War Room

Matthew 6:6

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees the secret will reward you.”

 

Thought for the DayWhere will we find our “War Room”?

Listening to music recently, a song came on by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The music began and I enjoyed the introduction.  Then, without me knowing it was coming, I heard the voice of the character Mrs. Clara from “War Room”.  Within the song, I heard her voice several times praying with all her might for the family she had met as they had many problems.  At the beginning of the movie, she said, “Send me one more…!”  She was asking God to send her someone to help and to pray for.  How powerful and how beautiful.  At one point in the movie as she was trying to sell her house, a gentleman opened the door to her “War Room” where she had cleared that room of clutter so she could pray.  He came out of the bathroom knowing that something spiritual had taken place, he felt that praying had taken place.  He knew that he had stepped on Holy Ground.

Looking back on the many people God has placed in my life, and knowing that many have been heavy duty “pray-ers”, gives me comfort.  I, as the character Elizabeth, feel heavy hearted sometimes.  She had problems that were so difficult that she struggled with her faith and she struggled with how to survive day to day life.  As the movie progressed, Mrs. Clara worked hand in hand with Elizabeth to show her how to pray.  She taught her to “go to war” against Satan and to have faith in God.  She taught her that everything, every thought, every person – friend or enemy, needs to be lifted in prayer.  Every prayer needs to be intentional – in her case in the “War Room”. Alex Kendrick, writer and director of “War Room” said, “Name a problem that we’re facing that doesn’t need to be bathed in prayer.” Where will I find my “War Room”?

Prayer:  Lord God, Father! Praise You today as we acknowledge You as our Lord and Savior!  Be with us today and remind us to talk to you, to pray to you for those who need your love.  Help us find our “War Room” within our house or in a special place where we can know that we are alone with You.  Teach us to pray Lord.  Teach us to be with You. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Prayer

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Surprise

Matthew 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Thought for the DayWhat surprise can we bring?

Surprises are nice to receive and they are wonderful to give.  As my youngest son and I awoke on that Saturday morning, with my husband and oldest son out of town, we began in the normal Saturday morning routine of watching TV, eating breakfast, and building LEGOs.  Then, I began cleaning.  As I cleaned, I began to get excited as I thought about my husband and how surprised he would be if I truly cleaned the whole house, including the dreaded “Office”.  I began my quest by picking up in the boys’ rooms then headed into the “Office”.  It had become the catch all room since we moved in so the room I was so proud of when I originally placed things carefully on shelves, became the eye sore of the house.   As each box was emptied and things were placed where they belonged, the room began to take shape.  My excitement built as I realized that I might actually pull off my surprise as my husband traveled the six hours it took to get home.  The more I did the more I found I could do to make it even better.  I freshened carpets, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, washed and folded clothes, and the list goes on and on.  As I worked, my son worked along beside me helping to pick up, to vacuum, and then to keep everything picked up as he played. What a wonderful day he and I had as we worked to create the great surprise!

I watched my son as we heard the garage door open.  He ran out to the car and met his Daddy before the car door opened.  He hugged him and immediately began pulling his Daddy into the house to see the surprise.  And, he laughed in a delightful way as his Daddy reacted to each clean room.  What a blessing to give a surprise to someone who is so loved and admired!  What a blessing to see the surprise on his face.  God is our Father and he loves us more than anyone.  As we see Him each day, what can we do to “surprise” Him?  What can we do to prepare our hearts in a way that would please Him?  He asks us to read His Word in the Bible, to study the words to let them become a part of our lives, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to “clean up the clutter” in our lives where we can give ourselves, our whole selves to him.  That is the gift we can bring…..we can give Him our hearts.  What a great surprise!

Prayer:  God, thank you for reminding us through the beauty of nature of how special we are.  Your creation and the way you let living things change with the easy and hard times of life help us understand the lives we live.  Help us remember that much of our beauty comes from the times of hardship.  Thank you for creating us in such a special way.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those wanting to give more to God

Beauty in the Hard Times

2 Corinthians 12:9

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Thought for the DayLook at God’s nature around you and see that the beauty we observe most is in the unusual.

