God’s Gift

Matthew 18:5

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” 

 Thought for the Day:  When we receive God’s gift.

“Are you still interested in adopting another baby?” were the words we heard when we answered the phone.  Hannah’s Hope was the adoption agency for the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church and they were calling.  We had been on the waiting list for sometime, but were still in awe when the call came.  “There was a baby boy born last night. Would you be interested?”  Our thought was “Of Course!”.  We were very interested but asked if we could take some time to pray about it and to call them back later.  We prayed as soon as we got off the phone that God would give us a sign either way.  I was 49 at that time and Mark was about to turn 52.  We had already promised our 6 ½ year old, Nathaniel that we would take him swimming at a friend’s house so we wanted to fulfill that promise.  We had a great time at our friend, Elizabeth’s, home to swim and headed home on a curvy road that led home.  As we drove, we were quiet and thinking about that sweet baby boy.  Then it happened, Mark gasped!  Thinking there was something wrong, I asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Nothing…He was born ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!”  At that moment, that very moment, we said, “We are supposed to adopt that baby.”  God had given us a sign, a VERY STRONG DEFINITE SIGN, that we were to adopt that baby.  We made it home and immediately called to say we would adopt that baby boy.

Twelve days later, after finishing the adoption papers and making arrangements, we held that baby boy in our arms.  That baby boy, our Jonathan Walker, came into our lives and fulfilled our desire and God’s plan for our lives with children.  My birthday gift has brought such precious experiences to our lives and his love for everyone has shown clear.  There is a special time every year when Jonathan and I share our birthday together.  And, on that day every year, we praise God for the gift He gave 9 years ago.  God has blessed us with two children who are caring and loving to all they meet.  Just this week at Lake Junaluska, I heard from many how our boys were kind in holding doors for people as we walked in buildings, and were considerate to those near them.  As one person said, “In today’s world to see young men so considerate of others is rare.”  I am proud of my two boys…that 6 ½ year old who welcomed a new little brother those 9 years ago and to that 9 year old who brought God’s gift to us.  Thank you, God, for our precious gifts…Nathaniel means “Gift of God” and Jonathan means “God’s gift.”

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for the precious gift of children.  We have been blessed with these two boys who are precious to us and we never take for granted that it was You who gave these gifts to us. 

Prayer Focus:  Adoption

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Mama’s Surprise

Matthew 21:22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Thought for the Day:  Memories

“Donna, did you and Mark find your anniversary gift”, Mama said as she lay very sick with ovarian cancer in her hospital bed.  “No, Mama, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied.  “It’s in the guest room closet”, she continued.  As this was one of only a few conversations Mama was able to have in the time of her sickness, we knew it was very important. Later, we drove to Mama’s house and found a beautifully wrapped gift in the corner of her guest bedroom closet.  As we opened the gift, we both teared up because it was obviously planned.  Six months before, my Mama had surprised us by driving to our house with the beginning buildings for a Dicken’s Village.  One by one Mama sent Daddy to the car to bring in another group of buildings from the car.  By the time the gift giving stopped, she had given us ten buildings.  We set up our first Dickens’s Village in our house with those pieces.  So, back to the anniversary gift.  When we opened the gift we saw that she had given us the Dicken’s Village “Kinsington Palace”.  I cried as I realized that Mama had given us a special gift that she would probably never get to see in our village.

This week, we worked hard to put up our Dicken’s Village for the first time in about four years.  As we moved a few years ago, setting up in a new place was questionable and I wasn’t sure where we were going to put it.  My husband and I continued our collection of Dicken’s Village pieces until we had over 50 buildings and who know how many accessories.  We pulled out the boxes of houses from the basement with my son’s help.  As he brought them up, I carefully took each building out of its box and took pictures of each piece where I could remember exactly what I had.  He told me, “Mama, we are missing boxes 3, 4, and 5.” I was a bit nervous when he told me that, but I continued opening the pieces.  Later, I realized why I was nervous, my Kinsington Palace was missing.  We went downstairs and continued looking for the missing boxes, but we couldn’t find them.  As I glanced around in another section of the basement, I spotted boxes 3 and 5 and excitedly pulled them out.  I tore into the boxes, but once again was disappointed…no Kinsington Palace.  We continued the search, but still couldn’t find the missing box.  I realized that I was becoming overly sad because I couldn’t find Mama’s anniversary surprise.  Later, I decided to go downstairs one more time.  As my husband was in the basement working, he overheard me say, “Mama, I would be so excited if you could lead me to Kinsington Palace. God, please help me find that box.”  Seconds later, I looked in a pile of boxes that were in totally a different place.  And, there it was, one misplaced box that had written on the top, “Box 4 of 10”. Thanks, Mama, for bringing me special memories of you as you started me on this Dicken’s Village adventure.  Not being able to find Mama’s gift made this year’s Dicken’s village in the“finding of the gift” again even more special.  We once again found “Mama’s surprise”.

