Easter is Different this Year

Empty tomb

John 20:11-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Sheltering in Place on Easter Sunday

Memories of the Past Bring Wisdom for Today

James 1:5

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Thought for the Day:  Let memories teach us how to live today. 

You know that moment when you realize that everything has changed.  That happened this week when the Governor of our state announced that public schools would be out for the rest of the school year.  With saddened hearts, we realized we had already seen our students for the last time sitting at their desks in our classrooms.  Now, we will continue teaching these children through digital learning, as we have been for several weeks, but this is a new reality.

The very next day, after hearing that news, a picture showed up on Facebook.  A time-lapse evidently took place as I saw a second-grade group picture from my third-year teaching.  Time lapse of thirty years took me back to a time when I was just learning how to teach, and just learning how to adapt to having children in my life.  Three of those students have reached out to me in special ways since that “time-lapse” making me feel very special…and very old.  One, I had been Facebook friends for several years who was special to me, even way back when.  She was with me for two years as I changed grades and she was placed back in my classroom.  Another sweet friend heard me sing a solo as he visited our church one day, about 15 years ago.  He was with a friend and asked if that lady singing was Mrs. Shaw.  He was told, no, but he said he recognized my voice from me singing to the class years before.  He came to the choir room and asked if I ever taught at Woodstock ES, and I was delighted to say, “Yes!”  What a special moment in this teacher’s life.  On Thursday, before I saw the picture on Facebook, I received a friend request from someone I didn’t recognize.  After I saw the news feed about the picture, I realized he was one of my students from that class.  He and I began messaging through Facebook, and I learned that he is now an assistant principal in a middle school in Texas.  Oh, my, what a celebration of memories I received from a class from so long ago.

Now, back to today and the knowledge I will be continuing to teach students through Digital Learning.  How will I keep it special?  How will I still make a connection with these sweet boys and girls?  Reading Krista’s, Shermarco’s, and John’s words over these two days makes me want to connect with my students even more.  I believe God sent that picture to me through Facebook, and He sent these three students to remind me of how important these children’s lives are today.  How important these babies are when they are trying to learn at home with out the physical sight of their teachers.  God gave me a special gift in bringing me into the career or teaching so many years ago, now He has brought me a special gift of hearing from these three students from my past.   So, today I don’t know how I will make these days special for my students.  But God does, and He will lead me to how He wants me to teach.  With Him in the mix, He will carry us all through.

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for memories of our past to bring us to the wisdom of the present.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Memories from the past

A Mother’s Christ-like Love

Family at Browns Church

Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   

Thought for the Day:  Show Christ’s love to others

I am a mother!  I am a mother of two!  I am a mother of two precious boys who have created something in me that is so very special.  But, I have sometimes fallen short of being the mother I should be.  Today, I read a devotional about a caregiver that reminded me of my own mother and how she worked with my two brothers, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy.  And, how I as a sister sometimes fell short in helping my brothers with their needs.

My mother was amazing!  I have written about her before, but she was so amazing she deserves more words of praise. My sweet mama, Mary Jane Henderson, grew up in a small town in West Tennessee to two parents who adored her.  They were an older couple and she was “the apple of their eyes.”  Spoiled a bit, I am sure, but grew up with a kind and gentle spirit.

That spirit, I believe, is why God made her the mama of my brothers.  God knew that she was perfect.  She was the perfect person to take care of two boys who would be handicapped in wheelchairs from the time they turned 7-8 years old.  As I remember the story, I understand that the doctor shared with my parents that the boys would probably need to be placed in a home at some point because it would be impossible for my parents to take care of them.  With that statement, my mama made the promise to take care of my brothers in a way that only Mary Jane could do.  And she did!  For twenty-five years she did just that.  She took care of their needs of feeding them, turning them in their beds at night, lifting them into their wheelchairs to take them to the bathroom, managing to put them in the bathtub for their baths, feeding them when they couldn’t feed themselves, driving them to public school where friends took care of them through the day, taking them to college when each son majored in different areas and met in different buildings, taking notes for them in class when they couldn’t do it themselves, and crying for them when they were hurting.  The biggest thing she did was to make sure life was fulfilling for them including taking them on trips each summer and letting them participate in interests in school.  She was amazing.

I remember doing a lot for my brothers as well, but I know I didn’t do as well as I probably should have.  I did a lot, as a sister would do, but looking back I realize that I did not always do it with the spirit I should have.  I remember feeling at times tired of the “Donna, could you get this for me?” Why was I not like my mother, who was always ready to jump up and help?  I don’t know why, but I do know that I had a perfect example of someone living the Christ-life in my mother.

Now I look at myself and realize that God gave me children with needs just like my brothers, but without the wheelchairs.  I know I have not been that extraordinary mother as my mama was to my brothers and to me.  Where have I fallen short?  I have fallen short in always showing Christ’s love through my actions.  I have fallen short in giving the children what they need when they needed it.  And, I have fallen short in living the life with my children in the way my mother exampled life to me.  Last night, my youngest said, “Mama, you are always so nice and loving to me”.  That was a feel good moment and one that made me feel that maybe I, without knowing it, had become a tiny bit like my mother.  Today, and everyday, I promise (as my mother promised) to be the mother my children need.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for memories and thank you for placing examples of You in front of us each day. Thank you for loving parents who showed us how to show love to others. God, you see us, you know us, and you love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Parents of Special Needs Children

Don’t You Hate It When that Happens?

