In

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

Thought for the Day:  Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks.

Sometimes it is good to listen intently on a good sermon that talks about how we should be with other people and honestly how we should be with ourselves.  Yesterday, although I will not get it right, was one of those sermons.  Throughout my life I have lived an amazing amount of tragedy and grief.  If I looked back at every part, I would be so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t function.  I thank God for giving me enough space between the times of grief that I could find joy and peace.  I thank God that in between the times of sorrow, I had times of pure elation.  I thank God that through my times of sorrow, people were placed in front of me who would get me through the next period of my life.  But I look at friends around me who just can’t seem happy and can’t get past events that placed them in low places.  I feel for them as it seems that they feel that everyone is against them instead of looking at those around them as answers to prayers.

Yesterday’s sermon was based on Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians:  “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Hurricanes, floods, and fires have seemed to sweep across the world recently.  There is not a day that goes by that some tragedy isn’t shared in the news.  Most recently, we have read and viewed stories about the devastation of fires in California.  Before that, there was the hurricane that swept across Florida.  And Paul is saying, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and ‘GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES”? “Really!”  I have always struggled with this but as Pastor Jeremy Lawson preached yesterday, he brought out that tiny preposition in the midst of these words.  The word was “in”, that tiny word, “in”.  That word in changes what we think we are hearing to a more doable instruction from Paul.  “Rejoice always”.  In my life, I have been able to see the little things around me that help me rejoice…those times after a tragedy when it was obvious that God was standing right beside me – standing in a visitation line and feeling God giving me the names and memories of those who came to give their respects.  I rejoice that God was right beside me.  “Pray constantly”.  In my life, I have prayed a lot.  I learned from an early age that praying in all circumstances is what gets me through.  Now, if you ask me if I always remember to pray when things are going on around me, I would honestly have to say “no”.  If you ask me if I feel more at ease when I do remember to pray, that would be a definite “yes”.  But “Give thanks in all circumstances”!  That is a tough one.  When my sweet husband was hurt by a group of people in a most hurtful way, how could I give thanks?  It took years and there is still a bit of hurt when we look back.  How can you give thanks when so much hurt comes?  There it is…that tiny word “in”.  That word is not “for”, it is “in”.  Paul is not asking us to give thanks “for” circumstances.  He is asking us to give thanks “in” all circumstances.  That one is actually easy.  I can be thankful for people who came into my life during the tragic times in my life.  I can be thankful for the words of scripture and devotions that I have read.  I can be thankful that because of so much pain, I began to write.  I can be thankful that because of an unexpected move, I began to take pictures.  I am thankful for all these things and that my family is in “God’s place” because of His plan for us after the pain.  So, yes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances” – thanks Paul.  Those are great instructions for us, even…especially in the times we live in.

Prayer:  Our precious heavenly Father!  What a great day it is when we hear a sermon that gets our minds thinking and our hearts moving.  Thank you that through a sermon, words we think are there in front of us are actually changed to what is actually there.  Help us follow Paul’s instructions to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances”. Amen.

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The Hug!

 

1 John 4:7, 4:11-12

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.

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:  Show Love to those around you

As a teacher, special moments often happen.  Those moments can happen when a student understands a skill for the first time, or when a friendship relationship happens between students.  One of those surprising moments happened this week as I was standing in my door lining my seven and eight year old students up to go to an activity.  As I stood, I felt a little boy’s arms go around me and he gave me a big hug.  Then, the little boy behind him gave me a big hug.  Then several students came out of the line to hug me.  Finally, my new student of four days, reached her hands out to me from the line.  I walked over to her and as she hugged me, she said, “You are the best teacher in the world.”  My eyes filled with tears and I felt my heart beaming with love for these precious ones.

Looking back over that experience, I began thinking about how many times I reach out for a hug.  I do not do it as often as I should.  I say hello to people and ask how they are doing but I do not reach out for a hug often unless it is one of my own children or husband.  And, how often do I reach to hug my “Teacher, Jesus Christ”?  I talk to Him, I pray to Him, I beg Him, I thank Him but do I “hug” Him?  Today, I want to give Jesus the type of hug I received from so many of my students on Thursday of this week.  I want to give Him a tear of happiness and something that will make His heart beam with love.

