When is God Close

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 to 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 gives us the favorite things.

Today, I took another one of my walks at the park.  I love taking walks in the park – I never know what I am going to find.  Some days I hope to see animals and other days I want to see unusual plants that I have not seen before.  Most of the time I just pray that God shows me something special.  When I pray that, I know I will not be disappointed.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I cannot depend on something being perfect – nothing is really perfect.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I can find something perfect, whether it be a plant or animal, in the imperfect world.

Today was no exception.  Did I get great pictures of the Great Blue Herons nesting a hundred yards from me? No – saw them but the pictures were blurry.  Did I catch the perfect pictures of the geese flying over the lake? No – saw them but the pictures just didn’t turn out.  But did I catch the perfect pictures of the imperfect dragonflies and a butterfly?  Maybe not perfect, but enough to make my day.  Did I get the many pictures of a Great Blue Heron up close?  Oh, yes, again not perfect but I believe it was God’s gift to me today.  When that moment comes, we just have to take it in and go with the fluttering heart that God gave us in such a gorgeous sight.

My heart is touched in some way every time I go to the park.  God gave me the park nearby and I can’t thank Him enough for moving me to such a beautiful place to see His nature.  Sometimes it is seeing something special, sometimes it is taking a special picture, and sometimes it is meeting new friends along the way.  Mostly, it is a time that I feel God is near – I can guarantee that when I am at the park, I can feel Him so close that I feel I can touch Him.  Thank you God for the gift of the park.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for giving us beauty around us and for placing us in special places to see you more.  You draw near to us in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.  Thank you for letting us feel you near.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those who enjoy walks in the park.

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The Lost Notebook

Losing the Notebook

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 Isaiah 41:10

Thought for the Day:  Give the control over to God.

So, today I have a confession, a true confession.  I confess that I tried to take too much control of a situation instead of letting God take it and run.  Three weeks ago, I left school and headed to our house to find my music notebook where I could direct my children’s choir in preparation for their Musical Presentation in just two weeks.  At the house, I could not find the notebook and I have to confess that I didn’t act the way I probably should have. I actually cried out to Mark and said, “Satan is trying to get to me.”  I finally took off out the door and drove the church in hopes that I would find my notebook there.  But, to no avail, it was not there.  In the next bit of time as I prepared for rehearsal, I couldn’t find a certain cd I needed, tables had not been set up where I needed them, and many other things seemed to fall through.  It was very frustrating.

Then the children began coming in.  They were crazy and wild, and I knew the rehearsal was not going to go well.  When most of the children arrived, I began a prayer time.  I shared with the children that I would pray for them through the rehearsal and that I needed them to pray for me.  I asked them to raise their hands if they would agree to pray for me. They all raised their hands. I then shared with them that I could not find my music with my notes and they they would have to remember what they were supposed to do.  I gave them some time to think through where they needed to move for each music piece then we started.  To my amazement, the music started and the children jumped into action…they acted out the songs better than they would have had I kept the control.  I realized that I had just witnessed a miracle and that God had placed in each child the memory of what they were supposed to do.  Mark shared with me later that he did a little yelling at Satan after I left the house and asked God to surround me with peace.

The next rehearsals went better as I did indeed find my music, but I let God take control to lead the children.  I didn’t even look at the notes I had made in my music.  The very last rehearsal that took place right before the presentation did not go well and in the few minutes prior to the presentation the children were not acting well and I thought to myself, “This might be interesting”.  The children found their places on the presentation area and the music started.  It was amazing and the children did everything perfectly.  As several parents have shared with me since, “The Spirit was obviously there.”  God sent His Spirit to intercede and the children obviously felt the spirit within their hearts.  God blessed us in those moments through the children and I believe God was blessed as the children told Jesus’ story in “The Tale of Three Trees.”

Prayer:  Thank you God for taking care of us when we try to take too much control.  You know what we need better than we do ourselves, but You need to take over our stubborn thoughts in order to make something wonderful happen.  You are an awesome God and I am thankful that you take our control away where You can lead us better. 

Prayer Focus:  Those always trying to take control.

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.

My Secret Garden

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you; Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.   

