My Mother and Dicken’s Village

Romans 10:15

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

Thought for the Day:  How will we give someone the “starter set” of faith?

“Have you found your anniversary gift yet?” my mother asked from her hospital bed. My mother had undergone surgery and was in final stages of ovarian cancer when she asked that question and we had no idea what she was talking about. Then she repeated, “Have you found your anniversary gift – it is in the guest room closet?” Many months before, my mother surprised me with a starter set of Dicken’s Village buildings from the story, “The Christmas Carol”, and was proud as she brought each of the ten pieces in the house for us to open. When we went to that guest room at her house, we found a new piece of Kinsington Palace. A summer before, we had traveled with my mother and daddy on a tour of Great Britain, specifically the Wesleyan experience. One of the stops was Kinsington Palace where we enjoyed the gardens together. So, when we opened the gift we had special memories of being there with my parents on those beautiful grounds. When we opened the box the next November as we decorated our house and “Dicken’s Village” for Christmas, we remembered fondly my mother’s precious gift. Now, 16 years later, I open my Dicken’s Village pieces one by one. When I open Kinsington Palace, I remember my mother so fondly I can feel her with me.

As we experience life and the events that formed our Christian faith, it is important to remember the events and people who helped us know God. Who gave us our “starter set” of life experiences that helped form our love for Christ? Who prayed for us so strongly we could feel them praying for us? Then, in an ultimate way, who have we given the “starter set” to and who have we helped form a heart for Christ? My mother gave me more than a “starter set” of Dicken’s Village. She gave me the heart for Christ that will live in me forever.

Prayer:   God, thank you for loving us in a way that brings people in our lives who have given us our Christian faith. Thank you for helping us in teaching others to have You in their hearts. Help us every day to see those who long to know you but do not know how to start. Help us give them the “starter kit” to know you better.

Prayer Focus: THOSE BRINGING OTHERS TO CHRIST

God is Good, All the Time

Psalms 145:2

Every day I will bless thee, and praise thy name for ever and ever.

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s Goodness in the Little Things

“God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” I remember a dear friend of mine some twenty years ago saying that phrase and through the years I have made that same statement to others. As I looked at my friend at the time he said this, I saw a friend who even in the hardships of life praised God. As I reflect over the past year and a half, I remember my husband and me struggling at first to make sense of a situation that made no sense. After some months, we both found ourselves praising God in the small things that happened to us on a daily basis that were little gifts reminding us that He was with us. Then, it happened. Mark began sharing with others about how God was taking care of us even in our situation. His words on Facebook and in written form to others were beautiful and showed how he was reacting to God’s faithfulness and love. I began reading the Bible more and I began taking devotional readings more to heart. In time, I began writing about God’s faithfulness and love to our family. We found ourselves praising God every day and sharing the wonderful story of how He was taking care of our every need.

As I think about how God has answered so many prayers for us recently it is easy to say, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” It was not so easy a year and a half ago, but we both found that as we praised God in the little things that we began recognizing Him more in our everyday life. “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”

Prayer:   God, you are so good. Thank you for helping us recognize you in the small things you do for us each day where we can learn to recognize you more as we go through each day. You are good – all the time. We praise you – all the time.

Prayer Focus: THOSE NEEDING TO FEEL GOD’S GOODNESS

 

Recognizing God in the Storms

1 Peter 4:12-13

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Thought for the Day:  Sometimes it takes the pain to recognize God’s love for us.

She calmly said, “Mark, you need to get him in the car and take him to LeBonheur in downtown Memphis.” Those words rang through Mark’s ears and then into mine as we quickly put our two month old, Nathaniel, in the car. When we arrived, we knew instantly that our friend, a neonatal nurse, had already called ahead and they had nurses and doctors ready for our arrival. Our baby had stage 5 Bronchiolitis with RSV and was admitted for a three day period to clear his lungs. In that moment of time, our friend went from being a church friend who we admired and loved, to one who saved our child’s life. Since that time, when we think of her, we immediately think of her with great thanksgiving for what she did for our little boy almost 12 years ago.

