A Special Friend

Matthew 25:40

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Thought for the Day:  Help Someone Today

My mother was a remarkable lady who had difficulties in her life but even through those found ways to help others. After my brother with a physical handicap passed away, my mother decided to volunteer with the local Literacy Council. She was assigned a young lady, Shirley, and began teaching her to read. She was physically handicapped and her mother did not have the means to get her to school. My mother dedicated much of her time to Shirley and helped her learn to read.

Later, after my mother moved from that town, she took much time searching for items that Shirley and her mother could use. She drove back to visit her every couple of weeks to take those items to her and more importantly to share time with her. She showed Shirley the face of Jesus Christ as she loved and nurtured her is such a special way. My sweet mother visited Shirley like this for sixteen years until my mother passed away.

How can we be the face of God to those around us? How can we find the dark places in the lives of others where we can enter in and show the face of God? My mother began a journey with Shirley that developed into a true friendship, one of love and nurture.

Prayer: God, help us show Your face to others as we go through our time on earth. Be our eyes and our heart to find those needing Your tender touch and help us be that touch. Amen.

Prayer Focus: NURTURING SPECIAL FRIENDS

 

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Protective Wings

Luke 13:34

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not.

Thought for the Day:  God is there opening his wings to protect you as a hen protects her chicks.

As I turned on my computer, the computer that crashed and was sent back to the factory to be completely reset, I knew I would not have my files including the devotionals I had written over the past year. I was fortunate to find them on an off-site “cloud” that I had set up when I got my new computer.  As I saved the files back to my computer, I remembered so many by their titles which triggered special memories of the times I wrote each one.  As I reflected back, I could see the changes in my heart from the early devotionals I wrote as my family was going through our lowest and most fearful time to the later ones I wrote as we began seeing the wonderful light of hope.  Today, as I sit in our new place writing my devotional for the day, I realize how much has changed and I see clearly that God has led us here.  I do look back, however, and remember the pain for that pain was what made us go another direction in our lives.  Last week, our pastor preached on a passage that included Luke 13:34 where Jesus said that he was like a hen that protected her chicks under her wings.  Today, we can look back and see that there was a fox trying to take us away from the protective “wings of God” but we chose to stay there and through that protection, God led us to a new and beautiful place…..and we are still under the protection of God’s wings now.

Our church includes “Daily Devotions” in our bulletin each week that give us daily thoughts to help us focus on the sermon throughout the week.  The following are the words from yesterday’s thoughts:  Jesus loves Jerusalem, the city that will kill him.  He loves the people that reject him.  He loves the world that ignores him.  In his lament, we recognized our own.  In his agony and frustration, he gathers up all the frustrations of our life in this world and offers it to God, that we may know God hears, understands, accepts and loves all of us – the good, the bad, the desperate, the hopeful – all of it; all of us!

Prayer: God, thank you for sheltering us under Your wings when we go through hard times. You reach your wing out as we begin stepping out of that protection to bring us back to you.  You open your wings up to welcome us when we do step away and decide to come back.  God, be with us and protect us from the harm of this world and help us to always know that you are welcoming us with love and open wings.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Those needing to feel protection

Blessed to be a Blessing

1 Peter 1:3

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life an godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to be his own glory and excellence.

Thought for the Day:  Look for the blessings in the most difficult challenges.

It was a very busy week as I prepared and then led parent conferences with each of my parents. In a two day period, I met with the parents of 23 of my 24 students.  The preparation for each of those conferences was overwhelming as I wanted each meeting to go well.  As I had only met a handful of parents since my beginning this teaching position in January, it was also a first time meeting with most.  As I met, I got to know the parents and felt I had more knowledge about the students in my classroom.  The biggest challenge which became my biggest blessing was the meetings I had with the parents of my children who speak English as a second language.  As I met with them, my appreciation for their children in what they go through on a daily basis grew immensely.  Most of the children come into the classroom easily each morning speaking English but when they go home in the afternoon they speak their family’s language.  The meeting that touched me most was the young parents of a little boy.  As we shared, I heard them talk about their expectations for the child.  I was touched by their situation and the way they showed their support for him.  As a younger brother of several who have already learned English, he has the challenge of continuing to try, and make mistakes, as he learns.  The father shared with me that when he gets home, he will sometimes switch from Spanish to English in the middle of his sentences.   The father continued to tell me that he doesn’t care which language the boy speaks at home, as they can understand English, but mixing the two languages mid-sentence is where he needs to make correction.  This story absolutely amazed me and then blessed me more when I thought about the other seven children I have in the classroom who speak Spanish, Mongolian, or Chinese at home.  They are incredible.

