Shirley’s Soliloquy #179
12/29/07
"Desperation,Yet Hope"
I couldn’t believe it!  I was taking a walk along the beach.  I figured I’d better get some exercise even though it was only a half an hour from sunset.

We had gone to a Christmas buffet at a local restaurant, and everything was outstandingly scrumptitious!  This was my first day off a diet I’ve put myself on for 12 days.  Now I have two days to be off the diet before I go back on again.  So I enjoyed the buffet more than usual!  This is why I decided I’d better go for a walk even though it was quite cool and late in the afternoon.

As I was walking, I looked up and saw a woman walking towards the beach.  She had long flowing hair and was wearing a swimsuit.  I thought, ‘Oh my!  She’s very brave…or something!’  But when she got to the water’s edge, she started walking into the water!  She got deeper and deeper until just her head was bobbing on top of the waves.  It looked like she was swimming!  I thought to myself, “Even if the weather were really warm and the water temperature were warmer, I wouldn’t go out that deep.  I know there are dolphins out there, and it’s been known for sharks to be in those waters.’  As I was walking, I kept watching just to make sure that she was OK.

While I was thinking about these things, it occurred to me that this time of year there are many people who have serious trouble with depression.   In fact, I believe statistics show that suicides do increase as the New Year approaches.  There must be something about the Christmas holidays or a New Year approaching that make some people feel useless and unfulfilled.

In fact, I realize that there are things that I’ve put off until later, left unaccomplished. Probably there are lots of things I could have done, or maybe done differently.  Perhaps there are people that I never even noticed who could have used an encouraging word.  How much of what I did do will count in eternity?  I have a little plaque that says,

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

I need to share the comfort of the Lord, for in Him there is always hope.  The Psalmist said,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God;
for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me, Therefore I remember you….
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
And at night his song is with me,
 a prayer to the God of my life.”
Psalm 42:5, 8

This is a good time to be more aware of people who are hurting inside.  I need to look for more opportunities to point them to the One Who is our Hope.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #178

12/22/07
"Christmas, and Beyond"

Our daughter called me bubbling over and bragging about her darling grandson (our great-grandson).  ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘that really is not unusual, because I have yet to see or hear any grandmother who doesn’t want to do the very same thing with her own grandchildren.’

However, our daughter had the opportunity to play the part of Mary with her 12 week-old grandson as baby Jesus.  Every year her church has a ‘walk-through’ of the streets in Bethlehem, complete with the noisy crowds.  They have booths set up with sellers of all kinds of items calling attention to their wares.  Then apart from the crowds there is a manger with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.  People who are walking through immediately are very quiet because of actually seeing a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.  They always seem to be filled with awe.  What a touching scene!

As I was thinking of that whole experience, I thought of what it must have meant to the people of that day when Jesus actually did come to earth as a baby.  I imagine the shepherds were complacently watching their flocks at night, when suddenly they saw the sky filled with angels, singing and giving glory to God!  How that must have startled them!  When those angels told them that their long awaited Messiah was born in Bethlehem, I can hardly begin to imagine their excitement!  No wonder they wanted to go to see Him!  Then I imagine when they did actually see Him, how their hearts must have welled with joy, but yet also they must have been filled with wonder at the thought of that tiny baby being their Messiah!

As I was thinking of all these things, my mind went on to wonder what it must have been like as Jesus was growing up.  Even though He was perfect in every way, He was mistreated and misunderstood.  But in spite of that, He always helped people!  What an example!  But then my mind went to the book of Philippians in the Bible.  It says that,

“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.

I’m so thankful the story doesn’t end there!  The Bible continues to say that,

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
And gave him the name above all other names,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT)

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”
 2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #177

12/15/07
"The Hallelujah Chorus"




We went to the Pensacola Christian College Church with some friends on Sunday. The whole morning was something I will not soon forget. The worship service was held in the Crown Auditorium. This is a fairly new addition to the campus. I was filled with wonder as we approached the building, for it truly was something spectacular to see! The whole front had glass panels that seemed to go on and on upward, like they were pointing to heaven. We stood in awe of its beauty and were moved to give praise to God.

But the thing that caused me to become almost speechless, the thing that was in my subconscious thoughts as I was waking, was what happened during the service. When we entered the building, I had noticed that there was some sheet music in every other seat. I did wonder about that. Then when we sat down and I looked at the music, I was astounded to see the full choir score of the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel! I wondered what the congregation would think about that.

But I didn’t have long to wonder, for about midway through the service, the congregation was asked to pick up the music and sing it with the choir! It was not only challenging, but absolutely amazing to be in the midst of such lifting up of hearts and voices wholeheartedly in praise and thanksgiving to God! It reverberated throughout that whole enormous structure.

However as I thought of the service and the singing, as glorious and thrilling as it was, it paled in comparison to what the Bible says will happen someday!

            “I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire.
   And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and
the number representing his name.
They were all holding harps that God had given them.
And they were singing the song of Moses,
the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
‘Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
For your righteous deeds have been revealed.’"
Revelation 15:2-4

“Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd
or the roar of mighty ocean, waves or the crash of loud thunder:
‘Praise the Lord!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.’”
                                 Revelation 19:6,7  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #176
12/08/07
"A Better Way!"
 

As I was waking this morning, my mind was trying to solve the problem I’ve had for the past several days with my email. It’s been a real learning opportunity, and in that respect I guess I am thankful for it. I’ve gone from one Sprint location to another trying to get help. It turns out that they’ve had other people from Michigan who have had difficulty with their email using their Sprint Air Connection Cards. One solution they offered was to put the card on ‘Seasonal.’ This has a charge of $5.98 to carry it until I get back to MI. Then I can reconnect again for a couple hundred dollars. But I thought to myself. ‘Why would I want to pick up again with something that is inferior! My contract will be over on June 12, so at that time I’ll drop it.’ That will only be around $35, instead of $200. It seems strange to me why this is happening now, especially since last year I didn’t have a problem at all. However, our daughter mentioned they are always upgrading and promoting new merchandise. In fact, she said that they do have a new connection gadget out, smaller and better.

So when I thought of her words, my mind abruptly switched to the passages in the Bible found in the book of Hebrews. Every time I read them, I marvel over God’s wisdom. Before Jesus arrived on earth, the Israelites needed to offer animal sacrifices for their sins because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). But the animal sacrifices were temporary, Jesus came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sins once for all.

                  “With His own blood - not the blood of bulls and calves –
                       He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time
                       and secured our redemption forever.” Hebrews 9:12

Those Old Testament sacrifices were like an object lesson for the Israelites. They needed to learn that “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sins.” But God had a better plan in mind!

                    “Yes, the old requirement for the priesthood was set aside
                                because it was weak and useless….
                           There were many priests in the old system,
                     for death prevented them from remaining in the office,
                   but because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever.
        Therefore he is able once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him
                     He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”
                                        Hebrews 7:8,23-25
 
 
 

                                         Shirley’s Soliloquy #175
                                                                                        12/01/07
                     "Thanksgiving Continues!"
I went on the beach today, and couldn’t keep myself from bubbling over with immense gratitude to God for all His wonderful care for us! I imagine I must have had a permanent smile on my face as I was spending time in prayer there.

First of all, I was filled with thanksgiving for the beauties of God’s creation. For me, there is something special about watching the waves lapping gently on the shore, the water sparkling like diamonds, and the sun shining brightly against the backdrop of a blue sky. They never cease to thrill me! The pure, clean, warm air seemed to caress my lungs, heart, and whole being. I breathed deeply to take it all in.

Next, I was filled with gratitude for the good weather and safe trip we had as we were traveling to Gulf Shores once again. The closer we got, it almost seemed like we were coming home.

Then my thoughts drifted to the very special Thanksgiving holidays we had! I thanked the Lord for our lovely granddaughter, Sarah, and their two sons (aged 1 & 4) who came for a visit! It was such fun having them. It’s been a long time since we had such young ones in the house. Naturally we thought the boys were among the best looking and the best-behaved great-grandchildren in the world! We were both impressed and thankful to see how our granddaughter was such a loving mother, yet consistent and diligent in the training of her sons.

Finally, my mind went back to the episode with our son and the pepper-grinder at a restaurant last week. The pepper-grinder had fallen off a busboy’s tray and had hit him on the back of the neck as he was bent over the table filling out a credit card slip for our dinner. We all are very grateful that he has had no permanent damage over it. He said it isn’t bothering him at all. How different that episode could have been.

Yes, every day I see the hand of the Lord in our lives in one way or another, and my heart rejoices! I am especially grateful for His written Word. It is a “lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105.

                        “Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.
                             Your faithfulness extends to every generation
                                 As enduring as the earth you created….
                                   Oh, how I love your instructions!
                                  I think about them all day long….
                                  How sweet your words taste to me,
                                      they are sweeter than honey.”
                                    Psalm 119:89, 97, 103 (NLT)
 
 
 
 
 
 

                                        Shirley’s Soliloquy #174
                                                                                     11/24/07
                      "Unexpected, yet Thankful!"
What a day we had on Sunday! We went out to eat with our whole family! This was really an enjoyable experience and something that doesn’t happen very often since our daughter Joan lives in Ohio. However, our lunch experience ended up making us all very thankful, even though some things that happened were quite unexpected! Our son, who is a good writer, recorded the experience on his computer and emailed it to me! We all had such a laugh; tears were running down our faces. However, at the time, it didn’t seem at all that funny! I knew I needed to include it in my soliloquy! He wrote,

“My family and I went to the Olive Garden for Lunch today. I arrived a few minutes late but in time to view the menu and order. My sister Joan was from out of state and it was good to see her. We sat near the kitchen, and she commented about how dangerous it appeared to be where I was sitting. Busboys and servers were busily carrying trays of glasses, plates, and sundries to and fro above their shoulders and gliding effortlessly past our table and above my head. I laughed and jokingly said, "Danger is my middle name."

The meal was very good and the service was excellent. We were blessed by having an excellent server. She even cleverly perceived my wishes to pay the bill and dodged my father’s clumsy attempt to gain access to it. As I was leaning over to write in the "tip" amount, I felt a concussive force to the back of my neck. It was such that I don’t really know anything that happened for a couple of minutes after. I was dazed and confused. As my sister Joan applied the soothing end of her ice-cold glass of water to my neck, I slowly came round. I found out that an errant pepper grinder had fallen off a bus-boys tray as he was gracefully swooping by our table. It had been held high on one hand to help him maneuver between people and tables. It fell and hit me squarely on the back of the neck. The Olive Garden’s idea of a pepper grinder felt like two small mill stones triangulating a windmill...at least that’s how it felt. Well anyway, the manager came out, I ended up with a bag of ice on my neck. A few minutes later I felt a little silly for making such a big fuss over being conked by a "pepper shaker." I assured everyone I was okay, and we got up to leave. We made it half way to the front door when my sister Joan’s sciatica nerve gave out. She started limping and then her right side went into 90 percent paralysis with my mother and me half dragging and pulling her out. I can only imagine the faces of the people in that restaurant. Flying table condiments bonk me, and then my sister gets paralysis after eating their food. To top it all off, when we finally got home, my mother, who is a saint of God, had forgotten she still had the napkin tucked in her skirt. She had ‘stolen’ their napkin as well. I wonder if that is a felony offense. I will cherish that napkin forever.”

Needless to say, the whole episode left a lasting impression on each of our minds! We all were very thankful that Bruce, himself, wasn’t left with any lasting spinal cord injury; and that there wasn’t a young child or baby where he had been sitting, who could have had permanent damage or death from the heavy pepper-grinder. I thought again of how quickly, and unexpectedly, our lives could change!

How fitting that we are at this season of the year called ‘Thanksgiving.’ As I meditated on these things, I felt so very grateful for our safety, health; and for my dear son and daughters and their families. I’m thankful for them and pray daily for each one of them. Thank you, Lord, for everything!

                          “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,
                             and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”
                                                Psalm 95:2
 

                                         Shirley’s Soliloquy #173
                                                                                      11/17/07
                          "Stages of Growth"

I can’t get those tiny Teacup Poodles out of my mind! As I was talking with our daughter this afternoon, she mentioned that she had taken them for their first visit to the Vet. He had given them all their shots and a good clean bill of health.

I thought back to the day, just about 8 weeks ago, when Ginger, the ‘mommy’ Teacup, was in labor. My husband and I had been visiting Joan. How excited and thrilled we were to be able to be there in time for their birth. It was Ginger’s first litter, so we weren’t sure what kind of a ‘mommy’ she would be. But she immediately proceeded to take good care of her puppies. She cleaned them, fed them, groomed them, and trained them. We are proud of her and them for their progress.

As I was thinking about this, my mind drifted to the Scriptures. The Bible says when a person accepts and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, that person becomes a member of God’s family! The Bible likens that to being born again (John 3). It says that there is rejoicing in heaven whenever a person becomes a Christian! I thought of all the rejoicing amongst all of us when Ginger had her puppies!

The new member of God’s family is called a “babe in Christ.” He needs to get nourishment in order to grow. The Bible says,

                          Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk
                  so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation”(1 Peter 2:2).

But we can’t stop there. We can’t be content with being a baby. We need to continue to grow. We need to desire the “meat of the Word.” (Hebrews 5:12-14). It would have been terrible if the Vet had told Joan that the puppies weren’t growing normally! How awful! Instead, he was pleased that they didn’t even seem to have problems that some Teacup Poodles are prone to have. They were in fine physical condition and very healthy!

