Memories of the Past Bring Wisdom for Today

James 1:5

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Thought for the Day:  Let memories teach us how to live today. 

You know that moment when you realize that everything has changed.  That happened this week when the Governor of our state announced that public schools would be out for the rest of the school year.  With saddened hearts, we realized we had already seen our students for the last time sitting at their desks in our classrooms.  Now, we will continue teaching these children through digital learning, as we have been for several weeks, but this is a new reality.

The very next day, after hearing that news, a picture showed up on Facebook.  A time-lapse evidently took place as I saw a second-grade group picture from my third-year teaching.  Time lapse of thirty years took me back to a time when I was just learning how to teach, and just learning how to adapt to having children in my life.  Three of those students have reached out to me in special ways since that “time-lapse” making me feel very special…and very old.  One, I had been Facebook friends for several years who was special to me, even way back when.  She was with me for two years as I changed grades and she was placed back in my classroom.  Another sweet friend heard me sing a solo as he visited our church one day, about 15 years ago.  He was with a friend and asked if that lady singing was Mrs. Shaw.  He was told, no, but he said he recognized my voice from me singing to the class years before.  He came to the choir room and asked if I ever taught at Woodstock ES, and I was delighted to say, “Yes!”  What a special moment in this teacher’s life.  On Thursday, before I saw the picture on Facebook, I received a friend request from someone I didn’t recognize.  After I saw the news feed about the picture, I realized he was one of my students from that class.  He and I began messaging through Facebook, and I learned that he is now an assistant principal in a middle school in Texas.  Oh, my, what a celebration of memories I received from a class from so long ago.

Now, back to today and the knowledge I will be continuing to teach students through Digital Learning.  How will I keep it special?  How will I still make a connection with these sweet boys and girls?  Reading Krista’s, Shermarco’s, and John’s words over these two days makes me want to connect with my students even more.  I believe God sent that picture to me through Facebook, and He sent these three students to remind me of how important these children’s lives are today.  How important these babies are when they are trying to learn at home with out the physical sight of their teachers.  God gave me a special gift in bringing me into the career or teaching so many years ago, now He has brought me a special gift of hearing from these three students from my past.   So, today I don’t know how I will make these days special for my students.  But God does, and He will lead me to how He wants me to teach.  With Him in the mix, He will carry us all through.

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for memories of our past to bring us to the wisdom of the present.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Memories from the past

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Psalms 42:1-2

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Thought for the Day:  Finding God

In the midst of a new reality, at least for awhile, there is a huge cloud that seems to follow each of us.  “Stay inside”, “Go for a walk but stay 6 feet away”, “Don’t go anywhere that is not a necessity”, and “Don’t break the curfew” seem to be mentioned throughout the day.  I have found myself holding my breath when I walk near someone at the park and feel ashamed when I go to the grocery store thinking someone is going to give me a virus that will be passed to my family.  “What does a person do?”

Today, I went to the park again, by myself.  Yes, I held my breath when I walked past someone, and I made sure I was at least six feet away from all I saw.  Then, I found myself in a section that is so secluded.  I thought, “I can either keep going in the same direction as normal or I can walk further up the secluded trail.”  I chose the secluded trail.  I felt myself calm down and feel God’s presence instead of the feeling of fear and doubt.  And, to be honest, I wanted to look for some deer that I normally see on that trail.

As I walked, I took my time and saw beauty in every direction.  I took pictures of the trail itself and of many of the plants that shown beautifully as the sun shown through.  Finishing the thirty-minute walk through the secluded section, I did not see “my” deer.  I continued my walk near my normal trail.

Then it happened, I looked up to the top of the hill and saw a deer, two deer, three deer…five deer.  I worked hard to get even one picture to focus.  As I watched, I noticed the direction the deer were walking.  So, I followed.  I followed them to a path I had not been on before, and one that would give me the greatest surprise.  The five deer seemed to appear in front of me once again.  But this time, it felt as if they trusted me and they each seemed to give me a pose.  Okay, alright, so they were probably just watching me closely, but I can always dream.  I took so many pictures of those spectacular creatures.  As I continued my walk, I realized I was on a trail I always “watched” from afar and never tried.  I am so glad God gave me those deer who led me to a beautiful place.

In these days, these days of pandemic, God has not stopped trying to get our attention, but He has had to do it in different ways.  Yesterday, my attention was captured by a family of deer whose beauty took me to a new place, a placed secluded where my attention could be given all to God.  Where is that quiet place for us right now?  Where can we be nearest to God?  Where can we be a “Mary” in the midst of a storm to find our peace in the Master?  Can we slow down today enough to hear his voice through the “deer”?

