Look Back, Yes, But Then Look Forward

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather  stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time  to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Thought for the Day: God is with us in our past, present, and future.

Today is the day to look back at the past but more importantly to look ahead at our future.   My family has had its challenges in the last three years bringing financial and emotional hardships.  As we still think about our past, however, we feel blessed that God has placed us in a very special place where we can experience a beautiful future.  Yes, there are memories of painful times, especially of people who hurt us and who have never said they were sorry.  Yes, there are moments we would like to forget.  But through those times, there were the moments in between that we never want to forget.  Because of heartbreak, my husband and I prayed more, read the Bible more, and became more spiritually strong.  We feel closer to God than ever before and we are thankful.  Because of heartbreak, I began writing.  At first I wrote about pain and I wrote about things that could never be shared with anyone else. But then, I felt God begin to lead my thoughts and He led me to write devotionals.  Those devotionals helped me become closer to God and to realize God’s presence in the hard times and in the good.  Those devotionals have actually helped others as well, of which I am thankful.  My husband found a position in a church that is known for Hospitality, and he has been able to share his ministry in new and miraculous ways.  We feel blessed to be in this place.  I have found myself still without a teaching position but my heart has been filled and fulfilled in writing, directing children’s choirs, singing in the chancel choir, taking pictures, being present for my children, and the list goes on and on.  God has blessed us in the hardships and in the gloriously wonderful new place.

Tomorrow, we begin a new year.  What will that new year bring?  The only thing we know for sure is that God will be in the new year for our family.  There is nothing else that we know for sure.  Through God being in our lives, though, we know we will feel His presence through each day.   There will be hardships, there will be blessings!  There will be days that are frustrating, and there will be days full of celebration!  There will be days of wondering, and there will be days of wonder!  But every day will be a day filled with God and God’s love will be present in our hearts.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for these days when we look back and can see where Your hand has led our lives.  Thank you for the days we begin anew knowing Your hand will lead us.  Be with us in the looking back but more so in the looking ahead.  We love You and know You are with us as we go through life.  We are thankful.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those looking back

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My Spirit Feels Alive

Luke 2:19-20

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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

Sitting for a few minutes after several days of Christmas celebrations and then a couple of days of family visiting in our home, has mixed thoughts.  In one way, the festivities and preparations for the Christmas Cantata, Christmas Services, Christmas morning with our children, and Family Christmas planning kept me excited and giddy as we moved through the time.  In another way, the time brought a tiredness as I felt I never sat down and never rested as well or as long as I would have liked.  Last evening, on our one more excursion for our boys to use gift cards they had received and to do a couple of other things, I found I didn’t feel well.  I shared with my husband that I wanted to stay in the car and let them share time in the stores.  As I sat, I worked on a crochet project I had started and relaxed for that time.  When we arrived home, I found that all I wanted to do was to crawl into bed.  Thanks to my loving husband, I was able to do that so I crawled into bed and continued working on my crocheted project until my eyes became heavy.  I did not set an alarm, for the first time in several months, and I allowed my body to get the rest it needed.  Today, I feel better and ready for my day.

As I think about this experience this morning and how a good night sleep helped me feel more energetic, I think about someone else.  I think about Mary and Joseph.  When Mary gave birth to Baby Jesus, they had just traveled many miles with her riding on a donkey.  She must have been so tired and she must have wanted so badly to have a place to lay her head.  Joseph, who walked the distance must have been exhausted.  Not only was he tired from the travel, he also had the extra concern for Mary as he knew she was close to giving birth.  They walked up to that inn door and knocked hoping for a room.  But what they received was a stable.  Then she gave birth to Baby Jesus in that stable having to lay him in a manger because there was no other place to lay him.  Oh, how they must have been so tired.  But then, the angel appeared to some shepherds who came into that stable to kneel beside their baby and to worship Him.  Can you imagine the feeling Mary and Joseph must have had in that moment?  The tired feelings subsided making way for excitement and celebration.  She had just given birth to Baby Jesus, the One who was born to save the world.  Her body was still tired, but her Spirit was alive and awake, and only wanted to celebrate.  As I look at myself and think about how my tired body caused me to want to rest, I think about Baby Jesus and that He is the reason for Christmas.  My spirit is alive and awake today, just as Mary was in her tiredness so many years ago, because Baby Jesus was born and He lives in my heart every day.

Prayer:  God, thank You for this time of year that You give us to celebrate the Birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You sent Him to be born to Mary when she was tired and worn as some of us find ourselves today.  But through that birth, that most special birth, You gave Mary and us the One thing that can make us feel alive!  Help us feel alive in Christ today – and every day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel alive.

Let the Holy Spirit Take Over

Matthew 19:13-15

The 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 DayPrepare lessons for children, then step aside and let the Holy Spirit enter take over.

What a joy it is to praise God!  What a blessing we receive every time we go into the House of the Lord!  Each Wednesday afternoon, I arrive at the Church early to prepare for the evening children’s choir rehearsal.  I make sure the chairs are set up for the children, the musicians have their music, the children have their music folders and reward boxes, notes are copied to send home, and that all the directors and musicians have their instructions for the night.  After I set up for choir, I go home to wait for my youngest to get off the school bus.  By the time I arrive home, I either feel very prepared for the rehearsal or I feel overwhelmed that I forgot something.  No matter how I feel at that moment, it happens.  Rehearsal time arrives.  The children come and I realize that they just want to feel loved and they want to sing.  In my notes and instructions, I do not have anything listed about giving the children hugs and encouragement, and I do not have any instruction about helping the children feel the Love of God.  But, that is the number one thing that happens each week and because they feel God’s love they want to sing praises to Him.

“Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  As I reflect on the preparation for children’s choir, I know how important it is for the children to have that structure.  As a teacher, I know the more structured and organized the leaders are the better a rehearsal goes.  The disciples tried to stop the parents from bringing the children to see Jesus.  They were probably just trying to keep order.  However, they were not going to be stopped and Jesus called the children to Him.  He blessed them.  As the children come into the Church for Sunday School, Worship, or for Children’s Choir rehearsal they come to learn about God and to Worship Him.  The “rehearsal plan” or “Sunday School curriculum” we use to lead the children is very important, but letting the Holy Spirit enter is more important bringing the Love of Christ to the children.  So, to the children in our children’s choirs……bring on the hugs……they are welcomed!

Prayer:  God, we praise You and thank You today.  You use teachers and leaders to bring Your love to children as we share time with them.  You equip us to teach and lead, and then You enter bringing the children miraculously into Your arms for the most powerful blessing.  Enter into our hearts today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Church teachers and Directors

Just God and Me

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

But as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

Thought for the DayFind a moment today to be alone with God

Called by the beauty in the leaves, I felt drawn to a dry creek bed that was a short distance from the trail.  As I walked and stepped into the creek bed to walk, leaves began falling from the limbs above.  I watched them drift as the breeze caught them, dancing in different directions as they fell.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  Listening in that quiet place, I could hear the leaves as they touched the ground, sounding much like snow falling on a quiet day.  The sound was very still, yet it was loud to my listening ears. As I began walking back out of the creek bed, I heard loud chatter behind me.  As I turned, I witnessed a chase between two squirrels playing with each other, scampering up the trees and rustling through the leaves.  I giggled and they ran off, but only after giving me another touch of nature on my walk.  Walking up the beautiful part of the trail in our park, one can look down to see the smaller, and most colorful trees from above.  I walked a bit to find a perfect place to sit as I looked down.   I began to thank God for the beauty in those colors I had experienced over the past few weeks, and I acknowledged that the beauty of the colors was about to fade away as they have already reached their peak.

As I returned home after that walk, I realized that the time with God, as I have walked through His nature over the past few weeks, has brought much peace to my heart and to my soul.  I realized that I had not had the emotional moments of tears because of concern over a job and worry about other things happening in our lives.  God placed that beauty there for me, and there are days I felt it was placed there only for me.  Other people seemed to run through or walk quickly through the area, leaving me alone with God’s gift given just for me.  Just God and me, alone.  Just God and me, walking hand in hand through that most glorious place.   Just God and me.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, creator of everything!  We praise You in Your sanctuary.  Thank you for spending time with us, bringing us peace in the midst of life’s storms.  Be with us through every moment of every day to remind us of the beauty you have placed in our hearts.  You are our awesome God.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to hear God’s voice

Am I Praying Wrong?

dsc_2840-2Romans 8:24-27

For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Thought for the DayPray the best you can and then let the Spirit intercede.

“Maybe I’m praying wrong” is a thought that I must admit has come to my mind a few times as I have worked to find a teaching position.  I pray, I mean I pray a lot about my situation and I pray in different ways saying different words during my time of prayer.  I have prayed in silence, I have whispered my prayer, I have sat as I have prayed, I have stood as I have prayed, I have bowed my knees as I have prayed, and I have even prayed laying prostrate on the ground.  I have praised God, prayed in thanksgiving, prayed of others, prayed for forgiveness and prayed for myself.  I have even asked for others to pray for me.   I feel like I have covered all the ways a prayer can be prayed.  So, what am I missing?  As I read The Upper Room devotion this morning, I was reminded that when we pray, we can’t really do it wrong because the Spirit intercedes for us to pray the right way to God.  In my lowest moment, after my first husband died, I told my mother, “I can’t pray.”  She said, “Honey, that’s okay because the Spirit is praying for you.”  How comforting that was when she said that, and how comforting it is to have that reminder today that I’m not praying wrong and even if I can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit is interceding for  me.

So, what does that mean in this moment of not seeing this particular prayer being answered?  Fearfully I say, “Maybe I’m not supposed to teach.”  “Now that’s not something I ever thought I would hear myself say!”  As my husband and I sat down in a restaurant yesterday, I said, “What do you think I could do as a second career?”  He was taken aback, but pondered the question.  “My first thought is writing.”  We talked about financial thoughts, that are ALWAYS on my mind.  I shared with him that in searching for other jobs, I could not find any that compared with what I would be making as much as a 23 year teacher.  I awoke this morning praying, truly, for a miracle.  My miracle came in reading The Upper Room devotion when I realized that I have not been praying wrong, and that the Spirit is interceding for me in my prayer.  My miracle will come when God, in His time, brings His will for me to light.  He will.

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-10-22

Prayer:   Father God, You are such an awesome God.  Thank you for how you take care of us even when we do not see Your hand.  We want to pray, God, and sometimes we have difficulty doing that.  Please help us lean on Your Spirit to intercede for us.  We want to be in prayer with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those having difficulty praying