There is Always Light

Isaiah 42:16

And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do and I will not forsake them.

Thought for the Day:  God is always shining His light

In the early morning, I looked out on our backyard noticing that we must be in for a dreary, rainy day because it was dark. The trees in the wooded area behind our house are beautiful and many. As I first looked out, it looked dark and I did not see any light peeking through the limbs. I sat for a very long time before I stood up and really looked out. Above the trees, I saw a hint of light shining brightly as it hit the top limbs. Then, as I walked through the house, I looked out the front windows where it was sunny and beautiful. There are very few trees in the front yard so the sun that hit the top limbs in the backyard touched everything in the front yard.

When we are going through hard times in life, we feel like we are living in a place where there is no happiness and no light. Many times, we feel there is no hope in the darkness of ever seeing any light. Then we pray and talk to God. We listen to Him and hear His guidance for our lives. As we begin hearing Him, we begin seeing the light and know there is hope where before we felt hopeless. My vision of the light hitting the top of our trees and the beautiful sunny front yard reminded me that God is always shining His light. He is always there. Sometimes, we just have to pray and be opened to hearing His voice, then that seemingly dark place will become well lit by the light that is already there. We just have to let God move the obstacles blocking the light from coming through.

Prayer: God, thank you for always being there. Help us learn to see that light even when we are going through hard times. We love you today Lord. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Seeing the Light

Easter is Different this Year

Empty tomb

John 20:11-16

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher).

Thought for the Day:  How is Easter Different this year?

Awaking on Easter brings a sense of newness, a sense of anticipation, a sense of wonder, a sense of love, and a sense that someone has loved us so much that He died for our sins and then arose to show His love for us.  “He Arose!”  “He’s Alive!” Before Easter, we normally go to the store and shop for the perfect Easter clothes so our family matches when we go to church dressed to celebrate together!  We awake and try to get ourselves dressed in our best, and we attempt to get our children dressed and ready to go to our Easter services.  That’s Easter, right?  That’s always been Easter, right?

But this year, this year is so different!  On this Easter morning, I laid in bed and watched our church’s Sunrise Service on Facebook Live.  A Sunrise Service without a lot of people, just individual people singing by themselves, yet together.  I watch our family as we prepare for our 11:00 Easter Worship service…but wait…my Minister of Music husband is here in the house.  He’s not supposed to be here on an Easter morning.  He is supposed to be at church getting ready in the Worship Center to prepare for the people who are about to come through the doors for Easter Services. Somethings just not right.

This year is different, so different on so many levels.  This year there is a pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic.  We are sheltering in place to do our part to slow the spread of a terrible virus that has found its way into our world.  People around the world are doing things “differently” this year.

But wasn’t that how it was the first Easter?  Wasn’t Mary only with a couple of other women when she walked to the tomb on that first Easter when she found that the stone had been rolled away.  Weren’t Peter and the other disciple alone as they ran to the open tomb after Mary told them about it.  Wasn’t Mary alone again when she wept at the tomb when Jesus appeared to her.  They grieved alone then they rejoiced alone.  Today, we know the story and we know our regular routine that is “normal” for us on Easter.  We rejoice together…a lot of rejoicing together.  Today, we are like Mary, and Peter, and the disciples.  We are like the disciples who fearfully hunkered down in the Upper Room.  We are like the disciples who were in disbelief when Jesus entered the room.  Today, we are hunkered down sheltering in our homes on this Easter.  But do we still see Him, do we still see the Risen Christ?  Indeed, we do!  We need Jesus Christ to be among us today and if we look closely, we can see Him clearly.  He is clearly among us in the people on the medical front line of this virus, he in the people who are helping neighbors in so many different ways, he is in the faces of our children as we read the scripture about the empty tomb, and we see Jesus in the faces of our loved ones.

So, today is different for an Easter.  It is not our normal annual Easter Sunday.  But is it still Easter? Indeed!  Why?  Because “Jesus is Risen…He is Risen indeed!”