I thought if the puppies had done nothing but just eat and sleep, they wouldn’t have been so healthy. But as they grew, they began to try to walk. Then they began to run and jump. Now our daughter says they ‘prance!’ They get their exercise. So they will soon be ready to realize their adoption into their new homes where hopefully they will receive lots of love and care.

As I thought of that day coming soon with the puppies, I thought of the time when our loved ones leave us. That is really hard to see them go. But the Bible says when we are absent from this body, we are present with the Lord, and that is far better. (Philippians 1:21). It will be good for the puppies to be fully adopted into their more permanent homes. And as all Christians will one day realize, it will be much better when we come to realize our adoption and see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face!

                  “You received God’s spirit when he adopted you as his own children.
                                    Now we call him “Abba Father.”
                    Now his spirit joins with our spirit that we are God’s children.
                             And since we are his children, we are his heirs.”
                                               Romans 8:15-17








                                      Shirley’s Soliloquy #172
                                                                                   11/10/07
                          "Our Heritage"
My sister and I went to the funeral of our 90 year old Aunt Sue yesterday. She was our Dad’s youngest sister. She was the last living member of his family. The realization hit all of our cousins that now we were the older members of the family. Consequently, some of us made a pack between ourselves that we were going to keep in touch. In fact, we have begun exchanging emails for that very reason. We are hoping to plan some special gathering for the ‘cousins’ next summer.

But then I started thinking again of Aunt Sue and the wonderful memories she left in my mind. I thought of how she always seemed to have a pleasant expression on her face. She seemed to be smiling, even if she wasn’t! It seemed to show forth an inner peace in her soul.

Then I thought of her funeral service and how her oldest son, Harley, was willing to get up and say something that he felt the Lord had laid on his heart during a few sleepless hours of the previous night. He remembered when he and his siblings were growing up. His mom would be in the kitchen and they would be in the other room watching the TV. Whenever she would hear any shooting on the TV, she had a clicker in the kitchen that would turn off the TV. That was the end of their TV! Then he realized how different our society is today. Now we have not only the TV, but also the Internet. He realizes how wonderful and good that can be, but also how harmful and bad it can be to the minds of our generation. He felt his mom would have wanted him to give a final word of caution to her children, grandchildren, her great grandchildren, and her great, great grandchildren, and also to the rest of us about these things.

After the funeral, as Harley and I were talking, we both reminisced over our families and the wonderful heritage they left us. My Dad was the oldest and there were seven children in their family. But every one of our parents and aunts and uncles left a good example for the rest of us to follow.

My mind went to the Bible, and how it has the answer and advice for every situation. I thought of a passage that I had memorized and often recited to our children as they were growing up.

                                   “Whatsoever things are true,
                                    whatsoever things are honest,
                                     whatsoever things are just,
                                     whatsoever things are pure,
                                     whatsoever things are lovely,
                                 whatsoever things are of good report;
                                       if there be any virtue,
                                    and if there be any praise,
                                       think on these things.”
                                         Philippians 4:8

If we would do as this passage instructs us to do, I’m thinking much of the time, our TV’s would also be turned off; our videos and movies would be destroyed; and our speech would be different.

Lord, help me to take Your word to my heart and diligently seek to obey it.
 
 

                                        Shirley’s Soliloquy #171
                                                                                        11/03/07
                            "Speaking Up"
This past weekend we had a delightful family stay with us: husband, wife, 13-year-old son, and 10-year-old daughter. They knew we didn’t have an extra bedroom, so they came prepared to ‘camp out’ in our family room downstairs, complete with their own sleeping bags. I guess they really wanted to be with us! We did have a nice time together and we thank God for them.

As I was reflecting on their visit, a couple things came to mind. First of all, their daughter was intrigued with my ‘baby blue harp’ (harpsicle). So I asked her if she’d like me to show her how to play just the melody of “Jesus Loves Me” on it with one hand. Her eyes lit up, and she nodded enthusiastically. Since I had heard that she had been having piano lessons and also played another orchestral instrument, I figured she had an aptitude for music and might pick it up quickly. Well, she did! And before long, we were being serenaded with “Jesus Loves Me” over and over and over again. Then a couple of days later, she wanted to learn how to play “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus.” So I showed that to her. Then we were entertained with two songs after that!

The second thing that came to my mind when reflecting on their visit was our special time around the Word of God on Sunday evening. Their daughter performed our special music, “Jesus Loves Me” on the harpsicle. We sang several of our favorite hymns while I accompanied our singing on my keyboard. My husband asked the wife to read the first section of the first chapter of the book of Philippians for our meditation. Then he proceeded to expound the passage verse by verse.

But after our meditation, the section that came to my mind and has been there since, is in verses 12-14,

                     “But I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,
                             that everything that has happened to me here
                                  has helped to spread the Good News.
                        For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,
                            Knows that I am in chains because of Christ.”

I thought of how the apostle Paul continued to tell others about the wonderful saving power available to them because of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Often it meant much persecution, even to the point of being stoned and left for dead. Yet he still had the burning desire to proclaim Christ and the power of His resurrection no matter where he was, even in prison. The passage continues,

                     “And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here
                have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”
                                           Philippians 1:12-14

What an example he was! Even in prison he spoke up boldly. And then I thought of how often I fail to say a word about my Savior. I guess often I am preoccupied with other things when I am among other people and never even think about talking about Him. So now I am praying for the Lord to help me to be aware of opportunities when I can say something about Him and be bold enough to do so.
 
 
 

                                        Shirley’s Soliloquy #170
                                                                                              10/27/07
                                "Splendor"
My husband and I were running errands as we seem to do quite often. But this morning the colors of the leaves on the trees almost took my breath away! I saw them with a new appreciation. The colors seemed to jump out at me; they were so vibrant and vivid! They covered the spectrum from bright reds and purples, oranges, yellows and greens and even to the browns. It was really spectacular!

As I thought of those amazing colors, my mind went back to my Bible reading in the book of Daniel this morning. It made my heart continue to rejoice in the greatness of our God. Most people know the story of how Daniel was put in the den of lions for his faith. The king was upset over this because he respected Daniel. But early the next morning he went to the den and called out to Daniel, asking if his God whom he served faithfully had been able to rescue him from the lions. I can imagine how he felt when he heard Daniel’s reply. Amazingly, Daniel replied that God had sent his angel to shut the lion’s mouth! So the king immediately ordered that Daniel be removed from the den of lions. Then the king triumphantly decreed that everyone throughout his kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel! He proclaimed,

                       “He is the living God, and he will endure forever.
                His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.
                            He rescues and saves his people;
           He performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth.”
                                         Daniel 6:26-27

As my Bible reading took me from Daniel to the Psalms and Proverbs before going to the New Testament, I continued to be amazed! I felt astounded! I seemed to go on basking in the greatness and splendor of God!

                        “O nations of the world, recognize the LORD;
                       recognize that the LORD is glorious and strong….
                         Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor.
                             Let all the earth tremble before him.”
                                          Psalms 96:7, 9

                      “But we know that there is only one God, the Father,
                          Who created everything, and we live for Him.
                            And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ,
                              Through whom God made everything
                            and through whom we have been given life.”
                                         1 Corinthians 8:6

I thought, ‘The Word of God and the artistic colors of His creation make me bow in humble gratitude for all His goodness to me!’ My heart exclaims, ‘What a great God and wonderful creator I have!’
 
 
 
 

                                            Shirley’s Soliloquy #169
                                                                                               10/20/07
                             "Communication"
I am sitting comfortably in my living room, knitting another snowman for my sister Elaine. She had told me that she’s been looking for ideas for table decorations for their Michigan Dinner in Florida this winter. She’d found a pattern for little snowmen wearing caps and scarves. It sounded cute, so I offered to help her knit the snowmen. She said then she would knit the hats and scarves. I’m finding that I’m enjoying knitting for a change! I haven’t knitted for a while, and I’m realizing that it gives me time to reflect and think. It’s actually relaxing!

So, as I was sitting here knitting and reflecting, my mind went over the emails I’d received and answered this morning. My cousin Julie sent me one telling of her son speaking at their church yesterday. Naturally it meant a lot to her and her husband. She said others also mentioned how his message spoke to their hearts. He was speaking on, “Our Fellowship with the Lord.” She mentioned that he talked about our communication with the Lord and asked the question, “Is it distant or is it intimate?”

That question stayed with me. As I thought about it, thoughts of my communication with my loved ones came to mind. I thought about the time when it was broken with our daughters. I remembered the pain I had felt. It was not only mental, but it even seemed to affect me physically. It was a very difficult period of time. But how wonderful it is now that our relationship has been restored. We seem to be even closer than before and it feels so good! It is such a wonderfully comfortable feeling!

Recently, we had been experiencing the same thing with a couple of our grandchildren. They are all so dear to us. When we are not ‘in touch,’ there seems to be a hole there. When that close relationship is broken, it does hurt. At these times, I know the only thing I can do is to leave them with the Lord. So every morning after I read my Bible, I pray for each of them as well as for my children. There is no better place to leave them than at the “Throne of our Gracious God!” He knows what their needs might be better than I do. I still love them, even though they don’t keep in touch. But, thankfully, as I am writing this, the lines of communication are now open again! I feel like a great burden has been lifted from my heart.

While I was knitting and meditating on these things, I thought of how the Lord is my Heavenly Father. I have a Father/daughter relationship with Him. He knows when I come into His presence in prayer hurriedly, just quickly getting my contact over. How that must hurt Him! But He also knows when I sincerely desire to seek His presence because I love Him and love to be with Him. So as I am knitting and reflecting on these things, I realize that I do want my communication with my Lord always to be “intimate, never distant.”

                           “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
                               will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
                                   This I declare about the LORD:
                               He alone is my refuge, my place of safety
                                  He is my God, and I trust Him.”
                                              Psalm 91:1-2
 

                                              Shirley’s Soliloquy #168
                                                                                                 10/13/07
                            "Life Flashing By"
Even after I went to bed last night, I kept hearing the thump, thump, thump of the highway. The white lines separating the lanes of traffic flashed on and on in my subconscious mind.

We had just returned from a wonderful 18 days in Ohio with our newly enlarged family (great grandson Jake was the latest addition). The blessed time we had with our dear friends at Calvary Chapel still bring warm and touching memories. All of those memories are tucked away in a special place in my heart.

But this time, the trip seemed to be especially draining. As I was thinking about those white lines on the road continuously flashing by, I thought how similar that is to my life. In my mind, my life is like a highway. Looking back, the speed it is passing is unbelievable!

It had a beginning. Probably the first I can remember would be back in preschool days with my ’boyfriend’ who lived across the street. He & I played together and always said we would marry each other some day. Sweet memories.

Then the school days came, and my ‘boyfriend’ quickly found other boys to occupy his time! But before I knew it, I was graduating from High School, college, and graduate school. Then I was married. We went to the mission field. Upon returning home, we served pastorates. We are now in semi-retirement days. How quickly it all seems to have gone!

Today, I find myself starting down ‘Memory Lane.’

When I was young, how I longed to be 16 when I would be able to drive! Then when I was in college and graduate school, I would look forward to my graduation when I would be able to teach.

I remember those days when I had 3 young children under the age of five. My life was very busy, and sometimes I’d feel so tired that I wished the children would be older. But then my mom would say to me, ‘Honey, enjoy these years. They are the best years of your life.’ I didn’t understand that at that time.

Each stage of my life seemed to contain times when I would be looking ahead to the next stage.

However, today as I am looking back, I see that time has gone so quickly that I am comparing it to the white lines of the highway flashing subconsciously in my mind.

I thought of James saying,

                                       “What is your life?
                       It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time,
                                      and then vanisheth away.”
                                         James 4:14b  (KJV)

                                “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.
                                Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
                                                                                                -- C.T. Studd
 
 

                                          Shirley’s Soliloquy #167
                                                                                           10/06/07
                        "My Good Shepherd"
Last night we finished our Wednesday evening Ladies Bible Studies at Calvary Chapel. I led a short series entitled, “Let’s Talk About Jesus!” And that’s exactly what we did! We focused on Him!

We read Scriptures that I’m sure many ladies remembered from their childhood. But somehow organizing our thoughts seemed to, as one lady put it, “energize me to go forward!” Once again, the Lord was with us. I felt His nearness, and for this I thank and praise Him. The more I hear about Jesus, the more I love Him.

So, it probably was understandable that before I went to sleep last night and upon waking this morning, my thoughts were again on the studies. I thought of the Apostle John who recorded many of the words of Jesus. The times He said, “I AM…,” “I AM…,” “I AM…,” are especially meaningful to me. He used everyday objects with which they were familiar, and likened them to Himself in some special way in order to reveal Himself. It was a dramatic way to show His wonderful nature and love.

How well I remember the fun my Fourth Grade classes had when I was teaching them about metaphors. They made books illustrating the graphic way it is of showing the intensity of the intent of the sentence!

The one metaphor that kept coming to my mind is the one where Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11). He said that the good shepherd opens the gate. The sheep recognize his voice and they come to him. He calls them by name and leads them out. He walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.

