Easter is Different this Year

Empty tomb

John 20:11-16

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher).

Thought for the Day:  How is Easter Different this year?

Awaking on Easter brings a sense of newness, a sense of anticipation, a sense of wonder, a sense of love, and a sense that someone has loved us so much that He died for our sins and then arose to show His love for us.  “He Arose!”  “He’s Alive!” Before Easter, we normally go to the store and shop for the perfect Easter clothes so our family matches when we go to church dressed to celebrate together!  We awake and try to get ourselves dressed in our best, and we attempt to get our children dressed and ready to go to our Easter services.  That’s Easter, right?  That’s always been Easter, right?

But this year, this year is so different!  On this Easter morning, I laid in bed and watched our church’s Sunrise Service on Facebook Live.  A Sunrise Service without a lot of people, just individual people singing by themselves, yet together.  I watch our family as we prepare for our 11:00 Easter Worship service…but wait…my Minister of Music husband is here in the house.  He’s not supposed to be here on an Easter morning.  He is supposed to be at church getting ready in the Worship Center to prepare for the people who are about to come through the doors for Easter Services. Somethings just not right.

This year is different, so different on so many levels.  This year there is a pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic.  We are sheltering in place to do our part to slow the spread of a terrible virus that has found its way into our world.  People around the world are doing things “differently” this year.

But wasn’t that how it was the first Easter?  Wasn’t Mary only with a couple of other women when she walked to the tomb on that first Easter when she found that the stone had been rolled away.  Weren’t Peter and the other disciple alone as they ran to the open tomb after Mary told them about it.  Wasn’t Mary alone again when she wept at the tomb when Jesus appeared to her.  They grieved alone then they rejoiced alone.  Today, we know the story and we know our regular routine that is “normal” for us on Easter.  We rejoice together…a lot of rejoicing together.  Today, we are like Mary, and Peter, and the disciples.  We are like the disciples who fearfully hunkered down in the Upper Room.  We are like the disciples who were in disbelief when Jesus entered the room.  Today, we are hunkered down sheltering in our homes on this Easter.  But do we still see Him, do we still see the Risen Christ?  Indeed, we do!  We need Jesus Christ to be among us today and if we look closely, we can see Him clearly.  He is clearly among us in the people on the medical front line of this virus, he in the people who are helping neighbors in so many different ways, he is in the faces of our children as we read the scripture about the empty tomb, and we see Jesus in the faces of our loved ones.

So, today is different for an Easter.  It is not our normal annual Easter Sunday.  But is it still Easter? Indeed!  Why?  Because “Jesus is Risen…He is Risen indeed!”

Prayer:  Father God!  You are our amazing God!  You sent your own Son into this world to save us from our sins, and then you raised Him again to walk among us.  Help us, Lord, to see Jesus’ hands and feet in the people around us.  As we shelter in place, let us show our thanks to those who are helping those who are sick.  Let us find ways to show our love to those around us, even if we can’t see them face to face.  We love you Lord!  Happy Easter!

Prayer Focus:  Sheltering in Place on Easter Sunday

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

Happy Anniversary

Psalms 143:8

Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul..” 

Thought for the Day:  God’s special plan

Today represents an interesting day and one that, although things changed, should be remembered.  My mama and daddy (Mary Jane and Gordon Henderson) were married on July 2, 1957.  My first husband, David, and I were married on July 2, 1988.  David and I were married on mama’s and daddy’s 31st anniversary – there is a photo in our wedding album of our family’s orange and white van with “Happy 31” drawn on one of the windows .  Well, today would have been David’s and my 31st anniversary.  Of course David was killed in a car accident a few months before our 7th anniversary, but the memory of being married on Mama’s and Daddy’s 31st anniversary still touches my heart. Of course, God blessed me with a mother who wanted her daughter to find a second love, so she brought Mark into my life and as they say, “The rest is history.”  Mark brought me to a new place, a new life, where dreams come true.  Mark brought me to a place with children, two of the most precious boys anywhere.  Mark and I have been now in ministry for 22 years and that is extra special to me.  God knew my story before I was born and planned for every season.  David and I were a team in marriage and had a special time together.  Mark and I have now been another team in marriage for 22 years and we have been together through a full life where we have cried together and laughed together as we witnessed miracles and we lived through grief.  Mark has even cried over David’s death as the memories have occasionally come.

