Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Devotions from the Black Hills: Moonlight on Snow

January 17th, 2018

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8: 3-4

Have you even seen snow-covered hills on a clear early morning under a full moon? The snow covered Black Hills reflect the moonlight so well that they practically glow. Although it’s normal to see the pine covered hills during daylight, to see them so visibly at night is startling and strange but in a nice way, like running into an old friend when you haven’t seen her in a while and weren’t expecting to see them.

If you can get away from the lights of town, moonlight and snow are a dazzling combination. The shadows are sharp,, and it’s amazing how well you can see! During the recent super moon I could have read a book by the light created from moonlight on the snow.

Genesis describes the creation of the moon on the fourth day. “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the  vault of the sky to give light on the earth”. When God reflected on what He had made that day, He said that it was good. And it is good! It’s AMAZING! How ingenious of God to design and create the solar system! He planned the complex pattern of seasons and weather that come together in moonlight and snow. It’s a phenomenal gift worthy of our praise.

The moon and snow are a brilliant combination, but add the Black Hills and you have a stunning trio.

Devotions from the Black Hills: Surviving Winter

January 10th, 2018

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it’s the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

This has been a record breaking winter along the eastern seaboard, and devastating in California. Meanwhile, in the Black Hills, snow-capped hills rise majestically over the wintry landscape, but the foxes, deer, and many other creatures face a challenge in surviving until Spring. Wolves and mountain lions scavenge all winter. The Bison and elk must forage for food. In the caves, bats have stored up reserves and are roosting together. The squirrels stay awake throughout the winter, eating food they stockpiled in a nest. Each creature’s coping mechanisms for the harsh weather are suited to its strengths and weaknesses.

God is so creative, isn’t He?! What care He put into making each animal a unique creation. That creativity is extended to us as well. The apostle Paul wrote about this at length in 1 Corinthians 12, comparing the church to a physical body. A whole and healthy body, functioning as God envisions requires variety. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?…”

Our differences are not always a cause for concern or conflict. It takes all of us, using our gifts in various ways, to make His church whole and healthy. We need to embrace and celebrate that to survive this season.

I’m so grateful for all my friends and their unique gifts. I pray we’re guided to use our individual gifts in conjunction with others. Have a good winter!

 

Devotions from the Black Hills: Wildfires

January 3rd, 2018

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him … For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. Lamentations 3:25, 31-32

I’ve been lamenting over the loss of 52,000 acres of Custer State Park to a recent wildfire. After wildfires the land looks charred and barren – not what tourists (or I) want to look at. Local firefighters have termed the area where all the vegetation was consumed a “Nuke Zone.” A few of the larger trees are still standing, blackened by the fire. But the grasses, brush, smaller trees and downed logs on the forest floor are totally burned up. In some areas the ash is said to be several inches deep. Even the soil in Custer is scorched.

However, locals assure me all is NOT dead. Sometimes while the area is still smoking, deer wander through licking the burnt edges for minerals. The lodgepole pine cones that were tightly sealed have been opened by the high temperatures of the fire, their seeds scattered by the wind. I’m told by next Spring the area may be carpeted with wildflowers. And a couple of years from now, new brush will provide plenty of food for the Bison and Elk. The population of mice often spikes first, followed by increase in coyotes and hawks the following year, etc. Insects will move into the snags brining woodpeckers drilling holes into the wood, providing homes for other birds and squirrels. Healing and life continue even now.

Sometimes our lives can feel like a “Nuke Zone” too. Perhaps you’ve suffered the death of a loved one or gone through a divorce. Maybe you lost a job or been diagnosed with a life-changing illness. Our days can feel lifeless. Maybe you feel abandoned by God while suffering. However, as time goes by, new life peeks through the devastation. You begin to sense God’s compassion and love anew with new meaning, new joy and new understanding born out of the fire and abundance returns.

Don’t give up. Have hope in the new year. Life continues.

New Year Hope

December 27th, 2017

Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

On Monday many of us will wish each other a “Happy New Year!” But as we begin a new year, we need more than a hopeful greeting from the people around us. We need to listen to what God told Joshua about 3,400 years ago. As Joshua was about to lead God’s people into the promised land, he had plenty of reasons to be afraid. He had an enormous task ahead of him, and he was aware of the dangers that he and the people would soon be facing.