Prayer:  Precious Jesus, today I hug you with a hug of love.  So often, You reach to touch me with Your love and so many times I miss it.  You are my Father, my Friend, and my Teacher!  You are my all in all!  So, here it is – a big, loving hug just for you!  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  A Hug can do wonders!

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.

Joy in Christmas

Luke 2:10-1

And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 

Thought for the Day:  There is joy in Christmas

The Christmas Season, full of bright lights and many sale signs, seems to come too soon in the year and then seems to go away too fast as well.  As I awoke this morning, I sat reminiscing about Christmases past and how this Christmas will be the first time in many years, where we will stay home on Christmas Day.  I also awoke this morning and began looking at Facebook to see the many pictures of families together.  Some pictures are of friends of mine who posed with their parents and siblings. Some pictures are of homes decorated beautifully for the holidays where loads of family members come to celebrate together.  There are moments when I ponder my life of many losses, and long for my parents and brothers to walk in the door on Christmas morning.  I haven’t seen them in so long.  There are moments when I watch a, yes – Hallmark Movie and long to have an old-fashioned Christmas as portrayed so beautifully.  Sadness does come to me often, as it does to so many, especially at this time of the year.  We can’t help it – it is a part of the life we live.  It comes every year, it comes when we least expect it, and it hurts deep in our hearts. So what do we do about it?

We celebrate what we have!  I have so much and I do not take that lightly.  I have a very loving husband who brings Christmas to my sweet family in beautiful ways.  I have two young sons who love so beautifully and bring excitement into our otherwise quiet home.  But what do we really celebrate?!  We celebrate Jesus!  We celebrate that He came and brought to us life, true life with Him!  I celebrate that I am a part of a Church and the Music Ministry of a Church where we sing, we sing God’s message for the congregation and we praise God.  We sing for those in the congregation who are sitting with huge families and for those who sit alone.  Today, I can celebrate fully because I have my family with my husband and children.  Today, I can celebrate that I have God who loves me and who has brought me through so much.  Today, I can celebrate the we have “family”, other children of God, in our precious church friends who will celebrate with us.

So, do I and do others who have lost so many family members still hurt.  Oh, yes we hurt!  But, do we have the feeling of hope and love in the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ?  Today, I will worship God.  Today, I will take in as much love as I can as I remember Him.  Today, I will remember all those family members who are no longer with me but I will cherish even more the ones who are with me now.  Today, I will remember the “true” meaning of Christmas, “God loves me”.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for Christmas and for sending your son to earth as a baby.  This day, we celebrate His birth and the joy that He brings.  Be with those who hurt today, God. For there are so many.  Bring joy to their hearts and help all of us share love as we see them today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Christmas Eve

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

Time Spent with God

John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.  Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

Thought for the Day:  Find time to be with God today.

Centering ourselves to be more in touch with God can be difficult. Waking up to my alarm clock going off normally begins my day and lately, the snooze works very well on my alarm.  Getting out of bed to drink coffee because we can’t seem to wake up without it seems to be the routine.  Turning on the television to watch the news can be overwhelming and can cause more stress to our day.  But, no matter how busy our mornings seem to be, we all know that stopping the morning madness and turning to God for even a few minutes can change our entire outlook for the day.  For me personally, putting on my walking clothes, grabbing my camera, driving to our park, and beginning my walk is my moment.  As soon as I enter the lush green trail entrance, my heart calms and I forget about my to do list because I am entering my time with God.  For my husband, pulling out his Bible and devotional guide brings his moment with God.  He studies the devotional and then writes special scriptures on cards to place in a scripture box he has next to his devotional materials.  The most important part for both of us is that we have that moment to center ourselves, if only for a moment, on God.

As I watch people in our church and other friends, I see so many beautiful ways to spend time with God.  Small group times of sharing with special friends, helping in food pantries and soup kitchens, group Bible Studies, worship services, and individual quiet times are ways to find special times with God.  My personality calls for my personal quiet time with God.  Others need more group times with God.  God just needs us to be with Him where He can share Himself with us.

Prayer:  Father God, today we are praising You for the love You have for us.  Help us to see that love more by spending special time with you.  Help us see Your words as we read the Bible or as we see Your precious creation in nature.  Be with us today to see where You are and to help us remember to stop for a moment to spend time with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Time with God

Me and Faith

Me and Faith

Hebrews 11:1-4

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old received divine approval.  By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.

