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.

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Extravagant Service

John 13:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding a Place to be with God

Jeremiah 29:12-13

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:  Are we looking for times and places to be with God.

Marching Band Season is over and I am sad, in a way.  I have truly enjoyed watching my son, Nathaniel, become a part of a team – a huge team.  On July 16, I drove him to his first day of Freshman Band Camp.  I remember going to pick him up in the auditorium because it had rained.  I remember telling him that he was one blessed guy because God had given him a coolness in the air on his first day.  July 17, it was sunny and it was hot.  I thought for sure he was going to quit.  Nathaniel was not one of those kids who I could visualize working out in the hot sun.  But he did return day after day to be a part of something great.  The season continued and the band did spectacular things in their show which turned out fantastic.  We watched and took pictures week after week as Nathaniel became a true marcher, a helper, a potential leader, and a friend to many.  God helped our boy grow into a student in a high school of almost 4,000 who found his nitch in a smaller (mellophones) group.

But that wasn’t what was special…what was special was the few minutes I experienced when I picked him up from practice.  When I picked him up, I had him all to myself and I was able to listen to him and have true conversation.  Trust me, that time was special.  I learned on a daily basis how he loved playing mellophone, but even more, how he loved being in that group of new friends.  I listened to him as he shared with me the parts of the show that were going great, the things they had changed in the show, and what he was going to be doing special like moving the prop, “The Roman Numeral IV” into place.  The day that “got me”, was the day I went to the Georgia State Competition and began videoing the performance as I tried to always do.  The end came, and all of a sudden the band members began laying on the field to form the words “Ever After”.  The video did not get that as I didn’t know it was coming.  When I picked him up from the school after their bus ride home, I said, “You didn’t tell me about the ending!”  His reply was, “Mama, I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise for you!”  There it was!  There was the proof that our “after practice time in the car” had been worth it.  I had listened to him and he knew I was truly excited about something he was involved in.  That time in the car each day was also a time I could give him some advice, and he took it calmly.  That is the part of his marching band season that I will truly miss.

Today, I am thinking, “Am I the almost 15 year old in my relationship with God?”  That is a strange but real question.  Does God have to find a place to confine us when He wants to share time with us?  I think in my case, the answer is yes.  And, does God get excited when we are put in a place where we are totally with Him.  I think that answer is definitely a yes.  My time of picking up my son from marching band is over for now and I am already missing it.  But, I am working hard to find time to have conversation with him.  Now, I need to be the 15 year old who understands the importance and specialness of being with my parent, God.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  Thank you for the times we are able to have conversation with each other.  Those times are so special.  Help me work to find more times to be just with you.  And, while I am just with You, help me to listen.  Amen.

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

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Psalms 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty can be found in the Insignificant

After I awoke this morning and as I drank my coffee, my husband came in and we began talking.  During our talk, he found himself on my facebook page where I had shared many pictures of my walk in our park.  As we talked about each picture, and the beauty that each on showed, he asked me if these were planted flowers or weeds.  I replied that I thought they were weeds as they just appear in places in the park.  As I looked at one particular picture, I stated that the colors in that one picture were glorious.  That little plant, enlarged in the photo to show the details, was just a little, insignificant plant until we looked more closely.  My husband replied, “That could be one of your writings”, and he was right. He stated that there are times when we look at what might seem insignificant, and miss the intricate details that God placed in His creation.  That child who is “just another child” was created by God.  That person who has found himself/herself in dire straits was created by God.  That weed that grows on the side of a path was created by God.  Looking at the picture of the plant again, remembering that this is God’s creation, brought my eyes to the intricate colors and blooms that I might have been missed if  I only looked from the outside.

God created me, God created us, and God created so much beauty around us.  In what seems insignificant, is God.   In what seems simple, is God.  Today, and every day, take in God.  Take in the beauty that God has placed in front of us and in the people we meet.  He is there, although sometimes we need to enlarge the picture to see the intricate parts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing intricate beauty in the things, plants, and people around us.  Help us open our eyes a little wider and help us look inwardly at Your creation to see You.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Intricate Beauty

 

Taking in God’s Beauty…in 90 Degree Heat

Psalms 96:11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;  let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shsall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty brings the heart peace. 