Thought for the Day: Through Jesus Christ, we are alive  

I had my first “nothing day” planned as I awoke this morning, earlier than planned but probably the time I needed to arise.  I looked at my husband sleeping peacefully in the bed, I looked at my eldest son who came home after marching at a ballgame sleeping soundly with promise of sleeping until noon, and my youngest who was awake but very satisfied lying on the couch.  So, I got dressed to take a morning walk for the first time in a long time.

Arriving at the park I found a coolness in the air and I caught myself feeling very excited.  Walking around the lake as the fog was lifting from the cool nighttime brought such peace.  Every corner brought beauty and more peace.  Then my decision time came as I came upon the fork in the path where I had to choose the normal path or a dirt equestrian trail.  As I looked toward the entrance I simply said, “My Secret Garden” as the sun shown so beautifully through the trees in the entrance.  As I walked the equestrian trail I found a peace in my heart that I have not felt in a while, then I began praying.  I found myself praying out loud as I walked.  I prayed about my job and for friends who seem to be having struggles, I prayed for my family – speaking specific prayers for each person, and I prayed for continued peace after the walk ended.  Such peace has been missing from my everyday life for so long that all I want is the peace of the walk to continue.

So, what did I learn along the way today?  Peace is available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And He wants that peace for each of us.  That peace I felt entering the park and seeing all the beauty in my path brought me peace for a few minutes.  The peace I felt when I entered “My Secret Garden” because God shown his light through those trees to the entrance put me on a spiritual high.  The peace I felt as I prayed out loud to God about my loved ones and circumstances was so powerful.  Visiting with and then walking with a precious friend sharing in conversation brought such peace to me – my prayers are now shared directly for her as she shared with me about her personal illness.

Leaving the park is normally peaceful but today brought even more peace, as it feels coming home from a “Mountaintop” spiritual retreat, it takes a while to feel back to normal.  Today, I am still on that retreat so many hours later.  Thank you, God for taking me on my personal spiritual retreat.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and you are good!  Thank you for taking us on peaceful spiritual retreats.  Thank you for listening to our prayers when we take the time of silence to share them with you.  Please be with us as we find peace in a somewhat unpeaceful world.  We can find that peace only in you.

Prayer Focus:  Needing to feel God’s peace

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?

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

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Psalms 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty can be found in the Insignificant

After I awoke this morning and as I drank my coffee, my husband came in and we began talking.  During our talk, he found himself on my facebook page where I had shared many pictures of my walk in our park.  As we talked about each picture, and the beauty that each on showed, he asked me if these were planted flowers or weeds.  I replied that I thought they were weeds as they just appear in places in the park.  As I looked at one particular picture, I stated that the colors in that one picture were glorious.  That little plant, enlarged in the photo to show the details, was just a little, insignificant plant until we looked more closely.  My husband replied, “That could be one of your writings”, and he was right. He stated that there are times when we look at what might seem insignificant, and miss the intricate details that God placed in His creation.  That child who is “just another child” was created by God.  That person who has found himself/herself in dire straits was created by God.  That weed that grows on the side of a path was created by God.  Looking at the picture of the plant again, remembering that this is God’s creation, brought my eyes to the intricate colors and blooms that I might have been missed if  I only looked from the outside.

God created me, God created us, and God created so much beauty around us.  In what seems insignificant, is God.   In what seems simple, is God.  Today, and every day, take in God.  Take in the beauty that God has placed in front of us and in the people we meet.  He is there, although sometimes we need to enlarge the picture to see the intricate parts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing intricate beauty in the things, plants, and people around us.  Help us open our eyes a little wider and help us look inwardly at Your creation to see You.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Intricate Beauty

 

Taking in God’s Beauty…in 90 Degree Heat

Psalms 96:11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;  let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shsall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty brings the heart peace. 

So, in an attempt to take a walk at the park, I decided to take my youngest son with me to let him ride his bike.  Not too long into the walk, he began to complain that it was too hot and he wanted to go home.  Truthfully, it was very hot at 90 degrees, so it didn’t surprise me too much.  So we turned around and walked back to the car.  That few moments in the park, however, got my heart going and strengthened my desire to go back.   During the afternoon hours, I spent time doing some chores around the house, but my heart kept calling me back. As I looked at the forecast, and realized the temperature was not going to go down much before sunset,  I decided to go to the park anyway.  In the 90 degree heat, I walked.