He needed God’s encouragement. A new year brings lots of questions: Will our health hold? Will our marriage last? Will I be able to hang on to my job? Will I get into the right school? Will I live to see the end of this year? Will the economy improve? Will there be a terrorist attack or some natural disaster that takes me or my loved ones? The Creator of the universe comes to us and says, “Don’t be afraid; don’t be discouraged.”

What happens in this coming year is not left to chance. God is in charge, and he promises to stay close: “The LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Many years later, the Lord Jesus made the same promise when he said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Therefore, we can feel confident wishing each other a “Happy New Year!”

Wishing all my friends and family a blessed New Year full of peace, laughter, prosperity and health.

On This Holy Night: What’s in a Name?

December 20th, 2017

You shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin. Matthew 1:21

In the Bible people chose names with care. The Hebrews places far more meaning on the names they gave their children than we do today. So when it was time for God to send His son, what He would name Him became very important.

What name would He give His Son, who was to be born of a virgin, suffer under Pontius Pilate, would be crucified, dead and buried only to rise again?  What would He call Him? Instead of leaving it up to Mary & Joseph, God sent Angels to make sure they got it right. By special instructions His name was Jesus. And of all the titles given to Him, Jesus is the most beloved.

Hymn writers have memorialized the name Jesus in hymns; so many I could never name them all. If ever a name was designed to indicate something significant about a person, God knew what He was doing naming His Son Jesus. Jesus means: “Jehovah saves” or “Lord of Salvation.” And that’s exactly who He is! The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

There is no man on earth who can wipe away sins, but Jesus can. His name is above all names, and His purpose on earth set Him apart from everyone, for He saves His people from sin. Do you believe it?! Wow, what a gift.

What is the name of the Christmas baby? The name of God’s only begotten Son? The name of the One who can save us from our sins? His name is Jesus – there’s something about that name!

 

Sunday in South Dakota: Christmas Cantata

December 17th, 2017

A cantata is choir music that tells a story in sections. The Christmas cantata, first performed in Italy, tells the music of the angels, shepherds and cradle songs of Christmas.

If you haven’t experienced a Christmas cantata, many incorporate narrations connecting the songs to create the whole story. Christmas cantatas are popular across Italy, France, Germany, Romania … and in America this 3rd week of Advent This weekend I spent time practicing for our annual cantata performance.

The most well-known cantatas are those of Johann Sebastian Bach. However, we are singing Lloyd Larson’s “Sing Joy to All the World” with the theme of “Come, Lord Jesus!” It celebrates the promise of joy that comes to those who wait, following the long dark night, the breaking of dawn brings joy for the new day. The music incorporates original melodies with familiar carols in a work that ranges from contemplative to celebratory that I hope everyone enjoys.

Invite the presence of God into your heart this season as you sing and celebrate with family and friends.

On This Holy Night: Nativity Scene

December 13th, 2017

If you’re like me, you grew up seeing various nativity scenes in front of churches or a neighbor’s house. Nativity scenes can be found on Christmas cards, billboards and commercials. They’re everywhere this time of year. By now they are probably just part of the background.

But instead of just glancing over the, let’s take a few precious moments to focus on what makes up the nativity scene. For example:

The Star: God commissioned a special star to lead the wise men from the East to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. The Christmas star was God’s gift of direction – God’s travel guide for seekers. Look at your nativity star as a symbol of the fact that God has always provided a guide for those earnestly seeking Him throughout history.

The Stable: Look at the stable., quaint but nothing as great as the star. God choose the stable for His son to be born in to symbolize that Jesus wouldn’t be sheltered from the harsh realities of this world. He wasn’t sent here to live as the rich and famous without troubles, Jesus would experience life in all the boldness of our sin. Whatever we bring to Him – He’s been there! From the beginning in a stable.

The Manger: Don’t mistake the manger for an early bassinet, it was a far cry from that since it was a feeding trough. Ordinary farm equipment in every way. Because He was laid in a manger we know the word and the ordinary became extraordinary. That’s quite a transformation! The manger symbolizes what can happen to an ordinary man or woman when they cry out in repentance and Jesus changes their hearts.

The choice is simple. You can just observe another nativity scene go by on the screen, or you can stop in your tracks and worship Him. What will you choose to do this Christmas?

