Responding in Love

Psalms 34:18-22

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.  Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.     

Thought for the Day:  Pray for those in need, do what we can to help.

Watching the news about the devastating fires that swept across The Great Smoky Mountains into Gatlinburg and then Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has caused what feels like true pain in my heart.  I love the area and have enjoyed many times of fun with my family in those places. To see places we have enjoyed burned to the ground has been heart-wrenching.  As I kept listening to the news yesterday, however, my heart and mind went to the people of that area.  As we have visited the area through the years, we have met the people and have seen how so many of them live and work in that area.  They are not rich and they are not well off, they are hard-working people who own stores and motels, serve tourists in restaurants, help children on go cart rides, welcome visitors into theme parks, and give of themselves anyway they can.  Walking in the stores, we see so many who make their living by serving the millions who come through that area each year.  Those homes and businesses that have been shown on television and on the internet are not just buildings.  They belong to these hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have a place to go back to.  Some of them do not know where to turn because their livelihood rests in the charred ruins of their beloved home or store.

Today, I pray.  As a child of God, I pray and ask others to pray with me.  To that child of God who served us in that steak place that is no more, and to the one who laughed with us as we ordered pancakes, I pray.  To that hotel owner who welcomed us so sweetly as we visited or that resort worker who drove a golf-cart ahead of us to show us our cabin, I pray.  To that sweet friend who helped us find our child when he got lost from us in a theme park, I pray.  To those who welcomed us into their Worship space as we visited on a Sunday morning, I pray.  My heart aches that a special place for our family vacation has been taken away for a while, but my heart aches more for the people who live and work in that area for their lives have been forever changed.  “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Prayer:  Father God, we praise You today for your love for us.  Help us share that love with someone else today.  Lord, be with those who have been affected by the fires.  Please bring peace to their hearts and bring love to them in the most magnificent ways.  Help us know what we need to do to help them in some way.  All our love to you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Praying for Those in Need

Advertisements

An Evening with Family

Proverbs 22:6

And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.’” 

Thought for the DayLook for the times God brings blessings of joy.

As the afternoon progressed and my youngest son got off the bus from school, I had a plan for him to finish some of his Cub Scout requirements.  I had already gone to the store to get a healthy snack that he was to take to his meeting, and I had already brought up the computer website to look through the requirements needed.  As I began working with our son, I heard the garage door open and then saw my husband come in the door.  He had the same thought as I that we needed to spend some time with our son to help him.  So, I began supper and my husband began working with our son.  It was so fun watching the interaction between them and I enjoyed reading the requirements to make sure we had finished the ones needed.    When my oldest son came in from school, we immediately brought him in to help and we talked about our relationship as a family and our relationship with God.  We worked together to make a family Advent Wreath, explaining the meaning of each candle.  Before we began eating our meal, my oldest read the scripture from the Upper Room Devotion and I read the devotion.  Then, we noticed our youngest had picked up a small New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs.  He was wanting to read just like his brother.  I heard my husband ask his big brother to help him find the 23rd Psalm.  Our eyes teared as our youngest, who has struggled in reading, read most of the Bible chapter on his own with help from his big brother.  The evening was a blessed evening filled with love of family and love of God.  We are blessed.

Our family schedule has been off for the past couple of months, so having an evening at home where we ate together around the table, read our Bible together, and worked on a project together was such a blessing.  We felt a joy and all of us laughed and smiled.  “Make a joyful noise to the Lord” are the words that come to me after that wonderful evening of just being together to learn more about our love for each other and our love for God.  Blessed!

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us joy when we spend our time with You.  Thank you for children and the way they want to learn more about You by reading Your words.  Thank you for time when we can share blessings with our families.  Help us each day to do our part to find time with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Those who need a blessing

Have Joy, Share Joy

Luke 2:10-14

 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.’” 

Thought for the DayRemember to find joy and to share joy throughout this Advent Season.

