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.

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Protection from a Storm

Psalms 107:28-30

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they had quiet, and the brought them to their desired haven.

Thought for the DayPray peace and love for those living in the midst of storms.

 For the first time since becoming a mother, I experienced a time that was different for me.  As I continued preparation for our children’s program at our church, the tornado alarms started going off and we were asked to go to the basement.  While there, we were all on our phones trying to find out more information.  I realized as I walked down that this was the first time that I was in one place and my children were both at their schools away from me.  As a teacher, I was always in the same building with at least one of them under the same roof.  Without being close to them, I found my heart beating quickly and began praying.  There was nothing else I could do.  My anxiety went up when loud alarms went off on all our phones.  I tried to remain calm on the outside, but inside I felt panicked.  All I could do was pray for God’s protection.  And God did protect our family from the storm.

Today the weather forecast calls for calm weather with the sun shining.  As I reflect on this time, I realize that during the storm and our time of panic, that we all turned to prayer to ask God to protect our families.  The storm passed and things returned to normal and we went on with what we were doing.  Yesterday brought me the feeling of panic and then the feeling of relief.  But as I feel that relief, I realize that so many affected by recent wildfires and storms are waking up with continued anxiety about family members who are away from them.  Today, I pray for them that they will feel God in their midst, as He is, and will know He will lead them through.

Prayer:  God, we praise You today and thank you for protection from the storms in life.  We pray today for those who have been affected by the fires and storms and that they will feel Your love.  Be with us today to know what we need to do to help spread Your love to them.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Those needing protection

Responding in Love

Psalms 34:18-22

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.  Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.     

Thought for the Day:  Pray for those in need, do what we can to help.

Watching the news about the devastating fires that swept across The Great Smoky Mountains into Gatlinburg and then Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has caused what feels like true pain in my heart.  I love the area and have enjoyed many times of fun with my family in those places. To see places we have enjoyed burned to the ground has been heart-wrenching.  As I kept listening to the news yesterday, however, my heart and mind went to the people of that area.  As we have visited the area through the years, we have met the people and have seen how so many of them live and work in that area.  They are not rich and they are not well off, they are hard-working people who own stores and motels, serve tourists in restaurants, help children on go cart rides, welcome visitors into theme parks, and give of themselves anyway they can.  Walking in the stores, we see so many who make their living by serving the millions who come through that area each year.  Those homes and businesses that have been shown on television and on the internet are not just buildings.  They belong to these hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have a place to go back to.  Some of them do not know where to turn because their livelihood rests in the charred ruins of their beloved home or store.

Today, I pray.  As a child of God, I pray and ask others to pray with me.  To that child of God who served us in that steak place that is no more, and to the one who laughed with us as we ordered pancakes, I pray.  To that hotel owner who welcomed us so sweetly as we visited or that resort worker who drove a golf-cart ahead of us to show us our cabin, I pray.  To that sweet friend who helped us find our child when he got lost from us in a theme park, I pray.  To those who welcomed us into their Worship space as we visited on a Sunday morning, I pray.  My heart aches that a special place for our family vacation has been taken away for a while, but my heart aches more for the people who live and work in that area for their lives have been forever changed.  “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Prayer:  Father God, we praise You today for your love for us.  Help us share that love with someone else today.  Lord, be with those who have been affected by the fires.  Please bring peace to their hearts and bring love to them in the most magnificent ways.  Help us know what we need to do to help them in some way.  All our love to you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Praying for Those in Need

Instinct

John 13:34-35

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for them.” 

Thought for the DayInstinctively give love to someone today.

Entering the park for my walk, I noticed a lot of bird sounds and movement in the trees.  I didn’t think much about it.  As I walked, it became obvious that the smoke that had blown in from the areas burning to the north was still lingering in the air.  Looking across the lake through smoke was strange and brought sadness to my heart as I thought about the areas up north where fires are burning and destroying beautiful land.  What I did not take in consideration was the effect the smoke was having on the animals.  As we see the smoke, we go to the internet and find out the cause then we go on with our routine.  But, the animals don’t know what is going on and as I observed them, they acted different from the norm.  Birds seemed to be on the move flying back and forth quickly between trees.  Baby birds were away from their mamas walking through the leaves in the woods.  Squirrels scampered more than usual and one seemed hunched down as it rested.  Animals were in different places from where I normally see them.  Ducks were in a marsh pond where I had not seen them before and they were not moving across the lake as usual. Most were very still.  I did not see a single goose where I normally see many along my walk, and I saw a deer in an area where I have not seen them before.  I witnessed a strangeness and I believe I witnessed fear in the animals.  And there was nothing I could do.

Watching the reaction to fear in the animals brought tears to my eyes as I walked.  There was nothing I could do for them and I prayed that instinct might bring them peace.  This morning, I awake thinking about God’s people around the world who are living in fear and do not understand what is happening to them.  The smoke of life has them scared for their families and frightened about what is going to happen next. Millions live in countries where earthquakes and famine have affected them and they do not know when the next meal will come.  Many live in fear of how neighbors and even family members might treat them.  As Christians, we know the peace of God and we have been taught to love our neighbors and to take care of each other.  Today, I looked at these animals and realized there was nothing I could do other than pray for them.  I know, though, that God created animals with strong instinct and the reactions I witnessed came from the protective instinct God gave them.  I know, also, that God gave us a commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.  That is our “instinct” when we see someone hurting. Today, more than ever, we need to have an instinctive love in our hearts for all of God’s creatures.  Today I pray for all around the world who need to feel the love of Christ.  I pray that our brothers and sisters will bring God’s love to them.  How can I show that love today?

Prayer:  Almighty God, we praise You today for making your creatures on earth with strong instinct.  You help those sweet animals know what to do instinctively when they are in trouble.  Thank you for giving us the love in our hearts to help those in need and to show love where we can.  Lord, please bring peace where there seems to be no peace today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Instinct to Love