When is God Close

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 Day:  God gives us the favorite things.

Today, I took another one of my walks at the park.  I love taking walks in the park – I never know what I am going to find.  Some days I hope to see animals and other days I want to see unusual plants that I have not seen before.  Most of the time I just pray that God shows me something special.  When I pray that, I know I will not be disappointed.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I cannot depend on something being perfect – nothing is really perfect.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I can find something perfect, whether it be a plant or animal, in the imperfect world.

Today was no exception.  Did I get great pictures of the Great Blue Herons nesting a hundred yards from me? No – saw them but the pictures were blurry.  Did I catch the perfect pictures of the geese flying over the lake? No – saw them but the pictures just didn’t turn out.  But did I catch the perfect pictures of the imperfect dragonflies and a butterfly?  Maybe not perfect, but enough to make my day.  Did I get the many pictures of a Great Blue Heron up close?  Oh, yes, again not perfect but I believe it was God’s gift to me today.  When that moment comes, we just have to take it in and go with the fluttering heart that God gave us in such a gorgeous sight.

My heart is touched in some way every time I go to the park.  God gave me the park nearby and I can’t thank Him enough for moving me to such a beautiful place to see His nature.  Sometimes it is seeing something special, sometimes it is taking a special picture, and sometimes it is meeting new friends along the way.  Mostly, it is a time that I feel God is near – I can guarantee that when I am at the park, I can feel Him so close that I feel I can touch Him.  Thank you God for the gift of the park.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for giving us beauty around us and for placing us in special places to see you more.  You draw near to us in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.  Thank you for letting us feel you near.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those who enjoy walks in the park.

Our “Hallmark” Movie

Luke 2:4-7

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.  And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Thought for the Day:  What are you doing Christmas Eve. 

After finishing the school semester, it took me a few days to get myself (mentally) prepared for Christmas.  Throughout these days, I have watched Christmas movies with my family, purchased gifts on Amazon (yes, the last of the gifts being delivered today), cleaned (especially the hardwood floor), and of course wrapped the pile of gifts preparing for Christmas morning.  Oh, and then there is the true meaning of Christmas – did I miss it?

Throughout the Advent Season, our church has based the sermons and messages around the theme, “Not Another Made for TV Christmas Movie”.  Pastor Jeremy Lawson led us through the series by making us think about how difficult things were with Mary and Joseph, when they received the word from the Angel that she would bear a child.  Throughout these weeks, we have heard story after story from our pastor, from our speaker at our Women’s Dinner, and through our own thoughts that came.  As we, yes we – ladies, spent time watching our Hallmark Channel movies where every ending was happy and well, every ending was predictable, did we lose sight of the true story? Did all this “happiness” lead us to forget what Mary must have gone through those months of pregnancy?  Did we forget what Joseph must have thought when Mary told him she was pregnant?  Did we forget how they had to travel when Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy to Bethelem?  Did we forget that when they arrived in Bethlehem that there was not a place for them to stay – when the baby came?  Did we forget that after the birth and for several years, they were told by angels to go, move, leave, to protect the baby?  Did we forget that Mary, 33 years later, would feel the unimaginable pain of experiencing her “baby” crucified on the cross?  What thoughts to realize that not a single one of the Hallmark Channel movies came close to the agony this family experienced as they delivered and then protected Jesus through those many years.

But, they did!  They brought this precious gift to us who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger.  He cooed, he cried, he laughed, he played, he grew, he learned the carpenter’s trade, he led, he called, he taught, and He died on the cross for us.  Christmas began because of God’s love for you and for me.  That gift led to Easter and the Resurrection.  Jesus died on the cross for us but then HE AROSE bringing us eternal life and the beautiful and most special gift of knowing that God is our Father!  He came to earth as a baby, He called His disciples and taught them (and us) how to spread the good news, He died on the cross for us, and He rose…He rose bringing us Eternal Life.  Now that is a Hallmark ending…but it is not an ending, it is our beginning.

Prayer:  Precious God!  Merry Christmas Eve!  Today is Yours, God, as every day should be.  Help us think only of You today and help us be more thoughtful and thankful for Your precious gift.  Happy Birthday, Jesus, Happy Birthday!  Amen.

Thanksgiving Memories

Colossians 2:67

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed,and overflowing with gratitude.

Thought for the Day:  What are we thankful for?