Isn’t that how we are in our relationship with God? We go through our daily routine saying our blessings before meals and asking for God’s help throughout the day. But when do we really recognize God the most in our lives? We recognize Him when we have gone through pain and hardship. We recognize Him when He takes us through the storm to see his peaceful calm on the other side. When we heard those words, “Get him in the car and take him to LeBonheur”, we entered a very scary three day storm. When we realized our little baby was going to be okay and could look back on the situation, we quickly realized that our friend, Jody, was more than a friend. She was our miracle. When we all realize that we have come through a storm, we can quickly realize once again, that God is our Savior.

Prayer:   God, thank you for reminding us, even in the pain, that you are our Savior. Help us look ahead just as we look back to see how your hand has led. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE IN A STORM IN LIFE

 

Praying God’s Power

(This story took place a long time ago and this ministry position did not come.  It was truly not the one God planned for us.  We know now where He was leading and is leading us – which is amazing!)

Ephesians 1:17-18

That Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

Thought for the Day:  Who have we prayed God’s power on today?

My husband was going through an interview process of a position as Minister of Music and Worship in a church. One of the first parts of the process was for him to conduct three rehearsals for worship services to take place the next Sunday. We had tried to keep the information to ourselves and not share too much with our friends so he went to the rehearsals without talking to many of his close friends. The day after the rehearsals, as he was driving home, he called several of those friends to talk to them and almost all of them said, “I was thinking about you just yesterday,” or “I found myself praying for you and wondering how you were doing.” Those friends, without knowing, prayed for Mark and for whatever he was doing that God placed thoughts of him in their hearts. I believe those prayers from friends helped him in his rehearsals and in his discussions with those in attendance. The peace and joy he felt as he directed came from God and through the prayers of close friends.

Today, my scripture reading during my devotional time was from Ephesians 1, which spoke about praying for each other. The writer of my devotional today stated that the prayers of Paul were so beautiful and showed love to the people in his time, then he went on to state that maybe Paul looked down through future generations and applied them to us, today. More than that, however, Paul gave us the instructions for praying for each other. The devotional ended with the thought that we pray for “His power to explode into the lives of your fellow believers.” Who have we prayed for today? Have we prayed for “His power to explode into the lives of our friends?” I make that my prayer for friends today.

Prayer:   God, thank you for prayerful friends who pray for us each day. Help us to pray for God’s power to explode within the hearts of those around us today. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE WE PRAY FOR

 

Always Room at the Table

Mark 6:41-42

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied.

Thought for the Day:  Who will we welcome at our table?

My grandmother was an incredible person. I’m not sure I have ever known anyone to be so welcoming to guests who entered her house. Her table was not fancy, she was not rich, but she welcomed anyone who entered her house. Sometimes it was her children inviting friends to her house to visit or even grandchildren bringing their friends to her house when they came to visit. I watched my grandmother for many years and it was amazing to me to watch her prepare meals for the two of us as I lived with her for a period of time. If someone came to the door, they were invited to eat with us as well. Even when several came to visit at one time, she would somehow prepare the table for them. If someone came, she would quickly pull something from the refrigerator, heat it, and set the table for whoever had arrived. She had a very special welcoming gift to her guests and that welcoming gift was to be welcomed at her table.

God calls us all to make room for everyone who wants to enter into our fellowship with Him. We are to make our table big enough to take in everyone wanting to come into His presence. My grandmother was a true example of making the table big enough. I never knew her to say there wasn’t enough room or enough food.   I only witnessed that there was always room for one more at her table.

Prayer:   God, thank you for always welcoming us into Your presence. We do not always come in as we should, but we know you are always there waiting. Please help us learn to be more welcoming to those we encounter. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE WHO HAVE MADE ROOM AT THEIR TABLE

 

 

Prayers for Others

(This devotional was written back in March as our family was going through a hard time.  We are better today as we look forward to a wonderful future that has been laid ahead of us.  The little girl in the story is also fine with no problems.) 

