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.

Advertisements

Was, and Is, and Is to Come

Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Thought for the Day:  God has been, is, and will be with us.

Looking forward to having a school holiday, I imagined waking up late and getting caught up on my sleep.  But, for two mornings I have awakened at 3:48 a.m. unable to go back to sleep.  Thinking about “life things” has been that waking alarm and prayer has not seemed to give me the calmness to rest.  A moment of “aloneness” swept in and gave me moments of fear.  “What ifs” came into my thoughts as I began questioning.  Then I decided to go on and get up this morning where I could read The Upper Room where the first words I saw were from Isaiah 40. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Reading those words made me remember my experience at the park yesterday where I noticed birds flying without a worry in the world.  God gave them their food as they noticed fish in the water and swooped down to catch their prey.  I noticed a turtle family as the parents were obviously taking care of their baby as they blocked him from going toward danger.  And I noticed the trees just beginning to bud as they prepared for the new leaves that will appear soon.

God loves us, we know that.  God takes care of us, we know that too.  God knew us from the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb and formed us into the persons He wanted us to be.  Looking back at my life has helped comfort me this morning as I have remembered the obvious times God took care of my family and me.  God gave my handicapped brothers and me parents who would love us beyond imagination as they took care of our needs.  When my husband died, God gave me time to grieve and then brought me someone to love who brought happiness to my life.  When my mother died, I had another Godly woman, my first husband’s mother, who has mothered me in a special way.  Through adoption, God gave me two precious boys who have brought joy and love – I never dreamed I would have children but God had other dreams for me.  When our lives were turned upside down by what seemed to be Satan, God gave us a new place and a new church home where we are loved and cherished in a special way.  Today, I awoke at 3:48 for the second morning in a row, worried about things to come.  Today, however, God has given me His words of comfort and hope – God was with me when I was born, God has been with me through my life, God is with me in this moment, and God will be with me in the moments to come.  Thank you, Almighty God, for your message to me today.

Prayer:  God, thank you for Your words of comfort as we read devotions written by your children.  So many have gone through hard times only to tell about their faith journey and to give us hope for our futures.  Others have shared their lives as we have simply watched how they have lived.  Help us today to feel Your presence and to hear Your message to us:  You have been with us every step of our way, You are with us now, and You will be with us as we go through our future.  We love you, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us.

 

What is Hiding God’s Calling from Us Today?

Romans 12:1-3

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. 

Thought for the Day:  Slow the earthly thoughts to be able to hear God’s calling

Substituting in a school nearby has become something I love doing.  So far, I have subbed in kindergarten and first grade.  As I substituted in one classroom for the third time, I heard “Hi, Mrs. Locke” and received hugs from several of the students as they walked in the door.  How warming that has been and how my heart has felt uplifted.  After a long time of not teaching, it has been so rewarding to pick up a book to read or to teach a lesson on sequencing or action verbs.  Memories have flooded back of students I have taught in the past and some of those fun lessons I have had the privilege to teach.  God called me those thirty or so years ago to begin teaching and through that time I felt blessed to have been called to the teaching profession.  But as time has passed of not having a teaching position that strong thought of calling has seemingly faded.  Doubt, fear, and inadequate feelings have slowly eased into my mind that I am not good enough.  But then God has reminded me of that calling once again and through enjoyment of teaching in these different classes, the warm feelings have returned.

It is amazing how our thoughts let the earthly things around us affect how we hear God’s calling for our lives.  Times of struggle, feelings of inadequacies, moments of grief, and so many more emotional elements in life block God’s calling if we let them.  Thinking back over the last year of my life, personally, I can see where God has called me and where I have felt His blessings for me.  But, I can also see where those earthly struggles have blocked me from God and have blocked my eyes from seeing His calling in my life.  In Romans 12, we read, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Renewal of the mind….that’s what my “calling” is today where I can hear God’s calling for me today.

Prayer:  Father God, You are Awesome and You are our Lord and Savior.  Help us today to slow our earthly thoughts down enough to hear Your voice calling us.  Help us adjust our thoughts to feel the renewal of the mind that You desire for us.  You are calling us Lord and we want to hear You.  Let us hear You today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Calling

Get It Right

Thessalonians 4:1-2

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord, Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more.  For you know the instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”

Thought for the Day:  Strive to “Get it right” but when you don’t, know that God loves you and He lets us start anew each day. 

