The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

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

 

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

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What Can We Do?

Psalms 91:1-5

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness in a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.

Thought for the Day:  What can we we?

As our family took a few minutes last evening to prepare our home for the storm winds and rain we should be receiving today, my heart was breaking for those in Florida and Texas.  We cleared the bicycles from our garage by putting them in our dining room so we could get our cars in, we checked the gutters to make sure the water would go away from the house as it rained, and we brought items in from our deck.  Every step of the way I kept thinking, “This is nothing compared to what is taking place a few hundred miles south of us – how are they dealing with what has been and is happening?”  And then I think, “What can we do from here, what can we do to help in some small way to bring them a little peace?”  First, in the United Methodist Church, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief – UMCOR.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the world.  100% of the donations go to projects to help those suffering.  After Hurricane Katrina so many years ago, my dad traveled with a group to Louisiana as a part of UMCOR to help friends in need.  These UMCOR friends are the hands and feet of Christ.  Brothers and sisters around the United States are working as the hands and feet of Christ as they collect items for Hurricane Relief buckets of cleaning supplies to help in clean-up efforts.  Our church has taken part in this ministry, with even the young people helping.  What better way to help these children become Jesus to someone else.

As I wrote about UMCOR and Hurricane Relief buckets, there was one thing that was left out but which is the most important.  Prayer!  Prayer is our most clear and straight line of communication with God.  It seems so small sometimes as we continue to pray, but it is also the most important.  Reading an article in Guideposts recently, I read about a lady who for years added a concern in her church’s prayer listing.  Staff members in the office, every week, wondered about those week by week prayer requests thinking that the prayer was not going to be answered.  After a very long time, the prayer answer came in such a way that the people of the church knew the call for prayer by this lady every week was indeed answered…the week by week prayer request was worth it.  Today, we pray and today we know that God is present with the people in Florida and Texas.  Today, things are fresh and the weather system is still churning in part of Florida and will cross other states today.  Tomorrow, the sun will shine and the truth of destruction will be made clear.  But what about next month and next year – will we continue praying daily for these brothers and sisters.  I hope the answer is yes – and I know that, in time – maybe much time – those prayers will be answered.  Pray.

Prayer:  Father God, we praise you today for the powerful love you show us every day.  You are almighty and you are worthy of our praise.  Today, God, many are hurting.  Some have lost everything and some do not know what to do next.  Be with these brothers and sisters today and let them know that you are near.  God, be with them today.  Help us to know how best to be there for these friends.  Amen.  

Prayer Focus:  Hurricane

Help Me Feel the Shadow of Thy Wings

Psalms 17:7-8

Wondrously show thy steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at thy right hand.  Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of thy wings. 

Thought for the Day: Pray for God’s mighty wings to protect us

Over the past few days, there has been a special “live” video that has appeared on Facebook and other media of the hatching of two baby eaglets.  When I see the link, I click on it to see the video of what is happening in the eagle nest at that moment.  Most of the time, all I see is the eagle mama or daddy sitting in the nest with no sign of the egg or baby.  Only once have I viewed the video to see the movement of an eaglet as it received nourishment from its parent.  Admittedly, I have not viewed the live feed video for long and I am sure I just missed the images of the babies.  However, as I have watched I have realized how protected they are as the parent eagles have covered them with their very strong wings.  To me, I feel it exciting to see a glimpse of the babies, but I feel more excited to see how protective the parent eagles are of the babies.

One of the scriptures mentioned in a devotion I read was from Psalm 17, “Wondrously show thy steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at thy right hand.  Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of thy wings.” As I read those words in the early morning hour, my mind immediately went to that eagle’s nest and the vision of the parent eagles taking care of their babies.  Covering them with their wings, they protected their babies from view of enemies and from the view of the cameras.  As God’s children, we are much like those eaglets.   Our protection comes from God and when we heed His voice, His protection “of His wings” drapes over us to protect us from harm.  Today I pray, “Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of thy wings.”  I want to be protected by His strong wings.

Prayer:  God, You are our Father and our protector.  Today we pray for Your protection as we go through our day.  Be with us as we take each step and help us remember that You are near.  Please protect us from our enemies or from things that can harm us.  Cover us with Your wings today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who need to feel God’s Protection

Protection from a Storm

Psalms 107:28-30

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they had quiet, and the brought them to their desired haven.

Thought for the DayPray peace and love for those living in the midst of storms.

 For the first time since becoming a mother, I experienced a time that was different for me.  As I continued preparation for our children’s program at our church, the tornado alarms started going off and we were asked to go to the basement.  While there, we were all on our phones trying to find out more information.  I realized as I walked down that this was the first time that I was in one place and my children were both at their schools away from me.  As a teacher, I was always in the same building with at least one of them under the same roof.  Without being close to them, I found my heart beating quickly and began praying.  There was nothing else I could do.  My anxiety went up when loud alarms went off on all our phones.  I tried to remain calm on the outside, but inside I felt panicked.  All I could do was pray for God’s protection.  And God did protect our family from the storm.