Today, I have parents in Rita and Charles Shaw, David’s parents, and they have also been parents to Mark and grandparents to our boys.  I am thankful to them for the gift of their son, and the gift to Mark and me of welcoming us into their family.  I am thankful to Mark for taking this girl who lived through grief more times than anyone should, and made her his wife to love, cherish, and to be in ministry with.  I am a blessed woman and I do not take that for granted.

Happy 62nd Anniversary Mama and Daddy!  I love you.

Prayer:  God, you know us before born and you know the lives we will lead.  I am thankful that through every step of my life that you have shown me the next steps.  Thank you for allowing us to still have the memories, but for also allowing us to see the path before us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Anniversaries

Our “Hallmark” Movie

Luke 2:4-7

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.  And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Thought for the Day:  What are you doing Christmas Eve. 

After finishing the school semester, it took me a few days to get myself (mentally) prepared for Christmas.  Throughout these days, I have watched Christmas movies with my family, purchased gifts on Amazon (yes, the last of the gifts being delivered today), cleaned (especially the hardwood floor), and of course wrapped the pile of gifts preparing for Christmas morning.  Oh, and then there is the true meaning of Christmas – did I miss it?

Throughout the Advent Season, our church has based the sermons and messages around the theme, “Not Another Made for TV Christmas Movie”.  Pastor Jeremy Lawson led us through the series by making us think about how difficult things were with Mary and Joseph, when they received the word from the Angel that she would bear a child.  Throughout these weeks, we have heard story after story from our pastor, from our speaker at our Women’s Dinner, and through our own thoughts that came.  As we, yes we – ladies, spent time watching our Hallmark Channel movies where every ending was happy and well, every ending was predictable, did we lose sight of the true story? Did all this “happiness” lead us to forget what Mary must have gone through those months of pregnancy?  Did we forget what Joseph must have thought when Mary told him she was pregnant?  Did we forget how they had to travel when Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy to Bethelem?  Did we forget that when they arrived in Bethlehem that there was not a place for them to stay – when the baby came?  Did we forget that after the birth and for several years, they were told by angels to go, move, leave, to protect the baby?  Did we forget that Mary, 33 years later, would feel the unimaginable pain of experiencing her “baby” crucified on the cross?  What thoughts to realize that not a single one of the Hallmark Channel movies came close to the agony this family experienced as they delivered and then protected Jesus through those many years.

But, they did!  They brought this precious gift to us who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger.  He cooed, he cried, he laughed, he played, he grew, he learned the carpenter’s trade, he led, he called, he taught, and He died on the cross for us.  Christmas began because of God’s love for you and for me.  That gift led to Easter and the Resurrection.  Jesus died on the cross for us but then HE AROSE bringing us eternal life and the beautiful and most special gift of knowing that God is our Father!  He came to earth as a baby, He called His disciples and taught them (and us) how to spread the good news, He died on the cross for us, and He rose…He rose bringing us Eternal Life.  Now that is a Hallmark ending…but it is not an ending, it is our beginning.

Prayer:  Precious God!  Merry Christmas Eve!  Today is Yours, God, as every day should be.  Help us think only of You today and help us be more thoughtful and thankful for Your precious gift.  Happy Birthday, Jesus, Happy Birthday!  Amen.

Mama’s Surprise

Matthew 21:22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Thought for the Day:  Memories

“Donna, did you and Mark find your anniversary gift”, Mama said as she lay very sick with ovarian cancer in her hospital bed.  “No, Mama, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied.  “It’s in the guest room closet”, she continued.  As this was one of only a few conversations Mama was able to have in the time of her sickness, we knew it was very important. Later, we drove to Mama’s house and found a beautifully wrapped gift in the corner of her guest bedroom closet.  As we opened the gift, we both teared up because it was obviously planned.  Six months before, my Mama had surprised us by driving to our house with the beginning buildings for a Dicken’s Village.  One by one Mama sent Daddy to the car to bring in another group of buildings from the car.  By the time the gift giving stopped, she had given us ten buildings.  We set up our first Dickens’s Village in our house with those pieces.  So, back to the anniversary gift.  When we opened the gift we saw that she had given us the Dicken’s Village “Kinsington Palace”.  I cried as I realized that Mama had given us a special gift that she would probably never get to see in our village.

