The Great Patient Bird

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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

Memories of the Past Bring Wisdom for Today

James 1:5

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Thought for the Day:  Let memories teach us how to live today. 

You know that moment when you realize that everything has changed.  That happened this week when the Governor of our state announced that public schools would be out for the rest of the school year.  With saddened hearts, we realized we had already seen our students for the last time sitting at their desks in our classrooms.  Now, we will continue teaching these children through digital learning, as we have been for several weeks, but this is a new reality.

The very next day, after hearing that news, a picture showed up on Facebook.  A time-lapse evidently took place as I saw a second-grade group picture from my third-year teaching.  Time lapse of thirty years took me back to a time when I was just learning how to teach, and just learning how to adapt to having children in my life.  Three of those students have reached out to me in special ways since that “time-lapse” making me feel very special…and very old.  One, I had been Facebook friends for several years who was special to me, even way back when.  She was with me for two years as I changed grades and she was placed back in my classroom.  Another sweet friend heard me sing a solo as he visited our church one day, about 15 years ago.  He was with a friend and asked if that lady singing was Mrs. Shaw.  He was told, no, but he said he recognized my voice from me singing to the class years before.  He came to the choir room and asked if I ever taught at Woodstock ES, and I was delighted to say, “Yes!”  What a special moment in this teacher’s life.  On Thursday, before I saw the picture on Facebook, I received a friend request from someone I didn’t recognize.  After I saw the news feed about the picture, I realized he was one of my students from that class.  He and I began messaging through Facebook, and I learned that he is now an assistant principal in a middle school in Texas.  Oh, my, what a celebration of memories I received from a class from so long ago.

Now, back to today and the knowledge I will be continuing to teach students through Digital Learning.  How will I keep it special?  How will I still make a connection with these sweet boys and girls?  Reading Krista’s, Shermarco’s, and John’s words over these two days makes me want to connect with my students even more.  I believe God sent that picture to me through Facebook, and He sent these three students to remind me of how important these children’s lives are today.  How important these babies are when they are trying to learn at home with out the physical sight of their teachers.  God gave me a special gift in bringing me into the career or teaching so many years ago, now He has brought me a special gift of hearing from these three students from my past.   So, today I don’t know how I will make these days special for my students.  But God does, and He will lead me to how He wants me to teach.  With Him in the mix, He will carry us all through.

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for memories of our past to bring us to the wisdom of the present.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Memories from the past

Mama’s Surprise

Matthew 21:22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Thought for the Day:  Memories

“Donna, did you and Mark find your anniversary gift”, Mama said as she lay very sick with ovarian cancer in her hospital bed.  “No, Mama, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied.  “It’s in the guest room closet”, she continued.  As this was one of only a few conversations Mama was able to have in the time of her sickness, we knew it was very important. Later, we drove to Mama’s house and found a beautifully wrapped gift in the corner of her guest bedroom closet.  As we opened the gift, we both teared up because it was obviously planned.  Six months before, my Mama had surprised us by driving to our house with the beginning buildings for a Dicken’s Village.  One by one Mama sent Daddy to the car to bring in another group of buildings from the car.  By the time the gift giving stopped, she had given us ten buildings.  We set up our first Dickens’s Village in our house with those pieces.  So, back to the anniversary gift.  When we opened the gift we saw that she had given us the Dicken’s Village “Kinsington Palace”.  I cried as I realized that Mama had given us a special gift that she would probably never get to see in our village.