Prayer:  Father God!  You are our amazing God!  You sent your own Son into this world to save us from our sins, and then you raised Him again to walk among us.  Help us, Lord, to see Jesus’ hands and feet in the people around us.  As we shelter in place, let us show our thanks to those who are helping those who are sick.  Let us find ways to show our love to those around us, even if we can’t see them face to face.  We love you Lord!  Happy Easter!

Prayer Focus:  Sheltering in Place on Easter Sunday

Mary’s Love

Read John 19

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,”Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. . – John 19:25-27 (RSV)

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

There is a beautiful song, “Pieta”, from the cantata, “The Power of the Cross” by Mark Hayes.  This piece so clearly shows the agony Mary experienced as Jesus went through his suffering on that day.  The more I have listened to the piece, the more I have visualized Mary as she followed Jesus through the day and then to the cross.  She could do nothing but to follow him holding on to the only promise she could fulfill, to love Him.   I had the opportunity to sing this solo several years ago at Collierville United Methodist Church, and I must say that for me, this was a once in a lifetime solo with the most powerful words I have ever sung.  I share this today. (My apologies – I shared from the beginning of the solo, but couldn’t stop at the end…you can either stop or listen to the rest of the cantata)

“Pieta”

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

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

A Mother’s Christ-like Love

Family at Browns Church

Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   

Thought for the Day:  Show Christ’s love to others

I am a mother!  I am a mother of two!  I am a mother of two precious boys who have created something in me that is so very special.  But, I have sometimes fallen short of being the mother I should be.  Today, I read a devotional about a caregiver that reminded me of my own mother and how she worked with my two brothers, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy.  And, how I as a sister sometimes fell short in helping my brothers with their needs.

My mother was amazing!  I have written about her before, but she was so amazing she deserves more words of praise. My sweet mama, Mary Jane Henderson, grew up in a small town in West Tennessee to two parents who adored her.  They were an older couple and she was “the apple of their eyes.”  Spoiled a bit, I am sure, but grew up with a kind and gentle spirit.

That spirit, I believe, is why God made her the mama of my brothers.  God knew that she was perfect.  She was the perfect person to take care of two boys who would be handicapped in wheelchairs from the time they turned 7-8 years old.  As I remember the story, I understand that the doctor shared with my parents that the boys would probably need to be placed in a home at some point because it would be impossible for my parents to take care of them.  With that statement, my mama made the promise to take care of my brothers in a way that only Mary Jane could do.  And she did!  For twenty-five years she did just that.  She took care of their needs of feeding them, turning them in their beds at night, lifting them into their wheelchairs to take them to the bathroom, managing to put them in the bathtub for their baths, feeding them when they couldn’t feed themselves, driving them to public school where friends took care of them through the day, taking them to college when each son majored in different areas and met in different buildings, taking notes for them in class when they couldn’t do it themselves, and crying for them when they were hurting.  The biggest thing she did was to make sure life was fulfilling for them including taking them on trips each summer and letting them participate in interests in school.  She was amazing.

I remember doing a lot for my brothers as well, but I know I didn’t do as well as I probably should have.  I did a lot, as a sister would do, but looking back I realize that I did not always do it with the spirit I should have.  I remember feeling at times tired of the “Donna, could you get this for me?” Why was I not like my mother, who was always ready to jump up and help?  I don’t know why, but I do know that I had a perfect example of someone living the Christ-life in my mother.

Now I look at myself and realize that God gave me children with needs just like my brothers, but without the wheelchairs.  I know I have not been that extraordinary mother as my mama was to my brothers and to me.  Where have I fallen short?  I have fallen short in always showing Christ’s love through my actions.  I have fallen short in giving the children what they need when they needed it.  And, I have fallen short in living the life with my children in the way my mother exampled life to me.  Last night, my youngest said, “Mama, you are always so nice and loving to me”.  That was a feel good moment and one that made me feel that maybe I, without knowing it, had become a tiny bit like my mother.  Today, and everyday, I promise (as my mother promised) to be the mother my children need.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for memories and thank you for placing examples of You in front of us each day. Thank you for loving parents who showed us how to show love to others. God, you see us, you know us, and you love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Parents of Special Needs Children

Don’t You Hate It When that Happens?