Today the weather forecast calls for calm weather with the sun shining.  As I reflect on this time, I realize that during the storm and our time of panic, that we all turned to prayer to ask God to protect our families.  The storm passed and things returned to normal and we went on with what we were doing.  Yesterday brought me the feeling of panic and then the feeling of relief.  But as I feel that relief, I realize that so many affected by recent wildfires and storms are waking up with continued anxiety about family members who are away from them.  Today, I pray for them that they will feel God in their midst, as He is, and will know He will lead them through.

Prayer:  God, we praise You today and thank you for protection from the storms in life.  We pray today for those who have been affected by the fires and storms and that they will feel Your love.  Be with us today to know what we need to do to help spread Your love to them.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Those needing protection

The Smoke

Matthew 22:37-40

 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Thought for the DayPray for those around the world who are in need.

Coming out of church on Wednesday afternoon, I smelled smoke.  It was hazy in the area and I had no idea where it was coming from.  I, the worrier, drove straight home to make sure things were okay there.  My youngest child came home from school and said they smelled it while they were on the playground at recess.  As we awoke on Thursday, the smoke was still visible and the smell was stronger.  The students in the schools in the area were not allowed to go outside for recess as they were worried about air quality.  We realized after some time that the smoke was present because it had drifted south with the wind from fires burning in the mountains to the north of us.  I knew it had been very dry and that people were being careful not to burn grills outside and that “No Fire” signs were on the grills at our park.  But I had not realized how bad things were in the mountains until I smelled the smoke here.  Talking to my sweet cousin who lives in the mountains and hearing that she had been told at one point that they should be prepared in case they were asked to evacuate made it seem very real.  The smoke and haze have brought me to a new place of understanding about how bad the fires are in the mountains a couple of hours north of us.    Before I smelled the smoke, that distance was far away and the need for prayers in that area was also far away in my mind.  Since I smelled the smoke, the distance is closer and I realize the need for prayer is closer and more clear.

So often, we think about problems in the world as being “far away” and think we are not affected by them.  But so much pain is taking place right now around the world as people are suffering from starvation and homelessness because of flooding or earthquakes.  People are suffering because of disease as they witness their loved ones going through illness or they themselves suffer in pain.  There are fires that seem so far away.  But they are not that far away at all.  The problems of “the world” seem so far away.  But as children of God, those problems should not be so far away.  They should be near to our hearts as those suffering are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and that includes all of God’s children around the world.  Help us bring them closer to our hearts and pray for them as if they are right next to us.

Prayer:  Father, we love You and praise You today.  Today, God, we pray for those affected by the fires in the mountains that they are safe at the end of the day.  We pray for those who suffer around the world with famine, devastation, and illness.  Help us remember that they are all our brothers and sisters through You.  Help us today to bring them closer to our hearts.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Praying for those in need

Waiting for God’s Open Door

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Thought for the DayCherish every day.  Thank God every day.  Look for God’s open door every day. 

Waking way too early thinking about the many things that need to be done and the things I have put off “waiting” for my answers from God about my next step happens much too often.  As my husband and I walked through the church where he is the Minister of Music and Worship, he said, “I really love this place!”  I replied, “I do, too.”  We shared that we both feel welcomed by everyone in the church and feel so much love from them.  As the doors of our new Worship Center have just opened, we feel God has placed us here for a purpose and that He has guided us to this place.  As usual, I caught myself saying, “Our boys love it here and I love seeing you so happy in your position.  I love directing children’s choir, and I love writing and taking pictures.  The only thing missing is a job for me.”  As I have always found it easy to find positions in the areas I love, first youth directing and then teaching, it has been difficult wanting to work and not being able to get a job.  Driving into our subdivision recently, my thought went to “You have been trying and working so hard to get a teaching position, maybe you are not supposed to teach.”  My heart sank and leapt at the same time. It sank because I know I love teaching.  It leapt in wonder thinking about where God might be leading me.  God only knows in this moment what I am to do, and I am ready to hear His plan.

So what now, so what do I do in the meantime?  What is one to do when they are waiting for God’s answer to their prayers but the answers don’t seem to come.  Looking back two years to when it was my husband who was looking for a position, I remember well the prayer times we had where we were crying and shouting as we prayed.  We wondered why God had led us to that hard place.  My husband interviewed anywhere he could, in mostly smaller churches.  He gave it his all in each of those situations and was disappointed each time a door was closed.  When this position was offered him, we knew immediately why God had not allowed those other positions to be his.   I have now wondered why God has led me to this hard place.  I have interviewed anywhere I can, some near and some far away.  I have heard the words, “You did great!” and “I am keeping my fingers crossed for you because you were wonderful” from interviewers, but the positions have gone somewhere else.  Just as my husband, I have felt disappointment each time a door has closed…even when I knew it was not a good situation for me.  In my heart, I know God has protected me from entering a door where I did not belong but in my mind (and emotions) I have been disappointed.  Now I wait and I recognize quickly that I have had so much fun writing and have a new love for photography.  Now I wait for God to open the door that He wants me to go through.  Now I depend on God to help us through my time without a job.  Now I wait for Him to open the door so widely that I cannot miss that I am supposed to enter.  Now I wait, and pray for God’s hand to reach down to grab mine and say, “Follow me…I am leading you to where you are to go.” Now I wait to find out why God closed the doors I have attempted to go through and what obvious door He is leading me through.  Now I take in each moment, knowing that God has led me there.  I believe He is leading me through each day and giving me each moment.  I believe that soon I will look back to see why God let those doors close because I will know the door He leads me through.  Oh, God, take my hand – lead me on – to the door You have opened just for me.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for giving us such beauty around us each day that helps us focus our eyes on You.  Be with us as we take each step and open the doors You want us to walk through.  You are an awesome God.  Amen.

