God’s Beauty Brings Peace

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty surrounds us and brings us peace.

Waking up on a beautiful sunny and warm day was so exciting.  After working as a long-term substitute nearby, I had not had many chances to get out and walk by myself in the early mornings.  As that position came to an end, my heart became excited and looked forward to walking and taking pictures again.  My walk became longer and longer as more and more images appeared in front of me.  The last time I walked, the trees were budding with beautiful colors and the flowering plants were getting ready to bloom.  In these weeks since my last walk, God had worked His miracles and when I arrived at the park, I quickly realized the change in colors and beauty.  The lush green leaves had taken their residency in the trees, the birds had begun to sing more, the flowers had become glorious as they put on their show, and the sounds – oh the sounds – the sounds called my attention to mysterious and beautiful nature around me.  As I came to the end of my photography walk around the park, I realized that two hours had passed.  I had been swallowed by God’s beauty around me.

Isn’t this how we should all be taken in by God?  As God took me in, calming my spirit where I could enjoy the nature around me, I could feel His presence.  As I noticed the leaves on the trees, the birds in the air, and the blooms surrounding me, I knew I was in the presence of God.  When I arrived at home and quickly got dressed for an appointment, I still felt the peace that I so abundantly felt in the park.  God’s peace, precious peace, remains.

Prayer:  Oh, God, we praise You today and thank You for the beauty You place around us.  Help us to slow down enough to see that beauty and to share that time with You.  Help us to always feel Your presence as we go through our days.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Beauty Around Us

 

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Few Details in the Miracle

Luke 24:4-7

“Two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.”

Thought for the Day:  We don’t know the details in God’s miracles for us.

So, the Bible doesn’t tell us how Jesus awoke on that first Easter Morning…..it only tells us that when the women arrived at the tomb, the stone had been rolled away.  It only tells us that Jesus had arisen from the grave and that He was alive.  As my husband read The Upper Room devotion this morning, those words about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ spoke to me.  The Gospel writers wrote explicitly about the occurrences leading up to the crucifixion, but not about how Jesus came to life in the tomb on Easter morning.  That is all a mystery to us, but when we read the Easter Story we see the grand miracle of the Resurrection.  Christ has Risen, and Christ is with us.

As I read and listened to the devotion, I looked back at the miracles of my life and the life of my family and remembered the many times miracles have happened in our lives.  Most of the time the miracles took place without us seeing any of the details God put in place for the miracles to happen.  Jesus arose from the dead on Easter Morning.  We do not know the details of what happened in the tomb as Jesus awoke, and that doesn’t really matter.  What matters is the miracle, what matters is that Miracle that Jesus was Alive and that Jesus lives among us.  Jesus lives in the world and Jesus lives in our hearts.  This morning, this Easter Morning, our children’s choir along with the Chancel Choir will sing the words, “He is not here, He is Risen, see the tomb is empty as He said.  He is not here, He is Risen, Jesus rose on Easter Day”.  He is ALIVE!

Prayer:   God, Happy Easter!  We praise You today God for that miracle you brought so many years ago as Jesus came back to life through the Resurrection.  You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, to us to save us from our sins.  You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us.  Through Him, we were saved.  Hallelujah – He is Risen!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  EASTER

Mary’s Love

pietaJohn 19

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,”Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

Thought for the Day:  All she could do was love.

As parents, we see our children through their times as babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers.  We pray for our children and promise to protect them, to hold them, and to love them through everything.  When our children hurt, we hurt for them and want to take away any hurt and pain.  I know Mary prayed for Jesus and gave him the same assurances as we do as parents today. On Good Friday, Mary couldn’t do anything about the pain and suffering Jesus endured as He went through the trial, persecution, and suffering on the cross.  She could not hold him and keep him from that harm.  All she could do on that day was to love him as he hung on the cross and as her heart broke for him, the son she brought into this world in a manger, raised through the toddler years, early childhood years, and teenage years.  She then witnessed him as he called His disciples and showed His ministry to the world.  She loved him – she was his mother.

There is a beautiful song, “Pieta”, from the cantata, “The Power of the Cross” by Mark Hayes.  This piece so clearly shows the agony Mary experienced as Jesus went through his suffering on that day.  The more I have listened to the piece, the more I have visualized Mary as she followed Jesus through the day and then to the cross.  She could do nothing but to follow him holding on to the only promise she could fulfill, to love Him.

Prayer:   Our most gracious Father, how difficult it must have been for you to send your son, Jesus Christ, to earth knowing that he would be sacrificed for our sins in such a terrible and painful way.  But you loved the world so much that You sent him, that whoever believed in Him would have eternal life.  Thank you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

Jesus Triumphant Entry

Matthew 21:10-11

And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Thought for the Day:  Jesus is Here. Hallelujah!