“Get it right the first time” are words that we do not see written in the Bible about people growing in their faith.  God is perfect and we are not.  So many times, we falter.  So many times, we fail.  But the wonderful thing about God is that He doesn’t expect us to be perfect in our faith.  He only expects that we admit our mistakes to Him and then we get back on the track to faithfulness.  As I watch my children, as well as when I watch myself, I easily realize that we do not always succeed even when we have set goals and have tried our hardest.  But, as we admit our mistakes to each other we give permission to try again.  Each day, God gives us a new day and that new day lets us “try again”.  Each day, He gives us an opportunity to “get it right” knowing we are not going to get it perfect.  Each day, He only asks that we keep going and keep trying.  Each day, He wants us to strive to be faithful.  Each day, God loves us and lets us know we are His children.

“Get it right the first time!”  Thank goodness we have a loving Father who does not say that.  Thank goodness our Parent understands that growing in the faith is like growing in our knowledge of life. As parents, we see our children try and we see our children fail but we understand that each time they try they are getting closer to “getting it right.”  God sees us try to be faithful and He sees us fail but He understands that each time we try we are getting closer to “getting it right.”  “Brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more.”

Prayer:  Father God, You are a loving father!  You are our Almighty Lord!  Please forgive us when we have not “gotten it right”.  Be with us as we go through our day to strive to be faithful, and help us understand that when we falter that You love us.  Help us know that when we fail that we need to keep going.  We love You, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Trying

I Luv God

i-luv-godMatthew 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 DayTaking children to church is important in learning about the Love of God.

Sweet surprises happen occasionally that touch the heart and when those surprises are about your child, your heart is touched in a special way.  As I began preparing to put my six-year old son to bed last evening, and as he was reading books to me, a message came in on my Facebook page.  It was from his teacher who wrote, “Look at this sweet message that Jonathan wrote on the playground today!  Made my heart happy!”  As I looked at the picture, I was touched so deeply and I immediately went to show it to my husband.  That moment, that special moment, when you realized that your child “gets it”.  Your child “gets” that God is first and that God is love.  Your child “gets” that we are to love God with all our hearts.  When we sit at the dinner table, this precious six-year old immediately begins saying the blessing.  It is just in him, God is just in him and it comes across to his teacher and to others who share time with him.

As I ponder the moment my eyes saw the image of what my child drew with a stick on the playground, I think about where his thoughts came from.  Sunday mornings are difficult on me, as a mother, trying to get my children ready for church.  This child, precious one, begins saying, “I don’t want to go”, or “No, mama, can I stay with you” when I begin taking him to Sunday School.  He eventually goes in and has a great time learning about God.  Wednesday evenings come and I remind him that we have Children’s Choir and Wednesday children’s programming.  This child, precious one, begins again saying, “No, I don’t want to go.” And again, he goes in and loves it.  He also sits in the room when the adult Chancel Choir rehearses each week.  So, where does His love for God come from.  It comes from learning from us, his parents, to know that God is love and that our blessings are from God.  It comes from sharing prayers around the dinner table and by ending the evening with bedtime prayers.  It comes from watching parents read the Bible and talking about God.  It comes from going into Church each week during weekly activities and having leaders who teach him about the Love of God.  Even when he doesn’t want to go, as we adults feel sometime, when he gets there he is touched deeply by being there with God.   “I Luv God”, written on the playground, says it all.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and You are Love!  Thank you for helping our children understand that Your love is with them, even when we don’t feel they have understood.  You are amazing, and You are Love.  Thank you for entering the hearts of our children and for entering our hearts each day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Parents and Children

 

The Walk

Matthew 5:13-16

 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before me, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

Thought for the DayWhat tool is God wanting you to use today?

Missing my walking time in the park, I found that my body and soul felt empty.  I had already realized that when I walk I feel better and full of life, so it wasn’t surprising to have a down day.  Yesterday began much the same with appointments at the beginning and ending of the day.  I decided not to walk.  Midday came and I began feeling down again, so I decided to take a quick walk.  My thoughts were that I could walk a half mile, turn around, and walk back.  Putting jeans, shirt, and tennis shoes on, I headed out and drove to the park.  I realized I had made a mistake about a hundred yards in as it was warmer than I anticipated.  The jeans were much too heavy to walk in that high temperature.  I almost turned around then, but I continued on.  I continued past the half mile mark, and realized I was only another half mile from the beautiful part of the path.  I thought, “I will just go up that far to see what is left of the colors.”  When I got there, the colors were still pretty, but not vibrant.  I decided then to continue on for the rest of the path.  The path continued where the last mile was mainly in sunshine.  It was hot, but I made it to the end of the path.  I was hot, and very smelly, but I had made it.  As I got in my car and turned on the air conditioner, I began feeling better and realized that my body and soul were full.  That uncomfortable walk was still a walk, and it did to my body and soul what I was needing to feel at peace.