As we were talking about sheep being so helpless, Betty, one of the ladies, told us of her experiences with sheep. She told us that at one time in her life, she was responsible for them. She told us they would follow her because they knew her voice. If her husband would go to them, they wouldn’t follow him!

Then my mind drifted to our visit with Edna last week who told us how her husband lay helpless in his bed, not moving or responding at all. She said that suddenly, just before he died, he sat up and reached his arms up with a smile on his face. She feels he saw Jesus coming for him. I thought of the wonderful well-known Psalm of David.

                       “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….
                 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
                             I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
                                          Psalm 23:1 & 4

I thought again of the analogy of the trusting nature of the sheep with regard to their shepherd. He provides everything they need. He prepares food for them. He protects them. He leads them to a gentle stream and green pastures where they can rest in peace and feel the comfort of his nearness. He guides them in the right paths. From the beginning of their lives, through all the dangers and difficulties, their shepherd is with them, right unto the end of their lives.

When I think of all these things, my heart cries out with thankfulness and longing, ‘Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd!’ My heart overflows and sings out, “I will fear no evil, for THOU ART WITH ME!’
 
 
 

                                      Shirley’s Soliloquy #166
                                                                                      09/29/07
                          "Seasons of Life"
Sunday felt almost like a “roller-coaster ride!”

We had a wonderful morning in Sunday School and Church at Calvary Chapel and were fairly ‘glowing’ from that! When at the end of the morning worship service while we were singing the last hymn, an elder came to the front and whispered something to my husband. When he got up to pray, he told us that Edna‘s husband had just died. When they heard the news, there was a hush over the congregation. Her husband had been really ill in a nursing home; and Edna had camped out there with him, so he wouldn’t feel like he was left alone. When we went to visit her later that afternoon, she said she was really happy for him because she knew he was no longer suffering. She knew he was with the Lord! She said if anyone sees tears in her eyes, it’s not because of his death, but because she is missing him.

So after having lunch with some dear friends, we got home and our daughter told us that her son Jake had just presented her with her first grandson. Amanda (his mother) was doing really well! Evidently it was a very easy delivery. So we had wonderful cause to praise the Lord for that! We stopped and saw them and also baby Jake. We (Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Great-grandma and Great-grandpa) held hands with them, all encircling the baby; and my husband prayed for them thanking the Lord for His hand upon them and the baby during his entrance into our world.

Then, believe it or not! At the same time that Amanda was in labor, our daughter Joan’s Teacup Poodle was in labor. There were problems. She had passed little water bubbles. Joan knew that was bad news for the puppies. So she & I took her to the emergency pet clinic. They soon determined that she’d need a C-section immediately in order to save the puppies. So they did, and now we have 2 black and 1 white adorable tiny Teacup Poodle puppies! Poor Ginger (the dog) has not really recuperated yet, but she is still taking good care of her puppies.

Later our grandson who lives in the state of Washington called and told us their friends had just lost their little month old baby. All of these things happened on that same day. Last week Sunday!

It really was a day of up and down emotions!

I thought of the Scripture in Ecclesiastes that says,

                                        “For everything there is a season,
                                    a time for every activity under the heaven.
                                       A time to be born and a time to die…
                                        A time to cry and a time to laugh.
                                       A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
                                                   (Verses 1-2, 4)

Things all around me were ‘topsy-turvy,’ but there is one thing on which I could rest. That is the assurance that,

                         “Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever!”
                                                 (Hebrews 13:8)
 
 
 
 

                                         Shirley’s Soliloquy #165
                                                                                          09/22/07
                             "Breathing"
As I was waking this morning, my mind was on our trip to Grand Rapids. I had a follow-up appointment with the Pulmonary Specialist, so I was thinking about what I wanted to share with him.

Thinking about breathing reminded me of the simile that I’ve sometimes heard. “It was like breathing the Breath of Heaven!” That caused a smile to come on my face. How wonderful that would be!

Then I thought of the analogy of breathing being like ‘prayer.’ In order to live, we need to breathe. So in like manner, in order to live spiritually we need to pray. But what exactly is prayer? It seems often that it is something that is not easily understood.

Surprisingly, the Apostle Paul says that we are to “Pray without ceasing!”  But how can it be possible to pray without ceasing? Certainly my life has to go on. I can’t stop everything in order to remain on my knees. But Paul did say this, so it must be something that is worth contemplating.

I’ve come to appreciate the analogy of prayer being like breathing. We do breathe without even knowing it! So the Christian should be in a constant attitude of prayer all the time. It would be something like talking silently to myself. I do this while I’m cooking, cleaning, walking, etc. But instead of talking to myself, I talk to the Lord. This has proven to be a very real comfort and help to me.

In thinking further about this analogy, I realize there can be more to it. For example, when I go for a walk, I find myself needing to use more energy. My breathing comes harder. And so it is in the Christian life. When there is some obstacle or crisis in the way, my prayers become more intense and earnest.

For example, some of my friends are facing difficult physical problems right now, and my heart goes out to them. So I pray more earnestly for them.

At times our children or grandchildren find themselves facing some crisis in their lives. Wow, then I really pray! I expend more energy before the ‘throne of our gracious God!’

Also, there are some of our Christian brothers and sisters who are living in countries abroad. Many of these countries are not open to the Gospel. These Christians are a burden on my heart. I find myself praying much more often when I hear of the persecutions they are enduring for the cause of the Gospel.

It is a good analogy! I need to continue to,

                                         “Pray without ceasing.”
                                     1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NAS)

And in the invitation found in the letter to the Hebrews,

                        “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 #164
                                                                                            09/15/07
                       "Stone Pots and Servants?"

As I was waking this morning, my thoughts went to the outing we are anticipating with our son and daughter on Thursday. We had been seeing items in the paper about the Mackinac Bridge and thought how pleasant it would be to go up there. The leaves should be close to their colorful peak.

Thinking about our little trip together seemed to trigger my thoughts back to Sunday when we were also together. When we are with them, we like to attend their church. This past Sunday, the pastor was talking about Jesus’ miracle in Cana of Galilee. He mentioned that most of the time when we hear sermons about this miracle, the emphasis is on the changing of the water into wine. But instead, he wanted us to think about Jesus and what He was able to use. He used stone pots, and he directed servants to fill those pots with water. This really struck me in a new way. According to 2 Timothy 2:20, wealthy homes did have vessels of wood and clay, but they also had them made of gold and silver. The Bible says, “expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use.” (2 Timothy 2:20). In this story in John 2 telling about the wedding that had been going on for days already, Jesus used common every day stone pots! And He used servants!

So as I was waking, I reflected over how terribly shy I was when I was growing up. But when I gave my life to the Lord, He began to use me in spite of my shyness. When I was 9 years of age, my parents bought me a marimba. It wasn’t long before churches started asking me to provide the special music. Mom and Dad wanted me to say something first, explain the song or whatever I was led to say. So I had to swallow my fears and do as they requested. When I was 13 years of age, I had been encouraged to take a Teacher Training Class in our local church. After completing that, I was asked to teach a class of 4 year-old boys in Sunday School. So again, I had to give my fears to the Lord, and try to do my best.

When I was in High School, my teachers suggested that I take a class in Dramatics. So I did. The teacher of the class usually put me in a role completely opposite of what my character was. I was uncomfortable with this and mentioned it to her one day. She told me she did it to help me get over my fears by acting as someone else. So I did my best with the roles she gave me. However, when the script called for the character to swear, she did allow me to change the language.

It is interesting how all these experiences in life were preparing me for something ahead. From a child, I’d had the desire to seek further Bible training after High School. So when I graduated, I went across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I met the fellow I would someday marry. Then together we committed our lives to serve the Lord wherever and however He would lead us.

As I’m reflecting on these things this morning, I had to think of myself as a plain ‘stone jar.’ At one time an ordinary shy little girl, but He used me just the way I was. This taught me that I could put myself in His hands and let Him take over. He was slowly preparing me for each new step. I simply needed to be faithful with whatever He gave me to do. If  Jesus could use plain old stone jars and servants, then He can use me.

               “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use.
                                           Your life will be clean,
                    and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”
                                     (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT)
 

                                       Shirley’s Soliloquy #163

                                                                                        09/08/07
                     "Let’s Talk About Jesus!"
People talk about Jesus, but what are they saying about Him?

I’ve believed in Jesus since I was a child. I went to Sunday School and Church. In fact, about every time the church door was open, my parents took me there.

I remember those little children’s songs we learned: Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children, The B-I-B-L-E, Heavenly Sunshine, and yes, the little chorus, “Let’s Talk About Jesus.”

                          “Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He,
                             The Lord of Lords supreme through all eternity.
                        The great ‘I Am’ the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door,
                                  Let’s talk about Jesus more and more.

Also my sister & mother taught me all the Nursery Rhymes, such as: Mary Had a Little Lamb; Little Boy Blue; Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary; Little Jack Horner; Little Miss Muffet; and oh, so many more.

I remember the Fairy Tales they read to me as well, such as, The Princess and the Pea; Jack and the Beanstalk; Rumplestilskin; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Little Tom Thumb.  I had a large book full of them. And after I learned to read by myself, I loved reading them.

But were all of these stories and poems in the same category as those that I read in the Bible? Some people think so. They put them together under the heading of a ‘Folk Tale’ or ‘Myth.’

But is this right? Is the Bible and all those stories and songs I learned as a child nothing but ‘Myths’?

How can such a thought be? First of all, if I am honest in my thinking, I have to admit that Jesus was a historical Person. He did live. There is just too much evidence for anyone to deny this. However, if I do admit that He really lived, I need to decide whether I’m going to believe what He said and act on it.

I know that some people say that He was a good person who lived on earth a long time ago. Thinking logically, if He were a good person, then He would have to have been honest. He would have to have been who He claimed to be. What was His claim? It was that He was the Son of God who left heaven to come to this world to die to pay for the sins of the whole world.

However, if His words are not to be accepted, that would mean that He was either a horrible liar or quite delusional, a real ‘nutcase!’ Logically there is no room for Him to be just ‘a good man.’ So a decision needs to be made. The songwriter realized this when he wrote,

                                      “What will you do with Jesus,
                                            neutral you cannot be;
                                    Someday your heart will be asking,
                                       “What will He do with me?”
                                                                                                               --Albert Simpson
 
 
 

                                        Shirley’s Soliloquy #162

                                                                                     09/01/07
                               "Seeds"
Our good friend, Norman Gidney, was with us this past weekend. The weather was beautiful, so we went out to the back yard. As he looked at my little garden with herbs, he saw the basil that had grown to probably four feet tall. He was amazed and said he’d never seen such beautiful basil. He offered to make his ‘famous’ Pesto Genovese for us. He told us that he’d learned how to make it from an Italian woman who was a great cook. He said he enjoyed cooking, in fact, it was relaxing for him to cook. So we took him up on his offer! He suggested that he cook on Sunday when our son and daughter would also be with us for the day.

Sunday afternoon arrived, and we went out to the garden. He grabbed the top third to half of the plant and cut it off. He took the seeds off the top, and we went into the house. The memory of him in the kitchen is almost a blur because he worked so fast! Soon we were at the table eating. Wow! What a treat! We were glowing in the aftermath of such a wonderful dinner. We didn’t even desire any dessert! He is a master in the kitchen. Amazing, since he is such a successful businessman. He also excels in sports, in fact when he and my husband went to the senior citizen’s final golf outing of the season; he won the prize for having the longest drive! But best of all, he is a dedicated Christian and has a gift of helping hurting people find their way to the Lord.

Anyway, as I was pondering this wonderful pasta dish he’d made, and reminisced over going to the garden to get that basil, I thought of my other plants. They all grow from a tiny seed. How is that possible? In fact, that tiny seed has to be put in the ground, it has to be buried under the soil. Now when I stop to think of it, when something gets buried in the ground, that’s the end of it. It’s dead and gone. But not the tiny seed. Instead, when it is buried in the ground, it starts germinating and sprouting and soon becomes a plant. It can even become as huge as the large tree that I see through my window!

I find it intriguing to think that the tiny seed has to die in order to become useful. It totally loses its own identity. It is no longer a seed when it grows into the plant. But when it does mature, amazingly, it produces a multitude of seeds! It continues to reproduce and populate our world.

This would be like the person who desires to live a life pleasing to God. Our Lord said,

                                         “I tell you the truth,
            unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.
         But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
                                              John 12:24
I need to keep remembering that Christ is the One Who strengthens and guides me.

                   “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
                                            Philippians 4:13

And so I pray that whatever seed comes from me, will multiply and bear fruit.
 
 


Shirley’s Soliloquy #161

08/25/07
"The Bible"

As I was reading through one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of Isaiah, I was struck anew with the amazing beauty of its poetry and prose!

The prophet, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in language that in my opinion is unparalleled. Little wonder it is said that Shakespeare read the Tyndale Bible and used its beauty as an example when he wrote his masterpieces. Interestingly, Tyndale is known as the “Architect of the English language.” In fact, it is claimed that the translators of our own King James Version used around 80% of Tyndale’s work. And the wonderful thing is that today there are countless numbers of good translations of God’s word written in modern, everyday language that even children can understand!

