God’s Embrace

Psalms 74:25-2

Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.     

 

Thought for the Day:  God is Near

“Mama, all I want to do right now is to come and hug you”, came from my youngest as we ate dinner last night.  As he hasn’t felt well for the last couple days, my first thought was, “Oh, no, he might really be sick”.  That hug, however, made him feel better for a few minutes and began an evening of more hugs and snuggles.  Taking in every moment of the evening with my boy, I remembered those times when he was much younger and we had the daily snuggle time.  Did I take that time too lightly?  Maybe.  I knew they were special but didn’t think as I was going through them that the time would end.  So, a hug at the dinner table, then a little seven year old boy climbing in my lap with a favorite blanket was precious.  (And yes, I am taking him to get him checked today – in case you were worried.)

So, how are we when we need to “come and hug”?  As I think about this, my first thought is to love and hug my family – as they are my “go to” for comfort.  But there is someone we can go to, at any time and any place.  God is beside us wherever and whenever we find ourselves.  As times of overwhelming emotions have come recently, and a feeling of overwhelming stress has taken over, I am so glad I can turn to the Father in Heaven who loves me.  All I have to do is reach out, and God is there.  So, “God, all I want to do is come and hug you” is always available just as my lap was available for my youngest son last night.  What better place to be than in the embrace of God.

Prayer:  Almighty Father!  Thank you for always being near as we go through sickness or go through times of great emotions.  You are always there, right beside us, waiting for us to lean in to you for an embrace.  Help us daily to remember how close you are and that you are just waiting for us to “ask for a hug”.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Embracing God

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God is Near

Job 12:7-10

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  of 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 handoff 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 is Near

I love this time of year.  Every time I go outside, I begin hearing the sounds of God.  On several occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have stayed later at school than I should.  Tired and ready to get home, I have packed my school bag and made my way to the outside door.  One day, I came out to hear geese flying overhead immediately bringing to me thoughts of God.  Another day, after an afternoon of parent conferences, I was greeted by sounds of birds mixed in with the sun shining beautifully through the sky.  Last night, staying way after dark on a Friday to prepare for next week, I walked out and heard insects chirping and making fun noises.  A smile came immediately to my face.  God was near.

As we think of God, and where He is in our lives, we believe He is everywhere.  But, when we are tired we sometimes do not see Him.  Today and everyday, I want to strive to see God in the people around me for those people truly are the face of God to me.  I want to see God and hear God in the sights and sounds of nature.  I want to see God when I watch my students next week experience how the Earth rotates making the sun’s shadow seem to move.  I know in advance that God’s voice will speak through their innocence and through their excited voices.

Where will you see God today?  You don’t have to look far, because God is right beside you placing beautiful sounds and views before you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for stepping into our lives through the sights and sound of nature, to remind us that You are near.  Help us see more quickly and clearly that You are in the midst of nature and people around us.

Prayer Focus:  God is near

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.

The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

What Can We Do?

Psalms 91:1-5

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness in a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.

Thought for the Day:  What can we we?

As our family took a few minutes last evening to prepare our home for the storm winds and rain we should be receiving today, my heart was breaking for those in Florida and Texas.  We cleared the bicycles from our garage by putting them in our dining room so we could get our cars in, we checked the gutters to make sure the water would go away from the house as it rained, and we brought items in from our deck.  Every step of the way I kept thinking, “This is nothing compared to what is taking place a few hundred miles south of us – how are they dealing with what has been and is happening?”  And then I think, “What can we do from here, what can we do to help in some small way to bring them a little peace?”  First, in the United Methodist Church, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief – UMCOR.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the world.  100% of the donations go to projects to help those suffering.  After Hurricane Katrina so many years ago, my dad traveled with a group to Louisiana as a part of UMCOR to help friends in need.  These UMCOR friends are the hands and feet of Christ.  Brothers and sisters around the United States are working as the hands and feet of Christ as they collect items for Hurricane Relief buckets of cleaning supplies to help in clean-up efforts.  Our church has taken part in this ministry, with even the young people helping.  What better way to help these children become Jesus to someone else.

As I wrote about UMCOR and Hurricane Relief buckets, there was one thing that was left out but which is the most important.  Prayer!  Prayer is our most clear and straight line of communication with God.  It seems so small sometimes as we continue to pray, but it is also the most important.  Reading an article in Guideposts recently, I read about a lady who for years added a concern in her church’s prayer listing.  Staff members in the office, every week, wondered about those week by week prayer requests thinking that the prayer was not going to be answered.  After a very long time, the prayer answer came in such a way that the people of the church knew the call for prayer by this lady every week was indeed answered…the week by week prayer request was worth it.  Today, we pray and today we know that God is present with the people in Florida and Texas.  Today, things are fresh and the weather system is still churning in part of Florida and will cross other states today.  Tomorrow, the sun will shine and the truth of destruction will be made clear.  But what about next month and next year – will we continue praying daily for these brothers and sisters.  I hope the answer is yes – and I know that, in time – maybe much time – those prayers will be answered.  Pray.

Prayer:  Father God, we praise you today for the powerful love you show us every day.  You are almighty and you are worthy of our praise.  Today, God, many are hurting.  Some have lost everything and some do not know what to do next.  Be with these brothers and sisters today and let them know that you are near.  God, be with them today.  Help us to know how best to be there for these friends.  Amen.  

Prayer Focus:  Hurricane

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

Responding in Love

Psalms 34:18-22

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.  Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.     

Thought for the Day:  Pray for those in need, do what we can to help.

