There is Always Light

Isaiah 42:16

And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do and I will not forsake them.

Thought for the Day:  God is always shining His light

In the early morning, I looked out on our backyard noticing that we must be in for a dreary, rainy day because it was dark. The trees in the wooded area behind our house are beautiful and many. As I first looked out, it looked dark and I did not see any light peeking through the limbs. I sat for a very long time before I stood up and really looked out. Above the trees, I saw a hint of light shining brightly as it hit the top limbs. Then, as I walked through the house, I looked out the front windows where it was sunny and beautiful. There are very few trees in the front yard so the sun that hit the top limbs in the backyard touched everything in the front yard.

When we are going through hard times in life, we feel like we are living in a place where there is no happiness and no light. Many times, we feel there is no hope in the darkness of ever seeing any light. Then we pray and talk to God. We listen to Him and hear His guidance for our lives. As we begin hearing Him, we begin seeing the light and know there is hope where before we felt hopeless. My vision of the light hitting the top of our trees and the beautiful sunny front yard reminded me that God is always shining His light. He is always there. Sometimes, we just have to pray and be opened to hearing His voice, then that seemingly dark place will become well lit by the light that is already there. We just have to let God move the obstacles blocking the light from coming through.

Prayer: God, thank you for always being there. Help us learn to see that light even when we are going through hard times. We love you today Lord. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Seeing the Light

Easter is Different this Year

Empty tomb

John 20:11-16

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher).

Thought for the Day:  How is Easter Different this year?

Awaking on Easter brings a sense of newness, a sense of anticipation, a sense of wonder, a sense of love, and a sense that someone has loved us so much that He died for our sins and then arose to show His love for us.  “He Arose!”  “He’s Alive!” Before Easter, we normally go to the store and shop for the perfect Easter clothes so our family matches when we go to church dressed to celebrate together!  We awake and try to get ourselves dressed in our best, and we attempt to get our children dressed and ready to go to our Easter services.  That’s Easter, right?  That’s always been Easter, right?

But this year, this year is so different!  On this Easter morning, I laid in bed and watched our church’s Sunrise Service on Facebook Live.  A Sunrise Service without a lot of people, just individual people singing by themselves, yet together.  I watch our family as we prepare for our 11:00 Easter Worship service…but wait…my Minister of Music husband is here in the house.  He’s not supposed to be here on an Easter morning.  He is supposed to be at church getting ready in the Worship Center to prepare for the people who are about to come through the doors for Easter Services. Somethings just not right.

This year is different, so different on so many levels.  This year there is a pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic.  We are sheltering in place to do our part to slow the spread of a terrible virus that has found its way into our world.  People around the world are doing things “differently” this year.

But wasn’t that how it was the first Easter?  Wasn’t Mary only with a couple of other women when she walked to the tomb on that first Easter when she found that the stone had been rolled away.  Weren’t Peter and the other disciple alone as they ran to the open tomb after Mary told them about it.  Wasn’t Mary alone again when she wept at the tomb when Jesus appeared to her.  They grieved alone then they rejoiced alone.  Today, we know the story and we know our regular routine that is “normal” for us on Easter.  We rejoice together…a lot of rejoicing together.  Today, we are like Mary, and Peter, and the disciples.  We are like the disciples who fearfully hunkered down in the Upper Room.  We are like the disciples who were in disbelief when Jesus entered the room.  Today, we are hunkered down sheltering in our homes on this Easter.  But do we still see Him, do we still see the Risen Christ?  Indeed, we do!  We need Jesus Christ to be among us today and if we look closely, we can see Him clearly.  He is clearly among us in the people on the medical front line of this virus, he in the people who are helping neighbors in so many different ways, he is in the faces of our children as we read the scripture about the empty tomb, and we see Jesus in the faces of our loved ones.

So, today is different for an Easter.  It is not our normal annual Easter Sunday.  But is it still Easter? Indeed!  Why?  Because “Jesus is Risen…He is Risen indeed!”

