A Peace Just Came over Me

1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Thought for the Day: God is the One who bring us peace.

As I awoke in a TICU waiting room twenty-three years ago today, I felt hopeful that my husband, David, would have shown some sign of improvement during the night. He had been in a car accident two nights before and had multiple injuries.   I was hopeful that when his parents and I saw him, things would already be getting better. That changed, however, to anxiety and concern when the nurse called us into a special waiting room closer to the TICU. My parents were present with us during this time. All of us were very anxious and all we could do was pray. After a few minutes, I felt something in my heart that I could not explain. But, I turned to my mother who was sitting beside me and said, “Mama, a peace just came over me.” She did not respond but gave me a very loving and calm look. The doctor came in a few minutes later to tell us that David had not made it and that he had died a few minutes before. I believe that my mama knew when I felt the peace that David had died but she didn’t say anything. I believe that at the instant I felt peace was the moment he passed away to be with God. God gave me the feeling of peace to let me know that David was at peace with Him.

Today, looking back, I know that the feeling of peace was indeed God’s way of telling me that David was with Him, but He was also telling me that I was going to be okay. Throughout the years following David’s death, I have felt God’s presence through finding a new love and husband, adopting two beautiful little boys, and mostly finding a closeness with God that I had not felt so completely before. God has walked before me, beside me, and behind me all my life but it was through that time that His presence was made so clear to me.

Prayer: God, thank you for giving us peace during times of grieving and hardships. Help us to feel you walking with us everyday, just as you have throughout our lives. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE GRIEVING

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The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

Time Spent with God

John 15:1-5

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

John 15:1-5

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Time with God

Walking Around God’s Park

Deuteronomy 8:7-9

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, or fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity in which you lack nothing.  

Thought for the Day:  Nature brings us closer to God.

Thinking about God’s creation and that I get to learn more about His creation when I walk at our park is overwhelming to me.  God has given a beautiful place for the people in our community that has a little bit of everything and I love it.  As I begin my walk each day I look at my watch and set a time to finish.   But, as I walk I quickly realize that God has set my goal and it has nothing to do with my time goal.  He has a goal for me to see everything I can in the creation He has put in front of me.

My walk begins through a wooded area and quickly comes to a deck that goes out into a beautiful area of the lake.  From that deck, I can see the blue heron nesting area, geese flying and swimming in the lake, beautiful water being edged by huge, gorgeous trees.

 

From there I walk on taking in the blooms that appear high in the trees and an occasional perfect pose of a bird here and there.

 

I always walk to the water’s edge to look across the lake at the blue herons and I hope for the perfect picture.  Not far from that point, I come to another deck that looks out toward an island with mimosa blooms, more geese, and another view of the herons.

 

As I turn around to walk the path out from the deck, I occasionally am greeted by a family of geese – and I carefully walk past them not to bring attention to myself as I walk past their babies.

 

From there, I walk into a water area where I see a beaver dam, turtles on logs, occasional blue herons, and pure beauty in the water.

 

Going into the next section is my time of want and concern.  That area is where I see that occasional copperhead snake laying on dry limbs and straw warming in the sun.  I always look for them and feel success when I get a picture or when I don’t see any at all.  My heart becomes a little more active when I see that snake.

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Going on I enter the meadow area of the park.  That is where I see birds and my favorite sights, butterflies.  The flowers in the meadow seem to welcome the view of a camera as they smile and wave to those passing.  I have seen many deer there and as I look back to the lake I can see herons seeking food near the waters’ edge.  And, I hear the geese calling to each other right before I see them fly into the lake area.

 

As I walk into the woods from the meadow/lake area, I look in the direction of our church to see the cross atop the tree tops across the lake.

 

As soon as I walk into the wooded area, the temperature immediately drops probably ten degrees and the images totally change.  At this point, I look up into the trees and see the beauty in the leaves as the sun catches them just right.  I listen as I walk and hear the rustling of leaves as a squirrel passes by, I turn quickly as I hear a bird and realize it is right by the path, I search as I can through the trees as I come to the nearest spot to see the blue herons and can rarely get a picture through the limbs.

 

Going on I make the decision whether to go up the steep grade walk to my favorite place where I hear the small waterfalls in the creek and can share my special few minutes with God.  I walk back down the path and continue to the main path.  As my walk continues I get to visit with more animals in the wooded area then I come to a swampy area.  That area is filled with ducks, blue herons, the new little green heron, and yes the occasional snake.  I love this area as the trees seem so green as they seem to grow right out of the water.

I continue around the corner to see turtles burrowing into the warm mulch laying their eggs.  Such a tremendous blessing to see yet another species of animals nesting as they increase their family.  Walking the last 8th mile continues through the woods where a creek runs along the walk and comes into a water area.  In this area, I can see where beavers have created dams and have left their remnants of gnawed limbs beside the water.

As I exit that area there is another deck that looks out over an area normally filled with geese yet containing minnows, dragonflies, lizards, and turtles swimming in the lake where one only sees the head coming up for air.

