Gotcha Day

Ephesians 1:5-6

He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed us on in the Beloved.

Thought for the Day:  God sent us our son through adoption

Today is “Gotcha Day”!  Today is “Gotcha – Jonathan – Day”!  But, first, I must go back in time.  July 1, 2010 – receiving a call in the evening with the words, “Are you still interested in adopting a child?  We have a little boy who was born ‘yesterday’.”  “Well, yes, we are – can we pray about it a little while and call you back?” You see, we had already promised our then six-year old Nathaniel a time of swimming at a friend’s house.  As we drove, we talked about the possibility and asked God for clarity one way or the other.  We swam and had the best time and then we began our drive home.  As Mark drove the curvy road back home he gasped a loud gasp which scared me.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, “Nothing – He was BORN ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!  I just realized that he was born on your birthday.”  We both began to tear up as we realized that God had given us our clear answer.  Fast forward to July 12…awaking excited and hopeful, we began our preparation to go to the Adoption agency to sign papers and prepare for the adoption of our son.  As we were given old school advice from a previous social worker, we had done nothing about getting items for his arrival. We literally went not knowing the schedule.  When we finished signing the papers, our adoption director said that we would be able to pick our baby up the next day.  Well, Mark would have nothing to do with that so we talked her into letting us get him that evening.   Getting in the car, we made a quick plan.  We needed to drive 60 miles to another town to pick him up, and we had one and a half hours….and we had no car seat.  Making a quick list we drove to a nearby “Babies R Us” and went straight to the desk and said, “We have 15 minutes to get everything we need to bring our adopted baby home tonight.”  The young man said, “Well, let’s go!”  We showed him our list and we began following him around the store.  Fifteen minutes later we left the store with everything we could need to bring our baby home.  And wouldn’t you know it, the most torrential rainstorm we had ever witnessed came as we drove.  As Mark drove through that rainstorm, I called everyone we knew who would want to know about our baby.  The rainstorm didn’t stop us and we made it to the church to meet the “cradle care giver” with our new son.  That moment, that precious moment came and he was placed in our arms.  Our precious Jonathan was with us beginning our adventures of having a complete family.  We drove home, stopping for a few minutes to introduce Jonathan to his great aunt, Patsy.  Okay, we also stopped at our friend’s house where we swam the night we first found out about the possibility of adoption.  Then, oh yes then, we went to pick up our six-year old from the family he had stayed with that day.  The entire family, some friends, and our precious Nathaniel ran out to the car to get their first glimpse of this special one as soon as we drove up. In that moment, our family was complete and we were thankful to God for the blessing of adoption and for the blessing of having two sons.

Today, we have a thirteen year old and a seven year old, and we see God’s face through them each day.  Today is “Gotcha Day”, that special anniversary day of when an adopted child comes to live with his forever family.  Today, that precious baby has become a loving, caring, sweet, huggable, funny, silly, active, and smart child.  He loves life and he absolutely loves everyone he meets.  God gave us that clear message on July 1, 2010 that this was the child we were to adopt and He led us to that baby being placed in our arms only a few days later. We will truly never forget that day and the experience of when our baby came to be with us, his forever family.

Prayer:  God, thank you for the gift of children…and thank you for the gift of adoption.  They say, Lord, that adoption is a choice…..but You were the one who chose our baby for us.  You gave us the two most perfect children and we are ever thankful.  You are awesome!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Adoption

A Special Birthday

John 14:21

He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. 

John 14:21

Thought for the Day:  He knows Christ and Makes Him Known

Fifty-nine years ago, a baby was born to Reeves and Mary Priscilla Locke.  What a blessing that fourth child was and what an amazing man he has become.  Yes, there was the time he got excited about holding a soda bottle, spun it around and let go of it straight into a huge store front window (Men inside went flying!)   Yes, there was a time he began throwing his dad’s church keys up in the air then catching them…only to throw them up one too many times with them coming down into one of the church chandeliers.  But then, there was the time, at one week old, that he began his campmeeting life at Joyner’s Campmeeting.  There was the time he walked into his parents’ kitchen to tell them that he had decided to direct church music for a living….they were not excited about that decision at that time, but boy were they proud when he became one of the best around.  And, there was the time he began his time offering his music love with the folks at Joyner’s Campmeeting as he became song leader.  Personally, there was the time yours truly visited Joyner’s Campmeeting with her parents and talked for the first time with this man…and she realized there might be life again after losing her first husband over a year before.  There was the time a little red-headed baby, and later a little black-haired baby (yes – black-haired), were placed in his arms making him a Daddy.  More than anything else, fifty-nine years ago God placed an amazing baby on this earth who became a wonderful musician, a wonderful pastor, an awesome friend to many, a tremendously perfect husband and father, and a man created to share his love of Christ with everyone he met.  Mark Locke became a God-fearing, God-loving, Ordained Deacon in The United Methodist Church to show Jesus to the World.