There is a special moment, actually a lot of moments, when I remember our family traveling to my grandmother’s house.  I don’t remember any arguments before we got in the car to travel.  I don’t remember the fights in the car, although I am sure there were many.  I do remember the drive, trying to sleep or trying to entertain myself in some way.  Counting mile markers on the interstate, for one.  I remember my daddy  turning onto Brunswick Road because I knew we were almost there?  Then, I remember driving into the driveway.  Sometimes we drove in from the Brunswick Road driveway and other times taking the backroads and driving in the back driveway from Davis Plantation Road.  I always looked at the other cars, and their license plates to see which cousins were already there.  Weakley County meant that Kay, Joy, Ron, and Ann were already there.  Madison County meant that my cousins Amy and Debbie were there.  Crockett meant that Alonda, Alecia, and Reid had already arrived.  Cousins Keith, Joanne, and Vikki were always there because they lived near my grandmother. My cousin, Dan, was already working in Memphis so he would drive up in his MG which all of us thought was pretty cool. Wait, a lot of memories have already been mentioned, but the best Thanksgiving memory has not.

“Mama Ed”, my grandmother would always come to the door to greet us when we entered.  My little 4’ 9” Mama Ed had the most precious hug and we knew we were welcomed.  That was Thanksgiving!  That was Thanksgiving!  Going on in, we were welcomed by the hugs from all of our aunts and uncles.  Sitting with the other children during the meal was precious and I remember having the time of my life.  As we ate, I remember watching my brothers, who were both in wheelchairs, sharing time with the cousins nearer their ages.  There was a normalcy there that was special as they were totally a part of conversations and stories.

So much is gone now as many of my family, young and old, have passed away.  But I have those special memories that flow into my mind around this time of year.  My husband and I have a lot of memories of Thanksgivings  and tear up as we think of those who are no longer with us.  We weep each year as we make decisions on what we are going to do on THIS Thanksiving.  New traditions with our own two sweet boys have begun, but some of the new traditions are that we do something different each year, depending on other’s schedules.   Tomorrow, we will travel 2 ½ hours to the mountains to visit my sweet cousin, Teresa.  We found each other about three years ago and I am excited to meet another part of my family.  My husband is excited as we finally made a decision and that he has already found a love for Teresa and her husband.  Our boys love their “Aunt Teresa” now and look forward to walking into a house full of love.

Thanksgiving is giving thanks for where we are in the present, but remembering the past.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for putting us in the places He moves us, and knowing that it was God’s hand that led us right where we are.  Thanksgiving is finding a way to give thanks even when circumstances are not perfect.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks IN all circumstances.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven!  Thank you for memories of Thanksgivings past.  Thank you for new memories we make during Thanksgivings present.  Be with all our family members and friends who are hurting and grieving those who are no longer with us.  Be with those who are sick and need to feel your arms around them.  Be with those who are not happy and help them feel your love.  All this we pray this Thanksgiving, Amen.

God is Trying to Grab Our Attention

Matthew 13:16

But blessed are your eyes, fr they see, and your ears, for they hear. 

Thought for the Day:  Listen, see, touch, smell and sense God wherever you go.

As I walked recently in the park nearby, I began looking for the familiar images I normally see along my path.  I found I was walking quickly and that I was only taking in those things I have seen before.  But, then, as if God wanted me to know He was there, I began noticing other things.  At one point on my walk, I found I was smelling an aroma that seemed so fresh and clean.  That aroma brought me to a new appreciation for God’s beauty.  I remember thinking, “I can’t share this in pictures.”  I can only share it with someone nearby or with my God, who placed that aroma in my midst.  Walking a little further, and hearing the nature around me helped me realize that there were animals nearby that God truly wanted me to see.  As I had my camera focused close in on an egret, I heard a sound which brought my attention to a little green heron that was so near I could almost touch it.  It flew away but into the vision of my camera.

So, where is God trying to bring my attention today?  I am blessed on a day to day basis, that God is always bringing my attention to something beautiful.  It can be the sounds in nature as I hear when I walk.  It can be in the aroma of freshness in my walk or in the aroma of something cooking in the kitchen.  It can be in the conversation of my son when he gets into the car after a day of marching band camp – that thrill in his voice in talking about something he loves.  It can be in the sound of my youngest son in the great room with friends that come to visit.  It can be in my classroom as I prepare for a new school year.  God, in all His glory, is bringing my attention to Him every day and in every moment if, IF, I sense him in my sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and heart.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for walking with us day by day.  Thank you for the reminder in our senses that you are close by.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Where is God trying to bring my attention today?