As I entered the park, I immediately began taking in the beauty around me.  The animals, being much smarter than I, seemed to be taking their late afternoon rests so they were not in eye shot.  But, beauty still remained.  There, in front of me at every corner, was the natural beauty that God put in place “just for me”.  And I took it in…every leaf, every flower, every tree, and every view of the mirrored lake in its stillness. It was hot, oh it was hot, but God’s gift shown through.  Reflecting on that walk, my heart still races and calls me back.  There is a place in my life where I can forget anything other than what God is calling me to remember.  There is peace, perfect peace, in seeing God in the beauty around us.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for leading us to perfect peace in the beauty around us.  You, in all your glory, placed beautiful places in our path to take You into our hearts.  You are our awesome God.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

First Day Plans

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day:  Be surprised by God’s Plan 

Oh, those plans!  Those great plans for the first “free” day after finishing my year of teaching.  Oh, yes, the great plan included going for my camera walk and just as important, cleaning and disinfecting my house.  Waking at my almost normal school time, I drank my coffee, checked the weather, changed to my walking clothes, and walked.  The walk was wonderful and I took in the beauty of “my” park.  I witnessed God in the lush green of the trees and woods, in the blue herons in their nest and in the marsh looking for food, in the snakes spashing into the water as I passed, in the deer calling my attention to her, and the beauty in the flowers.  God was present every step of the way and my plan for my walk was fulfilled.

Then I returned home to “clean”.  I found that every time I thought about cleaning, my mind took me to the need for naps.  With the sound of my husband downstairs with the children, I found my way back to my bed and giggled as I pulled the soft comforter over me.  “Ahh, sweet sleep!”  Throughout the day, between bouts of cleaning, I sat – and, yes, I fell asleep.  Lovely sleep.  My cleaning did not come close to being finished, but that beautiful gift of rest from God definitely happened.

God’s plan for me, on my first day out of school, took over my plan and He gave me exactly what I needed.  He must have liked my plan for the camera walk, but my other plan…not so much.  He gave me a day to rest, a day to rest in Him.  And my family gave me the gift of time, even cleaning some while I rested.  Isn’t God amazing? Isn’t it amazing to see God’s plan take over in an obvious way to give us exactly what we need.  I didn’t recognize this as I went through the day of sleep, but now as I wake refreshed, I can look back and see how His plan took over to give me what He knew I needed.

Prayer:  O, Gracious Heavenly Father!  You are so awesome.  You love us so much that you take over the plans we have and give us new direction.  Help us recognize You in plans that change in our daily routine or in life.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Plan

My Haven

Acts 17:27

So that they might look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him.  Of course, he is never far from any one of us.

Thought for the Day:  God is with us always. 

So many thoughts, so many prayers, so many busy days!  For the first time in what seems forever, I sit on my patio in the back of our house, looking out into a lush area of gorgeous green trees and listening to the creek that runs by.  After dropping one child off for a band trip very early this morning I am left with solace on a beautiful day. My husband, who has been going to physical therapy after knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, and my youngest child are sleeping in on this day leaving a feeling of peace for this very tired woman.  Now I take in the beauty and the sounds around me

I look into the green that, during the spring and summer months, hides the many houses that can normally be seen in the fall and winter.  I always look forward to the day each spring when the leaves thicken in the trees and the view of the houses fade.  That is the day my backyard becomes a haven for me.  That is the day I hear the creek more clearly and I hear the birds and other animals talking to each other.  That is the day my heart feels a special peace.  So, today, my heart feels at peace…at least for a moment.

Many days recently I have asked the question, “God, are you here?” and, “Where are you God?” in the midst of hectic schedules and deadlines.  My answer comes in the form of my haven.  God is always with me and as I turn my thoughts away from my inward “me” and turn my thoughts out toward the beauty of nature, He appears.  Wait, He doesn’t appear right then because He has been there all along.  He has waited for me to look toward Him because it is then I see Him more clearly.

For the moment, for this 25 minutes more before I prepare for my day, I look and see Him in all His glory.  “Oh, the beauty of the trees, and the sound of the birds talking, and the beautiful sound of the creek are calling me to Him.”  Ahh, He is here.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  You are all glorious and You are Here.  Thank you for loving us enough to bring us to special havens where we can see you best.  Thank you for moments of solitude and moments of Your nature.  Be with us today that we can see You better.  Help us focus our eyes on You today!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Seeing God

 

 

 

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!