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

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.

God’s Refreshing Water

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Thought for the Day:  God refreshes the land and our hearts with his love and hope. 

Loving our drive through the mountains, we took in the beauty around us and the thoughts of people who lived in areas along the way.  As we neared our vacation location, we began seeing areas that had been burned out in a very large wildfire several months ago.  The feeling of elation as we were driving for fun with our children in one of our favorite places became heart wrenching.  As we drove, our eyes filled with tears as we saw mile after mile of areas that had been blackened and broken by the wildfires.  Nearing one town that had been massively affected by the fires, we wondered what we would witness.  In the midst of the reality that so much was destroyed, we were touched that rebuilding was already taking place to construct businesses, homes, and rental cabins.  We also witnessed the many people who had traveled to the area to enjoy time with family and friends.  Our hearts were warmed as we continued driving as we noticed some green in the midst of the blackened timbers.  There was a lush green in the grasses that grew along the roadside.  There were wild flowers growing in the midst of ash.  There were many areas of beautiful moss growing on fallen trees.  The thing we noticed the most were the many creeks and streams that looked totally unchanged even with the area around them totally charred from the fires.  At one point I said, “It’s as if God is saying, I’m not finished here yet.”  The precious water that continued to flow through the mountains, flowing through the blackened forests and flowing under fallen, burned trees gave hope that God was already there healing the land that had been damaged so badly.

“I’m not finished here yet.”  It is amazing how God comes in after such tragedy of wildfire to the land or heartbreak in our hearts and says, “I’m not finished here yet”.  In those areas of blackened land were the spots of green growth and water flowing to give hope to the land that it would be renewed.  In those areas of blackened areas where damage has taken place in our lives, there are spots of new growth and beautiful water flowing to give hope that God has something wonderful planned for our lives.   God’s refreshing water…renewing our land and renewing our spirit.

Prayer:  God, thank you for refreshing us with the water only You can give.  Lord, we do thank you for the spots of hope You give in the midst of tragedy.  We do also ask for the continued healing to the land and the lives affected by such terrible wildfires.  Be with those in need today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God heals our land and our lives.

Glimpses of God

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Thought for the Day:  God is in the unseen 

Walking happily in the park on a Sunday afternoon was wonderful.  There were so many people and so many natural things to see.  I decided to walk the opposite direction from my norm where I might see things differently as I searched for photo opportunities.  The first time I pulled out my camera was as I walked by a creek area.  As I heard the water move, I looked over to see a beaver coming out of the water to come up on the creek’s edge.  I took so many pictures,  hoping one would be perfect.  I had never seen a beaver at the park before and had been looking.  There can’t be a beaver lodge without beavers somewhere.  As I continued walking, I heard the sweetest conversation between a daddy and a little girl.  “Yes, there are birds here.  Can you look for them?”, said the daddy.  “I see one!” replied the little girl.  “Take a picture!” continued the daddy. The little girl cupped her hands like she was taking a picture.  “I think it was a parrot!” screamed the little girl.  “Oh, it was a parrot?!” continued the daddy.  The voice of the little girl was so sweet and I actually put my camera on video to record a bit of the conversation without the visual.  I continued walking and saw a little squirrel.  As I watched, it came very near to me and I shot several pictures of it posing on the side of a tree staring straight at me.  I couldn’t wait to get home to see those pictures on my computer.  Then, as I came near the end and walked out on a pier, I saw a couple and they were both holding cameras with very long lenses.  I asked them what they were seeing and they told me there were Blue Herons nesting in the trees across the lake. She was very gracious and pointed them out to me.  I took several pictures hoping I could see the birds better when I opened them on my computer.  What an awesome day at the park – the best pictures ever!

But, as life can be sometimes,  I got home and placed the memory card into my computer and went to the file.  “NO PICTURES!”  I still do not know what happened as this had never happened before but none of the pictures I took on that walk were there.  No squirrel, no blue heron, and no beaver.  Gone, all gone!  At first I teared up and got a little angry.  But then I realized that nothing bad had really happened.  Actually, a lot of good happened on my walk.  I still remember the beaver on the side of the creek, the little girl’s voice as she saw the “parrot”, the squirrel’s scurrying around the park, and the herons in the trees.  And, now I have something to look forward to the next time I share time at the park.  God blesses us every day with nice surprises, doesn’t He?  Today, I received some beautiful surprises in the park.  I can’t share them with anyone but they are now in my memory, and I know God gave those images to me as a gift.  God gave those to me as a reminder that He is there in my heart.  I may not be able to see them in front of me on a computer screen but I know in my heart He is there with me.