This week, we worked hard to put up our Dicken’s Village for the first time in about four years.  As we moved a few years ago, setting up in a new place was questionable and I wasn’t sure where we were going to put it.  My husband and I continued our collection of Dicken’s Village pieces until we had over 50 buildings and who know how many accessories.  We pulled out the boxes of houses from the basement with my son’s help.  As he brought them up, I carefully took each building out of its box and took pictures of each piece where I could remember exactly what I had.  He told me, “Mama, we are missing boxes 3, 4, and 5.” I was a bit nervous when he told me that, but I continued opening the pieces.  Later, I realized why I was nervous, my Kinsington Palace was missing.  We went downstairs and continued looking for the missing boxes, but we couldn’t find them.  As I glanced around in another section of the basement, I spotted boxes 3 and 5 and excitedly pulled them out.  I tore into the boxes, but once again was disappointed…no Kinsington Palace.  We continued the search, but still couldn’t find the missing box.  I realized that I was becoming overly sad because I couldn’t find Mama’s anniversary surprise.  Later, I decided to go downstairs one more time.  As my husband was in the basement working, he overheard me say, “Mama, I would be so excited if you could lead me to Kinsington Palace. God, please help me find that box.”  Seconds later, I looked in a pile of boxes that were in totally a different place.  And, there it was, one misplaced box that had written on the top, “Box 4 of 10”. Thanks, Mama, for bringing me special memories of you as you started me on this Dicken’s Village adventure.  Not being able to find Mama’s gift made this year’s Dicken’s village in the“finding of the gift” again even more special.  We once again found “Mama’s surprise”.

The Dicken’s Village adventure continued as most of the lights did not work after being in storage for those years.  My sweet husband and son worked tirelessly to check the cords and to go in search of new bulbs.  By the time our day, and evening, ended we had the Dicken’s Village completed with all the lights in place.  So, this year’s Dicken’s Village is more special than ever because my Mama, my husband and sons, and God all took part in making it happen.

Wow, that was special.  How excited I was when I found my Kinsington Palace!   In this moment, I am amazed at how quickly I found the missing box almost immediately after I prayed for it to be found.  Why did I wait?  Why did I put off asking God for what I needed?  Aren’t we all like that?  Last week, I received a beautiful message from a dear friend asking me “How do I improve on my prayer life with God?”  Well, obviously I am not so great at it.  But eventually I remember and I pray.  And, when I pray I feel better in whatever circumstance I am going through.  Thank you, God, for answering my prayer….I’m not sure my Mama didn’t give me the nudge to pray.  I wonder…!

Prayer:  Precious God!  Thank you for memories and thank you for reminding us to pray in special ways.  Today I am thankful for surprises that come through prayer.  Amen.

Finding a Place to be with God

Jeremiah 29:12-13

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.

Thought for the Day:  Are we looking for times and places to be with God.

Marching Band Season is over and I am sad, in a way.  I have truly enjoyed watching my son, Nathaniel, become a part of a team – a huge team.  On July 16, I drove him to his first day of Freshman Band Camp.  I remember going to pick him up in the auditorium because it had rained.  I remember telling him that he was one blessed guy because God had given him a coolness in the air on his first day.  July 17, it was sunny and it was hot.  I thought for sure he was going to quit.  Nathaniel was not one of those kids who I could visualize working out in the hot sun.  But he did return day after day to be a part of something great.  The season continued and the band did spectacular things in their show which turned out fantastic.  We watched and took pictures week after week as Nathaniel became a true marcher, a helper, a potential leader, and a friend to many.  God helped our boy grow into a student in a high school of almost 4,000 who found his nitch in a smaller (mellophones) group.

But that wasn’t what was special…what was special was the few minutes I experienced when I picked him up from practice.  When I picked him up, I had him all to myself and I was able to listen to him and have true conversation.  Trust me, that time was special.  I learned on a daily basis how he loved playing mellophone, but even more, how he loved being in that group of new friends.  I listened to him as he shared with me the parts of the show that were going great, the things they had changed in the show, and what he was going to be doing special like moving the prop, “The Roman Numeral IV” into place.  The day that “got me”, was the day I went to the Georgia State Competition and began videoing the performance as I tried to always do.  The end came, and all of a sudden the band members began laying on the field to form the words “Ever After”.  The video did not get that as I didn’t know it was coming.  When I picked him up from the school after their bus ride home, I said, “You didn’t tell me about the ending!”  His reply was, “Mama, I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise for you!”  There it was!  There was the proof that our “after practice time in the car” had been worth it.  I had listened to him and he knew I was truly excited about something he was involved in.  That time in the car each day was also a time I could give him some advice, and he took it calmly.  That is the part of his marching band season that I will truly miss.

