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

Father’s Day

Proverbs 20:7

A righteous man who walks in his integrity – blessed are his sons after him!

Thought for the Day:  God sends fathers

“Daddy, can you do the ‘Tickle Spider?’”, I hear as the time comes for our youngest to go to bed.  “Why sure!” is the reply and the laughter begins.  As time wains, I begin hearing scriptures being said with Mark saying a line and Jonathan repeating.  Then I hear them saying “The Lord’s Prayer” together.  As Mark talks to our oldest, Nathaniel, I hear the serious talk about the day followed by “The Lord’s Prayer” ending their conversation for the night.  As a mother who has never been great at memorizing scripture, I hear the beautiful spoken word of my husband as he speaks words of faith with our two sons in a way that touches me deeply.  What a great father this man of God is to his sons, and what a great devotion the boys feel toward him.  God brought our family together where this man could share Jesus with all of us.

As I think about God and the way He loves us, I realize that my husband loves his boys in a special way.  Our family is special because God is the Head of our family and my husband follows His heart to teach our family about God’s love.   Together, God and Mark are a great team.

Prayer:  God, thank You for loving us enough to send dads, special dads to teach us about Your love.  Be with all dads on this day that they can see and recognize the love from their children.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Father’s Day

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

Mary’s Love

pietaJohn 19

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,”Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

Thought for the Day:  All she could do was love.

As parents, we see our children through their times as babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers.  We pray for our children and promise to protect them, to hold them, and to love them through everything.  When our children hurt, we hurt for them and want to take away any hurt and pain.  I know Mary prayed for Jesus and gave him the same assurances as we do as parents today. On Good Friday, Mary couldn’t do anything about the pain and suffering Jesus endured as He went through the trial, persecution, and suffering on the cross.  She could not hold him and keep him from that harm.  All she do on that day was to love him as he hung on the cross and as her heart broke for him, the son she brought into this world in a manger, raised through the toddler years, early childhood years, and teenage years.  She then witnessed him as he called His disciples and showed His ministry to the world.  She loved him – she was his mother.

There is a beautiful song, “Pieta”, from the cantata, “The Power of the Cross” by Mark Hayes.  This piece so clearly shows the agony Mary experienced as Jesus went through his suffering on that day.  The more I have listened to the piece, the more I have visualized Mary as she followed Jesus through the day and then to the cross.  She could do nothing but to follow him holding on to the only promise she could fulfill, to love Him.

Prayer:   Our most gracious Father, how difficult it must have been for you to send your son, Jesus Christ, to earth knowing that he would be sacrificed for our sins in such a terrible and painful way.  But you loved the world so much that You sent him, that whoever believed in Him would have eternal life.  Thank you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

God’s Refreshing Water

Titus 3:4-7

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  God heals our land and our lives.

Lolli Pop

Joshua 1:9

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Those experiencing God’s love.

Jesus in the Children

Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Thought for the Day:  See “Jesus” in the smiles of children

In my daily routine, I work with students on different grade levels.  I have been blessed to be in a place, for a time, where I work with small groups of children.  In my time with them, I have given some of myself to teach them.  Seeing the “light bulbs” go on when they understand a concept, and witnessing excitement when they know an answer, makes my heart leap as I know something has gone right.  But what I have received from them seems to be a true gift for me.  These precious ones, these children who appreciate you for just being you, have given hugs, fist bumps, and those special words, “Are you coming to get us today!” – with a “Yes!” called out after I have affirmed their question.  What a precious blessing I have received from these darling children!

As I arose this morning, I remembered a little boy who helps me with one of my groups.  Each day, he comes in to help me with my last group of the day giving encouragement to the children.  After that time, and before dismissal, we ask each other about what our plans are for the evening or for the weekend.  We wish each other well and give the words, “See you tomorrow!”  My day ends with this boy, this precious boy, bringing my heart to a grand place before I leave for the day.  Who are these children? Who is this boy? My answer is, “God!”  To me, these children with their special hugs, smiles, and sweet words are “Jesus” to me.  These children remind me of His love and compassion.  These children bring me a special gift each day, and I can only pray that they see even a tiny glimpse of the love of Jesus in me.  God has brought me to this place – even for a small time – to be with “Jesus” through these children.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me the Bible tells me so.”

Prayer:  God, thank you for children and for the love they bring.  Thank you for their innocence in the way they accept us adults right where we are.  Help us each day to show You to them in the way we speak and by the smile on our faces as we greet them.  As we see You face in them, may they see Your face in us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Children

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.

A Pretty Good Job!

Psalm 104:24-25

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty Around Us.

 

Joy and Warmth

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

Thought for the Day:  The Joy of the Lord can be felt through those people and experiences near us.

What brings the joy of the Lord?  What brings a warmth to the heart?  Recently, I realized that a joy was felt in my heart as I talked to a friend in the school where I have a long-term substitute position.  I said, “You know, it is funny…all of this time I have not been working, I have gone to the church early each Wednesday to prepare my children’s choir room rehearsal.   But since I have been working, I have gone in just a few minutes early to get ready for the children to come in the choir room.  I truly believe these rehearsals of last minute entrance have been the best rehearsals.”  She replied, “That’s because you are where you are supposed to be.”  As she said that, I knew she was right.  Although I am in a substitute position and still have no idea what my future holds, I am teaching in a school each day and I feel I am doing the thing that brings me pure joy.  Because of that joy, other areas in my life seem to be more in line.  Now, at church, I hear children say, “Mrs. Locke, I saw you at school the other day”, and at school I hear, “Mrs. Donna!!!”, and feel arms coming around my waist for a hug.  That is where the warmth comes to my heart.

Today, the song, “The Joy of the Lord” comes to my mind as I think about this joy that has come in a simple recognition from a child that they “Know” me and through the warmth that comes from those arms coming around me for a hug.  I wrote recently about what “Faith” is and said, “Faith is believing without seeing”.  Today, I realize that I have been in the midst of God and through these children.  I have seen His face as He has shown His faithfulness to me.

“The Joy of the Lord”, by Twila Paris

Prayer:  Father God!  Today we praise You and worship Your Holy Name.  You are a gracious and loving Father.  Today, thank you for bringing us joy and warmth through the people you place in the walk around us.  Thank you for letting us “see” through faith, the unconditional love You have for us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel joy and warmth