So, Happy Birthday, Mark G. Locke! May God bring His loving arms around you.  May God bless all who come into your presence as You show them God’s love.  You were born to “Know Christ and to Make Him Known” and you do that very well.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing people in our lives who show us how to live in love for you.  Be with all of us to help us become Your face to the world, as others have been to us.  

Prayer Focus:  Born to be a Follower of 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

The Gift of Music

Isaiah 55:10-12

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Thought for the Day:  God gives beauty in the music

Sitting in our choir rehearsal last night, I observed something beautiful.  As I listened to several pieces that have been rehearsed over the past few weeks, I heard pure beauty in the words and music. As we were about to do a final sing through of one piece, I grabbed my camera, set it to video, and started recording.  In that time, I realized that my heart and the hearts of everyone in that room was filled with God…so filled with God that the song took on a life of its own and came to ultimate beauty.  When I arrived home, I listened to it once again and was taken in, once again, to the feeling that God was near.

The piece we sang came from Isaiah 55, with these beautiful words: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  I realized after singing and then listening back to the song that the reason it touched me so much was that I was thinking about walking in our park.  Each line of the song seemed to talk about the beauty I see when I walk and even as we sang, I kept seeing visions of the animals and plants that surround me as I walk.  I thought of the many changes that take place in the park as the seasons change and how everything depends on God to become what it needs to be.  I feel God as I walk, and I felt God as the choir sang so beautifully.

Prayer:  Almighty God, thank you for music and song, and thank you for the beauty in nature you give us each day.  We praise You, God, for all things glorious and for all things given to us each day.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Beauty in Music and Nature

God’s Creations Given to Children in the Park

Genesis 1:31

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

Thought for the Day:  God loves it when His children take in His creation

Children, parents, children, grandparents, children in strollers, children fishing, children running and screaming….my walk today at the park showed such beauty in family relationships.  As I walked into the park, I immediately knew my walk would be different.  The school year has ended and parents have begun taking their children with them as they walk at the park.  One child wanted so desperately to pet the baby geese.  With his mother working to stop him and him not understanding was stressful for her.  I helped her explain that the Mama Goose was watchful over her babies and just like his mama was protecting him, the mother goose was protecting her babies.  Then, there was the grandfather with his grandsons, fishing from one pier then moving pier to pier having fun on their fishing excursion.  I could tell from the grandfather’s expression that he was enjoying their excitement of fishing.   The pair of mothers with their children pointing out each turtle and bird along the way – their children oohing and aahing as they saw each animal.    One corner after another, I witnessed children taking in nature in such a pure way.

I wonder what God thinks as He looks down over the beautiful park He created and sees the beautiful children taking in every animal and plant, and enjoying being active as they walk around His park.  As a parent, I look at my children and smile as I see them doing things they enjoy – it truly fills my soul with happiness and love.  I believe God is truly filled with happiness and love as He watches his children enjoying His creation.

Prayer:  God, thank you for the park and for giving the children a place to run and play, and to learn about Your creation.  Help us discover new and beautiful ways to share Your creation with them.  Amen

 Prayer Focus:  Children sharing God’s creation

Time of Laughter

Psalms 37:3-4

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Thought for the Day:  God brings laughter and fun if we open our hearts. 

I stayed home as my husband took our youngest child to his Cub Scout Meeting last evening.  They were sharing time playing games such as football and soccer to work on sportsmanship badges.  When they came home, I realized they did not come into the house so I looked out to see my husband and child throwing the football back and forth.  My husband had been having some knee difficulties, so I was surprised to see him running after the ball like a young kid.  There were many moments of laughter as they played.  At one point, we called my oldest son out because the football had rolled down toward our creek and we thought it best that our youngest not go down into that area.  It was then the laughter truly started.  The three began playing together with the football and frisbee that lay nearby.  At one point, I looked out to see my husband and oldest son throwing the football and my youngest grabbing a limb swinging himself down toward the creek.  More laughter, more fun, more beauty of life.