Today, I am thinking, “Am I the almost 15 year old in my relationship with God?”  That is a strange but real question.  Does God have to find a place to confine us when He wants to share time with us?  I think in my case, the answer is yes.  And, does God get excited when we are put in a place where we are totally with Him.  I think that answer is definitely a yes.  My time of picking up my son from marching band is over for now and I am already missing it.  But, I am working hard to find time to have conversation with him.  Now, I need to be the 15 year old who understands the importance and specialness of being with my parent, God.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  Thank you for the times we are able to have conversation with each other.  Those times are so special.  Help me work to find more times to be just with you.  And, while I am just with You, help me to listen.  Amen.

In

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

Thought for the Day:  Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks.

Sometimes it is good to listen intently on a good sermon that talks about how we should be with other people and honestly how we should be with ourselves.  Yesterday, although I will not get it right, was one of those sermons.  Throughout my life I have lived an amazing amount of tragedy and grief.  If I looked back at every part, I would be so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t function.  I thank God for giving me enough space between the times of grief that I could find joy and peace.  I thank God that in between the times of sorrow, I had times of pure elation.  I thank God that through my times of sorrow, people were placed in front of me who would get me through the next period of my life.  But I look at friends around me who just can’t seem happy and can’t get past events that placed them in low places.  I feel for them as it seems that they feel that everyone is against them instead of looking at those around them as answers to prayers.

Yesterday’s sermon was based on Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians:  “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Hurricanes, floods, and fires have seemed to sweep across the world recently.  There is not a day that goes by that some tragedy isn’t shared in the news.  Most recently, we have read and viewed stories about the devastation of fires in California.  Before that, there was the hurricane that swept across Florida.  And Paul is saying, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and ‘GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES”? “Really!”  I have always struggled with this but as Pastor Jeremy Lawson preached yesterday, he brought out that tiny preposition in the midst of these words.  The word was “in”, that tiny word, “in”.  That word in changes what we think we are hearing to a more doable instruction from Paul.  “Rejoice always”.  In my life, I have been able to see the little things around me that help me rejoice…those times after a tragedy when it was obvious that God was standing right beside me – standing in a visitation line and feeling God giving me the names and memories of those who came to give their respects.  I rejoice that God was right beside me.  “Pray constantly”.  In my life, I have prayed a lot.  I learned from an early age that praying in all circumstances is what gets me through.  Now, if you ask me if I always remember to pray when things are going on around me, I would honestly have to say “no”.  If you ask me if I feel more at ease when I do remember to pray, that would be a definite “yes”.  But “Give thanks in all circumstances”!  That is a tough one.  When my sweet husband was hurt by a group of people in a most hurtful way, how could I give thanks?  It took years and there is still a bit of hurt when we look back.  How can you give thanks when so much hurt comes?  There it is…that tiny word “in”.  That word is not “for”, it is “in”.  Paul is not asking us to give thanks “for” circumstances.  He is asking us to give thanks “in” all circumstances.  That one is actually easy.  I can be thankful for people who came into my life during the tragic times in my life.  I can be thankful for the words of scripture and devotions that I have read.  I can be thankful that because of so much pain, I began to write.  I can be thankful that because of an unexpected move, I began to take pictures.  I am thankful for all these things and that my family is in “God’s place” because of His plan for us after the pain.  So, yes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances” – thanks Paul.  Those are great instructions for us, even…especially in the times we live in.

Prayer:  Our precious heavenly Father!  What a great day it is when we hear a sermon that gets our minds thinking and our hearts moving.  Thank you that through a sermon, words we think are there in front of us are actually changed to what is actually there.  Help us follow Paul’s instructions to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances”. Amen.

