Shirley’s Soliloquy #231

12/28//08

“Foggy Conditions Ahead”

Christmas!  What a wonderful time of the year!  Strangers were passing on the streets and wishing each other, “Merry Christmas!”  Christmas music was heard all around, even in the stores!  At home I was trying to play those carols on my little harp.  It brought me much pleasure. 

But now Christmas is past.   The New Year is just around the corner.

In a way the weather was appropriate.  As I looked out the window, I saw thick fog.  It was impossible to see more than a few yards away.  I had to go out to the store to buy peanut butter to finish making the cookies I had started, and I was quite surprised at its density.  I had never been in such thick fog!  I dared not drive more than 20-25 miles an hour.  There seemed to be no one or no other cars out.  However, after a while I did see a car, but it also was crawling along as I was.  I had to wonder what the day would bring.  Certainly the sunshine had to break through the fog soon!

Then my mind wandered into the New Year.  What would it bring?  Right now, as our country is standing on the threshold of many new challenges, it is difficult to tell.  The future is shrouded in mystery as if it were facing a dense fog. 

A new president will be taking office.  There will also be a new administration.  Many new people will be counseling the new president and guiding the country.  Some people have bright hopes for the future; however it appears that others foresee serious trouble.  I pause and reflect, because in reality only the Lord knows what the future holds.

As I stop to think about it, are there any better hands I could wish to be in?  The Lord knows exactly where each one of His children is at any given moment (Matthew 10:29-31).  He knows exactly what each one is doing.  He even knows what each one is thinking about the future.  There is much comfort in the words found in Psalm 23:1-2,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….
He leadeth me beside the still waters…”

I thought, ‘He leads me.  I don’t have to go alone.’  He holds my hand.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. 
For Thou art with me.” (Verse 4)

All through my life, even through death, the Lord is with me.  I think of the shepherd holding the little lamb in His arms as He carries it out of danger.  What a blessed thought!  What a comfort as I think of the ‘foggy’ conditions that might be ahead!  I know I can trust Him with my future.  So as I anticipate the unknown in the New Year, I will dedicate my life anew.  I want to be as faithful as I can possibly be as I seek to serve Him.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is my desire as I face any possible fog in my future.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. 
In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct Thy paths.”


Shirley’s Soliloquy #230

12/21//08

“Did You Know?”

I went to the Outlet Mall to hear a local Church choir put on a concert for the shoppers.  It was a wonderful celebration of Christmas!  But besides that, a couple of the members handed out literature and talked to people who were passing by.  Some could not be bothered to stop, but many paused in their hectic pace to bask in wonder over the music about the birth, and life of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Then on Sunday, circumstances made it possible for us to attend a children’s Christmas Program.  Once again it was delightful to see all the children, from the youngest ages to teens put on an unusual program that was not only well done, but also caused those in attendance to reflect over God’s plan for redemption beginning in the Garden of Eden to the awesome incarnation of God manifest in flesh!

Thirdly, this morning as I was listening to the radio, enjoying all the Christmas music, I heard the same particular song of Reba Mcentire that I had heard at the other two events.  It has been staying with me throughout the last few days.  It follows,

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know  that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the dead will live again,
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am?

I have to marvel anew each time I listen to this haunting song.  No way could Mary ever have dreamed all that lay ahead for her son, not only all His suffering, but also His future glorious reign!   First of all, how can it be possible that God would ever condescend to be manifested in the flesh, born as a baby of a human mother?  How can it be possible that He would lower Himself to such a degree!  Then as I stop to think of His remarkable life, it is such a wonder that He gave and gave, but received mostly scorn and rejection!  What love!  It is more than mind-boggling!  It is more than incredible!  Paul exclaimed,

“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!”
2 Corinthians 9:15

“Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh!”
1 Timothy 3:16


Shirley’s Soliloquy #229

12/14//08

“Calendars”

I’ve been searching through pictures for our family calendar I make each year.  I love this task because it brings up a bunch of memories as I search for suitable pictures of each of our family members.  It is really interesting to see the way they are multiplying; some by marriage, and some by the addition of babies.  They all bring a warm glow to my heart as I look at each one of them!

After I get the calendars made up for each family, I make one for myself and have it reduced.  That way I can keep it in my Bible ready for me to remember each one in my prayers after I finish my daily readings. 

But as I was enjoying looking through all of these pictures, I started thinking about how quickly life seems to be changing and racing ahead.  Sometime it seems like it is almost running away from me!  I really need to stop, to pause, and to ask myself what are the things that are really important?   The Psalmist says that our days are numbered.  He exclaimed,

“So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

I need to keep in mind that this present life is passing by all too quickly.  What are the things that will last on into eternity?    It seems so very easy to get caught up in the ‘rat race’ and keep ‘spinning my wheels.’  I love to be on the go, I love to be doing things.  I realize that many times, I love to be doing things and going places, just because I seem to thrive on it.  But what eternal value might it all be producing?  Is my busy-ness producing the results for which I should be striving?  Or is it as 1 Corinthinans 3:12 says, producing “wood, hay, or straw.” 

The Psalmist uttered the following,

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
How fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
At best, each of us is but a breath.”
We are merely moving shadows,
And all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.”
Psalm 39:4-7

Every once in a while, I need to pause and reflect on whether all my busy-ness is producing the results for which God would delight in seeing.  I wonder if it is producing nothing but such things as 1 Corinthians 3:12 so graphically sets forth?  Or could it not be gold, silver, jewels, rather than wood, hay or straw?


Shirley’s Soliloquy #228

12/07//08

"Never Too Late To Change"

There is a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”  But I don’t like to agree with that!  Maybe to prove it, I decided to take up learning another new instrument.  I had heard about a little lap-harp called a ‘harpsicle.’  It was something I could afford, so my husband agreed that I could buy one about a year ago.  The music that comes from those strings has come to mean a great deal to me!  Since we were driving through southern Indiana a few days ago, my husband asked if I’d like to stop at the little harp shop.  It is a fascinating place.  It is a family-owned business where they make the most beautiful harps.  As I was playing one with four octaves, I felt I was almost holding my breath because it was so beautiful! 

Then I thought of something else that I had tried for the first time.  I had wanted to learn to make some peanut brittle.  It was always a favorite of mine.  So when a friend gave me raw peanuts, I decided to get out my cookbooks and find a recipe.  It said I needed a candy thermometer, and I remembered that I had kept one from years ago.  All seemingly went well until I was finished and wanted to taste some.  But I couldn’t get the peanut brittle off the baking dish!  Even though I had buttered a glass baking dish, there was no way could I get it off.  I was afraid to chop it too hard in case the glass broke.  I had to admit defeat, but once again my husband came to the rescue.  He was able to break it apart, and I was grateful! 
   
But the worst disaster of that experiment was that the peanut brittle was very chewy!  In fact, it was so chewy that while I was enjoying the tasting of it, it broke off one of my back molars!  I was really embarrassed about it.  I did want to share the brittle with my family.  So when I offered it to them, I told them to try it at their own risk, because it had broken my tooth!  It became a bit of a joke, and I noticed not everyone was brave enough to try it!  I think eventually my daughter will throw it away!  But thankfully, my wonderful dentist was able to ‘fix’ that tooth.  He put a new crown on it, and it is now better than new.  As a result, I am now very timid about what I put into my mouth to chew!

