Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 71 – Into the Shallows

I read an account recently about a number of killer whales that mysteriously beached themselves and died. When the marine biologists investigated, they found that the whales were not seeking the larger fish found in the deeper waters but were chasing smaller fish in the shallows. Specifically, they were chasing minnows. They gave their lives running after something small.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 70 – Where’s My Cargo?

World War II ended many years of geographic isolation for some of the inhabitants of certain South Pacific islands. The Allied forces used some of these islands as supply depots; planes would drop cargo from the air via parachute or unload the supplies after landing on temporary airstrips. Natives living on the islands beheld such wonders as Zippo lighters that produced flames from one’s hand, Jeeps roving over the landscape, power tools and machinery leveling trees and moving earth and preserved foods eaten from cans.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 69 – Leaps of Faith

The leaping ability of the African impala is impressive. It can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover distances of greater than 30 feet. Despite these impressive statistics, an impala can be kept easily in any zoo. It doesn’t take a high fence or a wide moat to hold them captive. They can be kept from jumping with a 3-foot wall. This is due to a particular quirk of this animal: an impala will not jump if it cannot see where its feet will fall.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 68 – Hammer Swings and Enduring Faith

“There are some spiritual conditions that cannot be accomplished in a moment. The breaking up of the fallow ground takes time. The frosts of winter are necessary as the rains of spring to prepare the soil for fertility. God has to break our hearts to pieces by the slow process of his discipline, and grind every particle to powder, and then to mellow us and saturate us with his blessed Spirit until we are open for the blessing he has to give us.”

A. B. Simpson

When I was a teacher, one of our students was required to complete a community service project. He chose to repair a broken section of a sidewalk on campus. To pour the fresh cement would require breaking up the old, uneven section. When I showed up to help the team, they handed me a sledgehammer to begin breaking the concrete.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 67 – Holy Fire

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
– 
Ferdinand Foch

I first learned how to build a real campfire long ago from a famous book: Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival. In the chapter on campfires, he details wood selection, safety and the best way to build specific fires for specific needs.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 66 – Leaving Marks

One of the things that I heard often when growing up was the phrase: “That’s going to leave a mark.” I tripped and scraped my knee; “That’s going to leave a mark.” I ran into the barbed-wire fence; “That’s going to leave a mark.” I fell from the top of a tree I had climbed; “That’s going to leave a mark.” And those situations did, in fact, leave their marks. We all have scars from accidents and incidents. We all have marks. But it’s easier to focus on the marks made upon us than it is to focus on the marks we make.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 65 – Knowing God’s Will

A few years, a friend of mine was trying to discover God’s will for her life in a particular area. She asked me to pray that God would give her wisdom and direction. As we talked, I casually asked her, “So, are there any things you are doing in particular to discover his will for you?”

She said, “I’m praying but also just waiting. It seems like God is not answering me at all.” 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 64 – Self Contained

A biosphere is a group of systems found in nature functioning together as one larger system. Just as the human body contains the circulatory, nervous, skeletal and digestive systems, the earth has geological systems, wind systems and water systems that make up the various parts of the biosphere. Since the earth is the original biosphere, Biosphere 2 was the name given to the attempt to replicate earth’s interlaced systems on a small scale.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 63 – Forgetful Falcons

“But right at the beginning there is something you should know, even if it breaks your heart. For all your long hours, and the physical effort, and the expense, and even your genuine affection for this creature you have come to love…if you leave the cage door open, it will walk out of the door…Because this is the way of all wildlife.”
                  -Katherine McKeever on the keeping of falcons in Quality of Life
 
A few years ago, I went to an Eagle Scout ceremony for one of my former students. All his hard work and outdoor skills culminated in that high honor being conferred upon him. Since it was an Eagle Scout ceremony, another former student, who works for an organization that rescues birds of prey, brought a bald eagle as a special guest.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 62 – Lessons from the Pit

