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

Walking Around God’s Park

Deuteronomy 8:7-9

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, or fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity in which you lack nothing.  

Thought for the Day:  Nature brings us closer to God.

Thinking about God’s creation and that I get to learn more about His creation when I walk at our park is overwhelming to me.  God has given a beautiful place for the people in our community that has a little bit of everything and I love it.  As I begin my walk each day I look at my watch and set a time to finish.   But, as I walk I quickly realize that God has set my goal and it has nothing to do with my time goal.  He has a goal for me to see everything I can in the creation He has put in front of me.

My walk begins through a wooded area and quickly comes to a deck that goes out into a beautiful area of the lake.  From that deck, I can see the blue heron nesting area, geese flying and swimming in the lake, beautiful water being edged by huge, gorgeous trees.

 

From there I walk on taking in the blooms that appear high in the trees and an occasional perfect pose of a bird here and there.

 

I always walk to the water’s edge to look across the lake at the blue herons and I hope for the perfect picture.  Not far from that point, I come to another deck that looks out toward an island with mimosa blooms, more geese, and another view of the herons.

 

As I turn around to walk the path out from the deck, I occasionally am greeted by a family of geese – and I carefully walk past them not to bring attention to myself as I walk past their babies.

 

From there, I walk into a water area where I see a beaver dam, turtles on logs, occasional blue herons, and pure beauty in the water.

 

Going into the next section is my time of want and concern.  That area is where I see that occasional copperhead snake laying on dry limbs and straw warming in the sun.  I always look for them and feel success when I get a picture or when I don’t see any at all.  My heart becomes a little more active when I see that snake.

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Going on I enter the meadow area of the park.  That is where I see birds and my favorite sights, butterflies.  The flowers in the meadow seem to welcome the view of a camera as they smile and wave to those passing.  I have seen many deer there and as I look back to the lake I can see herons seeking food near the waters’ edge.  And, I hear the geese calling to each other right before I see them fly into the lake area.

 

As I walk into the woods from the meadow/lake area, I look in the direction of our church to see the cross atop the tree tops across the lake.

 

As soon as I walk into the wooded area, the temperature immediately drops probably ten degrees and the images totally change.  At this point, I look up into the trees and see the beauty in the leaves as the sun catches them just right.  I listen as I walk and hear the rustling of leaves as a squirrel passes by, I turn quickly as I hear a bird and realize it is right by the path, I search as I can through the trees as I come to the nearest spot to see the blue herons and can rarely get a picture through the limbs.

 

Going on I make the decision whether to go up the steep grade walk to my favorite place where I hear the small waterfalls in the creek and can share my special few minutes with God.  I walk back down the path and continue to the main path.  As my walk continues I get to visit with more animals in the wooded area then I come to a swampy area.  That area is filled with ducks, blue herons, the new little green heron, and yes the occasional snake.  I love this area as the trees seem so green as they seem to grow right out of the water.

I continue around the corner to see turtles burrowing into the warm mulch laying their eggs.  Such a tremendous blessing to see yet another species of animals nesting as they increase their family.  Walking the last 8th mile continues through the woods where a creek runs along the walk and comes into a water area.  In this area, I can see where beavers have created dams and have left their remnants of gnawed limbs beside the water.

As I exit that area there is another deck that looks out over an area normally filled with geese yet containing minnows, dragonflies, lizards, and turtles swimming in the lake where one only sees the head coming up for air.

Walking around the corner, I come to the last deck that at almost any time, I can look down to see logs covered with turtles warming in the sun.  And, if I hit at the right time, I can see families of turtles swimming together as they teach their young.

So, my goal of time is wiped out completely as my ears and eyes seem to follow God’s voice through the sounds at the park.  But, I believe God’s goal is met for me when I come home, open my computer, view my images of the day, and then share them with friends who appreciate them.  God is with me all the time, I know that, but I sure seem to feel closer to God when I find myself closer to nature, God’s nature.

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Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us so much that you created beautiful places for us to see Your creation.  You show up and show out when You bring your animals, plants, and climate all together to created beauty that only You can create.

Prayer Focus:  A Walk in the Park

Mary’s Love

pietaJohn 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. 

Thought for the Day:  All she could do was love.

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.

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

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

We Called…They Came

John 15:12-17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  This I command you, to love one another.”