So, in an attempt to take a walk at the park, I decided to take my youngest son with me to let him ride his bike.  Not too long into the walk, he began to complain that it was too hot and he wanted to go home.  Truthfully, it was very hot at 90 degrees, so it didn’t surprise me too much.  So we turned around and walked back to the car.  That few moments in the park, however, got my heart going and strengthened my desire to go back.   During the afternoon hours, I spent time doing some chores around the house, but my heart kept calling me back. As I looked at the forecast, and realized the temperature was not going to go down much before sunset,  I decided to go to the park anyway.  In the 90 degree heat, I walked.

As I entered the park, I immediately began taking in the beauty around me.  The animals, being much smarter than I, seemed to be taking their late afternoon rests so they were not in eye shot.  But, beauty still remained.  There, in front of me at every corner, was the natural beauty that God put in place “just for me”.  And I took it in…every leaf, every flower, every tree, and every view of the mirrored lake in its stillness. It was hot, oh it was hot, but God’s gift shown through.  Reflecting on that walk, my heart still races and calls me back.  There is a place in my life where I can forget anything other than what God is calling me to remember.  There is peace, perfect peace, in seeing God in the beauty around us.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for leading us to perfect peace in the beauty around us.  You, in all your glory, placed beautiful places in our path to take You into our hearts.  You are our awesome God.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

My Haven

Acts 17:27

So that they might look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him.  Of course, he is never far from any one of us.

Thought for the Day:  God is with us always. 

So many thoughts, so many prayers, so many busy days!  For the first time in what seems forever, I sit on my patio in the back of our house, looking out into a lush area of gorgeous green trees and listening to the creek that runs by.  After dropping one child off for a band trip very early this morning I am left with solace on a beautiful day. My husband, who has been going to physical therapy after knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, and my youngest child are sleeping in on this day leaving a feeling of peace for this very tired woman.  Now I take in the beauty and the sounds around me

I look into the green that, during the spring and summer months, hides the many houses that can normally be seen in the fall and winter.  I always look forward to the day each spring when the leaves thicken in the trees and the view of the houses fade.  That is the day my backyard becomes a haven for me.  That is the day I hear the creek more clearly and I hear the birds and other animals talking to each other.  That is the day my heart feels a special peace.  So, today, my heart feels at peace…at least for a moment.

Many days recently I have asked the question, “God, are you here?” and, “Where are you God?” in the midst of hectic schedules and deadlines.  My answer comes in the form of my haven.  God is always with me and as I turn my thoughts away from my inward “me” and turn my thoughts out toward the beauty of nature, He appears.  Wait, He doesn’t appear right then because He has been there all along.  He has waited for me to look toward Him because it is then I see Him more clearly.

For the moment, for this 25 minutes more before I prepare for my day, I look and see Him in all His glory.  “Oh, the beauty of the trees, and the sound of the birds talking, and the beautiful sound of the creek are calling me to Him.”  Ahh, He is here.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  You are all glorious and You are Here.  Thank you for loving us enough to bring us to special havens where we can see you best.  Thank you for moments of solitude and moments of Your nature.  Be with us today that we can see You better.  Help us focus our eyes on You today!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Seeing God

 

 

 

God’s Embrace

Psalms 74:25-2

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:  God is Near

“Mama, all I want to do right now is to come and hug you”, came from my youngest as we ate dinner last night.  As he hasn’t felt well for the last couple days, my first thought was, “Oh, no, he might really be sick”.  That hug, however, made him feel better for a few minutes and began an evening of more hugs and snuggles.  Taking in every moment of the evening with my boy, I remembered those times when he was much younger and we had the daily snuggle time.  Did I take that time too lightly?  Maybe.  I knew they were special but didn’t think as I was going through them that the time would end.  So, a hug at the dinner table, then a little seven year old boy climbing in my lap with a favorite blanket was precious.  (And yes, I am taking him to get him checked today – in case you were worried.)