Special Memories

Fulton Parsonage (3)

Lamentations 3:21-25

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 

Thought for the Day:  God lets us remember. 

The Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place last week.  As we have lived in Georgia for the past 2 ½ years, it was a joy to make the drive to Paducah, KY, to see lifelong friends.  A lot of hugs took place so my husband and I both felt very special.  Both being United Methodist Preacher’s Kids (PKs), it was a great homecoming.  One of our dear friends and his wife are both ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church, and he was a youth in one of the churches where my Daddy served – and he lived across the street from us.  One of those special hugs came to me from John as I love seeing him at conference.  But, he surprised me with the words, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage.”  That was where we lived from my junior year in high school through my freshman year in college.  As I took his statement in, I realized that my memory bank from those years began coming into clear view in my mind.  It was like a gift had been opened and my past memories burst out of the box.

I immediately began sharing my thoughts as they came beginning with, “Have you checked the walls and door frames for small dents?”  During our time in that parsonage, my brother received an electric wheelchair.  For a period of time, as he adjusted to driving the wheelchair, a lot of bumping into door frames took place as he drove circles through the house.  I understand the carpet had to be replaced when we moved.  As my husband and I drove around the neighborhood after conference, I told him about the time my brother decided to take advantage of his independence (in his electric wheelchair) and began a trek around the block.  After a period of time, we realized he was not in the house.  We found him with his wheel stuck in a small hole beside the road.  What a laugh we all had when we realized what he had done! What a memory!

One statement, one precious statement, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage?”, took me somewhere special.  Over time, as I no longer have my parents and brothers, I have found that many of my memories have begun to fade.   This experience caused so many memories to come clear in my mind, and to recognize that those memories are there – they just need a little jolt to come to light.  Since my Daddy died 12 years ago, I have found that some memories have faded through pain in remembering.  But now, I realize the joy in remembering can take a lot of the pain of life away.

Prayer:  God, thank you for special friends and special memories.  As we go through life and “life” takes us to new places, it is important to remember our past.  Our past made us who we are and we are your children.  Thank you for bringing our past memories to us as we remember those special times in our lives – those times You gave us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Memories

My Haven

Acts 17:27

So that they might look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him.  Of course, he is never far from any one of us.

Thought for the Day:  God is with us always. 

So many thoughts, so many prayers, so many busy days!  For the first time in what seems forever, I sit on my patio in the back of our house, looking out into a lush area of gorgeous green trees and listening to the creek that runs by.  After dropping one child off for a band trip very early this morning I am left with solace on a beautiful day. My husband, who has been going to physical therapy after knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, and my youngest child are sleeping in on this day leaving a feeling of peace for this very tired woman.  Now I take in the beauty and the sounds around me

I look into the green that, during the spring and summer months, hides the many houses that can normally be seen in the fall and winter.  I always look forward to the day each spring when the leaves thicken in the trees and the view of the houses fade.  That is the day my backyard becomes a haven for me.  That is the day I hear the creek more clearly and I hear the birds and other animals talking to each other.  That is the day my heart feels a special peace.  So, today, my heart feels at peace…at least for a moment.

Many days recently I have asked the question, “God, are you here?” and, “Where are you God?” in the midst of hectic schedules and deadlines.  My answer comes in the form of my haven.  God is always with me and as I turn my thoughts away from my inward “me” and turn my thoughts out toward the beauty of nature, He appears.  Wait, He doesn’t appear right then because He has been there all along.  He has waited for me to look toward Him because it is then I see Him more clearly.

For the moment, for this 25 minutes more before I prepare for my day, I look and see Him in all His glory.  “Oh, the beauty of the trees, and the sound of the birds talking, and the beautiful sound of the creek are calling me to Him.”  Ahh, He is here.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  You are all glorious and You are Here.  Thank you for loving us enough to bring us to special havens where we can see you best.  Thank you for moments of solitude and moments of Your nature.  Be with us today that we can see You better.  Help us focus our eyes on You today!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Seeing God

 

 

 

Rita on my Caller ID

RITA1 John 4:7-1

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Thought for the Day:  Pray and see who God sends

Yesterday was a hard day!  You know, the kind of day you want to crawl back into bed and do a total redo.  The kind of day you feel you want to run away, but there is no place to run away to.  Those days come, and when those days come, you just pray for God to come in and save the day.  Then I experienced some time alone because my “boys” were out doing a scout outing.  I found myself yelling a bit, crying a bit, and getting a lot of “stuff” out of my system.  Then, wouldn’t you know it the phone rang and on the other end was my mother, no not my mother in heaven, but my Lolli who loves me like a daughter.  How did she know?  How did she know I needed to hear a voice of someone who loves me?  Because God told her she needed to call me.  She doesn’t normally call on Saturday morning.  We talked and cried, and shared so much with each other.