Prayer:  Father God!  You are our amazing God!  You sent your own Son into this world to save us from our sins, and then you raised Him again to walk among us.  Help us, Lord, to see Jesus’ hands and feet in the people around us.  As we shelter in place, let us show our thanks to those who are helping those who are sick.  Let us find ways to show our love to those around us, even if we can’t see them face to face.  We love you Lord!  Happy Easter!

Prayer Focus:  Sheltering in Place on Easter Sunday

Mary’s Love

Read John 19

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,”Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. . – John 19:25-27 (RSV)

As parents, we see our children through their times as babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers.  We pray for our children and promise to protect them, to hold them, and to love them through everything.  When our children hurt, we hurt for them and want to take away any hurt and pain.  I know Mary prayed for Jesus and gave him the same assurances as we do as parents today. On Good Friday, Mary couldn’t do anything about the pain and suffering Jesus endured as He went through the trial, persecution, and suffering on the cross.  She could not hold him and keep him from that harm.  All she do on that day was to love him as he hung on the cross and as her heart broke for him, the son she brought into this world in a manger, raised through the toddler years, early childhood years, and teenage years.  She then witnessed him as he called His disciples and showed His ministry to the world.  She loved him – she was his mother.

There is a beautiful song, “Pieta”, from the cantata, “The Power of the Cross” by Mark Hayes.  This piece so clearly shows the agony Mary experienced as Jesus went through his suffering on that day.  The more I have listened to the piece, the more I have visualized Mary as she followed Jesus through the day and then to the cross.  She could do nothing but to follow him holding on to the only promise she could fulfill, to love Him.   I had the opportunity to sing this solo several years ago at Collierville United Methodist Church, and I must say that for me, this was a once in a lifetime solo with the most powerful words I have ever sung.  I share this today. (My apologies – I shared from the beginning of the solo, but couldn’t stop at the end…you can either stop or listen to the rest of the cantata)

“Pieta”

Prayer:   Our most gracious Father, how difficult it must have been for you to send your son, Jesus Christ, to earth knowing that he would be sacrificed for our sins in such a terrible and painful way.  But you loved the world so much that You sent him, that whoever believed in Him would have eternal life.  Thank you.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

Memories of the Past Bring Wisdom for Today

James 1:5

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Thought for the Day:  Let memories teach us how to live today. 

You know that moment when you realize that everything has changed.  That happened this week when the Governor of our state announced that public schools would be out for the rest of the school year.  With saddened hearts, we realized we had already seen our students for the last time sitting at their desks in our classrooms.  Now, we will continue teaching these children through digital learning, as we have been for several weeks, but this is a new reality.

The very next day, after hearing that news, a picture showed up on Facebook.  A time-lapse evidently took place as I saw a second-grade group picture from my third-year teaching.  Time lapse of thirty years took me back to a time when I was just learning how to teach, and just learning how to adapt to having children in my life.  Three of those students have reached out to me in special ways since that “time-lapse” making me feel very special…and very old.  One, I had been Facebook friends for several years who was special to me, even way back when.  She was with me for two years as I changed grades and she was placed back in my classroom.  Another sweet friend heard me sing a solo as he visited our church one day, about 15 years ago.  He was with a friend and asked if that lady singing was Mrs. Shaw.  He was told, no, but he said he recognized my voice from me singing to the class years before.  He came to the choir room and asked if I ever taught at Woodstock ES, and I was delighted to say, “Yes!”  What a special moment in this teacher’s life.  On Thursday, before I saw the picture on Facebook, I received a friend request from someone I didn’t recognize.  After I saw the news feed about the picture, I realized he was one of my students from that class.  He and I began messaging through Facebook, and I learned that he is now an assistant principal in a middle school in Texas.  Oh, my, what a celebration of memories I received from a class from so long ago.

