Shirley’s Soliloquy #127

12/31/06

"What Lies Ahead?"
 

Another New Year is just around the corner.  What lies ahead for us?  We don’t know.  We don’t even know what will happen in the next few minutes!  No matter if we are young or old, there are no guarantees that life will continue to be the way we know it.  Each breath we take may be our last.

Yesterday this became a stark reality for me because my niece told me that her mom (my sister-in-law) went into the hospital for a Catherization.  The blockages in her heart were affecting the main artery, which made it imperative to do open heart by-pass surgery as soon as possible.

As I was waking this morning, I started thinking about life.  As the Bible says, we say we will do this or that tomorrow.  But the passage continues,
 

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?   Your life is like the morning fog, it’s here for a little while, and then it is gone.”
James 4:14

My sister-in-law certainly didn’t think that she would be in the hospital instead of celebrating the New Year with her family and friends.  She had no idea this was going to happen.

That made me think again about the New Year about to begin.  This is the time when many people evaluate their lives and make New Year’s resolutions.  This is a good thing to do.  I believe that each day I need to live my life as if it were my last.  Each minute I need to be prepared to meet my God.  It will be good for me, because He is my loving heavenly Father.  He has been my constant companion all through my life.  He has helped me through many difficulties, sometimes His presence is more apparent than others, but He has always been with me.

  “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper,
and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Hebrews 13:5-6.
 

But I realize there are people who are afraid to meet God.  They think He is ready to punish everyone.  The Bible does say that He will punish all evil doers.  “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12.   He becomes their Savior.  Then they also enter into the Father/child relationship.  The wonderful thing is that He is a Father who knows what is best for His children.  Jesus said,
 
 

“If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
 Matthew 7:11.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #126

12/24/06

"Incomprehensible!"
 

We had been running errands all morning, and I was tired.  I was glad to be able to take time to rest.  I was in a lounge chair, listening to the waves of the Gulf gently splash onto the shore.  My mind, however, was not resting.  I was thinking of the power of God who created such a great universe.

Then the Scripture I read this morning came back to my mind.  I thought of Jonah, upset that God wanted him to go to the sinful city of Nineveh to warn them of coming judgment.  He knew God would change his mind about the judgment if they would repent. He wanted that city to get what they deserved!  So he got in a boat and sailed away from Nineveh.  But a terrible storm came up.  The sailors didn’t know who had made the gods that angry that they should cause such a storm.  Finally they found out about Jonah.  I have to admire Jonah, because he knew what it was all about!  He told them to toss him into the ocean, and his God would calm the waters.  They did, and He did!  Amazing!  But that wasn’t the end of Jonah!  God caused a great fish to appear to swallow him.  Finally when Jonah repented, God caused the fish to spew him out on dry land.  In the end, he did obey God, and went to Nineveh to warn them.  By the way, they did repent, and God did not destroy them.  Then Jonah was angry again!  But that’s another story.  Anyway, I love to read about our mighty God!  Imagine!  He has total control of the vast and mighty oceans and all that is in them!

As I rested there in the lounge chair basking in God’s wonderful sunshine, listening to the waves on the shore, my mind also drifted to this coming Monday.  This is the traditional day that we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Another amazingly incomprehensible thing!  I thought, ‘After all, He created all things!  How is it possible that He would be willing to leave all of heaven’s beauties and wonders, and come to our earth as a little baby?  What condescension!  Nothing ever like it before or since!   Unimaginable!’  But that’s exactly what happened.  There was no other way that God could prove His love for us.  All because Almighty God was willing to take on flesh and come to our earth as a baby in a manger ‘to save people from their sins.’
 

“Though he was God,
 he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges,
He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor…
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,…
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
 to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:6-11
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #125

12/17/06

"Baby Harp"
 
 

I can’t believe I actually did it!  I was so very nervous, because last week in church, my husband told the people I would be playing my little (baby-blue) harp the following Sunday.

Well, the time came.  It was Sunday morning.  We got ready, and went down to the car.  I had purposely left my harp upstairs because I felt I wasn’t good enough to play it in church!  But unfortunately, when we got down to the car, he said to me, “You don’t have your harp!”  So I had to climb all those steps again and get it.  ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘The exercise is good for me anyway.’

When we got to church, I was pleased to see that the preschool children were to present their little program.  They recited Scriptures, sang songs, and listened to Bible stories.  Everyone was so thrilled and proud of them!  They were a blessing to many!

So after that, I was hoping that my husband would forget about me playing the harp, but he didn’t.  He called me up to the front.  I had to play.  I was so nervous!  Somehow the Lord gave me the strength!  Afterwards several people graciously thanked me and told me that it had been a blessing to them.  Maybe they were just being kind to me!

That set me to thinking.  I guess the Lord does use those who are willing, even though the presentation might not be perfect or professional!  As long as it is done to the best of our ability and with the heartfelt thought of doing it as if we were doing it for the Lord.

Then I continued thinking, my little harp is not a professional concert harp.  It isn’t even an adolescent harp like the disabled one back home.  It is just a baby harp that I can hold on my lap and play to the glory of God.   It sounds forth to the best of its ability.  The size is not what matters.  It might be small, but it can produce sweet music.

Just as we don’t expect extraordinary professional sounds from my baby harp, the Lord doesn’t expect grown up and mature results from baby Christians.  But wherever we happen to be in our walk with the Lord, that is what He expects from us.  The Bible has something to say about that which is a challenge to my heart.
 

“And whatever you do or say,
do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through him to God the Father…
Work willingly at whatever you do,
 as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:17,21
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #124

12/10/06

"The True Light!"
 
 

I like to watch TV in the morning to keep informed of the weather and news headlines.  But I seem to have a fascination with the weather reports around the country.  I think that is because we have loved ones in the Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and around the Great Lakes.  The various weather reports lead me to think of each of them and cause me to say a little prayer on their behalf.

Especially during this time of year, I like to watch weather reports in the north because of the possibility of seeing snow scenes!  Such always bring back happy memories of times when we would be out in the snow in Michigan.  We would make snowmen and snow-angels.  We even made snow-slides.  Taking the toboggans, sleds, or saucers down the hills would be wonderful fun!  Then we would make the long climb back up the hill so we could do it all over again.  Later in our adult years, we went on skiing trips with friends from church.  We even took cross-country skiing lessons and really enjoyed it.  What happy memories!

But as the years went by, these things became less and less possible. Then we were more inclined to stay inside during the cold weather.  I remember the dark, dreary days when everything seemed just a little down.  It was hard to keep myself above the gloom.  That memory came to my mind this morning.  But along with that came the Scriptures that point to the “true light!”  So I wanted to check some of them out and remind myself of the joys of being in such light.

The apostle John, speaking of Jesus’ coming, told the crowds of people,

“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone,
 is coming into the world.”
John 1:9

While Jesus was here on earth, He told his followers,

“You are the light of the world…”
 Matthew 5:14

But there are words from the Apostle Paul that present a challenge that speaks to my heart,

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.
So live as people of light!
For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”
 Ephesians 5:8-9

It is wonderful to live a life in close communion with God.  When I do, His light drives out the gloom.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #123

12/03/06

"Waves Blown & Tossed by Wind"
 

What a vivid image came to my mind recently when I was reading James chapter one!  I remembered a recent storm we had here in southern Alabama.  We were having unusually high winds and storms that made the waves a fantastic sight to see!  I marveled over how they were going every which way!  I wouldn’t have thought that would have been possible!  Some were cresting in a northwesterly direction; others were cresting in a northeasterly direction.  But when they came together, it was even more awesome!  They crashed into each other causing enormous waves and whitecaps!  They even crashed onto the shore in different directions!  There was no rhyme or reason to them.  They were literally being “blown & tossed by the wind.”  Thankfully there was not a boat or ship to be seen.  They wouldn’t have stood a chance!

So when I read the book of James, the passage became very vivid in my mind because of this recent image I had of the storm.
 

“Be sure that your faith is in God alone.
Do not waver,
 for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea
 that is blown and tossed by the wind.
Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Their loyalty is divided between God and the world,
And they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:6-8
 

When Jesus was teaching His sermon on the Mount, He shared some thought provoking things that it would be wise to consider!
 

“No man can serve two masters:
  for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
 or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
 Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Matthew 6:24
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #122

11/26/06

"Testing and Blessing"
 

It seems that from time to time God allows testing in my life.

For one thing, I am thinking of the persistent problems I’ve had with my 34 stringed, disabled harp that is resting quietly at home.  I realize a few soliloquies came from that ongoing saga, but here it surfaces again.  Maybe that harp was a blessing in disguise because we have learned a lot of lessons from it.

But now, I have a 26 stringed lap harp, called a Harpsicle.  Since it only weighs four pounds, I can easily carry it with me.  It can go wherever we decide to go.  And best of all, after four weeks none of the strings have broken, and it stays in tune!  I am thoroughly enjoying being able to play it.  It is soothing.  Maybe it even has a nicer tone than the larger one we left at home.  Amazing, things don’t have to be big to be useful and beautiful!

Then I’ve also been having a few physical problems, seemingly one after another.  As one gets older, I suppose this could be expected.  But nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if it might not be a matter of God allowing physical testing in my life.  They do draw me closer to Him, I gain daily strength from Him.  The Bible assures me that I am indeed His child!  Hebrews 12:6 states that those whom the Lord loves, He chastens.  So this is a blessing in disguise also.

He also promises that He will not allow the temptation or testing to be more than I can stand.  Thinking about this, I realize that sometimes I’ve heard people question others who are going through times of testing or trials.  James made it clear that when faith is tested, it should be a cause for happiness, not anger or questioning.  James wrote that endurance provides opportunity to grow.  He continued,

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.
Afterward they will receive the crown of life
 that God has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:12

He also cautions not ever to say, “God is tempting me” because even though God allows it, He is never tempted to do wrong.  And He never tempts anyone else either. He continues by saying,

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.”
James 1:17

So, thank you, Lord, for continuing to work with me and wanting what is best for me.  Thank you especially for all your wonderful gifts and goodness’ to me!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #121

11/19/06

"Preparing for the Inevitable"

Today we went out for lunch with a friend.  After our food arrived, my husband asked him if he minded if we prayed before we ate, since that’s what we usually do.  He said, “No, not at all.”

After we prayed, he said, “I’ve been doing a lot of praying myself this week.”  I guess he’s been more preoccupied with his loved ones who had died.  He seemed a bit more agitated about them.  He thought if he’d go to church to pray for them, it would help.  He said, “It can’t hurt.”  I thought, ‘Well, I suppose it can’t.’  Then he continued, “It helps me feel better.”  Well, I suppose that could be true too.

But I don’t remember being in a situation like that before where I really didn’t know what to say.  It bothered me.  So it’s been rumbling around in my mind.  Before I went to bed, I thought of a scripture passage and wrote it down.
 

Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.”
Hebrews 9:27

But how could that Scripture have helped him?  Telling him it’s too late for those who have died wouldn’t have brought comfort to him.  But yet, is he living under the assumption that it isn’t too late to settle one’s eternal state once a person dies? If that’s the case, he, or anyone else, might consider putting the decision off ‘until later.’  I thought how clearly the Bible urges people to make a decision now.

“Behold, now is the accepted time, Behold now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

We don’t have any guarantees on how long we will live.  Any person, it doesn’t make any difference if he or she might be young or old, is just one breath away from eternity.  And no one knows when that will be.  Putting it off is not safe.  So the important thing is to make the decision for the Lord now.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9

The wise man (or woman) prepares for the inevitable.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #120

11/12/06

"Underneath It All"

I love to sit and watch the ocean waves come crashing onto the beach here in Gulf Shores.  Today as I was doing this, some interesting thoughts flitted through my mind.  I am amazed and almost overwhelmed by the great power of our majestic God who created and controls the waves and the winds.  I looked out farther and the water seemed to go on and on.  Later in the day, the water appeared to be calm and peaceful, as if there were nothing going on under the surface of the water.  Totally quiet, but maybe once in a while a dolphin would jump out of the water.

