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

The Mama Duck and Her Ducklings

DSC_2779 (2)DSC_2759 (2)DSC_2761 (2)DSC_2763 (2)DSC_2776 (2)

Isaiah 43:1-2

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

Thought for the Day:  God leads us through the waters.

Spending time at my favorite place, Lake Junaluska, is refreshing and brings a feeling of joy.  Each year I take my camera to the different gardens and take pictures of God’s beauty set before me.  This year was no different except that the bridge over the dam was closed which made me take the County Road below the dam.  I do not often stop below the dam to see the water flow and to see the water find its way to a beautiful stream.  But this year, I spent some time there for just a few minutes.  I took pictures of the dam which was flowing rapidly because of recent rains and then I walked over to the stream.  As I took pictures, my eyes were directed toward a duck and her ducklings.  I brought my camera to my eye and began watching them through the lens.  This mama duck began leading the ducklings downstream.  At first the ducklings were all in a straight line behind their mother with such cuteness that my heart melted.  Then, the family came to a strong rapid.  The mama scurried in the water to get out of the rapid and I saw something spectacular.  The ducklings all became very active, swimming fast, to stay behind their mother until they were out of the rapid.  They followed her until they found their place on the rocks beside the stream.  I continued watching to see her work her family to the others side of the stream where they sunned and bathed for a few minutes.

I watched God in action that day in the stream below the dam.  I watched Him, through the mama duck, show us that He is always with us to protect us.  He is always with us to lead us through the treacherous waters of the sea.  On that day, I saw the mama duck teaching her children to make their way out of a dangerous rapid.  On that day, I heard God’s voice tell me that He is always with us to help us make our way through the wilderness of life.  Those ducklings showed me through their obvious following of their mother how to follow Christ.  The mother and ducklings all found the safety of the rocks, just as we find safety from turmoil when we follow God where he leads.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for the beauty you place around us.  The magnificence of your creation seems to glow when we look for you.  Thank you for placing your examples of how to follow you right in front of our eyes.  Help us recognize you and help us to follow you as you lead us through the wilderness of life.  You are awesome, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Following 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

The Open Door

Acts 14:27

And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Thought for the Day:  God opens doors

For two years, I found out yesterday, well a little shy of two years, a precious lady at our church has been praying diligently for me to find a job.  As she came up to me yesterday at church, “How have things worked out for you in finding a teaching position?”  Excitedly I told her that I do have a position for the next school year.  She teared up and said, “I have been praying for you….I always love hearing about prayers answered as it reminds me that prayers work.”  She has been a constant encourager for my family and me through this time since we have been in Georgia, and the love shows on her face every time we are in conversation with her.  As I shared with her about all the different doors that seemed to close for me, even after having great interviews, was discouraging at the time and I wondered why God was closing the doors.  I didn’t get it.  Then, when a long-term substitute position opened at my son’s school, I jumped in and began work.  I loved my work and was encouraged every day by those around me, but having it lead to a full-time position was not clear.  Then the day came, at 9:30 in the evening, when I was offered a position in the school nearest me…and in one of the best elementary schools around.

I shared with our sweet friend that at that moment, I knew why the previous doors had been closed.  God simply did not want me to walk through them.  Two days ago, we drove by another school in our area where I interviewed.   The building is exactly like the building where I got a position.  As I drove by I shared with my child, “Honey, can you see that school is the same type of building as your school?”.  “If I had been offered a position and taken it, I would not be at your school next year.  God closed that door and I am so glad.”

Many prayed for me and could not understand why so many doors were shut for me.  But then the door that was supposed to open did….and God let me walk through.  God knew, but I believe God wanted me to interview in the different schools.  He knew that I needed to receive knowledge through each of those interviews of steps I needed to take.  Through those interviews, I realized that I needed an extra endorsement on my teaching certificate – ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).  So, I studied and took the ESOL test and passed.  Adding that endorsement helped in my search of a position, but more than that it gave me essential skills to succeed in my new position.  God said yes and opened the door when HE knew it was the right one – because HE led me to that widely opened door.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for friends who pray for us and encourage us in such special ways.  Through the prayers of those remarkable people, we realize how You listen to us.  Thank you also, God, for the closed doors that keep us from going into places you do not want us to go.  Thank you for making clear the open doors we are to enter.  You are awesome!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Friends who are encouragers

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.

He Never Forgets

Isaiah 43:2

I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Thought for the Day:  God knows each of us, and loves us deeply. 

