Morning Prayer Summary for Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Morning Chapel Prayer Playlist
Morning Chapel Prayer Today

Pastor Heather…

Thank you, Father, that you do hold us… You hold the universe, you hold our lives, you hold our breaths, you hold our hearts in times of trouble. You hold our minds and our souls. You keep us at peace. You hold our future in your hands, and today we’re so thankful, Father. You are so good. There’s no one like you. No one loves us like you do.

Pastor Heather’s testimony…

When I woke up this morning and as Noah said I turned 50 today. Thank you. That’s not why I said that. When I woke up, I was just thinking of His faithfulness and just how good He has been to me over the years. And as we were singing the song, “I Worship You,” I remember to when I got born again when I was 18. And I came to Living Word, just a broken hot mess of a teenager from just life and the hard things that I had gone through in life. And some of you know parts of my story. My mom got pregnant with me when she was 17. And so just through living life with a single mom at times and other people that are supposed to care for us and protect us and love us that didn’t.

My view of God was that He was an angry judge…

My biological dad wasn’t a part of my life because he was very consumed with addiction at that time. And so all that pain that comes with not having that father figure in your life and the pain that comes from living through addiction as a child, the pain that comes from just not knowing who you are just in the natural but also in Christ. I wasn’t a Christian. We were raised Catholic. And I’m not here to say that Catholics aren’t Christian, but my family wasn’t. It was a religion. It was something that was just kind of a “check it off the list” religion that belongs to you, so to speak. So being raised in that, my view of God was that He was this angry judge that didn’t love me, that was just waiting for me to mess up and hit me over the head with a hammer every time I did. And that was my idea of God and who He was.

And so when I got born again at 18, I came to Living Word. So they’re just dredging all those pieces of baggage with me into the presence of God. And we all have our own little pieces of luggage. And some of us, even at 50, 60, 70, are still sorting those out. But I started as the receptionist here when I was 19 and being in a staff prayer and we sang that song, “I Worship You.” I can remember it was in the old building for those of you that have been here for quite a while, and we used to have a prayer and we had a little fellowship hall that was sectioned off by like divider walls, those kind you slide in and out. Anyways, I can remember exactly where I was standing and I can remember just feeling His presence and singing that song and just coming with all my brokenness. And I just think of that scared little 19-year-old girl and how much He’s brought me through for the years. And I’m so thankful and I know we all have stories like that… stories of His faithfulness where He met us where we were. And not because we deserve it, but because He says that we’re worthy because of what Jesus did for us.

But just His amazing faithfulness and love over the years, even days that I didn’t know He was there… I think I’ve told the story once before, but I just remember wanting to know Him so bad when I was younger. Not really finding Him so much in the Catholic church that we went to on Easter and Christmas. That was about it. But I do remember one time when I would go to my grandma’s and later on I found out she prayed for me. When I would go to her house just feeling so free and they had a dairy farm. And I would love to just chase the chickens, the kittens, the cows, go walk off by myself. I mean, it was the eighties. People didn’t really care what their kids were doing at that time. They call us the feral generation. We raised ourselves a little bit.

There was a creek and so we would go down and play by the creek and probably do things we weren’t supposed to be doing, trying to build our own bridge. Lord knows what we did. I don’t know. But anyways, I remember walking through those fields sometimes by myself. I was kind of a little dreamer and be up in my little imaginary world walking. But I remember feeling so peaceful.

That was Me trying to woo you…

And then there was a day, quite a while ago, like when we first moved back to Minnesota, probably around 2016. And I remember I was taking a walk at Bunker Hills Park, and I was just out walking through this field by myself. And that memory came back to me of me being a little girl, walking in those fields and feeling that peace. And the Lord says, “That was Me.” It makes me cry. “That was Me. You didn’t know it was Me, but I was wooing you. I was chasing you. I was trying to find you.”

I’m thankful for His faithfulness…

And in those moments of Him touching me in a way that I was hungry for Him but I didn’t know who He was, you know? But I’m just so thankful for His faithfulness. I don’t want to make this all about me, but just knowing that you all have stories of His faithfulness. And it does us well sometimes to step back and even though we’re in the middle of some things… We all are always. There’s always the bitter with the sweet. I don’t ever remember a season in my life where everything was perfect. And there’s something about us that we want that. We want everything to be perfect, and then we’ll be content, and then we’ll be happy, and then we’ll rejoice, and then we’ll praise.

Taking the bitter with the sweet…

But how many of us know one part of our life might be going well, but another part not so much. And it’s taking that bitter with the sweet, but also seeing in those times that He’s moving, He’s doing things. And honestly, some of my closest times with Him are in the very, very bitter times of my life. When I look back and I see that I had a really terrible season that I walked through, but that was the time that I felt the closest to Him because He’s very near to the broken hearted.

