The Great Patient Bird

DSC_8145 (2)

Hebrews 6:11-12

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Thought for the Day:  Asking for Patience

The Great Blue Heron won out!  I took a walk last night and enjoyed turtles and flowers along the way.  I took a hike up in the hills before coming down to the swampy area.  As I stood there, a Great Blue Heron flew in and gave me a wonderful photograph opportunity.  In my mind, however, I thought “I have time to wait so I will just stand here until it flies off where I can get a picture of it flying.”  I waited and I waited and I waited and I waited.  As I watched, I knew it was hunting for its next meal…or it was hunting for the next meal of its child.   So patiently it stood until it felt something in the water.  So still until that moment it attacked.  Over and over, as still as a statue, I watched this magnificent bird looking for its prey.  But, as a person watching, I wanted it to fly.  I waited and waited for a very long time, for over an hour, until the sun was about to set.  Then I decided to make it home.

As I thought about that Great Blue Heron, I thought about what animals go through to take care of their families.  It was looking for food the entire time I was watching and never even thought about leaving.  It never thought about going and doing something fun.  It just kept doing what it needed to do to help its family.  As I think about the pandemic we are in at this moment, I think about the patience this Heron had to have.  For well over an hour it waited for its next meal.  For well over a hour it patiently and slowly moved through the swampy area searching for food.  Today, we have churches opening, as well as other businesses.  But, what does that mean for us?  It means that we still need to be patient.  We need to be patient for each member of our family in order to keep them safe.

That Great Blue Heron, for over an hour, moved slowly and strategically around the swamp to keep its family fed.  Did I get my picture of the flight of the Great Blue Heron? No, I didn’t get it.  Did I get to witness the patience of the Great Blue Heron? Yes, I did!  That hour passed and my heart was given the perfect example of why we wait.  That hour passed and my heart was given the perfect example staying patient, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for showing us that patience is so important. Give us the patience through this pandemic to do what we need to do to keep those around us safe.  Please help those who are sick and give them healing.  Please help those who are helping and give them stamina and patience.  Please help us find things to do to help others.  Amen. 

 

There is Always Light

Isaiah 42:16

And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do and I will not forsake them.

Thought for the Day:  God is always shining His light

In the early morning, I looked out on our backyard noticing that we must be in for a dreary, rainy day because it was dark. The trees in the wooded area behind our house are beautiful and many. As I first looked out, it looked dark and I did not see any light peeking through the limbs. I sat for a very long time before I stood up and really looked out. Above the trees, I saw a hint of light shining brightly as it hit the top limbs. Then, as I walked through the house, I looked out the front windows where it was sunny and beautiful. There are very few trees in the front yard so the sun that hit the top limbs in the backyard touched everything in the front yard.

When we are going through hard times in life, we feel like we are living in a place where there is no happiness and no light. Many times, we feel there is no hope in the darkness of ever seeing any light. Then we pray and talk to God. We listen to Him and hear His guidance for our lives. As we begin hearing Him, we begin seeing the light and know there is hope where before we felt hopeless. My vision of the light hitting the top of our trees and the beautiful sunny front yard reminded me that God is always shining His light. He is always there. Sometimes, we just have to pray and be opened to hearing His voice, then that seemingly dark place will become well lit by the light that is already there. We just have to let God move the obstacles blocking the light from coming through.

Prayer: God, thank you for always being there. Help us learn to see that light even when we are going through hard times. We love you today Lord. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Seeing the Light

Easter is Different this Year

Empty tomb

John 20:11-16

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher).

Thought for the Day:  How is Easter Different this year?

Awaking on Easter brings a sense of newness, a sense of anticipation, a sense of wonder, a sense of love, and a sense that someone has loved us so much that He died for our sins and then arose to show His love for us.  “He Arose!”  “He’s Alive!” Before Easter, we normally go to the store and shop for the perfect Easter clothes so our family matches when we go to church dressed to celebrate together!  We awake and try to get ourselves dressed in our best, and we attempt to get our children dressed and ready to go to our Easter services.  That’s Easter, right?  That’s always been Easter, right?

But this year, this year is so different!  On this Easter morning, I laid in bed and watched our church’s Sunrise Service on Facebook Live.  A Sunrise Service without a lot of people, just individual people singing by themselves, yet together.  I watch our family as we prepare for our 11:00 Easter Worship service…but wait…my Minister of Music husband is here in the house.  He’s not supposed to be here on an Easter morning.  He is supposed to be at church getting ready in the Worship Center to prepare for the people who are about to come through the doors for Easter Services. Somethings just not right.

This year is different, so different on so many levels.  This year there is a pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic.  We are sheltering in place to do our part to slow the spread of a terrible virus that has found its way into our world.  People around the world are doing things “differently” this year.

