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.

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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.

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

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Psalms 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty can be found in the Insignificant

After I awoke this morning and as I drank my coffee, my husband came in and we began talking.  During our talk, he found himself on my facebook page where I had shared many pictures of my walk in our park.  As we talked about each picture, and the beauty that each on showed, he asked me if these were planted flowers or weeds.  I replied that I thought they were weeds as they just appear in places in the park.  As I looked at one particular picture, I stated that the colors in that one picture were glorious.  That little plant, enlarged in the photo to show the details, was just a little, insignificant plant until we looked more closely.  My husband replied, “That could be one of your writings”, and he was right. He stated that there are times when we look at what might seem insignificant, and miss the intricate details that God placed in His creation.  That child who is “just another child” was created by God.  That person who has found himself/herself in dire straits was created by God.  That weed that grows on the side of a path was created by God.  Looking at the picture of the plant again, remembering that this is God’s creation, brought my eyes to the intricate colors and blooms that I might have been missed if  I only looked from the outside.

God created me, God created us, and God created so much beauty around us.  In what seems insignificant, is God.   In what seems simple, is God.  Today, and every day, take in God.  Take in the beauty that God has placed in front of us and in the people we meet.  He is there, although sometimes we need to enlarge the picture to see the intricate parts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing intricate beauty in the things, plants, and people around us.  Help us open our eyes a little wider and help us look inwardly at Your creation to see You.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Intricate Beauty

 

Taking in God’s Beauty…in 90 Degree Heat

Psalms 96:11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;  let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shsall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty brings the heart peace. 

So, in an attempt to take a walk at the park, I decided to take my youngest son with me to let him ride his bike.  Not too long into the walk, he began to complain that it was too hot and he wanted to go home.  Truthfully, it was very hot at 90 degrees, so it didn’t surprise me too much.  So we turned around and walked back to the car.  That few moments in the park, however, got my heart going and strengthened my desire to go back.   During the afternoon hours, I spent time doing some chores around the house, but my heart kept calling me back. As I looked at the forecast, and realized the temperature was not going to go down much before sunset,  I decided to go to the park anyway.  In the 90 degree heat, I walked.

As I entered the park, I immediately began taking in the beauty around me.  The animals, being much smarter than I, seemed to be taking their late afternoon rests so they were not in eye shot.  But, beauty still remained.  There, in front of me at every corner, was the natural beauty that God put in place “just for me”.  And I took it in…every leaf, every flower, every tree, and every view of the mirrored lake in its stillness. It was hot, oh it was hot, but God’s gift shown through.  Reflecting on that walk, my heart still races and calls me back.  There is a place in my life where I can forget anything other than what God is calling me to remember.  There is peace, perfect peace, in seeing God in the beauty around us.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for leading us to perfect peace in the beauty around us.  You, in all your glory, placed beautiful places in our path to take You into our hearts.  You are our awesome God.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

The True Meaning of Christmas

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the true meaning of Christmas

Over the past weeks, since Thanksgiving, actually, the busyness of the Christmas Season and end of school semester has kicked into full gear.  Children’s musical, school observations, grading, planning for Christmas parties, Christmas Cantata rehearsals, etc.  My mind has been put to the ultimate test. This weekend has been spent doing the chores around the house that have been put off for weeks and now, I sit and ponder.  I sit and ponder what it is all about.

Our children’s musical, “Christmas Spirit”, was presented one week ago with children remarkably telling us about the True Meaning of Christmas.  Experiencing the cast members learning their parts so perfectly and so quickly (to my amazement) was such an answer to prayer, and the choir learning the music to such beautiful songs touched my heart.  My heart was touched several times during the rehearsals, but one thing touched me more than any other.  It was when I saw with my eye one cast member “getting it”.  As the lines were rehearsed, we noticed that this child smiled at times when the character should have been very serious.  In watching, we realized that the reason for the smile was that she didn’t understand what the lines meant.  How does a young child understand the meaning of the birth of Christ and the meaning of the Crucifixion? As we shared with the child that Christ is the Son of God who was born in a manger and who died by being hung on a cross for us – for her, she began having a look in her eye of understanding.  She had heard the story of Jesus Christ before, but had never understood the true meaning.  During the presentation, she was able to portray her character perfectly and was able to tell the true meaning of Christmas.  So, what is the true meaning of Christmas.  “That God loves me…He sent His Son beloved, to die on Calvary.  And on Christmas morning, a new hope was born – and now I know the secret.  That’s what Christmas means to me.”