He carries us through those hard times…

So I just want to encourage you, if we could sing, “I worship you again,” and as you’re worshiping, just allow Him to take you through some seasons of your life and remind you of His faithfulness. Or maybe some of you are sitting or watching online and you’re kind of angry with God. You feel like He’s been quiet or He hasn’t been doing something. Allow Him to remind you and show you. And I guarantee you, there were times that maybe you thought He wasn’t there, but He was. He was! And as you look over your life, and I’ve had some hard things in my life, I’m not going to lie. Very hard things. But I can look back at those seasons and see He was carrying me through. Even if I felt alone at that time, I can look back and see signs of His goodness in every season of my life. And I just encourage you to do that.

I heard somebody say about semi-sweet chocolate, how it’s the best because there’s just a little bit of bitter that makes you appreciate that sweet. And I’m not saying God brings bitter things, but I’m saying we walk through those bitter things because we live in a fallen world. But He holds us so much closer in those times because He knows that we need it.

And so if we could sing that song again and just as you’re worshiping, allow Him to unfold some things and show you His faithfulness or thank Him for some things that you know definitely He was there in that season. He walked me through that season and just thank Him for His faithfulness today. Amen.

I want to read Psalm 23 over you. You can close your eyes or however you best receive. Lay down in the pew if you want. Psalm 23, and I’m going to read it in the Passion translation. And it starts out with,

“Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd.”

There’s a little footnote there that says “The word most commonly used for shepherd is taken from the root word Rah, which is also the Hebrew word for best friend. This translation includes both meanings. The unique term for a shepherd is “Lover of the flock.” This teaches us that a shepherd was not just a responsible overseer, but a caring Father figure tending to his flock out of a deep sense of love. Shepherds were also fierce protectors of their flocks. Jesus is the fierce protector of His people. So going back into verse one…

“Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me and his luxurious love.”

And then there’s another footnote here that says, “Or in the spring, green Meadows. A good shepherd knows where to pasture his flock. These green meadows would be a resting place free from all fear. The Greek verb to love is agape, which is a merging of the two words of the two concepts. Eggo means to lead like a shepherd, and pao is a verb that means to rest. Love is our shepherd leading us to the place of his true rest in his heart.” So we’ll read that again.

“He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where he restores and revives my life.”

And this is my favorite footnote here for verse three. “Or he causes my life or soul to return. So often life drains us out of us through our many activities, but as David found, God restores our wellbeing when we pursue what pleases God and when we rest in Him.” I just like that: He causes my life or soul to return. If you’ve ever been in a place of life where you’re busy or overwhelmed, and sometimes you’re like, “I don’t even know who I am or what’s going on,” He causes your life and your soul to return.

“That’s where He restores and revives my life. He opens before me the right path and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness.”

And in this footnote talking about the footsteps, it says: “Or circular paths of righteousness. It is a common trait for sheep on the hillside of Israel to circle their way up higher. They eventually form a path that keeps leading them higher. This is what the psalm is referring to here. Each step we take following our shepherd will lead us higher, even though it may seem we are going in circles.”

Has anyone ever felt like that? And one thing I’ve learned through therapy is that sometimes in life you feel like you come back to something that you thought you dealt with. But when you get in that circle, you’ll realize that you’re higher up the mountain. Every time you encounter it, He’s bringing you up higher. And you might have to process a different piece of that trauma or pass or whatever that is. And sometimes for those of us that have been through some pretty traumatic things, you’re like, “Ugh, I thought I was done with this. I thought this was over. I thought this was out of me. I thought God took care of that.” He did. And He is. But God is such a loving God that He does it slowly and He takes us and it’s kind of like, “Let’s deal with this little thing here, and then we’re going to go around the mountain one more time.” And now here we are again. Let’s deal with this little thing and we’re going to go around the mountain one more time.

So I just love the picture of getting up that mountain. But God takes us in those circles. Because I feel like if some of us had that steep climb up the mountain, I don’t know if we’d make it. We’d be on the sidelines panting and being like, “Slow down, Lord.” So He’s patient with us.

“He leads me along His footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to His name. Even when your path takes me through the valley of the deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me. For you already have. 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 cup overflows. So why would I fear the future? Only goodness and tender 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.”


So Father, we thank you that we have nothing to fear. Thank you that goodness and mercy pursue us all the days of our life. We thank you that you are a good shepherd. You are our best friend. No one loves us like you do, Father. And so today we just say thank you for being such a good Father. Thank you for being such a good shepherd that you bring us through things. You bring us over mountains, you bring us through valleys. You never leave us, you never forsake us. And we’re so thankful, Father, for your goodness.

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