How are You Still Standing?

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, He who abides in shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  

Thought for the Day:  God is as close as our next breath

Spending time in conversation with my new work partner, who will be sharing a classroom and teaching experiences with for the coming year(s), was so special.  We have learned about each other’s children and we have talked about our past work experiences and what brought us to this place.  As we listened, we learned that we are very much alike in personality and that we are anxiously excited to be working with each other.  Neither of us has ever shared a classroom with another person so we will both be experiencing something new….but we can already tell it is going to be special.  Maybe it became special when we realized she was born the year I graduated from high school.  Toward the end of sharing, as we shared about past experiences, I shared about my family and what brought me personality to the place I am today.  Her reply was, “How are you still standing here in this place?  You’ve been through so much.”  I have heard similar statements many times through the years, but there was something in her voice that was different.

Over the past few days, several have brought up the subject because of a song I sang in church on Sunday about finding God’s blessings in the struggles of life.  This morning, awaking very early on a Saturday morning, I found myself contemplating the question, “How are you still standing here in this place?”  My answer, the only answer I can explain, is that I am here because in every tragedy and in every heart-break, God has placed the people and events and memories and His planned blessings in front of me where I knew the direction I was to go.  I sang the words Sunday, “What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near.”  As we have almost made it out of the last tough period, I thought about those words.  From the day that my husband’s position was eliminated in our previous church to the time I was offered my position to teach this coming school year was 1,011 days.  Laura Story’s song, Blessings, became a theme song for us a few months after our time of change began.  I remember hearing those words, “A thousand sleepless nights” and thinking…”I hope this doesn’t take a thousand days.”  But it has.  But in those thousand days we have fallen in love with our new church family, we have made wonderful new friends, we have found a place to live that is beautiful and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  God has blessed us in a mighty way and looking back, we can see where His hand has led us in such a mighty way.

“How are you still standing?” I am still standing, I believe, because through tragedy one learns to keep the faith and to know God is there…”Closer than your next breath”… and He will never let you go.  There might be a lot of blessings in the tears and there might be many nights where rest does not come.  But, God is in that next breath and God is placing who and what you need to lead you through the hard times.  “How am I still standing?”  That’s easy…God is why I am still standing.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for loving us in such a special way and for bringing us through storms.  Thank you for sending the blessings of people, experiences, and heartaches to bring us through with the knowledge that You are right there beside us.  You are our Almighty Father and it is humbling to know that you are always as close as our next breath.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Blessings

Gotcha Day

Ephesians 1:5-6

He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed us on in the Beloved.

Thought for the Day:  God sent us our son through adoption

Today is “Gotcha Day”!  Today is “Gotcha – Jonathan – Day”!  But, first, I must go back in time.  July 1, 2010 – receiving a call in the evening with the words, “Are you still interested in adopting a child?  We have a little boy who was born ‘yesterday’.”  “Well, yes, we are – can we pray about it a little while and call you back?” You see, we had already promised our then six-year old Nathaniel a time of swimming at a friend’s house.  As we drove, we talked about the possibility and asked God for clarity one way or the other.  We swam and had the best time and then we began our drive home.  As Mark drove the curvy road back home he gasped a loud gasp which scared me.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, “Nothing – He was BORN ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!  I just realized that he was born on your birthday.”  We both began to tear up as we realized that God had given us our clear answer.  Fast forward to July 12…awaking excited and hopeful, we began our preparation to go to the Adoption agency to sign papers and prepare for the adoption of our son.  As we were given old school advice from a previous social worker, we had done nothing about getting items for his arrival. We literally went not knowing the schedule.  When we finished signing the papers, our adoption director said that we would be able to pick our baby up the next day.  Well, Mark would have nothing to do with that so we talked her into letting us get him that evening.   Getting in the car, we made a quick plan.  We needed to drive 60 miles to another town to pick him up, and we had one and a half hours….and we had no car seat.  Making a quick list we drove to a nearby “Babies R Us” and went straight to the desk and said, “We have 15 minutes to get everything we need to bring our adopted baby home tonight.”  The young man said, “Well, let’s go!”  We showed him our list and we began following him around the store.  Fifteen minutes later we left the store with everything we could need to bring our baby home.  And wouldn’t you know it, the most torrential rainstorm we had ever witnessed came as we drove.  As Mark drove through that rainstorm, I called everyone we knew who would want to know about our baby.  The rainstorm didn’t stop us and we made it to the church to meet the “cradle care giver” with our new son.  That moment, that precious moment came and he was placed in our arms.  Our precious Jonathan was with us beginning our adventures of having a complete family.  We drove home, stopping for a few minutes to introduce Jonathan to his great aunt, Patsy.  Okay, we also stopped at our friend’s house where we swam the night we first found out about the possibility of adoption.  Then, oh yes then, we went to pick up our six-year old from the family he had stayed with that day.  The entire family, some friends, and our precious Nathaniel ran out to the car to get their first glimpse of this special one as soon as we drove up. In that moment, our family was complete and we were thankful to God for the blessing of adoption and for the blessing of having two sons.