The words, “Blessed to be a blessing” are the words that come to my mind as I think about these children.  One of the Spanish speaking children is one that is my “first hug” each day as she comes and stands next to me quietly waiting for me to give her my bear hug.  My Chinese speaking child draws the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen in a student, and she is in kindergarten?!  There are a lot of challenges that arise when I teach these children, but I believe God has placed me with them during this time for me to attempt to teach them in the best way I can, and then for them to teach me and bless me each day.  “Blessed to be a blessing!”

Prayer: God, thank you for placing me in a special place working with special people each day. Help us learn to look at the other person’s situation as we meet them and to understand them where we can do what we need to do for them.  Thank you for bringing us “blessings” as we meet new people.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Teachers

 

God’s Promise Fulfilled

Romans 4:20-21

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  

Thought for the Day:  God loves us and fulfills His promises to us.

It has finally happened. Twice in the past two weeks I have been reminded that even though we have two adopted children ages 5 and 12, I am an older parent.  The first time was at my child’s pediatrician’s office when I realized the doctor was giving me instructions “to give Jonathan’s parents.”  When I told her I was his parent, she was surprised (and apologetic of her mistake).  Then, a few days later, Jonathan was standing by me at school and a teacher said, “Your grandson?” and I once again had to say, “No, he is mine.”  As I read a devotional today written by a grandmother, I thought about my situation and how God came to bring children to me later in life.  My story is alike only to a few people in that a lot of tragedy happened in my family early in my life and His plan was to get me through all the tragedy before giving me the precious gifts of children. Today, I sometimes “feel old” as I go through my daily routine, the routine that is normally lived by someone much younger than I.  Then, I reflect on God’s timing.  God blessed my husband and me with two beautiful children who bless us every day.  When I look back over my life, I am thankful that I have these two boys and a precious husband to share life with during this time in my life.  God gave me the gift of this precious family to remind me every day of his love for me.

Life doesn’t always go the way we plan.  We can make all the plans in the world and write them down on our “to do” lists.  Those lists look wonderful and perfect.  Then, life happens, and the “to do” list remains unmarked because of life events.  In my case there were tragedies that kept me from having children and the timing earlier in life was not right for me to raise children.  I never lost hope, however, that God was going to bless me with children.  As Abraham and Sarah, my husband and I always felt that God had children planned for us, but it took a while for us to realize that dream.  Now, I am an older parent who looks at my two precious gifts given by God and my heart is full.  My heart is full of the promise, the promise of God’s love for me and the promise He fulfilled.  God’s timing is perfect and I am thankful.

Prayer Focus: Those waiting for the gift of children

 

God’s Peace and Love

Luke 13:34-35

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us, protects us, and brings us peace.

Over the past few days, the temperature in our area has been unseasonable warm. That time between using heat and air-conditioner in the home is sometimes irregular in keeping the temperature constant.  I have found myself opening the windows in my bedroom as I have laid down to go to sleep and then opening the windows in our great room as I sit to have my early morning quiet time.  With a creek running near our house and rain falling over these past few days, the sound has been remarkable.  The sound has quieted my spirit at night where I have gone easily to sleep, and the sound in the morning has reminded me that God is near as I awake for my time with Him.  To have that reminder first thing in the morning and then at the end of the day, has helped me center me for the time in between.

God wants us to feel peace in Him.  He wants us to know His love.  On Sunday of this week, our Pastor Mark used the illustration in his sermon of the hen and her brood.  “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”   During a time when Jesus was told that Herod wanted to kill Him, he told the Pharisees to tell Herod, the fox, that he was going to stay to finish His course.  Jesus was not going to leave without fulfilling God’s will for us.  He was not going to run away without showing His love for us.  He has gathered us, his children, and has shown His love for us in a magnificent way – He died for us where we would have eternal life.  Now, that is love – we can have peace and rest in that.

Prayer: God, you love us! You have protected us and have brought us peace.  Thank you, God, for peaceful sounds that bring us to remember your love and protection for us.  We are your children and we are thankful that You are our father.  Help us remember in the “in between times” that You love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: God loves us and protects us.