We are entering that wonderful time of year when, if we look for it, we find Jesus being welcomed into this world.  What joy comes when we remember that the Season of Christmas with all its beauty and festivities is all about that tiny Baby born in a manger so many years ago.  During the sermon by Pastor Mark Westmoreland that spoke on joy, we were challenged to have joy and to bring joy to others.  That joy can come by simply greeting someone with a “Merry Christmas” or, oh my, a “Happy Holidays”.  As he stated, when someone says, “Happy Holidays” don’t make a big deal out of the wording as they are stating a joyous greeting.  Respond with joy.  That joy can come by hugging someone or spending time with someone who is lonely.  That hug, that touch, might be the only human touch they have felt in a while and could bring joy to their heart in a way that might change them in a spectacular way.  This time of year brings many opportunities to Worship.  Churches open their doors in a welcoming way to present Worship Services and special programs surrounding the birth of Christ.  Joy can come in the times of Worship.  One of the challenges given by our pastor was simply, “Go to Church” during this time of Advent.  It is during this busy time of year when people are so busy shopping for gifts and they are so busy cooking and preparing meals that they forget to set aside time for Worship.  Worship has a way of centering us.  Worship brings joy to our hearts that can make everything else more make more sense, bringing more joy to us…bringing more joy to the shopping for gifts and to the preparation of those wonderful Christmas dishes.

As we go through Advent in preparation for Jesus’ birthday, let’s take in joy and let’s bring joy to others.  Let God enter and let Him lead. “And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Joy, the birth of Jesus brings joy to all people….let’s have joy and let’s share that joy with others.

Prayer:  God, we are in the wonderful Advent Season and we are excited with much joy with the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us keep Jesus’ birth in the forefront of our minds as we go through this Season and help us have joy in our hearts and share that joy with others.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel joy

Have Fun, but Remember the Reason is Jesus

Isaiah 9:6

 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

 

Thought for the DayRemember and rejoice that God sent His son into the world for you.

Watching my youngest son pull out one Christmas decoration after another out of boxes warmed my heart and gave me a new excitement for the Season.  We arrived back home after a week of packing up and moving “the rest” of our things from our old house so by the time we arrived home, we were worn out.  My “goal in life” was to go to bed early.  But then I watched our child, and I began helping him place things around the house.   We had already decorated the Christmas tree early and put out most of our Clothique Santas before leaving to go out of town, but we still had a lot in boxes.  This trip brought us the most special Christmas items to our family and our sweet boy got excited when our giant “Annabelle” and “Slim-the pig” were opened.  My heart felt emotion when I watched him lay down and hug “Slim” and when he brought out one Annabelle after another placing them in wagons and sleighs.  Our “Henderson” family has a family memory and now a tradition that surrounds these story characters as the original story, “Clarabell, the Christmas Cow” was written by our cousin, Dan Henderson, in 1976.  He died in 1990 but his story was made into the movie, “Annabelle’s Wish”, in 1997.  Since that time, we have collected movie stuffed animals, movie dvds and vhs tapes, annual newspaper clippings of the original story since it appears in the paper each year, and my annual classroom edition of child illustrated books of Clarabell.  These years of children and adults reading the story and then seeing the movie has brought many hours of love and hope, and creates a new spirit of Santa’s magic.

Today, as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, our church will celebrate the coming of Jesus and will begin planning for His arrival.  We light the first advent candle and will sing songs of His coming.  We go through the excitement each year because, not like a family tradition, but because He is our Lord and we are telling about His coming and how God sent His son into the world so that we would be saved.  Now, in our house, we will unpack nativities and our family Advent wreath and we will cherish the true story of Christmas, the story that began over 2000 years ago and one that continues in each of our hearts.  What fun we will have with the stories of Santa and “Clarabell”, but how deep will our love of Christ grow even more as we celebrate His birth.  Let’s take in Christ and celebrate deeply in our hearts the birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for the fun of the Christmas Season as we enjoy traditions that have come.  Let us have fun, but please remind us every day that the reason we celebrate is because of that Gift you sent so many years ago in the form of a baby.  You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to live on earth and then to die on a cross for our sins.  You are our ever-loving Father.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Remembering the true meaning of Christmas

http://archive.commercialappeal.com/entertainment/lifestyle/clarabell-the-christmas-cow-ep-384179577-329128861.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKIG5BbV_5E&feature=share

 

All My Life, God Has Been with Me

dsc_3934-2Psalms 139:1-7

 O Lord, thou has searched me and known me!  Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.  Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.  Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 

 

Thought for the DayWho has been God’s gift to you as you have gone through life?