God led me to a new place of beauty yesterday as I drove a few miles to another park.  Fort Yargo State Park is a beautiful place where wildlife roam and where the trees stand in their magnificent way growing into the sky.  Walking a trail through a nature park was serene as I walked to observe the different sights and sounds it had to offer.  I observed beautiful trees and how some of them grew in unusual shapes obviously having changes during times of growth.  I saw the many different types of trees with the leaves of different colors, some intertwined with other types of leaves all living together.  The most distinct thing I observed with my eyes and my ears was in the falling of the leaves.  The beauty as the leaves fell, some falling right on my head, felt like a gift from heaven in the way each leaf moved with the direction of the breeze.  Even more of a gift was the sound the leaves made as they softly touched the ground.  The beauty of this park came to me as I found myself close to the beauty and feeling God close to me as the leaves fell on me and as I found myself under the canopy of trees to see the unique beauty of the tree trunks. The beauty came from within.

God created the mountains and hills, He created the lakes and the streams, He created the natural life in animals and trees, and He created us.  In His creation, He made it where the magnificence of His creation comes from the events in life that are hard.  The unusual shapes observed in the unusual turns and twists of the tree trunks remind me that even the trees drew their beauty from the hard times when something happened to make them grow in such different ways.  The branches of the trees mixed in with branches of other types of trees brought beauty as the colors also mixed into each other.  My eyes were drawn to the colors, not because they were perfect, but because of the mixture of the colors.   Then, of course, my eyes and ears were drawn to the falling leaves.  Those leaves have gone through their life cycle beginning with a tiny bud in the spring, to beautiful lush leaves in the summer, and then leaving its life on that branch to fall beautifully to the ground in the fall.  That, of course, reminds me of our lives where we begin so small and insignificant, then grow with strength to be so lush and full in our middle age, then the time comes when our true beauty appears in the changing of leaves because of age and the wisdom that brings.  As I stood under the tree as many leaves fell, I realized that God breathed that last breath right before the leaves began their last journey.  The most beautiful thought of all is that even before God led them home, He had already prepared the trees to begin budding for the next generation of leaves to appear.  As we live this life and experience our “unusual” and hard times, we, in a way, are helping God to prepare for those to come.  The beauty of nature came from within.

Prayer:  God, thank you for reminding us through the beauty of nature of how special we are.  Your creation and the way you let living things change with the easy and hard times of life help us understand the lives we live.  Help us remember that much of our beauty comes from the times of hardship.  Thank you for creating us in such a special way.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those living through hardships

 

God’s Beauty

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Isaiah 49:13

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!  For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compass49:1ion on his afflicted

Thought for the DaySee God’s Beauty in the nature around you. 

There are days when experiences happen that can only come from God.  As I headed out for my walk on a cloudy morning, I decided not to take my camera with me.  I knew the sun would not be shining to bring the light for beautiful colors.  I walked out the door of our house without the camera and then stopped, turned around, and went back in to get it.  I decided I would put it around my neck just in case.  When I arrived at the park and walked the distance to the trail, all I was thinking was that I needed to walk quickly where I could get back and do the things I needed to do during the day.  I entered from a different entrance so it took extra time to get to the trail.  Then it happened.  I turned the corner to see the lake and on the other side of the lake the trees had the most beautiful colors, colors that almost looked like one of those paintings that you ooh and aah over as you take in the beauty.  On that cloudy morning as I walked there was a peace and serenity that I had not felt before as I had walked the park.  The abundance of clouds with just enough light to bring out the colors was the gift God gave me to see the colors in a different way.  The walk was beautiful and lovely in a way that touched me deeply.

Spending that time in the midst of those colors brought God’s peace to me for a few minutes.  As I walked, I looked up, down, across, and inward to see the next gift of beauty from God.  Then I watched the other people as they ran pushing their babies in running strollers, as they walked as fast as they could to see how many miles they could walk, and I saw those who passed me a couple of times making it two times around the trail before I made one.  I wanted to call out, “Don’t you see how beautiful God’s creation is?”, and “Why don’t you slow down and see God the way I am seeing Him right now?”  I’m sure as those same people saw me they were thinking, “Man, is that woman slow.”, or “I’ve passed her already two times.”  I also witness those people who walk for their health but they walk to spend time with their spouse and those who are alone in life and take time at the park because it is the “highlight of their day.”  I choose to take time observing God’s gift of beauty for me and as I feel the excitement in me when I turn to see another beautiful scene, I will be thankful and will cherish my time with Him.

