Extravagant Service

John 13:14

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

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

“What do we want to do this summer?” was the question asked in our home yesterday.  My first “want” was to get the house clean, as I have looked forward to school being out where I could dig into cleaning that has been put aside.  The next thing that came up was vacation…where are we going to go on vacation? Then the normal…of course…we will definitely be going to Lake Junaluska Music and the Arts week.  But today, I read the “Upper Room Devotional” for today which made me rethink my wants and dreams for this summer.  All of my “wants” for the summer had to do with ME.  The Upper Room Devotional for today shared the writer’s thoughts about her sister.  Her sister, from the time she became a believer in Jesus Christ, was known for her giving….extravagant giving to everyone she met.

Oh my, did that speak to me.  It seems that in my tiredness from teaching and directing choirs at this time of year, and being a mama to two boys has given me that thought that I’m doing what God has called me to do.   I do believe I am doing what God has called me to do in those areas of my life, however, am I giving extravagantly as the sister in the story? And, just as importantly, am I teaching my two sons to give extravagantly?  My honest answer to that is no…I am not.  I look at my sister in Christ, Christi, who teaches school but finds the time to volunteer during the summer in our church.  I see our MANY volunteers who serve in our Pantry Ministry in our church every Saturday morning serving friends in our community who need a little assistance.

So, what do I do? I take one step forward to begin doing something for others.  So, what do I do?  I listen for God to lead me and I prayerfully make decisions based on God’s words, not mine.

https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals/en-2019-05-26

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for your messages through devotional writings.  Those words, if we listen, can lead us to making decisions You urge us to make.  Amen.

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

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Finding a Place to be Happy

Isaiah 43:19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

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

Today, with the busyness of the school year slowing down for a moment, I have been busy but not in the usual way.  I have to say something unusual and totally out of my normal writing.  Working in a position where there is not a lot of glamour and on some days not a lot of appreciation can be difficult and the awards just seem small.  But “I am Happy!”  I am happy that I became a teacher 31 years ago and I am happy that I am still in the classroom with children.  For a period of time, after moving to a “place far away from home”, it was as if I would never become in this place what I always was before.  In the last twenty-four hours, I have had my heart warmed twice from two different persons in my teaching career.  One was my principal as she shared words of encouragement after a classroom observation that she felt I was embracing the way of teaching in our school system.  I witnessed the students in my classroom excitedly engaging themselves in a lesson and fully understanding activities I had assigned to them.  They were fascinating to watch and my principal was there to witness it. Then today, I received a post on my Facebook timeline from a student I taught in third grade in the early 1990s.  She wanted to let me know that after several work positions, she finally had decided to teach and was going to begin teaching third grade.  Her words were, “As I recall, I had a pretty awesome 3rd grade teacher myself.  I hope I can be half as memorable as you have been to me!”  My heart, oh my heart, is filled with so much love for her for sharing her news with me.

“I am happy”…I am happy because I know I am doing what God led me to do and, although things are sometimes difficult in the education area, I still know I am where I am supposed to be.  On those days that are hard, I start praying.  I especially pray for my colleagues who seem to be having a difficult time, praying that they find bits of happiness enough that they can come past the difficulties. I pray for my students that I can teach them the skills needed but yet show them at the same time that they are loved and that someone cares.  So, from that moment in 1982 when I decided to switch my direction to elementary education (from business – what?!) after walking into my suite mate’s dorm room in college to see her working on a project for students in her student teaching class, I became a teacher at heart.  I still tried other things, but eventually God led me right back to where I was supposed to be.

I am home, I am home, I am home when I am in my classroom teaching children. I am thankful, appreciative, and yes, happy!

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for leading us to places You want us to go.  Sometimes, in the middle of life, we forget who put us where we are and it is easy to let other thoughts lead us.   You are an awesome God, and I am thankful.  Help those around me find where you are leading.  Amen.

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

First Day Plans

Romans 12:2

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.

Thought for the Day:  Be surprised by God’s Plan 

Oh, those plans!  Those great plans for the first “free” day after finishing my year of teaching.  Oh, yes, the great plan included going for my camera walk and just as important, cleaning and disinfecting my house.  Waking at my almost normal school time, I drank my coffee, checked the weather, changed to my walking clothes, and walked.  The walk was wonderful and I took in the beauty of “my” park.  I witnessed God in the lush green of the trees and woods, in the blue herons in their nest and in the marsh looking for food, in the snakes spashing into the water as I passed, in the deer calling my attention to her, and the beauty in the flowers.  God was present every step of the way and my plan for my walk was fulfilled.