Thought for the Day:  Have faith in God and He will carry you through.

Rehearsing the music for our church’s children’s choir musical has been so much fun.  Observing the children, and their awesome memorization skills, has left me standing in awe as I hear them sing the precious words to the songs.  Although the songs are upbeat and fun, they also carry a very big message.  One of the songs, “Me and Faith” has touched me deeply recently.  As the children perfect their words and tones I have been listening – and taking in the message.

“Me and Faith we make a great team, through any kind of weather.  Me and Faith we make a great team, we gotta stick together.  Whenever I’m filled with doubt, Faith comes in and knocks it out.  Me and Faith, we make a great team.”

I have realized that the words to this particular song are the words I have lived by and continue living by every day.  Some days, I falter and lose faith when I feel things falling apart around me, but overall I have FAITH.  Overall, faith in Gods gets me through the hard times.

When I struggle, God is there – I have faith in my almighty Father and I know with that faith, God will carry me through.  As I write these words, I look at the world with all its conflict, pain, confusion, and so many more things that make us want to lose faith.  But then I remember that no matter what the world looks like around us, God is with us giving us the faith we need to get us through.  Can we get through these hard times in our country if we try to do it on our own, no.  But if we lean on God and know He is going to hold our hand and be there every instant of everyday, we will make it through.  “Me and Faith….we make a great team!”  (Plane Ol’ Mission Trip, Nick Robertson, Lillenas Publishing)

Prayer:  Our faithful Father!  Today, we come to you with many things on our minds.  Help us throughout the day to put our faith in you, the One who loves us and will never let us go.  Help us remember the simple words, “Me and Faith, we make a great team”, knowing that faith in You will bring a calmness and understanding to our day.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Faith

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

What is Faith?

Psalms 104:24-25

O Lord, how manifold are thy works!  In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures.  Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living thing both small and treat.” 

Thought for the Day:  Faith is believing without seeing, but it is also seeing God’s love in the nature and human love around us.

Observing God’s creation is always something that brings excitement to my heart.  Pictures of daffodils scatter the internet, budding trees scatter our area, and birds seem to sing more sweetly as spring approaches.  Recently I had a long conversation with my youngest son about how we know God is near.  He asked me, “Mommy, how do we know God is near?”  I replied, “Faith.”  He then asked, “What is Faith?”  I said, “Believing without seeing!”  He looked surprised at my answer but seemed satisfied.  Faith, believing without seeing….or seeing God’s creation around us and believing.  I have often said that it is impossible to think that God does not exist when we look at the face of a newborn baby, observe animals as they live around us, visualize the beauty in nature, and ultimately see Him in our hearts.  My prayer for my child is that he will learn all about faith as he learns to take in God’s creation and as he learns to listen with his sweet little heart.

It seems that many people today are not seeing through the eyes of faith that the beauty around them is created by God.  Faith is believing without seeing…but faith is seeing that beauty in nature, witnessing love shown to someone in need, hearing a child’s giggle as it breaks through turmoil, and mostly feeling God’s presence in our hearts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and showing us the beauty around us.  Help us feel your presence as we see the flowers bloom, the trees bud, and as we witness love shown from one person to another.  Help us be a sign of your presence as we meet those in need of a little bit of faith each day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Faith

Taking the Light of Christ Out Into the World

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Thought for the Day:  Where can we shine the Light of Christ today?

During our children’s choir rehearsal tonight, we had one of those blessed opportunities to share about taking Christ’s light out into the world.  Working on a musical about going on a mission trip opened a great discussion about the things the children do or can do to share the love of Christ with others.  We talked about helping at a soup kitchen or sharing time at our church pantry.  We shared about going to visit in a nursing home, sharing hymns of faith with those older friends.  We talked about going overseas to other countries to share the gospel.  Then we brought it even closer to home by talking about how we can share Christ with children or teachers at school. Sharing a smile with someone who looks sad or tired can go a long way in bringing a little happiness to their heart.  It can bring the light of Christ to those who might feel they are in a dark place.

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  We teach our children to bring the light of Christ to those around them.  How can we bring the light of Christ to others today?

Prayer:  Father God, we praise You today!  Be with us today and every day as we go out into the world to shine Your light to others who might be living in the dark.  Be with us today.  Amen.

 Prayer Focus:  Sharing the Light of Christ.