So as I thought of my reading of Isaiah’s warning to the nations of the coming destruction during the day of the Lord, I marveled anew at its beauty. I was filled with awe of God’s word. Isaiah wrote,

                                              “Listen!
                           The armies of many nations roar like the roaring of the sea,
               Hear the thunder of the mighty forces as they rush forward like thundering waves.
                             But though they thunder like breakers on a beach,
                                 God will silence them, and they will run away.
                                 They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind
                                  Like the tumbleweed whirling before a storm.”
                                           Isaiah 17:12-13  (NLT)

The teacher in me really appreciates the use of such similies and contrasts. I can hear it, I can see it, and I can almost feel the prophet’s warning! ‘Yes,’ I thought, “The word of God is truly amazing!’

I remember a Bible study when I was guiding the ladies into what I hoped would be a deeper appreciation of God’s Word. We learned that the Bible is made up of 66 different books, written over a period of 1500 years! 40 different people in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek) wrote them. These people came from completely different walks of life, from uneducated farmers and fishermen to highly trained scholars. Many predictions, written hundreds of years before their fulfillment, are a proof of its divine inspiration. There is perfect harmony from the beginning to the end of the Bible. People have tried to forbid its being read, to burn it, and to destroy it. But over all these years, it is still one of the best-selling books on the market. These are amazing facts. No other book can claim such statistics. The Bible, itself, claims to be God’s written word to mankind.

                                  “All Scripture is inspired by God
                                 and is useful to teach us what is true
                            and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
                It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
                  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

  2 Timothy 3:16-17
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #160
08/18/07
"Bridges"

Crossing a bridge was never my favorite thing to do.
 

However, I do have wonderful memories of being a child growing up in Michigan. I think of my Dad who would often take my family and me for rides on a Sunday afternoon. He seemed to enjoy things that were really old and primitive. So naturally on our rides, we’d go through wooded areas with dirt roads. Inevitably there would be an old rickety bridge crossing a river or stream. He would enjoy stopping in the middle in order to savor the beauty of God’s natural creation before moving on across the bridge. But sometimes I felt I was almost holding my breath until we would be safely on the other side. I do admit that it was beautiful, and I loved going on those rides. But I always felt uncomfortable crossing the old, partly broken-down bridges. Maybe, now that I think about it, my apprehension concerning crossing bridges might go back to those experiences in my childhood.

As I was waking this morning, my thoughts went once again to those bridges. I thought, ‘Yes, there will be a final bridge that I will need to cross. In fact,’ my mind rambled, ‘every person in the human race will need to cross this bridge. There will be no detours. It is the bridge that goes across the great chasm between life and death.’

Some people will need to cross that bridge at a younger age than others do. I thought of the notices of deaths in the newspaper yesterday. It was unusual to see the wide range of ages between 19 and 97. Certainly that 19 year-old didn’t realize when he woke up in the morning that this would be the day of his final journey. So the importance of being prepared for that trip was uppermost in my mind.

I thought of the time-tested Scriptures that clearly state that there is only one way for anyone to cross the chasm in order to make it over and enjoy the blessings of heaven. That way is through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The Bible also states clearly,

            “There is one God and one mediator between God and men,
                                             the man Christ Jesus.”
                                                1 Timothy 2:5

                    “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me,
                       hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation;
                                    but is passed from death unto life.”
                                                    John 5:24

The only thing left to do in order to prepare for that final bridge is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to accept the amazing gift God offers, the gift of eternal life. And since I have done that, I don’t fear that last bridge that all must cross someday!

                            “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
        and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

    John 3:36  (KJV)
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #159
08/12/07
"Unbroken Access!"

I was awakened with pain at midnight last night. I had not taken Prilosec in the morning or evening as had been prescribed for me. So when it didn’t seem to settle at all, but only got worse, I finally decided I’d better get up and take one. Then I would sit up for an hour as the directions recommend, and read.

As I got up, fully anticipating it to be pitch black, I noticed some tiny lights on around the bedroom. My husband’s mobile phone was blinking. I’d left my computer plugged in and even though it was turned off, its light was on. The clock was illuminated, so I could see the time. I smiled. It was nice having these little markers around the room! Then I went into the hall and noticed the light from the smoke alarm showing its batteries were good. My eyes then flicked to the stereo and electrical equipment in the living room. They all had little lights glowing. The air purifier’s light was glowing, it also was connected. In the kitchen, the microwave, the clock on the stove, and other lights were glowing. How nice!

It occurred to me this morning how many little electrical ‘gizmos and gadgets’ we have around the house. No wonder the electric bill reads more than I think it should.

But it also occurred to me how very fortunate we are to be able to have access to so many ‘things’ right at our fingertips. Not only do these give us convenient access, but also night or day they are ready for our use.

It made me think of the access I have to my Heavenly Father. Access which is available to me at any time, night or day; available to me from any place inside the house or outside, near or far from home. This is such a comfort to me to know that I can come into His presence and find grace to help when I need it most. (Hebrews 4:16).

                       “The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right;
                                  His ears are open to their cries for help.”
                                                Psalm 34:15
                      “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help.
                                  He rescues them from all their troubles.”
                                            Psalm 34:17  (NLT)

However, these lines of communication can be broken. Just as in the parent/child relationship, disobedience  can break communication. If that happens, the relationship becomes strained.

                          “If I regard iniquity (come to terms with sin) in my heart,
                                          the LORD will not hear me.”
                                              Psalm 66:18  (KJV)

Just as the power to all my electrical appliances must be plugged in, my power supply must be kept plugged in. I need to continue to have unbroken communion with the LORD, and then I have tremendous power! His power! What an exhilarating thought!
 
 



Shirley’s Soliloquy #158
08/05/07
"God’s Testing?"
Recently I was reading the book of Judges in the Bible. I read about the Israelites being in great favor with everyone. Then suddenly, the narrative continued with the statement that the Lord left nations in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. That caught my attention! But then I reflected on how often the Lord went ahead of them and either fought their battles for them or told them exactly how to get the victory. I continued reading,

“He did this to teach warfare
to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle….
These people were left to test the Israelites—to see whether they would obey the commands
the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses.”
Judges 3:1-4.

This has been rumbling around in my mind ever since. I thought of other passages of Scripture where it states that God was testing His people. It occurred to me how like a father or mother this is. It sounds awful on the surface, but sometimes a parent needs to prepare the child for different experiences in life.

I was talking with my daughter Joan tonight, and she was telling me that she was babysitting her nearly one year old grandchild last night. She said Alexis went to the column of videotapes she has in the living room. Joan knew if it fell on her, it would be dangerous, so she immediately said, “NO!” Then she distracted her with something else. She said the baby was so good. She didn’t go back there again. In a sense that column of videotapes was a test for Alexis so she could learn the meaning of the word, “No.”

When I think of some of my friends who are going through periods of testing, my heart goes out to them. But then I remember how very close the Lord is to me during such times. He knows what is going on, and He is with me in a special way. Looking back, I can often see how it turned out for good.

A friend sent me the poem written by Mary Stevenson that has been a blessing to me.

Footprints in the Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
One belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest time in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Shirley’s Soliloquy #157

07/29/07
"Encourager"

It can be a blessing to be in touch with people. So as I hear from many of my friends each week, it means something extra special.

These contacts provide me the opportunity to rejoice with some. But then with others who have some major trials and decisions facing them, it can bring tears. I just heard from friends who are facing serious physical difficulties. Some are even in the hospital, one is under hospice care. Others are facing difficult decisions. They are on my prayer list as I keep them in my heart and before the “throne of grace.”

I thought, ‘How good it is to be able to share times of testing with another who is genuinely concerned.’

I remembered the verse in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that states that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  I thought I’d check it in the NLT and was quite intrigued with the truth of it! “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

In the same way, when there is someone to stand alongside and offer encouragement in difficult times, it makes the load just a little easier to bear. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, “Share each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2).  There are many passages in the Bible that make it clear that suffering and trials are a part of the human experience.

Yet, how easy it is for me to float along when there doesn’t seem to be any major problems. And I must admit that I’m very grateful for these times that seem to be peaceful and quiet in my little world. But that isn’t what life is like for very long. Sooner or later it seems like everyone has times of trial and testing.

I recall my Mom saying to me, “Honey, everything looks all rosy around us, but every family has its own little cross to bear.” It has been good for me to remember that because as I’ve gotten to know people, I’ve realized that she was quite right. Most people try to hide their troubles and trials. As the songwriter put it, they “put on a happy face.” But behind that face, they could be hurting.

I believe it is really important to be an encourager in times like this. Sometimes not even a word is needed. Other times it is appropriate. It is definitely a gift to be able to discern the difference.

These thoughts brought to mind the Bible reference where Paul wrote about suffering.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

So I know that God can use my sufferings. If I happen to meet someone going through something of the same sort of difficulty that I’ve had, it helps me to better appreciate his or her experience. Possibly I could be able to help and encourage them since it is something I’ve already gone through. And for that I am thankful and content.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #156

07/22/07
"Exercise"

My younger sister, Elaine, her two grandchildren, and my daughter & I went up north to visit our older sister, Julie, and her family.

Elaine took the back roads because evidently there was quite a bit of construction on the highway. We took full advantage of the beauties of western Michigan. We don’t always have opportunity to enjoy the foliage as much as we did since usually we take the fastest way possible to get where we are going.

It was a joyous reunion to see my sister and her family. We enjoyed zucchini bread together with a cup of coffee. Then we shared all of our activities of recent days. It is always good to interact with family members. It is a great blessing to experience family love.

Before too long, Julie’s son, Jerry, came over. After we visited a while, he asked if the girls would like to get some exercise with him on a four-mile bike ride. He promised that he would get them all an ice cream before coming back home again. My daughter, Linda, commented, “It really defeats the whole purpose of the bike ride to have ice cream!” But they all seemed to enjoy it anyway. The younger girls said their legs felt like jelly when they got back!

The moment they returned, we set out the lunch that Elaine & I had prepared. Excitedly, they told us of their experiences while on their bike ride. They had seen lots of model T Fords around town. It could be that they were on their way to Holland where there was a rally of antique cars at Windmill Island.

After we ate, Jerry and the girls went back over to their pool and spent most of the afternoon getting more exercise there! But they said it was fun and refreshing.

This morning, Linda’s legs are really bothering her. She’s nearly hobbling around here! I guess I should mention that she took her dog for a mile walk in the morning and after we got home in the evening too! They always do that, regardless of what else they do during the day. So that was no different for them. She certainly gets her exercise.

Exercise isn’t always pleasant! I try to do a few exercises in the mornings too, even though it is difficult. But I know I do feel better when I do.

“Physical training is good,
but training for godliness is much better,
promising benefits in this life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8  (NLT)

The benefits of my exercising will end some day. But the benefits of my striving towards being more Godly will never end. Dear Lord, let me always be conscious of this fact and keep my eyes not only on the here and now, but also on the there and then.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #155
07/15/07
"Terrified!"
 

I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life!

My adult daughters and I went to downtown Holland to see the ‘street performers.’  We had a delightful time.  There was a large assortment of entertainers up and down 8th Street, ranging from single people playing guitars, flutes, banjos, to small groups playing band instruments.  There were also puppeteers.  We even passed a belly dancer!

But I was thrilled to see a harpist!  There was a concrete ledge near her, so I sat there to rest and listen.  I suggested to the girls that they might like to go on ahead, and then come back for me later.  I wanted to enjoy her music and maybe learn something!  Probably a half an hour later, they returned and we resumed our walk along the streets enjoying the performers.

As we crossed one street, we noticed a couple of fellows acting like statues.  One was dressed like a steel man and the other was dressed like a demon.  The demon had a horrible mask on his face.  There was a large crowd around them.  The performers would hold an incredibly strange pose until another coin was heard tinkling in the cans.  We were intrigued how like statues they were.  Each time the coins jingled in a can, there was a lightning quick change.  So I said, “I’ll throw some coins in and see what they do.”

The demon-like one was nearest to us, so I inched forward and quickly dropped the coins.  Immediately the pose changed, and the demon-like one held out his hand quivering, suggesting I shake it.  I was backing up, but then thought, ‘That isn’t very polite.’  I thought, ‘Well, they are good performers,’ so I shook his hand.  I was startled, thinking, ‘He has a strong grip!’  But then another coin was put into the can, and suddenly keeping a grip on my hand, his other hand went up my arm and grasped near my elbow!  Then I became afraid!  I wondered how much farther he would go.  I forgot the crowds or anything around me!  My focus was totally on the demon trying to get a better grip on me!  I was pulling back as hard as I could to get away from him, but he didn’t let go.  The longer he held, the more terrified I became!  Someone must have dropped more coins, because he let go and I fell backward on the sidewalk.  People around me were concerned, they tried to help me up, but I still struggled.  I just wanted to get as far away from there as possible.  It affected me physically; I could hardly breathe and even had a tightness in my chest.  My girls quickly came to either side of me and I held on to them as they assisted me.  We moved away to some seats farther down the street.  They got me a bottle of water and I calmed down.

However, later as I was thinking about this, I thought, ‘Oh my, if that isn’t the way the devil works.  First being friendly as a handshake, but then never letting go, getting a better and stronger grip on a person!’  It was troubling, and I prayed desperately about it.  The Lord gave me His peace, which was a much better feeling.  I realized that my mistake was shaking hands with him.  I should never have touched him!

“Humble yourselves before God.
Resist the devil,
 and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #154

07/08/07

"Selfishness & Selflessness"
Those fireworks were spectacular last night!