“God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.” (The Upper Room Devotion, 04/01/2017) Those words should mean something special to every person who is created by God, our Father.  As I read those words today, I found myself rejoicing.  Those words, those special words, were written for every one of us.  There are those days, yes, there are those days when we feel alone, scared, down, and we don’t feel good about where we are at that moment in life.  It is hard to find ourselves “worthy” of God’s love.  But, the good thing is that we don’t have to be “worthy” of God’s love because He never forgets us, He always knows us, and He always loves us.  On this day, I found myself down in the dumps as I did a chore that I really did not want to do, and I do not feel I do it well.  After many hours, I sat to relax for a while.  As I sat, I opened the website for The Upper Room and saw those beautiful words written by the author.  As I read the words, “God never forgets any of us”, I felt myself rest more at ease as I felt His love for me.

God does show us His love every day, doesn’t He?  My hard day followed a day when I took a walk in our park.  During my walk, I witnessed the many ways God takes care of needs, yet as I did the chore I felt inadequate.  So, I looked back at the pictures from the walk and remembered once again of God’s love for all of us, even the animals.  And now, just now, I heard the geese honking as they flew over our house – heading to that park – I feel sure.  Remember how much God loves you today – “God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.”

Prayer:  Father God, Thank You!  Thank you for loving us even when we feel we can’t love ourselves.  You take us as we are, You know us more deeply than we know ourselves, yet You love us anyway.  You are our Father and You have a Father’s love for us.  We love You, God!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Needing to know God’s Love for them.

Me and Faith

Me and Faith

Hebrews 11:1-4

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old received divine approval.  By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.

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

Rehearsing the music for our church’s children’s choir musical has been so much fun.  Observing the children, and their awesome memorization skills, has left me standing in awe as I hear them sing the precious words to the songs.  Although the songs are upbeat and fun, they also carry a very big message.  One of the songs, “Me and Faith” has touched me deeply recently.  As the children perfect their words and tones I have been listening – and taking in the message.

“Me and Faith we make a great team, through any kind of weather.  Me and Faith we make a great team, we gotta stick together.  Whenever I’m filled with doubt, Faith comes in and knocks it out.  Me and Faith, we make a great team.”

I have realized that the words to this particular song are the words I have lived by and continue living by every day.  Some days, I falter and lose faith when I feel things falling apart around me, but overall I have FAITH.  Overall, faith in Gods gets me through the hard times.

When I struggle, God is there – I have faith in my almighty Father and I know with that faith, God will carry me through.  As I write these words, I look at the world with all its conflict, pain, confusion, and so many more things that make us want to lose faith.  But then I remember that no matter what the world looks like around us, God is with us giving us the faith we need to get us through.  Can we get through these hard times in our country if we try to do it on our own, no.  But if we lean on God and know He is going to hold our hand and be there every instant of everyday, we will make it through.  “Me and Faith….we make a great team!”  (Plane Ol’ Mission Trip, Nick Robertson, Lillenas Publishing)

Prayer:  Our faithful Father!  Today, we come to you with many things on our minds.  Help us throughout the day to put our faith in you, the One who loves us and will never let us go.  Help us remember the simple words, “Me and Faith, we make a great team”, knowing that faith in You will bring a calmness and understanding to our day.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Faith

Was, and Is, and Is to Come

Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Thought for the Day:  God has been, is, and will be with us.

Looking forward to having a school holiday, I imagined waking up late and getting caught up on my sleep.  But, for two mornings I have awakened at 3:48 a.m. unable to go back to sleep.  Thinking about “life things” has been that waking alarm and prayer has not seemed to give me the calmness to rest.  A moment of “aloneness” swept in and gave me moments of fear.  “What ifs” came into my thoughts as I began questioning.  Then I decided to go on and get up this morning where I could read The Upper Room where the first words I saw were from Isaiah 40. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Reading those words made me remember my experience at the park yesterday where I noticed birds flying without a worry in the world.  God gave them their food as they noticed fish in the water and swooped down to catch their prey.  I noticed a turtle family as the parents were obviously taking care of their baby as they blocked him from going toward danger.  And I noticed the trees just beginning to bud as they prepared for the new leaves that will appear soon.