Walking around the corner, I come to the last deck that at almost any time, I can look down to see logs covered with turtles warming in the sun.  And, if I hit at the right time, I can see families of turtles swimming together as they teach their young.

So, my goal of time is wiped out completely as my ears and eyes seem to follow God’s voice through the sounds at the park.  But, I believe God’s goal is met for me when I come home, open my computer, view my images of the day, and then share them with friends who appreciate them.  God is with me all the time, I know that, but I sure seem to feel closer to God when I find myself closer to nature, God’s nature.

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Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us so much that you created beautiful places for us to see Your creation.  You show up and show out when You bring your animals, plants, and climate all together to created beauty that only You can create.

Prayer Focus:  A Walk in the Park

The Turtle and the Log

Proverbs 19:20-21

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future.  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. 

Thought for the Day:  Listen to the voice of wisdom.

The turtles that swim and climb logs in the lake nearby always intrigue me.  Seeing parents and babies swimming together catches my eye every time because I see how they resemble each other, except for the difference in size  As I continue to watch, I see that the baby is trying to do everything the adult turtle does.  Speaking to a gentleman at our park recently, he said that he enjoyed watching the turtles on the logs as they congregate close to each other.  As he watched recently, he viewed a turtle trying to climb up on the log.  Every time the turtle would get its feet up on the log, his weight pulled him off.  As the gentleman continued watching, he saw the turtle doing this over and over again.  Then, as he watched, he said that he could almost hear the other turtles saying, “Hey you will never get up there – you have to swim to where the log goes under the water – there you can climb up!”  After some time, the turtle seemed to understand and after more struggle, and “listening”, he finally swam to where the log dipped under the water and he easily swam and then climbed onto the log.

Isn’t that how we are sometimes.  We have to try things on our own, sometimes making something easy very difficult.  When we finally listen to wise voices, we decide to follow their direction and then find out we were making things much too hard.   Is this what we do with our faith in Christ?  I know I tend to make things hard because I struggle to hear the words that He wants me to hear.  Faith can be very simple, we simply need to listen and turn toward Christ’s voice.  Then we will understand his love and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  Climbing that log should be simple.

Prayer:  Father God, You are our awesome Lord who we love.  Thank you for always begin there for us leading us to where You want us to go.  Be with us as we go through our day and help us hear Your voice of wisdom as we make decisions through the day. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Listening to Wisdom

See Him There

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Matthew 14:32-36

And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.”  And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.”  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.” 

Thought for the Day:  Remember Gethsemane – See Him There

As we rehearsed for our Easter Cantata, the women began practicing a piece that brought back many memories.  “See Him There” is a beautiful piece from the Cantata, “The Day He Wore My Crown”, that tells of Jesus’ time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As we sang the words of Jesus agony as he prayed, the image of Jesus kneeling and praying came to my heart and I could feel the tears coming as the emotions filled my heart.  My memories took me to a time almost 16 years ago where the song was sung in another choir presentation I was a part of.  The song was a part of a large presentation where many were involved in acting out the story of Holy Week.  My memory brings me to the area behind a scrim when the lights came up to see Jesus kneeling in the Garden in totally agony.  Jesus knew He was going to die.  Jesus felt the pain of human emotions as he thought of the pain he would endure the next day.  Jesus was human, but his love for God and for us gave him the strength to do what he knew he had to do.

Sometimes we sing and hear songs that, because of the repetition in hearing them causes us to take the words for granted.  We don’t hear the words as strongly as we probably should.  As we rehearsed the notes last evening, I think I took the words for granted at first.  But after the notes were learned and we began singing with the passion of the song, I saw Him….I saw Jesus….I saw Jesus loving me so much that he prayed and then he walked the next day up the hill to Golgotha to die on the cross for me.  The lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes let me know that “I got it!”  I “got” the passion I received so many years ago as I saw “Jesus” behind the scrim kneeling in The Garden.  Do you “get it”?  Jesus loves you!

Prayer:  O Heavenly Father!  You sent your son, Jesus, to live on earth.  He taught us how to live and he taught us how to love.  We praise You for who You are and thank you for loving us so much that you sent Your Son to earth to save us.  Help us remember Jesus as we live each day and as we love those around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Jesus showed us how to live and how to love.

What is Faith?

Psalms 104:24-25

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Faith

New

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Thought for the Day:  God brings us a newness each morning

Waking up each morning, even when I haven’t slept well, is a moment when a new day is in front of me.  New possibilities, new dreams, and new thoughts.  I do have to start the same way each day, however.  Waking with the alarm clock chiming for the third or fourth or maybe even the fifth time, my thoughts are on two things.  My first thought is of that morning cup of coffee that awaits being poured in our kitchen and my second thought is of opening my computer to read devotions to start my day.  Each day begins differently as the devotions seem to take a life of their own bringing new thoughts and emotions.  It is only after these two things happen that I can begin writing.  In those early morning moments, I am sharing time with God and I am sharing time with myself.  As I write, my heart is on words I have read that morning or on emotions that come in my waking.  My writing does not have a constant theme as so many writers seem to have.  My writing fluctuates in different directions as I awake with different thoughts each morning.