Then I returned home to “clean”.  I found that every time I thought about cleaning, my mind took me to the need for naps.  With the sound of my husband downstairs with the children, I found my way back to my bed and giggled as I pulled the soft comforter over me.  “Ahh, sweet sleep!”  Throughout the day, between bouts of cleaning, I sat – and, yes, I fell asleep.  Lovely sleep.  My cleaning did not come close to being finished, but that beautiful gift of rest from God definitely happened.

God’s plan for me, on my first day out of school, took over my plan and He gave me exactly what I needed.  He must have liked my plan for the camera walk, but my other plan…not so much.  He gave me a day to rest, a day to rest in Him.  And my family gave me the gift of time, even cleaning some while I rested.  Isn’t God amazing? Isn’t it amazing to see God’s plan take over in an obvious way to give us exactly what we need.  I didn’t recognize this as I went through the day of sleep, but now as I wake refreshed, I can look back and see how His plan took over to give me what He knew I needed.

Prayer:  O, Gracious Heavenly Father!  You are so awesome.  You love us so much that you take over the plans we have and give us new direction.  Help us recognize You in plans that change in our daily routine or in life.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Plan

The Hug!

 

1 John 4:7, 4:11-12

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Thought for the Day:  Show Love to those around you

As a teacher, special moments often happen.  Those moments can happen when a student understands a skill for the first time, or when a friendship relationship happens between students.  One of those surprising moments happened this week as I was standing in my door lining my seven and eight year old students up to go to an activity.  As I stood, I felt a little boy’s arms go around me and he gave me a big hug.  Then, the little boy behind him gave me a big hug.  Then several students came out of the line to hug me.  Finally, my new student of four days, reached her hands out to me from the line.  I walked over to her and as she hugged me, she said, “You are the best teacher in the world.”  My eyes filled with tears and I felt my heart beaming with love for these precious ones.

Looking back over that experience, I began thinking about how many times I reach out for a hug.  I do not do it as often as I should.  I say hello to people and ask how they are doing but I do not reach out for a hug often unless it is one of my own children or husband.  And, how often do I reach to hug my “Teacher, Jesus Christ”?  I talk to Him, I pray to Him, I beg Him, I thank Him but do I “hug” Him?  Today, I want to give Jesus the type of hug I received from so many of my students on Thursday of this week.  I want to give Him a tear of happiness and something that will make His heart beam with love.

Prayer:  Precious Jesus, today I hug you with a hug of love.  So often, You reach to touch me with Your love and so many times I miss it.  You are my Father, my Friend, and my Teacher!  You are my all in all!  So, here it is – a big, loving hug just for you!  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  A Hug can do wonders!

Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World

Matthew 19:13-15

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. 

 

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  Love for Children

The Mama Duck and Her Ducklings

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Isaiah 43:1-2

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, 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 will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

Thought for the Day:  God leads us through the waters.

Spending time at my favorite place, Lake Junaluska, is refreshing and brings a feeling of joy.  Each year I take my camera to the different gardens and take pictures of God’s beauty set before me.  This year was no different except that the bridge over the dam was closed which made me take the County Road below the dam.  I do not often stop below the dam to see the water flow and to see the water find its way to a beautiful stream.  But this year, I spent some time there for just a few minutes.  I took pictures of the dam which was flowing rapidly because of recent rains and then I walked over to the stream.  As I took pictures, my eyes were directed toward a duck and her ducklings.  I brought my camera to my eye and began watching them through the lens.  This mama duck began leading the ducklings downstream.  At first the ducklings were all in a straight line behind their mother with such cuteness that my heart melted.  Then, the family came to a strong rapid.  The mama scurried in the water to get out of the rapid and I saw something spectacular.  The ducklings all became very active, swimming fast, to stay behind their mother until they were out of the rapid.  They followed her until they found their place on the rocks beside the stream.  I continued watching to see her work her family to the others side of the stream where they sunned and bathed for a few minutes.

