Time Spent with God

John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.  Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

Thought for the Day:  Find time to be with God today.

Centering ourselves to be more in touch with God can be difficult. Waking up to my alarm clock going off normally begins my day and lately, the snooze works very well on my alarm.  Getting out of bed to drink coffee because we can’t seem to wake up without it seems to be the routine.  Turning on the television to watch the news can be overwhelming and can cause more stress to our day.  But, no matter how busy our mornings seem to be, we all know that stopping the morning madness and turning to God for even a few minutes can change our entire outlook for the day.  For me personally, putting on my walking clothes, grabbing my camera, driving to our park, and beginning my walk is my moment.  As soon as I enter the lush green trail entrance, my heart calms and I forget about my to do list because I am entering my time with God.  For my husband, pulling out his Bible and devotional guide brings his moment with God.  He studies the devotional and then writes special scriptures on cards to place in a scripture box he has next to his devotional materials.  The most important part for both of us is that we have that moment to center ourselves, if only for a moment, on God.

As I watch people in our church and other friends, I see so many beautiful ways to spend time with God.  Small group times of sharing with special friends, helping in food pantries and soup kitchens, group Bible Studies, worship services, and individual quiet times are ways to find special times with God.  My personality calls for my personal quiet time with God.  Others need more group times with God.  God just needs us to be with Him where He can share Himself with us.

Prayer:  Father God, today we are praising You for the love You have for us.  Help us to see that love more by spending special time with you.  Help us see Your words as we read the Bible or as we see Your precious creation in nature.  Be with us today to see where You are and to help us remember to stop for a moment to spend time with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Time with God

The Open Door

Acts 14:27

And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Thought for the Day:  God opens doors

For two years, I found out yesterday, well a little shy of two years, a precious lady at our church has been praying diligently for me to find a job.  As she came up to me yesterday at church, “How have things worked out for you in finding a teaching position?”  Excitedly I told her that I do have a position for the next school year.  She teared up and said, “I have been praying for you….I always love hearing about prayers answered as it reminds me that prayers work.”  She has been a constant encourager for my family and me through this time since we have been in Georgia, and the love shows on her face every time we are in conversation with her.  As I shared with her about all the different doors that seemed to close for me, even after having great interviews, was discouraging at the time and I wondered why God was closing the doors.  I didn’t get it.  Then, when a long-term substitute position opened at my son’s school, I jumped in and began work.  I loved my work and was encouraged every day by those around me, but having it lead to a full-time position was not clear.  Then the day came, at 9:30 in the evening, when I was offered a position in the school nearest me…and in one of the best elementary schools around.

I shared with our sweet friend that at that moment, I knew why the previous doors had been closed.  God simply did not want me to walk through them.  Two days ago, we drove by another school in our area where I interviewed.   The building is exactly like the building where I got a position.  As I drove by I shared with my child, “Honey, can you see that school is the same type of building as your school?”.  “If I had been offered a position and taken it, I would not be at your school next year.  God closed that door and I am so glad.”

Many prayed for me and could not understand why so many doors were shut for me.  But then the door that was supposed to open did….and God let me walk through.  God knew, but I believe God wanted me to interview in the different schools.  He knew that I needed to receive knowledge through each of those interviews of steps I needed to take.  Through those interviews, I realized that I needed an extra endorsement on my teaching certificate – ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).  So, I studied and took the ESOL test and passed.  Adding that endorsement helped in my search of a position, but more than that it gave me essential skills to succeed in my new position.  God said yes and opened the door when HE knew it was the right one – because HE led me to that widely opened door.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for friends who pray for us and encourage us in such special ways.  Through the prayers of those remarkable people, we realize how You listen to us.  Thank you also, God, for the closed doors that keep us from going into places you do not want us to go.  Thank you for making clear the open doors we are to enter.  You are awesome!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Friends who are encouragers

Animal Mamas and Their Babies

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 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 loves it when His children take in His creation

Watching the animals at our park nearby reminds me that God’s creation is absolutely amazing.  As I watch the squirrels scurrying from tree to tree and finding nuts to hold in their tiny paws to eat, I am completely in awe.  These creatures, no matter how young they are, know instinctively what they need to do to take care of themselves.  How do they know that they need to stash nuts to be available during the cold winter months – how do they know that?  And what about the beaver?  How do the beavers in our park know they are to gnaw and claw trees to make beaver dams.  Looking around our park, we see dams built in different areas and we can see the gnawed markings on the trees. Then, how is it that we do not see the beavers – we know they are there, but we hardly ever see them.  Then, there are the four adult geese that are always with the baby geese.  One can actually see the adults nudging the babies to go certain directions and the adults stand firm beside the babies to make sure nothing happens to them. And my favorite animals to see are the blue herons that nested in the tops of trees and now are beginning to teach their babies.    As I watch, I can see the mamas and their babies, and I can hear the squawking as they tell their mama they are hungry.  I can then see her fly off soaring through the air to find food to bring back to her babies.  There are a lot of God lessons to be learned at the park.