My daughters and I went to Kollen Park to see them.  There were hundreds of people in attendance, sitting in and around the park.  We were on a hill overlooking the lake.  There was a truck parked right ahead of a fence so we put our chairs down in front of it and had a good view. We saw people sitting all the way down the bank to the water’s edge.  There wasn’t much space left where we could sit!

 We could feel the excitement of the people waiting for it to get dark enough.  Finally at 10:20 it did.  To the right of us were some little children standing with their parents.  Every time there was a display, the little boy would lift his arms high over his head and exclaim, “Wow!”  It was the cutest thing to see.  We enjoyed watching him about as much as watching the fireworks. I think soon he tired of it, or otherwise we became more involved with the fireworks ourselves!  It was a lot of fun being together!

About three quarters of the way through the fireworks, a group of people got in the truck behind us!  We were startled, but then thought it might be possible that they wanted to sit there in order to get warmer.  It was getting cool outside.  So we settled a bit, but a man turned on the headlights and started up the truck.  We jumped up and quickly moved away from it in case the driver decided to start rolling forward.  And that’s exactly what he did.  He started inching forward!

A man with a family sitting near us got up and went to the truck’s window.  He asked the driver, “What are you doing?”  When the driver answered they were leaving, the family man became excited.  He exclaimed that there were children and people sitting as far as the eye could see.  There was even a person in a wheelchair.  There was no way he was going anywhere!  Also, there were not only people, but cars parked along the entrance to the park.  Everyone else could see it would be impossible for him to move anywhere or to exit the park.

So as we were talking about it this morning, we remarked how insensitive some people can be.  They think only of themselves.    The Bible says, “Don’t be selfish….Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  (Philippians 2:1,3)

The passage then continued with the inspiring narrative of the attitude of Christ Jesus.   He was God, the God who created the heavens and the earth.  But He cared for us so much that He gave up all His privileges in Heaven in order to come to earth to suffer and die a terrible death to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone in the world. As a result, I can look forward to eternal life with Him.  That is incredible selflessness.  What a contrast in comparison with what we saw at Kollen Park!   Romans 15 has a challenge worth contemplating.

“We must not just please ourselves, we should help others to do what is right,
For even Christ didn’t live to please Himself….
May God who gives this patience and encouragement
help you live in harmony with each other.”
Romans 15:1b-3, 5

Shirley’s Soliloquy #153

07/01/07

"A Devoted Dog"

Our daughter, Linda, was visiting with her darling dog for a couple of days!  We always enjoy having them with us!  In fact, that little puppy has pretty much ‘wrapped herself around our hearts too!

I get a warm feeling watching the two of them together.  I believe the little dog lives to make her happy.

Our daughter talks about her as ‘her little girl,’ and almost treats her like a person.  She even got a couple of pretty dresses for her.  During the winter, she wore a pink suede-like coat with a sheepskin-like collar.  That was because the little dog loved playing in the snow, and that way she wouldn’t get so cold.  They would go on long walks together.

So when the spring rains came, Linda said she needed to get a raincoat for her because she didn’t like the rain.  She thought the tiny ‘Yorkie’ wouldn’t mind it so much if she didn’t get that wet.  She tried to explain to her, “It’s just like the snow, only wetter!”   But I don’t think that made much difference.  The little dog still doesn’t like the rain.

This afternoon I was watching them play together.  Linda threw the little doggie-toy across the room.  The puppy raced to get it so she could drop it near her feet or hands ready for the next throw.  Our daughter told her it wasn’t close enough.  So the little dog inched it closer and closer until she’d get a throw again.  Then she’d race after it, repeating the process!  She would always look expectantly up at her ‘mother’ ready for the next command.

Whenever our daughter felt like relaxing or resting, the little dog would sit quietly next to her.  When they needed to go somewhere, the little one would be ready and waiting.  She would be quiet while Linda combed her hair, put on a pretty bow or ribbon, and attached her leash.

Sometimes my daughter and I would go somewhere and leave her home with my husband.  Well, when we returned, it was always such a joyous occasion.  She would jump and jump until Linda caught her.  Then she would lick her face over and over!  What a welcome!  It seemed that her greatest desire was not only to be near Linda, but also to please her.  She is certainly devoted to her.

I thought this afternoon as I was watching them together and meditating on it, that it was very much what my attitude should be toward my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Questions came into my mind as I honestly searched my heart.  How often is it that my eyes are for Him only?  How often is it that I am so consciously ready to please Him?  Or, how often is it that I am awaiting His arrival with such eager anticipation?

The words of the Psalmist came to my mind.  They are now my inner song.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God.”
Psalm 42:1  (NAS)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #152

06/24/07

"Guilty Conscience"

It’s interesting how one thing can lead to another, until all the pieces seem to fall into place.

Several years ago, a friend gave me some beautiful baby yarn.  At the time I was already working on a project, so I put it downstairs with my other handwork supplies.

A few months ago when we were visiting our daughter, she mentioned that she wished she had some baby clothes for her granddaughter at her house.  For example, her son and daughter-in-law played softball, and she would have the opportunity to have her granddaughter during those times.  She often took her to the field so they could watch the game.   However, sometimes the evenings got a little cool, and she wished she had a little sweater for her.

I thought at the time, I should make her a little sweater.  But again I was working on another project, so I forgot about it.  Until…

A few weeks ago, I was downstairs looking for yarn for booties I wanted to make.  Then I came across that beautiful baby yarn and remembered my daughter had wanted a sweater for her granddaughter!  There was no doubt in my mind, that yarn would be perfect for a baby sweater, and I was the one to make it!  I found a good pattern in some books I had.  I even had the right needles.  I was ready to start.

Now I have the sweater finished and it is very pretty.  But as I buttoned it up, I saw that I had the band for the buttonholes a little too high.  There is a design across both fronts with the contrasting off-white yarn.  When I button the sweater up, the pattern doesn’t match.  My husband said, ‘Oh, no one will notice that.  It looks fine.’

But the only problem is, I know it, and it is quite obvious to me.

After he said that, I thought, ‘Well, if she’d wear it open all the time, it does look fine.  But sometime she might need to button it.’  So I did leave it, but every time I looked at it, it would prick my conscience.  I knew it wasn’t right.  I also knew it wouldn’t be right for me to give it to my daughter for that precious baby.  I felt guilty.  So while my husband was golfing with the Church league the other evening, I knew I had to start picking the stitches off and do that buttonhole band again, properly!  That wasn’t easy!   But I did it.  Now I’m ready to redo the buttonhole band so the patterns match.

As I was waking this morning, I was thinking of the tedious job I had to continue to do.  But then a Scripture verse came to me.

“It is sin to know what you ought to do
and then not do it.”
James 4:17  (NLT)

I thought how easy it is to simply ignore doing what I knew to be right.  But I also know the more often I do that, the easier it is to go the easy way again.  It is possible for “the conscience to get seared.”  In this case, I knew what I had to do, and I did it.  As a result, I knew I was doing the right thing, and I no longer have a guilty conscience.  It’s a much better feeling!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #151

06/17/07

"Try Love"

My husband and I were running errands this morning, when suddenly he said, “Try Love!”  I was absorbed in my own thoughts, but all of a sudden the statement registered!  As I considered it, I asked him about it.  I was curious why he had said that.  He told me that it was graffiti written along the concrete of an overpass that we had just gone under.   He had noticed it and read aloud, “Try Love!”

When he told me that, it immediately brought me back to my reading yesterday in the New Testament section of my Bible.  I was amazed at the number of times in the epistle of First John “love” was mentioned.  Sometimes it was contrasted it with hate.  It really struck me, and I felt I needed to write those references down so I would remember them.

Then after the graffiti episode this morning, I felt compelled to put the verses themselves on paper.

“Love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1:22
“If we love our Christian brothers and sisters,
it proves that we have passed from death to life.
But a person who has no love is still dead.
Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart.
And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” (3:14-16)
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other;
let us show the truth by our actions.” (3:18)
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.
Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love,” (4:7-8)
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (4:16)
“And He has given us this command:
Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.” (4:21)
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.
And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.
We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.” (5:1-2)

Presently, I’m about halfway through reading the novel by Randy Alcorn, Safely Home.  I am feeling the burden for those Chinese Christians.  They prayed for their persecutors, even those who tortured them.

Then I realized that even today there are Christians in some countries who have every reason for hate because of the persecution and torture they and some of their brothers and sisters in the Lord are enduring.  But they don’t.  Instead they pray for their persecutors.  They follow the example of Lord Jesus Christ Himself as He hung on the cross.  He prayed that God would forgive those responsible.  He said they didn’t know what they were doing.  Stephen also, as the crowd was throwing those stones at him, followed the example of his Lord and Savior, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #150

06/10/07

"Angry & Upset"

Recently, I heard someone say that they were really upset and angry with another person.  That is easy to understand, considering what had happened.

But it took me back years and years when I was still teaching.  I remember one day I became really upset with one of my students.  In fact, I decided to go out in the hall for a minute until I calmed myself down because I didn’t want it to show.  That anger seemed to simmer as I continued to think about it.  It made me feel tense and even seemed to affect me physically.  I didn’t like the feeling.

Then I remembered a statement I’d heard on the radio.  The speaker said something to the effect, “That person didn’t make you angry.  That was something you chose to do all by yourself.  So think about it.  Why should you choose to let someone make you feel like that and ruin your day?  It isn’t worth it.  You need to say, ‘It’s my choice.  I will not let that person ruin my day and become upset over this.’”

After that, the phrase kept going through my mind, and I realized that the choice really is mine.  It helped me feel a deep calm over any difficult situation.  I found it worked!  Shortly after that, I checked some verses in the Bible that warn about anger or the loss of self-control!  Verses 26 & 27 of Ephesians chapter four get right to the point!  It says,

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
 for anger gives a  foothold to the devil.”

The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are books of wise sayings that the wise person will consider.  For example, Proverbs 15:18 states, “A hot tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.”    Ecclesiastes 7:9 continues,  “Control your temper for anger labels you a fool.”

It is sobering to think that when Jesus was on earth, he said, “If you are even angry with someone you are subject to judgment!  If you call someone an idiot you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”  Matthew 5:22.

However in Ephesians 4:31 and Colossians 3:8, the apostle Paul urged believers to,

“Be kind to each other, tender hearted, forgiving one another,
 just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
“Now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior,
 slander, and dirty language.”

That settled it for me.  Now I try to the best of my ability to take control of my mind as the Bible instructs.  The King James Version puts it graphically in 1 Peter 1:13, it says to “Gird up the loins of your mind.”  I get a mental picture of taking a cloth and binding all those loose offending thoughts.  The New Living Translation translates this verse so there is no problem in understanding the meaning,

                                                “Think clearly and exercise self control.”
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #149

06/03/07

"The Inevitable"

I’ve been reading a book about Heaven that a friend recommended.  She was quite impressed with it.  Randy Alcorn wrote it.  It is a different approach to the subject than I’ve usually seen or heard.  As I was reading, I was excited at the prospect of Heaven becoming a reality for me!  I’m thinking, ‘It’s going to be so wonderful, I sure hope all my friends and loved ones will be there too!’

Then I started wondering if there might be some one who has never really given much thought about what will happen when death arrives.  If this is true, this is really dangerous.  I just heard from my cousin, Julie, about a man who was simply walking outside his apartment, and some roofers threw down about 30-40 pounds of shingles that hit him on the head!  Certainly he should have been killed on the spot.  Miraculously he was not.

The saying goes, “A wise man prepares for the inevitable.”  An appointment that is inevitable for everyone to keep is ‘Death.’  However, much as some people might wish, ‘Death’ is not the end.  The Bible tells us that,

“It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”

Before that inevitable appointment comes, a decision needs to be made.  It concerns heaven or hell.

I can do nothing, and remain on the broad road to Hell.  Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Romans 6:23 continues that “the wages of sin is death.”  Or I can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved (Romans 10:9).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  (John 14:6).

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 tells us that:

“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.
He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day.”

Now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:2  (KJV)

“God showed his great love for us
by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ,
He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation…
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God
Because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Romans 5:8-9,11  (NLT)

“Friends of God!”  What a wonderful, joyous, comforting relationship to have!  I get a warm feeling all over when I think of the day when there will be no more anger, jealousy, or any of those feelings that cause sadness.  There will be no more pain, suffering, or death.  Our beautiful world will no longer be in the minor key, but the joyful major key eager to praise God for His goodness!  Thank you Lord!
 
 
 
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #148

05/27/07

"How Does It Work?"
 

Last week I had trouble sending out my soliloquy.  Many people replied that they didn’t get it until Sunday.  One response said it didn’t come until Monday.  What had happened?  I don’t know!

But that set me thinking.  How on earth does this work anyway?  All I have to do is to put my connection card in my computer.  That supposedly has the capability of connecting to a satellite somewhere in the sky which beams my e-mail wherever it is supposed to go all over the world.  How can that be?  In addition to that, my daughter’s computer can even send visual pictures as well as the audio to my computer as she is typing to me!  I see her reading, typing, and hear her talking and laughing!

I think of my little mobile phone.  If I press #2 and hold it for a couple seconds, my husband will answer my call!  There are no cords, cables, or wires connected anywhere!