I have found throughout the last couple of years that there are several things that bring my heart fulfillment and it is important to my heart and soul that I do them.  Writing, taking pictures, walking, reading the Bible, praying, going to church, and spending time with my family are the tools God uses to bring me closer to Him.  The tools have always been there for me but I have only recently decided to use them in that way that God intended.  There are days, I lay the tools aside and leave them just as I did the day I didn’t walk.  Those are the days I find something wrong with my heart and soul.  Peace comes from doing the things God has asked us to do.  Will I pick up the tools He has given me today, or will I let them sit idle?  I think I will use the tools God has given.  I believe it is time to grab my camera and go for a walk!

Prayer:  God, You are awesome and all glorious.  You have placed such wonderful tools in front of us to use to help us grow closer to You.  Please help us realize that using those tools will not only help us but will help those around us to see You more clearly.  Teach us how to use the tools in the way You desire.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Using the tools God has given us.

God, You are Welcome in this Place

dsc_2801-2Romans 15:5-7

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ as welcome you, for the glory of God.    

Thought for the DayGod welcomes us each day so how will we welcome Him.

What a wonderful blessing the members and visitors received as they came into the church building.  After watching the building appear through the laying of the foundation to the last chair being placed in the Worship Center, the day finally came.  The doors opened and the people came, and they came, and they came.  The children walked in to stand in their place in the front of the congregation to sing.  Their nerves showed a little bit on their faces as I am sure showed also on the faces of the adult directors and helpers.  I know I stood with a smile on my face, but with nerves going crazy inside.  Then the music started, the first music played for a traditional service in that room, and the children began to sing.  “God, You are welcome in this place” were the words the children sang.  Of course, God was already there.  He was there as that foundation was laid.  He was there when that first group of people met in a house over twenty years ago, and He was there in the heart of each person attending that Worship Service yesterday.  He was present in the two worship services that already took place that morning when the youth attended and raised their hands as they felt God welcoming them in through the glorious music played and sung.  God was there and He was the One welcoming each person in.   During the worship services on that first day in the new Worship Center, God welcomed us with beautiful hymns, scripture readings and lessons, prayers for the people, a fabulous sermon, and a full choir singing a breathtaking anthem.  In tears, the people responded as they felt the power of God welcome them into that beautiful space, and as they welcomed God into their hearts.

God welcomes each one of us every day when we wake up and open our eyes to see His glory around us.  First Days in new Worship spaces do not happen every day so when they come, they are very special.  But, God’s new days come every day for us when he brings the sunshine to welcome us and He wants us to feel Him in our hearts.  We have a decision to make each day to how we are going to welcome Him into our hearts, and what we are going to do to show that we welcome Him.  As our District Superintendent said in the benediction yesterday, we do not need to keep the celebration and excitement in that building, we need to take it outside the doors and take God out into the world.  When we wake up each day and welcome God, we need to take God with us through the day where others will feel God through us.  God welcomes you today – welcome Him into your heart.

Prayer Focus:  Those feeling God’s welcome.

Too Overwhelming

Isaiah 43:1-2

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Thought for the Day:  Pray and do not be overwhelmed

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with a situation that you ended up doing nothing about it?  I was like that yesterday as I awoke knowing I needed to do several things around the house.  There is nothing worse than that feeling of knowing so much needs to be done and realizing that you are doing nothing about any of the needs.  The to do list is long and nothing is getting checked off the list.  As words would not come for a written devotion, I turned back into my Upper Room devotion book and read back through some devotions I had missed.  The first one ironically was called “When We are Overwhelmed” from a couple of days before.  Of course the title caught my attention so I read.  As I read the words from the writer who wrote about a time in his life when he was overwhelmed and that someone gave him some advice, it caught my attention.  “You can’t do everything.  Do what you can and give the rest a nod and a prayer.”  He stated that a nod indicates that we see the problem but we can’t do anything about it at that moment.  It has to wait its turn.  A prayer says that we are leaving it in the hands of God and that maybe God has someone else in mind to work on that problem.  “With a nod and a prayer, we allow ourselves and others to answer God’s call to do the work set before us.

