Devotional Week 1 Thursday
Week 1, 2015
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God is our Refuge and Strength, mighty and impenetrable to temptation, a very present and well-proved help in trouble.”
“He’s helping me now – this moment,
Though I may not see it or hear,
Perhaps by a friend far distant
Perhaps by a stranger near,
Perhaps by a spoken message,
Perhaps by the printed word;
In ways that I know and know not
I have the help of the Lord.”
Annie Johnson Flint
Today’s Study Text:
“And (they) shall be like trees firmly planted and tended by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season: its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything (they) do shall prosper and come to maturity.”
Psalm 1: 3
“Welcome to Tabonuco Forest”
“To encourage someone is to inspire them to have courage.”
How have I been supported and encouraged in my daily journey?
As I look back over my life, who are the individuals who have helped to hold me up when I couldn’t stand on my own two feet?
In what ways have I assisted others when they were struggling?
“When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church became my home in the old meaning of home – that it’s where, when you show up, they have to let you in. They let me in. They even said, ‘You come back now.’”
“By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.”
Sir Thomas Browne
Several months ago, my sister sent me a note with some attached photographs, taken at the 40th anniversary of my graduation from high school. While many years have passed since I was a young teen, so excited about what the future held, after looking through the pictures, there was a slight sense that it seemed just like yesterday when we celebrated our graduation. Call it nostalgia if you will, but as I mentally wandered down “Memory Lane,” I recognized the fact that even at the young age of sixteen, I had some special friends who just meant more to me than others. I wasn’t one of the “in” crowd. I didn’t belong to any special group. I was rather a loner to be honest. I worked long hours after school and on weekends to help with family expenses. The fact is, I could be found the rest of the time I had, at a little wooden desk in my bedroom, studying late into the night. I wasn’t one of those naturally gifted “smarties” with a photographic memory. I had to study hard and long. And so there wasn’t much time left for extracurricular activities.
This meant that those closest to me were the individuals I shared classes with and thankfully, several of those dear ones, most likely unknowingly, provided me with the “knot in the rope” that author Anne Lamott refers to in the quote above. My handful of friends “had my back.” They were loyal and true. It didn’t matter who was putting me down, my devoted friends supported me through thick and thin.
Reminiscing in such a fashion got me to thinking about the basic concept which is the foundation of Transformation Garden. And I decided that today, before we continue our Biblical studies of the women and men in the Bible, I would like to give all of you who have come to the Garden, a look at the past and then share with you some of my Transformation Garden dreams for the future.
When I conceived the idea of having a website that provided a free daily devotional, I could not have had any idea where God would take this little Garden. From just a few readers here in the United States during the first year, at the end of year nine we are read in over 190 countries around the world. From having just a few prayer requests that are sent to a handful of people who pray over the needs, we now have thousands (yes, you read this correctly!) who pray as frequently as the requests are sent out. Of this I am certain, our prayer warriors are some of God’s most faithful people in the world. The numbers don’t lie. More people open the prayer requests on their computers than the devotionals – this thrills me more than I can tell you. When you need someone to pray for you, don‘t worry. Transformation Garden prayer warriors have you covered. Praying for each other is something we will continue to make priority number one. However, we are also reaching out to place a safety net of love under each other in new ways. This past year, when one of our moms lost her son to suicide, over 150 people sent notes (both women and men), that I was able to send on to this mom whose broken heart needed the salve of human kindness. Right now, we are providing the balm of kindness to Evan who is in rehab after sustaining a paralyzing injury which has left him with little feeling from his chest down. Many of you have shared how you are sending notes to Evan. I’m so thrilled that our little Garden is filled with so much love and compassion.
This year, because of the donations many of you are sending to Transformation Garden, without being asked, I’ve been able to provide my book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, to domestic abuse shelters for free. And just so you know, 100% of the profit from the sale of my book goes directly into Transformation Garden. Plus, your gifts have made it possible for us to send our beautiful bookmarks all over the world free. The reason I mention that we send our bookmarks for free here in the United States as well as all around the world, is because I began to understand how something so simple as a bookmark can change a life when I received a letter from one of God’s daughter’s in India. She lived in a barrack in India. There were 100 cots in this building. There were 100 women – one for each cot in this facility. Fifty of the women were Hindu and fifty were Christian. These women had either been living on the street and had been widowed or kicked out of their home. Now, without anything of material possessions, they found refuge in this barrack. As the girl who wrote me said, “I have a little box under my bed. In it are all my earthly possessions. The bookmark you sent me is the most beautiful thing I have. Thank you.” Here, is the wonderful news about this story. I was able to get the address of the place where she lived and because of your support, I sent 100 bookmarks to these precious women who had so little in the way of earth’s possessions. Praise God!
