How are You Still Standing?

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, He who abides in shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  

Thought for the Day:  God is as close as our next breath

Spending time in conversation with my new work partner, who will be sharing a classroom and teaching experiences with for the coming year(s), was so special.  We have learned about each other’s children and we have talked about our past work experiences and what brought us to this place.  As we listened, we learned that we are very much alike in personality and that we are anxiously excited to be working with each other.  Neither of us has ever shared a classroom with another person so we will both be experiencing something new….but we can already tell it is going to be special.  Maybe it became special when we realized she was born the year I graduated from high school.  Toward the end of sharing, as we shared about past experiences, I shared about my family and what brought me personality to the place I am today.  Her reply was, “How are you still standing here in this place?  You’ve been through so much.”  I have heard similar statements many times through the years, but there was something in her voice that was different.

Over the past few days, several have brought up the subject because of a song I sang in church on Sunday about finding God’s blessings in the struggles of life.  This morning, awaking very early on a Saturday morning, I found myself contemplating the question, “How are you still standing here in this place?”  My answer, the only answer I can explain, is that I am here because in every tragedy and in every heart-break, God has placed the people and events and memories and His planned blessings in front of me where I knew the direction I was to go.  I sang the words Sunday, “What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near.”  As we have almost made it out of the last tough period, I thought about those words.  From the day that my husband’s position was eliminated in our previous church to the time I was offered my position to teach this coming school year was 1,011 days.  Laura Story’s song, Blessings, became a theme song for us a few months after our time of change began.  I remember hearing those words, “A thousand sleepless nights” and thinking…”I hope this doesn’t take a thousand days.”  But it has.  But in those thousand days we have fallen in love with our new church family, we have made wonderful new friends, we have found a place to live that is beautiful and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  God has blessed us in a mighty way and looking back, we can see where His hand has led us in such a mighty way.

“How are you still standing?” I am still standing, I believe, because through tragedy one learns to keep the faith and to know God is there…”Closer than your next breath”… and He will never let you go.  There might be a lot of blessings in the tears and there might be many nights where rest does not come.  But, God is in that next breath and God is placing who and what you need to lead you through the hard times.  “How am I still standing?”  That’s easy…God is why I am still standing.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for loving us in such a special way and for bringing us through storms.  Thank you for sending the blessings of people, experiences, and heartaches to bring us through with the knowledge that You are right there beside us.  You are our Almighty Father and it is humbling to know that you are always as close as our next breath.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Blessings

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

God’s Refreshing Water

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Thought for the Day:  God refreshes the land and our hearts with his love and hope. 

Loving our drive through the mountains, we took in the beauty around us and the thoughts of people who lived in areas along the way.  As we neared our vacation location, we began seeing areas that had been burned out in a very large wildfire several months ago.  The feeling of elation as we were driving for fun with our children in one of our favorite places became heart wrenching.  As we drove, our eyes filled with tears as we saw mile after mile of areas that had been blackened and broken by the wildfires.  Nearing one town that had been massively affected by the fires, we wondered what we would witness.  In the midst of the reality that so much was destroyed, we were touched that rebuilding was already taking place to construct businesses, homes, and rental cabins.  We also witnessed the many people who had traveled to the area to enjoy time with family and friends.  Our hearts were warmed as we continued driving as we noticed some green in the midst of the blackened timbers.  There was a lush green in the grasses that grew along the roadside.  There were wild flowers growing in the midst of ash.  There were many areas of beautiful moss growing on fallen trees.  The thing we noticed the most were the many creeks and streams that looked totally unchanged even with the area around them totally charred from the fires.  At one point I said, “It’s as if God is saying, I’m not finished here yet.”  The precious water that continued to flow through the mountains, flowing through the blackened forests and flowing under fallen, burned trees gave hope that God was already there healing the land that had been damaged so badly.

“I’m not finished here yet.”  It is amazing how God comes in after such tragedy of wildfire to the land or heartbreak in our hearts and says, “I’m not finished here yet”.  In those areas of blackened land were the spots of green growth and water flowing to give hope to the land that it would be renewed.  In those areas of blackened areas where damage has taken place in our lives, there are spots of new growth and beautiful water flowing to give hope that God has something wonderful planned for our lives.   God’s refreshing water…renewing our land and renewing our spirit.

Prayer:  God, thank you for refreshing us with the water only You can give.  Lord, we do thank you for the spots of hope You give in the midst of tragedy.  We do also ask for the continued healing to the land and the lives affected by such terrible wildfires.  Be with those in need today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God heals our land and our lives.

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.

 

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

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.

Morning Time with the Cat

Psalms 69:13-18

But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of ty steadfast love answer me.  With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.  Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, O Lord, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.  Hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in distress, make haste to answer me.  Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies!

Thought for the Day:  God is there, reach for Him.

Although I am not excited when I wake up in the early morning hours and realize that I cannot go back to sleep, I do recognize that is the perfect time to spend time with my sweet pets.  They seem to want to come around me as I sit on the couch hoping for a little more dozing time.  As I watched my fourteen year old tabby this morning, I saw him immediately stand up from his rest on the ottoman to jump over to his place beside me on the couch.  His purr was very loud and I found him nuzzling my hand where I would pet him under his chin.  I petted him for a few minutes then pulled my hand away only to feel him nuzzling my hand again.  He yearned for the comfort in knowing I was there.  I loved putting my arms around him feeling the softness of his fur and the warmth of his body.  We both felt the love from the other.

As I began writing, not knowing what words would come, I looked at my cat who had found his way back to the ottoman.  He looked content and at peace as he rested once again in the wee morning hours.   My relationship with God is similar in a way to that relationship my cat has with me.  When I need to feel God’s presence, I try to move to a place where He feels close.  I try to communicate with Him that I need the warmth and love that only He can give.  I wonder if God recognizes and gets excited when I begin coming closer to Him.  As I see my cat standing up from his resting place, I tend to get excited when I see him jumping over to sit beside me.  Does God get excited when we come to Him?  Does God rejoice when we come to Him for comfort?  I believe He does.

Prayer:  God, you are present and you are Almighty!  Thank you for being present for us when we reach out for you, and even when we don’t.  Your ever present in our lives and we know you rejoice when we acknowledge you.  Be with us today!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

Rest

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Thought for the Day:  Where will we find rest today?

No argument came from my young sons as I told them that we would not be doing our evening activities at church so we could go to bed early.  For almost a week, our bedtimes seemed to get later and later as we traveled one last time to get our things from our old house.  When we returned to our new home, we still had to unload the truck while we continued our regular routine.  Receiving a text message from my oldest son early in the day that he could not stay awake at school and watching my youngest son act up from being “overly tired”, I realized I had to do something.  Bedtime came and my boys went to sleep with no argument and as I looked at the clock, my heart relaxed knowing their little bodies would get the rest they needed.

This morning, as I awake early with my body feeling rested and ready for my day, I think about how God wants us to come to Him and He will give us rest.   As a mother, I knew my boys needed to get sleep as I witnessed the symptoms they were showing.  All those days of too little sleep was taking its toll on them.  All those days of little sleep was also taking its toll on me.  God knows we need rest to be who He needs us to be in His kingdom, and God will give us rest.  We can be comforted in knowing that God is with us, He is our parent, and He will bring to us the rest we need if we will only rest in Him.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for loving us and for being near to us every moment of the day.  Thank you for knowing us and bringing rest to our bodies and souls.  Help us find the rest in You where we can be alert and awake in doing the work of Your kingdom.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Rest