Prayer:  O, God!  Thank you for letting us see glimpses of You as we go through our days!  Through nature and through our children, we very quickly see You in the beauty around us and in the eyes of our children.  Thank you for loving us so much that You created a beautiful world around us.  You are awesome!  Amen!

Prayer Focus:  Glimpses of God

Lolli Pop

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you?   Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 

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

Waiting for our special visitors, Lolli and Pop, to drive their 400 miles to get to our house was difficult.  Worried about the traffic, as I had checked to see it was bad, kept me praying and checking in on them occasionally.  I listened to my little boy asking many times, “Are they almost here?” To which I would reply, “Honey, they are in bad traffic but will be here in a little while.”  My husband continued working diligently to prepare our house for visitors remarkably placing memory items in special places.   Then it happened, there they were, parked and getting out of their car in our driveway!  “They were here!!!!”  Then the hug, the “LOLLI hug” from a person who has filled my “mama” role since I lost my mother.  My youngest ran to Lolli and Pop giving them the biggest hugs ever.  These two visitors to our home, are the boys’ grandparents!  These two visitors came into our lives in the grandparent role because of their relationship with me. They were my first husband’s parents.  When David and I married, they “adopted” me as a daughter and then after his death and my marrying again, “adopted” my present husband as a son.  I never thought as that relationship happened that in the next few years, my husband and I would both lose our parents. When our children were born, they immediately came in to the grandparent role.  God gave us these two very special people to melt into our lives and into our hearts.  God knew we would need them and He placed them perfectly into our lives and into our hearts.

God is all loving and all knowing, and places those he ordains in our lives because He knows our future and knows we will need them.  Through so much tragedy, our lives could have taken other roads, but God saw the future He planned for us and placed people in our lives to transform our lives to walk into the future.  Everywhere we look in our lives, we can see where He has done that.  We can see where He placed friends, acquaintances, places, and events in front of us – including Lolli and Pop who have been Jesus to our children in so many ways.  God is good!

Prayer:  Thank you God, for the love you bring to us!  You know us and You know the perfect people to put in our lives to carry us through.  Thank you for family and for the ones who become family in unexpected ways.  You are awesome, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those experiencing God’s love.

Was, and Is, and Is to Come

Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Thought for the Day:  God has been, is, and will be with us.

Looking forward to having a school holiday, I imagined waking up late and getting caught up on my sleep.  But, for two mornings I have awakened at 3:48 a.m. unable to go back to sleep.  Thinking about “life things” has been that waking alarm and prayer has not seemed to give me the calmness to rest.  A moment of “aloneness” swept in and gave me moments of fear.  “What ifs” came into my thoughts as I began questioning.  Then I decided to go on and get up this morning where I could read The Upper Room where the first words I saw were from Isaiah 40. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Reading those words made me remember my experience at the park yesterday where I noticed birds flying without a worry in the world.  God gave them their food as they noticed fish in the water and swooped down to catch their prey.  I noticed a turtle family as the parents were obviously taking care of their baby as they blocked him from going toward danger.  And I noticed the trees just beginning to bud as they prepared for the new leaves that will appear soon.

God loves us, we know that.  God takes care of us, we know that too.  God knew us from the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb and formed us into the persons He wanted us to be.  Looking back at my life has helped comfort me this morning as I have remembered the obvious times God took care of my family and me.  God gave my handicapped brothers and me parents who would love us beyond imagination as they took care of our needs.  When my husband died, God gave me time to grieve and then brought me someone to love who brought happiness to my life.  When my mother died, I had another Godly woman, my first husband’s mother, who has mothered me in a special way.  Through adoption, God gave me two precious boys who have brought joy and love – I never dreamed I would have children but God had other dreams for me.  When our lives were turned upside down by what seemed to be Satan, God gave us a new place and a new church home where we are loved and cherished in a special way.  Today, I awoke at 3:48 for the second morning in a row, worried about things to come.  Today, however, God has given me His words of comfort and hope – God was with me when I was born, God has been with me through my life, God is with me in this moment, and God will be with me in the moments to come.  Thank you, Almighty God, for your message to me today.