The Dicken’s Village adventure continued as most of the lights did not work after being in storage for those years.  My sweet husband and son worked tirelessly to check the cords and to go in search of new bulbs.  By the time our day, and evening, ended we had the Dicken’s Village completed with all the lights in place.  So, this year’s Dicken’s Village is more special than ever because my Mama, my husband and sons, and God all took part in making it happen.

Wow, that was special.  How excited I was when I found my Kinsington Palace!   In this moment, I am amazed at how quickly I found the missing box almost immediately after I prayed for it to be found.  Why did I wait?  Why did I put off asking God for what I needed?  Aren’t we all like that?  Last week, I received a beautiful message from a dear friend asking me “How do I improve on my prayer life with God?”  Well, obviously I am not so great at it.  But eventually I remember and I pray.  And, when I pray I feel better in whatever circumstance I am going through.  Thank you, God, for answering my prayer….I’m not sure my Mama didn’t give me the nudge to pray.  I wonder…!

Prayer:  Precious God!  Thank you for memories and thank you for reminding us to pray in special ways.  Today I am thankful for surprises that come through prayer.  Amen.

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

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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

 

Rita on my Caller ID

RITA1 John 4:7-1

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 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:  Pray and see who God sends

Yesterday was a hard day!  You know, the kind of day you want to crawl back into bed and do a total redo.  The kind of day you feel you want to run away, but there is no place to run away to.  Those days come, and when those days come, you just pray for God to come in and save the day.  Then I experienced some time alone because my “boys” were out doing a scout outing.  I found myself yelling a bit, crying a bit, and getting a lot of “stuff” out of my system.  Then, wouldn’t you know it the phone rang and on the other end was my mother, no not my mother in heaven, but my Lolli who loves me like a daughter.  How did she know?  How did she know I needed to hear a voice of someone who loves me?  Because God told her she needed to call me.  She doesn’t normally call on Saturday morning.  We talked and cried, and shared so much with each other.

I no longer have my mother and father with me, and I miss them so much.  The three of us could always feel when we needed to call each other.  My mother would call and after I answered the phone (no matter how “happy” I made my voice sound), she would say “What’s wrong?” immediately making me burst into tears.  My daddy would knock on my door at those moments when I was needing him most.  It seemed our cars would almost drive themselves somewhere we didn’t intend them to drive and we would look up to see the other pulling into a parking area.  I believe those were God moments, and I believe that call from Lolli out of the blue was a God moment yesterday morning.  God answers prayers, even when we do not know what we are praying for, in ways that we need.

Prayer:  Father, God, thank you for loving us!  Thank you for loving us and for answering prayers in the most unexpected ways.  Thank you for placing those people in our lives who simply become You to us.  You are our awesome God!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Friends who become “God” to us.

You Gave Your Beauty

Psalms 104:24-25

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

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s great surprises!

“Cloudy, Really?!”, I said when I looked out the window this morning.  Each week, I work into the evening on Friday evenings to clean the house where I can take my walk at the park on Saturday morning.  But this morning, No!  Clouds in the sky promised to make me miss the beauty of the sun shining through the trees.  I asked my husband to check his phone about the weather, and it predicted clouds all day.  I was very disappointed.  But then, I began noticing the sun peeking through the clouds.  By the time I made it to the park, there was a soft fog and within just a few minutes there was full sunshine. God gave me the gift of sunshine – and through the sunshine the beautiful colors of the park.  What happened to the clouds, I do not know.  But in my heart, I believe God saw my disappointment and said, “I did this just for you.”  The colors were beautiful and the surprises were such fun.  As I walked the park, I tried to capture the colors but along the way I captured so much more.  Going up the upper path, I focused my camera on a wooded area only to find a deer looking straight at me.  She let me take several pictures before she walked away.  Then, coming back down the walk, I heard the sound of  leaves falling and was surprised when a leaf that caught my eye floated through the air and landed right on my chest.  When I shared this with my child, he said, “It landed on your heart!”  And when I thought about it, I realized that indeed it had.  I finished my walk with a special feel in my heart that I had received a great blessing from God in the park.

So, what exactly happened in the park?  I believe God happened in the park and when He showed up He showed out in all His glory.  The gorgeous colors were placed in front of me, behind me, and in every direction.  The surprises in the park were all over the place in obvious placement by God.  I was there, well, because the park is the one place I plan on going whenever I can and I will work to get myself there for my time with God.  Thank you, God, for putting it there just for me.