John 13:14

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

Going into church after I wrote my devotional yesterday morning was just a normal Sunday.  Well, except that it was Veterans’ Day Sunday and the Cub Scouts (including my own child) gave out poppies to everyone where they would remember the men and women who have given their lives for our country.  It was a normal Sunday that my children went to their Sunday School Classes and Worship.  It was while listening to the sermon by our Pastor Jeremy that I realized that he had to have read my devotional before preaching because he was talking to me.  Of course, he had his sermon prepared and memorized way before I wrote that devotional, but it still spoke to me.

It was about the way Jesus taught us to do things differently in our love for others and to step out beyond our church walls to minister to people.  It was about “spit”, and that Jesus used his spit mixed with dirt to make the mud that he placed on the blind man’s eyes to heal him.  It was gross and the thought that he used spit, that went against everything in the culture around him, to heal was totally beyond the norm.  Spit, one thing the soldiers did to degrade Jesus before he was crucified, was what Jesus used to healed a man. But the part of the sermon that “got” to my heart was a story about a woman who wanted to go to India to meet Mother Teresa.  After meeting her, the woman wrote a check to give as a donation.  Mother Teresa would not take the check.  The woman stated that she wanted to help in some way to which Mother Teresa took her out into the streets.  There she saw a small child in a ditch, dirty and weak.  Mother Teresa looked at the woman and said, “Help him.”  The woman said she couldn’t.  But she was given a basin of water and a cloth.  She began washing the child, taking care of the child, and then rocking the child in her arms.  Mother Teresa taught her what it means to go out into the world to serve others.

My devotional yesterday morning was about service and that I needed to find one thing that would help someone else.  I still do not know what that is, and I’m sure God will show that to me soon.  But, my body found itself sitting up during church when Pastor Jeremy talked about the woman with Mother Teresa.  What a beautiful sermon, Pastor Jeremy.  Thank you for touching my soul during that “Normal” worship service.

Hear Sermon below beginning at 27:54 and ending 57:25.

Prayer:  Hi God, thank you for bringing your words to us over and over and over again until we “get it”.  Help us heed the words you have for us each day.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

Extravagant Service

John 13:14

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

“What do we want to do this summer?” was the question asked in our home yesterday.  My first “want” was to get the house clean, as I have looked forward to school being out where I could dig into cleaning that has been put aside.  The next thing that came up was vacation…where are we going to go on vacation? Then the normal…of course…we will definitely be going to Lake Junaluska Music and the Arts week.  But today, I read the “Upper Room Devotional” for today which made me rethink my wants and dreams for this summer.  All of my “wants” for the summer had to do with ME.  The Upper Room Devotional for today shared the writer’s thoughts about her sister.  Her sister, from the time she became a believer in Jesus Christ, was known for her giving….extravagant giving to everyone she met.

Oh my, did that speak to me.  It seems that in my tiredness from teaching and directing choirs at this time of year, and being a mama to two boys has given me that thought that I’m doing what God has called me to do.   I do believe I am doing what God has called me to do in those areas of my life, however, am I giving extravagantly as the sister in the story? And, just as importantly, am I teaching my two sons to give extravagantly?  My honest answer to that is no…I am not.  I look at my sister in Christ, Christi, who teaches school but finds the time to volunteer during the summer in our church.  I see our MANY volunteers who serve in our Pantry Ministry in our church every Saturday morning serving friends in our community who need a little assistance.

So, what do I do? I take one step forward to begin doing something for others.  So, what do I do?  I listen for God to lead me and I prayerfully make decisions based on God’s words, not mine.

https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals/en-2019-05-26

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for your messages through devotional writings.  Those words, if we listen, can lead us to making decisions You urge us to make.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

The Lost Notebook

Losing the Notebook

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 Isaiah 41:10

Thought for the Day:  Give the control over to God.