My Secret Garden

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you; Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.   

Thought for the Day: Through Jesus Christ, we are alive  

I had my first “nothing day” planned as I awoke this morning, earlier than planned but probably the time I needed to arise.  I looked at my husband sleeping peacefully in the bed, I looked at my eldest son who came home after marching at a ballgame sleeping soundly with promise of sleeping until noon, and my youngest who was awake but very satisfied lying on the couch.  So, I got dressed to take a morning walk for the first time in a long time.

Arriving at the park I found a coolness in the air and I caught myself feeling very excited.  Walking around the lake as the fog was lifting from the cool nighttime brought such peace.  Every corner brought beauty and more peace.  Then my decision time came as I came upon the fork in the path where I had to choose the normal path or a dirt equestrian trail.  As I looked toward the entrance I simply said, “My Secret Garden” as the sun shown so beautifully through the trees in the entrance.  As I walked the equestrian trail I found a peace in my heart that I have not felt in a while, then I began praying.  I found myself praying out loud as I walked.  I prayed about my job and for friends who seem to be having struggles, I prayed for my family – speaking specific prayers for each person, and I prayed for continued peace after the walk ended.  Such peace has been missing from my everyday life for so long that all I want is the peace of the walk to continue.

So, what did I learn along the way today?  Peace is available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And He wants that peace for each of us.  That peace I felt entering the park and seeing all the beauty in my path brought me peace for a few minutes.  The peace I felt when I entered “My Secret Garden” because God shown his light through those trees to the entrance put me on a spiritual high.  The peace I felt as I prayed out loud to God about my loved ones and circumstances was so powerful.  Visiting with and then walking with a precious friend sharing in conversation brought such peace to me – my prayers are now shared directly for her as she shared with me about her personal illness.

Leaving the park is normally peaceful but today brought even more peace, as it feels coming home from a “Mountaintop” spiritual retreat, it takes a while to feel back to normal.  Today, I am still on that retreat so many hours later.  Thank you, God for taking me on my personal spiritual retreat.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and you are good!  Thank you for taking us on peaceful spiritual retreats.  Thank you for listening to our prayers when we take the time of silence to share them with you.  Please be with us as we find peace in a somewhat unpeaceful world.  We can find that peace only in you.

Prayer Focus:  Needing to feel God’s peace

God’s Embrace

Psalms 74:25-2

Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.     

 

Thought for the Day:  God is Near

“Mama, all I want to do right now is to come and hug you”, came from my youngest as we ate dinner last night.  As he hasn’t felt well for the last couple days, my first thought was, “Oh, no, he might really be sick”.  That hug, however, made him feel better for a few minutes and began an evening of more hugs and snuggles.  Taking in every moment of the evening with my boy, I remembered those times when he was much younger and we had the daily snuggle time.  Did I take that time too lightly?  Maybe.  I knew they were special but didn’t think as I was going through them that the time would end.  So, a hug at the dinner table, then a little seven year old boy climbing in my lap with a favorite blanket was precious.  (And yes, I am taking him to get him checked today – in case you were worried.)

So, how are we when we need to “come and hug”?  As I think about this, my first thought is to love and hug my family – as they are my “go to” for comfort.  But there is someone we can go to, at any time and any place.  God is beside us wherever and whenever we find ourselves.  As times of overwhelming emotions have come recently, and a feeling of overwhelming stress has taken over, I am so glad I can turn to the Father in Heaven who loves me.  All I have to do is reach out, and God is there.  So, “God, all I want to do is come and hug you” is always available just as my lap was available for my youngest son last night.  What better place to be than in the embrace of God.

Prayer:  Almighty Father!  Thank you for always being near as we go through sickness or go through times of great emotions.  You are always there, right beside us, waiting for us to lean in to you for an embrace.  Help us daily to remember how close you are and that you are just waiting for us to “ask for a hug”.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Embracing 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