Happy Anniversary

Psalms 143:8

Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul..” 

Thought for the Day:  God’s special plan

Today represents an interesting day and one that, although things changed, should be remembered.  My mama and daddy (Mary Jane and Gordon Henderson) were married on July 2, 1957.  My first husband, David, and I were married on July 2, 1988.  David and I were married on mama’s and daddy’s 31st anniversary – there is a photo in our wedding album of our family’s orange and white van with “Happy 31” drawn on one of the windows .  Well, today would have been David’s and my 31st anniversary.  Of course David was killed in a car accident a few months before our 7th anniversary, but the memory of being married on Mama’s and Daddy’s 31st anniversary still touches my heart. Of course, God blessed me with a mother who wanted her daughter to find a second love, so she brought Mark into my life and as they say, “The rest is history.”  Mark brought me to a new place, a new life, where dreams come true.  Mark brought me to a place with children, two of the most precious boys anywhere.  Mark and I have been now in ministry for 22 years and that is extra special to me.  God knew my story before I was born and planned for every season.  David and I were a team in marriage and had a special time together.  Mark and I have now been another team in marriage for 22 years and we have been together through a full life where we have cried together and laughed together as we witnessed miracles and we lived through grief.  Mark has even cried over David’s death as the memories have occasionally come.

Today, I have parents in Rita and Charles Shaw, David’s parents, and they have also been parents to Mark and grandparents to our boys.  I am thankful to them for the gift of their son, and the gift to Mark and me of welcoming us into their family.  I am thankful to Mark for taking this girl who lived through grief more times than anyone should, and made her his wife to love, cherish, and to be in ministry with.  I am a blessed woman and I do not take that for granted.

Happy 62nd Anniversary Mama and Daddy!  I love you.

Prayer:  God, you know us before born and you know the lives we will lead.  I am thankful that through every step of my life that you have shown me the next steps.  Thank you for allowing us to still have the memories, but for also allowing us to see the path before us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Anniversaries

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Special Memories

Fulton Parsonage (3)

Lamentations 3:21-25

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 

Thought for the Day:  God lets us remember. 

The Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place last week.  As we have lived in Georgia for the past 2 ½ years, it was a joy to make the drive to Paducah, KY, to see lifelong friends.  A lot of hugs took place so my husband and I both felt very special.  Both being United Methodist Preacher’s Kids (PKs), it was a great homecoming.  One of our dear friends and his wife are both ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church, and he was a youth in one of the churches where my Daddy served – and he lived across the street from us.  One of those special hugs came to me from John as I love seeing him at conference.  But, he surprised me with the words, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage.”  That was where we lived from my junior year in high school through my freshman year in college.  As I took his statement in, I realized that my memory bank from those years began coming into clear view in my mind.  It was like a gift had been opened and my past memories burst out of the box.

I immediately began sharing my thoughts as they came beginning with, “Have you checked the walls and door frames for small dents?”  During our time in that parsonage, my brother received an electric wheelchair.  For a period of time, as he adjusted to driving the wheelchair, a lot of bumping into door frames took place as he drove circles through the house.  I understand the carpet had to be replaced when we moved.  As my husband and I drove around the neighborhood after conference, I told him about the time my brother decided to take advantage of his independence (in his electric wheelchair) and began a trek around the block.  After a period of time, we realized he was not in the house.  We found him with his wheel stuck in a small hole beside the road.  What a laugh we all had when we realized what he had done! What a memory!

One statement, one precious statement, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage?”, took me somewhere special.  Over time, as I no longer have my parents and brothers, I have found that many of my memories have begun to fade.   This experience caused so many memories to come clear in my mind, and to recognize that those memories are there – they just need a little jolt to come to light.  Since my Daddy died 12 years ago, I have found that some memories have faded through pain in remembering.  But now, I realize the joy in remembering can take a lot of the pain of life away.

Prayer:  God, thank you for special friends and special memories.  As we go through life and “life” takes us to new places, it is important to remember our past.  Our past made us who we are and we are your children.  Thank you for bringing our past memories to us as we remember those special times in our lives – those times You gave us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Memories

Rita on my Caller ID

RITA1 John 4:7-1

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Thought for the Day:  Pray and see who God sends

Yesterday was a hard day!  You know, the kind of day you want to crawl back into bed and do a total redo.  The kind of day you feel you want to run away, but there is no place to run away to.  Those days come, and when those days come, you just pray for God to come in and save the day.  Then I experienced some time alone because my “boys” were out doing a scout outing.  I found myself yelling a bit, crying a bit, and getting a lot of “stuff” out of my system.  Then, wouldn’t you know it the phone rang and on the other end was my mother, no not my mother in heaven, but my Lolli who loves me like a daughter.  How did she know?  How did she know I needed to hear a voice of someone who loves me?  Because God told her she needed to call me.  She doesn’t normally call on Saturday morning.  We talked and cried, and shared so much with each other.