Sunday in South Dakota: Christmas Caroling

December 10th, 2017

Listening to Christmas music is one of the iconic ways to celebrate the season.  And families get jolly by singing Christmas carols, so I couldn’t think of a better way to get into the Christmas spirit then by singing and listening to Christmas music. This afternoon I gathered with church friends and went to a local nursing home to sing Christmas carols.

The aides and nurses wheeled the residents into the lobby where we were going to sing.  It was just a lovely holiday experience.  I especially enjoyed seeing a few of the residents sing with us.  There is something about singing while someone is singing to you at the same time.  Combine that with the fact that they were songs about the birth of Jesus, what a marvelous feeling in that room!

After caroling I attended a Christmas dinner and Cantio Flute Quartet concert at St. Andrews Episcopal with friends. What a distinctive Christmas gala of lively conversation and favorite Christmas music. http://cantioflutes.com/

I hope you find ways to enjoy this luminous Christmas season.  Let Christmas be a happy time; let music fill the air with chime and joyful songs galore.

On This Holy Night: A Star and a Stable

December 6th, 2017

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11

We’ve all read the story in Matthew chapter 2 of the wise men following the star. Pastor preached on it last week for Advent. But I wonder … what if we followed a star that led us to a stable? What if suddenly after expecting something grand, you end up behind a barn? And there, instead of a palace and king on a throne, you find a baby in a manger? Nothing is as you anticipated. How would you react if you followed a star and found a stable? How is your conduct affected by the outcome of your expectations?

Seriously, imagine the disappointment the Magi might have felt when they finally ended up in Bethlehem. They’d visited Kind Herod’s palace to find out about this star and the child king to be born and probably a royal court.

Every one of us have had times in life when we’ve followed a star. Everything looked so promising, but we were to find out at the end that we were in a stable. Go back and look at what was written in your high school yearbook, have you met those goals? Some college kids graduate with their diplomas tucked under their arms ready to win the world – but quickly find out the jobs they wanted aren’t the ones they got.

Or maybe your stable was a relationship so full of promise, or a job where you were expecting a long due promotion. You get called into the office and are certain you’re about to get it only to be introduced to the new guy that got your promotion. In a daze you realize you were following a star and ended up in the stable.

Wise men of every age, when faced with a stable, don’t panic. They hold stead and know that God is there. A mature Christian sees God not only in palaces and pleasures, but also in the barnyards and stables of life.

Have you ever had a stable moment that changed your life? I’ve had plenty. Those are usually times He wants me to change direction and look at what’s in the stable. A baby that would save mankind, the same that the wise men found. Let’s be wise and look for God in the stable. Let’s bring Him our best and allow Him to change our direction to become greater than we are.

On This Holy Night

November 29th, 2017

Christmas is a time of festive celebrations. It’s a to reminisce about days gone by, a great excuse to eat too much, sing too loudly, and spend more money than we should. Christmas can stir up intense and complex feelings (both pleasurable and painful) that sometimes take us by surprise. And for Christians, Christmas is a time of awe, reverence and wonder, when the timeless story of Christ’s birth is once again read from the Gospels for all the world to hear.

Some of the most cherished Christmas joys are found in family traditions that link one year to another with the harmony of favorite carols, the sparkle of familiar ornaments, and, of course, gift giving. Year after year, decade after decade, we delight in the reappearance of well-worn downtown Christmas lights and garlands. We are thrilled when the church sets up its nativity scene, angels, shepherds, wise men, and all no matter where we are.

But the very familiarity of Christmas sometimes causes us to overlook the most vital expressions of what should be a meaningful season. We have listened to the words of the great Christmas hymns so many times since childhood that we sometimes fail to appreciate their eloquent meaning. We have heard a hundred times about Mary and Joseph’s long, weary trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but we haven’t always stopped to remember just exactly how and why it happened. We’ve almost memorized the Bible story, we’ve sung the carols, we’ve hung the holly, and we’ve roasted the turkey. When it comes to Christmas, we’ve done it all…. including missing it by being too busy with the festivities.

