Forgveness and Restoration– prayer guide

We sometimes tend to feel that our past disqualifies us from serving God or from using our abilities and talents in his work, especially in any kind of leadership. This passage shows us that God’s willingness to forgive and restore us is greater than anything we may have done in the past. Peter had publicly denied Jesus (see Matthew 26:69-75), but Jesus here restores him and commissions him to pastoral ministry.

  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 
  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” 
  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 
  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 
  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 
  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 
  Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 
  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:15-22

Monday: How would you answer if Jesus asked if you love him? This seems like a good question to reflect on, especially as we observe our own thoughts and actions. Let’s give some thought to this as we go through the day today.

Tuesday: Jesus wanted Peter’s love for him to result in service to Jesus’ followers. Does our love for Christ flow out to his people? How about to those people we don’t necessarily like?

Wednesday: Jesus told Peter that Peter would die for his faith in Christ, and then told Peter to follow him. Let’s ponder the call that Jesus has given each of us, to follow him whatever the consequences. How are we called to do this in our daily lives at home or work or in our relationships?

Thursday: There are many believers around the world who are facing persecution of various sorts because of their faithfulness in following Christ. Some can’t get work, some are hassled at work, some are imprisoned, and others face torture and death. Let’s pray for those around the world who even today are facing persecution and death for following Jesus.

Friday: Jesus restored Peter after Peter had denied him. Thank Jesus for his wonderful mercy and grace that is greater than all our sin. Nothing we have done is so bad we can’t be forgiven. Let’s come to him with all our sin in repentance and trust and gratitude.

Saturday: Jesus told Peter that God’s plans for another disciple’s future was not Peter’s business. Peter’s responsibility was to follow Jesus. Ask God to help you keep your focus on following Jesus, no matter what other people are doing.

Sugarloaf Hike and Black Rat Snake

Yesterday Stephen and I hiked up Sugarloaf, a steeper hike than we remembered, but well worth it for the view. At the top I sketched the fascinating, signature stump that has been there for as long as we’ve been hiking there, Steve read, and we both enjoyed the sunshine, the Turkey Vultures swooping by, and the river views. (Click photos to view larger)

On our way back down, we saw a 3-4 foot long Black Rat Snake that had clearly just eaten a large and rather pointy meal. As we watched he (or maybe she) calmly slithered to a nearby tree, climbed the tree and disappeared down a hole in the tree.

You can see the bump where there was something pointy on whatever he ate
Mottled pattern of the Black Rat Snake
Heading up the tree
Almost at the hole in the trunk
You can see how high up the hole is

Feeder Visitors

I’ve been down with the flu or something like it, so have been watching the birds for hours the past couple of days. We’ve had some less common (for us) birds at our feeders, as well as many of our common visitors. I’ve sketched and photographed as many as I could, but there were quite a few more I was unable to capture. (click on photos to view larger)

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers

Mourning Dove

Male Hairy Woodpecker

Male Brown-headed Cowbird
Chickadee gathering Rowan’s hair from suet cage

Chipping Sparrow

Pine Warbler
Female Purple Finch

Male Purple Finch
White-throated Sparrow

Weekly Prayer Guide: The Road to Emmaus

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:13-27

Can you look back on times Jesus was clearly with you, but you couldn’t
recognize his presence at the time? What kept you from recognizing him?
These disciples said Jesus was “a prophet, powerful in word and deed.”
Many people today think of him that way, but now, as then, that is an
inadequate understanding that does not impart life or joy. Jesus is the living Savior! Let’s praise his name!
These disciples had many facts, but lacked the faith needed to see the
truth to which they pointed. Let’s ask God to give us the faith to believe
his promises and to see his work clearly.
The disciples had specific expectations (political redemption) that
interfered with them seeing the truth of what Jesus was doing. What
expectations do you have of God? Are they in line with what Scripture
tells us of God?
The disciples had access to the prophecies that Jesus would suffer and
die, but they had focused on what fit their hopes and dreams. Let’s ask God today to
open our minds to anything he might want to tell us, even if it doesn’t fit our current understanding of God or of the world.