Now, back to today and the knowledge I will be continuing to teach students through Digital Learning.  How will I keep it special?  How will I still make a connection with these sweet boys and girls?  Reading Krista’s, Shermarco’s, and John’s words over these two days makes me want to connect with my students even more.  I believe God sent that picture to me through Facebook, and He sent these three students to remind me of how important these children’s lives are today.  How important these babies are when they are trying to learn at home with out the physical sight of their teachers.  God gave me a special gift in bringing me into the career or teaching so many years ago, now He has brought me a special gift of hearing from these three students from my past.   So, today I don’t know how I will make these days special for my students.  But God does, and He will lead me to how He wants me to teach.  With Him in the mix, He will carry us all through.

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for memories of our past to bring us to the wisdom of the present.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Memories from the past

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Following God to a Beautiful Place

Psalms 42:1-2

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Thought for the Day:  Finding God

In the midst of a new reality, at least for awhile, there is a huge cloud that seems to follow each of us.  “Stay inside”, “Go for a walk but stay 6 feet away”, “Don’t go anywhere that is not a necessity”, and “Don’t break the curfew” seem to be mentioned throughout the day.  I have found myself holding my breath when I walk near someone at the park and feel ashamed when I go to the grocery store thinking someone is going to give me a virus that will be passed to my family.  “What does a person do?”

Today, I went to the park again, by myself.  Yes, I held my breath when I walked past someone, and I made sure I was at least six feet away from all I saw.  Then, I found myself in a section that is so secluded.  I thought, “I can either keep going in the same direction as normal or I can walk further up the secluded trail.”  I chose the secluded trail.  I felt myself calm down and feel God’s presence instead of the feeling of fear and doubt.  And, to be honest, I wanted to look for some deer that I normally see on that trail.

As I walked, I took my time and saw beauty in every direction.  I took pictures of the trail itself and of many of the plants that shown beautifully as the sun shown through.  Finishing the thirty-minute walk through the secluded section, I did not see “my” deer.  I continued my walk near my normal trail.

Then it happened, I looked up to the top of the hill and saw a deer, two deer, three deer…five deer.  I worked hard to get even one picture to focus.  As I watched, I noticed the direction the deer were walking.  So, I followed.  I followed them to a path I had not been on before, and one that would give me the greatest surprise.  The five deer seemed to appear in front of me once again.  But this time, it felt as if they trusted me and they each seemed to give me a pose.  Okay, alright, so they were probably just watching me closely, but I can always dream.  I took so many pictures of those spectacular creatures.  As I continued my walk, I realized I was on a trail I always “watched” from afar and never tried.  I am so glad God gave me those deer who led me to a beautiful place.

In these days, these days of pandemic, God has not stopped trying to get our attention, but He has had to do it in different ways.  Yesterday, my attention was captured by a family of deer whose beauty took me to a new place, a placed secluded where my attention could be given all to God.  Where is that quiet place for us right now?  Where can we be nearest to God?  Where can we be a “Mary” in the midst of a storm to find our peace in the Master?  Can we slow down today enough to hear his voice through the “deer”?

Prayer:  God, thank you!  Thank you for bringing our attention to you, even in the midst of a pandemic.  You are near to all of us right now, but so much is happening around us that we can’t see you.  Help us “see” You throughout our days and help us find peace.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel God.

 

 

Happy Anniversary

Psalms 143:8

Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul..” 

Thought for the Day:  God’s special plan

Today represents an interesting day and one that, although things changed, should be remembered.  My mama and daddy (Mary Jane and Gordon Henderson) were married on July 2, 1957.  My first husband, David, and I were married on July 2, 1988.  David and I were married on mama’s and daddy’s 31st anniversary – there is a photo in our wedding album of our family’s orange and white van with “Happy 31” drawn on one of the windows .  Well, today would have been David’s and my 31st anniversary.  Of course David was killed in a car accident a few months before our 7th anniversary, but the memory of being married on Mama’s and Daddy’s 31st anniversary still touches my heart. Of course, God blessed me with a mother who wanted her daughter to find a second love, so she brought Mark into my life and as they say, “The rest is history.”  Mark brought me to a new place, a new life, where dreams come true.  Mark brought me to a place with children, two of the most precious boys anywhere.  Mark and I have been now in ministry for 22 years and that is extra special to me.  God knew my story before I was born and planned for every season.  David and I were a team in marriage and had a special time together.  Mark and I have now been another team in marriage for 22 years and we have been together through a full life where we have cried together and laughed together as we witnessed miracles and we lived through grief.  Mark has even cried over David’s death as the memories have occasionally come.