Somehow that sent me back to my childhood when my mom and dad bought a TV for the first time.  When we turned the television on, a large number appeared on the screen.  Radiating out from that number were lines going to the edges of the screen.  The only sound we heard was a buzzing sound.  There was no programming until the evening, but at times my younger sister and I would turn it on and simply sit and watch that screen just for the novelty of it.
.
Watching a jumbo jet climb into the sky always amazes me.  I know the principles behind all these things.  I even taught my fourth graders the basic principles.  But back in the depths of my mind, I wonder, ‘How can it really be possible?’

Or, for that matter, how does prayer work?  How is it possible for me to breathe out a prayer and think that God can hear it?  That seems quite impossible too.  However, by experience I know it is possible.  I have evidence of my prayers being answered. All those things I’ve been thinking about do work even though I don’t totally understand them. I know prayer also works because God has answered my prayers…sometimes in ways I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

So why should I believe and take advantage of all those other things I’ve mentioned, and then not believe in prayer?  Maybe it’s a matter of the will.  I need to take God at His Word.  When Hezekiah was on his deathbed, God said he had heard his prayer and seen his tears.  He was going to add 15 years to his life (2 Kings 20:5; Isa. 38:5).  In 1 Kings 9:3, the Lord told Solomon that He heard his prayer.  But he cautioned that sometimes He would stop the rain until His people would turn from their evil ways and seek Him.  Later, Elijah took God at his Word and prayed earnestly that there wouldn’t be any rain, and there wasn’t any for 3 ½ years.  Then he prayed again, and the rain came (James 5:17-18).  In Proverbs 15:29, I read that God hears the prayers of the righteous.  Also I read in the New Testament:

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power
and produces wonderful results.”  James 5:16

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
 and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”  1 Peter 3:12 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #147

05/20/07

"God’s Peace"
 

A good friend sent me an email this week and asked, Why do you think it is so difficult for Christians to hand all their challenges fully to the Lord, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)?  I thought for a while, and could only reply, “That’s a very good question.”

Since then, I’ve been mulling it over in my mind.  Interestingly, at the same time I heard from someone else who was very angry.  Instead of practicing 1 Peter 5:7, he turned to alcohol to ease his anger.  It seems to me that alcohol would only compound his problem, for afterwards he is left with guilt and probably discomfort.  It’s been proven time after time that alcohol only makes things worse.

Then my mind drifted to the gift our friend, Norman Gidney, sent to my husband.  Recently he found a military stick that drill instructors would carry under their arm.  It is from at least 60 years ago.  It could be that the Regimental Sergeant Major from their basic training days had used this very stick! So Norman sent it to Henry.  I’ve never seen my husband so pleased with a gift as that!  He took it and proudly used it to strut into his study.  A while later he came into the kitchen where I was working.  He said, “You know, that cane really helped me walk better!”  But I noticed that he wasn’t using it.  It was still in his study.  He hasn’t used it since.  I wondered, ‘If he really thinks it helps, why doesn’t he use it?’

Well, as I was pondering this in my mind, I thought of our friend who has a problem with alcohol.  I wonder if perhaps it might be a question of REALLY believing that God does care.  Maybe he thinks he doesn’t need God, he can do it on his own.  And maybe Henry thinks, ‘I don’t need the cane yet.’

I mused, it is one thing to agree that God is the God of the universe and that He created all things.  But if one honestly believes that He created everything (Colossians 1:16-17), then why would it be too difficult to believe that He cares for me?  Why can’t I practice 1 Peter 5:7 all the time?  It must be that I don’t really believe it is true.  Otherwise I could trust Him with my problems.  If it is true that He created the whole world, certainly He can give me the peace I need.  Perhaps it is all a matter of REALLY believing Him.  If I did, then I could trust Him to do as He said He would.

Philippians 4 has helped me many times.  It tells of a wonderful peace that is available to Christians.  My husband tells me that the Greek (the New Testament was originally written in Greek) has the idea that God will “build a garrison around my heart and mind.”  I like that!  It’s back to the military again.  I envision huge walls protecting the people inside!  And God’s peace will build a garrison around my heart and mind.  I am protected!  I need to REALLY TRUST Him!

Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again—rejoice!
Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.
Remember the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything;
Instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-8  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #146

05/13/07

"Royalty"
 

This has been an exciting week for me.  Not only is it Tulip Time here in Holland with the many festivities, millions of tulips lining the streets, and special displays all through the city, but also I have been able to catch glimpses from time to time of the Queen of England visiting the USA.

Whenever possible, I’ve had the TV on in the background, so if I should hear something in reference to the Queen, I can quickly go and sit for a minute to watch.  I specifically watch for her dress, coat, gloves, and her beautiful hats.  Her outfit would always be something different than what she had worn before.  I appreciate seeing the way she carries herself with such dignity and regality. I seem to be wistfully watching, almost holding my breath whenever she appears, afraid I might miss something.  I wait for every news item I can hear about her visit!

I particularly enjoyed the delightful news broadcast this morning about President Bush when he was referring to her visit in 1976 celebrating our country’s bicentennial.  He almost said 1776 instead of 1976, inferring she’d be over 200 years old! But he quickly caught himself, looked at her, and she gave him a gracious nod.  Then he said, “She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.”  That endeared both of them to me even more.

However, that immediately made me think that I am also a child of a King!  Amazing, really, but true!  I remember when I was very young of hearing the story of the princess and the pea.  And I would imagine I was a princess and tried to feel the pea under my mattress!

But the Bible actually states that I am a child of a King.  Not only just any king, but the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords (Revelation 16:19).

“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughter,
says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:18

“And because we are his children,
 God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
 prompting us to call out, Abba, Father.
 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.
 And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”  \
Galatians 4:6-7

The Apostle John wrote what he saw in the future.  Imagine what a day that will be!  He prophesied,

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet,
and there were loud voices shouting in heaven:
  “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
 And he will reign forever and ever.”  Rev. 11:15
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
 “It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God.” Rev. 12:10
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #145

05/06/07

"God’s Testing?"
 

A week or so ago, I was reading in the Bible about how the Israelites were happily occupying their land the Lord had promised them.   All of a sudden the Bible says that the Lord left other nations in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan.  It caught my attention, and I thought, ‘Oh dear, why does God have to ‘test’ us?  Sometimes these tests can be difficult!  But the Bible continued,

“He did this to teach warfare
to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle….
These people were left to test the Israelites—
to see whether they would obey the commands
the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses.”
 Judges 3:1-4.

I thought how like a good Father this is.   It sounds awful on the surface, but there is a reason.  Sometimes a parent needs to prepare the child for various difficult experiences in life.

Then just recently I heard of someone who was going through a period of difficult testing.  And I thought again, ‘Why must God test us?  It just doesn’t seem fair if I am trying to live my life the way I think God would want, why does He have to test me since everything is going good?’  But when I consider it further, I think the question should be, ‘Am I willing to stagnate in this level of my development, or do I want to grow into a better person, more able to be used?’

Then I realized that in order to develop into a more useful person, one has to take each test or problem that comes along as an opportunity to learn from it.  The Bible says, “the Lord disciplines those He loves.” (Hebrews 12:5-6).  He is interested in helping His children grow to their full potential.

Many similarities in life came to my mind.  For example, when a baby begins developing, he has to kick his arms and legs so those muscles will strengthen.  Then eventually he will be able to go to the next step in his development.  A child needs to learn to add, subtract and pass those tests before he can move to more difficult problems.

The athlete needs to exercise and train, one step at a time, in order to develop into the athlete he wishes to be.  It is never easy.  It is difficult work.  It would be easier to simply quit, but then one couldn’t fulfil his desire to win the prize.  It is impossible to run great races and win awards before one ever learns to walk.

It is sad to see a person who has great potential stagnate along the way, not willing to pay the price to reach his next goal.   And so it is also in the Christian life.  It costs to go on with the Lord.  Am I willing to pay the price, or am I content to stagnate, never growing to my full potential?

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine.
It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold
—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.
So when your faith remains strong through many trials,
It will bring you much praise and glory and honor
on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
1 Peter 1:7
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #144

04/29/07

"Flowers or Weeds?"
 

The other day we were driving along the street, when my husband said, “Look at the pretty flowers!”  I turned and looked but saw a lawn full of dandelions.  He probably saw some daffodils or tulips along the house borders, but the immense display of dandelions caught my eye.   That picture has been coming back to my mind time after time the last few days.  I marveled over the contrast of those yellow dandelions against the background of the brilliant green grass.

It took me back to my childhood when I would pick a handful of dandelions and proudly give them to my mom!  She would promptly praise and thank me.  Then she would put them in a little vase she kept for just such a purpose!  I was glad no one burst my bubble right away to tell me they were “just weeds!”

Years later, my own children did the same to me.  And I would thankfully accept their gift.

It was no different during my teaching career.  My fourth graders would inevitably come in from recess on a beautiful spring day with a “bouquet of pretty flowers!”  I would gratefully accept them and display them on my desk in a little jar.  They would be so proud of their gift to me.

I thought how special it is in spring when almost the first color to be seen is the bright yellow dandelions on the green grass.  They present such a contrast to the dingy grays of the winter!  Even still I can’t help but get excited to see all those dandelions stretching their little colorful heads proudly against the bright green background of a beautiful lawn.

Still, when I think about flowers, I would have to admit that probably my favorite one is the rose.  It is held in great esteem among all people.  Its price makes it seem almost untouchable.  I’m not sure what the reason for this is, except that it seems to be a flower that is more difficult for the average person to grow.   I suppose if the rose were as bounteous as the dandelion, it might not seem quite as special.

When I think of all the wonderful variety of flowers, all the wild flowers, and even all the different colorful “weeds” in our world, sometimes I feel almost overwhelmed!  I love the variety!

So it is in our world of people.  The Bible says that each person has his or her own gift.  And each gift is important.  Just because a person doesn’t have the ability to be a great public speaker, doesn’t mean that person isn’t necessary.  No matter what the nature of gift might be, whether great or small, a dandelion or a rose, the important thing is to ‘“use it well to serve one another.’

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts,…
There are different kinds of service,
But we serve the same Lord.
God works in different ways,
but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”
1 Corinthians 12:4- 6
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.
Use them well to serve one another.”
1 Peter 4:10  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #143

04/22/07

"Spreading That ‘Bug’"
 

Inevitably one person seems to spread the ‘flu bug’ to another, and so it goes through a family or even through an extended family.

In our case, our grandson got it first.  He works in landscaping, so I was very thankful that we had several days of snow and freezing weather.  That took the decision to work out of his hands.  He would have gone anyway, sick or not!

Then some days later, my husband picked up the ‘bug.’  Putting it mildly he was quite uncomfortable.  It was difficult for him, especially since he needed to be with people and was expected to preach.  He cancelled many appointments.

I thought I would escape ‘catching the bug,’ but no, after we got home, I got it too.  So I am suffering the consequences of it now.  Not much fun, it changes my whole lifestyle!

Naturally my mind was turning over how easy it is to ‘catch’ a particular ‘bug.’  I suppose when I am extra tired, unusually busy, and don’t get enough sleep, that’s when I seem to be more susceptible to catch something.  I need to recognize the extent of my weakness, and then slow down.  The Bible has warnings about getting tired.  It says,

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.
At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing
 if we don’t give up.”
Galatians 6:9

The Bible also tells of those who run around ‘doing this, and doing that.’   Being busy is not always productive, especially when it’s just for show.  Jesus warned,

“On judgment day many will say to me,
‘Lord! Lord!  We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name
and performed many miracles in your name.’
But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.  Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
Matthew 7:22-23

The book of Corinthians states that I need to take care of my body.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,
who lives in you and was given to you by God?
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.
So you must honor God with your body.”
I Corinthians 6:19-20

So until the time when I will exchange this corruptible body for an incorruptible one, I need to learn to take better care of it.  Then I need to go around spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, instead of those ‘bugs’ that are harmful!
 
 
 
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #143

04/15/07

"Ready for the Wedding?"
 

Our grandson’s wedding will soon be here.  These are exciting days.  I’m sure they are more so for his fiancée’ and her family, but they are for us too.  Especially since our daughter (his mom) offered to make the wedding cake!  She has already gone to Jo Ann Fabrics and bought the various sizes of pans, pedestals, and plastic forms on which the layers will rest.  The saleslady gave her lots of advice.  Another friend gave her a book of directions for making a wedding cake, complete with recipes.  Someone else offered to let her borrow her fountain!   Last night I mentioned that we need to check the recipe and multiply it however many times in order to make the amount of cakes we’ll need.  Then I can go to the store and get the ingredients.  We need to be prepared and ready for the time when she can actually start to make it!

Our other daughter will be coming, hopefully in time to help with the decorating of the cakes.  She was always very good at that!  It will definitely be interesting to see how this all turns out.  When I stop to think about it, it seems to be almost overwhelming to me.  But I need to hide my nervousness and instead try to be a support and help for her.  I do admit that I’m actually a little excited about it all and am definitely looking forward to the actual event!

Also, they have asked me to play my little baby blue harp for the prelude, and the piano for the wedding, so I have been practicing for months.  Grandpa will be officiating at the wedding in our dear Calvary Chapel, a building and a fellowship that holds so many blessed memories for us all.

Along with all of these things that were simmering in my mind for the past few days, the parable of the  wedding feast, found in Matthew 25, kept sneaking into my thoughts.  More and more it kept persisting in snagging my attention until I decided to focus on it.