 Prayer Focus:  Those looking for the Open Door  

Overcoming Fear to Follow God’s Calling

Matthew 14:23-31

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.  And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Thought for the DayFollow God’s calling and then trust Him to help you overcome your fears

There are days when The Upper Room Devotion hits home and I can almost hear myself say, “I hate it when that happens!”  Today was one of those as it spoke about fear and how so many times we miss things because of the fears that we have inside us.  In the last few days, I have had fears about trying things and I have walked away.  One time was when my boys and other boys were playing jump rope at “Lolli’s”.  I so wanted to try to jump, but I didn’t and felt that tinge of regret when I left.  Ironically, the other time had to do with a jump rope as well.  This time, it was at my child’s school during their field day when one rotation was playing with hula hoops and jump ropes.  One mother found a rope and began jumping.  I watched her and thought, “I think I can still do that”, but I didn’t again because of the fear that seems to always be inside me.  I missed out, again, because of fear.  That is really sad.

As God calls us to do things in His kingdom, how many times have fears kept us from following His calling.  As we open our new Worship Center at our Church in just a little over a week, we have had trainings for different volunteers.  Two times, so far, I have found myself sitting on the outside seeing men and women trained as greeters, ushers, hospitality friends, etc.  As a writer, I feel there are probably times I could volunteer my services at church that would use that talent, but I don’t because of fears of rejection or thoughts of “Am I getting ahead of God?”  As I read the scripture from Matthew as a part of The Upper Room Devotion about Peter walking toward Jesus on the water, I saw something that is intriguing.  Peter had courage. Peter asked Jesus to call for him to walk out on the water.  He did it. Then fears overcame him as he felt the wind, and he began to sink and called out to Jesus. But then what happened?  Jesus was there – Jesus was there to pull him out and to bring him to safety.  My fears are still strong but what if, what if I decided to ask God’s help in doing something I am fearful of?  He would help me, right?  And, if I felt fear, He would be with me to pull me through.  What will God call me to do today, and how will I overcome my fears to follow His calling? (My heart is actually beating loudly as I write those words)

Prayer:   God, thank you for loving us and thank you for calling us into ministry.  Help us overcome our fears to be able to follow you.  Call us and then help us, Lord, to fulfill Your calling and to know that You are with us as we follow.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those stopped by fear

Being a Part of the Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:23-26

On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.  But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 

Thought for the Day;  What can you do today as a part of the Body of Christ?

As I found myself searching the internet on my phone before I went to sleep for news about Hurricane Matthew, I read the words “Hundreds Killed in Haiti”. My heart ached as I read about the devastation to that country.  Then I read about the evacuations taking place in the United States along the east coast as our country awaited the storm to come.  I went to sleep knowing that the news when I awoke would be about destruction and pain in our own country.  This morning, I read the Upper Room Devotion where the writer shared about traveling to other countries with her son who was a missionary.  She said that because of those travels she was able to see the faces of ones she met as she read devotions by them or as she thought about them.  Today, I awake and can see the images in my mind of the children of Haiti as friends have shared their pictures from mission trips to that area and I see the faces of friends who live closer to the coast.  Between the news, pictures, and special memories of friends who have been in the path of the storm, we ache and we feel true pain as we think about them.

We are the Body of Christ.  We are all members of the Body of Christ and when one part of the Body hurts, we all hurt.  That is the way God created us.  As I watch the news this morning, it doesn’t take much for me to get so wrapped up in it that I almost get lost in it.  I have caught myself several times praying, “God be with those in the path of that storm”, “Please let the storm weaken before it does any more damage”, or “Lord, protect them.”  Today, a part of The Body of Christ, which we are a part of, is hurting.  And today, we will witness the Body of Christ at work in sending aid, in praying, in loving in an empathetic way, and in helping that part of The Body of Christ that is in need.  We are the body of Christ.

Prayer:   Almighty God, thank you for creating us to be a part of something bigger.  Thank you for making us a part of Your Body.  Help us help those in need in any way we can and to be understanding to those of us who are hurting.  Help us empathize with those we meet who may need our help.  Help us be The Body of Christ.

Prayer Focus:  The Body of Christ