The Christmas musical was about a little girl who saw all the hustle and bustle of the season in the gifts given and the craziness that surrounds the time.  In her heart, she knew there must be more…but no one gave her a satisfactory answer.  It took a dream, or was it a dream, for her to get the answer and for her family to see the answer as well.  That was the same little girl who “got it” in rehearsal.  And she told the true meaning of Christmas to those in attendance.

During the coming weeks, as we go through the hustle and bustle, keep in the forefront of your mind the true meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you…He sent his Son to die on Calvary…for you.  Hear that…for you, He died on the cross for you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for sending your Son to be born in a manger for us, and for sending Him to die on the cross for us.  This love you showed to each of us should not be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the season.  Please forgive us when we let busyness and selfishness keep us from seeing You.  Be with us each day to help us hear over and over the true meaning of Christmas.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The True Meaning of Christmas

God’s View from Above

Psalms 139:13-14

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.  Wonderful are thy works!  Thou knowest me right well.

Thought for the Day:  God sees the beauty from above the canopy.

Over my past couple of walks in our beloved park, I have gone up…I have gone up into the hills for exercise and for seeing the colors from different heights.  One section of the walk literally lets one look down over the tops of small trees and a creek area.  As I walked recently, I began thinking about God and how He looks down to see us.  What does He see?  What does He think?  From our perspective, many things are out of balance and when we look at ourselves we see our flaws.  I know I look at myself critically in how I look, how I act with my family, and how I teach my students.  I am never satisfied.  But, what does God see?  As I stood looking down at the tops of the trees last week, I realized that the colors looked more vibrant from above and I couldn’t see all the little flaws of the downed trees and fallen leaves below the canopy.  Is this how God looks at us?  Is this what He sees?  We are God’s creation and we know that God loves us as we are.  This is what God sees.

Now, does this mean God does not see the bad and the ugly?  I don’t think so.  I believe God sees everything and I believe God knows our struggles and stays with us throughout our time of grief and sadness.  But, I believe God knows that when we get “Home” with Him in Heaven, that all will be beautiful and glorious.  We might have a lot going on within us that is not beautiful, but God created us and as I have heard before, “God ‘don’t’ make no junk!”  We are His children and we are beautiful in His sight.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for looking at us from above to see a beautiful canopy.  Thank you for always being with us through our struggles and for seeing the beauty within.  Help us each day to see the beauty in those around us.  Help us see from above the canopy.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s view from above

His Sister Said, “WOW!”

Psalms 16:11

Thou dost show me the path of life; in ty presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

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

Today, I awake so excited!  My children’s choir is singing at the beginning of one of our worship services and I am so excited!  Today, I have the usual butterfly feeling in my stomach, as I always do when I direct my children’s choir…but today, I am really excited!  Walking into my children’s choir rehearsal only four days ago, I truly did not know who I was going to choose to sing the little solo that begins the song for today.  I decided the best thing for me to do was to let the track play and let anyone who wanted to try, sing a little bit of the song for me.  I went child by child and heard their sweet voices.  Then I got to one little girl, Addison.  Her little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful.  My heart leapt, and I looked to see my accompanist behind the child with a look of, “Yes!”, on her face.  Then I kept going around the circle.  As I went around, it happened again. His little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful. And he was the brother of the little girl who had caught my attention a moment before.  My heart melted when I heard Landon’s sister go, “Wow!” as a reaction to his singing.  You see, these two sweet voices belonged to twins.  These two have been in my choir for a couple of years and have sung many times for me, but this time, there was something special.  This time was a “God Special Moment” because when I heard the sister’s reaction to the brother’s singing, I knew instantly that they would be singing a duet to begin the song.

As we went to the Worship Center to rehearse, the adults listened in awe of what had happened.  These two children, who are so different, sounded as if they had the same voice.  These two children didn’t even realize the other had such beautiful voices.  God put it all together and set His plan in motion as they sang a tiny part of a song for me.  Today, they will sing together and I am so excited.  There are so many “God moments” in the song today but the biggest “God moment” will be hearing these twins, who had no idea the other could sing so beautifully, will be singing together.  I am in total Awe of God today.

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:  Look for the God Moments!

My Mama’s “Routine”

Proverbs 31:28-31

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.

Thought for the Day:   Does our “Normal” begin with God?