But wasn’t that how it was the first Easter?  Wasn’t Mary only with a couple of other women when she walked to the tomb on that first Easter when she found that the stone had been rolled away.  Weren’t Peter and the other disciple alone as they ran to the open tomb after Mary told them about it.  Wasn’t Mary alone again when she wept at the tomb when Jesus appeared to her.  They grieved alone then they rejoiced alone.  Today, we know the story and we know our regular routine that is “normal” for us on Easter.  We rejoice together…a lot of rejoicing together.  Today, we are like Mary, and Peter, and the disciples.  We are like the disciples who fearfully hunkered down in the Upper Room.  We are like the disciples who were in disbelief when Jesus entered the room.  Today, we are hunkered down sheltering in our homes on this Easter.  But do we still see Him, do we still see the Risen Christ?  Indeed, we do!  We need Jesus Christ to be among us today and if we look closely, we can see Him clearly.  He is clearly among us in the people on the medical front line of this virus, he in the people who are helping neighbors in so many different ways, he is in the faces of our children as we read the scripture about the empty tomb, and we see Jesus in the faces of our loved ones.

So, today is different for an Easter.  It is not our normal annual Easter Sunday.  But is it still Easter? Indeed!  Why?  Because “Jesus is Risen…He is Risen indeed!”

Prayer:  Father God!  You are our amazing God!  You sent your own Son into this world to save us from our sins, and then you raised Him again to walk among us.  Help us, Lord, to see Jesus’ hands and feet in the people around us.  As we shelter in place, let us show our thanks to those who are helping those who are sick.  Let us find ways to show our love to those around us, even if we can’t see them face to face.  We love you Lord!  Happy Easter!

Prayer Focus:  Sheltering in Place on Easter Sunday

Mary’s Love

Read John 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. . – John 19:25-27 (RSV)

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 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.   I had the opportunity to sing this solo several years ago at Collierville United Methodist Church, and I must say that for me, this was a once in a lifetime solo with the most powerful words I have ever sung.  I share this today. (My apologies – I shared from the beginning of the solo, but couldn’t stop at the end…you can either stop or listen to the rest of the cantata)

“Pieta”

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

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Psalms 42:1-2

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Thought for the Day:  Finding God

In the midst of a new reality, at least for awhile, there is a huge cloud that seems to follow each of us.  “Stay inside”, “Go for a walk but stay 6 feet away”, “Don’t go anywhere that is not a necessity”, and “Don’t break the curfew” seem to be mentioned throughout the day.  I have found myself holding my breath when I walk near someone at the park and feel ashamed when I go to the grocery store thinking someone is going to give me a virus that will be passed to my family.  “What does a person do?”

Today, I went to the park again, by myself.  Yes, I held my breath when I walked past someone, and I made sure I was at least six feet away from all I saw.  Then, I found myself in a section that is so secluded.  I thought, “I can either keep going in the same direction as normal or I can walk further up the secluded trail.”  I chose the secluded trail.  I felt myself calm down and feel God’s presence instead of the feeling of fear and doubt.  And, to be honest, I wanted to look for some deer that I normally see on that trail.

As I walked, I took my time and saw beauty in every direction.  I took pictures of the trail itself and of many of the plants that shown beautifully as the sun shown through.  Finishing the thirty-minute walk through the secluded section, I did not see “my” deer.  I continued my walk near my normal trail.

Then it happened, I looked up to the top of the hill and saw a deer, two deer, three deer…five deer.  I worked hard to get even one picture to focus.  As I watched, I noticed the direction the deer were walking.  So, I followed.  I followed them to a path I had not been on before, and one that would give me the greatest surprise.  The five deer seemed to appear in front of me once again.  But this time, it felt as if they trusted me and they each seemed to give me a pose.  Okay, alright, so they were probably just watching me closely, but I can always dream.  I took so many pictures of those spectacular creatures.  As I continued my walk, I realized I was on a trail I always “watched” from afar and never tried.  I am so glad God gave me those deer who led me to a beautiful place.

In these days, these days of pandemic, God has not stopped trying to get our attention, but He has had to do it in different ways.  Yesterday, my attention was captured by a family of deer whose beauty took me to a new place, a placed secluded where my attention could be given all to God.  Where is that quiet place for us right now?  Where can we be nearest to God?  Where can we be a “Mary” in the midst of a storm to find our peace in the Master?  Can we slow down today enough to hear his voice through the “deer”?

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for bringing our attention to you, even in the midst of a pandemic.  You are near to all of us right now, but so much is happening around us that we can’t see you.  Help us “see” You throughout our days and help us find peace.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel God.

 

 

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