A few years ago, 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday found a couple of buddies and me standing in a hole in the middle of a field with shovels in our hands. The plan was to slow-cook some slabs of pork in the pit for a bar-b-que party that afternoon, but to be ready in time, we had to start early. We lit the fire, spread coals by the light of the moon and the glow of a lantern and placed the meat on the grate. A remote, digital thermometer probe was inserted into the largest piece of meat with an alarm set to sound when the pork reached the target internal temperature.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 61 – Cathedral Builders

Over the last two months, I’ve thought back on some of my favorite stories and touchstone moments. It’s amazing to me how the right example or illustration sticks with you long after the lesson ends. Though it has been retold many times with each teller adding or omitting details and though the original tale is lost to history, this is how I heard it many years ago…

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 60 – Horsehair and Hearts

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. – Hebrews 10:22

A close walk with Jesus requires a true heart. The word “true” indicates that the heart is matched in both appearance and reality; it is undivided by the competing loyalties which stand against full devotion to God. We might regard the Pharisees in the New Testament as the poster children for a divided heart. Jesus characterized them by quoting from the prophet Isaiah: “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8; Isaiah 29:13).

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 59 – Soil Problems

“Keep your milk cartons,” said my fifth-grade teacher one morning before lunch. “Don’t leave any milk in them. Don’t crush them. Don’t poke holes in them with your forks. Just bring them back to the room with you.” After rinsing the inside clean, labeling the side with my name on a piece of masking tape and cutting the top from the carton with my blunt-tipped scissors, my teacher took us outside.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 58 – Unity

Many people are tired during this season. There is potential weariness and potential frustration in any time of waiting. The regulations and standards have disrupted some moments of everyday life, and many states are resuming more normalized activities while others wait for orders to expire or change. Watching and listening to many of the voices in our society reminds me of the moments after a plane lands. Passengers leap to their feet, grab their bags and pack the aisles…only to wait. You can discover much about a person’s heart near the end of a long flight, and you can discover much about a person’s heart near the end of a long struggle. That is why endurance is so important. 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 56 – Victory in Surrender

“Following Jesus is about a relationship, not rules.”

That was the statement made to me years ago when I was teaching on obedience to Christ. When I spoke of humble surrender and spiritual discipline, the knee-jerk response of one person was to label my remarks as being legalistic because he “operated from a place of freedom.”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 55 – Below the Surface

Centralia is a town in Eastern Pennsylvania. In the early 1900’s, millions of tons of coal were mined from the region leaving behind an extensive web of excavated mine shafts, some more than 500 feet below the surface. In May 1962, on the outskirts of town, a garbage fire was burning in one of the old strip mine pits. This fire ignited one of the exposed coal seams which, in turn, made its way to the network of mine shafts. Over time, it spread underground until the ground began to seep smoke and fissures opened in roadways.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 54 – Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Whether it’s thick-papered, glossy ads for various products, roadside signs or social media advertisements, products and services promise that we can become (or seem to be) more hip, smarter, of the socially elite, happier, and fulfilled. The question must be asked, “If ‘stuff’ can meet our deepest needs, why do we still want more?”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 53 – Perfect Fit

When Spanish conquistadors marched into Peru in the 1500’s, the land was ruled by the Incas. The Spaniards found Inca walls and foundations built of stones fitted together without the benefit of any mortar. Many of these walls still stand today. Some of the stones used in the construction weigh in at over 100 tons and took hours upon hours of painstaking labor to shape using smaller “hammer” stones to chip away the excess rock on the faces. The edges of a block were shaped so they would match exactly with the contours of an adjoining block. The stones were fitted so carefully that even now it is impossible to insert a razor blade between many of them.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 52 – Divine Appointments

I tend to collect stories. I’ll read or hear accounts that lodge somewhere in my mind, and they resurface at odd moments (those of you who have heard me preach for any length of time know this truth all too well). One of my favorites comes from Gary LaFerla’s book Finding Your Way. In WWII, Elgin Staples was aboard the USS Astoria when it was attacked in the battle for Savo Island in the Pacific. This is the story as LaFerla recounts it:

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