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

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The Red-Winged Blackbird

 

Matthew 18:6

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us

How can it be that in one hour of walking around our park, I witnessed red-winged blackbirds tormenting other birds.  I haven’t seen it before so I was a little surprised, as I know nothing about that bird species.  As I began exploring the internet, I quickly realized that the reason they seem to attack larger birds is that the birds fly over their nesting areas.  So, much like geese do not like it when other animals get too close as they are nesting, and the blue herons scream out loudly if other animals get too close, the red-winged blackbirds are just protecting their babies.  As a mother, I know I can be almost over-protective of my children.  I hover over them when they are sick and make sure they know about harmful possibilities in the community.  So, am I over protective or am I similar to the red-winged black bird in my want to be a good mother and to help my children succeed in life as I make every attempt to teach them to live a God centered live.

Now, I look to our Parent, God, who loves us and will help us whenever we need Him.  He sends His angels to protect us and He guides our hearts in the way we should go.  All we have to do is read the Bible and we will find the hundreds of stories where God led people to where they needed to go, and opened the doors that needed to be opened.  God showed His love to us.  So, red-winged blackbird, protect your babies where they will know how to live when it is their time to fly free.

Prayer:  God, thank you for leading us where we need to go and for directing our feet.  Thank you for the birds of the air as they show us that they, too, protect their babies.  Help us look at all of nature to see how God shows His love to even the smallest animal – which shows us how much He loves us. 

Prayer Focus:  Parents

Father’s Day

Proverbs 20:7

A righteous man who walks in his integrity – blessed are his sons after him!

Thought for the Day:  God sends fathers

“Daddy, can you do the ‘Tickle Spider?’”, I hear as the time comes for our youngest to go to bed.  “Why sure!” is the reply and the laughter begins.  As time wains, I begin hearing scriptures being said with Mark saying a line and Jonathan repeating.  Then I hear them saying “The Lord’s Prayer” together.  As Mark talks to our oldest, Nathaniel, I hear the serious talk about the day followed by “The Lord’s Prayer” ending their conversation for the night.  As a mother who has never been great at memorizing scripture, I hear the beautiful spoken word of my husband as he speaks words of faith with our two sons in a way that touches me deeply.  What a great father this man of God is to his sons, and what a great devotion the boys feel toward him.  God brought our family together where this man could share Jesus with all of us.

As I think about God and the way He loves us, I realize that my husband loves his boys in a special way.  Our family is special because God is the Head of our family and my husband follows His heart to teach our family about God’s love.   Together, God and Mark are a great team.

Prayer:  God, thank You for loving us enough to send dads, special dads to teach us about Your love.  Be with all dads on this day that they can see and recognize the love from their children.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Father’s Day

Seeing and Hearing the Sights and Sounds of God

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 wants us to see and hear the sights and sounds of the world.

I have enjoyed taking pictures recently as I have walked around our nearby park, a park filled with beautiful land and awesome wildlife.  A couple of people recently have mentioned to me that I must have an eye to see things to take pictures of.  As much as I would love to think that so, I have a different thought about it.  First, many times it is just the camera – that automatic focusing camera that does a great job.  Then, it is timing – timing of the day that gives the best light.  But most importantly, it is God’s sounds and visions.  As I walk I see glimpses of where God is leading my eye – it is as if it is just placed in front of me.  And, as I walk I hear sounds – it is as if I have passed something God wants me to see and He has to make a sound to draw my attention back to the photo opt that I have passed up.  I would love to think it is my eye, but it isn’t, it is what God places in front of me.

I believe God leads us whenever He places something of beauty in our sight, and occasionally it is whenever He places something in front of us to make us think – that homeless person sitting on the corner, or that donation stand for food collection for a food pantry.  Yes, God places the beautiful things in our thoughts to remind us of how much He loves us, but then He places the needs in front of us to let us show His love to those in need.  Where is God leading our eyes and ears today?  Is it to view the beautiful animals and plants we can see if we visit a park, or is it to see with our loving eyes the needs of those around us?  Can you see it? Can you hear it?  God is right there showing us the way through our eyes and through our ears.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us in a precious way to bring our sight on those beautiful things around us.  Thank you even more for focusing our eyes and ears to hear the needs of those we meet.  Amen 

Prayer Focus:  The sights and sounds of God

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

Thank You, God

Exodus 33:18-19

Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name “The Lord’” and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”

Thought for the Day:  Thank God today for the large blessings and the small.