Somewhere along the way, many have lost touch with what happened on that holy night, the heart of Christmas itself. With that in mind I hope the following weeks posts remind you of the beautiful, inspirational and profoundly spiritual good news of Christmas that are sometimes eclipsed by the gleam and glitter of today’s celebration.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Let’s Give Thanks

November 22nd, 2017

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalms 118:1

A pastor and his wife invited a new young couple in the church over for Thanksgiving dinner. As the couple entered the home, they smelled the wonderful turkey and all the trimmings in the kitchen. As the four made their way to the dining room table, there was a great feast before them!

But as the young wife scanned the table, she noticed something out of place. Among the turkey, dressing, casseroles, and pies were three Chinese takeout cartons and a plate of egg rolls!

“I know what you’re thinking,” the old pastor said. “Why is there Chinese takeout on the table?” “You see,” he continued, “23 years ago on Thanksgiving Day, my dear wife burned the turkey and started a fire in our kitchen! In fact, our entire kitchen nearly caught fire and the whole Thanksgiving meal was charred black!”

“So, after the fire department left,” he chuckled, “we ordered Chinese takeout and that was our Thanksgiving meal! And every year since, we’ve had Chinese takeout as a part of our meal to remind us to be thankful for what we have!”

This year, I hope Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday for you. It should be a way of life for every Christian. We serve a wonderful God who sent his Son to die for us. As you continue to reflect on what you are thankful for this year, remember God’s blessings in your life!

GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR HOW HE HAS BLESSED YOU IN YOUR LIFE AND ESPECIALLY FOR SENDING CHRIST TO DIE FOR YOU! HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

 

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Phone Conversations

November 15th, 2017

Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

Have you ever been on the phone and you lose the signal and the call drops? Did it take you a few minutes to realize that the person was no longer listening? Don’t laugh, I know it has because it happens to me at least a couple times a week while driving into the Black Hills. Sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in what we’re talking about that I don’t realize I’m about to pass the imaginary line of phone communication driving up the hill. And I think she’s just listening. It’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it?

Or maybe you tend to interrupt others. Your friend says something that reminds you of something else, and without warning you change the subject. Do you find yourself later realizing that your friend never finished their story?

Sadly, our prayer lives sometimes resemble a one-sided conversation. We begin by telling God all the things that we think we need. We outline for Him exactly how we’re going to carry out His plans for our lives – without always asking Him what those plans are! On we go, full steam ahead, without realizing that we haven’t heard a response from God. We’re so busy talking that His silence slips by us.

Other times we begin to get a vision for something Gods wants us to do. But before He can finish preparing us for His plan, we rush off with only half the story. It may be a good idea for us to slow down just a bit. God knows our hearts, and He doesn’t need so many of our words. Our friends might appreciate a little more listening too.

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: The Pantry

November 8th, 2017

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

Does this happen to you? You wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden craving for a certain food, but the only thing in your kitchen was some instant oatmeal, peanut butter, a sleeve of crackers and an apple? Or perhaps a sudden winter storm blew in, and you couldn’t leave your house. Those are the times you realize the pitiful state of your pantry. Being snowed in is a reasonable concern in Rapid City, and it’s NO fun without sufficient supplies. (“supplies” is code for coffee and chocolate) It’s frustrating not to have what you need when you need it.

When it comes to the spiritual aspect of our lives, however, it’s more than frustrating when we find ourselves unprepared…it’s dangerous. Scripture tells us that we should always be prepared to defend our hope. Imagine that you were in a conversation with someone and they had questions regarding your faith. Would you be able to supply them with a response, or would you be unprepared?

Our pantries may look very different, yet still serve us quite well in an emergency. You may whip up a homemade pizza while someone else is content with peanut butter on a spoon. Likewise, not everyone is pulling from the same spiritual stockpile. One person may have a seminary degree, while someone else is a new believer. That’s the beauty of faith. When it comes to defending it, the answer is the same. The reason for our hope is always: Jesus

Don’t get caught unprepared. Be prepared with a hot beverage and chocolate in the pantry and Jesus in your heart.

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Surviving Goodbyes

November 1st, 2017

There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25

There was a time when folks lived their entire lives and died in the same small town. It wasn’t uncommon to grow up right down the road from grandparents. And you would NEVER dare misbehave in public because everyone knew your family and would have called your parents before you made it home. But these days things are different. People don’t stay in one place, they pull up roots and replant them somewhere new. Many of us have lived a lifetime of goodbyes – like I had to say to my family last week before returning to Rapid City, SD.

