Time Spent with God

John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.  Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

Thought for the Day:  Find time to be with God today.

Centering ourselves to be more in touch with God can be difficult. Waking up to my alarm clock going off normally begins my day and lately, the snooze works very well on my alarm.  Getting out of bed to drink coffee because we can’t seem to wake up without it seems to be the routine.  Turning on the television to watch the news can be overwhelming and can cause more stress to our day.  But, no matter how busy our mornings seem to be, we all know that stopping the morning madness and turning to God for even a few minutes can change our entire outlook for the day.  For me personally, putting on my walking clothes, grabbing my camera, driving to our park, and beginning my walk is my moment.  As soon as I enter the lush green trail entrance, my heart calms and I forget about my to do list because I am entering my time with God.  For my husband, pulling out his Bible and devotional guide brings his moment with God.  He studies the devotional and then writes special scriptures on cards to place in a scripture box he has next to his devotional materials.  The most important part for both of us is that we have that moment to center ourselves, if only for a moment, on God.

As I watch people in our church and other friends, I see so many beautiful ways to spend time with God.  Small group times of sharing with special friends, helping in food pantries and soup kitchens, group Bible Studies, worship services, and individual quiet times are ways to find special times with God.  My personality calls for my personal quiet time with God.  Others need more group times with God.  God just needs us to be with Him where He can share Himself with us.

Prayer:  Father God, today we are praising You for the love You have for us.  Help us to see that love more by spending special time with you.  Help us see Your words as we read the Bible or as we see Your precious creation in nature.  Be with us today to see where You are and to help us remember to stop for a moment to spend time with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Time with God

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

The Gift of Music

Isaiah 55:10-12

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Thought for the Day:  God gives beauty in the music

Sitting in our choir rehearsal last night, I observed something beautiful.  As I listened to several pieces that have been rehearsed over the past few weeks, I heard pure beauty in the words and music. As we were about to do a final sing through of one piece, I grabbed my camera, set it to video, and started recording.  In that time, I realized that my heart and the hearts of everyone in that room was filled with God…so filled with God that the song took on a life of its own and came to ultimate beauty.  When I arrived home, I listened to it once again and was taken in, once again, to the feeling that God was near.

The piece we sang came from Isaiah 55, with these beautiful words: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  I realized after singing and then listening back to the song that the reason it touched me so much was that I was thinking about walking in our park.  Each line of the song seemed to talk about the beauty I see when I walk and even as we sang, I kept seeing visions of the animals and plants that surround me as I walk.  I thought of the many changes that take place in the park as the seasons change and how everything depends on God to become what it needs to be.  I feel God as I walk, and I felt God as the choir sang so beautifully.

Prayer:  Almighty God, thank you for music and song, and thank you for the beauty in nature you give us each day.  We praise You, God, for all things glorious and for all things given to us each day.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Beauty in Music and Nature

Seeing and Hearing the Sights and Sounds of God

Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

Thought for the Day:  God wants us to see and hear the sights and sounds of the world.

I have enjoyed taking pictures recently as I have walked around our nearby park, a park filled with beautiful land and awesome wildlife.  A couple of people recently have mentioned to me that I must have an eye to see things to take pictures of.  As much as I would love to think that so, I have a different thought about it.  First, many times it is just the camera – that automatic focusing camera that does a great job.  Then, it is timing – timing of the day that gives the best light.  But most importantly, it is God’s sounds and visions.  As I walk I see glimpses of where God is leading my eye – it is as if it is just placed in front of me.  And, as I walk I hear sounds – it is as if I have passed something God wants me to see and He has to make a sound to draw my attention back to the photo opt that I have passed up.  I would love to think it is my eye, but it isn’t, it is what God places in front of me.

I believe God leads us whenever He places something of beauty in our sight, and occasionally it is whenever He places something in front of us to make us think – that homeless person sitting on the corner, or that donation stand for food collection for a food pantry.  Yes, God places the beautiful things in our thoughts to remind us of how much He loves us, but then He places the needs in front of us to let us show His love to those in need.  Where is God leading our eyes and ears today?  Is it to view the beautiful animals and plants we can see if we visit a park, or is it to see with our loving eyes the needs of those around us?  Can you see it? Can you hear it?  God is right there showing us the way through our eyes and through our ears.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us in a precious way to bring our sight on those beautiful things around us.  Thank you even more for focusing our eyes and ears to hear the needs of those we meet.  Amen 

