The Great Patient Bird

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Hebrews 6:11-12

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Thought for the Day:  Asking for Patience

The Great Blue Heron won out!  I took a walk last night and enjoyed turtles and flowers along the way.  I took a hike up in the hills before coming down to the swampy area.  As I stood there, a Great Blue Heron flew in and gave me a wonderful photograph opportunity.  In my mind, however, I thought “I have time to wait so I will just stand here until it flies off where I can get a picture of it flying.”  I waited and I waited and I waited and I waited.  As I watched, I knew it was hunting for its next meal…or it was hunting for the next meal of its child.   So patiently it stood until it felt something in the water.  So still until that moment it attacked.  Over and over, as still as a statue, I watched this magnificent bird looking for its prey.  But, as a person watching, I wanted it to fly.  I waited and waited for a very long time, for over an hour, until the sun was about to set.  Then I decided to make it home.

As I thought about that Great Blue Heron, I thought about what animals go through to take care of their families.  It was looking for food the entire time I was watching and never even thought about leaving.  It never thought about going and doing something fun.  It just kept doing what it needed to do to help its family.  As I think about the pandemic we are in at this moment, I think about the patience this Heron had to have.  For well over an hour it waited for its next meal.  For well over a hour it patiently and slowly moved through the swampy area searching for food.  Today, we have churches opening, as well as other businesses.  But, what does that mean for us?  It means that we still need to be patient.  We need to be patient for each member of our family in order to keep them safe.

That Great Blue Heron, for over an hour, moved slowly and strategically around the swamp to keep its family fed.  Did I get my picture of the flight of the Great Blue Heron? No, I didn’t get it.  Did I get to witness the patience of the Great Blue Heron? Yes, I did!  That hour passed and my heart was given the perfect example of why we wait.  That hour passed and my heart was given the perfect example staying patient, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for showing us that patience is so important. Give us the patience through this pandemic to do what we need to do to keep those around us safe.  Please help those who are sick and give them healing.  Please help those who are helping and give them stamina and patience.  Please help us find things to do to help others.  Amen. 

 

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

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?

Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World

Matthew 19:13-15

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. 

 

Thought for the Day:  Jesus loves you, His child.

“Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  These are the words I learned when I was a little girl growing up in the early sixties in the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children”.  I’m so glad I was taught that song in Sunday School when I was tiny, as those words have stayed in my mind and heart through these fifty plus years.  That song taught me that I was loved by God and that children of all colors were also loved by God in the same way.  In my thirty years of teaching, I have learned a lot about that love of God, as I have loved my almost 600 students with all my heart.  This love is a part of me now because I was taught so early by loving parents, Sunday School teachers, and school teachers that this is how God loves.

Today, I watch my children and how they show love to others.  How well have my husband and I taught them to love?  As I look at my fourteen-year old son, I see one of the most caring children I have ever met.  As he shares stories about his friends I realize that he shares wonderful stories about all those around him:  red and yellow, black and white…they are precious in his sight.  As I look at my seven-year old son, I observe a child who doesn’t even see the differences in people…he just loves everyone!  As I watch these two precious ones, I must say I am happy.  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for those parents and teachers who have taught us how to live.  Thank you that in our minds, we are a little “color blind” as we look at people around us.  Help us to bring the words to the song about your son into our minds every day.  He loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Your child, Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Love for Children

Animal Mamas and Their Babies

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 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 loves it when His children take in His creation

Watching the animals at our park nearby reminds me that God’s creation is absolutely amazing.  As I watch the squirrels scurrying from tree to tree and finding nuts to hold in their tiny paws to eat, I am completely in awe.  These creatures, no matter how young they are, know instinctively what they need to do to take care of themselves.  How do they know that they need to stash nuts to be available during the cold winter months – how do they know that?  And what about the beaver?  How do the beavers in our park know they are to gnaw and claw trees to make beaver dams.  Looking around our park, we see dams built in different areas and we can see the gnawed markings on the trees. Then, how is it that we do not see the beavers – we know they are there, but we hardly ever see them.  Then, there are the four adult geese that are always with the baby geese.  One can actually see the adults nudging the babies to go certain directions and the adults stand firm beside the babies to make sure nothing happens to them. And my favorite animals to see are the blue herons that nested in the tops of trees and now are beginning to teach their babies.    As I watch, I can see the mamas and their babies, and I can hear the squawking as they tell their mama they are hungry.  I can then see her fly off soaring through the air to find food to bring back to her babies.  There are a lot of God lessons to be learned at the park.