Remember it, remember going to that parade as a young child. When I was a little girl, I remember the excitement I had when I went with my family to Christmas parades. The excitement built each time the next float or band appeared. Then the clowns appeared throwing their candy that had us running trying to get every piece. The ultimate feeling was when Santa’s float would come around a corner. Do you remember? As exciting as that was, can you now imagine being there on that day when Jesus came riding in on the donkey. People around you are throwing down their cloaks and palm branches in his path to celebrate that this man was coming. People were asking, “Who is that?” Can you feel that warmth in your heart when you hear, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Today, we can feel that warmth because we know that the man who entered on that donkey was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This was indeed the Son of God who was sent by his Father to save us. Remember it, remember the time that Jesus came into your heart, into your town? Remember the love you felt in your heart. “The parade is coming….Jesus is coming! Hallelujah!”

Prayer: God, thank you for sending Jesus to us. Help us remember every day the excitement we should have in knowing your Son, Jesus, and feeling Your love as we go through our day. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE EXPERIENCING THE EXCITEMENT OF JESUS

God’s Refreshing Water

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Thought for the Day:  God refreshes the land and our hearts with his love and hope. 

Loving our drive through the mountains, we took in the beauty around us and the thoughts of people who lived in areas along the way.  As we neared our vacation location, we began seeing areas that had been burned out in a very large wildfire several months ago.  The feeling of elation as we were driving for fun with our children in one of our favorite places became heart wrenching.  As we drove, our eyes filled with tears as we saw mile after mile of areas that had been blackened and broken by the wildfires.  Nearing one town that had been massively affected by the fires, we wondered what we would witness.  In the midst of the reality that so much was destroyed, we were touched that rebuilding was already taking place to construct businesses, homes, and rental cabins.  We also witnessed the many people who had traveled to the area to enjoy time with family and friends.  Our hearts were warmed as we continued driving as we noticed some green in the midst of the blackened timbers.  There was a lush green in the grasses that grew along the roadside.  There were wild flowers growing in the midst of ash.  There were many areas of beautiful moss growing on fallen trees.  The thing we noticed the most were the many creeks and streams that looked totally unchanged even with the area around them totally charred from the fires.  At one point I said, “It’s as if God is saying, I’m not finished here yet.”  The precious water that continued to flow through the mountains, flowing through the blackened forests and flowing under fallen, burned trees gave hope that God was already there healing the land that had been damaged so badly.

“I’m not finished here yet.”  It is amazing how God comes in after such tragedy of wildfire to the land or heartbreak in our hearts and says, “I’m not finished here yet”.  In those areas of blackened land were the spots of green growth and water flowing to give hope to the land that it would be renewed.  In those areas of blackened areas where damage has taken place in our lives, there are spots of new growth and beautiful water flowing to give hope that God has something wonderful planned for our lives.   God’s refreshing water…renewing our land and renewing our spirit.

Prayer:  God, thank you for refreshing us with the water only You can give.  Lord, we do thank you for the spots of hope You give in the midst of tragedy.  We do also ask for the continued healing to the land and the lives affected by such terrible wildfires.  Be with those in need today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God heals our land and our lives.

Answer the Knock on the Door

Revelation 3:20

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” 

Thought for the Day:  He stands at the door and knocks, will we open the door?

The day was dark and rainy so I decided all I could do was to stay in and clean the house.  Throughout the day I cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, cleaned hardwood floors, and washed and folded many loads of clothes.  Through that time, my two boys kept coming to me asking me question such as “What is your favorite food?” and “What are your favorite colors?” The two kept very quiet and were very secretive.  Over the next couple of hours, I continued working and the boys continued being quiet.  When I finished my cleaning chores for the afternoon, the boys called me into my 13 year-old son’s bedroom.  They had worked and finished a Mindcraft project on their gaming system about me.  They had my face (well sort-of), a rainbow colored decoration, a Filet Mignon steak (that was my favorite food answer), and an online-plague saying “I love you”.  As we sat on the floor together, I felt very special….my boys shared their love with me in a very unique way.  As they shared the Mindcraft images with me, they were excited and a visible way that they had created something wonderful for me and I was excited that they had me in their thoughts.  What a special afternoon!

I wonder, what can I do for my God to show Him how special He is to me?  “What is your favorite food?”, “What is your favorite color?”.  “How can I show You how special You are to me?” As I thought about this question this morning and read in the Bible, the answer is simple.  God wants a personal relationship with us.  God wants us to invite Him into our hearts to share with Him all of our thoughts and dreams.  God wants us to listen to His voice where we will know how to follow the plans and dreams He has for us. God wants to share time with us and to feel our love.  God wants to sit and dine with Him.  God wants us to always, every minute, share our time with Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Prayer:  O God, You are awesome and wonderful!  We praise You today for being our great Father.  God, we want to have an everlasting and beautiful relationship with You today.  Help us answer the knock on the door and to let You into our hearts in a way we have not before.  Come into our hearts today, Lord, we want to dine with You.  Amen 

Prayer Focus:  Those desiring a stronger relationship with God.