Prayer:  Father, You are beautiful and you bring beauty to our lives if we will only open our eyes to see.  You have created all of this for us and we are thankful.  Help us today to take “You” in as we see all of the beauty around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Taking in God and His Beauty 

Waiting for God’s Open Door

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Thought for the DayCherish every day.  Thank God every day.  Look for God’s open door every day. 

Waking way too early thinking about the many things that need to be done and the things I have put off “waiting” for my answers from God about my next step happens much too often.  As my husband and I walked through the church where he is the Minister of Music and Worship, he said, “I really love this place!”  I replied, “I do, too.”  We shared that we both feel welcomed by everyone in the church and feel so much love from them.  As the doors of our new Worship Center have just opened, we feel God has placed us here for a purpose and that He has guided us to this place.  As usual, I caught myself saying, “Our boys love it here and I love seeing you so happy in your position.  I love directing children’s choir, and I love writing and taking pictures.  The only thing missing is a job for me.”  As I have always found it easy to find positions in the areas I love, first youth directing and then teaching, it has been difficult wanting to work and not being able to get a job.  Driving into our subdivision recently, my thought went to “You have been trying and working so hard to get a teaching position, maybe you are not supposed to teach.”  My heart sank and leapt at the same time. It sank because I know I love teaching.  It leapt in wonder thinking about where God might be leading me.  God only knows in this moment what I am to do, and I am ready to hear His plan.

So what now, so what do I do in the meantime?  What is one to do when they are waiting for God’s answer to their prayers but the answers don’t seem to come.  Looking back two years to when it was my husband who was looking for a position, I remember well the prayer times we had where we were crying and shouting as we prayed.  We wondered why God had led us to that hard place.  My husband interviewed anywhere he could, in mostly smaller churches.  He gave it his all in each of those situations and was disappointed each time a door was closed.  When this position was offered him, we knew immediately why God had not allowed those other positions to be his.   I have now wondered why God has led me to this hard place.  I have interviewed anywhere I can, some near and some far away.  I have heard the words, “You did great!” and “I am keeping my fingers crossed for you because you were wonderful” from interviewers, but the positions have gone somewhere else.  Just as my husband, I have felt disappointment each time a door has closed…even when I knew it was not a good situation for me.  In my heart, I know God has protected me from entering a door where I did not belong but in my mind (and emotions) I have been disappointed.  Now I wait and I recognize quickly that I have had so much fun writing and have a new love for photography.  Now I wait for God to open the door that He wants me to go through.  Now I depend on God to help us through my time without a job.  Now I wait for Him to open the door so widely that I cannot miss that I am supposed to enter.  Now I wait, and pray for God’s hand to reach down to grab mine and say, “Follow me…I am leading you to where you are to go.” Now I wait to find out why God closed the doors I have attempted to go through and what obvious door He is leading me through.  Now I take in each moment, knowing that God has led me there.  I believe He is leading me through each day and giving me each moment.  I believe that soon I will look back to see why God let those doors close because I will know the door He leads me through.  Oh, God, take my hand – lead me on – to the door You have opened just for me.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for giving us such beauty around us each day that helps us focus our eyes on You.  Be with us as we take each step and open the doors You want us to walk through.  You are an awesome God.  Amen.

 Prayer Focus:  Those looking for the Open Door  

Walking in God’s Presence

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Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

Thought for the DayWhere will we find private time with God today?