And that brought to my mind the whole community of life underneath the surface of the sea.  What we see isn’t the reality!  I believe the Naval Air Station had an Imax presentation a few years ago entitled, “The Life Beneath the Seas.”  I was utterly enthralled to see what all was transpiring unseen by our human eyes!  What we see on the surface is nothing compared to what is happening underneath.

Gradually I began to think of the similarities between ocean life and that of human beings!  For example, on the surface a person might appear to be good looking, well adjusted, and an all around ‘great person.’  However, it is possible for that same person to be someone quite different underneath it all.  The person might be wearing a mask for all to see in order to cover up what is really there under the surface.

The Bible has many references to this same thing.   The prophet Jeremiah said. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”  Jeremiah 17:9.

Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees (they were the religious leaders of the day!), “You are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”  Matthew 23:27.  While talking with Peter, He also said, “The words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you.  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”  Matthew 15:18

The apostle Paul said, “No one is righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10

But the good news is that what is hidden can be changed.  God looks on the heart and He can change what is on the inside.   This happened for me when I exchanged the ugly things that were hidden on the inside.  He does this with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I gave the ugliness to Him, and He gave me His goodness.
 
 

“People are counted as righteous, not because of their work,
but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
Romans 4:5
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #119

11/05/06

"Awesome"

Early this morning I was walking on the beach, I felt overwhelmed!  The sun was hardly up yet, but it was truly awesome to be in the midst of so much power.  The waves were crashing up on the shore.  The immensity of the skies caught my attention: the soon to be rising sun, the moon and the stars fading in the dawn.  I couldn’t help but think of the majesty and power of my God!  My mind went to the portions of Scriptures I had been reading in the Bible.  The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah kept exclaiming, “You are the only true God.  There is none like You!”

Then I thought of the DVD my cousin and her husband shared with us a few days ago.  It was entitled, “Indescribable!”   And it truly was just that, because it kept going farther and father into the universe, deeper and deeper into space with the help of the Hubbell Telescope.  It is absolutely mind boggling to think of it.  And yet, it is nothing for my God!  He created it all!  He made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them!

So when I was out on the beach in the early hours of the morning, all of this was going through my mind.  I couldn’t help but praise my God and worship Him with a heart overflowing with gratitude for all He is, all He has done, and for just being there anytime I feel the need of His presence.   My heart cried out with the prophet, Jeremiah,
 

“It is the Lord who provides the sun to light the day
and the moon and stars to light the night,
and who stirs the sea into roaring waves
His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies….
I, (Jeremiah) prayed to the Lord:
O sovereign Lord!
You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm.
Nothing is too hard for you!”
Jeremiah 31:35; 32:17

Then I read the following what the Lord replied to Jeremiah, and My heart overflows with gratitude to God for all He means to me and has done for me!

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world.
Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:26
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #118

10/25/06

"Anticipation"

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves have changed colors and are falling down, leaving the branches bare in spots.  Sometimes we’ve had some tiny snow flurries, they are so pretty to see (inside, looking out)!  I’m pulling my winter coat up over my mouth and nose in order to breathe when we go outside.  Needless to say our thoughts are turning to heading south for a few months.

Today it seemed even more of a reality because we got the suitcases and computer bags out.  I have already got the cupboards cleaned.  The closets are organized.  We’ve planned the clothes we’ll need.  I’m secretly wondering if we’ll have space in the car for my Mr. Coffee Cappuccino maker!  It is a time of planning and preparation.

It makes me wonder whether I’ve been anticipating the return of the Lord Jesus Christ with the same eagerness that I’ve been anticipating our trip south.  There certainly seem to be all kinds of signs that point to His soon return.  It just doesn’t seem possible for events to continue the way they have been for very much longer.  So have I been busy getting my life in order for His return?   Have I been preparing for it?  Am I ready?
 
 

“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its buds become tender and its leaves begin to sprout,
You know without being told that summer is near.
Just so, when you see the events I’ve described beginning to happen,
You can know His return is very near, right at the door.”
Matthew 24:32-33

“You aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters….
For you are all children of the light and of the day;….
So be on your guard, not asleep like the others.  Stay alert and be sober.”
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

“Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is,
time is running out.  Wake up,
for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Romans 13:11
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #117

10/22/06

"Lighthouses"

Lighthouses have always attracted me.  I remember when we were younger, we talked about how ‘neat’ it would be to be able to be a keeper of a lighthouse. At that time, there seemed to be something quite romantic about it.

But little did I realize their significance until this past weekend when I attended a conference with Meryl Bishop, the National Prayer Chairman of Stonecroft Ministries.  She chose ‘Lighthouses’ as her theme and had replicas of several lighthouses around the rooms.  That conference was a blessing to me.  It has remained with me all through this week.

I learned quite a few things that I didn’t know about our country’s early lighthouses and their keepers.  Some of the most significant ones were that the lighthouse keeper had to be chosen by the president.  Therefore it was quite a prestigious occupation.  It was a calling!  Sometimes some of the keepers thought it was romantic, but it was also very hard work.  Some felt it was their duty, but others loved it.  It reminds me of my calling as a child of God.  Also even though it is a wonderful life and I love it, at times it can be a hard one.

Another thing I learned was that the Lighthouse keepers had a manual that they had to follow religiously.  (Of course, in my Christian life, my Manual is the Bible).  They had to be checking their manuals to be sure they were following the rules and regulations.  For example, the lenses had to be spotless so the light could shine unhindered.  If they didn’t, it might mean disaster for the ships out on the sea.

An Inspector would arrive unannounced to make sure the manual was being followed!  They had to be ready at all times for his arrival!  (Humm, watching for the Lord’s arrival?).  Everything had to be shipshape and spick and span!

It was amazing how many parallels to our lives as Christians we brought up.  Meryl eloquently expanded upon these and added more.  The one that stood out for me was about the lenses.  They had to be kept spotless so the light could shine!  These thoughts brought a number of verses from the Bible to my mind.
 
 

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works,
And glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

For you were  formerly darkness,
But now are you are  light in the Lord;
Walk as children of light.”
Ephesians 5:8  (NAS)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #116

10/15/06

"Adoption"

The day finally came!  Our daughter brought her puppy home!

She’d heard about these tiny Yorkshire Terriers and went to check some out.  She fell in love with one and soon put a down payment on her.  Since then she has longed for the day when she could be with her all the time.  She went to visit her at least a couple times a week.  She even bought things she thought the puppy might need, including a little sweater.  Now she’s talking about her needing a little raincoat!  Planning and preparing!  But because she was such a tiny puppy, she had to wait until she was old enough and had all her shots before she could bring her home permanently.  Today was the day!  She finally realized her adoption!

It occurred to me during the night that this was quite an example of what the Bible talks about in the believer’s future.  We will be adopted as true children one day.  Now we just have the promise of the adoption to come.  The down payment of it was our acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.  The Bible tells us,
 

“Think of it this way… When the right time came
God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.
God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law,
So that he could adopt us as his very own children.
And because you Gentiles have become his children,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,
And now you can call God your dear Father.
Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.
And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.”
Galatians 4:1-7

“You should behave instead like God’s very own children,
adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.”
Romans 8:15  (NLT)

Even though we know we are His children, the full realization of our adoption is something that we will have when we are ‘together with the Lord and see Him face to face.’  What a wonderful day that will be!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #115

10/08/06

"Bad Apples"

This morning I had a biopsy of a little growth on my forehead.  It had grown some and started to bleed in the evenings so I was obliged to have it diagnosed.

Anyway, that started me thinking this afternoon about some pears on the kitchen table.  They were getting pretty ripe.  Actually I had to cut out some bad spots.  I remembered having an apple that had gotten rotten.  It had spread to the other apples.  The bad one ruined most of the rest of the good apples!  But it wasn’t all lost because I cut out the bad parts of the fruit and put the good parts and a peach, some yogurt and milk into the blender to make a type of fruit smoothie for us to enjoy.

There have been times that I’ve seen someone getting involved with the wrong crowd.  Perhaps they thought they could influence them for the good.  But often, the bad ones are the ones doing the influencing!  My husband used to tell our grandsons, “Remember, your friends are like elevator buttons, they can either take you up or down.”  So now, years later, they still remind us of the analogy.

It’s interesting that in the Bible, Jesus talked about these very things.  He said,
 

“Watch out!”  Jesus warned them  “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
…Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread,
but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Matthew 16:6, 12

The Apostle Paul also picked up on this same theme when he wrote,

“Your boasting about this is terrible.
Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast
that spreads through the whole batch of dough?
Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7

I think this principle applies even when one might skip going to church.  Then the next week, it becomes just a little easier to skip going.  A little leaven sets in and quickly instead of pressing forward, doing what we know we should, there is a ‘slipping backward.’  The truth is that a person cannot remain immobile.  It seems there is a process of either becoming better or worse.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another,
Especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-25  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #114

10/01/06

"Again, 'Harping' about My Harp "

This past week a number of my friends have been asking once again about my harp.  While in Ohio, our good friend, Jack Robinson, made a new soundboard for us.  When we got back home, my husband glued it, and screwed it to the original cracked soundboard in seven places on each side of the strings.  Then together, we carefully attached all the strings, and I tuned it.

Then it began again!  The sound frightened me.  I imagined it was from the new glued soundboard pulling away from the original.  However, I got two days thoroughly enjoying being able to play it in spite of the sounds!  I smile now as I think of it.  It did my heart so much good!

However, the strings began breaking again.  So I read as much as I could about caring for the harp.  One thing I found to be critical was the need to have the right size, tension, type, and length string depending on the maker.  I found also that it is crucial to get strings from the people who made the harp.  Just any strings won’t do, for they could actually harm the instrument.  We immediately loosened the strings, and I wrote the person from whom I bought the harp since it wasn’t made by a reputable manufacturer.  I also wrote another company to see if they might be able to send me a new set of strings.  So we wait.

I’m afraid I don’t have much hope, because I’m not sure that the construction and mechanical design of the harp was what it was supposed to be.  It is my own fault, because I was willing to accept a substitute.  I’d been warned not to buy from abroad or through the Internet.  But I thought I knew better.  Of course, I must admit the cost entered into my decision.

The analogy of a counterfeit entered my mind while I was reading the epistle to the Galatians.  False teachers were trying to force the Gentiles to obey the Mosaic Laws.  They taught them that they had to keep the Law and be circumcised in order to be saved.  They wanted to add something to the Gospel.  But Paul told them that Jesus paid it all.  None of their works made them acceptable to God.  Paul told them we don’t have to follow all those Jewish traditions.  We’re made right with God simply by believing in Christ Jesus!  Salvation comes by faith in Christ, not by obeying the law.  It seemed to me that the Apostle Paul’s heart was breaking.  He was burdened for these people.  They were accepting a counterfeit message.  His testimony was unmistakable.

“They wanted to force us, like slaves, to follow their Jewish regulations.
But we refused to listen to them for a single moment.
We wanted to preserve the truth of the Good News for you….
We … know that we become right with God,
 not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we have believed in Christ Jesus,
 that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ.
 And not because we have obeyed the law.
For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.”
Galatians 2:4-5, 16
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #113

09/24/06

"Birth and Birthdays"

Today I had lunch with my two sisters and sister-in-law.  We sat for about three hours in a restaurant overlooking the water.  We were celebrating my younger sister’s birthday.  The lunch crowd came and went, and we stayed and talked.  It was so nice for just the four of us to be together.  We not only caught up on each other’s lives, but also spent some time reminiscing.  We all went away feeling good about being able to spend time together once again.  We began to look forward to the next time we could get together.

Since Elaine is five years younger than I am, I thought of her birth.  My mind wandered to the recent births of our three new great grandchildren.  Then I thought of the 46 year-old fellow who had just accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as His Savior.  According to the Scriptures, he was “born again.”  Interestingly, Jesus used this figurative language to explain more clearly the similarities between physical birth and spiritual birth.  The Bible also likens the baby’s growth to the way a new Christian should grow in the spiritual life.  As we expect to see physical growth in the new babe, so we should see spiritual growth when there is a birth into God’s family.
 