I no longer have my mother and father with me, and I miss them so much.  The three of us could always feel when we needed to call each other.  My mother would call and after I answered the phone (no matter how “happy” I made my voice sound), she would say “What’s wrong?” immediately making me burst into tears.  My daddy would knock on my door at those moments when I was needing him most.  It seemed our cars would almost drive themselves somewhere we didn’t intend them to drive and we would look up to see the other pulling into a parking area.  I believe those were God moments, and I believe that call from Lolli out of the blue was a God moment yesterday morning.  God answers prayers, even when we do not know what we are praying for, in ways that we need.

Prayer:  Father, God, thank you for loving us!  Thank you for loving us and for answering prayers in the most unexpected ways.  Thank you for placing those people in our lives who simply become You to us.  You are our awesome God!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Friends who become “God” to us.

It is Well with My Soul

Psalms 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Thought for the Day:  It is Well with My Soul

There are experiences in life when one knows immediately that the moment will be remembered for a lifetime.  We sat in our pew, taking in the music and speakers during the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  The service was beautiful with some of the most precious words being spoken about this wonderful man.  Then, the final organ/piano duet began to the song, “It is Well with My Soul”.  The instrumental music was gorgeous, and my heart wanted to sing.  When the last verse began, we began hearing a beautiful soprano voice.  From where we were sitting, toward the front and toward the side, we were able to see the faces of the family members.  As the voice sang, we looked toward the family and realized that our dear friend was the one singing.  She sang:

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend Even so, it is well with my soul It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul It is well, it is well, it is well, It is well, it is well, it is well It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

As I watched her, and as I watched her family, I felt that something great was coming.  I pulled out my cellphone, and without using video I began recording.  As the congregation listened, and as I was one who was able to watch, I saw her hand go into the air.  That moment, that special moment, my heart knew that “It was truly well” with her soul.  Her daughter then joined her as the climax of the song came.  Then, an even more special moment came when our friend sang the last note….so high, so pure, so perfect.  My heart, our hearts, leapt with the sound of that voice.  My heart, our hearts, knew that she was going to be okay.  She, in singing those words, gave her family peace that their father, father-in-law, grandfather, and her husband was in the arms of God and that God had his arms around each of them.  “It is Well with my Soul”. What strength she showed in sharing with everyone in the room that “It was Well with Her Soul.”

The song, “It is Well with my Soul” was written by a man who had just experienced great tragedy.  It is amazing that this hymn that we sing often has been sung for so many who have grieved, and has helped bring strength.  Our friend took it to a new level as she sang, giving everyone in attendance a sense that “it is truly and wonderfully well with our souls.”

(History of “It is Well with My Soul”)

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing us peace in unexpected ways.  God, I ask that you wrap your arms around every member of this sweet family, that they will know your love and peace.  Thank you for speaking to all of us through the beautiful words, “It is well with my Soul”.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  It is Well with My Soul

The Open Door

Acts 14:27

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

Thought for the Day:  God opens doors

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Friends who are encouragers

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

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

Joy and Warmth

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

Thought for the Day:  The Joy of the Lord can be felt through those people and experiences near us.

What brings the joy of the Lord?  What brings a warmth to the heart?  Recently, I realized that a joy was felt in my heart as I talked to a friend in the school where I have a long-term substitute position.  I said, “You know, it is funny…all of this time I have not been working, I have gone to the church early each Wednesday to prepare my children’s choir room rehearsal.   But since I have been working, I have gone in just a few minutes early to get ready for the children to come in the choir room.  I truly believe these rehearsals of last minute entrance have been the best rehearsals.”  She replied, “That’s because you are where you are supposed to be.”  As she said that, I knew she was right.  Although I am in a substitute position and still have no idea what my future holds, I am teaching in a school each day and I feel I am doing the thing that brings me pure joy.  Because of that joy, other areas in my life seem to be more in line.  Now, at church, I hear children say, “Mrs. Locke, I saw you at school the other day”, and at school I hear, “Mrs. Donna!!!”, and feel arms coming around my waist for a hug.  That is where the warmth comes to my heart.

Today, the song, “The Joy of the Lord” comes to my mind as I think about this joy that has come in a simple recognition from a child that they “Know” me and through the warmth that comes from those arms coming around me for a hug.  I wrote recently about what “Faith” is and said, “Faith is believing without seeing”.  Today, I realize that I have been in the midst of God and through these children.  I have seen His face as He has shown His faithfulness to me.