So, today I have a confession, a true confession.  I confess that I tried to take too much control of a situation instead of letting God take it and run.  Three weeks ago, I left school and headed to our house to find my music notebook where I could direct my children’s choir in preparation for their Musical Presentation in just two weeks.  At the house, I could not find the notebook and I have to confess that I didn’t act the way I probably should have. I actually cried out to Mark and said, “Satan is trying to get to me.”  I finally took off out the door and drove the church in hopes that I would find my notebook there.  But, to no avail, it was not there.  In the next bit of time as I prepared for rehearsal, I couldn’t find a certain cd I needed, tables had not been set up where I needed them, and many other things seemed to fall through.  It was very frustrating.

Then the children began coming in.  They were crazy and wild, and I knew the rehearsal was not going to go well.  When most of the children arrived, I began a prayer time.  I shared with the children that I would pray for them through the rehearsal and that I needed them to pray for me.  I asked them to raise their hands if they would agree to pray for me. They all raised their hands. I then shared with them that I could not find my music with my notes and they they would have to remember what they were supposed to do.  I gave them some time to think through where they needed to move for each music piece then we started.  To my amazement, the music started and the children jumped into action…they acted out the songs better than they would have had I kept the control.  I realized that I had just witnessed a miracle and that God had placed in each child the memory of what they were supposed to do.  Mark shared with me later that he did a little yelling at Satan after I left the house and asked God to surround me with peace.

The next rehearsals went better as I did indeed find my music, but I let God take control to lead the children.  I didn’t even look at the notes I had made in my music.  The very last rehearsal that took place right before the presentation did not go well and in the few minutes prior to the presentation the children were not acting well and I thought to myself, “This might be interesting”.  The children found their places on the presentation area and the music started.  It was amazing and the children did everything perfectly.  As several parents have shared with me since, “The Spirit was obviously there.”  God sent His Spirit to intercede and the children obviously felt the spirit within their hearts.  God blessed us in those moments through the children and I believe God was blessed as the children told Jesus’ story in “The Tale of Three Trees.”

Prayer:  Thank you God for taking care of us when we try to take too much control.  You know what we need better than we do ourselves, but You need to take over our stubborn thoughts in order to make something wonderful happen.  You are an awesome God and I am thankful that you take our control away where You can lead us better. 

Prayer Focus:  Those always trying to take control.

My Secret Garden

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you; Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.   

Thought for the Day: Through Jesus Christ, we are alive  

I had my first “nothing day” planned as I awoke this morning, earlier than planned but probably the time I needed to arise.  I looked at my husband sleeping peacefully in the bed, I looked at my eldest son who came home after marching at a ballgame sleeping soundly with promise of sleeping until noon, and my youngest who was awake but very satisfied lying on the couch.  So, I got dressed to take a morning walk for the first time in a long time.

Arriving at the park I found a coolness in the air and I caught myself feeling very excited.  Walking around the lake as the fog was lifting from the cool nighttime brought such peace.  Every corner brought beauty and more peace.  Then my decision time came as I came upon the fork in the path where I had to choose the normal path or a dirt equestrian trail.  As I looked toward the entrance I simply said, “My Secret Garden” as the sun shown so beautifully through the trees in the entrance.  As I walked the equestrian trail I found a peace in my heart that I have not felt in a while, then I began praying.  I found myself praying out loud as I walked.  I prayed about my job and for friends who seem to be having struggles, I prayed for my family – speaking specific prayers for each person, and I prayed for continued peace after the walk ended.  Such peace has been missing from my everyday life for so long that all I want is the peace of the walk to continue.