“Jesus replied,…Humans can reproduce only human life,
 but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven.
So don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again.”
 John 3:6-7
 “Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin,
 because God’s life is in them.  So they can’t keep on sinning,
 because they have been born of God.”
1 John 3:9
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God.
 And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.”
 1 John 5:1
 “You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation.  Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk.”
 1 Peter 2:2

How it saddens the heart to see a baby fail to grow normally.  How it must grieve our Heavenly Father to see a new babe in Christ fail to grow spiritually by not seeking the spiritual milk found in His Word.  My sisters and I enjoyed the blessing of being able to converse normally.  My sisters in Christ & I always enjoy our time together being able to share.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #112

09/17/06

"My Poor Harp"

My poor harp died.  Yes, the soundboard cracked.  I heard wood cracking from time to time on Tuesday.  I didn’t know what it was, but it gave me a heavy heart, because I knew it couldn’t be good.  Then I began to get frightened.  I remembered that there are hundreds of pounds of string pressure on the soundboard.  I imagined it becoming a lethal weapon in the living room!  So I went to the bedroom to read.  I stayed there waiting for my husband to get home.  The next morning we went to examine what was making that noise all through the night.  Then we saw the crack down the center of the soundboard all the way from top to bottom.

Now since my poor harp is useless without a soundboard, and about everything else is wrong with it too, my husband and son are interested in taking it apart and starting all over.  They want to build it properly.  It will be interesting!  It’s strange, but I’ve only had it a month or so, but I’ve become quite attached to it.  I sat next to it Wednesday morning with a heavy heart and fingers tingling, itching to get on the strings again.  It did feel like I’d lost a friend.  My daughter and son also felt terrible, not understanding why God was allowing all this to happen to me.  I told them that we cannot blame this on God.  The harp was imperfect to begin with.  It was my fault for not thinking twice when I was able to get it at such an unbelievably low price.  The experts say the foremost reason for cracks in stringed instruments is poor construction and/or mechanical design.  However I also learned I need to provide constant climate control.

Then I thought, ‘Oh my, isn’t it something!  My poor imperfect harp died, and who knows?  Maybe it will be reborn completely new: a new body with the wood all properly finished, new levers that work, good quality pins, a perfect soundboard with quality strings!  Just imagine!’   My harp has taken on almost a human personality to me, and I can hardly wait for its resurrection!  Coincidentally that morning I read 1 Corinthians, chapter 15!  I really got excited to read about my own resurrection and transformation!

“But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us.
Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed.
It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye,
When the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds,
The Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies.
And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die.
For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed
 into heavenly bodies that will never die. ”
1 Corinthians 15:51-55
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #111

09/10/06

"Hate List?"

Several months ago, a friend confided in me that she had a ‘HATE LIST.’  She asked if I had one?  I was quite flustered, because I didn’t quite know what she was talking about.  She then proceeded to tell me who was on hers.  She named three people.   I remember feeling a bit uneasy at the time because I’d never heard anything like that before, and hating seemed to be something with which I wasn’t comfortable.

Anyway, the idea of a ‘hate list’ has been a burden on my mind.  This week it came back to me with extra force.  I was reading Proverbs, chapter six.  It talks about the things God HATES!  I don’t usually think of God hating anything, except maybe ‘sin.’  But in the book of Proverbs, seven things are listed.  Yes!  God does have a “HATE LIST.”

Just last week the ladies in my Bible Study were saying how we all lie, even though we don’t think we do.  Well, I was ready to object, to tell them that that wasn’t true.  But then that person started mentioning how there are those ‘little white lies.’  For example, when someone asks how something personal looks, we don’t dare tell the truth, but instead we say something to help make them feel better.  So I was very interested to read God’s hate list and then find out that ‘lying’ is on it a couple of times!
 

“There are six things the Lord hates—
No seven things he detests.
Haughty eyes,
A lying tongue,
Hands that kill the innocent,
A heart that plots evil,
Feet that race to do wrong,
A false witness who pours out lies,
A person who sows discord among brothers.”
Proverbs 6:16-19

Once again, the last couple of verses in Psalm 139 came to my mind, and I had to stop and examine myself.  Could I be guilty, even unknowingly, of any of these things?    If God hates them, then I don’t want to be guilty of any of them.  My prayer is to hate the things God hates, and love the things He loves.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #110

09/03/06

"Prayer"

Yesterday we finished our last Ladies Bible study on ‘Prayer – Connecting With God.’  We felt a little sad over the series ending, because we won’t be getting together for Bible study and prayer until next Spring.  But now we felt we had a deeper understanding of how we can connect with God through prayer!  Also, we realize it’s a way we can stay connected with each other before the ‘throne of grace.’

In one session during the eight weeks, we talked about praying through the Psalms.  So when I read Psalm 139 recently, I felt as if my heart did commune with God.

“Oh Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my every thought when far away.
You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.
Every moment you know where I am.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
You both precede and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!”
Psalm 139:1-6

What more can I say, but thank you Lord!  The Psalmist continued in verses 17-18:

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God,
They are innumerable!
I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!”

What a great and mighty God we serve!  I want to be my best for Him!  So my heart cried out,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #109

08/27/06

"Many Blessings!"

Yesterday, my sister, my daughter, and I went ‘pickin’ blueberries!  We were not only looking forward to having lots of blueberries to put in the freezer, but also enjoying one now and then as we were picking!  That’s half the fun!  Later we realized that we went away with blue teeth and lips!

On the way home we stopped in a quaint village situated on the water for lunch.  It was a good day for us to enjoy being together, and that’s what we did.  I thought what a blessing to have my sister and daughter here near me!  The Lord is so good to me.  The Bible states over and over again that ‘His unfailing love continues forever!’  What a wonderful thought!

During the night, we had a very welcome thunderstorm.  This is another one of His blessings!  It always smells so fresh and clean after a thunderstorm.  We have really needed the rain.  And now, not only will our garden, flowers and plants perk up, but also all those wonderful blueberry bushes with loads of blueberries on them will get ‘new life!’

I thought how great our God is!  He knows our every need.
 

“It is good to give thanks for the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim Your unfailing love in the morning,
 Your  faithfulness in the evening,
 accompanied by the harp and lute and the harmony of the lyre.
You thrill me, Lord, with all You have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what You have done….
Even in old age they (the godly) will still produce fruit;
They will remain vital and green.
They will declare, ‘The Lord is just!  He is my rock!
There is nothing but goodness in Him!’”

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #108

08/20/06

"Lessons on Problems & Trials?"

My harp is on my mind.  It seems there are so many things wrong with it, it is almost humorous – even though it is really sad.  The experienced harpist we visited confirmed the problems.  We are continuing to find one thing after another that doesn’t work right.

But still, I can hardly keep my hands off it.  I love to try to play the strings that are working!  And my poor husband keeps trying to fix whatever goes wrong.  Bruce and Linda (our son & daughter) came over today since it’s his day off.  All four of us had our heads right above it trying to figure it out!  Suddenly we started laughing.  It must have been a funny sight!  So Linda & I backed off and let the men work on it.

I told them a few days ago that the Lord must really be trying to teach me something, but I wasn’t sure what it is.  The more I think about it, I think it is ‘patience!’  It’s a good lesson.  I think I’m learning it!

I remember the story of the person who was praying for patience.  He started getting into all kinds of difficulties, until it almost got too much for him, and he cried out to the Lord to remove all those trials.  He didn’t realize that the way to get patience is to go through problems and trials.  Or another story I heard was about the man who came to the preacher and asked him to pray for him because he knew he needed more patience.  So the preacher started praying.  “Oh Lord, please send this man tribulation.”  The man quickly interrupted him and said, “No pastor, not tribulation!  I need patience.”  But the pastor replied, “The way to get patience is through tribulation.”

I love the way the New Living Translation translates ‘patience’ as ‘endurance…’

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure.
And endurance develops strength of character in us,
And character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.
And this expectation will not disappoint us.
 For we know how dearly God loves us,
 because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

A friend of ours says, ‘There are no problems, only opportunities!’  We know “how dearly God loves us” so we look for opportunities, even in this situation!  We have found lots of them.  We are learning a lot about the harp!  We will probably soon be able to build one of our own!  What an opportunity!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #107

08/13/06

"My Harp and Me"

There are a number of things wrong with my harp and me.  As I was waking this morning, some of the similarities crossed my mind.

I had been eagerly looking forward to the harp’s arrival for a few weeks.  It finally came this week!  Eagerly my husband and I set about to try to carefully unwrap it.  We found the packaging was broken, torn, and looked extremely well used.  I thought, “Wow, kinda’ like me!  My packaging is becoming rather broken, torn, and very well used too!  More so as the years go by!”

So very cautiously we unwrapped the harp.  I was thrilled to see it, but after closer scrutiny, I found a number of defects with it.  That’s probably why I was able to get it at such a good price.  I was disappointed, but thought, “That’s ok.  After all, I’m not in perfect shape either, and my Lord, my husband, family, and good friends still love me!”

I decided I needed to look around for an experienced harpist who might be able to help me become better acquainted with harps.  I finally found one who assures me she might be able to help familiarize me with my harp so I will be able to use it.  We made an appointment for a few days from now.  My husband will go with me.  I can hardly wait for our visit.  Still, even as imperfect as my harp is, I can hardly keep my hands off it.  I keep trying to play it!   And then I thought, “Honestly, isn’t it something really special!  Because I have all these imperfections too, but the Lord is still using me in spite of them!  It’s wonderful and I’m so thankful!”

But to be honest, I’m really looking forward to the day when my harp will sound beautiful the way it was designed to be!  I can almost hear the way it will sound as I feebly try to play it now!  Then I thought of what the Bible says about me, the creation, and all other Christians….
 

“We know that all creation has been groaning
 as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
And even we Christians,
 although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering.
 We, too, wait anxiously for that day
 when God will give us our full rights as his children,
 including the new bodies he has promised us.”
Romans 8:22-23 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #106

08/06/06

"Divisions in Heaven?"

My sister, Elaine, and I went to a local church Sunday evening.  They were having an evening of quartet music and hymn sing.   When we got there, we found the theme was all about Heaven.   It proved to be a rich blessing!  We hadn’t heard so many of those songs in a long time, and they touched our hearts!  It also started me thinking again about what it will be like in Heaven.

It was good to dwell on it, since our world is in an awful state at the present time.  The conditions in the Mid-East are ripe, pointing to the soon return of Jesus.  He’s the only One Who will make all things ‘right.’  Our churches are fighting each other, and dividing over issues that will seem so trivial once we get to Heaven.  Do we really think there is going to be a difference between Baptist, Reformed, Episcopalian, Methodist, or Grace believers?    There were divisions in the church at Corinth.  Those believers were called “carnal.”  They were like little children.

I wonder when people and churches divide over secondary issues whether they think there will be a special place for them in Heaven?  Will people with one belief be inside some particular wall, and others inside other walls?  Is that what Heaven will be like?  I don’t think so!  In fact, I can’t help but think how it must grieve the Lord to see all these divisions here on earth!  The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned when he wrote,

“And now, I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters,
Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith
by teaching things that are contrary to what you have been taught.
Stay away from them.  Such people are not serving Christ our Lord;
they are serving their own personal interests.
By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.”
Romans 16:16-18 (NLT)

However, the Bible does make a division between people, those who are “in Christ,” and those who are not.  This means those who are believers in Christ Jesus are divided from those who don’t believe in Him.

Someone might ask “Well, what is it that will get me into Heaven?”    The Bible says,

“For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God,
And it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #105

07/30/06

"Harboring Bitterness?"
 

Yes, the Lord definitely answers prayer!