Every morning she awoke and began her normal routine of getting her children up and ready for school.   As she went room to room, she said, “Get up! It’s time to get ready for school!” and left the rooms for them to awake.  She put breakfast on the table and called them to sit and eat before time for school.  She told them to go brush their hair and brush their teeth before they left.   Well, not exactly!  She awoke and began her routine of getting the children up and ready for school but it was a different “normal” for her.  She awoke one boy and put him in his wheelchair to push him to the bathroom where she picked him up and put him on the toilet.  She went back to their bedroom and picked the other boy out of his bed to put him in his wheelchair to roll him to the breakfast table.  After time, she switched them.  She then worked to dress them for the day, physically putting on their clothes.  As they were normal sized teenagers, it was very demanding and she was tired when she accomplished that job.  Lastly, she brushed their hair and set them up to brush their teeth using basins set up at the table in front of them.  But that was not the end of the routine.  She then pushed them in their wheelchairs up in the van (not handicapped accessible) and drove them to school.  She pulled them out of the van when she arrived at school and turned them over to their student caretakers (Marty and Rommie) when she arrived.  Later during college years, this routine included her pushing the boys to different classes in separate buildings.  She even sat with them and took notes in their classes when it was needed.  What a morning routine.

I awoke today thinking about my sweet mother as it would have been her 81st birthday.  Each day I awake and begin my normal routine that is normal.  Waking children for school and church can be difficult, but when I think of my “normal” in comparison to the “normal” my mother had, I am in awe.  My mother did not “sign on” to a life that was so very difficult, but she did live the life as a mother who loved her children so much she literally gave her life for them.  God blessed me with this special mother who not only took care of the needs of my brothers, but took care of the needs of a “normal” daughter who had “normal” teenage problems and demands.  Somehow, she did it.  Somehow, she accomplished “everything”.  That somehow was “God”.  As she awoke each day, she woke up to God first reading her devotions and praying.  I don’t know what she prayed, but I am sure she prayed for her children first and prayed she would be who we needed her to be each day.  My mother was the perfect example to anyone who watched of a true Christian woman in love with her God and her family. Happy Birthday, Mary Jane Henderson.

Prayer:   Father God, you have blessed us with people who love us.  Thank you for bring inspirational people into our lives to be examples of You.  Help us to follow their example and be who you need us to be today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  “Normal” routines

What Can We Do?

Psalms 91:1-5

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness in a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.

Thought for the Day:  What can we we?

As our family took a few minutes last evening to prepare our home for the storm winds and rain we should be receiving today, my heart was breaking for those in Florida and Texas.  We cleared the bicycles from our garage by putting them in our dining room so we could get our cars in, we checked the gutters to make sure the water would go away from the house as it rained, and we brought items in from our deck.  Every step of the way I kept thinking, “This is nothing compared to what is taking place a few hundred miles south of us – how are they dealing with what has been and is happening?”  And then I think, “What can we do from here, what can we do to help in some small way to bring them a little peace?”  First, in the United Methodist Church, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief – UMCOR.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the world.  100% of the donations go to projects to help those suffering.  After Hurricane Katrina so many years ago, my dad traveled with a group to Louisiana as a part of UMCOR to help friends in need.  These UMCOR friends are the hands and feet of Christ.  Brothers and sisters around the United States are working as the hands and feet of Christ as they collect items for Hurricane Relief buckets of cleaning supplies to help in clean-up efforts.  Our church has taken part in this ministry, with even the young people helping.  What better way to help these children become Jesus to someone else.

As I wrote about UMCOR and Hurricane Relief buckets, there was one thing that was left out but which is the most important.  Prayer!  Prayer is our most clear and straight line of communication with God.  It seems so small sometimes as we continue to pray, but it is also the most important.  Reading an article in Guideposts recently, I read about a lady who for years added a concern in her church’s prayer listing.  Staff members in the office, every week, wondered about those week by week prayer requests thinking that the prayer was not going to be answered.  After a very long time, the prayer answer came in such a way that the people of the church knew the call for prayer by this lady every week was indeed answered…the week by week prayer request was worth it.  Today, we pray and today we know that God is present with the people in Florida and Texas.  Today, things are fresh and the weather system is still churning in part of Florida and will cross other states today.  Tomorrow, the sun will shine and the truth of destruction will be made clear.  But what about next month and next year – will we continue praying daily for these brothers and sisters.  I hope the answer is yes – and I know that, in time – maybe much time – those prayers will be answered.  Pray.

Prayer:  Father God, we praise you today for the powerful love you show us every day.  You are almighty and you are worthy of our praise.  Today, God, many are hurting.  Some have lost everything and some do not know what to do next.  Be with these brothers and sisters today and let them know that you are near.  God, be with them today.  Help us to know how best to be there for these friends.  Amen.  

Prayer Focus:  Hurricane