Prayer:  God, thank you for Your words of comfort as we read devotions written by your children.  So many have gone through hard times only to tell about their faith journey and to give us hope for our futures.  Others have shared their lives as we have simply watched how they have lived.  Help us today to feel Your presence and to hear Your message to us:  You have been with us every step of our way, You are with us now, and You will be with us as we go through our future.  We love you, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us.

 

God Knows Me

Repeated  Devotional

John 17:23

Jesus said, “I in them and thou I me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou has loved me.”

Thought for the Day:  God knows us and loves us

Where do I think of when I want to go somewhere for prayer and time with God?  Recently, I have observed friends saying, “It is nice to be alone with God as I hear the bugs making noises”, “Hearing music brings me closer to God”, and “Sitting and listening to the creek is where I feel nearest to God.” Thinking about that today and hearing of the deaths of friends’ parents made me go back in my memory to my place as a young person.  When I was young, I found my way to the piano when I needed to “get away” from the stress of school or from the worry about my brothers.  In one of our homes, the placement of the piano was not perfect and I did not hear about it until several years later.  The piano was placed on the wall to the left as we went in the front door, but was on the other side of the wall from the head of my parents’ bed.  Yes, the only thing separating the piano from the bed was a thin wall.  My time with God and to be alone with music included playing old recital pieces which were full of runs that could get loud.  My time also included singing songs as I played.  Years after we left that parsonage, my Daddy shared with me that in the late hours when I chose to play my mother laid in bed trying to go to sleep.  She would say, “Gordon, you are going to have to go ask her to stop.”  He said that every time that request came from my mother he would say, “I am not going to stop her because she needs this time.”  My Daddy knew me and he knew my need for time alone in that moment.

Today, my Daddy knows me.  Today, my Father God knows me.  With all the billions of people in the world and the many places and faces here, God can see me and He loves me.  No matter where I choose to spend time with Him, He is listening.  As I thought about this, I remembered a Sandi Patty song from awhile back called, “He Loves Me” where she sings about how, in the midst of everything going on in the world today, that God is still there listening, knowing, and loving each one of us.  Today, your Daddy knows you.  Today, your Father God knows you.  Today, God can see you and He loves you.  Find your place and pray.

Prayer:  Almighty and loving God, thank you for loving us as our earthy Father’s love us.  You see us and know every part of us.  Yet, you still love us in a way that is far beyond any love we have ever felt.  Be with us as we find our special place to be with you today.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

A Pretty Good Job!

Psalm 104:24-25

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 things both small and great!

Thought for the Day:  God brings us beauty in nature – take it in and know it is from God.

Finally, a beautiful day and a beautiful park made for a beautiful time of walking the trails, photographing nature, and reflecting on God’s beauty.  As I drove into the park to walk, the parking lot was full as many people took advantage of the beautiful day.  Some people walked around the lake, some rode their bikes and helped their children learn to ride theirs, some ran for exercise and some strolled leisurely through the park.  Since I was holding my camera as I walked, I was asked by a couple of people to take their pictures.  Those were special moments.  Personally, my favorite thing to do when I visit the park is to take nature pictures.  Today, I put aside the thoughts of the MANY people in the park to find those natural picture opportunities as I walked.  Today’s excursion brought images of turtles sunning on longs, geese swimming along the edge of the lake, budding trees showing their colorful beauty, and even a tadpole or two swimming along the lake’s edge.

God’s beauty comes to us through animals and plants that He gave for us to enjoy.  As our pastor shared an experience this morning of his family enjoying a sunset on the beach, he said he was overtaken in the beauty and colors.  He said he felt that God came and sat down beside him saying, “I think I did a pretty good job tonight.  Can you see the gold I added?”  That is similar to how I feel when I take my walks in the park and photograph God’s beauty.  Could it be that he is saying to me, “I think I did a pretty good job….did you see those turtles I placed on the logs in the marsh?  Did you see those tree buds glistening on the limbs asking for your attention?  And, did you see the geese and the tadpoles?  I hope you like them…I put them there for you.”