God loves us, we know that.  God takes care of us, we know that too.  God knew us from the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb and formed us into the persons He wanted us to be.  Looking back at my life has helped comfort me this morning as I have remembered the obvious times God took care of my family and me.  God gave my handicapped brothers and me parents who would love us beyond imagination as they took care of our needs.  When my husband died, God gave me time to grieve and then brought me someone to love who brought happiness to my life.  When my mother died, I had another Godly woman, my first husband’s mother, who has mothered me in a special way.  Through adoption, God gave me two precious boys who have brought joy and love – I never dreamed I would have children but God had other dreams for me.  When our lives were turned upside down by what seemed to be Satan, God gave us a new place and a new church home where we are loved and cherished in a special way.  Today, I awoke at 3:48 for the second morning in a row, worried about things to come.  Today, however, God has given me His words of comfort and hope – God was with me when I was born, God has been with me through my life, God is with me in this moment, and God will be with me in the moments to come.  Thank you, Almighty God, for your message to me today.

Prayer:  God, thank you for Your words of comfort as we read devotions written by your children.  So many have gone through hard times only to tell about their faith journey and to give us hope for our futures.  Others have shared their lives as we have simply watched how they have lived.  Help us today to feel Your presence and to hear Your message to us:  You have been with us every step of our way, You are with us now, and You will be with us as we go through our future.  We love you, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us.

 

God Knows Me

Repeated  Devotional

John 17:23

Jesus said, “I in them and thou I me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou has loved me.”

Thought for the Day:  God knows us and loves us

Where do I think of when I want to go somewhere for prayer and time with God?  Recently, I have observed friends saying, “It is nice to be alone with God as I hear the bugs making noises”, “Hearing music brings me closer to God”, and “Sitting and listening to the creek is where I feel nearest to God.” Thinking about that today and hearing of the deaths of friends’ parents made me go back in my memory to my place as a young person.  When I was young, I found my way to the piano when I needed to “get away” from the stress of school or from the worry about my brothers.  In one of our homes, the placement of the piano was not perfect and I did not hear about it until several years later.  The piano was placed on the wall to the left as we went in the front door, but was on the other side of the wall from the head of my parents’ bed.  Yes, the only thing separating the piano from the bed was a thin wall.  My time with God and to be alone with music included playing old recital pieces which were full of runs that could get loud.  My time also included singing songs as I played.  Years after we left that parsonage, my Daddy shared with me that in the late hours when I chose to play my mother laid in bed trying to go to sleep.  She would say, “Gordon, you are going to have to go ask her to stop.”  He said that every time that request came from my mother he would say, “I am not going to stop her because she needs this time.”  My Daddy knew me and he knew my need for time alone in that moment.

Today, my Daddy knows me.  Today, my Father God knows me.  With all the billions of people in the world and the many places and faces here, God can see me and He loves me.  No matter where I choose to spend time with Him, He is listening.  As I thought about this, I remembered a Sandi Patty song from awhile back called, “He Loves Me” where she sings about how, in the midst of everything going on in the world today, that God is still there listening, knowing, and loving each one of us.  Today, your Daddy knows you.  Today, your Father God knows you.  Today, God can see you and He loves you.  Find your place and pray.

Prayer:  Almighty and loving God, thank you for loving us as our earthy Father’s love us.  You see us and know every part of us.  Yet, you still love us in a way that is far beyond any love we have ever felt.  Be with us as we find our special place to be with you today.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

What is Faith?

Psalms 104:24-25

O Lord, how manifold are thy works!  In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures.  Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living thing both small and treat.” 

Thought for the Day:  Faith is believing without seeing, but it is also seeing God’s love in the nature and human love around us.

Observing God’s creation is always something that brings excitement to my heart.  Pictures of daffodils scatter the internet, budding trees scatter our area, and birds seem to sing more sweetly as spring approaches.  Recently I had a long conversation with my youngest son about how we know God is near.  He asked me, “Mommy, how do we know God is near?”  I replied, “Faith.”  He then asked, “What is Faith?”  I said, “Believing without seeing!”  He looked surprised at my answer but seemed satisfied.  Faith, believing without seeing….or seeing God’s creation around us and believing.  I have often said that it is impossible to think that God does not exist when we look at the face of a newborn baby, observe animals as they live around us, visualize the beauty in nature, and ultimately see Him in our hearts.  My prayer for my child is that he will learn all about faith as he learns to take in God’s creation and as he learns to listen with his sweet little heart.

It seems that many people today are not seeing through the eyes of faith that the beauty around them is created by God.  Faith is believing without seeing…but faith is seeing that beauty in nature, witnessing love shown to someone in need, hearing a child’s giggle as it breaks through turmoil, and mostly feeling God’s presence in our hearts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and showing us the beauty around us.  Help us feel your presence as we see the flowers bloom, the trees bud, and as we witness love shown from one person to another.  Help us be a sign of your presence as we meet those in need of a little bit of faith each day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Faith