 

Jesus Walks Beside Us….Remember That

Colossians 1:6-7

As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Thought for the Day:  Remember that Jesus walks beside us everyday.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Today, I listened to a church service on television that spoke of adversity.  As I listened, one portion was about the question “Why?” and if it is okay to ask God that question.  Then the pastor went on to say that even Jesus, who was indeed human, did ask God why.  Then I read “The Upper Room” devotional that stated that “Because of his humanity Christ understands and helps me when I experience pain, suffering, doubt, or feelings of abandonment.”   The writer went on to say, “How grateful I am that we serve a risen Savior who walked where we walk and who continues to walk with us today.”

As I reflect on the sermon I heard and the devotional I read, I sit and ponder how I can remember that Jesus is walking beside me as I go through my day.  My first thought is, “How do I remember this as I go through the busyness of my day?” “How do I remember that Jesus, my Savior who asked why because of His humanity, walks beside me?”  One would think that it would be easy to remember that.  Today, after writing the words above, I opened a couple of windows in the back of my house and immediately heard the breeze blowing through the trees and the birds singing.  It was then I realized that my reminder is in the small things.  The small things such as the sound of the breeze, the singing of the birds, the hug from my sweet student who immediately comes to me first thing each morning, my hand held by my oldest son as we talk, my youngest son yelling out “Mommy!” as we pass in the hallway (haven’t been able to teach him not to do that yet), and my husband’s text asking me how things are going.  The small things, the small Jesus things, are our reminders that Jesus walks beside us……Jesus, who suffered “as a human” for us, walks beside me.  He walks beside you.

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-02-21

http://www.intouch.org/watch/when-adversity-strikes/an-intimate-look-at-adversity

Prayer: God, thank you for the small things that remind us that Jesus, Your son, walks beside us every step of the way. Help us remember, all the time that Your Son, who asked “Why?”, walks beside us through whatever adversity we go through.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Jesus is with us every step of the way.

 

Peace Comes

Jeremiah 29:11-14

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord.

Thought for the Day:  God brings peace

A cat lying on a blanket beside me on our sofa and a little boy snuggling with me on the other side begins my day with a sense of peace. As I arise on this day, I know I have a lot on my schedule and a lot on my plate for a Saturday morning, but I will cherish this moment as I go through my day.  In the last few days, I have had much anxiety about work, church, voice, and a health issue that arose through some bloodwork.  You know, that call that comes in saying “we need you to come in to redo your bloodwork because of an abnormal reading.”  So, I went back into the doctor’s office to hear the doctor say, “Your liver enzyme level is three times the normal level.”  For four days, I waited, praying for good news but being prepared for the bad.  “Mrs. Donna, everything is back into normal range – your abnormal numbers were probably from the virus you had.”  So today, sitting between my sleeping cat and child, there is peace.  Feeling peace after a week of anxiety and question makes this time even more special.

God wants us to feel peace.  God wants us to trust him in times of anxiety.  Sometimes we forget in times of struggle and fear, but God is always near.  As I sit this morning, I find myself looking up to say, “Thank you for good news, and thank you for times of peace.”

Prayer: God, thank you for good news. And, thank you for the times of trial and fear that remind us to lean on You.  Be with us in those times of fear and assure us You are there.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Those with Health Issues

 

 

The Parent Conference

Jeremiah 29:11-14

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord.

Thought for the Day:  God has a plan for our lives

In the coming week, the teachers in our district will be having parent conferences where we will share time with the parents of each of our children. As I have been planning, I have been developing a report about each of the students including their strengths and areas of improvement.  As I put together the information, I have asked each child to complete a cute little form where they have shared how they feel they are doing in each area.  Today, I turned this around just a little bit to think about what God would report to my “parents” about my strengths and areas of improvement in my faith if He were my teacher. Then I thought about my self-report where I would check my personal thoughts about how I am proceeding in my faith and where I need improvement.  I thought about this for a while then realized that because of God’s grace and love, God’s list for me would full of love as He gently shared with my parents about my struggles in my faith but that He was proud of me as His student for growth I was making.  My self-report would be harsh and would include areas where I was being hard on myself and feeling my failures.  Today, I want to see God’s report full of grace and love, knowing that I have many areas to improve in my faith but that through His love for me He has a plan for where I need to go from here.