Watching the news about the devastating fires that swept across The Great Smoky Mountains into Gatlinburg and then Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has caused what feels like true pain in my heart.  I love the area and have enjoyed many times of fun with my family in those places. To see places we have enjoyed burned to the ground has been heart-wrenching.  As I kept listening to the news yesterday, however, my heart and mind went to the people of that area.  As we have visited the area through the years, we have met the people and have seen how so many of them live and work in that area.  They are not rich and they are not well off, they are hard-working people who own stores and motels, serve tourists in restaurants, help children on go cart rides, welcome visitors into theme parks, and give of themselves anyway they can.  Walking in the stores, we see so many who make their living by serving the millions who come through that area each year.  Those homes and businesses that have been shown on television and on the internet are not just buildings.  They belong to these hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have a place to go back to.  Some of them do not know where to turn because their livelihood rests in the charred ruins of their beloved home or store.

Today, I pray.  As a child of God, I pray and ask others to pray with me.  To that child of God who served us in that steak place that is no more, and to the one who laughed with us as we ordered pancakes, I pray.  To that hotel owner who welcomed us so sweetly as we visited or that resort worker who drove a golf-cart ahead of us to show us our cabin, I pray.  To that sweet friend who helped us find our child when he got lost from us in a theme park, I pray.  To those who welcomed us into their Worship space as we visited on a Sunday morning, I pray.  My heart aches that a special place for our family vacation has been taken away for a while, but my heart aches more for the people who live and work in that area for their lives have been forever changed.  “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Prayer:  Father God, we praise You today for your love for us.  Help us share that love with someone else today.  Lord, be with those who have been affected by the fires.  Please bring peace to their hearts and bring love to them in the most magnificent ways.  Help us know what we need to do to help them in some way.  All our love to you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Praying for Those in Need

War Room

Matthew 6:6

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees the secret will reward you.”

 

Thought for the DayWhere will we find our “War Room”?

Listening to music recently, a song came on by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The music began and I enjoyed the introduction.  Then, without me knowing it was coming, I heard the voice of the character Mrs. Clara from “War Room”.  Within the song, I heard her voice several times praying with all her might for the family she had met as they had many problems.  At the beginning of the movie, she said, “Send me one more…!”  She was asking God to send her someone to help and to pray for.  How powerful and how beautiful.  At one point in the movie as she was trying to sell her house, a gentleman opened the door to her “War Room” where she had cleared that room of clutter so she could pray.  He came out of the bathroom knowing that something spiritual had taken place, he felt that praying had taken place.  He knew that he had stepped on Holy Ground.

Looking back on the many people God has placed in my life, and knowing that many have been heavy duty “pray-ers”, gives me comfort.  I, as the character Elizabeth, feel heavy hearted sometimes.  She had problems that were so difficult that she struggled with her faith and she struggled with how to survive day to day life.  As the movie progressed, Mrs. Clara worked hand in hand with Elizabeth to show her how to pray.  She taught her to “go to war” against Satan and to have faith in God.  She taught her that everything, every thought, every person – friend or enemy, needs to be lifted in prayer.  Every prayer needs to be intentional – in her case in the “War Room”. Alex Kendrick, writer and director of “War Room” said, “Name a problem that we’re facing that doesn’t need to be bathed in prayer.” Where will I find my “War Room”?

Prayer:  Lord God, Father! Praise You today as we acknowledge You as our Lord and Savior!  Be with us today and remind us to talk to you, to pray to you for those who need your love.  Help us find our “War Room” within our house or in a special place where we can know that we are alone with You.  Teach us to pray Lord.  Teach us to be with You. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Prayer

Am I Praying Wrong?

dsc_2840-2Romans 8:24-27

For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Thought for the DayPray the best you can and then let the Spirit intercede.

“Maybe I’m praying wrong” is a thought that I must admit has come to my mind a few times as I have worked to find a teaching position.  I pray, I mean I pray a lot about my situation and I pray in different ways saying different words during my time of prayer.  I have prayed in silence, I have whispered my prayer, I have sat as I have prayed, I have stood as I have prayed, I have bowed my knees as I have prayed, and I have even prayed laying prostrate on the ground.  I have praised God, prayed in thanksgiving, prayed of others, prayed for forgiveness and prayed for myself.  I have even asked for others to pray for me.   I feel like I have covered all the ways a prayer can be prayed.  So, what am I missing?  As I read The Upper Room devotion this morning, I was reminded that when we pray, we can’t really do it wrong because the Spirit intercedes for us to pray the right way to God.  In my lowest moment, after my first husband died, I told my mother, “I can’t pray.”  She said, “Honey, that’s okay because the Spirit is praying for you.”  How comforting that was when she said that, and how comforting it is to have that reminder today that I’m not praying wrong and even if I can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit is interceding for  me.

So, what does that mean in this moment of not seeing this particular prayer being answered?  Fearfully I say, “Maybe I’m not supposed to teach.”  “Now that’s not something I ever thought I would hear myself say!”  As my husband and I sat down in a restaurant yesterday, I said, “What do you think I could do as a second career?”  He was taken aback, but pondered the question.  “My first thought is writing.”  We talked about financial thoughts, that are ALWAYS on my mind.  I shared with him that in searching for other jobs, I could not find any that compared with what I would be making as much as a 23 year teacher.  I awoke this morning praying, truly, for a miracle.  My miracle came in reading The Upper Room devotion when I realized that I have not been praying wrong, and that the Spirit is interceding for me in my prayer.  My miracle will come when God, in His time, brings His will for me to light.  He will.

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-10-22

Prayer:   Father God, You are such an awesome God.  Thank you for how you take care of us even when we do not see Your hand.  We want to pray, God, and sometimes we have difficulty doing that.  Please help us lean on Your Spirit to intercede for us.  We want to be in prayer with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those having difficulty praying