This week, we worked hard to put up our Dicken’s Village for the first time in about four years.  As we moved a few years ago, setting up in a new place was questionable and I wasn’t sure where we were going to put it.  My husband and I continued our collection of Dicken’s Village pieces until we had over 50 buildings and who know how many accessories.  We pulled out the boxes of houses from the basement with my son’s help.  As he brought them up, I carefully took each building out of its box and took pictures of each piece where I could remember exactly what I had.  He told me, “Mama, we are missing boxes 3, 4, and 5.” I was a bit nervous when he told me that, but I continued opening the pieces.  Later, I realized why I was nervous, my Kinsington Palace was missing.  We went downstairs and continued looking for the missing boxes, but we couldn’t find them.  As I glanced around in another section of the basement, I spotted boxes 3 and 5 and excitedly pulled them out.  I tore into the boxes, but once again was disappointed…no Kinsington Palace.  We continued the search, but still couldn’t find the missing box.  I realized that I was becoming overly sad because I couldn’t find Mama’s anniversary surprise.  Later, I decided to go downstairs one more time.  As my husband was in the basement working, he overheard me say, “Mama, I would be so excited if you could lead me to Kinsington Palace. God, please help me find that box.”  Seconds later, I looked in a pile of boxes that were in totally a different place.  And, there it was, one misplaced box that had written on the top, “Box 4 of 10”. Thanks, Mama, for bringing me special memories of you as you started me on this Dicken’s Village adventure.  Not being able to find Mama’s gift made this year’s Dicken’s village in the“finding of the gift” again even more special.  We once again found “Mama’s surprise”.

The Dicken’s Village adventure continued as most of the lights did not work after being in storage for those years.  My sweet husband and son worked tirelessly to check the cords and to go in search of new bulbs.  By the time our day, and evening, ended we had the Dicken’s Village completed with all the lights in place.  So, this year’s Dicken’s Village is more special than ever because my Mama, my husband and sons, and God all took part in making it happen.

Wow, that was special.  How excited I was when I found my Kinsington Palace!   In this moment, I am amazed at how quickly I found the missing box almost immediately after I prayed for it to be found.  Why did I wait?  Why did I put off asking God for what I needed?  Aren’t we all like that?  Last week, I received a beautiful message from a dear friend asking me “How do I improve on my prayer life with God?”  Well, obviously I am not so great at it.  But eventually I remember and I pray.  And, when I pray I feel better in whatever circumstance I am going through.  Thank you, God, for answering my prayer….I’m not sure my Mama didn’t give me the nudge to pray.  I wonder…!

Prayer:  Precious God!  Thank you for memories and thank you for reminding us to pray in special ways.  Today I am thankful for surprises that come through prayer.  Amen.

Thanksgiving Memories

Colossians 2:67

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed,and overflowing with gratitude.

Thought for the Day:  What are we thankful for?

There is a special moment, actually a lot of moments, when I remember our family traveling to my grandmother’s house.  I don’t remember any arguments before we got in the car to travel.  I don’t remember the fights in the car, although I am sure there were many.  I do remember the drive, trying to sleep or trying to entertain myself in some way.  Counting mile markers on the interstate, for one.  I remember my daddy  turning onto Brunswick Road because I knew we were almost there?  Then, I remember driving into the driveway.  Sometimes we drove in from the Brunswick Road driveway and other times taking the backroads and driving in the back driveway from Davis Plantation Road.  I always looked at the other cars, and their license plates to see which cousins were already there.  Weakley County meant that Kay, Joy, Ron, and Ann were already there.  Madison County meant that my cousins Amy and Debbie were there.  Crockett meant that Alonda, Alecia, and Reid had already arrived.  Cousins Keith, Joanne, and Vikki were always there because they lived near my grandmother. My cousin, Dan, was already working in Memphis so he would drive up in his MG which all of us thought was pretty cool. Wait, a lot of memories have already been mentioned, but the best Thanksgiving memory has not.

