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In Iowa, during January, the nights are long and dark. If it isn’t below zero, I find myself enjoying the quiet starlight during early morning runs. The snow makes the roads slippery, but also hushes the sounds. I don’t hear birds or insects. Just the quiet and my own panting.

As I struggle to figure out the ways to worship God with my mind, I have come to appreciate the Puritan emphasis on spiritual reflection as a devotional practice. As I ponder the beginning of another year and another semester of teaching, this is another one of my favorites:

Refuge

O Lord,
Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible,
Order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me,
nor prove obstacles to the progress of thy cause;
Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall,
no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments;
May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own;
Permit me not to labour at work which thou wilt not bless,
that I may serve thee without disgrace or debt;
Let me dwell in they most secret place under thy shadow,
where is safe impenetrable protection from
the arrow that flieth by day,
the pestilence that walketh in darkness,
the strife of tongues,
the malice of ill-will,
the hurt of unkind talk,
the snares of company,
the perils of youth,
the temptations of middle life,
the mournings of old age,
the fear of death.
I am entirely dependent upon thee for support, counsel, consolation.
Uphold me by they free Spirit,
and I may not think it enough to be preserved from falling,
but I may always go forward,
always abounding in the work thou givest me to do.
Strengthen me by they Spirit in my inner self
for every purpose of my Christian life.

All my jewels I give to the shadow of the safety that is in thee-
my name anew in Christ,
my body, soul, talents, character,
my success, spouse, children, friends, work,
my present, my future, my end.
Take them, they are thine, and I am thine,
now and for ever.

From Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust), 1975.


Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

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