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

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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

God’s Embrace

Psalms 74:25-2

Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.     

 

Thought for the Day:  God is Near

“Mama, all I want to do right now is to come and hug you”, came from my youngest as we ate dinner last night.  As he hasn’t felt well for the last couple days, my first thought was, “Oh, no, he might really be sick”.  That hug, however, made him feel better for a few minutes and began an evening of more hugs and snuggles.  Taking in every moment of the evening with my boy, I remembered those times when he was much younger and we had the daily snuggle time.  Did I take that time too lightly?  Maybe.  I knew they were special but didn’t think as I was going through them that the time would end.  So, a hug at the dinner table, then a little seven year old boy climbing in my lap with a favorite blanket was precious.  (And yes, I am taking him to get him checked today – in case you were worried.)

So, how are we when we need to “come and hug”?  As I think about this, my first thought is to love and hug my family – as they are my “go to” for comfort.  But there is someone we can go to, at any time and any place.  God is beside us wherever and whenever we find ourselves.  As times of overwhelming emotions have come recently, and a feeling of overwhelming stress has taken over, I am so glad I can turn to the Father in Heaven who loves me.  All I have to do is reach out, and God is there.  So, “God, all I want to do is come and hug you” is always available just as my lap was available for my youngest son last night.  What better place to be than in the embrace of God.

Prayer:  Almighty Father!  Thank you for always being near as we go through sickness or go through times of great emotions.  You are always there, right beside us, waiting for us to lean in to you for an embrace.  Help us daily to remember how close you are and that you are just waiting for us to “ask for a hug”.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Embracing God

It is Well with My Soul

Psalms 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Thought for the Day:  It is Well with My Soul

There are experiences in life when one knows immediately that the moment will be remembered for a lifetime.  We sat in our pew, taking in the music and speakers during the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  The service was beautiful with some of the most precious words being spoken about this wonderful man.  Then, the final organ/piano duet began to the song, “It is Well with My Soul”.  The instrumental music was gorgeous, and my heart wanted to sing.  When the last verse began, we began hearing a beautiful soprano voice.  From where we were sitting, toward the front and toward the side, we were able to see the faces of the family members.  As the voice sang, we looked toward the family and realized that our dear friend was the one singing.  She sang:

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend Even so, it is well with my soul It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul It is well, it is well, it is well, It is well, it is well, it is well It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

As I watched her, and as I watched her family, I felt that something great was coming.  I pulled out my cellphone, and without using video I began recording.  As the congregation listened, and as I was one who was able to watch, I saw her hand go into the air.  That moment, that special moment, my heart knew that “It was truly well” with her soul.  Her daughter then joined her as the climax of the song came.  Then, an even more special moment came when our friend sang the last note….so high, so pure, so perfect.  My heart, our hearts, leapt with the sound of that voice.  My heart, our hearts, knew that she was going to be okay.  She, in singing those words, gave her family peace that their father, father-in-law, grandfather, and her husband was in the arms of God and that God had his arms around each of them.  “It is Well with my Soul”. What strength she showed in sharing with everyone in the room that “It was Well with Her Soul.”

The song, “It is Well with my Soul” was written by a man who had just experienced great tragedy.  It is amazing that this hymn that we sing often has been sung for so many who have grieved, and has helped bring strength.  Our friend took it to a new level as she sang, giving everyone in attendance a sense that “it is truly and wonderfully well with our souls.”

(History of “It is Well with My Soul”)

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing us peace in unexpected ways.  God, I ask that you wrap your arms around every member of this sweet family, that they will know your love and peace.  Thank you for speaking to all of us through the beautiful words, “It is well with my Soul”.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  It is Well with My Soul

Nighttime in the Park

Psalm 55:6

And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.

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Thought for the Day:  Where do we find rest?

Bound and determined to walk in the park yesterday, I finally arrived after 6:05 pm knowing the time of sunset was 6:56.  My day had already been so busy with a Christmas Cantata rehearsal for 3 hours on a Saturday morning followed with appointments for my boys to pick up their glasses at the optometrist.  When we returned from those events, there was only time to get my youngest ready to go to a birthday party.  My husband took my son to his party and I prepared to go to the park.  And of course, a couple of things got in the way of my time and I arrived later than expected.  But, I did it…and it was well worth the wait.