Reading two devotions began my thoughts this morning.  The first devotion was The Upper Room devotion where I read the scripture from John 16, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.”  The second devotion was from Jena Forehand’s blog where I read the scripture from 2 Corinthians 4, “The inward man is being RENEWED day by day.”  As I read and as I thought of life experiences in the past few years, I pondered deeply the meaning for me.  My first thought was, “Have I been praying wrong? – Have I not prayed in “His” name?”.  My second thought was, “Have I let the enemy wear me down through fear and insecurity so much that I am not feeling the newness God wants me to feel each morning.”  Jena’s devotion read, “When you lay hold of the grace God has given you to start each day NEW and FRESH, you actually are beating the enemy, because he can no longer pile on lie upon lie and trial upon trial.”  She said begin the day with a smile on our face because God renews us each day.

So, what do I take from reading today?  Today, I hear the words from God to me, “Go out with a smile on your face – show the enemy that he has no control over you – remember that today is a new day!  Then, think about what you truly need and ask….ask in MY name for what will truly bring you joy in Me.”

Prayer:  Thank you, Father God, for writers who bring Your words to us through their devotions.  Through them, we can look into ourselves more where we can know you better.  Be with us today, Lord, as we begin a NEW day in You.  Bring us joy, today, Lord.  Bring us that special joy in You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who are needing to feel closer to God.

 http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-01-17

 http://www.jenaforehand.com/2017/01/03/all-things-new/

 

 

Playing in the “Snow?”

jonathan-and-brooks-by-the-fire

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you.

Thought for the Day: Where will we see and be Jesus to someone today.

Watching my youngest son play with his neighborhood friend “in the snow” was a cherished moment to me.  As we awoke, we realized that we did not get the snow that had been forecast.  We woke up slowly and just kept warm in the house.  A text came in, “Can Jonathan come and play in the snow?”  I got my son dressed warmly and sent him out.  Realizing that there was only a tiny bit of snow, I wasn’t sure how they were going to play.  But they did, they pushed the sled across the small amount of snow on our back patio.  The played with the snow that covered the windshields of the cars.  They played on the trampoline at his friend’s house.  They drank hot chocolate and sat by the fire.  As the day progressed, I realized these two little guys had been together most of the day.  It did not matter how little snow they had to play in, they made the best of it and made up ways to play.

Thinking about their special friendship that has grown over the past couple of months, I realize that they might already have that type of friendship where nothing else matters except that they are together.  I heard from some special friends of my fathers this week that there were times he knew he was needed but that he would just come and sit, without saying a word, to show his love for them.  I have a friend, a special friend, who I do not see very often but it is that type of friendship where we can always pick up where we left off.  God places special friends in our lives to be Jesus to us.  God places us in the lives of others to be Jesus to them.  Watching these two little guys “playing in the snow” made my heart warm as I realized they were building that type of friendship – My son saw Jesus yesterday – I believe his friend saw Jesus as well.  Where will we see and where will we be Jesus today!

Prayer:  God, thank you for blessing us with friends.  Help us realize that those friendships are from You.  Help us use those friendships to see Jesus, and to be Jesus to others.  Be with us as we cherish and love the friends around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Friends

Have Courage and Be Kind

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Thought for the Day: Kindness, be kind

I can’t help it.  When the movie is on T.V., I let it run and watch as I am working around the house.  The 2015 movie of “Cinderella” is a wonderful telling of one of our precious storybook fairytales.  In the movie, Cinderella’s mother tells her the secret of life right before she passes away.  “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer.  Have courage and be kind.”  Through the story, Cinderella is indeed faced with many hard and horrible life events.  But, through it all, she showed courage and she continued being kind.  That kindness is what showed the prince who she was and he fell in love with this beautiful and loving girl.  This is a fairytale, yes, but the message is for real and true people.  As I attended a funeral of a precious man earlier this week, that is the message I heard over and over.  The many, many people who had experienced this wonderful man through the years all had one thing to say about him, “He was the kindest person!”  God used him through his life to be kind to others and through that kindness, showed them Jesus.  He was Jesus to so many and even through his illness, had courage and showed kindness.

What lessons can we take from Cinderella and from Mr. W.T.!  How can we change the way we think and act as we hear about these two perfect examples.  As I heard Cinderella say, “I forgive you”, to the wicked stepmother at the end of the story, I immediately thought about the people I need to forgive in my life.  Her life was turned inside-out by this woman, but she still had the courage to forgive.  I could take a great lesson from this.  As I heard the words, “W.T. was a person I wanted to be like”, I realized that this man, bigger than life to me, had touched everyone he met in a special way.  He was KIND in the best sense of the word, He was kind in the way that exampled Jesus to everyone he met.  “I want to be kind like Mr. W.T.!”

Prayer:  Father God, You are almighty and all knowing.  You know our hearts and You know our souls.  Thank you for giving us examples through life of how to be kind.  Help us to always be kind no matter what happens in our lives.  Through that kindness, we can show Jesus Christ to those around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Kindness