Prayer Focus:  The sights and sounds of God

Animal Mamas and Their Babies

Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

Thought for the Day:  God loves it when His children take in His creation

Watching the animals at our park nearby reminds me that God’s creation is absolutely amazing.  As I watch the squirrels scurrying from tree to tree and finding nuts to hold in their tiny paws to eat, I am completely in awe.  These creatures, no matter how young they are, know instinctively what they need to do to take care of themselves.  How do they know that they need to stash nuts to be available during the cold winter months – how do they know that?  And what about the beaver?  How do the beavers in our park know they are to gnaw and claw trees to make beaver dams.  Looking around our park, we see dams built in different areas and we can see the gnawed markings on the trees. Then, how is it that we do not see the beavers – we know they are there, but we hardly ever see them.  Then, there are the four adult geese that are always with the baby geese.  One can actually see the adults nudging the babies to go certain directions and the adults stand firm beside the babies to make sure nothing happens to them. And my favorite animals to see are the blue herons that nested in the tops of trees and now are beginning to teach their babies.    As I watch, I can see the mamas and their babies, and I can hear the squawking as they tell their mama they are hungry.  I can then see her fly off soaring through the air to find food to bring back to her babies.  There are a lot of God lessons to be learned at the park.

Reflecting on these and so many more animals, I am reminded of how God takes care of His children.  In those times of need, we often get down and can’t get up on our own.  Then God comes in, with either someone to help us through a situation or with some instance that leads us in the way we should go.  Sometimes we do not recognize that it is God who helps us until we look back on a part of our lives and we see it very clear.  God is our Father, and He will nudge us in the right direction.

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You and praise Your Holy name today as we realized how wonderfully You take care of us.  Thank you for the animals in our midst that remind us about how You take care of our every need.  Thank you that we and the animals are wonderfully made.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Animals taking care of their young.

Time of Laughter

Psalms 37:3-4

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Thought for the Day:  God brings laughter and fun if we open our hearts. 

I stayed home as my husband took our youngest child to his Cub Scout Meeting last evening.  They were sharing time playing games such as football and soccer to work on sportsmanship badges.  When they came home, I realized they did not come into the house so I looked out to see my husband and child throwing the football back and forth.  My husband had been having some knee difficulties, so I was surprised to see him running after the ball like a young kid.  There were many moments of laughter as they played.  At one point, we called my oldest son out because the football had rolled down toward our creek and we thought it best that our youngest not go down into that area.  It was then the laughter truly started.  The three began playing together with the football and frisbee that lay nearby.  At one point, I looked out to see my husband and oldest son throwing the football and my youngest grabbing a limb swinging himself down toward the creek.  More laughter, more fun, more beauty of life.

As my children and husband played together, I saw excitement on their faces and I heard laughter as it soared through the air.  As my husband came in, it was obvious that he had had the time of his life as he played with his boys.  As my boys came in, it was obvious that their time together had been special.  As a mother, my thoughts were thankful that God had brought that wonderful time to watch my family enjoying each other without the need of electronics or gadgets, just a football and three “boys”.  As I awoke this morning, I reflected on that time together and I thanked God.  God was in the midst of the game and God was in the midst of my family.  Laughter came through the game, and love shown through that precious time together.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for impromptu moments that bring love and excitement to our families.  As we know you are always with us, those moments bring you even nearer to us.  Help us find the laughter and love when our families spend special time together.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Laughter

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.

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.

The Hand Squeeze

(This Devotion is repeated, with a few changes)

A SIMPLE HAND SQUEEZE

1 Corinthians 13

So faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Twenty-two years ago today, my husband remained in the Trauma ICU at the MED.  The accident that happened the night before had injured him so badly that he was unrecognizable and unable to talk.  The doctors finally called us back to see him in the afternoon.  Seeing him with swollen face and lying so still was difficult, and I was not sure how to talk to him.   All I could think of telling him was how much I loved him.  As I held his hand, I felt a familiar hand squeeze.  It was three squeezes from David’s hand to mine.  I immediately squeezed his hand back four times, and cried “I love you, too.”  Throughout our relationship and marriage, we had the hand squeeze message of three squeezes for “I love you”, and four squeezes for “I love you, too”.  That was the best feel I could have ever imagined as I sat beside his hospital bed. Even though there was sense that he would not make it through this, God gave him the strength to give me the message, through a simple hand squeeze, of his love for me.  That simple thing, but not simple at all, gave me the confirmation that our love was strong and that God’s love was also with me.

Throughout our lives, it is important to see God in the little things. With me on that day, the hand squeeze showed God’s love for me and David in a most extraordinary way.  That simple hand squeeze, twenty-two years later, still reminds me of the wonderful message that our love was strong, and that God was going to make everything okay. My husband, Mark, and I began that handshake when we married and have continued through our years together, and I am reminded of his love for me when we communicate in that way.

Prayer:   God, thank you for the little simple things that show your love in such big ways.  Help us to see your love in the little things we encounter every day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE TRAGEDY

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.