Watch, Trust, Do Not be Afraid

I drove to church today overwhelmed.

Our student minister is moving to another ministry. It’s been five months since my assistant and good friend moved. My work load seems daunting. My youngest son is a senior so this year is already bursting with “the last” of so many things. My new book was just released so the fall is full of book events. I have been wondering how long I can keep up with the current pace.

In Children’s Church we learned three things that Isaiah echoed to King Ahaz.

Watch for God.

Trust God.

And do not be afraid.

I asked the kids to tell me when they’ve seen a sign from God. We heard a lot of cool stories. Then I asked them to share some scary things that were currently going on in their lives. Things they had to trust God to get through.

A few answers… My grandmother has cancer. My father recently passed away. My uncle passed away. I had to have surgery last week. The leaving of the student minister. Grandparents getting older.

Some very serious events going on in the lives of kindergarteners through 5th graders. I was humbled, to say the least.

We stopped and prayed to a BIG God and knew that He heard us.

God told Joshua three times …be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.

If you’re overwhelmed, He is there.

If you need a miracle, no matter how big or small, He is there.

He wants to show Himself to each one of us.

Watch for Him.

Trust Him.

Don’t be afraid.

 Books by Dana K. Ray

Absolution Book 1 in The Luciano Series  http://a.co/1hRwM7T or https://danakray.com

A Second Chance https://amzn.com/1632132605  or https://danakray.com

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Better Blessings!

As I reflect on Easter weekend, I am amazed at the “better blessings” I’ve had. On Friday, we had a Great Day of Service and a Good Friday Night Church service. On Saturday we had our Easter Egg Hunt, with over 400, probably closer to 500 people. Every spare moment Saturday and Sunday, I spent helping my daughter and writing out high school graduation invitations for my oldest son.

Today’s Easter service was amazing, then our family went to lunch. From Friday to Sunday life was non-stop.  It was so crazy, that last night by ten, I was so groggy that I barely remember getting my daughter into her bed. I sat down to wait for that last load of laundry to get done but fell asleep on the couch only to wake up around six this morning.

I had plenty of time to get ready for church. As I prayed about my lessons, I asked God to give me something to teach about the resurrection that was new and refreshing.  For myself to learn something new and refreshing about the resurrection.

I taught out of the Gospel of John and began to really focus on the disciples.  They witnessed the most horrifying thing in the world.  They watched the Lord not just go on trial but He was convicted even though He was innocent.  They saw Jesus beaten beyond recognition, whipped, spit on, insults hurled, a crown of thorns, carrying his own cross, nailed to the cross, then left, hanging, to die. If that wasn’t enough, the soldiers cast lots for his garments and a thief hurled insults at him.

His body taken down and buried. That was Friday. What happened next in the disciple’s lives, I can only imagine from my own experiences of losing loved ones to death, then multiplying it by a million.

The grief. The shock. The disbelief about what happened. They were scared for their own lives. They sat locked in a room. I’m not sure how much they even ate. Their weekend must have been the longest in their lives. They’d given up everything for Jesus. Everything. Now he was gone. Dead. Buried. I can hardly imagine it.  Every thought they had was of Jesus dying. It replayed in their heads. What do they do now? Where do they go next? It’s no wonder Thomas wasn’t around.

My weekend was filled with amazing, Godly things we did, but I couldn’t help but think about how different theirs was so many years ago. Mine was fun, exciting, and meaningful. They were scared, grieving, and exhausted.

But how exciting it must have been for them that Easter Sunday when they saw Jesus alive!  We can enjoy Good Friday because we know the outcome.  We believe. We know. He’s alive! They grieved in a way we can’t even comprehend, but oh, how they must’ve rejoiced when they saw Jesus appear in that room. How they must’ve rejoiced when He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

As I taught this today I told the kids something really cool happened a week later. Yes, Thomas doubted and wanted to see Jesus for himself. Jesus appeared to the disciples again, showing Himself to Thomas and then he mentioned each one of them in my class. He mentioned me. He mentioned you. “Jesus said, “So, you [Thomas] believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing. “ John 20:29 The Message

Did you catch that? Even better blessings are in store! What a better blessing this weekend has been! I pray yours was filled with better blessings, also!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

I will admit to needing to lose a few pounds, twenty would put me where I want to be and make me feel better but I never thought God would use my weight and a precious preschooler to teach me about the tongue.

I was teaching the preschoolers and I had one of the four-year-old girls came up to me and gave me a big hug.  As I basked in the hug, she patted my stomach, looked up at me with her gorgeous eyes and said, “You have a big tummy.”

I looked down at her, “I know have a big tummy but I’m exercising and trying to make it smaller.”

She must’ve sensed that maybe it wasn’t the best things she could’ve said because she looked up at me with a sadness on her face.  All of a sudden, her face lit up and she smiled from ear to ear.  She said, “Maybe you have a baby in there!” with an excitement that was almost contagious.  Almost.

Everybody loves a baby, right? Maybe not when you don’t have one, you’re a tad overweight and almost fifty.  I did a little worse about my “fat tummy” but I knew she was just trying to make it better. I laughed and told her, “Nope, no baby.”

I got to thinking about how many times we say something, sometimes without even thinking, and it comes across wrong. Then instead of really thinking about it, we say something else to make it better but in actual, we make it worse.

God reminds us to watch our tongue and to guard our mouths to keep us from calamity (Prov. 21:23) but He also tells us in Ps. 37:30 that The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just.

She spoke to me in wisdom. In all honesty, my tummy is fat, yet she spoke it in such love that I could still laugh about it and take it to heart and do something to change. Let’s always watch what we say and when we do speak, make sure we speak in love.

Precious Prayers

We had an exciting evening at church tonight.  This semester, I am teaching early childhood.  I miss my older 1st – 5th grade kids but I know the importance of them learning from other teachers then just me.  Despite missing them, I love the little ones and sure do have fun with them.

One of the things I’ve always done with little ones, even back when I taught preschool, is I want to teach them to pray.  It’s very easy and fun.  Right before snack, when they are all sitting down, we pray for our food.  I like to get on my knees, I think it’s important to be on their level and for them to see this prayer posture in an adult.  I go around to each child and ask them if they’d like to pray.

There is nothing more precious then their prayers.  Some pray serious prayers for their parents and their pets, some tell family secrets, and some just make you want to laugh.

One boy likes to pray in his head so we get to him he says, “I want to pray in my head.”  I remind him to say amen when he’s done.  We all bow our heads and sit quietly, well, as quiet as fourteen preschoolers can and then he shouts, “Amen.”

I had two new kids at the start of January. When it came to their turn to pray the first night, they said they didn’t want to pray. I assured them that it was okay, not every wants to.

I was talking to their mother after church and I was telling her how we pray in class and how much I love to hear the kids pray.

She said, “My kids didn’t they?”

I said, “No, but that’s okay, not all kids want to.”

She said, “We come from a church background where that’s just not normally done.”

Again, I told her it was okay, I just like to give them the chance if they want.  We chatted some more then went on our way.

Tonight, three weeks and three classes later, I asked the two if they wanted to pray.  Brother said he would if sister did first.  I looked at the sister and she nodded and started praying.  I grinned deeply as she prayed then he prayed, thanking God for the little things like hearing a preschooler’s precious prayers.