As I pondered these things, I thought that it is never too late to change one’s ways and try something new.  Especially it is never too late to turn one’s life over to Christ!  The Bible says, “Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” It also says, “Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”   What a wonderful change any person could make!  But life doesn’t stop there.  My husband often says, ‘If God saved you to take you to heaven, why didn’t He take you there right away?’

Recently, I was reading 1 Peter, chapter 1:5-6, and was challenged anew with the qualities set forth,

“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

I was challenged with the words exhorting that these qualities should be increasing in my life.  It reminded me of the list Paul had set forth in Galatians 5:22,23,

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
 faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control….”

I thought it is never too late to begin anew!  Regardless of the age of a person, it IS possible to change!


Shirley’s Soliloquy #227

11/30//08

"Thanksgiving with Family"

How wonderful it is when families can all get together!  Ours came in from Texas, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio!  Some grandchildren hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years, so it was extra special.  Flashes from camera and movies were going off all over!

On Thanksgiving Eve, it felt good to be with many of my physical and church families nearby!  Pastor Greg Becker allowed time for testimonies, and there were many.  Then he read President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Address.  I’m grateful that here in the United States we have a history of presidents who proclaim a day of Thanksgiving to God.  I was especially grateful to hear the words of President Lincoln:

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God,
to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow,
yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon,
and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history,
that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord….
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven,
we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity,
 we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has grown.  But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched
 and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts,
that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own...
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity
of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us…”

Giving thanks is not something new.  I thought how over two thousand years ago, the prophet Nehemiah wrote that, “Long ago there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God” (Nehemiah 12:4,6).  So I mused, it is good to continue to do so.  I began looking through a few Psalms, such as,

“…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling of your wondrous deeds.” (26:7)

“Let us come into His presence with Thanksgiving.
Let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.” (95:2)

“Let them offer sacrifices of Thanksgiving and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (107:22)

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord to sing praises to your name, O most High,
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, your faithfulness by night.” (92:1-2)

“Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.” (147:7)

Yes, it is good to give thanks!  I pray that this country will remain free and will continue to participate in such traditions for many years to come.


Shirley’s Soliloquy #226

11/23//08

"The Big 'C' "

Last weekend we were in Pennsylvania where my husband was speaking.  Their Church Board members went out on Saturday evening with Henry.  They wanted to tap into his varied experiences in Church leadership. 

While the men were gone, our hostess fixed a delicious meal for the two of us.  I appreciated this, because we were able to share things together that might not have been possible if we hadn’t been alone.  We were reminiscing about events that had happened in recent weeks.  She had lost both her mother and shortly afterward her son.  Her Mom had died of cancer, and her son was killed in an accident.  How my heart ached for her!  Nevertheless, we had a pleasant evening together in the Lord.  Her mother had left a partially finished afghan she had been crocheting.  I was grateful to be able to show her how to continue working on it.  At the end of the evening, we both felt we had been blessed. 

As I was reminiscing about these things, I remembered losing my own Mom and how difficult it had been to bear the loss.  I was grateful for the wonderful memories of her that would come to mind.  But often with them, my eyes would brim with tears.  I thought how true a verse in the Bible had proven to be, 

“…God of all Comfort who Comforts us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to Comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the Comfort with which we ourselves are Comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

As I thought about these words, I realized that some day my new friend would be able to give Comfort to others because of these unusual circumstances in which she presently found herself.

Then I thought of quite a few of my dear friends who are enduring the awful effects of chemotherapy.  What a joy to hear that some are now in remission!  But Cancer is still a big “C!”  How wonderful it will be when a Cure is found!   But, there are other big “C” words!  Care, Concern, Comfort, and Cure!  I thought about when Jesus was on earth, He Cured all who came to Him.  My mind went to the glorious day in the future when once again that will be possible!   Jeremiah prophesied the words of the Lord,

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee,
and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not…
Behold, I will bring health and Cure, and I will Cure them,
and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.”
Jeremiah 33:3, 6 (KJV)

Yes, I want to keep these other big “C’ words in my mind too: Concern, Comfort, Cure, and Care.  One of my favorite verses that brings Comfort to my heart is,

“Casting all your Care upon Him,
for He Cares for you!”
1 Peter 5:7



Shirley’s Soliloquy #225

11/16//08

"Stumbling Blocks?"

“No movies or dancing?  No cards?  No working, cooking, or buying anything on Sunday?  I smile as I think of people’s reactions when I mention the way I was brought up.  My grandparents were of the old Christian Reformed traditions.  I remember how Grandmother would cook on Saturday because since Sunday was a day of rest, she wouldn’t do any work then.  They would read the Bible or take naps on Sunday.  My parents often said that we must be careful not to be a ‘stumbling block’ to them.  At the time those words didn’t mean much to me since I was just a young child. 

When I was young, I realized that my parents really did study their Bibles.  They then taught us that Christians are no longer under the law the way the Old Testament believers were (Galatians 2:16), but under grace.  Still, they were quick to caution that it would be wrong for us to flaunt our freedom in Christ because it might cause someone “to stumble.”  So recently as I read Romans 14 in my New Living Translation, it reminded me of all these things. 

“Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up….
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine
or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.”
Romans 14:19, 21

The Bible leaves no room for ambiguity over this truth, because explicitly a few verses later, I read,

“But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something,
you are sinning if you go ahead and do it.
For you are not following your convictions if you do anything you believe is not right,
you are sinning.”
Romans 14:23

Then I thought of the challenge the Scriptures present in Ephesians,

“Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.
Remember, he has identified you as his own,…
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander,
as well as all types of evil behavior. 
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
 just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do because you are his dear children.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:30-5:2

What a pattern to follow!  If everyone could live as the Holy Scriptures recommend, how different our world would be!  What happiness, contentment, and peace could be enjoyed!  Then there would be no possibility of being a ‘stumbling block’ to anyone.


Shirley’s Soliloquy #224

11/09//08


Years ago our grandson Jerry got his first car.  I remember it well!  He came to show it off to us.  I noticed that he had put a bumper sticker on that read “No God, No Peace.  Know God, Know Peace!”  He was so pleased, and I was so pleased to see that bumper sticker!  It reminded me of the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV), ”For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

The incident came back to me this morning following a phone call.  It concerned the news that we had a new president-elect.  The caller was almost “beside herself” in fear.  She must have been influenced by the anti-Obama propaganda.  She was programmed for the worst consequences imaginable.  I reminded her that God is still on the throne, and He watches out for His own.  I thought of 2 Chronicles 16:9, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” But it is important for everyone to remember the words of Daniel the prophet who wrote,

“Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power.
He controls the course of world events, he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.”
Daniel 2:20-21 (NLT)

But apparently many people are having fearful emotions when thinking of the results of the recent election.  Other people are rejoicing and celebrating in the face of the promises that have been made, and they have great hope for the future.  Regardless of the strength of the feelings of people on both extremes, the Bible admonishes,

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities, for all authority comes from God,
And those in positions of authority have been placed there by God….
For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right,
but in those who are doing wrong.
Would you like to live without fear of the authorities?
Do what is right, and they will honor you.
The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good….
So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment,
but also to keep a clear conscience.
Romans 13:1, 3, 5 (NLT)

However, should it ever come to the point where there is a need to choose between human or divine authority, then I will have to take a stand and say with the apostles that, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Acts 5:29).  But until such a time, the Bible clearly tells me that I must,

“Pray for…all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives
marked by godliness and dignity
This is good and pleases God our Savior.”
1 Timothy 2:2-3



Shirley’s Soliloquy #223

11/02//08

"God’s Kaleidoscope"

It actually felt as if I were inside a Kaleidoscope! 