Hot Dogs and Hot Fudge Cake – who would have thought that those two items would bring so many thank yous from my family.  As we shared time together earlier in the afternoon, my husband saw a picture of one of his all time favorite desserts – the Hot Fudge Cake from Shoney’s.  So, I said, “I think I can make that”.  As I began working on the dessert, I realized it was going to take longer than I thought, however, I was able to rush it just a bit to have it finished by dinner.  So, buns, hotdogs, mustard, relish, ketchup served quickly and simply made a few “men” happy.  Then, to top it off, the serving of the hot-fudge cake began.  My husband oohed and aahed, my oldest son began eating very quickly, and my youngest decided he only liked the whipped cream – handing his dessert over to his brother.   Bigger Brother dug in and we laughed when we witnessed our teenager with chocolate all over his mouth.  We finished and my son helped me clear the table and clean the kitchen.  “Thank you, Mama, for the dessert – and thank you for taking me to the store this afternoon.”  “Honey, thanks for making such a wonderful meal tonight – it was very special.” The Thanks actually went on awhile – what a delightful evening.

As I think about these awesome feelings of appreciation from my husband and sons, I wonder how God feels when we thank Him. Reading an article this morning, I read that “God is Glad” and “God is joyous over us”.  Just as my heart leapt as my family responded to that simple meal and dessert with thanks, God’s heart has to leap when we show our love and thanksgiving to Him.  God wants us to love Him and to give thanks for the gifts He gives.  More than that, I think, God wants us to realize the gifts are from Him.  Personally, I believe I take gifts from God for granted and do not realize they are from Him until I look back and see they were indeed from Him.  In that article about thanking God, I read that when we wake up and before we go to sleep, we should say the words, “Thank you, God!” for the gifts He has given that day, realizing that we are thanking Him for things we haven’t even seen as gifts from Him.  We need to remember that “all gifts are from God.”

Prayer:  Our Gracious Heavenly Father!  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the blessings You give us each day.  Forgive us for taking those gifts for granted by not realizing they are from You.  We love you, Lord, and want You to know how thankful we are for the simple things and for the large things.  We pray we will be more diligent in thanking you each day – many times a day – for Your many, seen and unseen, blessings.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Thanking God

 

Was, and Is, and Is to Come

Revelation 1:8

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Focus:  God is with us.

 

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

Missing the Retreat

Psalms 19:1-4

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, or are there words; their voice is not heard;  yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.    

Thought for the Day:  Take in God, and you will feel His peace.

Planning on going on a Women’s Retreat this weekend was exciting and my heart was ready for some time away.  So, when I began feeling under the weather the day before I was to go, I was disappointed.  I knew in my heart the trip for me would not happen.  Lying on our couch with a bad headache the night I should have been driving and then waking up in my bed on that Saturday morning was tough.  As I awoke, I realized all the chores I needed to do in the house which made my decision even harder to take.  After a couple of hours, I told my husband I needed to take a walk, as that helps me when I need to get away.  So I picked up my camera and headed back to the park (feeling stuffy and sneezy).  There were people around, but I walked in some areas that are a little more isolated.  In that time at the park, I talked to a dear, dear lady I who I met one morning several months ago as I walked at the park.  Mrs. Jane is a precious lady who always helps me find my smile that may be tired or unseen for the moment.  As I continued my walk, I saw waterfalls in places I had never seen water run before – I thought they were dry creek beds, but they were flowing with beautiful water – O the sound, that beautiful sound!  Continuing my walk brought me to look up into the trees to see the beauty God was wanting me to see in each moment and by the time I returned home, I felt I had been on a “retreat in the Mountains”.

Retreat….where is my retreat? Sharing time with a nurse practitioner the day before I was to leave for the retreat, I mentioned that I was supposed to go on a Women’s Retreat and I needed to feel better.  She replied, “A ‘retreat’, how do you get to go on one of those?”  I was taken back a little by her question, as I have attended church retreats all my life.  Where she came from, they did not go off on retreats to find spiritual peace.  She did state that she received peace other ways.  As I realized I would not be going on the women’s retreat I remembered her statement, “A ‘retreat’, how do you get to go on one of those?”.  I felt sad when I thought about missing the “retreat”, but as I walked, sharing time with Mrs. Jane and with nature, I realized that I was making my own retreat – my time with God.  Now, am I still sad I missed the retreat with other Christian women, “Yes!”,  but was God also with me on my walk, “A Definite Yes!”  I had my little retreat with Him.

Prayer:  God, today is the day You made!  Help us see You in nature and to see You in the people around us.  We are tired God, and need to see and feel You to remind us of your love for us.  For that love calms our spirits and brings us peace.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing a retreat