Prayer:  God Almighty!  What a wonderful God You are!  You have placed Your beauty around us to remind us that You are there with us as we take each step.  Thank You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty Around Us.

 

I Will Listen

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“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:  I will listen to His voice

Each morning I write.  I journal my thoughts and place them “out there” for everyone to see.  All who read my words know my heart and in knowing my heart they know many of my thoughts about my faith and about my times of fear and doubt.  On Monday evening, I was driving to make copies of my updated resume and cover letter.  As I drove I listened to my Pandora Radio with songs of Twila Paris.  Through the last couple of months, I have kept my phone set on Twila Paris hoping to hear a particular song but it never played.  It was the first song I ever sang in the presence of my husband, Mark, and led to a wonderful relationship and marriage.   As I drove, I again sang along with Twila Paris.  Then it happened.  Familiar music began and I looked down at the system menu.  I looked and saw the song title, “I Will Listen”.  I immediately began singing and as I sang I listened to the words, “This is the faith, patience to wait when there is nothing clear. Nothing to see, still we believe Jesus is very near.”  I began weeping and couldn’t even sing the words.  I called my husband and he reacted in a special way and I cherished his remembrance of the song.  On Tuesday, I had a wonderful interview at a school for a position they had available.  It went great and I felt wonderful about the time we shared together.  As I left and drove toward my house, something remarkable happened…”I Will Listen” came on Pandora again and this time I was able to sing feeling that something wonderful was about to happen.  But, God doesn’t do what we imagine, does He?  Hours after this happened, the phone rang and I missed the call, but returned the call after I heard the message.  I was being asked to take a long-time substitute position in a school even closer than the one I interviewed with.  I don’t know what this means in the long-run, but I know for now I am able to share my passion of teaching in a special way.

Timing, yes timing. Yes, God’s timing!  In the last two weeks, I have been called by several schools for interviews during a time in the school year when hiring teachers should not be needed.  But it has happened, and the one that came to fruition is one I would love to be a part of.  “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.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLKQ41QjdMA

Prayer:  Father, you are faithful!  Even when our faith falters and we begin doubting your greatness, you remain faithful to your children.  Help us in our unbelief to know you are with us every moment of our lives.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those seeking jobs.

Morning Time with the Cat

Psalms 69:13-18

But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of ty steadfast love answer me.  With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.  Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, O Lord, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.  Hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in distress, make haste to answer me.  Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies!

Thought for the Day:  God is there, reach for Him.

Although I am not excited when I wake up in the early morning hours and realize that I cannot go back to sleep, I do recognize that is the perfect time to spend time with my sweet pets.  They seem to want to come around me as I sit on the couch hoping for a little more dozing time.  As I watched my fourteen year old tabby this morning, I saw him immediately stand up from his rest on the ottoman to jump over to his place beside me on the couch.  His purr was very loud and I found him nuzzling my hand where I would pet him under his chin.  I petted him for a few minutes then pulled my hand away only to feel him nuzzling my hand again.  He yearned for the comfort in knowing I was there.  I loved putting my arms around him feeling the softness of his fur and the warmth of his body.  We both felt the love from the other.

As I began writing, not knowing what words would come, I looked at my cat who had found his way back to the ottoman.  He looked content and at peace as he rested once again in the wee morning hours.   My relationship with God is similar in a way to that relationship my cat has with me.  When I need to feel God’s presence, I try to move to a place where He feels close.  I try to communicate with Him that I need the warmth and love that only He can give.  I wonder if God recognizes and gets excited when I begin coming closer to Him.  As I see my cat standing up from his resting place, I tend to get excited when I see him jumping over to sit beside me.  Does God get excited when we come to Him?  Does God rejoice when we come to Him for comfort?  I believe He does.

Prayer:  God, you are present and you are Almighty!  Thank you for being present for us when we reach out for you, and even when we don’t.  Your ever present in our lives and we know you rejoice when we acknowledge you.  Be with us today!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us