I had been praying earnestly that the Lord would cleanse me from any wrong thoughts or actions, even if there were things of which I wasn’t aware.  I wanted Him to reveal them to me so I could work on them.  I prayed along with the Psalmist whose heart’s cry was:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
And lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Psalm 139:23-24

Well, He did!

I wasn’t aware that I was harboring any bitterness, but all of a sudden, it became very apparent to me that I was.  I was horrified, and felt terrible.  I immediately confessed each thing that was revealed to me.  Now with the Lord’s help, I am working on my attitudes.  The only thing that surprised me was when I looked in Ephesians, bitterness was listed along with other things that sounded much worse to me.  So I realized that really in God’s sight, any wrong is still a wrong, and needs to be changed!  In fact the Bible says that if one is guilty of one point of the law, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).  So Ephesians is a challenge to me, not only of the negative, but thankfully, the apostle lists positives that I can strive towards!

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander,
 as well as all types of malicious behavior.
Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
Just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #104

07/23/06

"Prayer, Praise, & Guidance"

We are studying “Prayer” in our Ladies Bible Study.  The first week of our study one lady was concerned because her prayers always seem to be the same.  She goes down the list of those with whom she is concerned, and her prayers don’t seem to change.  Well, her list is longer now because each week there are burdens the ladies want to share.  We’re learning to praise and thank the Lord as well as leaving our requests with Him.  I also showed them how I wrote my burdens in a notebook.  Then it is easy to see how the Lord answers prayer.  I notice now they also are writing out their burdens.  Recently I’ve been reading through the Psalms and have noticed how the Psalmist not only praises the Lord, but also cries out to Him with his burdens and requests.

I thought how the Lord speaks through His Word!  That’s what happened again this morning.  A couple of things have been on my mind and in my prayers recently.  One is my increasing desire to find a harp I might be able to play.  Interestingly, yesterday I noticed a harp for sale that has a dent in it and is a fraction of its normal price.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  After I sold my Hammered Dulcimer and starting saving up money from Christmas and my birthday, it is exactly what this one would cost.  So now I had difficulty sleeping thinking about it and prayed all the more if it was the Lord’s will that I have it, everything would work out.

Then secondly, our loved ones have been asking where we will be going and what we will be doing this winter.  We’ve admitted that we don’t know, we are waiting to see what the Lord opens up for us.  We might be staying here in Michigan.  Then just last night, our former condo owner in Gulf Shores called us and asked if we’d like to use her condo this winter because it will be open whenever we’d like it!  My husband told her we would pray about it and let her know as soon as we could.  So now we are praying more earnestly for the Lord to guide us and make His will plain to us.  This morning I was reading in Psalm 32:8-33:5.  As if it was the Lord’s stamp of approval on our deliberations, not only is His guidance mentioned, but also the harp!
 

The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
 I will advise you and watch over you….’
…unfailing love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure.
Let the godly sing with joy to the Lord, for it is fitting to praise him.
 Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing new songs of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp and sing with joy.
For the word of the Lord holds true, and everything he does is worthy of our trust.
He loves whatever is just and good, and his unfailing love fills the earth.”
Psalms 32:7-33:5 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #103

07/16/06

"Friends"

We had such a wonderful day today!  My two sisters and I were together with our three cousins and two other sisters from our church at their cottage at Silver Lake.  All of our husbands were with us too.  A few times someone remarked what a good day it was and how special that we could all be together, because some among the group have health problems and aren’t getting any younger.  It might be the last time this would be possible.  We also took lots of pictures.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but later as I started reflecting on it, I thought how true that might be.

But I also thought, regardless of our age, none of us have any guarantees that life will go on as before.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds.  Some of the healthiest and youngest among us could very well be the first ones to leave.  I also thought what a wonderful thing it was even though quite a few of us were related by blood relationships, we are also good friends.

This all started my mind going along all the Scriptural verses about friends!  Unfortunately, and heartbreakingly, sometimes I’ve seen the following:

“Wealth makes many “friends”;
poverty drives them all away.”
Proverbs 19:4
“There are “friends who destroy each other…,”
Proverbs 18:24

But how wonderful it is to see when someone steps in the gap to help those who are in desperate need.  For example,

“…but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24
“A friend is always loyal,
and a brother is born to help in time of need.”
Proverbs 17:17
“As iron sharpens iron,
a friend sharpens a friend.”
Proverbs 27:17

My greatest friend is the Lord Jesus Christ.  How do I measure His love?

“And here is how to measure it—
the greatest love is shown when
 people lay down their lives for their friends.”
Matthew 15:13
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #102

07/09/06

"Building on the Foundation"

Last night we had some extremely strong winds!  We also have lots of trees near us.  I kept thinking that it was amazing that there were no large branches or trees falling!  Those trees were really bending in the wind!  However, this morning I did notice that we had twigs, leaves, and small branches on the ground.    But as I was waking, I thought how interesting that I had written just a few days ago about having a solid foundation.

Then I started thinking about my spiritual foundation.  I know that it is solid, because the Bible tells me it is Jesus Christ.  My foundation is sure.  But the question is, ‘How should I build on my foundation?’   Am I building gold, silver, and jewels, or am I building wood, hay, or straw?  It bothered me because I wondered exactly what I needed to do to build the gold, silver, or jewels, instead of the wood, hay, or straw?  I think I had a wrong idea about it.  So I decided I’d better spend some time meditating on what the Bible says!  The first thing that came to my mind is what I read all through the Bible.

“Jesus said,…Love each other.
 Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
John 13:34
“Don’t just pretend that you love others.  Really love them…Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:9-10

I thought of a pastor I had as I was growing up.  He said from the pulpit, “The Bible tells me to love you.  It doesn’t say I have to LIKE you!”  Something seemed drastically wrong about that statement to me.  But I had a lot of respect for him, so it was shelved until years later it came to mind again.  But I keep thinking that it wouldn’t be possible to make that statement if I lived my life as the Bible teaches.  For example,

“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged.
Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you.
If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.”
Luke 6:37
“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32

As the Scriptures began to come to mind, it occurred to me that they can all be wrapped up as Jesus said in the first and greatest of all commandments, ‘Love one another.’   What greater way could I be building on my solid foundation?
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #101

07/02/06

"A Good Foundation"

We have had an interesting and informative week!  Our neighbor decided she wanted to have a deck built on her condo.  So after she got the necessary permission, the builder started.  First the ground was cleared and leveled.  Then he got a power auger and drilled 42 inches into the ground for the foundation posts.  He dropped the 4” square posts into the ground, and poured cement and water into the hole.  Once the cement was set, he nailed 2 x 4’s onto these huge posts.  Next he screwed the crossbeams to the base of the deck.  And finally he nailed the decking on the top of this foundation.

As the work progressed, my husband and son kept remarking on the sturdiness of the foundation.  The builder didn’t cut any corners, but everything was done expertly.  We kiddingly remarked that there would be no ill wind blowing that deck away!  They could have a large party of people on it, and it would hold with no trouble!  It is very sturdy - it has a great foundation!

So naturally this week my mind was focused on the importance of having a good foundation.   The Bible goes a step farther than the foundation with a warning to everyone building on the foundation:

“Because of God’s special favor to me,
 I have laid the foundation like an expert builder.
 Now others are building on it.
 But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.
 For no one can lay any other foundation
 than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
 Now anyone who builds on that foundation
 may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.
 But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day
to see what kind of work each builder has done.
Everyone’s work will be put through the fire
 to see whether or not it keeps its value.
If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward.
 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss.
 The builders themselves will be saved,
 but like someone escaping through a wall of flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:10-15  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #100

06/25/06

"Focused on Jesus"

A brother in Christ conquered cancer and credits the Lord for the healing.  He has continued to be active in his church for a good many years and has been a glowing testimony to many.  Yet, today he is having a defibrillator put into his chest.

A dear Christian lady, very competent in many ways and active in her church, has been having financial problems.  She seems to be unable to get a job even though she mails out many resumes every week.

A young high school valedictorian was cut off the air at her graduation ceremony because she mentioned her faith in the Lord.  She was not allowed “freedom of speech” in our country that seems to allow negative extremes that very privilege.

Another dear Christian lady I know has been suffering one ailment after another.

Recently we’ve heard of three churches that have been having difficult problems over the question of leadership.  As a result people have been leaving.  What could be the reason for this?  Certainly Satan is involved, but then is pride lurking close by?  In going through the Bible, it seems pride causes dissention and trouble, not unity.  Pride is one thing God “hates.”

When things like this happen, it would be easy to focus on self-centered thinking, ‘How is this going to affect me?’  But I need to be focused on Jesus, and think, ‘How can I help to relieve this problem?’  Or, ‘How can I bring more honor to the Lord through what is happening to me today and maybe be more of a testimony to others?’  I need to question if my response is selfish, possibly causing more dissention or is it seeking to bring glory to the Lord?’

Yes, many things are happening that are hard to understand.  Why should good Christian people suffer or be persecuted?  Have there been more attacks on them than usual lately?  It would seem that the evil one knows his days are limited and is putting out a concentrated effort on those whose hearts are fully committed to Christ.  As the days get darker, the light of every Christian needs to shine brighter.  We need to stay focused on Jesus, not ourselves.

A dear friend of years gone by, Vern Stromberg, composed the chorus,  “Not I, but Christ, the theme of my song.  Not I, but Christ, my prayer all day long.  Through the depths of my heart, my desire shall be, to live for my Savior, as He lives in me.”  May our prayer be to stay “Focused on Jesus.”

“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,
 on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #99

06/18/06

"Books, Books, Books!"

Books! Books! Books!  I love books!

I’ve always enjoyed learning from what I found in books.  I enjoyed my formal education in undergraduate and graduate schools, finding almost any assignment that required extra reading to be stimulating.  But my love affair with books didn’t stop with my formal education.  Since those days, I’ve especially enjoyed learning about the things that interest me, instead of whatever the professors required.

Since I’ve retired, I’ve really enjoyed reading for sheer enjoyment.  To me, a perfect get-away is to be able to relax sometime during the day or night and snuggle down with a good book!  I can lose myself in a good book.  I can go places and experience things without ever leaving the living room!   It’s amazing how a good book can grip my emotions.  Sometimes I find myself crying right along with the character in the book.

So when I read the last verse in the Gospel of St. John this morning, it brought a vivid picture to my mind!  Imagine a person having so many books written about him that the whole world couldn’t contain all those books!   I don’t think there is a person that would come near being the subject of that many books.    No one, that is, except Jesus.

Recently I was in the Western Theological Seminary Library with my husband.  It is quite an impressive building.  Floor upon floor, shelf upon shelf, hundreds of thousands of books that in some way are about Jesus.

This led me to think about the biblical record of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels.  While He lived on earth, He was always helping people.  No matter who came to Him, He never turned anyone away.  He was followed wherever He went because people realized that He met their needs.

Why wouldn’t they follow Him?  He said He came to seek and to save those that are lost.  He was always on call as He traveled around the countryside.  The people tried to crowd around Him, even trying to touch the hem of His garment.  Sometimes He would get in a boat and go to the other side, but crowds still followed Him.  No matter where He was, no matter what time it was, He was always there for everyone!  There would be no way the Gospel writers could record everything He did.  It’s little wonder that the Apostle John wrote,

“And I suppose
 that if all the other things Jesus did
 were written down,
 the whole world could not contain the books.”
John 21:25 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #98

06/10/06

"The Eyes of the Lord"

Mere coincidences?  I’m thinking it’s sometimes more than that.  Because when I begin to realize that several things have happened that are related to each other, I start to wonder.  Maybe such ‘coincidences’ contain a message I need to receive.  This happened to me again recently.

It started several months ago when I’d been having a lot of trouble with my eyes.  Over the last couple of weeks they’d become worse.  The discomfort became almost unbearable, causing great pain and a lot of tearing whether my eyes were open or closed.  So my husband decided I needed to get an appointment with a respected eye doctor here in Ohio.  The doctor examined me thoroughly and said he suspected an infection in the tear duct.  He gave me drops consisting of an antibiotic with steroids.  Now a week later, I’m happy to say the pain is gone, however, my eyes, which weren’t good before, seem to be deteriorating more quickly.