I was in the car driving on a secondary road when I became overwhelmed with the beauty of the scene!  The multi-colored leaves on the trees were falling to the ground.  Some were already covering the grass and road.  As they were fluttering and floating around, it created such an effect that I felt as if I were encased in a wonderland!  I felt my heart quicken as I silently erupted in praise to the Lord for His great love in giving us such a beautiful world!   I felt like the Psalmist must have felt,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul! 
O Lord my God, you are very great!…
Stretching out the heavens like a tent….
He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting…
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom have you made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures….
 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live,
I will sing praise to my God while I have being,
May my meditation be pleasing to him for I rejoice in the Lord.
Psalm 104:1, 19, 24, 33-34 (ESV)

Whether the Season be Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, there is always something to remind me of the greatness of my God!   Even when I look at the sky, whether at night or in the day, again I marvel over the greatness and exactness of God’s creation.  Men, even thousands of years ago, were able to calculate and guide their travels by the stars.   The Psalmist continued,

  “The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the earth showeth forth His handiwork.”
Psalm 19:1 (KJV)

I feel very small in this vast expanse of God’s creation.  I stand amazed at the thought that He could love even little me.  What an insignificant speck I am in comparison with not only our earth, but also of the immensity of the whole universe!  I echo the words of the Psalmist,

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him?”
Psalm 8:3-4

Yet, God is mindful of man.  He is mindful even of me.  The Word tells me that He “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,”  (John 3:16).  What a Creator He is!  Thank you, O Lord my God!


Shirley’s Soliloquy #222

10/26//08

"Why Do the Righteous Suffer?"

The Psalmist was lamenting about the way the wicked often seem to prosper while the righteous suffer.

“The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him…”
Psalm 37:12

Why does the Lord allow ungodly people to cause trouble for those who are trying to live their lives so they will be pleasing to the Lord?  It is true that the Old Testament is full of the ways the Lord uses other nations or diseases to bring His own disobedient people back to Himself.   We know that disobedience must be punished.  But what about righteous people?
 
This past Sunday, our Pastor spoke about the “Fruits of the Spirit" that are described in Galatians 5:22-25.  He talked about some members of our church who have a blueberry farm.  He described his experiences on their farm.  The illustration caught my attention. 

It really hasn’t left my mind, because this morning as I was waking, it came back to me.  The Pastor told the congregation that when the farmer would see a branch that had fallen on the ground, covered with dirt, he would pick it up, clean it, and prune it.  He also mentioned that the bigger the bush, it logically follows that the farmer would have more pruning to do on it.  Therefore if the farmer wanted it to continue to yield, he would have to prune more from that larger bush than from smaller ones.  

In the early hours this morning, those things were ruminating in my mind.  I thought how often even Christians seem to have all kinds of troubles.   Rationally speaking, that doesn’t seem fair.  Often I thought that testing or trials came because I was delinquent in some way, and it would trouble me because I wasn’t aware of the reasons, and I wanted to be faithful.

Now I realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean that I need discipline, it can also be an encouragement regarding my faithfulness in bearing fruit.  It can be an incentive to bear even more fruit in my service for the Lord.  My thoughts went back to the passages where Jesus said,

“I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…
 Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,
that it may bear more fruit.”
John 15:1-2 (ESV)

This is exciting to me as I meditate on that aspect of the Lord’s pruning.  Jesus said that the branches He prunes are those that DO bear fruit!  So, the larger the bush, naturally the more pruning would be necessary for it to continue to yield more fruit.  If the bush would be left alone without pruning, it couldn’t grow properly.  It wouldn’t increase, but gradually its yield would decrease. 

I do want to be used to a greater degree.  So since this is my desire, then I must be willing to be pruned from time to time so the dead wood can be cut away.  What a challenging concept!  It doesn’t mean that I’ve been disobedient, but that my bush is growing.  And my Master Gardener wants it to continue, so periodically He continues to do some pruning!


Shirley’s Soliloquy #221

10/19//08

"Home Again"

‘Mmmm, it’s so nice to be home again.  This thought ran through my mind as we drove onto our street, and went into our little condo.  We had met countless people over the last six weeks, and had experienced a wide variety of blessings.  My husband had preached and taught in many different pulpits and places.  But as the song goes, “Though ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

While we were on the way home, my younger sister had called and invited my husband and me to their home for dinner that evening.  She said she had leftover turkey, so she had made a potpie.  She also told me that she and her grandchildren had gone to a nearby orchard and had picked apples, so she was going to bake an apple pie.  When we arrived, I saw she even had the fixings of a salad on the table. It was so good to be home and near her again.  She had anticipated how tired I might be.  I was eager to see her.  She is a special sister!  It brought tears to my eyes receiving the tokens of her loving thoughtfulness!

When we were still in Ohio, a friend from Wisconsin called and asked if he and his two children could come for a visit on Monday.  His wife had recently died.  We were eager to see them.  But that was the day we were driving home and wouldn’t arrive until late afternoon, so my husband asked him to postpone their visit until the next day.  He is a ‘whiz’ on the computer.  On their past visits, he has been quite helpful to my husband.   And I’m looking forward to being with the children (ages 11 & 13).  During their visit last year, I taught their daughter a few little melodies on my little baby blue harp.   Wonder if she will remember them?

As I was waking this morning thinking about how good it is to be home among family and friends, my mind reflected on the Biblical concept of our permanent home being in heaven.  This earth is not really our permanent dwelling place.  We are just passing through.  Our citizenship exists in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  So I’m thinking that while I’m here in this temporary place, I need to use my time wisely.  I have a little plaque that reads:  “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he used figurative language just as the Lord Jesus did.  He said that people must build on a solid foundation.  My question is, ‘What am I building on that foundation?’  Is it things that won’t last?  Or is it like gold, silver, or precious stones?

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—
gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.
But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. 
The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 
But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss.
The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NLT)


My desire is to be conscious of the materials I’m using.  I do not want to go to my permanent home and be ashamed of my life here on earth!  I need to remember I’m building for eternity!



Shirley’s Soliloquy #220

10/12//08

"Teachers and Teaching"

Memories!  They are wonderful, especially when they recall blessings.