The story is of ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.   Five were wise and five were foolish.  Five had prepared and had enough oil for their lamps.  So even though the bridegroom had been delayed, when he came and the marriage feast was to begin, they could go in and enjoy the festivities!  The five unprepared couldn’t, because they weren’t ready.

Then my mind jumped to the book of Revelation that describes the Lord’s future return to this earth.  Once again He is likened to a bridegroom.  It is exciting to me to read and visualize the scene:

“Praise the Lord!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself…
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
Revelation 19:7,9

I must always be prepared for His return.  May He find me watching and waiting.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #141

04/08/07

"Easter Hats, Bunnies, and…"
 

As I was on my way to the Church to practice the piano, I noticed a sign outside a nearby church that said, “Easter Egg Hunt!”   During the night, the sign came to my mind.  As I was thinking about it, it brought a chain reaction about all the things that I’ve seen displayed in many stores pertaining to Easter.  There were beautiful lilies, tulips, and other spring flowers.  One discount store had Easter Bunnies, straw for Easter baskets, little Easter eggs, and all kinds of tiny objects!  They even had little baskets for 79 cents!  So great-grandma had to buy two of them for her two great-granddaughters that are here in the Massillon, Ohio area!  I like to do little things for them since we don’t see them very often!  It is fun to do things like this!

Then I started thinking about the many people who attend church only on Easter and Christmas.  It is a shame, but I’m glad that they attend these special days.  It is always good to see them!  For some, Easter is mainly a time for displaying new Easter dresses and hats.   This reminded me of the words of Jesus.  He was concerned about the outward show of people, who were simply “talking the talk, but not walking the walk!”  He said to the religious leaders around him,

“You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish,
but inside you are filthy—
full of greed and wickedness!”
Luke 11:39

In some ways, the world today is not much different.  In this regard, the apostle Paul didn’t mince words when he gave counsel to Timothy, his son in the faith.  He said:

“In the last days there will be very difficult times….
They (people) will act religious,
but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”
2 Timothy 3:1,5

All the Easter baskets, eggs, and hats soon left my mind as I began to think about this Sunday.  It’ll be Easter Sunday.  It seems like a new beginning, the beginning of spring.  For me, it is also a time of reflection and rejoicing.  HE IS RISEN!  JESUS IS ALIVE!  Such reflections make me want to renew my commitment to the Lord and to His service.  The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:19,

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness
of God’s power for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead
and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

Incredible!  Who would want to “reject the power (that resurrection power) that could make godly.”     But how often do I use this power?  Lord, help me to avail myself of it!
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #140

04/01/07

"The Story of Jesus"
 

Recently I finished reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  It seems that every year when I do; I end up with mixed emotions, sometimes even sadness.  It is good to read about Jesus’ earthly life.  It gives me a warm, wonderful, and appreciative feeling to think of all He did.  It seems to bring me close to Him.

Since I’ve finished reading the Gospels, the song, “Tell me the Story of Jesus,” keeps running through my mind.  Fanny Crosby wrote the words.  She knew what it was to overcome obstacles because she was not only blind, but also deaf.  Her poems have been put to music and have penetratingly touched the hearts of many people through the years.

“Tell me the story of Jesus.  Write on my heart every word,
Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth.
“Glory to God in the highest!  Peace & good tidings to earth.”

Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past.
How for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of his labor, tell of the sorrrow He bore.
He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell me the story of Jesus
Write on my heart every word,
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.”

Then I thought, ‘How appropriate it is to finish the gospels at this time of year.’  This coming Sunday many Christian churches will be celebrating what is known as the triumphal entry of Jesus. The Bible records that the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem ‘swept the city!’  He was known because of all the wonderful deeds He had been doing.  In fact, people had been going out of their way to see Him, to see the miracles He was performing and to hear more of his teachings.  The Bible tells me that,

“A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches
And went down the road to meet him.  They shouted, “Praise God!
  Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
John 12:12-13

Someday, maybe soon, He will be coming back to earth.  He won’t be riding a donkey, but will be riding a white horse.  He won’t be coming humbly, soon to be crucified, but will be coming as a victorious conqueror!  Revelation 19:11-16 graphically describes the future scene.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #139

03/25/07

"Horses"
 

We were on our way to Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday to visit my rheumatologist when we heard a message from Pat Robertson.  He was talking about how much he admired horses and started telling some of his experiences with them.  That caught my attention!  At one point he told about horse shows where the horse and rider performed as if they were one.  He added that it was impossible to see the subtle commands the rider gives the horse.

His references reminded me of the Lipizzaner Stallions that my daughter and I visited in Bradenton, Florida last winter.  This was at their winter home and training grounds.  During the performance, the owners and trainers showed us all the interesting and breathtaking feats these unique horses do.  They explained the steps involved in training them.  It was a beautiful show, quite unbelievable.  It was as though the rider’s thoughts became the horse’s thoughts.

However, as I was falling asleep last night, my mind picked up on the horses again.  But then I thought of my experiences with horses.  When I was a teenager, I used to go horseback riding on trails north of town nearly every weekend.  I loved horses.  I felt they were magnificent animals, so powerful, yet so graceful in the way they moved.  Every time I went riding, it was a thrill for me!

Some time later, my cousin got a beautiful, frisky horse.  It was a powerful animal, full of life!  My cousin wasn’t sure about letting me ride him, but one Saturday he consented.  It was a wonderful experience for me until we turned around to go back home to the barn.  Then there was no controlling him!  He took off through the woods like a flash.  I tried with all my might to control him, but I couldn’t.  So finally I just tried to duck the tree-branches and held on for dear life!  When he got to the barn, he stopped ‘on a dime.’  I nearly went headfirst into the barn, but gratefully, somehow I managed to hold on enough to stay on his back.  Needless to say I never rode that horse again!

Then in recent years, I was riding with my daughter, grandsons, and granddaughter, when a bee or something must have gotten under the saddle of the horse, because he threw me, and I fractured my back!

These experiences flitted through my mind as I wondered about how trained horses could become as if they were one with their riders.  I wondered about my relationship with the Lord.  Do I have one where I fight for my own way, or do I say humbly, ‘Not my will, but Thine be done, O Lord.’  I do want to be one with Him; I want my will to be His.  But how?

“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 12:2  (NLT)

My old self has been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God,
Who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #138

03/18/07

"Snow"
 

It was amazing for us to come home after four months of living in sunny Gulf Shores, Alabama to see all the huge snow banks here in Michigan!  The piles were enormous, almost like small mountains especially along the streets and in parking lots.

That brought back many memories.  When I was young, I would much rather climb those enormous banks of snow and walk to school on the tops of them.  Of course it would mean climbing down again at each corner, but that didn’t matter.  It was invigorating!

In those days, we wore ‘snowsuits’ as well as good sturdy boots made of rubber. The ‘snowsuits’ were heavy, probably made of wool and kept us plenty warm.  As I am thinking back now, I marvel over how much of the school day must have been spent taking off all the snow gear, and then putting it back on again.  We would go out for recess, home again for lunch, back to school for the afternoon, out for recess, and finally home for the day.  Each time the whole process of putting on the snowsuits and boots and then taking them off would have to be repeated!

I remember after school and on Saturdays, we would put on our ice skates and skate on the road in front of our house.  It got packed down hard with the cars that went by, making it possible for us to skate on it.  Every day had a fresh dusting of the pure, clean snow to keep it looking white!

Today it is not so white!  It is melting.  It is even looking dirty, because the mud and residue of the salt or sand is mixed in with it.  However, there are places on the level ground where the grass is showing through the snow.  I notice as I’m looking out my window that there are even sprouts of flower bulbs I had planted last year coming up once again!  What a pleasant and welcome sight!  This whole process is amazing!

Many Scriptures came to mind through these past couple of days.  Probably the first ones that bombarded me when we first arrived home and saw all that snow was,

“ Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Isaiah 1:18  (KJV)

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:7   (KJV)

Reading the book of Job, I was thrilled again at God’s great power and majesty!

God’s voice is glorious in the thunder.  We can’t even imagine the greatness of His power.
He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.
Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.”
Job 37:5-6   (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #137

03/11/07

"He Knows the Heart"
 

My husband invited a pastor friend to join him and his golf buddy in Fairhope for a last game of golf before we head north.  So I thought, ‘Oh good, then I’ll ride along and be able to visit that fair city again.  I enjoy looking in their second hand shops.  In fact, since Mardi Gras hasn’t been long past, I might happen to find a pretty dress to wear for my grandson’s wedding.

Well, I got to several shops, but found that most of the dresses had bright sequins on them and were not appropriate.  But then at the last shop that I knew about, I spotted a simple floor-length black dress with what we used to call accordion pleats on the skirt.  It had lace on the top was quite nice looking.  I’ve heard that black is fine for weddings these days, especially since I am older and still have the extra weight from the large dosage of prednisone I’ve been on for over a year.  I thought that perhaps if I had it altered to a tea length, it might be nice.  So I bought it.  When I stopped to think about it, I was really pleased because I’d spent not even two dollars on it!  Then I looked for a coffee shop to get my cappuccino and relax for a while!

Later that day, I took a break from our packing and went downstairs to enjoy the sun and beach.  I enjoy listening to the waves gently splashing on the shore.  I began to think to myself, ‘Hum, I am so intent on having just the right thing to wear for this special occasion, and I suppose I should be.  But how often do I take stock on what’s on the inside, the real me?  Not terribly often,’ I admitted.  So I began thinking about the Lord.  I always enjoy thinking of all His wonderful names!  I feel amazed at the thought of His great love, and that He is concerned about every one of His own.  Then after I meditated on these thoughts for awhile, I started feeling unworthy in myself.  I began asking the Lord to show me if there was any bitterness or anything He would want me to change.  It truly was a blessed time of communion with Him.

Anyway, this morning as I was thinking about these things, the reality hit me that I am so often wrapped up in what is going on here around me.  I am concerned about the outward appearance.  But my concern should instead be that the Lord knows the thoughts and even the intents of my heart.  I need to be consciously aware of His presence at all times, and pray with the song writer,
 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me,
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.”

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.
People judge by outward appearance,
But the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #136

03/04/07

"The Bones of Jesus?"
 

What a wonderful day I’ve had!

I get agitated when I hear news such as came across the TV and newspapers this week about the bones of Jesus having been found.  This would imply that Jesus had never been resurrected from the dead!  This brings to my mind the Apostle Paul’s exclamation in 1 Corinthians 15:19-20,

“And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.
He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”  (NLT)

This week’s headlines seem to have given me an extra jolt because we received word that our dear friend Paul Steiner died.  I feel an extra closeness to him, for one reason because he became the Superintendent of the Perry Local School District where I had been teaching until I retired.  In addition to that connection, he and his wife, Marge, and their three talented children were members of Calvary Chapel.  This was where my husband was the founding pastor and where we served for many years.  Paul was a man highly respected in our community.  When I heard of his death, my mind went immediately to the comforting words in 2 Corinthians 5:8,

“For to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.”  (KJV)

The Scripture gave me comfort.  But then I saw the news headline this week, and I thought, ‘Well, they are at it again.  They are reporting this as if it were something new, but in reality, it started almost 2000 years ago!  The authorities in Jesus’ day had tried for so long to get rid of him.  When they finally did put him to death, they thought they had succeeded.  But they were foiled again, because He rose from the dead!  Amazingly, that didn’t stop those authorities.  Try as much as they did to stop the Good News from spreading, they couldn’t!  For one reason, after his death, Jesus was seen publicly both by individuals and also by crowds.  He talked with them.  He let them touch Him.  He even ate with them, proving He wasn’t a ghost.  Then finally, a whole host of people saw Him ascend into heaven.

But apart from all of these things, probably the greatest proof that the biblical account is true is the way the lives of the disciples changed.  Before His death, they denied Him.  Some even ran away.  They were timid and fearful, having no assurance.  After his resurrection, the change was dramatic!  They were bold in proclaiming Him.  They testified about Him at home.  They traveled far distances in order to spread the word that He had risen.  The ultimate proof was that they counted it a privilege to suffer persecution and even death for His sake.  They went on repeatedly, telling believers,

“We tell you this directly from the Lord:
We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout,
With the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.
First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.  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.
So encourage each other with these words.”  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #135

02/25/07

"Contrasts"
 

What a wonderful day I’ve had!

My morning started early when my husband asked me if I felt like going out for Dizzy Bean’s wonderful waffles and my favorite cappuccino.  Well, that was a ‘no brainer’ as the expression goes!  So we got ready and enjoyed our time together.   The teen-aged young lady who was working makes my cappuccino just the way I like it!  I always enjoy seeing her and her friends, as well as Eric, the owner.

Anyway, after we were home, I realized that I had time to check out the Mardi Gras Parade that would soon be passing our condo.  So I went downstairs with my camera and enjoyed taking pictures, catching beads, artificial flowers, and candy!  It was quite a festive atmosphere, and the people were really nice, both on the floats, and also on the sidelines!  Thankfully, here in our area, it is a family-friendly parade.  There isn’t the carousing that is seen in nearby larger cities.

The young lady who had made my cappuccino this morning had told me that she’d heard on the news that in a nearby large city, there were people who had been drinking all night.  Even though they were almost passed out, they were still drinking as they waited for the parades to start.  For many people it is a time of revelry and abandonment.  They wear masks to keep themselves anonymous.  According to some religious calendars, this is the last day before Lent when people are supposed to give up these kinds of excesses, so they party as if there were no tomorrow.