The next thing that happened was this morning in church.  I saw the lady who also has Temperal (Large Cell) Arteritis.  She had contacted me a few months ago when she heard that I had been diagnosed with it too.  It was good for us to share symptoms and challenges.  She is also trying to cope with her diminishing eyesight.  I showed her the Giant Print Bible that I’d found.

Then the third coincidence was the real eye opener for me.  I was reading my Bible in 2 Chronicles 16 today, and I read a verse about the Lord’s eyes!

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth
in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
2 Chronicles 16:9  (NLT)

I got so excited when I read this that I could hardly contain myself.  It gave me a flashback of several years ago when I had had four cardiac arrests and had emergency open-heart surgery (quadruple bypasses).  I remember my ‘out of body’ experience of being in the presence of the Lord Jesus.  What came back to me was during the time that I was with Him, I was aware of His eyes darting back and forth, back and forth.  I remember that I thought to myself, He knows everything that is going on in the whole world.  I especially thought of those who are being persecuted.  But I also thought of those who are inflicting cruelties on His saints.  I remember thinking, ‘There is nothing that He misses.  They will not go unpunished!’  So when I came across this verse, it gave me a new understanding.  His eyes are darting back and forth over the earth.  Nothing escapes Him!  But the wonderful thing is that it is not in judgment, but “in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”  He wants to strengthen His own!  He wants to help, not punish!   I couldn’t help but rejoice with the songwriter,
 

“What a wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
What a wonderful Savior to me,
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #97

06/04/06

"Speeding"

We were on our way to Ohio - no more than an hour on the way - and a police car was behind us with his lights flashing!  So my husband pulled over to the side of the road.  Guess what?  The officer told him that he was speeding.  He had never received a speeding ticket in his life!

During his sermon in church the next day, he mentioned that he had received his first speeding ticket on the way here!  --Surprisingly, his confession brought some twittering from one section of the congregation.  After the service, a lady came up to him and told him she had received a ticket on the way to church!

A couple of days later, our granddaughter got a speeding ticket!  That one was in a school zone where it is the law to go 20 miles an hour.  That’s difficult to do!  So she got a ticket.  Whew!  An epidemic of speeding tickets!

This morning as I was waking up, I started thinking of these three coincidences.  Then it occurred to me how life is so much like these last few days!

Sometimes I feel like I am speeding through life.  There is so much going on!  There is so much I have to do!  There is so much I want to do!  But it seems the time is limited, and becoming more so all the time.  I need to slow down – “smell the roses” – as the expression goes.  Then I need to prioritize all these things I want to do.  It’s too easy to get wrapped up in all kinds of things that interest me, and not weigh what the eternal values might be.  I need to determine what my capabilities are, and what my energy level will allow.  Then I can be ruthless in saying ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t meet these requirements.

I used to have a little plaque that read:

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

So I need to find it, and put it where I can see it on a daily basis.  I need to slow down, and grasp the fact that activity is not necessarily progress.  As the Psalmist declared, I need to:

“Be still
 and know that I am God.”
 Psalm 46:10
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #96

05/28/06

"Memorial Day"

It’s Memorial Day weekend!  This is the time that we set aside to remember all those who have given their lives for our country.  We also take time to thank the living veterans for giving a period of their lives to protect our freedoms.  Many of them gave their limbs or even some lost their intellect and families as a result.  We like to remember them all.  So we have parades and special services at the gravesites to honor them.  I realize I often take our freedoms for granted.  I also realize that there are some who would wish to take these privileges away from us.  I think about people in other countries who are persecuted and even put to death for the principles of freedom!  May America always be the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

We also take time to remember others who have died.  Each year about this time my younger sister, Elaine, and I go to look for the nicest plant we can find to put on Mom and Dad’s grave.  It’s a special time for us as together we think about them and all they’ve meant to us.  We also see our brother’s grave.  He was a very special brother, and we miss him and talk about him from time to time too.  It’s a wonderful thing to think of them all together with the Lord!  It’s good to think of how happy they must be!

Then thirdly we take this time to remember the Lord Jesus Christ and His great sacrifice for us.  He left all of heaven’s glories so that he could come to this earth.  He came to pay the debt for our sins.  He took our sin on Himself, and gave us His righteousness!  What an exchange!
 
 

“…I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others,
 and to give my life as a ransom for many.”
 Matthew 20:28

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,
 so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
 2 Corinthians 5:21

“…’This cup is the new covenant between God and you,
 sealed by the shedding of my blood.
 Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.’
 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup,
 you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.”
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #95

05/21/06

"JOY"

I was driving home from the Farmer’s Market, and was listening to a speaker on the radio.  He was calling attention to the fact that our society today wants to follow the trend of ‘me first!’  He was noting how this is increasingly becoming a problem especially in marriages.

I remember my husband counseling young people who wanted to get married.  Often they would come up with the idea that marriage should be 50/50.  He always said, ‘No, it must be 100/100%!’  And I thought, ‘Isn’t that the truth.  Many times I wouldn’t feel like giving it my all, and I was grateful that my husband understood and took over.  Then other times, it seemed like I was the one who was always giving in on this or that.  Strange how at times one partner will have to give a lot more than the other.  But when love is involved, ‘who’s keeping count?’  100/100% is the Key!

The radio speaker went on to comment about the little Acronym, JOY.  Jesus First, Others second, Yourself last.  He continued by giving examples of how our society increasingly reverses the order: Myself first, Others second, Jesus last!  He stressed that the biblical order is exactly the opposite, it is ‘Jesus First, Others second, Yourself last.’

It reminded me of a sermon Pastor Rob Renberg preached a few weeks ago.  He focused on this formula for JOY, and then called attention to Philippians, chapter 2.  What an example Jesus was!  He had everything!  But he gave it all up in order to come to our earth.  He came to be a servant.  And serve He did all through His life, even unto death!  What a contrast to what He had in heaven!  Talk about putting others first!  He has to be the ultimate example.
 

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave
And was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
He humbled himself in obedience to God
And died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor….”
Philippians 2:5-9a  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #94

05/14/06

"Voices in My Head"

Recently when someone said she heard “voices in her head,” I was a bit surprised!  For a minute, it sounded like something that might come from a person who was psychologically disturbed.  But then I realized that she was joking!

She continued, “Whenever I’m about to say something nasty about someone, or something ‘not nice,’ I hear my Mom’s voice, saying, ‘Be sweet, honey, be sweet!’  Or, ‘If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything at all!’”

‘Hummm,’ I thought, ‘That’s true!  That happens to me too!’  I have many memories of those significant others in my life, some going back to childhood.  Especially there are various phrases and sayings of my mother that come to me from time to time.  They have probably helped form the person I am today.

But when I stop to think about it, throughout my life, there have been special people who have made an impression on my life, - such a lasting impression, that I can say they were people whose ‘voices’ I’ve heard in my mind.  Then I realize that whenever this happens, I make a choice.  Either I listen to the ‘voice,’ or ignore it.  The choice is mine.

God has left lots of ‘voices in my mind.’  The question is, “How am I responding?”
 

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit
 that we are children of God.”
Romans 8:16   (NKJV)

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue,
you are fooling yourself,
and your religion is worthless.”
James 1:26  (NLT)

“Thy Word have I hid in my heart
that I might not sin against Thee.”
Psalm 119:105  (NKJV)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #93

05/07/06

"A Great Example"

What a joy it was to see Vern and Darlene Anderson at a Bible Conference last weekend!  It brought me back to the 1950’s when we were at Milwaukee attending the Bible Institute that was located there.  Vern had been an accountant, but he felt called to full-time Christian work.  He quit his job and went to Milwaukee.  While there he worked in an egg factory, where he was allowed to have the cracked eggs.  So he kept us supplied with eggs.  I remember fixing eggs in every way I could think: boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, omelets, deviled eggs.  I’m probably forgetting a few ways yet!

Another memory that was so precious was our fellowship in the gospel.  I remember the burden we had for the lost.  Many of us had dedicated our lives to full-time service, and were planning on going to the mission field somewhere.  The problem was that our mission board, Worldwide Grace Testimony, had missionaries only in Africa at that time.  So a number of students had an all-night prayer meeting, and as a result, a missionary organization was born.  We called it “Hope Mission.”  Later, Vern started working with a man named Palmer, and renamed the mission “Things To Come Mission.”  Vern and Darlene felt called to go to the Philippines.  And that’s what they did.  After starting a Bible School where the nationals could be trained, they began founding churches.  Today there are over 400 churches.  Then they got the burden for Indonesia.  They did the same thing there.  This was repeated also in West Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, India, and in other places.

Vernon is now 78 years of age, and sadly has Macular Degeneration.  Darlene has to be his eyes these days.  But he has God’s Word hidden in his heart, and preaches even more powerfully than ever.  They are settled now near their mission headquarters in Indianapolis, IN, but their influence is still felt all over the world.  They have an active ministry not only speaking, but also through correspondence.  They are in contact with the nationals around the world, helping, advising, and encouraging them.

 It was good for me to see the example of Vern.  He is legally blind, but his ministry is still far-reaching.  My eyesight is not what it used to be these days because of having Temporal (Large Cell) Arteritis, and now besides my rheumatoid arthritis, the doctor told me yesterday that I’ve developed diabetes.  However, most likely as I’m reducing the prednisone, my eyesight and diabetes will improve.  In the meantime, thanks Vern & Darlene, for your challenging example.
 

“But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
Romans 8:20-21

“Our dying bodies will be transformed into bodies that will never die,
our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:  “O death where is thy victory?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #92

04/30/06

"Listening"
 

Our daughter Joan is substitute teaching in an accelerated classroom today.  When she told me that, it brought back many fond memories of my teaching days.  I thoroughly enjoyed those years!  So I went downstairs and looked through some of the notes my former students gave me.  I’ve also saved copies of some of their work.  I suppose one of these days, I’ll have to dispose of such, but for now, it brings me pleasure to look at them and enjoy the memories.

I started thinking about how important it is to ‘listen’ in the classroom. This applies both to the students and to the teacher.  I used to tell my students to have their ‘listening ears’ open.  This would help them to better understand concepts.  Also, they would need to listen carefully in order to be able to follow verbal directions.  On the other hand, in order to be really effective, the teacher would need to ‘hear’ any underlying problem or issues the students might have.

Listening is very important all through life!  Sometimes my husband says that he told me something, but I didn’t hear it, or at least I didn’t remember it.  It might be that I wasn’t paying attention?   I realize that there are always all kinds of noises that I shut out such as appliances running or papers rattling.  I do realize that all through the day I use ‘selective hearing.’  But even though that is true, I know that I love to hear what my husband is saying and listen for his voice.

When I read my Bible, I need to have my ‘listening ears’ open.  My heart needs to be prepared, eager and ready to hear what the Lord is saying to me each time I open His Word.   While Jesus was on earth, He would use things people saw every day to give object lessons.  When they looked around the countryside, the people would see sheep with their shepherd.  I’ve heard that sheep distinguish intruders from their own shepherd.  They know their shepherd’s voice.  So He compared the people to sheep.  He said,

“My sheep listen to my voice;
 I know them, and they follow me.”
John 10:27  (NLT)

We need to have ‘ears’ disposed to hear.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit
 and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
Revelation 2:7  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #91

04/23/06

"Knowing God?"
 

My husband and I were on our way home after the GGF Pastor’s Conference, reminiscing about some of the things that happened during the last few days.  It was good to see many friends that we hadn’t seen for a long time and catch up with what had been going on in their lives.  Naturally we also discussed some of the messages.

During the conference, the pastor’s wives also met for their own sessions.  I thought how important this is because usually those from smaller churches often have a lonely road to travel.  So at these conferences, it is good for the wives to be able to meet together.  They were able to share some of their prayer requests, anxieties, and special needs with other wives who could identify with their circumstances.  Then I thought, “Hum, it isn’t just pastor’s wives that have these special challenges, there are many women who do.”