Emotions come over me often as I think of God and how He is my Lord and Savior, He is my beginning and my end, and He is my Daddy.  I shared with my husband recently that there are two main times I cry.  One is when I get overwhelmed by our circumstances and I look at myself as a teacher without a teaching position.  It seems unreal for me to be in that situation realizing how much I love teaching but knowing God has not let that door open for me yet.  In each process, I am told how well I have done in interviews, but the position has eluded me.  I then hear from someone later that God had protected me from situations that would be difficult either for my family or for me.  I also get emotional when I feel God’s presence so strongly that there is nothing for me to do except cry with joy.  God has given me the greatest gift of seeing Him every day in scriptures, devotions, nature, my children, my husband, and almost everywhere I look.  There is not a moment when I look around and I am not thankful for where He has placed us.  This time has brought me into a closer relationship with Him and I am overwhelmed with His presence.

God knows me, and He has known and loved me even before I was born.  God also knew the hardships I would go through in this life so He put the exact people in my path to help me through each time of grief and fear.  As a child, God gave me two parents who, although they had fearful times with handicapped children, gave me love and the knowledge of the Love of God.  As a young adult, God gave me my college friends who surrounded me with love as I felt my first strong time of grief in my life.  As a young widow, God gave me my husband’s parents and moved my parents near as I grieved and tried to live life without him.  He also gave me dear friends who were present for me through that time, not because I called them but because they loved me enough to be the presence of Jesus.  As a middle-aged adult, God gave me a new husband and children to fulfill the love my heart needed and that love carries me through every day.  As I find myself now toward the end of middle-aged, it has finally happened.  Although friends are many and I am loving old and new friendships, God has given me the knowledge of His presence.  I walk alone and find myself alone a lot, but I am in His presence and I feel Him walk along the path with me.  I believe that is an ultimate gift, to know God and to feel His presence even when no one is near and when life is unsure.  I know God is with me, and that knowledge is overwhelming, so I cry happy tears.

Prayer:  God, thank you for knowing what we need at any moment in life and bringing it to us.  Although we did not recognize those gifts were from You at the time, we can look back and see how they fit so perfectly in Your plan for our lives.  Be with us today to acknowledge those gifts but then to find the place You want us to be gifts to someone else.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those looking for the presence of God.

Go Ye Into the World

This is a repeat post from several months back.  I pray you find meaning in reading the words.  Blessings on your day.

dsc_3520-2Mark 16:15

And He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

Thought for the Day:  How do we begin to preach the Gospel to every creature? We say, “Here Am I?”

Last commandment: Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. As I read scriptures and devotionals each morning, I wait to hear the Word God is trying to give me that day. Then, there are days when the Word is so obvious and I have to determine what it means for me in that moment. Today was one of those days. I read today’s Upper Room Devotional about Mary and the devotion she had for Jesus and how she listened so intently to Him. Then, I decided to pick up a very old Upper Room devotional book that belonged to my grandmother. It was dated October 1957. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” That devotional called readers to remember the “main task” – to preach the gospel to every creature. Words from a dying man to his son-in-law asked him why he stood idle when he should be out spreading the gospel. Then he said, “You do not work for Christ”. My reaction to that reading was a hurt in my heart because I asked myself the question, “Do I remember the main task – Do I work for Christ?” I later read another devotional by Chris Tiegreen that was based on Isaiah’s witness of worship in Heaven where he saw God in all His glory and the amazing way the angels worshipped. Isaiah 6:8 read, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “’Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I, Send me.’” The devotional stated that we have an “exhilarating mission”. He said, “Like Isaiah, we stand between a perfect God and an imperfect world with an imperative: point to the Bridge between them. Live your mission as your highest act of worship.”

As a reader of the Upper Room Devotional, I am not sure today’s daily devotions speak quite as harshly as to say, “You do not work for Christ”. However, those words spoken to me from a 1957 writing along with the Chris  Tiegreen devotion from Isaiah made me stop and think about my life. What is my mission? Most of my personal mission seems to be taking care of my family and preparing to do a good job at work. What should my mission be? My main task should be to “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Can I do this easily as I take care of my family and go to work each day? Yes, the “world” is where I am in the moment. I can preach the gospel right where I am. “Here I am Lord, Send me.”