Today, we have a thirteen year old and a seven year old, and we see God’s face through them each day.  Today is “Gotcha Day”, that special anniversary day of when an adopted child comes to live with his forever family.  Today, that precious baby has become a loving, caring, sweet, huggable, funny, silly, active, and smart child.  He loves life and he absolutely loves everyone he meets.  God gave us that clear message on July 1, 2010 that this was the child we were to adopt and He led us to that baby being placed in our arms only a few days later. We will truly never forget that day and the experience of when our baby came to be with us, his forever family.

Prayer:  God, thank you for the gift of children…and thank you for the gift of adoption.  They say, Lord, that adoption is a choice…..but You were the one who chose our baby for us.  You gave us the two most perfect children and we are ever thankful.  You are awesome!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Adoption

A Special Birthday

John 14:21

He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. 

John 14:21

Thought for the Day:  He knows Christ and Makes Him Known

Fifty-nine years ago, a baby was born to Reeves and Mary Priscilla Locke.  What a blessing that fourth child was and what an amazing man he has become.  Yes, there was the time he got excited about holding a soda bottle, spun it around and let go of it straight into a huge store front window (Men inside went flying!)   Yes, there was a time he began throwing his dad’s church keys up in the air then catching them…only to throw them up one too many times with them coming down into one of the church chandeliers.  But then, there was the time, at one week old, that he began his campmeeting life at Joyner’s Campmeeting.  There was the time he walked into his parents’ kitchen to tell them that he had decided to direct church music for a living….they were not excited about that decision at that time, but boy were they proud when he became one of the best around.  And, there was the time he began his time offering his music love with the folks at Joyner’s Campmeeting as he became song leader.  Personally, there was the time yours truly visited Joyner’s Campmeeting with her parents and talked for the first time with this man…and she realized there might be life again after losing her first husband over a year before.  There was the time a little red-headed baby, and later a little black-haired baby (yes – black-haired), were placed in his arms making him a Daddy.  More than anything else, fifty-nine years ago God placed an amazing baby on this earth who became a wonderful musician, a wonderful pastor, an awesome friend to many, a tremendously perfect husband and father, and a man created to share his love of Christ with everyone he met.  Mark Locke became a God-fearing, God-loving, Ordained Deacon in The United Methodist Church to show Jesus to the World.

So, Happy Birthday, Mark G. Locke! May God bring His loving arms around you.  May God bless all who come into your presence as You show them God’s love.  You were born to “Know Christ and to Make Him Known” and you do that very well.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing people in our lives who show us how to live in love for you.  Be with all of us to help us become Your face to the world, as others have been to us.  

Prayer Focus:  Born to be a Follower of God

The Red-Winged Blackbird

 

Matthew 18:6

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us

How can it be that in one hour of walking around our park, I witnessed red-winged blackbirds tormenting other birds.  I haven’t seen it before so I was a little surprised, as I know nothing about that bird species.  As I began exploring the internet, I quickly realized that the reason they seem to attack larger birds is that the birds fly over their nesting areas.  So, much like geese do not like it when other animals get too close as they are nesting, and the blue herons scream out loudly if other animals get too close, the red-winged blackbirds are just protecting their babies.  As a mother, I know I can be almost over-protective of my children.  I hover over them when they are sick and make sure they know about harmful possibilities in the community.  So, am I over protective or am I similar to the red-winged black bird in my want to be a good mother and to help my children succeed in life as I make every attempt to teach them to live a God centered live.

Now, I look to our Parent, God, who loves us and will help us whenever we need Him.  He sends His angels to protect us and He guides our hearts in the way we should go.  All we have to do is read the Bible and we will find the hundreds of stories where God led people to where they needed to go, and opened the doors that needed to be opened.  God showed His love to us.  So, red-winged blackbird, protect your babies where they will know how to live when it is their time to fly free.

Prayer:  God, thank you for leading us where we need to go and for directing our feet.  Thank you for the birds of the air as they show us that they, too, protect their babies.  Help us look at all of nature to see how God shows His love to even the smallest animal – which shows us how much He loves us. 

Prayer Focus:  Parents

Father’s Day

Proverbs 20:7

A righteous man who walks in his integrity – blessed are his sons after him!