My husband and I were driving near the school where I had formerly taught.  He asked me if I’d like to stop for a minute.  Oh my, would I!  I’d been wishing for years that I could do that, but never did seem to have the time when we were in the area.

What a wonderful surprise it was when I walked into the school office to see my former principal standing near some files.  She glanced up, and was greatly surprised too!  She burst into a big smile as I did, and said she had just been thinking of me!   Talk about coincidences!  In fact, she stopped what she was doing and took me around the building.  She asked teachers with whom I had taught many years ago to come out of their classrooms for a moment.  Then she went into the classroom to continue their lesson while we got to reminisce just a bit. 

As the principal and I walked through the halls together, she shared many changes that had taken place since I had left.  Now the teachers and staff need to open the doors with a flash of a coded card.  This makes for a more secure environment for everyone.  I was also surprised to see technology at work, especially in the kindergarten room.  They had an ‘Interactive Board’ instead of a chalkboard! 

I thought back to the days when I had begun teaching.  At that time we used, ‘blackboards.’  Then that became outdated and we used ‘chalkboards.  Now these ‘Interactive Boards’ are used.  It is amazing the amount of technology that is available in teaching today!

Was it a coincidence the next day when I opened my Bible and certain words stood out for me?  I don’t think so!  Indeed, how often the Lord seems to open my mind to some Scripture so that it speaks directly to me!  He did this when He was on earth, and He continues to do it now through His Word.  I read,

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.”
Isaiah 54:13

It actually made my heart skip a beat, especially after having been in the school the day before!  I thought, ‘What a wonderful day that will be!’  To be taught by the Lord defies my imagination!  Talk about up-to-date teaching!  He would be the perfect teacher!  And His knowledge and methods would be perfect and complete.  How I would love to be able to sit at His feet and learn.  How wonderful it would be if He could teach my children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren!  I thought of the verses that followed in the next chapter,

“My word …that goes out from my mouth;
…shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

That’s perfect teaching from a perfect teacher!


Shirley’s Soliloquy #219


10/05//08

"Warm, Wonderful Feeling"

It was a bit strange, because I was sitting towards the front of the church when I felt it.  My husband and I had been traveling for a little more than three weeks when it happened.


We had met wonderful people.  We’d been in two different military reunions; one the American branch of the Military Police who had been stationed in Italy shortly after the war; and the other the North American Branch of the Royal Military police.  Most of them were from Canada, but there were a few from the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.  Many of these people had also been stationed in Italy.  We’d been in several different churches where my husband had preached.  He had spoken in Bible studies and also in a Bible seminary.  

Strangely, there was one church that almost seemed to take away my breath.  It was the Afton Bible Church in St. Louis, Missouri.  As I approached the church, and then walked into it, it seemed as if I were walking into Calvary Chapel in Massillon, Ohio, where my husband and I had served for so many years.  It gave me a strange feeling, because the architecture was virtually the same, as was the carpet, pews, and chandeliers.  Their people were very special and we felt a distinct closeness with them.  During the time we were with them, a ‘knitting together’ of minds and hearts developed with their pastor and his wife.  How I appreciated their warm hospitality!  I still get a warm feeling when I think of them.   

However, the warm, fuzzy feeling really came when I walked into Calvary Chapel this past Sunday.  How wonderful it was to greet so many of my old friends.  Often I had a hard time trying to keep the tears from coming into my eyes.  In a way, it almost seemed as if I had not been away from them for many months.  I noticed my grandson was in the back taking care of the sound controls for the service.  Then I sat down in the pew with my daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter, and my dear friends all around me.  I felt like I had ‘come home.’  I sat comfortably, very relaxed.  I closed my eyes, smiled, and breathed a sigh of gratitude.  Then I thanked the Lord for all His goodness in showering me with so many blessings over the last several weeks, especially for this opportunity to be with my family and friends.  I thought, the only thing that could compare with this reunion with all my dear ones would be when Christ returns, and we are caught up to be with him.

All our traveling did make me think of the Apostle Paul, especially about his journeys.  Sometimes he renewed friendships, sometimes he made new ones, but it seemed most often he came up against much opposition, and even imprisonment.  How he suffered while he was spreading the good news that God's grace was now freely available to everyone, regardless of race!   This salvation was available to ALL who would believe on His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

I thought, the message is the same today, but what a contrast his travels were to our recent experiences in the comfort of our car.  Then I thought of the unity he felt among the believers everywhere he traveled.  What a joy and encouragement they would have been to him.  In our travels, we’ve experienced that same unity, and it was like a ‘breath of fresh air.’  How good it must be for the Lord to look down on His children and see when this happens!  I thought of the Scripture that states succinctly,     

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
…For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life evermore.”
Psalm 133:1, 3
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #218

09/28//08

"Unknown Soldier?"

What a heart-rending scene I witnessed in Washington, D.C.!  I watched the ceremony of the changing of the Guard that was taking place at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The military men dressed in their best uniforms complete with medals were marching in a distinct, crisp manner.

Suddenly, I felt an additional hush over the crowd as all eyes turned to the top of the steps.  An older military man and a young mother and her son and daughter appeared ready to descend to the tomb.  She was dressed in a long formal gown.  Her daughter was also wearing a long gown.  The son was equally handsome in his dark suit.  They walked somberly down the steps to the tomb where the young woman tenderly laid the wreath.  Then they turned around, stood for a moment, and escorted by the military man, walked back up the steps.  The scene touched my heart, especially afterwards when I turned around and saw her hugging a friend, her children clinging to the fabric of her dress.  They seemed to be crying.  I was overcome with the emotion of the moment.  I couldn’t stop the tears that were on the brim of my eyes from dropping down my cheeks.  I’m sure none of them will ever forget that day.  I know I won’t.

As I was thinking about the scene, the battlegrounds of Gettysburg flashed across my mind once again.  Our guide told us that during the three-day battle, more soldiers were killed than in any of the wars since then.  It was impossible to walk on the fields without stepping on the bodies of the dead soldiers.

It made me think of the military men and women who had died and are still dying on the fields of battle even today.  It brought to mind the miles of tombstones in the Arlington National Cemetery.  I started thinking of the many bodies that had never been recovered.  The pain and heartache of the families of those who had been taken prisoner, or who were never found, still haunts me.  Probably the worst thing is that some have even been totally forgotten.

How different is it to think of the people who work faithfully in the service of their Heavenly Commander?  Many have gone to foreign fields to serve Him.  Countless others work here at home; some are forgotten, even at times forsaken, as they strive to work for Him.  But the Lord will never forget them.  It gives me great comfort to know that,

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth,
to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”
2 Chronicles 16:9

The Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples,

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.
…Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7

Oh no, the Lord has not forgotten one of us.  What a wonderful comfort this is to me!

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love….
Our labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV))


Shirley’s Soliloquy #217

09/21//08

"Storms and Wars"

“Guess I’d better stop working for a while, and go out ‘n get some lunch,” a friend was telling us.  Then with his typical dry humor, he said that it was a good thing he did go out, because when he got back home again, a tree was laying across the driveway, right where his truck had been parked!  They had experienced high winds, with many trees and branches down.  In some areas, power was still off.  I thought to myself, we’re not used to being without electricity.  That’d be difficult!