But, to get back to the meeting of the pastor’s wives, one thing caught my attention during one of the meetings.  There seemed to be an eagerness to share benefits from the recent books they had found and were reading.  They were books geared to help in their relationships with their husbands, children, and other people.  There were other books about developing the prayer life and a deeper relationship with God.  The question crossed my mind at the time, and it keeps coming back to me.  Is it possible to be reading all these books about being better wives, mothers, Christians, or children of God, and not be able to achieve it?  I wonder if it is possible to take up so much time reading about these things, that we don’t have enough time to actually develop the relationships?

I thought about the possible analogy related to witnesses at an accident scene.  There are those who actually see it happen.  They can tell the officer exactly what they saw.  But then there are others who didn’t actually see it, but talked with others who had heard about it.  They usually are ready to give their thoughts about the event.  But which is the more reliable?  I’d rather talk with the person who actually saw it.

So shouldn’t this concept follow through with spiritual things too?  Wouldn’t it be better to go right to what God said in His written Word?  Wouldn’t this be more reliable than reading what other authors say about it?  The Bible itself tells us that it is important not only to spend time in God’s Word, but also to meditate on it and to talk with Him in prayer.  Maybe if we got to know Him more directly, we wouldn’t need to spend so much time getting to know about Him.  We wouldn’t need to pursue what others think we should do.
 

“I lie awake thinking of you meditating on you through the night.
I think how much you have helped me;
 I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.
I follow close behind you;
Your strong right hand holds me securely.”
Psalm 63:6-8
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #90

04/16/06

"Wearing Masks?"
 

Recently I heard a remark that surprised me.  It was critical of someone because he ‘played the part of a Christian.’  This acquaintance said emphatically that he was a hypocrite.  She even added, “You don’t know what a hypocrite he is!” She quickly changed the subject after that obviously not wanting to say more.

But during the early hours of this morning, my mind drifted to that conversation again.  Then I began to think of the beautiful masks we saw in Venice, Italy.  There were all kinds of masks being sold by the vendors along the streets and in the shops.  The reason this was so popular was because Venice was famous for its mask festivals and for its theaters in which its actors would hold up one mask or another over the face to show the character of the particular person that was being portrayed at the moment.  So naturally tourists would want to purchase some remembrance!

Is it possible that it is as easy as holding a mask over the face for a person to project a different image?  Maybe it is easier?  Maybe we tend to fool ourselves!  I thought of the little quip Bobby Burns penned, “Oh that God would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us.”

In my Bible reading this morning, I was reading about the time when Jesus went to dinner at the home of a leader of the Pharisees.  He noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table.  He advised them to take a place at the foot of the table, then when the host sees where they are sitting, he’d ask them to move to a better place.  Otherwise, if someone that was more distinguished would come in, they would be embarrassed by having to take a place left at the foot of the table.  He ended his advice by saying, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 14:11)

The Psalmist said, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart, Cleanse me from these hidden faults.” Psalm 19:12
 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
And lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Psalm 139:23-24  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #89

04/09/06

"Priorities?"
 

They say, “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be!”  How true that seems to be.  While we were filled with blessed memories of the fellowship we enjoyed with the saints in Venice, Florida, we were feeling our age.  The days of travel back to Michigan (1200 miles) seemed long this year.  And to make matters worse, my husband wasn’t really feeling up to ‘par.’ He had been coughing on the trip back.  By the time we got home, he went to bed and got progressively worse during the night.  He told me he’d been praying, ‘Lord, just let me get home, then I don’t care what happens.’  Our wonderful doctor gave him an appointment right away in the morning.  He gave him medications, and said he had the flu.  That wasn’t surprising to us, because a lot of people had it in Florida.  We were very grateful that neither of us had it while we were there.

Thankfully the next day was our son’s day off, so he and our daughter came over in the morning and unloaded the car for me.  Gradually I’ve been getting organized and putting things back where they belong.  Usually we both are working together on this, but now it’s up to me. I’m seeing that this is a good thing.  Because in the process of doing this, I realize that I’ve been keeping clothes and other things that I really don’t need and haven’t used for quite a while.  They are just taking up space, or collecting dust.  So while my poor husband is doing a lot of sleeping and recuperating (poor guy, he’s so miserable!), I’m being ‘ruthless’ in getting rid of unnecessary things.

While I was thinking of that, my mind drifted to my life.  It seems to get cluttered with unnecessary things too.  I realize now that I’m home again, how easy it is for me to get sidetracked from what I was doing.  I end up doing about ten different things at once.  Then it just seems to take longer to get any one of them finished.  It doesn’t seem like I’ve accomplished anything, because there are still ten things I need to do, they are just partially finished.  If I’d finish one, it would be done, and I could feel some accomplishment.  Meanwhile, the house has collected so much dust over the past six months!  That seems to be last on my list of things to do.  So I’ve decided that I need to get everything put back where it all belongs, one thing at a time!  Then I need to DUST!

I used to have a little plaque that read, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  I need to keep my eyes on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is easy for me to get sidetracked in my Christian life.  But I need to keep things in perspective, keeping eternity in view.  I need to keep my priorities right, realizing what needs to come first, and then I need to put it first.  Lord, this is my prayer.
 

"Looking unto Jesus, the author & finisher of our faith"
Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #88

04/0206

"Family of God"
 

Recently we had the opportunity to have a few days with Linda, our youngest daughter.  I guess there’s something about one being the ‘baby of the family,’ because no matter how near or far she is, in my mind she is my ‘sweetie’ and very special to me.  But once again we had to say ‘goodbye’ to her for a while.

Now we are organizing and packing up our belongings in southern Florida, getting ready for our trip home to Michigan.  Sunday will be our last day with our ‘family’ at Grace Bible Fellowship.  These people have become such a part of us that it is with sadness that we think of leaving them.  During the last six months we’ve grown to love them dearly in the Lord and feel a real ‘family’ relationship here.

As I was waking this morning, these things were on my mind.  Of course my thoughts and prayers were on Linda, but I soon drifted to our ‘family’ here in GBF.  Then it struck me how many times this very unique situation has been our privilege!  We have met and grown to love so very many ‘families’ over the years.  There have been quite a few ‘Interim Pastorates,’ we have been called to fill, besides our regular pastorates.  Then there have been my ‘ladies Bible study’ groups that have become real families to me.  There are also the ‘families’ we grew to love on the mission field and in Europe, and last but not least, our own dear physical family.

We have ‘families’ all over the world!  I remember when we were on a mission to Italy, there were a group of people gathered together in Rome.  There were refugees among the group.  The person who stands out in my mind in this group was a large, black Ethiopian man.  What a dear person!  His big booming voice in earnest prayer will never leave me.  I felt a real oneness with Him that can’t be explained, except that he is another member in the ‘family of God.’

Since I’ve been here in Venice, the song that keeps coming back to me over these six months has been the popular Gaither number,

“I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.
I’ve been born in the spirit, washed in the blood,
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.”
 

The Bible likens all those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior to a family also.  I’m thinking of such references where Christians are likened to ‘sons of God,’ or ‘children of God.’  John often writes, ‘My little children.’   Paul writes,

“You are members of God’s family.”
Ephesians 2:19 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #87

03/26/06
 

"A Closer Walk"
 

It must have been twenty or thirty years since I last heard from a lady who phoned me about a month ago.  She told me that she had just been diagnosed with Temperal Arteritis, and someone told her that I had it too.  I tried to help her as much as I could on the spur of the moment.  I quickly breathed a prayer to the Lord and He brought Scriptures to mind that I quoted for her.  Before we hung up, she gave me her address.  Later that day I wrote her and enclosed a couple of my soliloquies.

Needless to say, over the past month she has been on my mind and in my prayers.  I  wanted to write her again, but I couldn’t remember where I’d put her address.  Last night she was on my mind, and I was praying for her.  The Lord seemed to assure me of His presence!  I didn’t find her address today, but she sent me a “Thinking of You” card and a letter with her return address on the envelope!  Thank you, Lord!

As I read her letter, I was amazed over the change in her during the last month or so.  When we talked on the phone, she was quite bitter, questioning, and resentful over being diagnosed with something like this.  But now, what a blessing it was to read her letter!  She wrote that our talk, my letter & soliloquies helped her. She said that this illness has brought her so much closer to her Savior, and she thanks Him for that.  So again, thank you, Lord!

Sometimes bad things happen to us or to those we love.  But when we look back at them, amazingly they turn out to be blessings in the end!  I’ve learned not to ask “why,” but instead just wait to see what the Lord will do.  It becomes another opportunity for Him to work in my life.  It is also a time of confirming my dependence on Him and drawing me closer to Him.  And I love being close to Him!
 

“Just a closer walk with Thee, grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee, let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”
Author Unknown

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
There we will receive his mercy,
And we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #86

03/19/06
 

"Anniversary"
 

As I’ve been reading through the Bible this year, my attention has been caught several times with the way the Lord God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel that they should keep reminding their children about all the things He had done for them.  It was apparently very important that they remember certain things.
 

“Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live!
And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”
Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT)

Then I was thinking about the plans to celebrate the anniversary of Grace Bible Fellowship here in Nokomis, Florida.  Isn’t it appropriate that we look also at the history?  Isn’t it right and good to remember what the Lord has done for us and through us?

When I began checking, I found that it all began with a small group of people in a Bible study led by Pastor Byron Richardson in 1972.  This group had come to appreciate the distinctive ministry of the Apostle Paul, and they wanted to share their discoveries with both the saved and the unsaved (Eph. 3:1-11).  They wanted all men to understand the “mysterious plan that God the Creator of all things had kept secret from the beginning.”

Edith & Harold Smith and Maree Fuller who are still members of the church were among those in attendance.  They met in Pastor Richardson’s home until 1973 when they moved to the South Venice Fire Department, and in 1974 they moved to the Bridge Studio on Venice Avenue.  During that time, they incorporated as the Grace Bible Fellowship (September 10, 1974).

In 1978 Lenard Anderson, a missionary of 16 years, served as their pastor until 1986, then Pearl Picket came for close to a year.  Louis Menge was next and served for two years, and Doug Hadley was called in 1989.  He served until 1997 when Elvin Myers stepped into the gap.  In October 2005, Dr. Henry Hudson came as Interim Pastor.  The Lord has led the group to a suitable building in Nokomis.  After much prayer, careful planning, and hard work, they were able to move into their facilities in December of 2005, dedicating it with much thanksgiving in February of 2006.

It is encouraging to see how the Lord continues to be faithful and bless those who love Him and seek to serve Him.  It doesn’t take the strong and mighty, He chooses to use the weak and those who depend on Him.  He is the One Who gives the victory.  He is the One Who goes ahead and leads the way.  Their story has been repeated through the years.  Each time we hear of it or see it, we give Him the praise and glory for His constant goodness, leading, and blessing.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #85

03/12/06
 

"Now’s the Time!"
 

As I was waking this morning, Willie was on my mind.  He’s an 85-year old gentleman originally from Czeckslovokia who sat next to me on Monday.  We had seen an ad in the local paper about a 4-hour day-trip on a large catamaran-type boat to Key West from Ft. Myers for only $69 round trip.  We thought this would be an inexpensive, easy way to get to see our daughter who lives down there.  So we got reservations.

Finally the day arrived.  We drove to Ft Myers and got on the boat.  We were nearly the first ones on, so we took our choice of seats and settled in for the trip.  ‘Willie’ sat one seat away from me, his younger wife next to me, another younger couple across from them.  After a while, the others decided to go up on the top deck, but Willie stayed.

I had some little ‘Bibles’ in my pocket.  These are about 1”x 1½” and have Scriptures printed inside.  I gave one to Willie.  He looked at the words, ‘Little Bible,’ and dropped it on the table in front of him, shaking his head.  He wanted nothing to do with any Bible, religion, or God!  He told me he was in a concentration camp during the war and saw all the horrors.  He saw them throw tiny 3-4 year old children into the furnace. Excitedly, he again said he wanted nothing to do with any God that would permit that!  I quickly told him, but God didn’t do it!  Evil men did it!  It didn’t take long before he said he was going to walk around.

