  So shall we ever and eternally be with the Lord.”

That’s my prediction for November 9 and election 2016.  Take courage!!

You can learn more about our church famemphis.net and reach Dr. Lindberg at tlindberg@famemphis.net.

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Favorite Quotes on Prayer

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I have long been a collector of quotes. A few words can speak so much. An avid reader, I have journals with nothing but quotes from favorite authors that have taught, comforted, and encouraged me through the years. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of what book I found each quote, as my intention was to record them only for personal review. All  are about prayer and it is my hope that you will find some blessing for yourself in the quotes I am sharing.

ingrid-bergman-2016“When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve that life or nourish it. Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.”  –Oswald Chambers

“Our strength is renewed in only one way: spending time with God in prayer, waiting on Him, immersed in scripture reading, time with God’s people, cultivating Christ’s presence—so that the Holy Spirit may take over.”  –St. Francis de Sales

“Do not have your concert first and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin your day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” –Hudson Taylor

“What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. The Psalms show us how to answer.”  –Eugene Peterson

“It is the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers. . . . The Holy Spirit works His prayers in us through the Word, and neglect of the Word makes praying in the Holy Spirit an impossibility.”  – R. A. Torrey

“Praise and thanksgiving are an essential part of persevering prayer. The more we focus on praising God, the more devoted and faithful we become. “ –Cynthia Heald

“In prayer we cease leaning on the staff of self-will and put all our confidence in God.” –Maxie Dunnam lady-of-guadelupebest

“When we fail to make prayer a priority—essentially forfeiting our time alone with God—we will begin to feel an emptiness in our lives, accompanied by a strange sense of unrest and uneasiness.”  –Charles Stanley

“It is well said that neglected prayer is the birthplace of all evil.”  –Charles Spurgeon

“Praying for the sick is reaching out with one hand to touch the risen Christ while holding on to the sick with the other hand.”  –Robert L. Wise

“Prayer is the rope that pulls God and man together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us, it pulls us up to Him.” –Billy Graham

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fear nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”  –Samuel Chadwick

“He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will mean that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always.” –A. W. Tozer

“I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his host at the door.” –Annie Dillard

“If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank you,’ then that will be enough.” –Meister Eckhartbucket-of-roses-jul-29-2016