I no longer have my mother and father with me, and I miss them so much.  The three of us could always feel when we needed to call each other.  My mother would call and after I answered the phone (no matter how “happy” I made my voice sound), she would say “What’s wrong?” immediately making me burst into tears.  My daddy would knock on my door at those moments when I was needing him most.  It seemed our cars would almost drive themselves somewhere we didn’t intend them to drive and we would look up to see the other pulling into a parking area.  I believe those were God moments, and I believe that call from Lolli out of the blue was a God moment yesterday morning.  God answers prayers, even when we do not know what we are praying for, in ways that we need.

Prayer:  Father, God, thank you for loving us!  Thank you for loving us and for answering prayers in the most unexpected ways.  Thank you for placing those people in our lives who simply become You to us.  You are our awesome God!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Friends who become “God” to us.

A Special Place of Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7

 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:  Pray

My mother shared with me a secret when I was told a story from about 1972.  I have written about it before, but for some reason it holds my heart today.  My mother and my father’s mother traveled to the Holy Land that year, enjoying the time they “walked where Jesus walked”.  During their trip, they made their way to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  As people visit that very special wall, they stick written prayers on little pieces of paper into the cracks.  My mother made her way to the wall and placed a special prayer into the wall and said a special prayer.  She told no one about her prayer and carried on with life.  Through the next twenty or more years, my mother saved money where she could take my father on a Holy Land trip.  Finally, in 1995, she had enough money and they traveled on her dream trip.  That trip, after years of taking care of my handicapped brothers followed by their deaths, finally happened.  Those years in between were filled with physical and emotional strength of my mother as she took care of my brothers’ needs day end and day out. I look back and I remember, and I realize these many years later, what she truly did for these boys.  They died in 1980 and 1983.  The years after they died took their tole on my mother, as she grieved for them.  In 1995 when my mother took my father to the Holy Land, especially to the Wailing Wall, the story of her note from 23 years earlier came to light.  “God, help them not to suffer” was the written on her first note.  On this trip, my mother simply wrote “Thank you”.

Today, as I drive to work, I pray as I travel a particular area of my drive.  As I top one hill, where there is a beautiful view, I begin praying for my family and friends who are going through challenging times.  Often, after saying my prayers on one day’s drive, I will come back the next day and say, “God, Thank You”, because I have seen those prayers answered.  I would love to go the Holy Land someday and specifically the Wailing Wall.  But, for now, I have to make my own prayer place here where I am.  Mine is that portion of my drive.  For my mother, the importance of the Wailing Wall was her prayer.  For me, the importance of that small portion of my drive is my prayer.  For my mother (at the Wailing wall)…”God help them not to suffer”…”Thank you.” For me (on my drive) …”God help them through this hard time”…”Thank you.” God wants to hear from us and He wants to help us through the events in our lives.  We just need to find our place, or our time, to pray.  “God help!”…”Thank you!”

Prayer:  Our Heavenly Father!  We praise You today for helping us through our challenging times and for hearing our prayers each day.  Whether we pray in a special place of travel, or if we pray from right here at home, You hear us.  Thank You, God, for listening and for hearing then answering our every prayer.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Prayer

You Gave Your Beauty

Psalms 104:24-25

O Lord, how manifold are thy works!  In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creation.  Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great.

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s great surprises!

“Cloudy, Really?!”, I said when I looked out the window this morning.  Each week, I work into the evening on Friday evenings to clean the house where I can take my walk at the park on Saturday morning.  But this morning, No!  Clouds in the sky promised to make me miss the beauty of the sun shining through the trees.  I asked my husband to check his phone about the weather, and it predicted clouds all day.  I was very disappointed.  But then, I began noticing the sun peeking through the clouds.  By the time I made it to the park, there was a soft fog and within just a few minutes there was full sunshine. God gave me the gift of sunshine – and through the sunshine the beautiful colors of the park.  What happened to the clouds, I do not know.  But in my heart, I believe God saw my disappointment and said, “I did this just for you.”  The colors were beautiful and the surprises were such fun.  As I walked the park, I tried to capture the colors but along the way I captured so much more.  Going up the upper path, I focused my camera on a wooded area only to find a deer looking straight at me.  She let me take several pictures before she walked away.  Then, coming back down the walk, I heard the sound of  leaves falling and was surprised when a leaf that caught my eye floated through the air and landed right on my chest.  When I shared this with my child, he said, “It landed on your heart!”  And when I thought about it, I realized that indeed it had.  I finished my walk with a special feel in my heart that I had received a great blessing from God in the park.