“Mama Ed”, my grandmother would always come to the door to greet us when we entered.  My little 4’ 9” Mama Ed had the most precious hug and we knew we were welcomed.  That was Thanksgiving!  That was Thanksgiving!  Going on in, we were welcomed by the hugs from all of our aunts and uncles.  Sitting with the other children during the meal was precious and I remember having the time of my life.  As we ate, I remember watching my brothers, who were both in wheelchairs, sharing time with the cousins nearer their ages.  There was a normalcy there that was special as they were totally a part of conversations and stories.

So much is gone now as many of my family, young and old, have passed away.  But I have those special memories that flow into my mind around this time of year.  My husband and I have a lot of memories of Thanksgivings  and tear up as we think of those who are no longer with us.  We weep each year as we make decisions on what we are going to do on THIS Thanksiving.  New traditions with our own two sweet boys have begun, but some of the new traditions are that we do something different each year, depending on other’s schedules.   Tomorrow, we will travel 2 ½ hours to the mountains to visit my sweet cousin, Teresa.  We found each other about three years ago and I am excited to meet another part of my family.  My husband is excited as we finally made a decision and that he has already found a love for Teresa and her husband.  Our boys love their “Aunt Teresa” now and look forward to walking into a house full of love.

Thanksgiving is giving thanks for where we are in the present, but remembering the past.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for putting us in the places He moves us, and knowing that it was God’s hand that led us right where we are.  Thanksgiving is finding a way to give thanks even when circumstances are not perfect.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks IN all circumstances.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven!  Thank you for memories of Thanksgivings past.  Thank you for new memories we make during Thanksgivings present.  Be with all our family members and friends who are hurting and grieving those who are no longer with us.  Be with those who are sick and need to feel your arms around them.  Be with those who are not happy and help them feel your love.  All this we pray this Thanksgiving, Amen.

Special Memories

Fulton Parsonage (3)

Lamentations 3:21-25

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 

Thought for the Day:  God lets us remember. 

The Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place last week.  As we have lived in Georgia for the past 2 ½ years, it was a joy to make the drive to Paducah, KY, to see lifelong friends.  A lot of hugs took place so my husband and I both felt very special.  Both being United Methodist Preacher’s Kids (PKs), it was a great homecoming.  One of our dear friends and his wife are both ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church, and he was a youth in one of the churches where my Daddy served – and he lived across the street from us.  One of those special hugs came to me from John as I love seeing him at conference.  But, he surprised me with the words, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage.”  That was where we lived from my junior year in high school through my freshman year in college.  As I took his statement in, I realized that my memory bank from those years began coming into clear view in my mind.  It was like a gift had been opened and my past memories burst out of the box.

I immediately began sharing my thoughts as they came beginning with, “Have you checked the walls and door frames for small dents?”  During our time in that parsonage, my brother received an electric wheelchair.  For a period of time, as he adjusted to driving the wheelchair, a lot of bumping into door frames took place as he drove circles through the house.  I understand the carpet had to be replaced when we moved.  As my husband and I drove around the neighborhood after conference, I told him about the time my brother decided to take advantage of his independence (in his electric wheelchair) and began a trek around the block.  After a period of time, we realized he was not in the house.  We found him with his wheel stuck in a small hole beside the road.  What a laugh we all had when we realized what he had done! What a memory!

One statement, one precious statement, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage?”, took me somewhere special.  Over time, as I no longer have my parents and brothers, I have found that many of my memories have begun to fade.   This experience caused so many memories to come clear in my mind, and to recognize that those memories are there – they just need a little jolt to come to light.  Since my Daddy died 12 years ago, I have found that some memories have faded through pain in remembering.  But now, I realize the joy in remembering can take a lot of the pain of life away.

Prayer:  God, thank you for special friends and special memories.  As we go through life and “life” takes us to new places, it is important to remember our past.  Our past made us who we are and we are your children.  Thank you for bringing our past memories to us as we remember those special times in our lives – those times You gave us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Memories