Thought for the Day:  God loves us enough to send friends who we can hug and who we can lean on.

We called and they came!  Twenty-years ago, we called as we moved me from my home near Memphis to our new home in Dyersburg and they came!  One year ago, when we needed help packing things in our house in Collierville before we moved to Dacula, we called and they came….and stayed for a week.  There are some friends who you know before you call, will drop everything and come whenever you are in need.  They are our friends Jimmy and Becky.  They have been my husband’s friends for many years and mine since I married in to “their family”, well at least their family of friends.  Their son, John, is a precious young man who loves our family in a special way and we love him, and I am so proud that our children have grown into such friends.  As we drove into their driveway yesterday afternoon, such joy filled our hearts.  We had not seen them in so long and had missed the wonderful conversations we always seemed to have.  We picked up where we left off and enjoyed our time together.  God placed these God loving friends in our lives and placed them to “Be God” to everyone in whom they share time.  And they do it well.

This morning I reflect on these friends, and others, and easily see where they have been “Jesus” to us.  They live to love Christ and that love comes through doing for others and loving others.   This morning, I awaken feeling “filled with Jesus” because we spent that time with Him yesterday through these precious friends.  How can I “fill someone with Jesus” as I walk and talk today?

Prayer:  Our Father, thank you for the friends You have placed in our lives to be there in good times and bad.  They are our family, and they are Jesus, to us.  Be with us and teach us better how to serve others where we can be more like You.  Amen. 

 Prayer Focus:  Friends

Jesus in the Children

Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Thought for the Day:  See “Jesus” in the smiles of children

In my daily routine, I work with students on different grade levels.  I have been blessed to be in a place, for a time, where I work with small groups of children.  In my time with them, I have given some of myself to teach them.  Seeing the “light bulbs” go on when they understand a concept, and witnessing excitement when they know an answer, makes my heart leap as I know something has gone right.  But what I have received from them seems to be a true gift for me.  These precious ones, these children who appreciate you for just being you, have given hugs, fist bumps, and those special words, “Are you coming to get us today!” – with a “Yes!” called out after I have affirmed their question.  What a precious blessing I have received from these darling children!

As I arose this morning, I remembered a little boy who helps me with one of my groups.  Each day, he comes in to help me with my last group of the day giving encouragement to the children.  After that time, and before dismissal, we ask each other about what our plans are for the evening or for the weekend.  We wish each other well and give the words, “See you tomorrow!”  My day ends with this boy, this precious boy, bringing my heart to a grand place before I leave for the day.  Who are these children? Who is this boy? My answer is, “God!”  To me, these children with their special hugs, smiles, and sweet words are “Jesus” to me.  These children remind me of His love and compassion.  These children bring me a special gift each day, and I can only pray that they see even a tiny glimpse of the love of Jesus in me.  God has brought me to this place – even for a small time – to be with “Jesus” through these children.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me the Bible tells me so.”

Prayer:  God, thank you for children and for the love they bring.  Thank you for their innocence in the way they accept us adults right where we are.  Help us each day to show You to them in the way we speak and by the smile on our faces as we greet them.  As we see You face in them, may they see Your face in us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Children

The Turtle and the Log

Proverbs 19:20-21

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future.  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. 

Thought for the Day:  Listen to the voice of wisdom.

The turtles that swim and climb logs in the lake nearby always intrigue me.  Seeing parents and babies swimming together catches my eye every time because I see how they resemble each other, except for the difference in size  As I continue to watch, I see that the baby is trying to do everything the adult turtle does.  Speaking to a gentleman at our park recently, he said that he enjoyed watching the turtles on the logs as they congregate close to each other.  As he watched recently, he viewed a turtle trying to climb up on the log.  Every time the turtle would get its feet up on the log, his weight pulled him off.  As the gentleman continued watching, he saw the turtle doing this over and over again.  Then, as he watched, he said that he could almost hear the other turtles saying, “Hey you will never get up there – you have to swim to where the log goes under the water – there you can climb up!”  After some time, the turtle seemed to understand and after more struggle, and “listening”, he finally swam to where the log dipped under the water and he easily swam and then climbed onto the log.