Saturday: Sometimes it’s hard to believe God’s promises when all looks bleak or frightening. Let’s pray for the faith to believe his promises, even when we don’t see what we’re hoping for.

Tribute to a Tree

Last fall we said good-bye to our magnificent Horse Chestnut tree. For the past twenty-five years I have watched its sticky, reddish buds swell throughout April, then burst forth at the beginning of May in red-tinged white mounds standing up on the curved branches like candelabras. I know I have photographed the tree lifting its blossoms and large palmate leaves over the peak of the roof, but amazingly, I can’t find a single photo of the whole tree as I search my files. I do have a number of photos I took from the window by my desk of the squirrels and birds that found shelter in the tree.

I still catch myself looking out the window to see if a squirrel is poking his head out of the hole in the trunk or sunbathing on a branch.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

When we moved here, we found an album of old photos, and this one shows our house circa 1941, with the Horse Chestnut standing tall over the roof the behind the house.

We also found this old painting, done in the fall of 1942.Unfortunately I can’t decipher the artist’s name. You can see the Horse Chestnut tree just to the left of the house (this is looking at the back of the house). The person who bought the house in 1941 (Dorothy Dunbar Bromley) put new siding and a new roof on, which is why it looks like a different house in this photo.

Watercolor painted from my desk window

As a project in a watercolor forum, we had a “Conker painting contest,” when I was just starting to get serious about art after years of homeschooling my children. Many of the forum members were British, and there they call horse chestnuts “conkers.” My tree provided an abundance of conkers to use as subjects, as I tried new watercolor techniques.

When PJ was visiting us in the spring a couple of years ago, she spent most of every day outside, sitting motionless for hours, watching the tree. She was watching for squirrels, but whether they were visible or not, she sat or lay down, never moving her eyes from the tree.

How to Appreciate a Tree by PJ

The wood of the Horse Chestnut is dense and hard, so my son Jonathan saved much of it to use in woodworking. For Christmas he made a checkerboard for my nephews Oliver and Felix.

Jonathan and Steve stacked the logs out by our stream, and I plan to do a watercolor of the woodpile. I miss my tree, but perhaps we will yet have ways to enjoy and cherish it in art and memory.

Words of Encouragement for a Discouraged World

Today I have a first on my blog– an author interview! I met Terri Groh about twenty years ago, when her husband, Dan, was a guest preacher at our church. Dan and Terri and their two sons, Nathan and Stephen, used to come to our house for dinner after church, whenever Dan preached for our church. We always enjoyed lively conversation with Dan and Terri, and our children enjoyed playing with their pleasant and well-behaved  young boys. A couple of years later Emily was born, so their family, like ours, has two boys followed by a girl. Then Terri started homeschooling, which I was already doing, so we had even more in common. And in more recent years, Terri and I have both been writing for people in our churches and others.

Welcome to my blog, Terri!

Thank you for having me, Melissa. I appreciate you sharing your blog with me today.

I’ve had a chance to read most of your book, and I am finding it very encouraging and motivating for my faith. I’d like my readers to learn about your book and get to know you a bit.

How did you get started writing Words of Encouragement for a Discouraged World?

Five years ago, I started writing a once a week devotional to the ladies in my church. They basically were lessons or truths that the Lord was teaching me as I had my own personal quiet time with Him. After about a year or so, I also started posting them on my blog. I found that though I was sharing what I had learned from the Lord and the things I was wrestling with in my own private life, other women were also finding them helpful in their own lives. I started feeling led to compile them into a book form and with space to journal so that other women would also be encouraged.

For what audience is your book intended? 

They really are for women of all ages and all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if they work outside the home or are stay-at-home moms, if they have children at home or are empty-nesters. I think all women will find something that they can relate to in these devotionals.

You cover many real-life situations. How did you choose these particular topics?