Glimpses of God

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Thought for the Day:  God is in the unseen 

Walking happily in the park on a Sunday afternoon was wonderful.  There were so many people and so many natural things to see.  I decided to walk the opposite direction from my norm where I might see things differently as I searched for photo opportunities.  The first time I pulled out my camera was as I walked by a creek area.  As I heard the water move, I looked over to see a beaver coming out of the water to come up on the creek’s edge.  I took so many pictures,  hoping one would be perfect.  I had never seen a beaver at the park before and had been looking.  There can’t be a beaver lodge without beavers somewhere.  As I continued walking, I heard the sweetest conversation between a daddy and a little girl.  “Yes, there are birds here.  Can you look for them?”, said the daddy.  “I see one!” replied the little girl.  “Take a picture!” continued the daddy. The little girl cupped her hands like she was taking a picture.  “I think it was a parrot!” screamed the little girl.  “Oh, it was a parrot?!” continued the daddy.  The voice of the little girl was so sweet and I actually put my camera on video to record a bit of the conversation without the visual.  I continued walking and saw a little squirrel.  As I watched, it came very near to me and I shot several pictures of it posing on the side of a tree staring straight at me.  I couldn’t wait to get home to see those pictures on my computer.  Then, as I came near the end and walked out on a pier, I saw a couple and they were both holding cameras with very long lenses.  I asked them what they were seeing and they told me there were Blue Herons nesting in the trees across the lake. She was very gracious and pointed them out to me.  I took several pictures hoping I could see the birds better when I opened them on my computer.  What an awesome day at the park – the best pictures ever!

But, as life can be sometimes,  I got home and placed the memory card into my computer and went to the file.  “NO PICTURES!”  I still do not know what happened as this had never happened before but none of the pictures I took on that walk were there.  No squirrel, no blue heron, and no beaver.  Gone, all gone!  At first I teared up and got a little angry.  But then I realized that nothing bad had really happened.  Actually, a lot of good happened on my walk.  I still remember the beaver on the side of the creek, the little girl’s voice as she saw the “parrot”, the squirrel’s scurrying around the park, and the herons in the trees.  And, now I have something to look forward to the next time I share time at the park.  God blesses us every day with nice surprises, doesn’t He?  Today, I received some beautiful surprises in the park.  I can’t share them with anyone but they are now in my memory, and I know God gave those images to me as a gift.  God gave those to me as a reminder that He is there in my heart.  I may not be able to see them in front of me on a computer screen but I know in my heart He is there with me.

Prayer:  O, God!  Thank you for letting us see glimpses of You as we go through our days!  Through nature and through our children, we very quickly see You in the beauty around us and in the eyes of our children.  Thank you for loving us so much that You created a beautiful world around us.  You are awesome!  Amen!

Prayer Focus:  Glimpses of God

He Never Forgets

Isaiah 43:2

I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Thought for the Day:  God knows each of us, and loves us deeply. 

“God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.” (The Upper Room Devotion, 04/01/2017) Those words should mean something special to every person who is created by God, our Father.  As I read those words today, I found myself rejoicing.  Those words, those special words, were written for every one of us.  There are those days, yes, there are those days when we feel alone, scared, down, and we don’t feel good about where we are at that moment in life.  It is hard to find ourselves “worthy” of God’s love.  But, the good thing is that we don’t have to be “worthy” of God’s love because He never forgets us, He always knows us, and He always loves us.  On this day, I found myself down in the dumps as I did a chore that I really did not want to do, and I do not feel I do it well.  After many hours, I sat to relax for a while.  As I sat, I opened the website for The Upper Room and saw those beautiful words written by the author.  As I read the words, “God never forgets any of us”, I felt myself rest more at ease as I felt His love for me.

God does show us His love every day, doesn’t He?  My hard day followed a day when I took a walk in our park.  During my walk, I witnessed the many ways God takes care of needs, yet as I did the chore I felt inadequate.  So, I looked back at the pictures from the walk and remembered once again of God’s love for all of us, even the animals.  And now, just now, I heard the geese honking as they flew over our house – heading to that park – I feel sure.  Remember how much God loves you today – “God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.”

Prayer:  Father God, Thank You!  Thank you for loving us even when we feel we can’t love ourselves.  You take us as we are, You know us more deeply than we know ourselves, yet You love us anyway.  You are our Father and You have a Father’s love for us.  We love You, God!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Needing to know God’s Love for them.