Matthew 19:14

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Thought for the Day:  Focusing our thoughts and prayers on others.

I awoke this morning, very disturbed that I had so much anxiety and concern about things going on in my life. With less than half the salary base we had a year ago, we are trying to continue living a normal life and to give our children what they need. I have prayed for security, joy, love, and peace to come into my life. The devotionals I read all said to turn the problems over to God but I found that difficult for some reason today. As I began writing today, I realized that my computer was not working properly and that I needed to restart. As the computer came back on, it immediately went to my e-mail where I noticed an e-mail from one of my student’s parents. It stated that her daughter had a cardiologist appointment this morning because of a significant heart murmur found in a neurologist appointment a few days ago. My heart immediately felt concern for my sweet student and her mother. The concerns for my problems quickly turned to prayers for them.

God has given me a prayer focus today that has taken away, for a minute, the selfish thoughts for myself and the want for God to do something for me today. It has given me a prayer focus on a little girl and her mother.

Prayer:   God, thank you for taking care of our problems, even when we are fearful and can’t see your hand at that moment. Help us to see the needs of others and put those prayers ahead of our own. God be with those hurting, nervous, and scared today. Be with them and bring them peace. Amen

PRAYER FOCUS: CHILDREN WITH HEALTH PROBLEMS

 

Receiving God’s Blessings

1 Peter 5:5

You that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Thought for the Day: We teach our children to say Please and Thank you. Are we Thankful to God for His blessings?

Today I read a devotional about God’s blessings that made me really stop and think.   We know from our spiritual knowledge that God blesses us because of grace and that we do not have to do anything to receive that grace except to accept God into our lives. However, how does He bring us blessings? As I read, my attention went to a section about how we accept those blessings and are we “blessable”. How are our attitudes toward the blessings God gives us? Do those who are proud receive the blessing with gratitude or do they get cocky? Do those who have little or no faith even recognize the blessing? Are those who are stingy even thankful for the blessing? In thinking about this I thought about the many times I have tried to teach my children to be thankful. “Say ‘Thank you!’”, and “Don’t forget to say ‘Please!’” Then I thought about myself. Do I say “Thank you” to God for the blessings he gives me in a way that acknowledges Him?

Chris Tiegreen goes on to say in his devotional, “God’s blessings bring with them a fair amount of responsibility. If we want them, we must prove to be responsible.”

Prayer:   God, Thank you for the blessings you bring to us each day. Help me to acknowledge You as I speak to others about the blessings. Help me be responsible as I receiver the blessings where I will use your gifts in a way that glorifies You. Amen

Prayer Focus: THOSE LEARNING HOW TO RECEIVE GOD’S BLESSINGS

 *Chris Tiegreen: The One Year Worship the King Devotional

 

The Photo Shoot

Psalms 100:1-2

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into his presence with singing!

Thought for the day:  When blessings come, sing for joy.

Our family recently went to a portrait studio to have our annual pictures made before Christmas. We never know from one year to the next how the photo shoot will go, and most of the time it is simply amazing that we get any good pictures. By the time we finish each year, we are normally frustrated and very tired. This time was different and we actually had fun. As the pictures were being taken we were all happy and having fun as the pictures were being taken. The boys were giddy – including my husband, and I found myself laughing a lot. In turn, the photographer and her helpers in the room were all laughing as well. When we returned to pick up our pictures, even the girl at the counter commented on how “cute” the pictures were. As we chose the pictures to purchase, we saw examples of different effects we could use showing families who were all prim and proper in their beautiful elegant clothing and were obviously perfectly behaved. When we looked at our pictures, however, we saw giggles from our youngest as he acted silly and then stopped whatever he was doing to give a quick smile for the camera. We saw a pose from our oldest as he was obviously trying to hold gum in his cheek and gave a ridiculous grin. The best picture of the day was the one where we did a “silly” pose. The photographer loved that one.

