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

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First Day Plans

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day:  Be surprised by God’s Plan 

Oh, those plans!  Those great plans for the first “free” day after finishing my year of teaching.  Oh, yes, the great plan included going for my camera walk and just as important, cleaning and disinfecting my house.  Waking at my almost normal school time, I drank my coffee, checked the weather, changed to my walking clothes, and walked.  The walk was wonderful and I took in the beauty of “my” park.  I witnessed God in the lush green of the trees and woods, in the blue herons in their nest and in the marsh looking for food, in the snakes spashing into the water as I passed, in the deer calling my attention to her, and the beauty in the flowers.  God was present every step of the way and my plan for my walk was fulfilled.

Then I returned home to “clean”.  I found that every time I thought about cleaning, my mind took me to the need for naps.  With the sound of my husband downstairs with the children, I found my way back to my bed and giggled as I pulled the soft comforter over me.  “Ahh, sweet sleep!”  Throughout the day, between bouts of cleaning, I sat – and, yes, I fell asleep.  Lovely sleep.  My cleaning did not come close to being finished, but that beautiful gift of rest from God definitely happened.

God’s plan for me, on my first day out of school, took over my plan and He gave me exactly what I needed.  He must have liked my plan for the camera walk, but my other plan…not so much.  He gave me a day to rest, a day to rest in Him.  And my family gave me the gift of time, even cleaning some while I rested.  Isn’t God amazing? Isn’t it amazing to see God’s plan take over in an obvious way to give us exactly what we need.  I didn’t recognize this as I went through the day of sleep, but now as I wake refreshed, I can look back and see how His plan took over to give me what He knew I needed.

Prayer:  O, Gracious Heavenly Father!  You are so awesome.  You love us so much that you take over the plans we have and give us new direction.  Help us recognize You in plans that change in our daily routine or in life.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Plan

A Peace Just Came over Me

1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Thought for the Day: God is the One who bring us peace.

As I awoke in a TICU waiting room twenty-three years ago today, I felt hopeful that my husband, David, would have shown some sign of improvement during the night. He had been in a car accident two nights before and had multiple injuries.   I was hopeful that when his parents and I saw him, things would already be getting better. That changed, however, to anxiety and concern when the nurse called us into a special waiting room closer to the TICU. My parents were present with us during this time. All of us were very anxious and all we could do was pray. After a few minutes, I felt something in my heart that I could not explain. But, I turned to my mother who was sitting beside me and said, “Mama, a peace just came over me.” She did not respond but gave me a very loving and calm look. The doctor came in a few minutes later to tell us that David had not made it and that he had died a few minutes before. I believe that my mama knew when I felt the peace that David had died but she didn’t say anything. I believe that at the instant I felt peace was the moment he passed away to be with God. God gave me the feeling of peace to let me know that David was at peace with Him.

Today, looking back, I know that the feeling of peace was indeed God’s way of telling me that David was with Him, but He was also telling me that I was going to be okay. Throughout the years following David’s death, I have felt God’s presence through finding a new love and husband, adopting two beautiful little boys, and mostly finding a closeness with God that I had not felt so completely before. God has walked before me, beside me, and behind me all my life but it was through that time that His presence was made so clear to me.

Prayer: God, thank you for giving us peace during times of grieving and hardships. Help us to feel you walking with us everyday, just as you have throughout our lives. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE GRIEVING

It is Well with My Soul

Psalms 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Thought for the Day:  It is Well with My Soul

There are experiences in life when one knows immediately that the moment will be remembered for a lifetime.  We sat in our pew, taking in the music and speakers during the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  The service was beautiful with some of the most precious words being spoken about this wonderful man.  Then, the final organ/piano duet began to the song, “It is Well with My Soul”.  The instrumental music was gorgeous, and my heart wanted to sing.  When the last verse began, we began hearing a beautiful soprano voice.  From where we were sitting, toward the front and toward the side, we were able to see the faces of the family members.  As the voice sang, we looked toward the family and realized that our dear friend was the one singing.  She sang:

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend Even so, it is well with my soul It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul It is well, it is well, it is well, It is well, it is well, it is well It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

As I watched her, and as I watched her family, I felt that something great was coming.  I pulled out my cellphone, and without using video I began recording.  As the congregation listened, and as I was one who was able to watch, I saw her hand go into the air.  That moment, that special moment, my heart knew that “It was truly well” with her soul.  Her daughter then joined her as the climax of the song came.  Then, an even more special moment came when our friend sang the last note….so high, so pure, so perfect.  My heart, our hearts, leapt with the sound of that voice.  My heart, our hearts, knew that she was going to be okay.  She, in singing those words, gave her family peace that their father, father-in-law, grandfather, and her husband was in the arms of God and that God had his arms around each of them.  “It is Well with my Soul”. What strength she showed in sharing with everyone in the room that “It was Well with Her Soul.”

The song, “It is Well with my Soul” was written by a man who had just experienced great tragedy.  It is amazing that this hymn that we sing often has been sung for so many who have grieved, and has helped bring strength.  Our friend took it to a new level as she sang, giving everyone in attendance a sense that “it is truly and wonderfully well with our souls.”