Reflecting on these and so many more animals, I am reminded of how God takes care of His children.  In those times of need, we often get down and can’t get up on our own.  Then God comes in, with either someone to help us through a situation or with some instance that leads us in the way we should go.  Sometimes we do not recognize that it is God who helps us until we look back on a part of our lives and we see it very clear.  God is our Father, and He will nudge us in the right direction.

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You and praise Your Holy name today as we realized how wonderfully You take care of us.  Thank you for the animals in our midst that remind us about how You take care of our every need.  Thank you that we and the animals are wonderfully made.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Animals taking care of their young.

The Hand Squeeze

(This Devotion is repeated, with a few changes)

A SIMPLE HAND SQUEEZE

1 Corinthians 13

So faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Twenty-two years ago today, my husband remained in the Trauma ICU at the MED.  The accident that happened the night before had injured him so badly that he was unrecognizable and unable to talk.  The doctors finally called us back to see him in the afternoon.  Seeing him with swollen face and lying so still was difficult, and I was not sure how to talk to him.   All I could think of telling him was how much I loved him.  As I held his hand, I felt a familiar hand squeeze.  It was three squeezes from David’s hand to mine.  I immediately squeezed his hand back four times, and cried “I love you, too.”  Throughout our relationship and marriage, we had the hand squeeze message of three squeezes for “I love you”, and four squeezes for “I love you, too”.  That was the best feel I could have ever imagined as I sat beside his hospital bed. Even though there was sense that he would not make it through this, God gave him the strength to give me the message, through a simple hand squeeze, of his love for me.  That simple thing, but not simple at all, gave me the confirmation that our love was strong and that God’s love was also with me.

Throughout our lives, it is important to see God in the little things. With me on that day, the hand squeeze showed God’s love for me and David in a most extraordinary way.  That simple hand squeeze, twenty-two years later, still reminds me of the wonderful message that our love was strong, and that God was going to make everything okay. My husband, Mark, and I began that handshake when we married and have continued through our years together, and I am reminded of his love for me when we communicate in that way.

Prayer:   God, thank you for the little simple things that show your love in such big ways.  Help us to see your love in the little things we encounter every day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE TRAGEDY

I Didn’t Know…But God Did

Psalms 139:1-6

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!  Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.  Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us and knows us – He holds us close and knows the future for each one of us. 

Goodness Gracious – Early on this Thursday morning, I arose very early not able to sleep.  I have tossed and turned, I have fixed my morning coffee and have had a cup, I have checked Facebook messages, I have opened the bedroom window – and shut it quickly as the temperature outside is in the 20s, and I have read my devotional.  As I pulled out my computer to begin writing, I thought, God what are you wanting me to do right now?  I looked down in the corner of my computer screen and there it was, today’s date.  There it was, my reminder of an anniversary – an anniversary that comes every year and an anniversary of something very hard.  Twenty-two years ago today was my husband David’s car accident.  When he left for a jazz rehearsal, I didn’t know it would be the last time he walked out of our house and the last time I would see him full of life and full of hope for the future.  I didn’t know that 36 hours later my life would stop at the moment he went on in peace to see God.  I didn’t know that I would need to lean on God in a way I had never leaned on Him before.  I didn’t know.

But God did – God knew my future.  God knew and in time, much time, I found that God had walked before me setting the stage for a bright future as I continued teaching, as I dated and married another wonderful man – Mark, as I learned new skills that led me to new possibilities, and as we adopted two remarkable boys.  God knew that after Mark’s and my parents passed away that David’s mom and dad would become our children’s grandparents.  Today, I find myself once again not knowing what my professional future holds.  But, today, I am aware that God has been with me through every heart ache and through every pain.  God has been with me through every surprising joy.  God was with me when I lost the love of my life and He was with me when I found my new love of my life.  I am thankful today for the love God has shown me every day.  As my devotional read a couple of days ago:  Thank you, God.  Today I thank God for the future He is working on for me.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for loving us and bringing Your plan for our life into the light.  Be with us as we go through the day to recognize the blessings You show to us and the blessings we do not see.  You know our every need, every struggle, every joy, and every moment.  Help us learn to place them all in Your hands knowing You have each of us near to Your heart.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God knows the plans He has for us.   

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Psalms 73:23-26

Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Thought for the Day:  Just Ask, He will hold your hand

Walking this morning in the 32 degree temperature was a bit chilly at first, but then I forgot about the cold as I began hearing sounds I have missed as I normally walk a bit later in the day.  The birds seemed to be tweeting more loudly than I had heard before, and the geese were “definitely” talking to one another.  As I walked I took in the beauty of the area.  I viewed waterfalls, felt leaves blowing in the wind making my eyes drift up, heard a woodpecker pecking on a limb, and even saw our dear friend “Mr. Tailless”, a squirrel that my boys and I met on one of our excursions around the lake.  Toward the end of my walk I did something I have never done before.  Thinking about the song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, I found that I held my hand out as if to ask God to hold it.  And, although it sounds strange, I truly think Jesus was there with me.  Why do I think that, because I asked him to hold my hand.