I watched God in action that day in the stream below the dam.  I watched Him, through the mama duck, show us that He is always with us to protect us.  He is always with us to lead us through the treacherous waters of the sea.  On that day, I saw the mama duck teaching her children to make their way out of a dangerous rapid.  On that day, I heard God’s voice tell me that He is always with us to help us make our way through the wilderness of life.  Those ducklings showed me through their obvious following of their mother how to follow Christ.  The mother and ducklings all found the safety of the rocks, just as we find safety from turmoil when we follow God where he leads.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for the beauty you place around us.  The magnificence of your creation seems to glow when we look for you.  Thank you for placing your examples of how to follow you right in front of our eyes.  Help us recognize you and help us to follow you as you lead us through the wilderness of life.  You are awesome, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Following God

Jesus in the Children

Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Thought for the Day:  See “Jesus” in the smiles of children

In my daily routine, I work with students on different grade levels.  I have been blessed to be in a place, for a time, where I work with small groups of children.  In my time with them, I have given some of myself to teach them.  Seeing the “light bulbs” go on when they understand a concept, and witnessing excitement when they know an answer, makes my heart leap as I know something has gone right.  But what I have received from them seems to be a true gift for me.  These precious ones, these children who appreciate you for just being you, have given hugs, fist bumps, and those special words, “Are you coming to get us today!” – with a “Yes!” called out after I have affirmed their question.  What a precious blessing I have received from these darling children!

As I arose this morning, I remembered a little boy who helps me with one of my groups.  Each day, he comes in to help me with my last group of the day giving encouragement to the children.  After that time, and before dismissal, we ask each other about what our plans are for the evening or for the weekend.  We wish each other well and give the words, “See you tomorrow!”  My day ends with this boy, this precious boy, bringing my heart to a grand place before I leave for the day.  Who are these children? Who is this boy? My answer is, “God!”  To me, these children with their special hugs, smiles, and sweet words are “Jesus” to me.  These children remind me of His love and compassion.  These children bring me a special gift each day, and I can only pray that they see even a tiny glimpse of the love of Jesus in me.  God has brought me to this place – even for a small time – to be with “Jesus” through these children.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me the Bible tells me so.”

Prayer:  God, thank you for children and for the love they bring.  Thank you for their innocence in the way they accept us adults right where we are.  Help us each day to show You to them in the way we speak and by the smile on our faces as we greet them.  As we see You face in them, may they see Your face in us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Children

I Will Listen

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Thought for the Day:  I will listen to His voice

Each morning I write.  I journal my thoughts and place them “out there” for everyone to see.  All who read my words know my heart and in knowing my heart they know many of my thoughts about my faith and about my times of fear and doubt.  On Monday evening, I was driving to make copies of my updated resume and cover letter.  As I drove I listened to my Pandora Radio with songs of Twila Paris.  Through the last couple of months, I have kept my phone set on Twila Paris hoping to hear a particular song but it never played.  It was the first song I ever sang in the presence of my husband, Mark, and led to a wonderful relationship and marriage.   As I drove, I again sang along with Twila Paris.  Then it happened.  Familiar music began and I looked down at the system menu.  I looked and saw the song title, “I Will Listen”.  I immediately began singing and as I sang I listened to the words, “This is the faith, patience to wait when there is nothing clear. Nothing to see, still we believe Jesus is very near.”  I began weeping and couldn’t even sing the words.  I called my husband and he reacted in a special way and I cherished his remembrance of the song.  On Tuesday, I had a wonderful interview at a school for a position they had available.  It went great and I felt wonderful about the time we shared together.  As I left and drove toward my house, something remarkable happened…”I Will Listen” came on Pandora again and this time I was able to sing feeling that something wonderful was about to happen.  But, God doesn’t do what we imagine, does He?  Hours after this happened, the phone rang and I missed the call, but returned the call after I heard the message.  I was being asked to take a long-time substitute position in a school even closer than the one I interviewed with.  I don’t know what this means in the long-run, but I know for now I am able to share my passion of teaching in a special way.

Timing, yes timing. Yes, God’s timing!  In the last two weeks, I have been called by several schools for interviews during a time in the school year when hiring teachers should not be needed.  But it has happened, and the one that came to fruition is one I would love to be a part of.  “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLKQ41QjdMA

Prayer:  Father, you are faithful!  Even when our faith falters and we begin doubting your greatness, you remain faithful to your children.  Help us in our unbelief to know you are with us every moment of our lives.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those seeking jobs.

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