As my children and husband played together, I saw excitement on their faces and I heard laughter as it soared through the air.  As my husband came in, it was obvious that he had had the time of his life as he played with his boys.  As my boys came in, it was obvious that their time together had been special.  As a mother, my thoughts were thankful that God had brought that wonderful time to watch my family enjoying each other without the need of electronics or gadgets, just a football and three “boys”.  As I awoke this morning, I reflected on that time together and I thanked God.  God was in the midst of the game and God was in the midst of my family.  Laughter came through the game, and love shown through that precious time together.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for impromptu moments that bring love and excitement to our families.  As we know you are always with us, those moments bring you even nearer to us.  Help us find the laughter and love when our families spend special time together.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Laughter

Thank You, God

Exodus 33:18-19

Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name “The Lord’” and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”

Thought for the Day:  Thank God today for the large blessings and the small.

Hot Dogs and Hot Fudge Cake – who would have thought that those two items would bring so many thank yous from my family.  As we shared time together earlier in the afternoon, my husband saw a picture of one of his all time favorite desserts – the Hot Fudge Cake from Shoney’s.  So, I said, “I think I can make that”.  As I began working on the dessert, I realized it was going to take longer than I thought, however, I was able to rush it just a bit to have it finished by dinner.  So, buns, hotdogs, mustard, relish, ketchup served quickly and simply made a few “men” happy.  Then, to top it off, the serving of the hot-fudge cake began.  My husband oohed and aahed, my oldest son began eating very quickly, and my youngest decided he only liked the whipped cream – handing his dessert over to his brother.   Bigger Brother dug in and we laughed when we witnessed our teenager with chocolate all over his mouth.  We finished and my son helped me clear the table and clean the kitchen.  “Thank you, Mama, for the dessert – and thank you for taking me to the store this afternoon.”  “Honey, thanks for making such a wonderful meal tonight – it was very special.” The Thanks actually went on awhile – what a delightful evening.

As I think about these awesome feelings of appreciation from my husband and sons, I wonder how God feels when we thank Him. Reading an article this morning, I read that “God is Glad” and “God is joyous over us”.  Just as my heart leapt as my family responded to that simple meal and dessert with thanks, God’s heart has to leap when we show our love and thanksgiving to Him.  God wants us to love Him and to give thanks for the gifts He gives.  More than that, I think, God wants us to realize the gifts are from Him.  Personally, I believe I take gifts from God for granted and do not realize they are from Him until I look back and see they were indeed from Him.  In that article about thanking God, I read that when we wake up and before we go to sleep, we should say the words, “Thank you, God!” for the gifts He has given that day, realizing that we are thanking Him for things we haven’t even seen as gifts from Him.  We need to remember that “all gifts are from God.”

Prayer:  Our Gracious Heavenly Father!  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the blessings You give us each day.  Forgive us for taking those gifts for granted by not realizing they are from You.  We love you, Lord, and want You to know how thankful we are for the simple things and for the large things.  We pray we will be more diligent in thanking you each day – many times a day – for Your many, seen and unseen, blessings.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Thanking God

 

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

Will We See the Blessings?

Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart. 

Thought for the Day:  Will we see the blessings around us today?

Today, awaking early, I opened The Upper Room devotional book to read the devotion for the day.  Then, I looked through Facebook entries and viewed a video that I had seen before but had forgotten about.  As I read the devotion, I quickly realized there would be a theme for the day.  As I viewed the video, that theme became more prominent.  The theme that appeared as I read the words and viewed the screen was being thankful for our blessings.  Recently, I admit, I have let other life things keep me from seeing the blessings God has given me each day.  Today, however, I want to turn my heart to see those blessings and to show my thankfulness for them.  So, what do I see?  Where are the blessings?  The blessings are found in my loving husband who loves me during good times and in bad times, my children who out of the blue will share a special hug or word of love, my family who shares time around the table laughing and talking, my church family who shows love to my family and me, our three cats who seem to know when a hug is needed, for a warm blanket to put over my legs as I write, for schools that give my children the education they need, and mostly for the love of God and the knowledge that He is our Lord and Savior.

God shows us His love every day in the blessings around us, if we will only open our eyes to see.  As I read The Upper Room devotion this morning about writing down our blessings as they happen to us, I thought that would be a good experiment for me.  As I viewed the video on Facebook, I thought it would be good to look at the “bad things” that happen in my day and look deeper to see if those things might have been God’s way of protecting us from something even worse.  God is with us every day surrounding us with his love and protection.  How we receive those things in our hearts make the difference in our perspective:  Will we see the blessings as gifts from God or will we miss the blessings and complain?

Prayer:  Our Father, thank you for the blessings You give to us each day.  Thank you for giving us the answers to prayers before we even pray the words.  Help us find thankfulness in our hearts as we receive the blessings, and help us not complain when we do not perceive them as blessings.  Be with us today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Seeing the Blessings

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-01-16

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