Walking my normal path searching for images to take pictures of seemed to be, well, normal.  So, when I saw the other path, the Equestrian path, I decided to take it.  Knowing the path would eventually meet the paved path I had walked before, I was able to enjoy a part of nature that was unknown to me.  As I walked, I saw dry creek beds, beautiful pink and red leaves scattering the landscape, and the sun shining through the trees inviting my eyes to look up.  I heard sounds of rustling leaves as the squirrels ran through and heard them scamper up trees.  I heard the wind blow and as it did I looked up to see the leaves falling around me.  I spun around at one point to see many beautiful leaves of different colors falling all at once.  The beauty, oh the beauty of God’s creation, filled my heart to the point of overflowing.

Walking the different path brought an upward incline that made me breathe a little harder, work a little more, and wonder what I had gotten myself into.  As I walked, and breathed hard, I saw some of the most natural beauty that was there “just for me” as I was the only one on that part of the trail.  Relief came as my feet met the paved path and began walking the easy trail back down, and I continued seeing beautiful colors.  It was on that path that I met several people and shared thoughts of the beauty around us, and I volunteered to take a group picture for some walkers along the way.  God was there and present with me on my walk.  He shared His beauty and He shared Himself with me.  God was and is present for each person, and only wants that private time to talk.

Prayer:  Precious Father, thank you for inviting us to spend time with You walking in Your presence.  The earth around us is so beautiful if we will only take the time to truly see it.  You are an awesome God and You have created moments in time where we can be only with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those looking for the presence of God. 

Sunshine Shining Through

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 a 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.”

 Thought for the DayHow will our lives reflect God’s light to someone today.

 Each morning as I walk out our front door to get my child on the bus, I look at the sky and see if there is going to be sunshine.  There is something about the knowledge that the sun is going to shine brightly that warms my heart.  As I thought about the nature photographs I have taken recently, I realized that the one thing I look for the most is how the light shines on the trees and the beautiful color that light brings.  I look for trees where the sun seems to shine right through the leaves making awesome colors.  When it is cloudy, or when I am walking through the deeper wooded area, the colors seem dim.  But, when I come to the edge of the woods, the colors reappear in all their glory because of the sun shining through.

As I start each day, maybe I should look at myself as I look at the sky.  Am I waking up with God’s light shining through me where I can show that light to those around me, or am I waking up covered with clouds where my light appears too dim for people to see.  Whether the weather is sunny and beautiful, or whether it is rainy and dreary, my life needs to reflect the light of Christ.  How will I reflect God’s awesome light through my life today?

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome!  Your light comes to bring us sunshine and warms us in special way.  Help us each day reflect Your light in the way we live.  Help us be You to someone we meet today.  Amen.

 Prayer Focus:  Those reflecting the Light of Christ

God, You are Welcome in this Place

dsc_2801-2Romans 15:5-7

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ as welcome you, for the glory of God.    

Thought for the DayGod welcomes us each day so how will we welcome Him.

What a wonderful blessing the members and visitors received as they came into the church building.  After watching the building appear through the laying of the foundation to the last chair being placed in the Worship Center, the day finally came.  The doors opened and the people came, and they came, and they came.  The children walked in to stand in their place in the front of the congregation to sing.  Their nerves showed a little bit on their faces as I am sure showed also on the faces of the adult directors and helpers.  I know I stood with a smile on my face, but with nerves going crazy inside.  Then the music started, the first music played for a traditional service in that room, and the children began to sing.  “God, You are welcome in this place” were the words the children sang.  Of course, God was already there.  He was there as that foundation was laid.  He was there when that first group of people met in a house over twenty years ago, and He was there in the heart of each person attending that Worship Service yesterday.  He was present in the two worship services that already took place that morning when the youth attended and raised their hands as they felt God welcoming them in through the glorious music played and sung.  God was there and He was the One welcoming each person in.   During the worship services on that first day in the new Worship Center, God welcomed us with beautiful hymns, scripture readings and lessons, prayers for the people, a fabulous sermon, and a full choir singing a breathtaking anthem.  In tears, the people responded as they felt the power of God welcome them into that beautiful space, and as they welcomed God into their hearts.