What great words from a pastor who shared his thoughts about an overwhelming situation!  What great advice to all of us going through overwhelming times!  Today, I reflect over this advice and look at my personal situation and how much needs to be done on my “to do list”.  What needs a nod to acknowledge that it is on the list but has to wait its turn in the long line of things to do?  What needs to be done now and cannot wait?  Today, I nod and pray.  Today, I put my faith in God to lead me in the direction and to the things on the to do list that I have to do today.  Today, I pray that God will intercede and will lessen my overwhelming feelings where I can hear and follow His guidance.

Prayer:  Father God, we praise You today for being our everlasting Father.  Thank You for giving us what we need when we need it, and for loving us through any situation.  Be with us today as we go through overwhelming thoughts and help us “nod” to the things that need to wait, to “pray” that You will take care of some situations, to “listen” to Your guidance in the things we need to do.  Be with us as we go through our day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those feeing overwhelmed

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-08-31

 

Treasure in the Attic Boxes

1 Corinthians 2:9

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.”

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s Hidden Treasures

That moment, that special moment, when a box is opened and in it are treasures from the past.  Over the last few days, I have been blessed to continue going through boxes of treasures that have been in the corner of the attic for many years.  The box, filled with sports pennants from different national teams that once lined the ceiling area of my brothers’ bedroom, along with jackets of favorite teams caught my emotions off guard with wonderful memories.  The box full of items that sat on my brothers’ room shelves along with the baseball record book of each game that my brother sat and scored as he watched the St. Louis Cardinals and The Atlanta Braves brought memories of my brothers enjoying life.  That was the box that made me lose myself in emotions and when I had to stop for a while.  Later, more treasures came like the handwritten letter written to my brother, Coble, from Brooks Robinson.  I almost threw that one away accidentally without knowing the treasure I held in my hand.

Treasures, those remembered and forgotten, bring special moments in our lives.  God’s treasures, those seen and unseen bring those special moments as well.  As life happens on a day to day basis, we know that God is leading us to His treasures and sometimes we do not recognize how special they are so we put them away in “boxes” and forget about them.  When we finally open the “boxes”, we see how those treasures of God helped us through times in our lives.  God’s treasures, special treasures, are there for us if we will only recognize them.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for loving us and sharing Your special treasures with us every day.  You are amazing!  Please open our eyes to see Your gifts through those treasures where we will not put them in a box to be hidden.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those looking through attic boxes

Remembering Your Foundation

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.  For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Thought for the Day:   Remember your sure foundation

Over the past few days, pastor friends of my Daddy’s have come up in my thoughts as I have felt a strong need for fatherly advice.  As my Daddy was a United Methodist pastor, we knew and loved so many who supported us through the hard times and celebrated with us through the great times in our lives.  Today, I have thoughts of those who sat for hours in fishing boats with my Daddy, sitting quietly as they fished.  Those hours of sharing stories and praying together gained friendships that lasted a lifetime because of the willingness to be, to just be there for the other.  I have thoughts of sitting in rooms where my parents sat with dear friends telling story upon story of past times.  So much laughter filled the room that there was not an inch of space not affected.  I laughed just because everyone else was laughing.  Today, I am filled with a need to feel those friends of my parents in my life….I feel the need to be….just to be in presence with them.  I feel the need to sit….just to listen to them once again.

How powerful the memories of times past can affect us in our decisions we make.  As I envision the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before, and those who are still with us, I see Christ.  I see Christ in the way they lived and the way they were constantly there for each other.  I see Christ in the way they exampled to me how I needed to live my life.  Without knowing it, these friends of my parents taught me how to live and I have been fortunate to live my life after watching them.  They helped form the foundation of Christ in my life where I would have that foundation in which to live.  I am thankful.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing to our thoughts those who helped You form a solid foundation on which to live.  Thank you for the memories of their examples as we try to make decisions each day.  The strength and love they shared with us example to us the strength and love you have for us.  Thank you, God!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Remembering our Examples of Christ