“The Joy of the Lord”, by Twila Paris

Prayer:  Father God!  Today we praise You and worship Your Holy Name.  You are a gracious and loving Father.  Today, thank you for bringing us joy and warmth through the people you place in the walk around us.  Thank you for letting us “see” through faith, the unconditional love You have for us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel joy and warmth

The Laundromat

The Laundromat

 1 John 4:9-12

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.    

Thought for the Day:  Love our brothers and sisters around the world.

 “We have to order a part for your washing machine.  It will take about a week to come in and we will call you.  You cannot use the machine until then.”  These were not the words we wanted to hear but as soon as I heard them I knew my afternoon was going to be spent at a laundromat.  After looking on the internet to find the closest ones with good reviews, I sorted and bagged all the clothes and towels, put my laundry supplies in a basket, and went by a store to get some change.  All set, I began my drive and found that the two laundromats in the little town I had driven to were covered up with people, so I got back in my car and began driving.  I ended up a long distance from where I had planned but it was good.  When I entered, I found a couple of people washing clothes, and the laundromat was clean and nice.  I began putting my clothes in the washing machines and setting them to start.  My thought was that I would study for a test I have coming up, but found that by the time I finished loading and starting the washing machines, my first load was finishing.  Then the drying began.  My process of folding and hanging the clean clothes began and continued for quite a while.  My blessing came as I shared conversations with a mother and daughter who were washing clothes for their families.  They shared about their families, including many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  And I shared about my boys and my husband, and how they were such blessings to me.  Then, I talked to a man who was in the laundromat with his brother.  They lived together but their dryer had gone out recently.  I giggled as he asked questions to an older lady about what temperature to set the washing machine.  He was a very kind man who seemed a bit overwhelmed over his situation.  I then witnessed another lady as she and her elderly mother came into the laundromat holding a huge bedspread.  I knew she was new to going to a laundromat because she came in and went directly to one of the dryers and placed her bedspread inside.  She laughed out loud when she realized what she had done.  I’m sure she was there because her home washing machine would not hold such a large piece.  My conversations continued throughout the afternoon, and I finished my job and began to leave.  As I made the many trips to my car with the hanging clothes and baskets, I was blessed to have a couple of young men opening the door for me.  I found that my time at the laundromat was delightful and I met some pretty fascinating people.

As I left and remembered all my conversations and the people I met, I realized that I had been in the company of other God’s children.  It was obvious we came from different backgrounds, but we were all there together with the purpose of cleaning clothes for our families.  The conversations were wonderful, but just a sweet was the experience of having families of different ethnicities as one little girl shared with me that my washer had stopped, and one young man opened the door for me several times in a very polite and precious way.  I was in “the family of God” in the laundromat, and I feel very blessed today having shared that special time with them.

Prayer:  Father God, You are almighty and You are our Father.  Help us each day to remember that we are all Your children and no matter our backgrounds, we are all living together in this beautiful world.  Help us learn to better respect and love our brothers and sisters around the world.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Brothers and sisters in Christ.

Playing in the “Snow?”

jonathan-and-brooks-by-the-fire

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you.

Thought for the Day: Where will we see and be Jesus to someone today.

Watching my youngest son play with his neighborhood friend “in the snow” was a cherished moment to me.  As we awoke, we realized that we did not get the snow that had been forecast.  We woke up slowly and just kept warm in the house.  A text came in, “Can Jonathan come and play in the snow?”  I got my son dressed warmly and sent him out.  Realizing that there was only a tiny bit of snow, I wasn’t sure how they were going to play.  But they did, they pushed the sled across the small amount of snow on our back patio.  The played with the snow that covered the windshields of the cars.  They played on the trampoline at his friend’s house.  They drank hot chocolate and sat by the fire.  As the day progressed, I realized these two little guys had been together most of the day.  It did not matter how little snow they had to play in, they made the best of it and made up ways to play.

Thinking about their special friendship that has grown over the past couple of months, I realize that they might already have that type of friendship where nothing else matters except that they are together.  I heard from some special friends of my fathers this week that there were times he knew he was needed but that he would just come and sit, without saying a word, to show his love for them.  I have a friend, a special friend, who I do not see very often but it is that type of friendship where we can always pick up where we left off.  God places special friends in our lives to be Jesus to us.  God places us in the lives of others to be Jesus to them.  Watching these two little guys “playing in the snow” made my heart warm as I realized they were building that type of friendship – My son saw Jesus yesterday – I believe his friend saw Jesus as well.  Where will we see and where will we be Jesus today!

Prayer:  God, thank you for blessing us with friends.  Help us realize that those friendships are from You.  Help us use those friendships to see Jesus, and to be Jesus to others.  Be with us as we cherish and love the friends around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Friends