A week ago we were in St. Louis, Missouri.  Henry was due to preach there.  But when we got down to our car to go to church, it was completely dead.  Perhaps the strong wind and rain from the aftermaths of Hurricane Ike got into the engine.  People around were trying to help us, and we did get to the church with five minutes to spare!  It was a blessed day, even though we heard some people had been turned away because of high water on the roads and even the Interstate!  I thought to myself that maybe it was a good thing we were delayed.  Only the Lord knows.

On the road to Ohio, when I was driving to give my husband a rest, I could feel the strength of the wind against the car.  I had to hold the steering wheel with both hands!  Along the way, we saw branches and trees down.  But we had no trouble getting to our daughter’s home for a couple days before heading on to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Again I thought it’s a good thing we have a couple days to relax here.

Then we went to Gettysburg and Washington D.C. for the reunion of the Royal Military Policemen who had settled in North America.  Their regimental motto is EXEMPLO DUCEMUS.  “Lead by Example.”  Requirements for their units were high.  They were tall, good-looking, obviously intelligent men who were interested in continued learning.  Their wives were lovely ladies.  I felt honored to be among them.

As we heard the guides and observed the many historic buildings of Washington D.C, I was filled with wonder as I gazed upon them and thought about the role of each in America’s history.  I felt breathless especially as I gazed at the Statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.  He was a man confronted with enormous problems as he faced the possibility of a divided nation.  Also the acres of tombstones in the Arlington National Cemetery moved my heart almost to tears.  Most of our group, many of whom were former military men, along with their wives, was emotionally stirred as I was.  This experience was intensified by the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The next day at Gettysburg, we toured the Battlefields.  We had an excellent guide.  In my heart of hearts, I wondered at the futility and horror of war.

Tomorrow we will be worshipping together in an Anglican Church in Gettysburg.  There will be a special ceremony with these military men in their regalia and colors.  My husband will be delivering the sermon.  Afterwards they will be having a little ceremony of the laying of a wreath on the grave of one of the servicemen.  Henry will have a few words there also.  I pray for him and for all these military men and their wives along with the members of the congregation.  These last few days have given me a great deal to think about.  They have made me realize that the only solution to the madness and futility of warfare is the return of the Prince of Peace, for when He returns He will abolish all the weapons of warfare, and,

“Of the increase of His government and of peace, there will be no end.”
 Isaiah 9:5-7
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #216

09/14/08

"Comfort in Affliction "

I just got off the phone with Jannaya.  She, Jerry (our grandson), and their almost 3 year-old son, David, were in a serious accident on the Interstate.

Jannaya told me that after the car stopped flipping over and around, Jerry jumped out and got David.  Then she also got out of the car, but she collapsed and fainted.

She said that during the time that they were flipping around in the car, she saw the Lord!  She was crying and begged Him, “Oh, please protect Jerry and David!  Keep them safe!  Take me, but don’t take them!”

The Lord answered her prayer!  He did protect Jerry & David.  They were able to go home only with minor bruises from the seatbelts!  But He also had his hand on Jannaya!  She wasn’t killed, but she did end up in the hospital with four broken vertebrae.

My mind flashed back to the time when a horse had thrown me several years ago.  I finished up with a fractured vertebra, but it was nevertheless terribly painful!  As she was telling me of her awful pain, I could feel it with her!  I almost had to smile when she said, “I could have delivered a dozen babies, and it wouldn’t be such pain!”

Later, when she looked at the pictures of the car, she was amazed!  The side of the car where Jerry & David were strapped in was a total mess.  But Jerry & David were miraculously protected!

She quickly told me that she doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, because she is so thankful that she saw the Lord!  She talked, even begged Him, and He answered her prayer about her loved ones!  She felt that was worth the whole experience!

She will have a long and painful recuperation period.  But it will be valuable time.  Her relationship with the Lord will be sweeter and stronger!  She desperately feels she needs to learn more about Him.

It made me remember what happened during my catherization ten years ago.   I was informed later that I had experienced 4-5 cardiac arrests.  But I had seen Jesus!  I felt just like Jannaya did.   There is no way I would give up that experience for anything!

So I felt a kindred spirit with her as she was telling me what had happened!

Then the wonderful verse in First Corinthians came to my mind.  My heart warmed within me for all my experiences.  And I also foresaw the way Jannaya, perhaps in the months and years to come, will be able to help others who find themselves in horrible circumstances.  I remembered what the Apostle Paul said,

“God…comforts us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
1 Corinthians 1:4

Shirley’s Soliloquy #215

09/07//08

"I Could Not Believe It!"

I couldn’t believe what I had seen!  It’s still ruminating in my mind!

It was a little Maltese dog on a TV program.  Her long white hair was perfectly groomed, complete with the little bow on top of her head.  She was adorable!  However, she was sitting in the middle of a four-foot target painted in the middle of a long cement road.  The object of this contest seemed to be for the dog, at its master’s command, to stay sitting in the target, regardless of what might be happening.

The startling thing was that at the end of the road, there was an enormous elephant being held by its trainer.  It was to approach the dog, trumpet, swing its trunk around, and stand up threateningly on its hind legs in front of the dog.  The dog was required to stay in the target all the while its master was over on the side of the road commanding her, “Stay…Stay….”

The contrast between that huge elephant and the tiny, (probably only four pound) dog, was incredible!  Needless to say, my own heart nearly stopped as I saw the elephant performing these threatening feats as he approached closer and closer to the tiny dog!  The final test was for the trunk-swinging elephant to pick up a banana probably inches from the where the little dog sat.  As the elephant slowly lumbered up, picked up the banana with its trunk waving around, the little dog still sat!  Her eyes never left the huge elephant, but all the while she could hear her master’s command, “Stay…Stay!”  Finally, the test was over, and the Maltese and owner were reunited!  What a joyful reunion!  She had obeyed perfectly!  I honestly couldn’t believe she did it!

Then I continued to watch a couple other dogs and their owners try to do the same thing.  However, as the elephant came closer, each one couldn’t take it.  They had to slink away toward their owner, casting distrusting eyes back to the elephant slowly approaching nearer and nearer.

It was incredible!  That little Maltese must have had implicit trust in her master!  Her master knew what was happening to her.  Obviously she realized the danger coming toward her.  But while she watched that enormous elephant, she was listening to her master’s command, implicitly trusting his judgment!

I thought of the words that the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith.  “Perilous times lay ahead.” (2 Timothy 3:1).  The disciples in Paul’s day did live in very difficult days.  But they knew they could trust their Lord and Master.  They knew He was in control!  Then I thought of the world conditions today.  Indeed, it does seem that even now “perilous times” are ahead.  But I also know Who is in control!

Then I thought of the enormous trusting spirit of that tiny Maltese.  She knew her Master was nearby.  Her Master knew of her plight, and she trusted her Master!  Oh, I pray that will always be true also of me!

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (NLT)

Shirley’s Soliloquy #214

08/31//08

"Perfect Timing?"