Reflecting on these and so many more animals, I am reminded of how God takes care of His children.  In those times of need, we often get down and can’t get up on our own.  Then God comes in, with either someone to help us through a situation or with some instance that leads us in the way we should go.  Sometimes we do not recognize that it is God who helps us until we look back on a part of our lives and we see it very clear.  God is our Father, and He will nudge us in the right direction.

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You and praise Your Holy name today as we realized how wonderfully You take care of us.  Thank you for the animals in our midst that remind us about how You take care of our every need.  Thank you that we and the animals are wonderfully made.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Animals taking care of their young.

Get It Right

Thessalonians 4:1-2

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord, Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more.  For you know the instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”

Thought for the Day:  Strive to “Get it right” but when you don’t, know that God loves you and He lets us start anew each day. 

“Get it right the first time” are words that we do not see written in the Bible about people growing in their faith.  God is perfect and we are not.  So many times, we falter.  So many times, we fail.  But the wonderful thing about God is that He doesn’t expect us to be perfect in our faith.  He only expects that we admit our mistakes to Him and then we get back on the track to faithfulness.  As I watch my children, as well as when I watch myself, I easily realize that we do not always succeed even when we have set goals and have tried our hardest.  But, as we admit our mistakes to each other we give permission to try again.  Each day, God gives us a new day and that new day lets us “try again”.  Each day, He gives us an opportunity to “get it right” knowing we are not going to get it perfect.  Each day, He only asks that we keep going and keep trying.  Each day, He wants us to strive to be faithful.  Each day, God loves us and lets us know we are His children.

“Get it right the first time!”  Thank goodness we have a loving Father who does not say that.  Thank goodness our Parent understands that growing in the faith is like growing in our knowledge of life. As parents, we see our children try and we see our children fail but we understand that each time they try they are getting closer to “getting it right.”  God sees us try to be faithful and He sees us fail but He understands that each time we try we are getting closer to “getting it right.”  “Brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more.”

Prayer:  Father God, You are a loving father!  You are our Almighty Lord!  Please forgive us when we have not “gotten it right”.  Be with us as we go through our day to strive to be faithful, and help us understand that when we falter that You love us.  Help us know that when we fail that we need to keep going.  We love You, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Trying

Chat Time with God

Isaiah 41:13

 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Thought for the Day:  God holds our hand

Waking, again, early as I have done almost every morning recently, I had some chat time with God.  I talked not being sure that God was listening.  Of course, I know in my heart that He is always listening but sometimes we just need to let Him know through words what we are feeling.  Today was one of those days.  Sitting in the quiet let me express my words to God that were on my heart.  As I expressed my words to Him, I held my Bible hugged against my chest.  I haven’t done that in a long time, but I truly needed to hear God’s Word to me and I was hopeful that His Words would come when I opened that Book.  After my prayer, my talk, with Him I slowly opened the Bible letting my fingers open to the unknown scripture.  When I looked, I found the page turned to Isaiah 41 and these words: “Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.”  My heart sank as I read these words thinking, “This is not what I needed, Lord, is this what You needed me to hear?” But, then I read on where the next verse said, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”  With those words, my heart relaxed.  Peace took the place of anxiety, if only for a moment, and I knew that those were the words God wanted me to hear.