Isn’t that how we are sometimes.  We have to try things on our own, sometimes making something easy very difficult.  When we finally listen to wise voices, we decide to follow their direction and then find out we were making things much too hard.   Is this what we do with our faith in Christ?  I know I tend to make things hard because I struggle to hear the words that He wants me to hear.  Faith can be very simple, we simply need to listen and turn toward Christ’s voice.  Then we will understand his love and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  Climbing that log should be simple.

Prayer:  Father God, You are our awesome Lord who we love.  Thank you for always begin there for us leading us to where You want us to go.  Be with us as we go through our day and help us hear Your voice of wisdom as we make decisions through the day. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Listening to Wisdom

Out of the Mouths of Children

2 Timothy 3:14

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s words often come through the mouths of children

My husband’s father lived in a retirement home in his later years. His area of the building had a gathering area beside the elevator on his floor. The elderly men and women spent time in that sitting area sharing stories with each other and watching to see who was going to get off the elevator. We went often to visit but one special day we got off the elevator to see many precious people with Mark’s dad, Reeves, sitting right in the middle. Our son, Nathaniel, who was five at the time went directly to PawPaw and sat beside him. The little ladies immediately began commenting on his beautiful red hair and how cute he was. After a few minutes, Mark asked Nathaniel if he would be willing to say the 23rd Psalm for these sweet friends. Reluctantly, he agreed and stood proudly and said the 23rd Psalm, which brought tears to the eyes of several of the ladies and oohs and aahs from others. PawPaw, in such a proud way, smiled and hugged Nathaniel for what he had done. The next few minutes were precious and all of the elderly ladies wanted to hug Nathaniel and touch his hair. He took it in never letting on how uncomfortable he was. His sweet spirit led the way and gave these friends a wonderful gift to remember. As we left that evening, Mark stated, “Now you know they are going to be talking about you (Nathaniel) for the next two weeks. Son, you gave them something very special.” We could almost hear the conversation, “Do you remember that cute little red-headed boy who said the 23rd Psalm – Reeves, you have a precious grandson.”

On that day, Nathaniel was God’s messenger to these precious people that they were loved. Nathaniel, at age 5, gave them an unexpected gift and one that they would remember for the rest of their lives. The words possibly gave some of these elderly ladies and gentlemen a reminder of God’s words to them: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Prayer:  God, from the mouths of children, we hear Your words. Thank you for our children who through their innocence give us Your words. Be with those special older friends that they feel your presence today. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE AGING

See Him There

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Matthew 14:32-36

And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.”  And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.”  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.” 

Thought for the Day:  Remember Gethsemane – See Him There

As we rehearsed for our Easter Cantata, the women began practicing a piece that brought back many memories.  “See Him There” is a beautiful piece from the Cantata, “The Day He Wore My Crown”, that tells of Jesus’ time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As we sang the words of Jesus agony as he prayed, the image of Jesus kneeling and praying came to my heart and I could feel the tears coming as the emotions filled my heart.  My memories took me to a time almost 16 years ago where the song was sung in another choir presentation I was a part of.  The song was a part of a large presentation where many were involved in acting out the story of Holy Week.  My memory brings me to the area behind a scrim when the lights came up to see Jesus kneeling in the Garden in totally agony.  Jesus knew He was going to die.  Jesus felt the pain of human emotions as he thought of the pain he would endure the next day.  Jesus was human, but his love for God and for us gave him the strength to do what he knew he had to do.

Sometimes we sing and hear songs that, because of the repetition in hearing them causes us to take the words for granted.  We don’t hear the words as strongly as we probably should.  As we rehearsed the notes last evening, I think I took the words for granted at first.  But after the notes were learned and we began singing with the passion of the song, I saw Him….I saw Jesus….I saw Jesus loving me so much that he prayed and then he walked the next day up the hill to Golgotha to die on the cross for me.  The lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes let me know that “I got it!”  I “got” the passion I received so many years ago as I saw “Jesus” behind the scrim kneeling in The Garden.  Do you “get it”?  Jesus loves you!

Prayer:  O Heavenly Father!  You sent your son, Jesus, to live on earth.  He taught us how to live and he taught us how to love.  We praise You for who You are and thank you for loving us so much that you sent Your Son to earth to save us.  Help us remember Jesus as we live each day and as we love those around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Jesus showed us how to live and how to love.