As I read a devotional this morning, it talked about trying to keep happiness contained. But, it went on to say that if we are happy in life it is impossible to keep it contained. When I am happy, I sing. When my husband is happy, he gets silly. When my oldest child is happy, he tells stories. When my youngest is happy, watch out, because he sings, hums, smiles, and “laughs out loud”. As a family we feel God’s blessings so strong in our lives that we feel the obvious love He is sharing with us. We have found that we cannot contain the joy we feel and that all of the “happy” reactions to His love are evident. So, we give thanks to God today for all He has done in our lives. We have found that the more we feel thankful to God we find ourselves singing and praising Him.

Prayer:   Father God, thank you for laughter and singing. Thank you for showing us that You are leading us in a special way that brings us the want for singing. Be with us as we go through the day to feel your presence and to sing a joyful song. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE FEELING JOY

 

Smite

Joel 2:32

And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Thought for the Day:  God loves and punishes us just as we love and discipline children.

Years ago, my husband and I participated in a Bible Study at our church. We studied the early books of the Bible where it seemed that God punished the people often and harshly. I remember there was an ongoing word that kept appearing in our reading and then every time we read about another situation where God punished the people there was a reaction by those in the class to repeat it in an almost humorous way. When punishment happened, there were several who would say, “SMITE!”, with a little laughing undertone. Each time I heard it, I cringed. During that early time in my Christian walk, I imagined being the person that punishment happened to and it was harsh. As I read my scripture this morning, I read about one of those times that brought the memories of that Bible Study back to me. But this time, I read it in a different way. Yes, the punishment was harsh and it seemed that there was a lot of “SMITE” in the reading, but in my Christian journey as I am now a mother of two, I realize that a lot of the punishment given was in relation to protection. God was punishing his children as we discipline our children today. He was protecting them from something that could harm them.

Today, as I travel my Christian journey, I realized that I look to God differently than I did when I was young. At one point I was fearful of God fearful as I was with my Daddy as I was growing up, that I would disappoint him in some way. But now, I realize more fully, that God is with me all the time and loves me. Now, instead of being fearful that I am going to disappoint God, I try to listen for Him to lead me in the first place. If I strive to follow God as I go through my day, I am less likely to disappoint the God I love.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for leading us through our faith to make new realizations about our relationship with you. You love us as we love our children and you lead us through our days if we will only listen and follow you. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE FEARFUL OF GOD

 

You are Different Now

Colossians 3:1-2

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Thought for the Day:  Through God, we can be changed

He said, “You seem so different now.” As we sat at a meal together, my husband said I was different and that there had been an obvious change. He was right and I know why. In January when I was prompted by God to begin writing and delving into scripture and devotionals more, I changed. My morning of getting ready for a school day became an exciting morning of reading, praying, and writing. I began feeling out of sorts if I missed that time and I will get up very early in order to have that time. Today, it is so much a part of me that I have to include that time in order to begin my day in God’s way. Now, after all of these months, I have felt something else happen. This shy girl will now go up to people who I know have been hurting or ill to give them a hug and to talk a few minutes. I have learned that those talks are God’s words for me in that moment. Am I different? Most definitely. My daily time with God has made me different, and I can’t go a day without my special time.

God has shared so much with me over the past ten months through my reading of scripture and in the words He has given me to write. My faith has grown to the point that everything I witness seems to be from Him. I have seen miracles that I know could not have come from anywhere except from Him. I have seen people hurt and grieve, but know that God is standing right beside them. My family has gone through transition, but I know that God has led us through and soon we will be in a new place that He has ordained.

Prayer:   God, thank you for letting me spend time with you each day. You begin my day, everyday, with words that sustain me as I go through my work time and my family time. Be with me today to see You in everything and to see You in all of my circumstances. Amen

Prayer Focus: THOSE GROWING CLOSER TO GOD