No matter how much we wish it were different, goodbyes are a part of life. Circumstances change. People change. Life happens and jobs change. Sometimes we must leave people and places that are dear to our hearts. Other times those we love leave us. Some goodbyes are welcome, however many goodbyes aren’t happy and some even painful.

Through it all, it helps me to remember that we must learn to hold on loosely to the things of this life. The things and people we cherish must be held with open hands as we entrust them to the One who loves them even more. We can trust Him to restore all joy.

Wanting our Lord more than we want any thing is the key to surviving goodbye. He must be our heart’s greatest desire. If God calls any of us to a goodbye, He can bring good from it. If it’s painful, we can trust that He will use it for His glory. Yes, some goodbyes will hurt, and we’ll grieve. But at the end of the day He will heal all sadness and reveal purpose.

Old West Devotions: Spur

October 18th, 2017

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

If you’re not familiar with what a spur is; it is a sharp metal piece attached to a cowboy boot.  A spur is used for the purpose of goading a horse. It’s an incentive to make the horse move forward.  Christ left us with the Holy Spirit to be our spur. The Holy Spirit is there to prick and guide us as Christians.

When we are sensitive to His leading, we move forward in the direction that the Lord would have us go.  This is a blessing world doesn’t have to guide and direct them. Thank you God for indwelling us with the Holy Spirit.

I love the fact that the Lord brands us with His touch.  There is so much He gives us as His children.  The qualities I’ve mentioned in the “Old West” series are just a small helping of what God gives us when we accept Him as Lord of our lives.

I hope others can see Whose brand is on me.  I want to be identified for Christ. What’s your brand?

I will be gone for a week but will return the first week of November. Have a great week and be a light in the darkness.

Old West Devotions: Tumbleweed

October 11th, 2017

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11

Tumbleweeds grow in abundance in the Old West. I saw an awful lot of them in Nevada. Although now they are kept under control for the most part, if you live in the Western United States you’re familiar with them.  They are plants that break away from their roots.

The winds picks them up and carries them with great force usually carrying lots of dust as they go.  Tumbleweeds are troublesome because not only do they nearly cause accidents while driving, but they tend to push other vegetation out and take over.

The interesting thing about tumbleweeds is that they carry seeds everywhere when the wind blows them and more grow.  They typically have around 250,000 seeds.  They don’t all scatter in one spot, as tumbleweeds don’t release all their seeds at once.

Isn’t that so like the fiery darts of the devil?  They keep on growing and coming at us as Christians.

The Lord knew that the tumbleweeds of the world would come rolling by in our lives as His children.  Those tumbleweeds make us rely on Him more.  The world doesn’t have that reliance on the Lord like Christians do when trials and tumbleweeds come.

Having the knowledge that God is completely in control of every situation is something that keeps us rooted in peace.

 

Old West Devotions: Saddle

October 4th, 2017

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15

The western saddle has an interesting history and development and it’s now considered a uniquely American style. From the 1700’s through the 1950’s, the western saddle evolved, with new features to support cattle work and improved construction methods to extend strength, durability, and comfort during the long hours cowboys worked. Like the cowboys, and girls, that worked the buffalo herd last weekend. They depend on their saddles for their specialized work.

Like the saddle, we are also set apart for specialized work. We are here to carry out the Great Commission. God set us apart from the world by making us His ambassadors. We need to be in the saddle, so to speak, spreading the Word and love of Christ in our daily lives.

Old West Devotions: Cowboy Hat

September 27th, 2017

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalm 91:1

The broad-brimmed hat concept was borrowed from the Mexican sombero worn by vaqueros. The invention of the first real American cowboy hat is credited to John Stetson, who created a hat with a high crown and wide brim used for protection from the sun, but it was also useful and functional to the cowboy.  On their cattle drives, the cowboys could signal with their hat and also use it to dip water out of streams when they were thirsty. Stetson set the standard for cowboy hats protecting cowboy’s from the elements.

Isn’t that what the Psalmist is saying our Lord does for us? His shadow is our protection from the world. It’s such a wonderful thing that the Lord is always there to shade us if we just stay close to Him. We can be shaded and dip into His Word and into the power of prayer and be refreshed in Him. Hallelujah!  And Yee Haw!

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.