Thought for the Day:  God sends fathers

“Daddy, can you do the ‘Tickle Spider?’”, I hear as the time comes for our youngest to go to bed.  “Why sure!” is the reply and the laughter begins.  As time wains, I begin hearing scriptures being said with Mark saying a line and Jonathan repeating.  Then I hear them saying “The Lord’s Prayer” together.  As Mark talks to our oldest, Nathaniel, I hear the serious talk about the day followed by “The Lord’s Prayer” ending their conversation for the night.  As a mother who has never been great at memorizing scripture, I hear the beautiful spoken word of my husband as he speaks words of faith with our two sons in a way that touches me deeply.  What a great father this man of God is to his sons, and what a great devotion the boys feel toward him.  God brought our family together where this man could share Jesus with all of us.

As I think about God and the way He loves us, I realize that my husband loves his boys in a special way.  Our family is special because God is the Head of our family and my husband follows His heart to teach our family about God’s love.   Together, God and Mark are a great team.

Prayer:  God, thank You for loving us enough to send dads, special dads to teach us about Your love.  Be with all dads on this day that they can see and recognize the love from their children.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Father’s Day

Few Details in the Miracle

Luke 24:4-7

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  EASTER

Mary’s Love

pietaJohn 19

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

Answer the Knock on the Door

Revelation 3:20

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Those desiring a stronger relationship with God.

Lolli Pop

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you?   Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 

Thought for the Day:  Have faith in God and He will carry you through.

Waiting for our special visitors, Lolli and Pop, to drive their 400 miles to get to our house was difficult.  Worried about the traffic, as I had checked to see it was bad, kept me praying and checking in on them occasionally.  I listened to my little boy asking many times, “Are they almost here?” To which I would reply, “Honey, they are in bad traffic but will be here in a little while.”  My husband continued working diligently to prepare our house for visitors remarkably placing memory items in special places.   Then it happened, there they were, parked and getting out of their car in our driveway!  “They were here!!!!”  Then the hug, the “LOLLI hug” from a person who has filled my “mama” role since I lost my mother.  My youngest ran to Lolli and Pop giving them the biggest hugs ever.  These two visitors to our home, are the boys’ grandparents!  These two visitors came into our lives in the grandparent role because of their relationship with me. They were my first husband’s parents.  When David and I married, they “adopted” me as a daughter and then after his death and my marrying again, “adopted” my present husband as a son.  I never thought as that relationship happened that in the next few years, my husband and I would both lose our parents. When our children were born, they immediately came in to the grandparent role.  God gave us these two very special people to melt into our lives and into our hearts.  God knew we would need them and He placed them perfectly into our lives and into our hearts.

God is all loving and all knowing, and places those he ordains in our lives because He knows our future and knows we will need them.  Through so much tragedy, our lives could have taken other roads, but God saw the future He planned for us and placed people in our lives to transform our lives to walk into the future.  Everywhere we look in our lives, we can see where He has done that.  We can see where He placed friends, acquaintances, places, and events in front of us – including Lolli and Pop who have been Jesus to our children in so many ways.  God is good!

Prayer:  Thank you God, for the love you bring to us!  You know us and You know the perfect people to put in our lives to carry us through.  Thank you for family and for the ones who become family in unexpected ways.  You are awesome, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those experiencing God’s love.

We Called…They Came

John 15:12-17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  This I command you, to love one another.”

Thought for the Day:  God loves us enough to send friends who we can hug and who we can lean on.

We called and they came!  Twenty-years ago, we called as we moved me from my home near Memphis to our new home in Dyersburg and they came!  One year ago, when we needed help packing things in our house in Collierville before we moved to Dacula, we called and they came….and stayed for a week.  There are some friends who you know before you call, will drop everything and come whenever you are in need.  They are our friends Jimmy and Becky.  They have been my husband’s friends for many years and mine since I married in to “their family”, well at least their family of friends.  Their son, John, is a precious young man who loves our family in a special way and we love him, and I am so proud that our children have grown into such friends.  As we drove into their driveway yesterday afternoon, such joy filled our hearts.  We had not seen them in so long and had missed the wonderful conversations we always seemed to have.  We picked up where we left off and enjoyed our time together.  God placed these God loving friends in our lives and placed them to “Be God” to everyone in whom they share time.  And they do it well.

This morning I reflect on these friends, and others, and easily see where they have been “Jesus” to us.  They live to love Christ and that love comes through doing for others and loving others.   This morning, I awaken feeling “filled with Jesus” because we spent that time with Him yesterday through these precious friends.  How can I “fill someone with Jesus” as I walk and talk today?

Prayer:  Our Father, thank you for the friends You have placed in our lives to be there in good times and bad.  They are our family, and they are Jesus, to us.  Be with us and teach us better how to serve others where we can be more like You.  Amen. 

 Prayer Focus:  Friends