Thinking about these words and praying about what they mean for me today, I heard my cell phone buzz as a Facebook memory appeared.  When I looked at my phone, the memory was about a devotion I wrote one year ago today titled, “Blank Page”, where I was excited to enter that day as I had decided to let God fill in my words for the day.  Now, I have a little smile on my face knowing two things: God has told me that I need not fear because He is holding my right hand and is going to help me, and there is a blank page in front of me that is ready for God to write what is going to take place in my life today.  God has listened to me today and has begun writing on this blank page.

Prayer:  Father God, You are so good and sometimes we do not see Your hand right in front of us.  You want us to follow You and to trust You, but sometimes we let thoughts and worries come in to our thoughts where we don’t see You.  God, let us see You today in everything we do.  We trust You, Lord.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel God.

I Pray That You Will Follow Him Your Whole Life Long

Philippians 1:9-11

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Thought for the Day: A prayer for our children

As parents, we pray our children will follow Christ and will learn to live in a way that is Godly and loving.  Listening to Christian music over the past week, a song has played several times bringing thought to me.  As I listened to the words of the song over and over again, I thought maybe I was supposed to heed the words somehow.  It is not a popular song and it is not new, but it has a great message, a prayer for our children:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmOyvlaDNLY

I pray the Lord will hold you close and keep you through the night,
That you will wake up smiling in the early morning light,
That He will always comfort you and make you brave and strong,
I pray that you will follow Him your whole life long.
I pray that you will grow up to be wise and good and true,
I pray that you will please the Lord in everything you do,
I pray that you will hear His voice and learn to sing His song,
I pray that you will follow Him your whole life long.

I pray that you will follow Him,
I pray that you will follow Him,
I pray that you will follow Him your whole life long.

I pray the Lord will bless you with His presence every day,
I pray he will protect you every step along the way,
Help you love what’s right and lead you far away from wrong,
I pray that you will follow Him your whole life long.

I pray that you will follow Him,
I pray that you will follow Him,
I pray that you will follow Him your whole life long.

As my children awoke this morning, and I looked at the words of this song, I thought about how I need to pray for them.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed with life and forget the simple words I need to pray and to share with my children each day.  So, here they are, in the words of a song by Twila Paris….as simple group of words forming the message of what we need to share with our children.

Today, I pray a simple prayer.  I pray that my children will grow in their love for God and that they will feel His presence.  I pray that my children will feel that presence and will follow God.  I know I follow God as I have every day of my life and I know God has carried me through.  I want my children to know that God is carrying them through each day and that His will for each of them is that they follow Him every day of their lives.  That is my prayer.

Prayer:  God, thank You for giving us these words of prayer to pray for our children.  Help us remember to teach our children that following You is simple, and that we need to teach them that You want them to follow You.  In following You, they will learn to love and grow in Your way.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Praying for Children

The Baby Jesus

Luke 2:42-46

And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfold and acquaintances and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the life of Jesus

“I have never heard that song before”, and “I have listened to that song before but never thought about the words” were comments I heard after I sang one of my favorite songs for a program last evening.  Steven Curtis Chapman captures the “real” life of Jesus in his song, “This Baby”.  The words share little things about Jesus’ life as a baby, youth, and grown up man.  It has been a while since I have sung the song, but I realized as I was rehearsing it that the words make even more sense now.  The last time I sang the song, my oldest child was a baby so the first verse spoke to me.  “Well he cried when he was hungry, did all the things that babies do.  He rocked and he napped on his mother’s lap, and he wiggled and giggled and cooed.  There were the cheers when he took his first steps and the tears when he got his first teeth.  Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as it could be.”  Every word shared in that song was where I have been with both of my boys so singing those words is special.  Now, as my oldest is now thirteen, the second verse made more sense as it is where we are living with him right now.  “This baby grew into a young boy, he learned to read and write and wrestle with Dad.  There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees and all the fun that a boy’s born to have.  He grew taller and some things started changing, like his complexion and the sound of his voice.  There was the work to be done as a carpenter’s son, and all the neighbors said, ‘He’s such a fine boy’.”  As I rehearsed and then sang later, this verse touched me the most.  As I look at my child and see the young man he is becoming right before my eyes, I realize that his young man is now several inches taller than me and that in ten years, he will probably be graduating from college.  I, in a small way, am experiencing what Mary and Joseph did as I am watching a child grow into a young man.  But Jesus, God’s son, our Savior was that baby born of Mary.  He made the angel’s sing, made a new Star shine in the sky, and came to save the world.  The shepherds, wisemen, and people for over two-thousand years have fallen on their knees to worship Him.  That precious baby, that grew in stature as our children grow today, was Jesus.