So, how are we when we need to “come and hug”?  As I think about this, my first thought is to love and hug my family – as they are my “go to” for comfort.  But there is someone we can go to, at any time and any place.  God is beside us wherever and whenever we find ourselves.  As times of overwhelming emotions have come recently, and a feeling of overwhelming stress has taken over, I am so glad I can turn to the Father in Heaven who loves me.  All I have to do is reach out, and God is there.  So, “God, all I want to do is come and hug you” is always available just as my lap was available for my youngest son last night.  What better place to be than in the embrace of God.

Prayer:  Almighty Father!  Thank you for always being near as we go through sickness or go through times of great emotions.  You are always there, right beside us, waiting for us to lean in to you for an embrace.  Help us daily to remember how close you are and that you are just waiting for us to “ask for a hug”.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Embracing God

God is Near

Job 12:7-10

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  of 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 handoff 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 is Near

I love this time of year.  Every time I go outside, I begin hearing the sounds of God.  On several occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have stayed later at school than I should.  Tired and ready to get home, I have packed my school bag and made my way to the outside door.  One day, I came out to hear geese flying overhead immediately bringing to me thoughts of God.  Another day, after an afternoon of parent conferences, I was greeted by sounds of birds mixed in with the sun shining beautifully through the sky.  Last night, staying way after dark on a Friday to prepare for next week, I walked out and heard insects chirping and making fun noises.  A smile came immediately to my face.  God was near.

As we think of God, and where He is in our lives, we believe He is everywhere.  But, when we are tired we sometimes do not see Him.  Today and everyday, I want to strive to see God in the people around me for those people truly are the face of God to me.  I want to see God and hear God in the sights and sounds of nature.  I want to see God when I watch my students next week experience how the Earth rotates making the sun’s shadow seem to move.  I know in advance that God’s voice will speak through their innocence and through their excited voices.

Where will you see God today?  You don’t have to look far, because God is right beside you placing beautiful sounds and views before you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for stepping into our lives through the sights and sound of nature, to remind us that You are near.  Help us see more quickly and clearly that You are in the midst of nature and people around us.

Prayer Focus:  God is near

It is Well with My Soul

Psalms 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Thought for the Day:  It is Well with My Soul

There are experiences in life when one knows immediately that the moment will be remembered for a lifetime.  We sat in our pew, taking in the music and speakers during the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  The service was beautiful with some of the most precious words being spoken about this wonderful man.  Then, the final organ/piano duet began to the song, “It is Well with My Soul”.  The instrumental music was gorgeous, and my heart wanted to sing.  When the last verse began, we began hearing a beautiful soprano voice.  From where we were sitting, toward the front and toward the side, we were able to see the faces of the family members.  As the voice sang, we looked toward the family and realized that our dear friend was the one singing.  She sang:

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend Even so, it is well with my soul It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul It is well, it is well, it is well, It is well, it is well, it is well It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

As I watched her, and as I watched her family, I felt that something great was coming.  I pulled out my cellphone, and without using video I began recording.  As the congregation listened, and as I was one who was able to watch, I saw her hand go into the air.  That moment, that special moment, my heart knew that “It was truly well” with her soul.  Her daughter then joined her as the climax of the song came.  Then, an even more special moment came when our friend sang the last note….so high, so pure, so perfect.  My heart, our hearts, leapt with the sound of that voice.  My heart, our hearts, knew that she was going to be okay.  She, in singing those words, gave her family peace that their father, father-in-law, grandfather, and her husband was in the arms of God and that God had his arms around each of them.  “It is Well with my Soul”. What strength she showed in sharing with everyone in the room that “It was Well with Her Soul.”

The song, “It is Well with my Soul” was written by a man who had just experienced great tragedy.  It is amazing that this hymn that we sing often has been sung for so many who have grieved, and has helped bring strength.  Our friend took it to a new level as she sang, giving everyone in attendance a sense that “it is truly and wonderfully well with our souls.”

(History of “It is Well with My Soul”)

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing us peace in unexpected ways.  God, I ask that you wrap your arms around every member of this sweet family, that they will know your love and peace.  Thank you for speaking to all of us through the beautiful words, “It is well with my Soul”.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  It is Well with My Soul

The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home