It is amazing how quickly things can change!  This has been rumbling around in my mind during this past week.

It all began around 4 o’clock Friday morning, when my husband touched me and asked if I felt like waking up.  Well, putting it that way, at 4 AM, who does ‘feel’ like waking up?  Not me!  I must have groaned or something.  Then he said, ‘Because I’d like you to drive me to the hospital.’

That was all it took!  I was never more awake!  My mind flashed back to about 20 years ago when he had his first heart attack, so I knew what that meant!  I immediately jumped out of bed and got ready to drive him to the hospital.  He told me that he had been up a while.  He had already taken two ‘nitro’ tablets under his tongue spaced about 5-10 minutes apart, but he was still having difficulty with his heart.

Thankfully, at that hour of the morning, all the traffic lights seemed to be synchronized to let us keep going straight to the hospital about an hour away….Or might it have been the Lord in charge of all those traffic lights?  Anyway, he favored this hospital and its cardiac care.  So that’s where we went.

Of course, in the emergency room, the first things they do for heart patients is the blood work and EKG’s.  After comparing those with the ones from previous years, they told us that there was a change.  They thought the blood was having difficulty getting to a couple places in the heart.  Thankfully, they were able to schedule a catherization the same day, and they fixed both blockages with a stent and angioplasty.

I contacted our children, our ministerial colleagues, and some friends.  The word spread like wildfire, and we heard about prayers going up all over the world.  Wow!  Talk about answered prayers!!!  This is a prime example of it!  It was amazing that early the next morning when I went back to the hospital and saw him, he said he felt better than he had in a couple of years!  I even noticed that not only does he have better color, but he also has more energy.   But really, it’s not so amazing because God answers prayers!

My heart rejoices, and I continue to thank the Lord!  I realize He knows all about us.  He knew about the taxing schedule we will be facing during the next three months.  Thinking back to the way my husband had been, I doubt he would have been able to handle it.  However, now…he is a new person!  He has a new lease on life.  How thankful and grateful I am for the Lord’s timing!  This has given him a couple weeks to recuperate – even though he doesn’t seem like he needs it!

So, I exclaim to myself, “The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad!” (Psalm 126:3).  I thank Him and rejoice with the Psalmist,

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord,
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
And a great King above all gods.”

Shirley’s Soliloquy #213

08/24//08

"Practice and Perseverance "

I remember those days when my mom or dad had to remind me to practice!  Sometimes I’d drag myself to the piano or the marimba.  I didn’t have my whole heart and soul in it.  It seemed that I’d rather practice when I was alone – probably because then I couldn’t get comments, criticisms, or suggestions from anyone around me.  I’ve wondered over the past weeks as I heard or read stories of the lives of the athletes participating in the 2008 Olympics in China if any of them were like me?

Somehow, I doubt it.  I visualize them as having been totally committed.  I’ve been held captive as I’ve listened to the newscasters giving a glimpse into their lives.  Each athlete obviously has been practicing countless hours day after day, year after year, usually since they were much younger.  Certainly, becoming a champion did not happen overnight.  No, it took great determination and sacrifice, not only on their part, but also often on the part of their families.

What amazing accomplishments have been realized by so many of these athletes during these past weeks!  The medals will have been awarded.  The athletes are now returning to their homes.  Many of them will be making decisions as to whether they want to continue their intense training to compete again in the next Olympics in four years time.

As I thought about these things, I thought of the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9.  He said,

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,
but only one person gets the prize?  So run to win!
All athletes are disciplined in their training.
They do it to win a prize that will fade away,”

How exciting it has been to see these athletes win their bronze, silver, and gold medals.  One of the most exciting has been to watch Michael Phelps!  He not only broke many world records, but also he has broken the record for the most gold medals won at a single Olympics – a total of eight!  I can imagine his image being on cereal boxes and T-shirts!  He will be the pattern for young swimmers all over the world.  He now holds new world records.  But as I was ruminating on these things, I thought again of the apostle Paul as he continued writing to the Corinthians.  He stated,

“They do it to win a prize that will fade away,
but we do it for an eternal prize”

What was he talking about?  An eternal prize?  Well, in Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT), he continues

“I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize
For which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us.”

So may I say with the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “I run with purpose in every step.”  May I be willing to train myself, to keep practicing, to be a good disciple of Jesus Christ as I travel through this life.  May I keep my eyes on the heavenly goal and of being wholly dedicated to my Lord and Savior.

Shirley’s Soliloquy #212

08/17//08

I love to open my computer and see that I’ve got “mail!” – email, that is!  Sometimes it is a wonderful surprise because it is a personal note from someone with whom I’d not been in touch for a long time!  Other times it is from a close friend or relative just checking in for the day.  Always it is welcome!

Also, sometimes when I go out to the mailbox to pick up our “snail” mail, there is something addressed to me.  That is exciting!  I love getting mail, both the email and the “snail mail!”

So, this morning after I checked my email, my mind drifted to some verses we’d read in our Ladies Bible Study.  They grabbed my attention in a completely new way!  We were reading 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 in the Good News Bible when the following verses jumped out at me,

“You yourselves are the letter we have,
 written on our hearts for everyone to know and read.
It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us.
It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
And not on stone tablets but on human hearts.”

As we talked about these verses, we realized that today many people do not go to church at all.  The Bible is God’s written Word to mankind.  So if many people don’t enter a church and hear it read and explained, most likely they will not read it for themselves either.  The staggering thing is that they might never hear the message that God left for mankind!

Then a sobering thought entered my head that made me pause to think!   Am I a “letter written for everyone to know and read?”  Can I be used as a letter from Christ himself?  Wow!  If I might be the only mail a person will receive from God, I need to take stock of the kind of a letter I am.  It is a sobering thought that it might be more likely for a person to read God’s message in the life of a ‘Christian’ than from a preacher or from the Bible itself!

These thoughts reminded me of the following words of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, ‘If we could see ourselves as others see us, it would from many a blunder free us!’  His words struck me!  What kind of ‘mail’ am I leaving in my ‘wake’ as I travel on this earth?  I must be careful not only to ‘talk the talk,’ but also to ‘walk the walk.’  I wonder if there would be anyone who might be turned off from Christ because of the letter they are reading from my life?  The Bible, God’s letter to me, says,

“Live wisely among those who are not believers,
and make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive
So that you will have the right response for everyone.”
Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT)

As I am reading this ‘mail’ from God, my whole being yearns that my life will be an open letter.  I pray that whenever anyone sees the “You’ve Got Mail” from my life, it will show, as the Bible says in Colossians, “the right response for everyone!”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #211

08/10//08

“Prayer really works!”
“But sometimes my prayer doesn’t get answered!”
“I’m praying earnestly about…. And the Lord just doesn’t seem to hear me!”
“Why?”

Yes, it is a difficult subject!

It came up in our Ladies Bible Study yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it since.  There are some prayers that the Lord seemingly hasn’t answered.  “Why?”  One of the ladies pointed to the verses in John 15:7 and 16, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”   Wonderful words, but “whatever you ask,” she wondered?  It doesn’t always work!