God welcomes each one of us every day when we wake up and open our eyes to see His glory around us.  First Days in new Worship spaces do not happen every day so when they come, they are very special.  But, God’s new days come every day for us when he brings the sunshine to welcome us and He wants us to feel Him in our hearts.  We have a decision to make each day to how we are going to welcome Him into our hearts, and what we are going to do to show that we welcome Him.  As our District Superintendent said in the benediction yesterday, we do not need to keep the celebration and excitement in that building, we need to take it outside the doors and take God out into the world.  When we wake up each day and welcome God, we need to take God with us through the day where others will feel God through us.  God welcomes you today – welcome Him into your heart.

Prayer Focus:  Those feeling God’s welcome.

Look Up!

dsc_2931-2Psalms 121

 I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.   The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. 

Thought for the DayLook up, look up to see God and to feel His help.

After completing a difficult chore, I found myself stressed out and feeling a bit down.  I told my husband and children that I needed to go to the park to walk and take pictures.  Normally I walk in the morning as the air is crisp and the colors are abundant.  This time, I walked late in the afternoon when the sun was beginning to fade behind the hills.  As I walked the colors were beautiful as the sun began to set.  Walking seemed to clear my mind and I forgot the stress for just a little while.  Walking around the lake to see a heron standing majestically on the bank and the geese rising from the lake brought peace to my soul, and the beauty in the many colors of autumn filled my vision.  What an awesome creation God created for us to take Him in, in our hearts and minds!

Reading the scripture in The Upper Room today after walking last evening was perfect for thinking about the beauty in the nature that I experienced.  “I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  As I walk around our park, one of the most beautiful and large natural parks around, I look up a lot.  I look up to see the beautiful colors and I look up because I know that is where God is leading my eyes.  As I look up “to the hills”, I seem to lose myself in God as He wraps His arms around me.  It assures me, once again, of His wonderful plan.

Prayer:   God, thank you for loving us and for placing us in the midst of the beauty You created for us.  You assure us as we lift our eyes to the hills that You are where our help comes.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel God’s help.

Am I Praying Wrong?

dsc_2840-2Romans 8:24-27

For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Thought for the DayPray the best you can and then let the Spirit intercede.

“Maybe I’m praying wrong” is a thought that I must admit has come to my mind a few times as I have worked to find a teaching position.  I pray, I mean I pray a lot about my situation and I pray in different ways saying different words during my time of prayer.  I have prayed in silence, I have whispered my prayer, I have sat as I have prayed, I have stood as I have prayed, I have bowed my knees as I have prayed, and I have even prayed laying prostrate on the ground.  I have praised God, prayed in thanksgiving, prayed of others, prayed for forgiveness and prayed for myself.  I have even asked for others to pray for me.   I feel like I have covered all the ways a prayer can be prayed.  So, what am I missing?  As I read The Upper Room devotion this morning, I was reminded that when we pray, we can’t really do it wrong because the Spirit intercedes for us to pray the right way to God.  In my lowest moment, after my first husband died, I told my mother, “I can’t pray.”  She said, “Honey, that’s okay because the Spirit is praying for you.”  How comforting that was when she said that, and how comforting it is to have that reminder today that I’m not praying wrong and even if I can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit is interceding for  me.

So, what does that mean in this moment of not seeing this particular prayer being answered?  Fearfully I say, “Maybe I’m not supposed to teach.”  “Now that’s not something I ever thought I would hear myself say!”  As my husband and I sat down in a restaurant yesterday, I said, “What do you think I could do as a second career?”  He was taken aback, but pondered the question.  “My first thought is writing.”  We talked about financial thoughts, that are ALWAYS on my mind.  I shared with him that in searching for other jobs, I could not find any that compared with what I would be making as much as a 23 year teacher.  I awoke this morning praying, truly, for a miracle.  My miracle came in reading The Upper Room devotion when I realized that I have not been praying wrong, and that the Spirit is interceding for me in my prayer.  My miracle will come when God, in His time, brings His will for me to light.  He will.

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-10-22

Prayer:   Father God, You are such an awesome God.  Thank you for how you take care of us even when we do not see Your hand.  We want to pray, God, and sometimes we have difficulty doing that.  Please help us lean on Your Spirit to intercede for us.  We want to be in prayer with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those having difficulty praying