(History of “It is Well with My Soul”)

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing us peace in unexpected ways.  God, I ask that you wrap your arms around every member of this sweet family, that they will know your love and peace.  Thank you for speaking to all of us through the beautiful words, “It is well with my Soul”.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  It is Well with My Soul

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

God’s Refreshing Water

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Thought for the Day:  God refreshes the land and our hearts with his love and hope. 

Loving our drive through the mountains, we took in the beauty around us and the thoughts of people who lived in areas along the way.  As we neared our vacation location, we began seeing areas that had been burned out in a very large wildfire several months ago.  The feeling of elation as we were driving for fun with our children in one of our favorite places became heart wrenching.  As we drove, our eyes filled with tears as we saw mile after mile of areas that had been blackened and broken by the wildfires.  Nearing one town that had been massively affected by the fires, we wondered what we would witness.  In the midst of the reality that so much was destroyed, we were touched that rebuilding was already taking place to construct businesses, homes, and rental cabins.  We also witnessed the many people who had traveled to the area to enjoy time with family and friends.  Our hearts were warmed as we continued driving as we noticed some green in the midst of the blackened timbers.  There was a lush green in the grasses that grew along the roadside.  There were wild flowers growing in the midst of ash.  There were many areas of beautiful moss growing on fallen trees.  The thing we noticed the most were the many creeks and streams that looked totally unchanged even with the area around them totally charred from the fires.  At one point I said, “It’s as if God is saying, I’m not finished here yet.”  The precious water that continued to flow through the mountains, flowing through the blackened forests and flowing under fallen, burned trees gave hope that God was already there healing the land that had been damaged so badly.

“I’m not finished here yet.”  It is amazing how God comes in after such tragedy of wildfire to the land or heartbreak in our hearts and says, “I’m not finished here yet”.  In those areas of blackened land were the spots of green growth and water flowing to give hope to the land that it would be renewed.  In those areas of blackened areas where damage has taken place in our lives, there are spots of new growth and beautiful water flowing to give hope that God has something wonderful planned for our lives.   God’s refreshing water…renewing our land and renewing our spirit.

Prayer:  God, thank you for refreshing us with the water only You can give.  Lord, we do thank you for the spots of hope You give in the midst of tragedy.  We do also ask for the continued healing to the land and the lives affected by such terrible wildfires.  Be with those in need today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God heals our land and our lives.

I Didn’t Know…But God Did

Psalms 139:1-6

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!  Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.  Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us and knows us – He holds us close and knows the future for each one of us. 

Goodness Gracious – Early on this Thursday morning, I arose very early not able to sleep.  I have tossed and turned, I have fixed my morning coffee and have had a cup, I have checked Facebook messages, I have opened the bedroom window – and shut it quickly as the temperature outside is in the 20s, and I have read my devotional.  As I pulled out my computer to begin writing, I thought, God what are you wanting me to do right now?  I looked down in the corner of my computer screen and there it was, today’s date.  There it was, my reminder of an anniversary – an anniversary that comes every year and an anniversary of something very hard.  Twenty-two years ago today was my husband David’s car accident.  When he left for a jazz rehearsal, I didn’t know it would be the last time he walked out of our house and the last time I would see him full of life and full of hope for the future.  I didn’t know that 36 hours later my life would stop at the moment he went on in peace to see God.  I didn’t know that I would need to lean on God in a way I had never leaned on Him before.  I didn’t know.

But God did – God knew my future.  God knew and in time, much time, I found that God had walked before me setting the stage for a bright future as I continued teaching, as I dated and married another wonderful man – Mark, as I learned new skills that led me to new possibilities, and as we adopted two remarkable boys.  God knew that after Mark’s and my parents passed away that David’s mom and dad would become our children’s grandparents.  Today, I find myself once again not knowing what my professional future holds.  But, today, I am aware that God has been with me through every heart ache and through every pain.  God has been with me through every surprising joy.  God was with me when I lost the love of my life and He was with me when I found my new love of my life.  I am thankful today for the love God has shown me every day.  As my devotional read a couple of days ago:  Thank you, God.  Today I thank God for the future He is working on for me.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for loving us and bringing Your plan for our life into the light.  Be with us as we go through the day to recognize the blessings You show to us and the blessings we do not see.  You know our every need, every struggle, every joy, and every moment.  Help us learn to place them all in Your hands knowing You have each of us near to Your heart.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God knows the plans He has for us.   

Joy and Warmth

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

Thought for the Day:  The Joy of the Lord can be felt through those people and experiences near us.

What brings the joy of the Lord?  What brings a warmth to the heart?  Recently, I realized that a joy was felt in my heart as I talked to a friend in the school where I have a long-term substitute position.  I said, “You know, it is funny…all of this time I have not been working, I have gone to the church early each Wednesday to prepare my children’s choir room rehearsal.   But since I have been working, I have gone in just a few minutes early to get ready for the children to come in the choir room.  I truly believe these rehearsals of last minute entrance have been the best rehearsals.”  She replied, “That’s because you are where you are supposed to be.”  As she said that, I knew she was right.  Although I am in a substitute position and still have no idea what my future holds, I am teaching in a school each day and I feel I am doing the thing that brings me pure joy.  Because of that joy, other areas in my life seem to be more in line.  Now, at church, I hear children say, “Mrs. Locke, I saw you at school the other day”, and at school I hear, “Mrs. Donna!!!”, and feel arms coming around my waist for a hug.  That is where the warmth comes to my heart.