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for bringing our attention to you, even in the midst of a pandemic.  You are near to all of us right now, but so much is happening around us that we can’t see you.  Help us “see” You throughout our days and help us find peace.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel God.

 

 

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

God’s Gift

Matthew 18:5

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” 

 Thought for the Day:  When we receive God’s gift.

“Are you still interested in adopting another baby?” were the words we heard when we answered the phone.  Hannah’s Hope was the adoption agency for the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church and they were calling.  We had been on the waiting list for sometime, but were still in awe when the call came.  “There was a baby boy born last night. Would you be interested?”  Our thought was “Of Course!”.  We were very interested but asked if we could take some time to pray about it and to call them back later.  We prayed as soon as we got off the phone that God would give us a sign either way.  I was 49 at that time and Mark was about to turn 52.  We had already promised our 6 ½ year old, Nathaniel that we would take him swimming at a friend’s house so we wanted to fulfill that promise.  We had a great time at our friend, Elizabeth’s, home to swim and headed home on a curvy road that led home.  As we drove, we were quiet and thinking about that sweet baby boy.  Then it happened, Mark gasped!  Thinking there was something wrong, I asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Nothing…He was born ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!”  At that moment, that very moment, we said, “We are supposed to adopt that baby.”  God had given us a sign, a VERY STRONG DEFINITE SIGN, that we were to adopt that baby.  We made it home and immediately called to say we would adopt that baby boy.

Twelve days later, after finishing the adoption papers and making arrangements, we held that baby boy in our arms.  That baby boy, our Jonathan Walker, came into our lives and fulfilled our desire and God’s plan for our lives with children.  My birthday gift has brought such precious experiences to our lives and his love for everyone has shown clear.  There is a special time every year when Jonathan and I share our birthday together.  And, on that day every year, we praise God for the gift He gave 10 years ago.  God has blessed us with two children who are caring and loving to all they meet.  Recently, I heard from several how our boys were kind in holding doors for people as we walked in buildings, and were considerate to those near them.  As one person said, “In today’s world to see young men so considerate of others is rare.”  I am proud of my two boys…that 6 ½ year old who welcomed a new little brother those 10 years ago and to that 10 year old who brought God’s gift to us.  Thank you, God, for our precious gifts…Nathaniel means “Gift of God” and Jonathan means “God’s gift.”

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for the precious gift of children.  We have been blessed with these two boys who are precious to us and we never take for granted that it was You who gave these gifts to us. 

Prayer Focus:  Adoption

When is God Close

Job 12:7-10

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

Thought for the Day:  God gives us the favorite things.

Today, I took another one of my walks at the park.  I love taking walks in the park – I never know what I am going to find.  Some days I hope to see animals and other days I want to see unusual plants that I have not seen before.  Most of the time I just pray that God shows me something special.  When I pray that, I know I will not be disappointed.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I cannot depend on something being perfect – nothing is really perfect.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I can find something perfect, whether it be a plant or animal, in the imperfect world.

Today was no exception.  Did I get great pictures of the Great Blue Herons nesting a hundred yards from me? No – saw them but the pictures were blurry.  Did I catch the perfect pictures of the geese flying over the lake? No – saw them but the pictures just didn’t turn out.  But did I catch the perfect pictures of the imperfect dragonflies and a butterfly?  Maybe not perfect, but enough to make my day.  Did I get the many pictures of a Great Blue Heron up close?  Oh, yes, again not perfect but I believe it was God’s gift to me today.  When that moment comes, we just have to take it in and go with the fluttering heart that God gave us in such a gorgeous sight.

My heart is touched in some way every time I go to the park.  God gave me the park nearby and I can’t thank Him enough for moving me to such a beautiful place to see His nature.  Sometimes it is seeing something special, sometimes it is taking a special picture, and sometimes it is meeting new friends along the way.  Mostly, it is a time that I feel God is near – I can guarantee that when I am at the park, I can feel Him so close that I feel I can touch Him.  Thank you God for the gift of the park.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for giving us beauty around us and for placing us in special places to see you more.  You draw near to us in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.  Thank you for letting us feel you near.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those who enjoy walks in the park.

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.

Our “Hallmark” Movie

Luke 2:4-7

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.  And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Thought for the Day:  What are you doing Christmas Eve. 