Prayer:  God, thank you for your beautiful world.  Thank you for sharing so much of your beauty with us.  God, you are a good God and we bless your Holy Name today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

His Sister Said, “WOW!”

Psalms 16:11

Thou dost show me the path of life; in ty presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s great surprises!

Today, I awake so excited!  My children’s choir is singing at the beginning of one of our worship services and I am so excited!  Today, I have the usual butterfly feeling in my stomach, as I always do when I direct my children’s choir…but today, I am really excited!  Walking into my children’s choir rehearsal only four days ago, I truly did not know who I was going to choose to sing the little solo that begins the song for today.  I decided the best thing for me to do was to let the track play and let anyone who wanted to try, sing a little bit of the song for me.  I went child by child and heard their sweet voices.  Then I got to one little girl, Addison.  Her little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful.  My heart leapt, and I looked to see my accompanist behind the child with a look of, “Yes!”, on her face.  Then I kept going around the circle.  As I went around, it happened again. His little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful. And he was the brother of the little girl who had caught my attention a moment before.  My heart melted when I heard Landon’s sister go, “Wow!” as a reaction to his singing.  You see, these two sweet voices belonged to twins.  These two have been in my choir for a couple of years and have sung many times for me, but this time, there was something special.  This time was a “God Special Moment” because when I heard the sister’s reaction to the brother’s singing, I knew instantly that they would be singing a duet to begin the song.

As we went to the Worship Center to rehearse, the adults listened in awe of what had happened.  These two children, who are so different, sounded as if they had the same voice.  These two children didn’t even realize the other had such beautiful voices.  God put it all together and set His plan in motion as they sang a tiny part of a song for me.  Today, they will sing together and I am so excited.  There are so many “God moments” in the song today but the biggest “God moment” will be hearing these twins, who had no idea the other could sing so beautifully, will be singing together.  I am in total Awe of God today.

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us your “God Moments” when we can get excited over you.  We praise you today for your wonders.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Look for the God Moments!

“Giddy” God Moments

Nehemiah 12:43

And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced.  And the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off. 

Thought for the Day:  Joy comes

As the weather has begun getting cooler in Georgia, we have had to bring out the light jackets.  The breeze in the air is cooler and it has been welcomed by many.  Before recess each day the children ask me if they need to wear their jackets as the weather seems to change from cool to pleasant from early morning when they come to school to the time we have recess.  One morning this week, I had a sweet student come to me and say excitedly, “Mrs. Locke, this morning when we went outside, my cousins and I breathed and ‘smoke’ came out of our mouths!”  As I listened to her, with such wonder in her eyes, I realized quickly that this particular student had come from another country that is located in the warmth of the Caribbean.  She had never experienced anything except warm weather, so she was shocked to feel cool weather and to see this spectacular event happening.  My heart melted when I realized what I had just witnessed and of course I took it as a teachable moment to explain why her breath looked like “smoke”.  I couldn’t hold back hugging that sweet girl in that moment – she brought joy to my heart.

When do we feel excited about events in our lives, giggling and taking in God’s creation!  This little girl was giddy to tell me that she had seen “smoke” come out of her mouth.  I get giddy when I am at the park and see the animals showing out as they fly or see how the leaves change colors between my visits.  Maybe we get giddy as we help others and see God’s changes happen in those around us.  Or, do we get excited when we see our children get excited over accomplishments.  Today, I want to look for those “God Moments” that bring giddiness to me.  Those moments are all around us.  We just need to look.

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us your “God Moments” when we can get excited over you.  We praise you today for your wonders.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Giddy “God Moments”

God’s Unexpected Beauty

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thought for the DayToday, pray and then expect the unexpected

Each day as the colorful season of the leaves has almost passed, but as my body wants to continue walking, I pick up my camera thinking I will not use it much that day.  The walk began with a cool, brisk feel in the air.  I had my jacket on and my hands inside the pockets.  As I walked, I realized that there was a lot of beauty in the tree trunks that had been mostly hidden and covered with leaves for the spring and summer months, and then hidden with the beauty of the changing leaves earlier in the fall.  I began capturing the beauty of the normally hidden places.  As I walked, I listened and heard sounds that I had not heard in a while.  I heard water flowing and as I looked I saw small waterfalls along the stream that flows through parts of the park. The sound had been hidden as our area had been very dry but recently received some rain creating more water giving a beautiful sound.  As I looked more closely, I realized the areas where water had been standing still was moving, moving with a newness as fresh water entered.  I also noticed the water level in the lake was higher bringing a more refreshing invitation to look upon the beauty.