Today, God was at the park.  He was there in all the beautiful sounds and He was there as I asked Him to hold my hand.  At the end of my walk, I stopped on the pier that goes out over the area of turtles and I began talking to a gentleman.  I shared with him that I always know when the geese are about to take flight because they start calling to each other.  He said, “but there is always one that doesn’t ‘listen’”.  We both laughed when I shared with him that one of my children is much like that goose when he doesn’t want to do what we are doing as a family. He also shared with me that one day he watched a turtle climbing up on a log falling off each time he tried.  Then the others seemed to “talk” to him telling him to go into the water and walk up the log where he could swim to the top.  He said he was happy when the turtle got on the log.  Yes, God was at the park today and I am so glad I took the time to be with Him.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for coming to hold our hand when we ask.  Your creation is so beautiful and you have placed it in front of us where we can see You so clearly.   Help us see You every minute of every day as we learn more about following You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Creationdsc_6554-2

God Knows Me

Repeated  Devotional

John 17:23

Jesus said, “I in them and thou I me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou has loved me.”

Thought for the Day:  God knows us and loves us

Where do I think of when I want to go somewhere for prayer and time with God?  Recently, I have observed friends saying, “It is nice to be alone with God as I hear the bugs making noises”, “Hearing music brings me closer to God”, and “Sitting and listening to the creek is where I feel nearest to God.” Thinking about that today and hearing of the deaths of friends’ parents made me go back in my memory to my place as a young person.  When I was young, I found my way to the piano when I needed to “get away” from the stress of school or from the worry about my brothers.  In one of our homes, the placement of the piano was not perfect and I did not hear about it until several years later.  The piano was placed on the wall to the left as we went in the front door, but was on the other side of the wall from the head of my parents’ bed.  Yes, the only thing separating the piano from the bed was a thin wall.  My time with God and to be alone with music included playing old recital pieces which were full of runs that could get loud.  My time also included singing songs as I played.  Years after we left that parsonage, my Daddy shared with me that in the late hours when I chose to play my mother laid in bed trying to go to sleep.  She would say, “Gordon, you are going to have to go ask her to stop.”  He said that every time that request came from my mother he would say, “I am not going to stop her because she needs this time.”  My Daddy knew me and he knew my need for time alone in that moment.

Today, my Daddy knows me.  Today, my Father God knows me.  With all the billions of people in the world and the many places and faces here, God can see me and He loves me.  No matter where I choose to spend time with Him, He is listening.  As I thought about this, I remembered a Sandi Patty song from awhile back called, “He Loves Me” where she sings about how, in the midst of everything going on in the world today, that God is still there listening, knowing, and loving each one of us.  Today, your Daddy knows you.  Today, your Father God knows you.  Today, God can see you and He loves you.  Find your place and pray.

Prayer:  Almighty and loving God, thank you for loving us as our earthy Father’s love us.  You see us and know every part of us.  Yet, you still love us in a way that is far beyond any love we have ever felt.  Be with us as we find our special place to be with you today.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

Joy and Warmth

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

Thought for the Day:  The Joy of the Lord can be felt through those people and experiences near us.

What brings the joy of the Lord?  What brings a warmth to the heart?  Recently, I realized that a joy was felt in my heart as I talked to a friend in the school where I have a long-term substitute position.  I said, “You know, it is funny…all of this time I have not been working, I have gone to the church early each Wednesday to prepare my children’s choir room rehearsal.   But since I have been working, I have gone in just a few minutes early to get ready for the children to come in the choir room.  I truly believe these rehearsals of last minute entrance have been the best rehearsals.”  She replied, “That’s because you are where you are supposed to be.”  As she said that, I knew she was right.  Although I am in a substitute position and still have no idea what my future holds, I am teaching in a school each day and I feel I am doing the thing that brings me pure joy.  Because of that joy, other areas in my life seem to be more in line.  Now, at church, I hear children say, “Mrs. Locke, I saw you at school the other day”, and at school I hear, “Mrs. Donna!!!”, and feel arms coming around my waist for a hug.  That is where the warmth comes to my heart.

Today, the song, “The Joy of the Lord” comes to my mind as I think about this joy that has come in a simple recognition from a child that they “Know” me and through the warmth that comes from those arms coming around me for a hug.  I wrote recently about what “Faith” is and said, “Faith is believing without seeing”.  Today, I realize that I have been in the midst of God and through these children.  I have seen His face as He has shown His faithfulness to me.

“The Joy of the Lord”, by Twila Paris

Prayer:  Father God!  Today we praise You and worship Your Holy Name.  You are a gracious and loving Father.  Today, thank you for bringing us joy and warmth through the people you place in the walk around us.  Thank you for letting us “see” through faith, the unconditional love You have for us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel joy and warmth

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