Today, the song, “The Joy of the Lord” comes to my mind as I think about this joy that has come in a simple recognition from a child that they “Know” me and through the warmth that comes from those arms coming around me for a hug.  I wrote recently about what “Faith” is and said, “Faith is believing without seeing”.  Today, I realize that I have been in the midst of God and through these children.  I have seen His face as He has shown His faithfulness to me.

“The Joy of the Lord”, by Twila Paris

Prayer:  Father God!  Today we praise You and worship Your Holy Name.  You are a gracious and loving Father.  Today, thank you for bringing us joy and warmth through the people you place in the walk around us.  Thank you for letting us “see” through faith, the unconditional love You have for us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel joy and warmth

Morning Time with the Cat

Psalms 69:13-18

But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of ty steadfast love answer me.  With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.  Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, O Lord, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.  Hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in distress, make haste to answer me.  Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies!

Thought for the Day:  God is there, reach for Him.

Although I am not excited when I wake up in the early morning hours and realize that I cannot go back to sleep, I do recognize that is the perfect time to spend time with my sweet pets.  They seem to want to come around me as I sit on the couch hoping for a little more dozing time.  As I watched my fourteen year old tabby this morning, I saw him immediately stand up from his rest on the ottoman to jump over to his place beside me on the couch.  His purr was very loud and I found him nuzzling my hand where I would pet him under his chin.  I petted him for a few minutes then pulled my hand away only to feel him nuzzling my hand again.  He yearned for the comfort in knowing I was there.  I loved putting my arms around him feeling the softness of his fur and the warmth of his body.  We both felt the love from the other.

As I began writing, not knowing what words would come, I looked at my cat who had found his way back to the ottoman.  He looked content and at peace as he rested once again in the wee morning hours.   My relationship with God is similar in a way to that relationship my cat has with me.  When I need to feel God’s presence, I try to move to a place where He feels close.  I try to communicate with Him that I need the warmth and love that only He can give.  I wonder if God recognizes and gets excited when I begin coming closer to Him.  As I see my cat standing up from his resting place, I tend to get excited when I see him jumping over to sit beside me.  Does God get excited when we come to Him?  Does God rejoice when we come to Him for comfort?  I believe He does.

Prayer:  God, you are present and you are Almighty!  Thank you for being present for us when we reach out for you, and even when we don’t.  Your ever present in our lives and we know you rejoice when we acknowledge you.  Be with us today!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

New

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Thought for the Day:  God brings us a newness each morning

Waking up each morning, even when I haven’t slept well, is a moment when a new day is in front of me.  New possibilities, new dreams, and new thoughts.  I do have to start the same way each day, however.  Waking with the alarm clock chiming for the third or fourth or maybe even the fifth time, my thoughts are on two things.  My first thought is of that morning cup of coffee that awaits being poured in our kitchen and my second thought is of opening my computer to read devotions to start my day.  Each day begins differently as the devotions seem to take a life of their own bringing new thoughts and emotions.  It is only after these two things happen that I can begin writing.  In those early morning moments, I am sharing time with God and I am sharing time with myself.  As I write, my heart is on words I have read that morning or on emotions that come in my waking.  My writing does not have a constant theme as so many writers seem to have.  My writing fluctuates in different directions as I awake with different thoughts each morning.

Reading two devotions began my thoughts this morning.  The first devotion was The Upper Room devotion where I read the scripture from John 16, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.”  The second devotion was from Jena Forehand’s blog where I read the scripture from 2 Corinthians 4, “The inward man is being RENEWED day by day.”  As I read and as I thought of life experiences in the past few years, I pondered deeply the meaning for me.  My first thought was, “Have I been praying wrong? – Have I not prayed in “His” name?”.  My second thought was, “Have I let the enemy wear me down through fear and insecurity so much that I am not feeling the newness God wants me to feel each morning.”  Jena’s devotion read, “When you lay hold of the grace God has given you to start each day NEW and FRESH, you actually are beating the enemy, because he can no longer pile on lie upon lie and trial upon trial.”  She said begin the day with a smile on our face because God renews us each day.

So, what do I take from reading today?  Today, I hear the words from God to me, “Go out with a smile on your face – show the enemy that he has no control over you – remember that today is a new day!  Then, think about what you truly need and ask….ask in MY name for what will truly bring you joy in Me.”

Prayer:  Thank you, Father God, for writers who bring Your words to us through their devotions.  Through them, we can look into ourselves more where we can know you better.  Be with us today, Lord, as we begin a NEW day in You.  Bring us joy, today, Lord.  Bring us that special joy in You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who are needing to feel closer to God.

 http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-01-17

 http://www.jenaforehand.com/2017/01/03/all-things-new/