Thinking about the day as I began looking at the pictures on my camera, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  On a day when I thought I would not see beauty, I saw it in the things that are normally hidden from view.  On a day when I thought I would just have a nice walk, I heard the beauty of the water as God had sent just a tiny bit of rain.  On the day I was only thinking of the walk, God gave me a time of reflection in my favorite part of the walk.  I realized when I entered that area that my eyes were tearing and I found myself praying and feeling very close to God.  Today, The Upper Room devotion was based on Psalms 5:3, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  On my walk yesterday, I know God gave me much more than I expected.  In my life daily, I know God has a plan that is much more than I expect.  “I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2016-11-15

Prayer:  God, you are wonderful and awesome.  You created the beauty around us and you created the beauty within us.  You have given us opportunity to combine those two things where we can see your creation and know You love us.  Lord, be with those who cannot see that beauty today because of hardships happening in their lives.  Help them see the beauty in the unexpected places today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Unexpected Beauty

Don’t Miss IT!

Psalms 8:3-9

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?  Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor.  Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth. 

Thought for the DayDon’t Miss God’s Beauty given for you today.

I listened to the three of them talk as I walked through the wooded area of the park.  As we neared the place where the path gave choice to go another direction, I heard the gentleman say, “Do you want to go that way?”  The two ladies replied, “No, let’s just go on this way.”  “Are you sure?” he continued.  Then I saw the three continue down the normal path.  I wanted to yell out, “You really want to go that way – you are going to miss IT!”  But I kept quiet and walked toward the other path.  I walked the very short distance on a straight path that separated from the normal path and then turned a corner.  When I did, I immediately saw the colors as they seemed to burst before me.  They were more vibrant and beautiful than I had seen before.  During the time on that path, I prayed hard to God asking Him to hear me and to answer my prayers.  I listened with my eyes as His colors seemed to be wrapped around me.  I walked and looked.  I walked a prayed.  I walked and listened.  God’s creation of color found its place in my eyes and I took it in.  I stayed for a while on that part of the path – I didn’t miss it!  I finally left the area and walked back to the normal path to continue the rest of my walk.  A few minutes later, I realized that I was not stressed or full of anxiety as I had been before taking the other path.  I found myself reacting to every little sense of beauty around me and I knew in my heart God was with me.

How often have I “missed it”?  How often have I continued down my “normal” path and “missed” something God has placed in front of me? As I watched other walkers and runners on that path with their eyes obviously on the normal path to finish their exercising for the day, my heart dropped a bit.  They ran right past that God created path bursting with color waiting just around the corner.  They missed IT!

Prayer:  God, You are awesome and we praise You today. Thank you for the gifts you bring us day through nature as we walk or drive through our daily routine.  Help us stop for a minute and see Your “burst” of love for us.  Help us see “IT” and acknowledge that You are there.   Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Missing God’s Beauty

Surprise

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 DayWhat surprise can we bring?

Surprises are nice to receive and they are wonderful to give.  As my youngest son and I awoke on that Saturday morning, with my husband and oldest son out of town, we began in the normal Saturday morning routine of watching TV, eating breakfast, and building LEGOs.  Then, I began cleaning.  As I cleaned, I began to get excited as I thought about my husband and how surprised he would be if I truly cleaned the whole house, including the dreaded “Office”.  I began my quest by picking up in the boys’ rooms then headed into the “Office”.  It had become the catch all room since we moved in so the room I was so proud of when I originally placed things carefully on shelves, became the eye sore of the house.   As each box was emptied and things were placed where they belonged, the room began to take shape.  My excitement built as I realized that I might actually pull off my surprise as my husband traveled the six hours it took to get home.  The more I did the more I found I could do to make it even better.  I freshened carpets, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, washed and folded clothes, and the list goes on and on.  As I worked, my son worked along beside me helping to pick up, to vacuum, and then to keep everything picked up as he played. What a wonderful day he and I had as we worked to create the great surprise!

I watched my son as we heard the garage door open.  He ran out to the car and met his Daddy before the car door opened.  He hugged him and immediately began pulling his Daddy into the house to see the surprise.  And, he laughed in a delightful way as his Daddy reacted to each clean room.  What a blessing to give a surprise to someone who is so loved and admired!  What a blessing to see the surprise on his face.  God is our Father and he loves us more than anyone.  As we see Him each day, what can we do to “surprise” Him?  What can we do to prepare our hearts in a way that would please Him?  He asks us to read His Word in the Bible, to study the words to let them become a part of our lives, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to “clean up the clutter” in our lives where we can give ourselves, our whole selves to him.  That is the gift we can bring…..we can give Him our hearts.  What a great surprise!

Prayer:  God, thank you for reminding us through the beauty of nature of how special we are.  Your creation and the way you let living things change with the easy and hard times of life help us understand the lives we live.  Help us remember that much of our beauty comes from the times of hardship.  Thank you for creating us in such a special way.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those wanting to give more to God