So, what exactly happened in the park?  I believe God happened in the park and when He showed up He showed out in all His glory.  The gorgeous colors were placed in front of me, behind me, and in every direction.  The surprises in the park were all over the place in obvious placement by God.  I was there, well, because the park is the one place I plan on going whenever I can and I will work to get myself there for my time with God.  Thank you, God, for putting it there just for me.

Prayer:  God, thank you for your beautiful world.  Thank you for sharing so much of your beauty with us.  God, you are a good God and we bless your Holy Name today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

Nighttime in the Park

Psalm 55:6

And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.

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Thought for the Day:  Where do we find rest?

Bound and determined to walk in the park yesterday, I finally arrived after 6:05 pm knowing the time of sunset was 6:56.  My day had already been so busy with a Christmas Cantata rehearsal for 3 hours on a Saturday morning followed with appointments for my boys to pick up their glasses at the optometrist.  When we returned from those events, there was only time to get my youngest ready to go to a birthday party.  My husband took my son to his party and I prepared to go to the park.  And of course, a couple of things got in the way of my time and I arrived later than expected.  But, I did it…and it was well worth the wait.

As I walked into the park, I looked at the sky to see how fast the sun was going down, then I made my decision on which direction to go.  Normally I walk in the morning, so I immediately began hearing the night sounds of insects and frogs.  I began walking faster than normal but was hopeful that I would take some good pictures.  As I continued walking, I could hear major honking of the geese as they made their way to the lake.  Flying over a couple of times before splashing down in the water, they obviously were “coming home” for the night.

Walking on, I entered a section that follows a meandering stream.  It was very still and serene as I passed.  Coming closer to a swampy area, I could peek through the trees to see the sun shining on the wooded area.  Fearful I would miss taking pictures of that beautiful sight, I walked faster to get to an opening to get a perfect shot.  I was not disappointed as the sun shone brilliantly on the view.

Continuing on the trail, I could hear the scurrying of squirrels and the honking of geese, but I could not get a good view.  I then was determined to get to a particular point in my walk where maybe, just maybe, I could get shots of the sunset as it made its way behind the hills.  I made it just in time and there I witnessed It…I witnessed the beautiful gift of light that only God can put in the sky.  As I looked around, there were very few people left in the park so the sunset must have been placed there “just for me”.

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But it wasn’t put there just for me.  For it was a few minutes later that I truly realized who this nighttime beauty was placed there for.  As nightfall began, I began noticing the animals making their way to their homes for the night.  The sounds began to die down, except for the occasionally honk of a goose.  And, I witnessed a blue heron flying quietly across the lake.  Then, to my amazement, I rounded a corner to see three white images, one above another, in a tree.  As I looked closely, I realized there were three white egrets sitting in a tree beginning their rest for the night.  My reaction was a quiet gasp then I found myself running to a deck to get a picture.  With it being dark, the pictures weren’t great and I had to work on the pictures when I got home to show the egrets.  My memory of the egrets is instilled in my mind and so much clearer than the pictures.  There was my “God moment” for the night when I realized that in the serene quiet of the night that the park, where so many walk and run each day, is not for me.  It is for those awesome animals who, in the nighttime, find their solace.

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So, where is my place?  Where is my “solace”?  My solace, as these animals seem to understand, is in the arms of God.  God holds them safely in His grasp as he brings the night of rest.  God holds me safely in His arms as I experience myself in the loving arms of my family and in the safety of the home He has provided.  I would love to experience a nighttime of serenity at the park…but that is not my home…it is for those animals.  In every area of that park, rest was happening.  Squirrels, deer, frogs, egrets, blue herons, little green herons, and so many other animals found rest.  When I returned home, I found rest in God’s arms shown in the arms of my family.

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us your “God Moments” when we can get excited over you.  We praise you today for your wonders.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Rest