So, what did I learn along the way today?  Peace is available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And He wants that peace for each of us.  That peace I felt entering the park and seeing all the beauty in my path brought me peace for a few minutes.  The peace I felt when I entered “My Secret Garden” because God shown his light through those trees to the entrance put me on a spiritual high.  The peace I felt as I prayed out loud to God about my loved ones and circumstances was so powerful.  Visiting with and then walking with a precious friend sharing in conversation brought such peace to me – my prayers are now shared directly for her as she shared with me about her personal illness.

Leaving the park is normally peaceful but today brought even more peace, as it feels coming home from a “Mountaintop” spiritual retreat, it takes a while to feel back to normal.  Today, I am still on that retreat so many hours later.  Thank you, God for taking me on my personal spiritual retreat.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and you are good!  Thank you for taking us on peaceful spiritual retreats.  Thank you for listening to our prayers when we take the time of silence to share them with you.  Please be with us as we find peace in a somewhat unpeaceful world.  We can find that peace only in you.

Prayer Focus:  Needing to feel God’s peace

God is Trying to Grab Our Attention

Matthew 13:16

But blessed are your eyes, fr they see, and your ears, for they hear. 

Thought for the Day:  Listen, see, touch, smell and sense God wherever you go.

As I walked recently in the park nearby, I began looking for the familiar images I normally see along my path.  I found I was walking quickly and that I was only taking in those things I have seen before.  But, then, as if God wanted me to know He was there, I began noticing other things.  At one point on my walk, I found I was smelling an aroma that seemed so fresh and clean.  That aroma brought me to a new appreciation for God’s beauty.  I remember thinking, “I can’t share this in pictures.”  I can only share it with someone nearby or with my God, who placed that aroma in my midst.  Walking a little further, and hearing the nature around me helped me realize that there were animals nearby that God truly wanted me to see.  As I had my camera focused close in on an egret, I heard a sound which brought my attention to a little green heron that was so near I could almost touch it.  It flew away but into the vision of my camera.

So, where is God trying to bring my attention today?  I am blessed on a day to day basis, that God is always bringing my attention to something beautiful.  It can be the sounds in nature as I hear when I walk.  It can be in the aroma of freshness in my walk or in the aroma of something cooking in the kitchen.  It can be in the conversation of my son when he gets into the car after a day of marching band camp – that thrill in his voice in talking about something he loves.  It can be in the sound of my youngest son in the great room with friends that come to visit.  It can be in my classroom as I prepare for a new school year.  God, in all His glory, is bringing my attention to Him every day and in every moment if, IF, I sense him in my sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and heart.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for walking with us day by day.  Thank you for the reminder in our senses that you are close by.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Where is God trying to bring my attention today?

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

DSC_3822 (2)DSC_3822 (3)

Psalms 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty can be found in the Insignificant

After I awoke this morning and as I drank my coffee, my husband came in and we began talking.  During our talk, he found himself on my facebook page where I had shared many pictures of my walk in our park.  As we talked about each picture, and the beauty that each on showed, he asked me if these were planted flowers or weeds.  I replied that I thought they were weeds as they just appear in places in the park.  As I looked at one particular picture, I stated that the colors in that one picture were glorious.  That little plant, enlarged in the photo to show the details, was just a little, insignificant plant until we looked more closely.  My husband replied, “That could be one of your writings”, and he was right. He stated that there are times when we look at what might seem insignificant, and miss the intricate details that God placed in His creation.  That child who is “just another child” was created by God.  That person who has found himself/herself in dire straits was created by God.  That weed that grows on the side of a path was created by God.  Looking at the picture of the plant again, remembering that this is God’s creation, brought my eyes to the intricate colors and blooms that I might have been missed if  I only looked from the outside.

God created me, God created us, and God created so much beauty around us.  In what seems insignificant, is God.   In what seems simple, is God.  Today, and every day, take in God.  Take in the beauty that God has placed in front of us and in the people we meet.  He is there, although sometimes we need to enlarge the picture to see the intricate parts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing intricate beauty in the things, plants, and people around us.  Help us open our eyes a little wider and help us look inwardly at Your creation to see You.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Intricate Beauty