I am thankful that God is my teacher and that He has assured me of His love and He has assured me that He has a plan for my life.  Through his grace, I know that the areas of life where I need improvement will be strengthened because He loves me enough to teach me what I need to do.  Through His love, I know that He is proud of me and that he knows I am working every day to be more like Him.  He has given me wonderful examples of His love through the people around me. And most importantly, He has given me a plan, “an instructional plan” for strengthening my faith.

Prayer: God, thank you for loving me enough to guide me through each day of my life. Help me each do to look at the plan You have for me and to follow you as you gracefully and lovingly guide me.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Teachers

 

 

I Can See Jesus in You

Matthew 5:14-16

“’You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on the stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’”

Though for the Day:  Look for Jesus in the faces of others

I have been looking forward for months to be able to go to a Bible Study at our church led by our pastor. Each week I have had intentions of attending but something has always kept me from being able to go.  I have had my frustrations about this, but have not really thought a lot about it.  I was finally able to attend last night and was surprised by how quickly my spirit felt joy as I walked into the room.  First, I was able to attend something with my husband without worrying about my children because I knew they were taken care of in their activities.  Second, I was in a class of all adults and after feeling for so long that I was surrounded by “five year olds” twenty-four hours a day I experienced a small sense of peace.  Third, as suspected, our pastor led us as only he can do through the introduction to the Bible Study.  It was nice to listen to him and to acquaint myself with the people in my small break out group.  But, even that wasn’t what touched me the most.  After the study, I had several of the most precious people come up to me to offer me encouragement as they showed their support to me sharing stories of transition, stories of making it through their storms in life, and mostly encouraging me that God was with me each step of the way.

This morning, I read in “The Upper Room” devotional that Jesus can be found in the people we talk to along our way each day.  In my time with new friends after Bible Study last night, I truly believe I visited with Jesus.  Through them, I felt peace and love.  Through them, I felt joy and encouragement.  Through them, I felt contentment.  And, as one precious lady stated, “I am praying for you, and I do not say that without meaning it – that would make God look bad. When I say I am going to pray for you, then I am going to pray for you.”  I feel assured today that I will continue going through transitional pains, but I feel more assured that Jesus is with me.  Jesus spoke to me last night and told me so.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for bringing us into your presence.  Thank you for the people you place in our lives each day who show Jesus in their faces and in their words.  Help us look each day for those people and help us be Jesus to others.  Amen

Prayer Focus: Those needing to see Jesus

Reminders to Pray and Feel Peace

Psalms 46:10-11

“Be still and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!”  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Thought for the Day:  Look for reminders to pray and feel peace.

Each morning I awake to my very repetitious and obnoxious alarm – several times before I get out of bed to begin my day. The first few times the alarm goes off, I turn it off and excitedly get back into my bed and sleep until the next alarm goes off.  I have often thought that those 15 minute increments between the alarms give me the best sleep through the night.  At a certain point, I get up and head downstairs to begin reading and drinking my coffee.  Later in the morning, as I shower and get myself dressed, my husband’s alarms begin going off but in a different way.  One of his alarms is set to play Laura Story’s “Blessings” and a little later his alarm plays Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still”.  As I thought about the difference between my obnoxious alarms and his precious music alarms, I realized that as a night person needing to get up early, I have to have that initial jolt to my system to help me awake and get started.  After I read, drink my coffee, and write I am able to hear the words to his alarm songs and feel a peace before I head out the door.  Whether I get up easily or whether I find it difficult, the time of prayer offered in “Blessings” and the time of peace offered in “Be Still” give me at least a moment of peace as I go into my day.

I have used both of the songs mentioned to center my thoughts in the past, and recently I have forgone having them as music in my car as I drive to work.  These songs were obviously given to Laura Story and Steven Curtis Chapmen by God to help center thoughts on prayer and God’s peace.  God has used them in a powerful yet peaceful way to bring His message back to me.  Thank you, God, for giving people the special gifs to bring our focus on You.

Prayer: God, thank you for bringing peaceful thoughts to us as we listen to music you have placed in the hearts of talented musicians. Music and song seem to help put life in perspective when things are hard, and then remind us of the peace You give when things are calm.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Those searching for God’s peace