I was amazed when he came back and sat in the same seat!  After a bit, we talked about general things, and found out that we had a lot in common.  He had had heart problems.  He also had been on large doses of prednisone for another serious disease.  Then he told me the local paper had interviewed him about a month ago and published his story on two days, a week apart.  He said he had been scheduled for the furnaces twice, but both times he was surprisingly delivered.  Once when the gas vents didn’t work, and the other time there was a trainload coming in, and they let them out and put the trainload in the furnace!  He showed me the numbers still visible on his arm.  Sadly he said, “I don’t know why that happened.  I don’t know why!”  I told him, “I do, just so you could hear about the Lord.  He loves you!”  He said everybody has their own god, Allah, Buddah, whatever.   But I told him, “There is only one true God!  You’re Jewish!  You know that!”  He suddenly decided to go see about the others again.

In Key West we spent time with our daughter, and also met dear friends of long ago.  Pastor Bill Welzien gave me several copies of a booklet he had written.  After I got back on the boat, I read it.  It clearly presented the way of salvation, starting in the Old Testament!  I immediately thought of Willie!  Soon he & his group got on board and came to where we were sitting.  He sat directly in front of me and had a big grin on his face!  We talked about our few hours on shore.  I told him about Bill’s tract that I was now reading. Conversations around me drifted from sports to world events.  I introduced Willie to bring him into the conversation.  He started telling them about his past.  He couldn’t understand any god who would allow those things to happen.  Of course, that got me going again.  I told them, “God knows what’s going on, and He doesn’t like it.  But after a while he’s going to say, ‘That’s it!  That’s enough!  No more!’  And He will come from heaven and His vengeance will fall on all that evil!  They will pay!  They are not getting away with it!”

Hours later, it was time to leave the boat.  Willie’s group left, but he lingered behind.  He didn’t want to break contact.  He asked if I would like his phone number.  He wrote it down for me.  I asked him to take Bill’s booklet from me and read it sometime.  He took it!  Thank you Lord!

“Behold, now is the accepted time;
Behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #84

03/05/06
 

"Dedication"
 

These are exciting days!

During these winter months that we have been here at Grace Bible Fellowship in southwestern Florida, we have witnessed a wonderful spirit growing among the people.  They have had some difficult days.  Many of them were perturbed over what had been happening in their fellowship.  Now things seem to be clearer.

They had continued, first faithfully meeting in a shop-front while looking for a place more suitable to worship and outreach.   We were praying earnestly for the Lord’s guidance, and He answered our prayers.  Finally, there was closure on a building.  It had been doctors’ offices, so there was ample parking.  But of course it did need modifications and alterations.  It needed a lot of work!   And work they did, right along with the workmen hired.  Fortunately, the inner walls could be removed and provide a 100 seat sanctuary in addition to still leaving rooms for Sunday School classes.

Finally the day arrived when we had the wonderful, mountaintop Sunday of Dedication with a special speaker, and lots of visitors and special guests.  Since then, we’ve been glowing in the memories and looking forward to what the Lord will continue to do.  We are praying for a Pastor/Shepherd to lead us.

As I have been contemplating all this in my mind, I’ve been wondering if the Lord might be testing us to see if we are willing to pay the price of being a witness?  Actually, He knows us better than we know ourselves.  So then, could it be possible that He would want us to have our faith strengthened, so that we will rededicate ourselves to Him and His work?  The Bible says that God wants to change the way we think.  Are we willing to let Him?
 

“I plead with you to give your bodies to God
Because of all he has done for you.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.
This is truly the way to worship him.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
But let God transform you into a new person
 by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you,
 which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:1-2(NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #83

02/26/06

"Looking Unto Jesus"
















































Yesterday we went to the Snook Haven Campgrounds along the Myakka River with our good friends the Gidneys and our daughter, Joan. At the end of the program the Banjo Band played the anthems of each branch of the Military, and then finished their program with the greatly loved song, God Bless America. All of the audience stood and sang along. It was a moving experience, one that brought tears to our eyes. The setting was peaceful, the atmosphere was pleasant, the weather was perfect with blue skies, tiny white tufts of clouds, and lots of sunshine.

We turned toward the river and decided to go on the boat ride. Captain Terry not only expertly guided the flat-bottomed boat, but also explained the history of the area and pointed out the wildlife along the way. We saw many turtles resting on logs that had fallen in the river. At one point we slowed to see what appeared to be a family of turtles, because there were a couple of larger ones with a bunch of smaller ones. We stopped to see an alligator basking in the warm sunlight. There were many birds. It was idyllic. All along the way we saw the cabbage palm trees. The interesting thing about them was that they were not all growing straight up, but some were growing at angles before they reached toward the sky again. Evidently they grow in this manner in order to reach out for the sunlight.

I thought about what a beautiful illustration that is of the Christian life. Sometimes there is so much of the world that tries to crowd into my life. I become preoccupied with all the things that are going on around me. I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily activities. At times like that, I have to slow down and possibly change direction a bit in order to get back to my "Son-shine." My whole being seems to desire to get in a position so that I can keep my eyes upon Him and feast on His lovely face. Helen H. Lemmel penned it graphically when she wrote,
 

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
"Looking unto Jesus,
the Author and Finisher of our faith."

Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #82.1

02/22/06

"Trust"















































My older sister, Julie, just called. I think she has always felt responsible for me. She is ten years older than I. When I was only nine years of age, she was the one who invited me to visit her at Moody Bible Institute for my week’s Easter Vacation. Naturally, this made a deep impression on my young life. When I was about eleven years of age, she was the one who stopped by my bed one evening while I was reading my Bible. Probably I hadn’t been practicing my marimba the way I should have been. She read the Lord’s parable about the "talents" in Matthew 25:14-29 to me. She didn’t have to say anything else because the Word did its work. I started crying uncontrollably, terribly convicted. She was the one who gave me a booklet about the "birds and the bees" when I was about thirteen years of age. When she talked with me about it later and found out that I had just skimmed it and had misunderstood, she explained more fully.

So now, in the twilight years of my life, it seems she still seems to feel the need to help me. She had just heard about my physical problems, and was concerned about me singing and playing the organ in church tomorrow. She felt the Lord had given her two verses from Psalm 33 that she wanted to share with me. She read over the phone, "Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise, for the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth." After she hung up, I wanted to check the "dynamic-equivalence" or "thought for thought" translation in the New Living Translation. In the Introduction to the Bible, this method is explained. The translators strive to "produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original-language text, both in meaning and in style." Since this translation has become a rich blessing in my life, I wanted to check it out. I was thrilled when I read,

"Sing a new song of praise to him,
play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
For the word of the Lord holds true,
And we can trust everything he does."
Psalm 33:3-4 (NLT)

Now a couple of weeks later as I was waking, I was meditating on the faithfulness of the Lord. What a wonderful peace He has given me! He said, "His grace would be sufficient for all my needs. His strength would be made perfect in my weakness." I feel blessed to be experiencing His grace and strength in such a real and even deeper way. Then I started thinking how He always was there for me. I realized how our relationship has become closer through the years. I have learned to turn to Him all through my life, beginning with things that now seem very small. But He has always been faithful. He has proven Himself to be a constant help at all times. So I thought, how appropriate these verses are right now! I can sing a new song of praise to Him! I can play skillfully (with His help) on the organ, and even sing with joy! I do know that the word of the Lord holds true! He’s proven it to me. And I trust everything he does or even allows, knowing He can turn even bad things around into something good!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #82

02/19/06

"Helping by Prayer"
 

I have realized in a sweet and special way the strength and support that many prayers have had in my life lately.  I feel as if my dear friends here at Grace Bible Fellowship have been like a safety net for me over the last five months.  I know they and others have been interceding for me before the ‘throne of Grace’ about all my various physical infirmities.  The Lord has seen fit to answer their prayers in ways that are beyond our expectations.

The rheumatologist told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if all these physical difficulties I’ve been experiencing are a result of the Temporal Arteritis.  He told me that only 1% of the population have it, so I feel that without the Lord’s help, it is unlikely that anyone would have been able to diagnose it the way he did in its early stages.

I am deeply indebted to these dear saints here in Venice who have been supporting me.  I feel a special closeness and oneness with them.  It seems as if they are a part of me.  I thought what a wonderful relationship we have when we belong to the “family of God!”  The apostle Paul exhorted us to “share each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2).  What an amazing and comforting truth this is!   So why do we often try to carry our burdens by ourselves?

The apostle James wrote, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results!” (James 5:16).  He is waiting for us to give our praise, thanksgiving, and petitions to Him.  He loves it when we acknowledge and depend on Him.  And He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever ask or think.”  (Ephesians 3:21).

The apostle Paul also wrote,

“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled,
 we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us….
For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you,,,.
We are confident that as you share in our sufferings,
You will also share in the comfort God gives us.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 6-8 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #81

02/17/06

"Coming Again!"
 

What anticipation!  It won’t be long now, and our daughter will be coming to visit us once again!  And also at the same time, many of our friends from all points, North, South, East, & West, even from over seas will also be coming!  What a grand reunion that will be!  It will be so good to see them all, but especially the anticipation of seeing my daughter causes a special warmness in my heart.

I was thinking in the early hours of this morning about this.  Why should there be that special anticipation over seeing all these people, but especially our daughter?  Perhaps it might be because there is a special bond in our relationships that draws us close.  As we were sitting in church last night, my heart seemed to overflow with love for the dear faithful saints who made the effort to be there, even though the Super Bowl Football Game was on TV!  I thought, and might have voiced it aloud before the service started, what a special bond we have together, how much each one has come to mean to us.  I think it is because of our fellowship in the Lord and in the Gospel, which promotes this special bond.  We are of one mind in seeking to please the Lord.

But with our daughter, it is a blood relationship as well as the more intimate association with her for all her life.  We have shared many joys, but also there have been heartaches.  She is our child, born into our family, so naturally the relationship with her is different and deeper than with our friends.

As I was meditating on these things, the parallels between seeing her, and then seeing our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ crossed my mind.  What a glorious day that will be!  I get a feeling of warmness and longing when I think about it.  It’s true, I have shared many things with Him.  There have been special times when I would be filled with such joy, and I seemed aware that He was rejoicing with me.  I’ve gone to Him with all kinds of hurts and heartaches.  These times always seemed to be extra blessed, because it seemed that He would hold me closer to Him, assuring me of His love.  He brought a great comfort to me and helped me in my times of need.  It’s no wonder my whole being will be drawn to Him like a magnet when He comes again!  God’s Word tells me that He
 

“… will come down from heaven with a commanding shout,
with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trumpet call of God.
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth
Will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
Then we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #80

02/12/06

"Change of Plans"
 

How quickly our plans can change!  In the New Testament, James said that we say we are going to do this or that, but our life is as a vapor.  It is here one minute and gone the next.  I was reminded of this truth this past week.

I had been seeing a rheumatologist because of severe pains that recently had intensified, and concentrated in my head.  He ordered a MRI.  I had an appointment with him on Tuesday.  He told me he suspected temporal arteritis in addition to the rheumatoid arthritis I already have.  Temporal arteritis is an inflammation of the arteries near the temples that among other things causes sudden and complete blindness.  He went over the symptoms with me and explained the seriousness of it.  He told me I needed to have an appointment with a neuro-opthamologist right away because the only way it can be confirmed is to do a biopsy of the temporal artery.  So he called one and after explaining my symptoms and his diagnosis, he graciously fit me into his busy practice.  He agreed with the diagnosis and scheduled me for a biopsy of one, possibly both temporal arteries on Friday at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  Today I received the results of the biopsy.  It came out positive.