Today, I have parents in Rita and Charles Shaw, David’s parents, and they have also been parents to Mark and grandparents to our boys.  I am thankful to them for the gift of their son, and the gift to Mark and me of welcoming us into their family.  I am thankful to Mark for taking this girl who lived through grief more times than anyone should, and made her his wife to love, cherish, and to be in ministry with.  I am a blessed woman and I do not take that for granted.

Happy 62nd Anniversary Mama and Daddy!  I love you.

Prayer:  God, you know us before born and you know the lives we will lead.  I am thankful that through every step of my life that you have shown me the next steps.  Thank you for allowing us to still have the memories, but for also allowing us to see the path before us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Anniversaries

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 10 years ago.  God has blessed us with two children who are caring and loving to all they meet.  Recently, I heard from several 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 10 years ago and to that 10 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

When is God Close

Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts and they will teach you;  the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”    

Thought for the Day:  God gives us the favorite things.

Today, I took another one of my walks at the park.  I love taking walks in the park – I never know what I am going to find.  Some days I hope to see animals and other days I want to see unusual plants that I have not seen before.  Most of the time I just pray that God shows me something special.  When I pray that, I know I will not be disappointed.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I cannot depend on something being perfect – nothing is really perfect.  I have learned through the years of camera walking, that I can find something perfect, whether it be a plant or animal, in the imperfect world.

Today was no exception.  Did I get great pictures of the Great Blue Herons nesting a hundred yards from me? No – saw them but the pictures were blurry.  Did I catch the perfect pictures of the geese flying over the lake? No – saw them but the pictures just didn’t turn out.  But did I catch the perfect pictures of the imperfect dragonflies and a butterfly?  Maybe not perfect, but enough to make my day.  Did I get the many pictures of a Great Blue Heron up close?  Oh, yes, again not perfect but I believe it was God’s gift to me today.  When that moment comes, we just have to take it in and go with the fluttering heart that God gave us in such a gorgeous sight.

My heart is touched in some way every time I go to the park.  God gave me the park nearby and I can’t thank Him enough for moving me to such a beautiful place to see His nature.  Sometimes it is seeing something special, sometimes it is taking a special picture, and sometimes it is meeting new friends along the way.  Mostly, it is a time that I feel God is near – I can guarantee that when I am at the park, I can feel Him so close that I feel I can touch Him.  Thank you God for the gift of the park.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for giving us beauty around us and for placing us in special places to see you more.  You draw near to us in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.  Thank you for letting us feel you near.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those who enjoy walks in the park.

A Mother’s Christ-like Love

Family at Browns Church

Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   

Thought for the Day:  Show Christ’s love to others

I am a mother!  I am a mother of two!  I am a mother of two precious boys who have created something in me that is so very special.  But, I have sometimes fallen short of being the mother I should be.  Today, I read a devotional about a caregiver that reminded me of my own mother and how she worked with my two brothers, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy.  And, how I as a sister sometimes fell short in helping my brothers with their needs.

My mother was amazing!  I have written about her before, but she was so amazing she deserves more words of praise. My sweet mama, Mary Jane Henderson, grew up in a small town in West Tennessee to two parents who adored her.  They were an older couple and she was “the apple of their eyes.”  Spoiled a bit, I am sure, but grew up with a kind and gentle spirit.