After finishing the school semester, it took me a few days to get myself (mentally) prepared for Christmas.  Throughout these days, I have watched Christmas movies with my family, purchased gifts on Amazon (yes, the last of the gifts being delivered today), cleaned (especially the hardwood floor), and of course wrapped the pile of gifts preparing for Christmas morning.  Oh, and then there is the true meaning of Christmas – did I miss it?

Throughout the Advent Season, our church has based the sermons and messages around the theme, “Not Another Made for TV Christmas Movie”.  Pastor Jeremy Lawson led us through the series by making us think about how difficult things were with Mary and Joseph, when they received the word from the Angel that she would bear a child.  Throughout these weeks, we have heard story after story from our pastor, from our speaker at our Women’s Dinner, and through our own thoughts that came.  As we, yes we – ladies, spent time watching our Hallmark Channel movies where every ending was happy and well, every ending was predictable, did we lose sight of the true story? Did all this “happiness” lead us to forget what Mary must have gone through those months of pregnancy?  Did we forget what Joseph must have thought when Mary told him she was pregnant?  Did we forget how they had to travel when Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy to Bethelem?  Did we forget that when they arrived in Bethlehem that there was not a place for them to stay – when the baby came?  Did we forget that after the birth and for several years, they were told by angels to go, move, leave, to protect the baby?  Did we forget that Mary, 33 years later, would feel the unimaginable pain of experiencing her “baby” crucified on the cross?  What thoughts to realize that not a single one of the Hallmark Channel movies came close to the agony this family experienced as they delivered and then protected Jesus through those many years.

But, they did!  They brought this precious gift to us who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger.  He cooed, he cried, he laughed, he played, he grew, he learned the carpenter’s trade, he led, he called, he taught, and He died on the cross for us.  Christmas began because of God’s love for you and for me.  That gift led to Easter and the Resurrection.  Jesus died on the cross for us but then HE AROSE bringing us eternal life and the beautiful and most special gift of knowing that God is our Father!  He came to earth as a baby, He called His disciples and taught them (and us) how to spread the good news, He died on the cross for us, and He rose…He rose bringing us Eternal Life.  Now that is a Hallmark ending…but it is not an ending, it is our beginning.

Prayer:  Precious God!  Merry Christmas Eve!  Today is Yours, God, as every day should be.  Help us think only of You today and help us be more thoughtful and thankful for Your precious gift.  Happy Birthday, Jesus, Happy Birthday!  Amen.

Finding a Place to be Happy

Isaiah 43:19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

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

Today, with the busyness of the school year slowing down for a moment, I have been busy but not in the usual way.  I have to say something unusual and totally out of my normal writing.  Working in a position where there is not a lot of glamour and on some days not a lot of appreciation can be difficult and the awards just seem small.  But “I am Happy!”  I am happy that I became a teacher 31 years ago and I am happy that I am still in the classroom with children.  For a period of time, after moving to a “place far away from home”, it was as if I would never become in this place what I always was before.  In the last twenty-four hours, I have had my heart warmed twice from two different persons in my teaching career.  One was my principal as she shared words of encouragement after a classroom observation that she felt I was embracing the way of teaching in our school system.  I witnessed the students in my classroom excitedly engaging themselves in a lesson and fully understanding activities I had assigned to them.  They were fascinating to watch and my principal was there to witness it. Then today, I received a post on my Facebook timeline from a student I taught in third grade in the early 1990s.  She wanted to let me know that after several work positions, she finally had decided to teach and was going to begin teaching third grade.  Her words were, “As I recall, I had a pretty awesome 3rd grade teacher myself.  I hope I can be half as memorable as you have been to me!”  My heart, oh my heart, is filled with so much love for her for sharing her news with me.

“I am happy”…I am happy because I know I am doing what God led me to do and, although things are sometimes difficult in the education area, I still know I am where I am supposed to be.  On those days that are hard, I start praying.  I especially pray for my colleagues who seem to be having a difficult time, praying that they find bits of happiness enough that they can come past the difficulties. I pray for my students that I can teach them the skills needed but yet show them at the same time that they are loved and that someone cares.  So, from that moment in 1982 when I decided to switch my direction to elementary education (from business – what?!) after walking into my suite mate’s dorm room in college to see her working on a project for students in her student teaching class, I became a teacher at heart.  I still tried other things, but eventually God led me right back to where I was supposed to be.

I am home, I am home, I am home when I am in my classroom teaching children. I am thankful, appreciative, and yes, happy!

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for leading us to places You want us to go.  Sometimes, in the middle of life, we forget who put us where we are and it is easy to let other thoughts lead us.   You are an awesome God, and I am thankful.  Help those around me find where you are leading.  Amen.

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

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?