John 13:14

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

Going into church after I wrote my devotional yesterday morning was just a normal Sunday.  Well, except that it was Veterans’ Day Sunday and the Cub Scouts (including my own child) gave out poppies to everyone where they would remember the men and women who have given their lives for our country.  It was a normal Sunday that my children went to their Sunday School Classes and Worship.  It was while listening to the sermon by our Pastor Jeremy that I realized that he had to have read my devotional before preaching because he was talking to me.  Of course, he had his sermon prepared and memorized way before I wrote that devotional, but it still spoke to me.

It was about the way Jesus taught us to do things differently in our love for others and to step out beyond our church walls to minister to people.  It was about “spit”, and that Jesus used his spit mixed with dirt to make the mud that he placed on the blind man’s eyes to heal him.  It was gross and the thought that he used spit, that went against everything in the culture around him, to heal was totally beyond the norm.  Spit, one thing the soldiers did to degrade Jesus before he was crucified, was what Jesus used to healed a man. But the part of the sermon that “got” to my heart was a story about a woman who wanted to go to India to meet Mother Teresa.  After meeting her, the woman wrote a check to give as a donation.  Mother Teresa would not take the check.  The woman stated that she wanted to help in some way to which Mother Teresa took her out into the streets.  There she saw a small child in a ditch, dirty and weak.  Mother Teresa looked at the woman and said, “Help him.”  The woman said she couldn’t.  But she was given a basin of water and a cloth.  She began washing the child, taking care of the child, and then rocking the child in her arms.  Mother Teresa taught her what it means to go out into the world to serve others.

My devotional yesterday morning was about service and that I needed to find one thing that would help someone else.  I still do not know what that is, and I’m sure God will show that to me soon.  But, my body found itself sitting up during church when Pastor Jeremy talked about the woman with Mother Teresa.  What a beautiful sermon, Pastor Jeremy.  Thank you for touching my soul during that “Normal” worship service.

Hear Sermon below beginning at 27:54 and ending 57:25.

Prayer:  Hi God, thank you for bringing your words to us over and over and over again until we “get it”.  Help us heed the words you have for us each day.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

DSC_3822 (2)DSC_3822 (3)

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

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!

God is Near

Job 12:7-10

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  of 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 handoff 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 is Near

I love this time of year.  Every time I go outside, I begin hearing the sounds of God.  On several occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have stayed later at school than I should.  Tired and ready to get home, I have packed my school bag and made my way to the outside door.  One day, I came out to hear geese flying overhead immediately bringing to me thoughts of God.  Another day, after an afternoon of parent conferences, I was greeted by sounds of birds mixed in with the sun shining beautifully through the sky.  Last night, staying way after dark on a Friday to prepare for next week, I walked out and heard insects chirping and making fun noises.  A smile came immediately to my face.  God was near.

As we think of God, and where He is in our lives, we believe He is everywhere.  But, when we are tired we sometimes do not see Him.  Today and everyday, I want to strive to see God in the people around me for those people truly are the face of God to me.  I want to see God and hear God in the sights and sounds of nature.  I want to see God when I watch my students next week experience how the Earth rotates making the sun’s shadow seem to move.  I know in advance that God’s voice will speak through their innocence and through their excited voices.

Where will you see God today?  You don’t have to look far, because God is right beside you placing beautiful sounds and views before you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for stepping into our lives through the sights and sound of nature, to remind us that You are near.  Help us see more quickly and clearly that You are in the midst of nature and people around us.

Prayer Focus:  God is near

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

Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World

Matthew 19:13-15

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.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. 

 

Thought for the Day:  Jesus loves you, His child.

“Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  These are the words I learned when I was a little girl growing up in the early sixties in the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children”.  I’m so glad I was taught that song in Sunday School when I was tiny, as those words have stayed in my mind and heart through these fifty plus years.  That song taught me that I was loved by God and that children of all colors were also loved by God in the same way.  In my thirty years of teaching, I have learned a lot about that love of God, as I have loved my almost 600 students with all my heart.  This love is a part of me now because I was taught so early by loving parents, Sunday School teachers, and school teachers that this is how God loves.

Today, I watch my children and how they show love to others.  How well have my husband and I taught them to love?  As I look at my fourteen-year old son, I see one of the most caring children I have ever met.  As he shares stories about his friends I realize that he shares wonderful stories about all those around him:  red and yellow, black and white…they are precious in his sight.  As I look at my seven-year old son, I observe a child who doesn’t even see the differences in people…he just loves everyone!  As I watch these two precious ones, I must say I am happy.  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for those parents and teachers who have taught us how to live.  Thank you that in our minds, we are a little “color blind” as we look at people around us.  Help us to bring the words to the song about your son into our minds every day.  He loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Your child, Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Love for Children