Well, I wouldn’t say that I chose them, but they chose me! 🙂 Again, they come straight from my heart and the things that I was struggling with and wrestling through at the time. As a pastor’s wife, I never wanted the women in my church to feel like I was targeting them or sharing their problems. So I shared what *I* was finding in my own private life and study of God’s word. And yet, so many could relate to those things because they were dealing with similar issues. As Christian women we often keep things bottled up and are afraid to let others know we are struggling with something. Yet, it is often as we share with each other and pray for one another, that we really grow as believers.

What do you find most helpful or important for your faith on a daily basis?

Spending time in God’s word and prayer. I can always tell when I’ve been neglecting it because everything just feels off. If I don’t tank up by spending time with the Lord each day, I usually run out of gas very quickly.

How long does it generally take you to write a week’s selection?

Because I am generally writing about something I am working through and the Lord is teaching me, I find that I write them very quickly. Often, I write them the same day I post them but I’ve been mulling over the thoughts and praying about the issue throughout the week. I talk to my husband a lot about these different things and, as I articulate them to Dan, the thoughts begin to become cohesive.

What do you do to grow yourself as a writer?

I have found connecting with other writers very helpful. Being able to exchange ideas and read other writers’ points of view about things has helped me to hone my own craft. Also, I do a lot of reading which definitely has helped too. Then I spend a lot of time just writing. I write a daily blog post. I often will send an email or card to someone to encourage them. I belong to a couple of online sites and message boards where I can share and write too.

What did you enjoy about writing this book?

The thing I enjoyed the most is seeing how the Lord has taken situations and struggles I have had and used them to bless others. That is the most thrilling thing to me. I am blessed to be able to take my love of writing and also use that in ministry to help others. God is good! He’s given me the two desires of my heart.

I’ve enjoyed learning more about your book and your writing process, Terri. Thank you for writing Words of Encouragement for a Discouraged World, and for answering my questions here. 

Thanks again for having me, Melissa! I’ve enjoyed myself.

I found Terri’s book very helpful for taking a good, honest (but not always easy)  look at my faith and life, and I’m sure any woman who is interested in growing spiritually would find it helpful. You can go to to read more about Terri and to find a link to her daily blog, Hearts in Service.

You can get more information about Words of Encouragement for a Discouraged World on Terri’s website and you can find it on at Words of Encouragement for a Discouraged World

Pondering the Resurrection: Evidence and Response

Easter Sunday is
one day, but the resurrection is significant enough to ponder and celebrate far
more than just one day, and I’ll be focusing on it in these prayer guides for
at least a couple of weeks. 

Jesus’ death and
his resurrection are strongly attested historically. For those who, like me,
prefer to examine the evidence, there are many books that present the evidence for the
resurrection from various angles. One that I’m reading right now is The Case
for Chris
t, by Lee Strobel. I am also reading the transcript of a debate between William Lane Craig
(Christian apologist and theologian) and Bart D. Ehrman (agnostic New Testament

The love that led
Christ to die for us and the power of his resurrection are events so unique
that they require a response. This week let’s think about these events and how
we respond to them.

What I received I passed on to
you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then
to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the
brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep. Corinthians 15:3-6
If you look at how you spend you time and money, what has top priority
in your life? Think about the relative merit of whatever you actually
value most, compared to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Ask God to
help you set your priorities in a way that reflects truth and
strengthens your relationship with him..
Christ’s death and resurrection was not a surprise; it was prophesied
long beforehand. Ponder the fact that God knows everything, good and
bad; past, present, and future.
Wednesday: Keeping in mind that God knows everything, meditate with gratitude on the wonder of Jesus dying for your sins.
Death was not the end for Jesus. He was raised to life and is alive
now. Do you believe this? If so, how does it affect your daily life?
Jesus appeared to many people who could and did give eyewitness
testimony, making his resurrection well-attested historically. How do
you give witness to his presence in your life?
Saturday: Let your mind dwell on the wonder of Jesus dying and then being raised to life again. Praise him!