As I walked into the park, I looked at the sky to see how fast the sun was going down, then I made my decision on which direction to go.  Normally I walk in the morning, so I immediately began hearing the night sounds of insects and frogs.  I began walking faster than normal but was hopeful that I would take some good pictures.  As I continued walking, I could hear major honking of the geese as they made their way to the lake.  Flying over a couple of times before splashing down in the water, they obviously were “coming home” for the night.

Walking on, I entered a section that follows a meandering stream.  It was very still and serene as I passed.  Coming closer to a swampy area, I could peek through the trees to see the sun shining on the wooded area.  Fearful I would miss taking pictures of that beautiful sight, I walked faster to get to an opening to get a perfect shot.  I was not disappointed as the sun shone brilliantly on the view.

Continuing on the trail, I could hear the scurrying of squirrels and the honking of geese, but I could not get a good view.  I then was determined to get to a particular point in my walk where maybe, just maybe, I could get shots of the sunset as it made its way behind the hills.  I made it just in time and there I witnessed It…I witnessed the beautiful gift of light that only God can put in the sky.  As I looked around, there were very few people left in the park so the sunset must have been placed there “just for me”.

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But it wasn’t put there just for me.  For it was a few minutes later that I truly realized who this nighttime beauty was placed there for.  As nightfall began, I began noticing the animals making their way to their homes for the night.  The sounds began to die down, except for the occasionally honk of a goose.  And, I witnessed a blue heron flying quietly across the lake.  Then, to my amazement, I rounded a corner to see three white images, one above another, in a tree.  As I looked closely, I realized there were three white egrets sitting in a tree beginning their rest for the night.  My reaction was a quiet gasp then I found myself running to a deck to get a picture.  With it being dark, the pictures weren’t great and I had to work on the pictures when I got home to show the egrets.  My memory of the egrets is instilled in my mind and so much clearer than the pictures.  There was my “God moment” for the night when I realized that in the serene quiet of the night that the park, where so many walk and run each day, is not for me.  It is for those awesome animals who, in the nighttime, find their solace.

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So, where is my place?  Where is my “solace”?  My solace, as these animals seem to understand, is in the arms of God.  God holds them safely in His grasp as he brings the night of rest.  God holds me safely in His arms as I experience myself in the loving arms of my family and in the safety of the home He has provided.  I would love to experience a nighttime of serenity at the park…but that is not my home…it is for those animals.  In every area of that park, rest was happening.  Squirrels, deer, frogs, egrets, blue herons, little green herons, and so many other animals found rest.  When I returned home, I found rest in God’s arms shown in the arms of my family.

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us your “God Moments” when we can get excited over you.  We praise you today for your wonders.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Rest

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

Rest

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Thought for the Day:  Where will we find rest today?

No argument came from my young sons as I told them that we would not be doing our evening activities at church so we could go to bed early.  For almost a week, our bedtimes seemed to get later and later as we traveled one last time to get our things from our old house.  When we returned to our new home, we still had to unload the truck while we continued our regular routine.  Receiving a text message from my oldest son early in the day that he could not stay awake at school and watching my youngest son act up from being “overly tired”, I realized I had to do something.  Bedtime came and my boys went to sleep with no argument and as I looked at the clock, my heart relaxed knowing their little bodies would get the rest they needed.

This morning, as I awake early with my body feeling rested and ready for my day, I think about how God wants us to come to Him and He will give us rest.   As a mother, I knew my boys needed to get sleep as I witnessed the symptoms they were showing.  All those days of too little sleep was taking its toll on them.  All those days of little sleep was also taking its toll on me.  God knows we need rest to be who He needs us to be in His kingdom, and God will give us rest.  We can be comforted in knowing that God is with us, He is our parent, and He will bring to us the rest we need if we will only rest in Him.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for loving us and for being near to us every moment of the day.  Thank you for knowing us and bringing rest to our bodies and souls.  Help us find the rest in You where we can be alert and awake in doing the work of Your kingdom.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Rest