That spirit, I believe, is why God made her the mama of my brothers.  God knew that she was perfect.  She was the perfect person to take care of two boys who would be handicapped in wheelchairs from the time they turned 7-8 years old.  As I remember the story, I understand that the doctor shared with my parents that the boys would probably need to be placed in a home at some point because it would be impossible for my parents to take care of them.  With that statement, my mama made the promise to take care of my brothers in a way that only Mary Jane could do.  And she did!  For twenty-five years she did just that.  She took care of their needs of feeding them, turning them in their beds at night, lifting them into their wheelchairs to take them to the bathroom, managing to put them in the bathtub for their baths, feeding them when they couldn’t feed themselves, driving them to public school where friends took care of them through the day, taking them to college when each son majored in different areas and met in different buildings, taking notes for them in class when they couldn’t do it themselves, and crying for them when they were hurting.  The biggest thing she did was to make sure life was fulfilling for them including taking them on trips each summer and letting them participate in interests in school.  She was amazing.

I remember doing a lot for my brothers as well, but I know I didn’t do as well as I probably should have.  I did a lot, as a sister would do, but looking back I realize that I did not always do it with the spirit I should have.  I remember feeling at times tired of the “Donna, could you get this for me?” Why was I not like my mother, who was always ready to jump up and help?  I don’t know why, but I do know that I had a perfect example of someone living the Christ-life in my mother.

Now I look at myself and realize that God gave me children with needs just like my brothers, but without the wheelchairs.  I know I have not been that extraordinary mother as my mama was to my brothers and to me.  Where have I fallen short?  I have fallen short in always showing Christ’s love through my actions.  I have fallen short in giving the children what they need when they needed it.  And, I have fallen short in living the life with my children in the way my mother exampled life to me.  Last night, my youngest said, “Mama, you are always so nice and loving to me”.  That was a feel good moment and one that made me feel that maybe I, without knowing it, had become a tiny bit like my mother.  Today, and everyday, I promise (as my mother promised) to be the mother my children need.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for memories and thank you for placing examples of You in front of us each day. Thank you for loving parents who showed us how to show love to others. God, you see us, you know us, and you love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Parents of Special Needs Children

Don’t You Hate It When that Happens?

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?

Going into church after I wrote my devotional yesterday morning was just a normal Sunday.  Well, except that it was Veterans’ Day Sunday and the Cub Scouts (including my own child) gave out poppies to everyone where they would remember the men and women who have given their lives for our country.  It was a normal Sunday that my children went to their Sunday School Classes and Worship.  It was while listening to the sermon by our Pastor Jeremy that I realized that he had to have read my devotional before preaching because he was talking to me.  Of course, he had his sermon prepared and memorized way before I wrote that devotional, but it still spoke to me.

It was about the way Jesus taught us to do things differently in our love for others and to step out beyond our church walls to minister to people.  It was about “spit”, and that Jesus used his spit mixed with dirt to make the mud that he placed on the blind man’s eyes to heal him.  It was gross and the thought that he used spit, that went against everything in the culture around him, to heal was totally beyond the norm.  Spit, one thing the soldiers did to degrade Jesus before he was crucified, was what Jesus used to healed a man. But the part of the sermon that “got” to my heart was a story about a woman who wanted to go to India to meet Mother Teresa.  After meeting her, the woman wrote a check to give as a donation.  Mother Teresa would not take the check.  The woman stated that she wanted to help in some way to which Mother Teresa took her out into the streets.  There she saw a small child in a ditch, dirty and weak.  Mother Teresa looked at the woman and said, “Help him.”  The woman said she couldn’t.  But she was given a basin of water and a cloth.  She began washing the child, taking care of the child, and then rocking the child in her arms.  Mother Teresa taught her what it means to go out into the world to serve others.

My devotional yesterday morning was about service and that I needed to find one thing that would help someone else.  I still do not know what that is, and I’m sure God will show that to me soon.  But, my body found itself sitting up during church when Pastor Jeremy talked about the woman with Mother Teresa.  What a beautiful sermon, Pastor Jeremy.  Thank you for touching my soul during that “Normal” worship service.

Hear Sermon below beginning at 27:54 and ending 57:25.

Prayer:  Hi God, thank you for bringing your words to us over and over and over again until we “get it”.  Help us heed the words you have for us each day.  Amen

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