Prayer:   God, thank you for bringing words to us that were written to touch people almost 60 years ago. Those words written in a different style than today’s writings brought us back to the “main task” and made us think. Be with us as we respond to you by saying “Here I am Lord, Send me” and help us know how to “go into the world to spread your Word”. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE SPREADING GOD’S WORD

Seeing Jesus

dsc_4523-3John 14:20

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

Thought for the Day: Can I show someone Jesus today?hn 14:20

Walking into the park for my daily walk, I walked onto the first deck that welcomes people to see the first glimpse of the lake. I normally begin and end my walk by walking onto that deck and taking in the beauty of the lake and to get my first glimpse of where the ducks and geese might be on that day. This time, I needed to tie my shoe so I sat down on the bench. I heard, “Donna’s Coffee”, from a sweet lady who sat in a wheelchair. When I looked up I recognized her. I replied, “Mary……Jane?” She replied, “I knew it was you when I saw the camera.” I met her a couple of months earlier during a walk and I remember our talk about taking pictures, grieving widows, prayer, and God. I remembered that when I heard her name I knew I would never forget it because my mother’s name was Mary Jane. Her name was just “Jane”, but I remembered her because she reminded me so much of my mother when we talked. We chatted for a few minutes about the beauty of the lake and that even though she was in a wheelchair from breaking her leg, she was coming each day to sit on the deck taking in the beauty. After we chatted for a few minutes, I went on to begin my walk. As I walked, I smiled. I had thought of Jane often over the months as she was one of the first people who shared their faith with me on my walk, I felt warm and blessed.

There are so many times in my life where I have met people who became Jesus to me and who helped me on my faith journey. There is something about them that pulls me to them with a sense of peace and love. As I type that, so many special friends come to my mind. God has given me, at every step of my way, people who were Jesus to me. I believe that is the reason I remembered “Ms. Jane” when I heard her voice as I sat on that bench to tie my shoe. Her familiar voice spoke peace and love to me just as my mother and just as so many sweet friends in my life have along my faith journey. I love it when God sends just the right person to be “Jesus” to me. Now my question is, “Am I living the life where God can send me to be ‘Jesus’ to someone searching for Him today?”

Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending Jesus to us through faithful friends we meet on our faith journey. Help us each day to show Jesus to those we meet. Lord, we love you. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Seeing Jesus

In the Wait

Proverbs 3:5-6

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.

Thought for the DayGod is with us in our times of waiting.

Sometimes God sends little messages through the written word.  As I was deciding whether to walk or not to walk yesterday, I picked up a devotional book, God Calling, and turned to a page and began reading.  The words, I know, were put there for me to read at that moment.  I then read the words to my husband who immediately said, “You need to frame that one”, as if to say that is where you are right now.  I quickly got dressed and said, “I have to walk today!”  My husband said, “Yes you do!”  The reason for the quickness in reply was that he knows there is a place on my walk where I slow down and talk to God.  He knew I needed that time after reading the devotion.

From God Calling

       “Leave me out of nothing.  Love all My ways with you.  Know indeed that ‘All is well.’  Delay is but the wonderful and all-loving restraint of your Father-not reluctance, not desire to deny-but the Divine control of a Father who can scarcely brook the delay.

         Delay has to be-sometimes.  Your lives are so linked up with those of others, so bound by circumstances that to let your desire have instant fulfillment might in many cases cause another, as earnest prayer, to go unanswered.

         But think for a moment of the Love and thoughtful care that seeks to harmonize and reconcile all your desires and longings and prayers.

         Delay is not denial-not even withholding.  It is the opportunity for God to work out your problems and accomplish your desires in the most wonderful way possible for you.

         Oh! Children, trust Me.  Remember that your Maker is also your Servant, quick to fulfil, quick to achieve, faithful in accomplishment.  Yes.  All is Well.”

 

As I found my way to my special place in the park to pray, I felt myself walking quickly where I could talk to God.  I pulled out the devotion and my camera, then wrote notes about what I experienced.  My thoughts came as I reread the devotion:

“Leave me out of nothing.” – Reflecting on our last couple of years, my first thought was that we have leaned on God and talked to God through everything:  My husband’s and my relationship with God and each other has strengthened so much as we both have seen God’s hand at work through a great transition.

“Know indeed that ‘All is well.’”

dsc_4516-2As I read these words, I began hearing scampering of many squirrels through the leaves.  I watched as at least 10 squirrels chased after each other without a care in the world at that moment.  Chattering and making much noise, they knew “all is well”.  In my life, much time has passed since I began my prayer time about where God is leading me.  I haven’t been given the answer to our financial need for me to have a job, but I do know God has given me much peace in my heart as He has led me each day.

“Delay is but the wonderful and all-loving restraint of Your Father-not reluctance, not desire to deny.”

dsc_4538Reading these words, I looked up and in front of me was that path I have loved for this time since I began walking.  God has given me through my walk this beautiful place to pray.  If it had not been for this time, I would have never found the peace that I have found in that place.  The “delay” in answering my prayers has given me a true gift of “Holy Ground” where I can go and “BE” with God.

