Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Devotions From the Black Hills: Snowstorms

February 21st, 2018

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? Job 38:22-23

If you’ve ever driven in the Black Hills in a snowstorm, you may feel like you’ve seen God’s storehouses of snow! I know, because I drove home during a snowstorm Monday night. When a storm rolls in, clouds envelop the Hills. Snow was flying thick toward my windshield and the tall evergreens lining the road were cloaked in white. My co-workers had the day off because their children didn’t have school. Tuesday I heard how enchanting the kids thought the snow was, meanwhile I was behind the wheel about to swallow my tongue as it was nearly impossible to tell where the pavement ended and the soft shoulder off the side of the hill began. I’m very glad I invested in good snow tires earlier in the season because there wasn’t a single snowplow in sight. By this morning the plows and sanders had been out and driving conditions were mildly improved.

This photo taken Monday by the local newspaper on the road I drive every day.

In town President’s Day

Storms of all kinds are painful reminders of just how powerless we can be. How do we respond? How do we approach the Lord in those tumultuous seasons? Poor Job was hit with so much: the deaths of his children, the loss of material wealth and comfort, and the ruining of his physical health. When he questioned God, the Lord’s response was to remind him at length exactly who He was, and who Job was NOT. Snow was one in a long list of things that God created, understands, and has power over. Though He never explained any purpose for Job’s suffering, Job was chastened and replied, “Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” How often do we respond to God with that kind of trust and humility in our storms?

Snow is beautiful in it’s infinite variety of those tiny flakes. We can trust that God is in control even during our very personal storms of life – blizzards and every other kind! He will bring you through in ways that are far beyond our understanding.

Valentines Day Love

February 14th, 2018

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Yesterday I was talking with a co-worker about her sons upcoming Valentines Day party. She told me the night before she’s helped her sons get valentines ready for their preschool party. They had the typical cards, which featured a variety of bright characters, that must be pulled apart at perforated seams. Small heart stickers were included in the box to hold the folded cards together.

Chelsea said they were pushing the bedtime limit, sitting at the kitchen table in a circle of overhead light. Drake, five, laboriously printed his name over and over. His brother, three, attached heart stickers, while his daddy wrote BROCK on all his cards. Her job was licking all 68 envelopes.

Brock finished his stack first, and as he was leaving to go up to bed, he went over to Drake and stuck a red heart sticker on his brother’s shirt. Drake stopped his printing and looked at the small bright spot of color on his sleeve. “Look, Mom,” he said, “Brock gave me this. He must love me.” Aww! What a touching family moment.

Sometimes we grown-ups make love way more complicated than it needs to be. A simple gesture, a kind touch, an unexpected card can all say, “I care about you.” And, of course, so can a bright red heart sticker.

God loves us unconditionally every day. Pass that love along today to someone who needs it.

Devotions from the Black Hills: Uprooted

January 24th, 2018

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10

The tall, strong trees growing along Rapid Creek look sturdy I can imagine the roots spreading out to form a firm foundation. But I’ve been told stories of the great Black Hills flood of 1972 when a flood wipes out not only trees, but everything in it’s path. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_Black_Hills_flood Trees and debris washed downstream creating dams. The water turning logs into driftwood.

If the tree is carried all the way to the mouth of a creek where it empties into a river, it may float for a long time before washing up on the shore and becoming driftwood. Many artists prize driftwood. The bark and most of the limbs have usually been beaten off during the journey, and the log may have been naturally sanded into strange shapes. The wood can be used in a fire pit on the beach where family & friends might enjoy cooking, warmth and fellowship. Other driftwood protects a portion of the beach, gives shore birds a place to perch, or simply adds beauty to the scene.

We might find that our life, which seems stable and strong, may be suddenly uprooted. We may have to leave our familiar, comfortable surroundings and be thrust into the uncertainty of traveling. Perhaps we end up far away from (Florida) where we thought we were putting down roots. Life has some BIG changes.

While we sometimes have no control over events in our life, we can usually choose how to respond to them. We have the option of looking for ways to obey His will, grow and improve. Although the trials and turmoil are real and may be sorrowful, the restoration can be joyful. (Like moving to Rapid City) Eventually, like Job, we may find ourselves doing even better than before. When we look back, we may be amazed and very grateful to see how God used the upheaval on our journey for His glory and for our good.

The past four years have been an amazing journey born out of upheaval, and I am eternally grateful. I’m ready to see what’s in store for my on the new journey in Rapid City. Where is God taking you?

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!

 

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!

 

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?

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: 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: 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!

Old West Devotions: Chaps

September 20th, 2017

This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.  Psalm 119:50

Chaps are leather coverings for the legs of the cowboy.  They’re usually made out of sturdy leather and made to protect the legs. It’s important they’re sturdy leather because of the shrubs and vegetation that tear at the cowboy’s legs.  Like chaps, God gives us wonderful protection by providing His Word for us as His children.

When the world starts tearing at us and reaching out to grab us with all it has to offer, we can be refreshed and cling to the Word of God and find peace and comfort there.  We can take comfort knowing God provides protection that covers us in this world.

Old West Devotions: Horseshoe

September 13th, 2017

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Horseshoes are normally made of metal and designed to protect a horse’s hooves against abrasion and breakage.  They are fitted by a professional farrier, who specializes in the preparation of feet and fitting appropriate shoes. A horseshoe is also kept as good luck by some that hang it with the ends pointing upward to “catch” any luck that might be floating by.

We could say that God is our farrier. He prepares us, fits us and protects us by placing the Holy Spirit within us. He doesn’t just set us in the world and expect us to have all the friction and roughness of the world bear into us as we bump along in life.  The Lord is there for us to protect us… like our horseshoe.  And it’s not by dumb luck that we have His protection. We were invited as His children. Thank you, Lord!

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.