I realize there are some conditions:  (1) Hebrews ll:6 tells me that if I want to draw near to God, I must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him; (2) James 1:6-8 tells me that if I doubt God, I’m unstable and double-minded and won’t receive anything from Him; (3) “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Psalm 66:18.  So I can’t keep doing something of which I know God doesn’t approve and expect Him to hear me; (4) If I don’t forgive another, it also breaks down my “open line” to Him; (Lk. 6:37; Col. 3:13; and (5) If I hate another Christian, 1 John 4:20 says that I must also hate God.  In other words, my life must be right before Him.

When I read the verses around the one in John 15, I see that Jesus was talking to His disciples before he was crucified.  He was preparing them for the time when He would be gone (verses 32-33).  The Jews required a sign; they needed evidence of His Messiahship (1 Cor. 1:22; Mat. 16:4).  However, many of the Jews still rejected and crucified Him.  But He arose from the grave and ascended into heaven.

So God set the nation of Israel aside, and turned to the Gentiles.  He called the apostle Paul to be their apostle (Rom. 1:13).  He wrote that there is now no difference between Jews and Gentiles!  When this happened, the special emphasis on the miraculous gifts lessened.  In fact, when Epaphras became sick while spreading the gospel, Paul left him sick instead of healing him.  Timothy had infirmities often.  Paul, himself, had a “thorn in the flesh.”  He prayed to the Lord to take it away, but instead of a healing, the Lord said (2 Corinthians 12:9),
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So Paul rejoiced that God’s power was resting on him because of his weakness!  Amazing!

Thinking about my own life, I do believe that God can heal.  God is still GOD, the God of the impossible!  I’ve experienced miracles myself!  Just the fact that I am alive today is a definite miracle!  The way God has answered many of my prayers can be nothing less than miracles!  I’ve experienced it!

But I also realize that God doesn’t always answer me exactly the way I want.  Sometimes He says, “Wait.”  Sometimes He even says “No.”  But when He does, I am still content because I know He doesn’t make mistakes, and His way is the best way for me!  He definitely knows best!
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #210

08/03//08

“What’s it all about, Alphie? Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alphie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?”

“Is that all there is?  Is that all there is, If that’s all there is my friends,
Then let’s keep dancing, let’s bring out the booze and have a ball if that’s all there is.”

Is that all there is?  What is it all about?  Sometimes life seems….?

I used to feel so sad when I heard those songs.  The singers sounded so depressed.  I kept thinking, ‘No, that’s not all there is!  There is more, much more!’

As I got older, I realized that there are some people, even Christians, who feel that their lives are completely unfulfilled.  They seem to be saying, “There’s nothing to live for….’  I have actually heard people say, ‘I wish I were dead.’  But then what?  After death, is there nothing?

What is the answer?  When Christians begin thinking this way, what is wrong?  What is the answer?

In contrast, this morning we heard an orchestra and a hundred plus voice choir lift their voices and instruments to the Lord.  Above and beyond all that, there was a magnificent pipe organ that made the sound reverberate throughout the massively packed auditorium!  It thrilled my soul!  Then to cap it all off, the crowd joined in singing the following verses of the powerful hymn….

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.  Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Hoy!  Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, Holy, Holy, All the saints adore Thee.  Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee, which wert, and art, and evermore shall be.

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!   All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, Holy, Holy!  Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!”

It almost felt like I was in heaven, worshipping our great and mighty God!

I thought after I returned home and back to my computer, maybe that is the secret!  Maybe our society today has such a shallow concept of God that we no longer have the ability to truly worship Him.  Could it be that we have pulled Him down to the level of a mere human being?

Jesus did come down to earth!  He actually became a man.  But He was God manifest in the flesh!  Many abused and rejected Him, but He will be coming again.  This time it won’t be as a mere man, but as a mighty conqueror!  He will conquer evil and death!  When He comes again, every knee will bow and recognize that indeed He is Lord of lords, and King of kings.  He is the Mighty God and creator of all things.  No, this life is not “all there is!”  There is more, much more!

Shirley’s Soliloquy #209

07/27//08
"Grasshoppers Again?"

What about Joshua and Caleb, and grasshoppers?  A friend wrote me after my last soliloquy and mentioned how much her son enjoyed the story of Joshua and Caleb and the grasshoppers.  That set me to thinking about them.  They were among the twelve spies that Moses had sent into the land the Lord God had promised Israel.  As spies, they were to survey the land before taking possession of it.

They saw that it was a wonderful land, flowing with milk and honey as God had promised.  They carried back huge fruits to prove what lay ahead for them.  But unfortunately, ten of the spies reported that the people were like giants, fierce and powerful.  They themselves felt like grasshoppers.  They counseled the Israelites not to enter the land.

Joshua and Caleb confirmed that the report was indeed true, but God had promised the land to them!  If He promised it, He would give it to them!  What was required of them was that they needed to trust and obey Him.  They needed to go in.  He would go before them and fight for them!

Well, the unfortunate thing was that the children of Israel listened to the ten spies and were frightened.  They really did believe that they were like grasshoppers and that they would be crushed under the feet of those giants.  They forgot the mighty power of God!  They disobeyed Him and suffered the consequence.  God told them they had to wander around in the wilderness for forty years until all the adults had died.  Then some had second thoughts.  They tried to enter the land on their own.  But they were forcefully turned back.  God was no longer with them.

I stopped to think how many times that had happened to the children of Israel.  How many times they had lost out, simply because they failed to believe what God had said to them!  When they obeyed him, God went before them, protected them, and even sometimes fought their battles for them.  It is exciting to read about their adventures in the Old Testament.  The lessons are quite clear.

Then I wondered:  Do I miss out because of fear?  I thought, Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  Like the Israelites, I need to be trusting and obeying!  It reminded me of the truth of the hymn written by John H. Sammis,

“When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way,
When we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey!
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and obey.”

It would be good to stop and think of all the good things God has done.  It would be good if I could be like Joshua and Caleb and really trust and obey.

“Many will see what He has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:3

Shirley’s Soliloquy #208

07/20//08
"Remember your Creator"

“Like a grasshopper dragging itself along?”  Our son mentioned that phrase when he was visiting yesterday.  It struck a chord with us because sometimes we seem to feel that way!

We know our son enjoys listening to the Scriptures on his MP3 player.  He has most of the Bible recorded on it.  So as we were talking about the busy days we’ve had lately, he told us about an interesting illustration he had heard in the book of Ecclesiastes!  It told about a man dragging himself like a tired grasshopper!  We were intrigued and had to get out the concordance to find the reference.   We checked several versions, but when I read chapter 12, verse 5 in my New Living Translation,  “…you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper!”  --we had to chuckle over its graphic imagery!

This morning as I was reading it again, I went back to the beginning of the chapter,

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.
Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”
Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes,
And rain clouds continually darken your sky.
Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble;
And before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop.
Remember him before your teeth--your few remaining servants—stop grinding,
And before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the work fades.
Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
Remember him before you become fearful of falling
and worry about danger in the streets;
Before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom,
And you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper,
And the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire.
Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home,
when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young…
For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
     Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

Since I have a few years behind me, and some of these things seem quite true, my heart cries out to our young people today.  What good advice King Solomon gave so many years ago!  How wise were his final observations in verses 13 & 14:

“Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.
God will judge us for everything we do,
including every secret thing whether good or bad.”