“Delay has to be sometimes.   Your lives are so linked up with those of others, so bound by circumstances that to let your instant fulfilment might in many cases cause another, as earnest prayer, to go unanswered.” – 

dsc_4541-2Looking up, I saw leaves of different colors and from different tree species all mingled together.  God created all of those to mix together in pure beauty.  As I realize how much I have desired a job, God gave me the word that someone else might have needed the position more than I and my getting a position might have caused someone else hardship.

“But think for a moment of the Love and thoughtful care that seeks to harmonize and reconcile all our desires and longings and prayers.” –

dsc_4530-2Walking down the path as I read this, my heart melted as I looked back to where I had been.  I looked down to see an etching of a leaf that had fallen to the sidewalk, laid there for a while making its mark, and then was blown away. How many thousands of places has God put me in my life, some easy and some difficult, where He placed a special etching on my heart.  This time He has given me has allowed me to find more experiences with Him that will forever give me more etchings.  I have heard His voice and I have responded.

“Delay is not denial-not even withholding.  It is the opportunity for God to work out your problems and accomplish your desires in the most wonderful way possible for you.” –

dsc_4547-2 A moment after I read this, something extraordinary happened.  I left that “Holy Ground” in the park and walked back to the main path.  As I did, my eyes caught some of the most beautiful colors in the trees across the lake.  The colors in my “Holy Ground” faded weeks ago so to see these colors as I left that place was unexpected.  My heart leapt as I realized that what God has planned for me might actually be more spectacular than the plans I have had for myself.  The beauty is coming.

“Oh! Children, trust Me.  Remember that your Maker is also your Servant, quick to fulfill, quick to achieve, faithful in accomplishment.”  Yes! All is Well!”

Finishing my walk, I realized that I had been gone for a very long time.  God and I shared a lot of time together and I felt His presence in a mighty way.  I do trust God, so I now sit back continuing to pray, write, walk, and take pictures.  God has led me to this place, a place in the “meanwhile”, to be my “special place” while He works out the details.

Prayer:  Father, we love You!  Thank you for reminding us through devotions and life experiences that You know the plan You have for us and that sometimes it takes time for You to fulfil that plan.  Help us live each day in the way You would have us live.  Help us to see where You are leading us each day. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us in the Wait

Let the Holy Spirit Take Over

Matthew 19:13-15

The children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “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 DayPrepare lessons for children, then step aside and let the Holy Spirit enter take over.

What a joy it is to praise God!  What a blessing we receive every time we go into the House of the Lord!  Each Wednesday afternoon, I arrive at the Church early to prepare for the evening children’s choir rehearsal.  I make sure the chairs are set up for the children, the musicians have their music, the children have their music folders and reward boxes, notes are copied to send home, and that all the directors and musicians have their instructions for the night.  After I set up for choir, I go home to wait for my youngest to get off the school bus.  By the time I arrive home, I either feel very prepared for the rehearsal or I feel overwhelmed that I forgot something.  No matter how I feel at that moment, it happens.  Rehearsal time arrives.  The children come and I realize that they just want to feel loved and they want to sing.  In my notes and instructions, I do not have anything listed about giving the children hugs and encouragement, and I do not have any instruction about helping the children feel the Love of God.  But, that is the number one thing that happens each week and because they feel God’s love they want to sing praises to Him.

“Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  As I reflect on the preparation for children’s choir, I know how important it is for the children to have that structure.  As a teacher, I know the more structured and organized the leaders are the better a rehearsal goes.  The disciples tried to stop the parents from bringing the children to see Jesus.  They were probably just trying to keep order.  However, they were not going to be stopped and Jesus called the children to Him.  He blessed them.  As the children come into the Church for Sunday School, Worship, or for Children’s Choir rehearsal they come to learn about God and to Worship Him.  The “rehearsal plan” or “Sunday School curriculum” we use to lead the children is very important, but letting the Holy Spirit enter is more important bringing the Love of Christ to the children.  So, to the children in our children’s choirs……bring on the hugs……they are welcomed!

Prayer:  God, we praise You and thank You today.  You use teachers and leaders to bring Your love to children as we share time with them.  You equip us to teach and lead, and then You enter bringing the children miraculously into Your arms for the most powerful blessing.  Enter into our hearts today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Church teachers and Directors