Today, as we find ourselves closer to Christmas, the words and music to this song will live in me.  Each year we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Each year we look at the pictures of Jesus lying in a manger.  Today, let’s look at things differently and remember how he lived and that he came to earth to learn and grow, just like our children.   Today, I share three links.  First, the sermon about Mary offered by our Pastor Jonathan Andersen two Sunday’s ago.  Second, the sermon about Joseph offered by our Pastor Mark Westmoreland this past Sunday.  Both sermons put the lives of Mary and Joseph in perspective in ways I had not pondered before.  The last link is to the video of “This Baby”.

Sermon – Pastor Jonathan Andersen – https://vimeo.com/194280896

Sermon – Pastor Mark Westmoreland – https://vimeo.com/195371745

“This Baby” – Steven Curtis Chapman  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlxFaHBbizA

Prayer:  Jesus, our Lord!  We praise You today as You are our Lord and Savior!  Thank you for pastors and writers who bring us to a better understanding of how Mary and Joseph must have experienced you as a baby.  You were a baby, youth, young man, and then our precious Jesus who hung on that cross to save us.  We love you, precious Jesus. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The Life of Jesus

I Luv God

i-luv-godMatthew 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”    

Thought for the DayTaking children to church is important in learning about the Love of God.

Sweet surprises happen occasionally that touch the heart and when those surprises are about your child, your heart is touched in a special way.  As I began preparing to put my six-year old son to bed last evening, and as he was reading books to me, a message came in on my Facebook page.  It was from his teacher who wrote, “Look at this sweet message that Jonathan wrote on the playground today!  Made my heart happy!”  As I looked at the picture, I was touched so deeply and I immediately went to show it to my husband.  That moment, that special moment, when you realized that your child “gets it”.  Your child “gets” that God is first and that God is love.  Your child “gets” that we are to love God with all our hearts.  When we sit at the dinner table, this precious six-year old immediately begins saying the blessing.  It is just in him, God is just in him and it comes across to his teacher and to others who share time with him.

As I ponder the moment my eyes saw the image of what my child drew with a stick on the playground, I think about where his thoughts came from.  Sunday mornings are difficult on me, as a mother, trying to get my children ready for church.  This child, precious one, begins saying, “I don’t want to go”, or “No, mama, can I stay with you” when I begin taking him to Sunday School.  He eventually goes in and has a great time learning about God.  Wednesday evenings come and I remind him that we have Children’s Choir and Wednesday children’s programming.  This child, precious one, begins again saying, “No, I don’t want to go.” And again, he goes in and loves it.  He also sits in the room when the adult Chancel Choir rehearses each week.  So, where does His love for God come from.  It comes from learning from us, his parents, to know that God is love and that our blessings are from God.  It comes from sharing prayers around the dinner table and by ending the evening with bedtime prayers.  It comes from watching parents read the Bible and talking about God.  It comes from going into Church each week during weekly activities and having leaders who teach him about the Love of God.  Even when he doesn’t want to go, as we adults feel sometime, when he gets there he is touched deeply by being there with God.   “I Luv God”, written on the playground, says it all.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and You are Love!  Thank you for helping our children understand that Your love is with them, even when we don’t feel they have understood.  You are amazing, and You are Love.  Thank you for entering the hearts of our children and for entering our hearts each day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Parents and Children