I thought of the story that the Lord Jesus told when He was on earth of people who were eating, drinking, and making merry, but the next day their lives would end.  He also told of the days of Lot when people were doing the same thing, thinking “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”   He said that it would be like that in the last days before His return to earth once again.  That made me pause to think about this Mardi Gras revelry.  Blotting the difficulties of life out with alcohol will not make it better.  It will not stop reality from happening.  When soberness returns, they will feel worse, not only physically but also mentally, socially, and spiritually.  The alcohol doesn’t take away the pain and torment, it only masks it for a while.  The Bible has much to say about this.

Later in the day, I went to lunch with Brenda, the consulting coordinator for Stonecroft’s Bible studies on the Gulf Coast.  It was so refreshing!  Our hearts are united in concern for the condition of the world and the need for people to have a deepening personal relationship with the Lord.  This is why we feel a burden because it seems that an interest in God and His Word appears to be decreasing.  How can Christians grow spiritually without knowing more about God and His Word and communing with Him in prayer?  How wonderful it is to have that deep peace that comes from being in communion with the Lord through prayer and His Word!
 
 

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18 (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #134

02/18/07

"Citizenship"
 

This morning as I was waking, I was mulling over the short visit of our good friends from England and Ohio.  My husband had arranged for his life-long friend, Norman Gidney CBE, to have several speaking engagements.  Sunday he actually spoke three times to three different groups!

Of course the men also made time to play golf, so the ladies had time to themselves.  We went to a lovely Tea Room for lunch one day, and we also enjoyed our time of shopping.  But most definitely we went out for our cappuccino!  It was a busy time, but a wonderful one with many lasting memories!

So this morning as I was thinking of our activities, my mind mulled over the fact that we were all from different locations, not only in this country but in the world.  My mental ears starting catching our different accents and inflections!

Then I started thinking of all the other ‘snowbirds’ here in southern Alabama who are from different parts of the USA, -- yes, there are some from abroad too.  Their accents often give away their home location.  It opens the opportunity for conversations.  My husband seems to enjoy verbally trying to locate exactly where anyone comes from, -- and most often he is right!

As all of these things were running through my mind, a little song came back to me that I hadn’t heard in years!  We used to sing it at Bible College.  During those days we had guitars and we’d sit on the dorm steps and strum along as we sang,
 

“My home’s in heaven, just awaitin ’for me,
And when I get there, how glad I’ll be.
My home’s in heaven, and the rent is all free!
For Jesus paid it on Calvary!”

Then I thought of the verse in the Bible that states just that very thing!

“But we are citizens of heaven,
where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.
And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.”
Philippians 3:20  (NLT)

But sometimes, I wonder what kind of a citizen of heaven I am while living here on this earth.  Is my ‘accent’ or ‘speech’ giving me away?  I must always remember that first of all, I am an ambassador of my heavenly homeland.
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #133

02/11/07

"Names"
 

Usually when I go to bed, I have no difficulty going to sleep, but the other night my mind was too busy on other things.  So I thought to myself, some people say they count sheep when they can’t go to sleep.  Well, as I imagined sheep going over a fence and me counting them, I don’t think I even got to two!  That simply didn’t seem like very much fun or very interesting.  In fact, it was quite boring!

My mind then went to the Lord.  I love to think about Him!  So I started thinking of all of His names and the names others have given to Him.  That kept me busy for a long time!  I was amazed over how many names I could remember.  How often He revealed Himself through His name!

First of all, I was thinking of when Jesus was on earth, he told his followers that
He was the door
where anyone could enter and be saved.
He was the bread of life.
Anyone who ate that bread would never hunger.
He was the living water,
those who drank of Him would never thirst.
He was the good shepherd
who gave His life for His sheep.
He was the long promised Messiah.

Then I thought of the wonderful words in Handel’s Messiah taken from the book of Isaiah,

Wonderful,
Counselor,
the Almighty God,
the Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace.

He is the Creator!

It is a staggering thought to me to think that He, who created all things came into the world, and was rejected!  And not only rejected, but put to death, the death of a common criminal.

But best of all He is my Savior and Friend.

What a comforting thought.  Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I felt such peace, comfort, and assurance, that I fell gently into the land of slumber.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on Thee,
because he trusteth in Thee.
Isaiah 26:3
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #132

02/04/07

"Seems Right?"
 

There were a few of us discussing the biblical book of Daniel recently when our conversation abruptly drifted off the subject.  One lady interjected that lately she had been studying another religion.  She admitted that quite honestly she was wondering if they didn’t have it right about some of the things they believed, and we had it wrong.  For example, she mentioned how the women wear veils over their faces.  She thought that was a good idea.  She felt we might not be having so many sex crimes if the women dressed like that.  She continued telling some other things she felt might be good.  I wondered if she had any idea of what the social standing of women was in that society that she was praising.  Not only did they have to wear veils, but they also had to share their husband with as many as three other wives.  Also, the woman had little or no freedom.

As she was talking, my heart raced, I knew I had to say something.  I thought of some of our military men who came home after Desert Storm telling us how they had witnessed public square disciplinary actions.  If a person were caught stealing, his hand would be cut off.  There were beheadings for all to see.  I realized that some people might be taken in by the ‘good’ of it, thinking, ‘Well, we wouldn’t have as much stealing or killing, if we’d do as they do.’

So I gave in to my prompting and agreed with her that other religions might have things that seem good in some people’s eyes.  But that is exactly how people are led astray.   Just as the counterfeit dollar must be a good likeness of a real dollar, so it is with other religions.  Whatever falsehood is being perpetrated, it has to take on the appearance of the real thing.  If it were completely different, people would stay away from it.  I thought of Proverbs 14:12:
 

There is a way which seems right to a man,
But the end is the way of death.” (NAS)

I also thought of what that particular religion thinks about Jesus Christ.  It recognizes him as a prophet, but not as the Son of God, and not born of the Virgin Mary.  Also, it does not believe in his resurrection.  Then I thought of the following Scriptures.

“There is salvation in no one else!
God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—
the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5  (NLT)

Counterfeit religions do not accept these New Testament teachings about Jesus Christ.  They don’t believe that He came to our earth for the express purpose of being our Savior.

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.
He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
But to all who believed him and accepted him,
he gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:10-12  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #131

01/28/07

"Thinking of Donna"
 

My friend, Donna Bol, left our earth to go to her eternal home with our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We will miss her.

I have many memories of her during my ‘growing up’ years.  Because she and her parents belonged to the same church that we did, we saw each other in activities and services of the church regularly.  Probably because she was a year or two older than I was, I looked up to her and admired her.  I always thought she had perfect poise.  She sat and stood up straight and tall, and best of all, the Lord had blessed her with a talented voice which she used singing for Him.  We were often favored with her singing solos in church.

Then I went away to Bible College, and there met the fellow who would be my husband.  We were called into the Lord’s service.  We served on the mission field in Europe, and in various pastorates over the United States.  When we ‘retired,’ we moved back to Holland, Michigan, where once again I saw that Donna was still singing in the choir, singing duets, and yes, even still singing solos.  I saw that she still held herself with such poise, still had a smile for everyone, and still had a good Christian testimony!  How wonderful to be able to see lives like hers!  I praise the Lord for her testimony.

Yes, we will miss her, but when I stop to think that she is right now with Jesus, my heart sings!  I am very happy for her!  I had a foretaste of this myself several years ago when experiencing several cardiac arrests, and realized that I was floating upward.  Before I knew it, I saw Jesus!  Words cannot begin to express the pure joy I felt, and the comfort and renewed strength that came to me as I collapsed at His feet!  How long I was there enjoying His presence, I don’t know.  But I know it was wonderful!

So when I think of my friend Donna, I am so happy for her!  Nothing can compare to the happiness and contentment she is feeling right now!

I know we all will miss her among us here on earth, especially her dear husband, Pete.  My heart goes out to him.  But loving Donna as he did, I know he is happy for her too.  The Psalmist wrote,

“Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Psalm 16:11
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #130

01/21/07

"Maintenance"
 

I realized as I was driving home from running some errands this afternoon that the car is making more noise than ever before.  I have the radio on to try to cover up the noise.  Naturally it makes me nervous.  But now it seems to be louder than the radio.  There is really no ignoring the fact that there is something wrong.  We do need to find a garage and see if the mechanic can correctly diagnose the problem before it does serious damage.

As I was thinking about the car’s problems, I thought of our daughter who has been ignoring the fact that she has a serious problem with her teeth.  Probably her lack of dental insurance has something to do with her putting off a visit to the dentist.  But mainly, it is because she has a fear of going.  In being honest, I know I do too, even though I have wonderful dentists, probably among the best in the world.  They have held our teeth together for over forty years. I guess she gets her fear honestly, from her mother!  But for her, the pain was getting so bad that she couldn’t ignore it anymore.  So she went yesterday.  And now she has to have two root canals, plus other work.  It could be that if she would have had regular checkups all along, the problems wouldn’t have been so bad.

I thought how important regular maintenance is, not only for our cars, and our bodies, but also for our spiritual development.  I know if I would skip my time with the Lord and reading His Word, the day just wouldn’t go as smoothly.

Obviously, these problems with our car, our bodies, and our spiritual lives don’t develop overnight.  It takes time for small problems to become larger ones.  Just as it takes time to develop bad habits, it also takes time to be negligent in the care of the car, the body, and the spiritual life.  It is frightening to realize that although it happens slowly, it is also before we realize it that it is possible to drift away from a rewarding relationship with the Lord.

How does this happen?  Most likely it is from neglecting to spend time daily in God’s Word and prayer.  But it could also be from neglecting regular attendance in church listening to sound Bible teaching and preaching, or even the neglecting of good fellowship with others.

The Bible says,
 

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet,
and a light for my path.”
Psalm 119:105
“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 10:25  (NLT)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #129

01/14/07

"Exercise"
 

When I was in the Dizzy Bean getting a cappuccino about a month ago, I met a friend I hadn’t seen in probably a half a year!  It was wonderful seeing how good she looked.  We spent a little time catching up on each other’s activities.  She told me she had just been next door in “Curves” exercising.  I asked her how she liked it.  She spoke highly of it, and was surprised I hadn’t ever tried it.  I told her I would sometime.  I had to smile though, because she said she figured she had just exercised, and so she could reward herself by getting a cappuccino!

 That sounded good to me, to exercise and then reward myself with a cappuccino!  It started me thinking.  I remembered a number of my other friends who go there regularly and told me about it.  Maybe it might be something that I could do.  I know that I’ve needed to get myself in better shape for quite a while because I seem to be out of breath over doing nothing at all.

So the next day when I had time, I stopped in and asked about their program.  They showed me each machine and guided me as I tried them to see if I thought I could do it.  It was very interesting.  I ended up joining too.

Now, to put the pudding to the test (what a strange expression!), it is up to me to discipline myself to go regularly and keep up the regimen.

The Bible says:

“Physical training is good,
but training for godliness is much better,
promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

“And herein do I exercise myself,
 to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”
Acts 24:16  (KJV)

So I have my work cut out for me:
I need to discipline myself to stick to this regular routine of exercise.
And more importantly, I need to train for godliness, because that will benefit me not only in this life, but in the life to come.
How do I do that?  By not giving any offence to anyone, especially God.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #128

01/06/07

"The Challenge of Change"
 

It would be comfortable to have things go just as expected!  Any kind of change used to be very difficult for me.  I suppose that might be because during my formative years, I always knew what I could plan on from day to day.  My life was quite ordinary and therefore predictable.

Then I left home to go to Bible College.  There I encountered all kinds of changes!  Wisconsin was different from Michigan.  There was the change of residences, from living with my parents in my home to living in a dorm.  There was the change of meeting lots of new students from all over the United States and abroad.

One of these new students was a unique fellow who had just arrived in our country from England.  Talk about changes!  His accent was a complete change for me.  Sometimes I didn’t even understand what he was saying, even though he supposedly was speaking English!  I was intrigued by the many cultural differences between us.  But in spite of those differences, we soon became attracted to each other. That meant more changes from living for ourselves, to having someone else’s welfare in mind!  But in spite of those changes that were necessary for a harmonious relationship, we found that we both had essentially the same overall goal of serving the Lord.  We both pledged our lives not only to the Lord, but also to each other in marriage.

That meant more changes!  Not only the change from living with myself in mind, but to thinking about my husband’s welfare, and also to setting up a humble place to call home.  The huge change of having to cook and shop for both of us was sometimes overwhelming to me!  Then there was the enormous change of becoming a pastor’s wife.  There were constantly changes, because we had an extended family to look after.  Usually this meant changes in our schedules and routines from day to day.

It was all quite a challenge for me to overcome.  But I was able to commit it to the Lord, and He made all the difference.  It still took time for me to gain control of my mind whenever our plans were interrupted.

And now we are on the threshold of another New Year.  Even the small challenge of remembering to write 2007 rather than 2006 is a change!

But in the midst of all of these changes past and present, there is the constant of reading through the whole Bible each year.  I will continue to wait patiently for the Lord, basking in the sunlight of His presence and love as I go to Him in prayer.  “All may change, but Jesus never, glory to his name!”
 
 

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6
 


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