How do I feel about all of this?  I feel a very real peace with it.  I know that the Lord “doeth all things well.”  Since I’m told temporal arteritis is quite rare, I know He has something special for me.  I know that His grace is sufficient for all my needs, and I rest in Him.  Long ago I had learned to be “content in whatsoever state” I’m in.  And so I know I can handle this because I trust Him and I know He is with me, holding me in His everlasting arms!

Wednesday, the day after the initial diagnosis, as I was waking I thought about the possibility of soon being with the Lord!  My heart began to quicken in anticipation as I thought about being in His presence and seeing Him face to face!  The experience of the twenty-four elders in the book of Revelation, chapter four, filled my mind.  They fell down and worshiped Him saying,

“You are worthy,
 O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
 and they exist because you created what you pleased.
Revelation 4:11 (NLT)

And so I spent some time basking in the reality of being in His presence and worshiping Him.  I experienced the strong realization that His hand is upon my life.  I also thanked Him for the quality of doctors in this area and for their knowledge and ability to diagnose my problems so quickly.  Then I thought, “How quickly our plans can change!

“You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while
 and then vanishes away.”
James 4:14 (NAS)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #79

02/05/06

"Eye’ Problem?"

I kept waking beginning at 3 o’clock this morning, concerned that we wouldn’t wake in time to go for my husband’s heart catherization.  I must have dozed, because when I checked my watch again, it was 4:00.  Well, after that I felt I couldn’t go back to sleep, but all of a sudden, Henry said, “What time is it?”  I was astonished to find that it was 5:10!  As a result, we had to rush to be able to leave by 5:30!

When we got to the hospital, Henry was the first to be taken in for his procedure.  I remained in the waiting room, and another lady was sitting there near me.  She had her Bible and was reading it.  That made me really eager to get home so I could read mine.  I had my Bible ready to take with me this morning, but in our rush, I forgot it.  The lady told me, “Oh, if I don’t read my Bible first thing in the morning, the day just doesn’t seem to go right!”

So when we got home again, Henry slept, and I read!  This year I’m reading several chapters from the Old Testament and one from the New each day.  Today’s reading in the New Testament was from Matthew, chapter 20.  Jesus was going to Jerusalem, but he probably wanted to prepare his twelve disciples for what was about to happen there.  So he took them aside privately and told them how he’d be betrayed, sentenced to die, mocked, flogged, & crucified.  However he assured them that he would be raised from the dead on the third day.

But what caught my eye was that in the next verse, the mother of James and John came to Jesus and asked him if one of her sons could sit on his right hand and the other on his left hand in his Kingdom.  I thought, ‘Doesn’t that sound like a mother!  She wants the best for her sons!’  Maybe the men had put their mother up to asking Jesus the question for them.  However, when the other disciples heard about their request, they were indignant!  It seems hard to believe that after Jesus’ private talk with his disciples, there could be such self-centered thinking.  Jesus told them, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (verses 26-27).

Then my mind drifted to our society today.  The Bible says, “Men will be lovers of themselves!”  Isn’t that where pride comes in?  And so much hostility comes as a result!  I’ve heard it said on a number of occasions, “He has an ‘Eye’ problem,” meaning ‘I’ problem.  It seems the common question is “What is in it for me?”  We are hearing about men looking for a pastorate, not really willing to serve the congregation, but instead wanting to be served.  Also there are people who come to church, again not to help the church, but wanting to know what the church can do for them.  There are teachers who feel they are the only authority, everyone else has to be wrong.  These people are self-centered.  They exalt themselves and run contrary to the example of Jesus.  Remember the ACRONYM,  “JOY?”  “Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last!”  This is the formula for real joy.  We need to look and follow the example of Jesus.
 

“Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others
And to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #78

01/28/06

"Knowing Jesus?"
 

A couple of weeks ago while I was reading through Matthew, chapters 8 and 9, my attention seemed to be attracted to the fact that no matter where Jesus went, large crowds gathered near him.  They wanted to listen to him and to bring those who were in need of healing to him.  He would help those who needed it, continuing to teach all the while.  Then Jesus would get in a boat and go to the other side of the lake, but a large crowd would gather around him there, and he would tend to their needs.  This seemed to go on and on so much that I marveled how always he seemed to be patient with those who needed help.  He always had time for them.  Even if he and his disciples were going somewhere, he’d have time for the needy.  He would have had to get tired, but he never turned anyone away.  I couldn’t get this out of my mind.

Then I was thinking of a while back when I was longing to get to know God more.  Who is God?  What is He like?  The Bible says, ‘No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten of the Father has revealed Him.’  So then I decided if I wanted to know God more, I had to know more about Jesus.  Since then I’ve been amazed at the attributes of God that I’ve seen through the earthly ministry of Jesus.  How loving!  How compassionate!  How patient!  How forgiving! Never turning anyone away!  I love reading through the Gospels and learning more about God through Jesus.   But it breaks my heart to hear some people talk scorningly of the earthly ministry of Jesus, sometimes even using Paul’s ministry to do so.  How can anyone think this in the face of Paul’s words concerning the ‘wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ’? Paul wrote,
 
 

“These teachings promote a godly life.
Anyone who teaches anything else is arrogant
and lacks understanding.
Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble
 over the meaning of words.
This stirs up arguments ending
 in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions.
These people always cause trouble.
Their minds are corrupt,
and they have turned their backs on the truth.”
1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NLT)
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #77

01/21/06

"Run & Not Be Weary?"
 

This morning we had to wake up at 5:30 to get to the Heart Diagnostic Center in time for the second day of my husband’s stress test.  Every time when we have to be awake early, it seems I keep waking every few hours to check the time!

At times like that I start thinking!  Since we had just been at the Cardiologist’s office, I started thinking about those who were limping or walking with a cane.  Then I thought of the recent visit to the Rheumatologist’s office where people not only were limping, but had canes and walkers.  So when I had that on my mind, I started noticing the people who were limping, or walking with a cane, even downtown or at the grocery store.  Some were even riding in the carts provided by the grocery stores.  Of course, I might mention that where we are ministering there are many retired people who live here during the winter.

My heart goes out to each of them because I know what it feels like not to be able to do as much as I once could.  For example, when we first came south, we loved to spend a half hour or an hour walking along the shore on the beach.  Those days have come to an end for the time being, but we are both planning on soon being able to build up to that once again.

Anyway, this morning while all these things were going through my mind, a wonderful Scripture verse came to me!  I thought of the majesty of the translation in the King James Version of Isaiah 40:31. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

While there is experiential application for the present, the broader context suggests that this will be fulfilled in God’s future kingdom.  What a day it will be when that will be true!  I am thinking of all those who are weary and heavy hearted or those who are physically lame and limping, I like to imagine what an experience it will be for them to be able to run once again!  When I think of all those who have to use canes and walkers, and of all those who are hurting, what will it be like for them to be able to walk!  Won’t it be wonderful for them to know that they will no longer be weary and faint, but instead find new strength to be able to walk and run!  Sometimes when I watch the ice skaters on TV, I imagine myself being able to jump and soar through the air like they do.  But one day, I will be able to feel like I am soaring high on wings as eagles!  Oh, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you Lord!
 

"But those that trust in the Lord will find new strength,
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint"
Isaiah 40:31  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #76

01/14/06

"Scared?"
 

This year in my daily reading through the Bible, I’m following the plan of reading a few chapters in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  Lately I had been reading the book of Matthew, chapters 5 to 7.  The end of chapter 7 says that “the crowds were amazed at his teaching for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.”  Chapter 8 goes on to say that large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside, and then a number of miracles are recorded.  He healed the leper, and the young servant of a Roman officer, and Peter’s mother-in-law, he even cast out demons.  Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and when a fierce storm came, He told the wind and waves to be quiet, and suddenly all was calm!  Toward the end of chapter 8, Jesus saw the two men who were possessed by demons.  They were so terribly violent that no one dared to go through the area because of them.  Well, they started screaming at Jesus!  They knew Who He was!  The demons begged Him to let them go into a herd of pigs, so He said, ‘Ok, go!’  The pigs immediately ran off a cliff into the sea and were drowned!  Then the Bible says that the herdsmen ‘fled’ into the town, telling everyone what had happened to the demon-possessed men.

As I was reading this passage, the thing that really caught my attention was what was recorded next.  The last sentence of chapter 8 states that the entire town came out to meet Jesus.  But amazingly, they begged him to go away and leave them alone!  That seems so very hard for me to believe!  Why would they beg Him to go away?  Wouldn’t they be grateful for all the wonderful things He was doing?  So I started agonizing over that fact.  Maybe they were afraid to accept Him because they might have been thinking of the possible demands He might have made on their personal lives.  They knew of His power, they knew of all the wonderful miracles He had done!  Maybe the thought of His presence and power had such an impact on their ordinary lives that they were becoming uncomfortable.  They might have been scared that He might ask them to leave all and follow Him.  Maybe they didn’t trust their lives with Him?

It is scary to realize that the Lord wants all, not just a part of my heart.  Could it be that is what keeps some people from committing their lives to Him?  It’s nice to have Him around sometimes, but it’s a scary idea to think of giving every part to Him.  However my heart can’t help but cry out with the hymn writer, Homer Grimes,
 

“What shall I give Thee Master
Thou Who didst die for me!
How can I give less than all of my best,
I must  give all to Thee.”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #75

01/08/06

"Transformation"
 

There was a notice in the paper about a “One Stroke Painting” class being offered at the local Garden Center.  That sounded quite interesting to me, so I went and really enjoyed the challenge!  We had another session today.  We painted a Christmas Tree on a glass ornament.  (Yes, it is after Christmas!  We were supposed to do it before Christmas, but had to cancel a couple of sessions.  So she said we could put the ornament away until next year.)

One Stroke Painting is an unusual concept.  A flat brush is used.  One corner of the brush is loaded with paint, and then the other corner is loaded with a different color.  After working the paint into the brush, just one stroke is needed to make something beautiful.  We used this technique to paint flowers, leaves, candles, and even a snowman!  Today the project was the painting of a Christmas tree on a glass ornament.  It totally transformed the glass!

This afternoon while I was relaxing a bit, I started thinking about that ornament.  It was plain clear glass.  But after the application of paint, it turned into a beautiful ornament, increasing its value.  I thought I’m kinda’ like that clear glass ornament, very plain, nothing special at all.  But after the Lord applies His touch to me, in the words of the popular Christian chorus, I can become “something beautiful” and useful.  An ordinary life, completely transformed!

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone, a new life has begun!”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world,
 but let God transform you into a new person
 by changing the way you think.”
Romans 12:2  (NLT)

“We are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.
 He will take our weak mortal bodies
 and change them into glorious bodies like his own,
 using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #74

01/01/06

"Pride"
 

During this past year it seems like the subject of pride has arisen so many times in my Bible readings.  Each time it does, it startles me to see how much God abhors self-centered pride.  It seems so innocent, but in God’s sight, it must be very serious.  It seems like this is one of those horizontal truths that remain the same through all the centuries to this present time.  Probably the most commonly quoted verse is “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall!” (Prov. 16:18).  Recently the subject arose again while I was reading in the Old Testament,

“I will remove all the proud and arrogant people from among you.
There will be no pride on my holy mountain.
Those who are left will be the lowly and the humble,
For it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.”
Zephaniah 3:11-12 (NLT)

“Though the Lord is great,
He cares for the humble,
But he keeps his distance from the proud.”
Psalm 138:6 (NLT)

Even the Apostle Paul, though he had so much of which he could boast, put the attention back to the Lord after he said,

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
among whom I am foremost of all….”
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
 be honor and glory forever and ever.
1 Timothy 1:15,17 (NAS)

So I started thinking.  This is the beginning of the New Year.  This seems like a caution light to me.  May I never allow self-centered pride to find a harbor in my heart.  Instead may I keep my eyes on the Lord, for then I see His greatness, and His power, and His majesty!  My sufficiency is only with Him!   He is the One I serve.  He alone is worthy!

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
 to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Revelation 5:12 (NAS)
 


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