But there’s an additional “working of God” here in Transformation Garden that is also, to me, very miraculous, for when I began this site, I asked God to please send anyone, female or male, to the Garden, if they felt that no one loved or cared for them. Then I promised God that as long as He infused me with His Words and His strength, I would attempt, with His help, to see that Transformation Garden is a place of encouragement to everyone. A place where you don’t have to worry that your deepest secrets will be exposed. I wanted the Garden to embrace every person and every need. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to witness, every single day, the way so many of you are now reaching out to each other. Nearly everyday, someone emails me with a request for me to send their email to someone they read about on a Prayer Blast. Often the message goes something like this. “I am facing the same challenge as “name.” Could you send my email to them because I’d like to pray for them and I’m hoping they’ll pray for me.” Just recently, one of God’s daughters from Nigeria emailed me and said, “I came here to this Garden just to be able to pray for others.” This is what Transformation Garden is all about. And with God’s help – this site is flourishing like the tree David talks about in Psalm 1 that is planted well and watered by heavenly showers.
The best way I can describe for you what has happened in Transformation Garden over the last nine years is that we have become like the Tabonuco Forest.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Tabonuco tree, I wasn’t either, that’s until my sister sent me information about this unique warm-climate tree found specifically in Puerto Rico and many of the Caribbean Islands.
This tree thrives in stony, rough soil. No easy life for this tree. In fact, these trees are frequently found on the exposed hillsides and slopes and when hurricanes hit the islands, as frequently happens, these trees, which really aren’t known for their great beauty, take a major beating.
So you might wonder, “How do these trees survive to become what is known as the Tabonuco Forest?” Well, it’s quite simple! The trees grow together by sharing their root system. It’s called “root union.” And in the face of violent storms, horrific hurricanes, and fierce winds, the shared roots, found underneath the earth, give the trees above an incredible strength. And soon, with this intertwining root system, a forest develops and the sturdy, well-grounded trees, become an umbrella of cover for what are called “understory” plants – over 170 other species grow within the protective covering of the Tabonuco forest association. But this isn’t all. The nutrient rich soil and ground cover which appears at the base of these trees contributes to a wide range of animal life that uses the trees for shelter and food as well.
Do you begin to get the picture of what we have, together, here in Transformation Garden? I say, “Welcome to the Tabonuco forest!” And it is my prayer that as our “root union,” which is nourished by God’s Word, the Bible becomes stronger and stronger, we will draw others into this protective forest of love and care. As one girl told me not long ago, “My brother told me I should come to the Garden. He thinks it will help me. Guess what? He was right” So as we begin a new year, may we, God’s daughters and sons, whose roots are growing deeper and deeper each day, as we not only study together but also help each other weather life’s storms, find that because of our “root union,” we are able to build a protective covering for others who join our journey to our heavenly home.
“Give a little of yourself, even though you feel stretched already. One certain way to receive encouragement, hope, or companionship is to give it.”
“O Lord, baptize our hearts into a sense of the conditions and needs of all.”
“Lord of the universe look in love upon your people.
Pouring the healing oil of Your compassion
on a world that is wounded and dying.
Send us out in search of the lost,
to comfort the afflicted, to bind up the broken,
and to free those trapped under the rubble of their fallen dreams.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P. S. Thank you so much for the gifts you send to Transformation Garden which continue to assist our ministry here in the United States and in 192 countries around the world. 100% of your donation goes directly to providing for our daily devotionals and gift bookmarks. Transformation Garden is a non-profit organization so your gift is tax-deductible and you will receive a receipt for any gift you send.
Also, if you should happen to miss a devotional for some reason, you can go to www.transformationgarden.com and you will find archived devotionals. We also place the daily devotionals on Facebook so you can find them on that site also.
My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com and www.Christianbook.com or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. Thank you so much for your support of Transformation Garden.