Shirley’s Soliloquy #207

07/13//08

"Wind Rustling in the Tree"

It was an unusual flashback.  It took me back to my childhood.   Air-conditioning hadn’t been invented yet, and the summers were hot & humid.  My sister and I slept in upstairs bedrooms.  Mom and Dad would open the windows and leave the door to the downstairs open to get a cross-ventilation of a breeze.

But what left an indelible impression on my mind was the sound that the wind made when it blew through the leaves of those huge maple trees.  Probably it was those wonderful Lake Michigan breezes that helped to make that particular ‘rustling’ sound.  How I welcomed those lake breezes!  Last night when I heard that same sound through our open window, it seemed to transport me back to that time.  I got a smile on my face thinking about it.

But it also reminded me of many Scriptures that talk about the wind.   I thought about the episode when Jesus was on earth.  He was talking with Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night because he had questions he needed to ask Him.  Obviously, Nicodemus was troubled by His teachings.  Jesus had said that unless a person was ‘born again,’ he couldn’t see the Kingdom of God.  That was strange language to Nicodemus.  He asked Jesus how it would be possible for a grown man to enter into his mother’s womb a second time to be ‘born again’ (John 1:4).  Jesus was so loving, patient, and kind.  He didn’t laugh at his honest question.  He took the time to explain, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (3:6, ESV).  But he went on and made sure Nicodemus could understand.  I can imagine the wind blowing when Jesus was talking with him. So Jesus masterfully grabbed his attention by referring to it.  He explained (John 3:8, ESV),

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

It is impossible to ‘see’ the new birth.  But just as the wind itself can’t be seen, no one questions it because of the effects that can be seen.  Certainly using the illustration of the wind wasn’t a problem in Jesus’ day, for the people had seen His great power when, for example, He had stilled the raging winds and seas.

As I was thinking about the effect of the wind on the water, or in a hurricane or tornado, I realized that it would be foolish of me to question the reality or power of it just because I cannot see the wind itself.  So how can I doubt God’s Word when it tells me that the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to me?  I can read about the effects of that power in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and also in other saints recorded in the Bible.  I can read about its effects in the lives of the great missionaries of the faith down through the centuries.  And today it is still available to all those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Paul, in his epistle to the Romans wrote,

“(The Gospel) is the power (or the dynamite) of God unto salvation
to everyone who believeth.”  Romans 1:16 (KJV)

When a person is ‘born again’ by the Spirit of God, the effect could be greater than the wind rustling through the trees.  It could have the potential of influencing every aspect of that person’s life.

Shirley’s Soliloquy #206

07/06//08

"My Head!"

It sounds strange, but this week I’ve thought about my head in a different way!

The ladies Bible study that I am leading is studying Colossians.  How many times have I read this book?  I don’t honestly know.  It has been a lot of times.  But this past week, it struck me in a new way.  In fact, that was a comment of one of the ladies.  She said no matter how many times she has read the Bible, she always finds something new in it!

So my mind caught the 18th verse of Colossians, chapter 1.  It reads (NLT),

“Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.”

Yes, I know that.  I’ve read it and heard it countless times.  But this week, it hit me in a new way.  It became real to me!  I began to make a personal analogy.  I realize that my head has thoughts and ideas.  But my head can’t do anything about those thoughts and ideas.  It has to send signals to my body.  Then my body has to carry out these thoughts and ideas.

I realized what a wonderful metaphor that is of Christ being the head of His body, the church.  He is the One who is the brains behind all I should be doing.   He is the One who has the final say in my actions.  I am a member of His body!  I am to carry out his signals!   Just as my body cannot function without my head, I should not be able to function without Christ.  It’s amazing that He has chosen to limit Himself to people just like me to carry out His great plans!    He is the head and the brains!

The Apostle Paul continued with this metaphor in the book of Ephesians.  He wrote,

“We will speak the truth in love,
growing in every way more and more like Christ,
who is the head of his body, the church.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.
As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow,
So that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:15-16

Then I thought of those people who have disabilities.  My niece, for example, has spina bifida.  Her head is wonderfully normal!  It’s just that the lower part of her body isn’t responding to the signals from the head.  So it has limited all of her activities.  She is an intelligent, active, busy person, but part of her body isn’t working the way it should.  It isn’t responding to the signals from her head.  So that makes her handicapped.  I have to ask myself how I am responding to the One who is my head, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Am I heeding Paul’s words written to the Romans Christians?

“So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
Romans  6:13
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #205

06/29//08

"SUNshine/SONshine!"

From the dark, gray, dreary weather, we broke through the clouds into bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine!  The contrast was startling!  It made my heart skip a beat in the awesome wonder of the marvelous reality of it all!  It brought to mind one the most remarkable experiences of my life.

We had boarded the aircraft heading for England.  The weather definitely left something to be desired since the forecast was quite downcast and undesirable.  But we were in high spirits contemplating our trip and the reunion with dear friends and acquaintances in Europe.  So my mind was not on the weather at all, but on what lay ahead.

As the aircraft was ascending into the dark clouds, I thought how wonderful it was to be climbing so quickly into the air and emerging into the brilliant sunshine.  My mind flashed back to almost 12 years ago.  I had gone into the hospital for a catherization.  However, I must have had complications.  My husband told me the doctors had told him that I had had several cardiac arrests.  They didn’t give him much hope for my survival.  At his urging, they persisted in trying to restart my heart.  I am told that even though they were successful, my chest still had to remain open from Friday to Monday afternoon.  This was to allow the swelling caused by the electrical shocks to decrease so I could be closed up again.

Of course, I knew nothing about all this.  To this day I have no memory of it, only of what my husband, daughter, different people, and the doctors told me.  But there was one thing I do remember.  I remember rising into the sky just like that aircraft did.  I remember suddenly in the distance seeing a brilliant brightness drawing me upward.  As I drew closer, I saw it was JESUS!  My heart welled up with happiness within me!  It really was Him!  Finally!  Those were my thoughts.  Then I remember as I came up to Him, I collapsed at His feet and He surrounded me with wonderful peace.  It was as if He were wrapping His loving arms around me.  I lay there contented.  How long?  I don’t know.  I had no idea of time at all.  But I felt safe.

Then I remembered going back down, just as if it were an aircraft gliding back to the ground.  The next thing I knew, my husband was at my side, saying things, strange things, about it ‘being over, I was ok now.’  I didn’t understand what he was talking about.  But then I realized what was happening.  I wasn’t with Jesus any longer.  I do admit I was extremely disappointed.  But I knew that it wouldn’t be nice for my husband and family to hear that I had died.  I know I was quite drugged at the time, so I’m not sure what I was saying.  But I think I told them I had been with Jesus!  Later they told me I was smiling from ear to ear!  I know I was really excited and wanted to tell people about it.  Some people looked happy for me, some seemed skeptical.  It really didn’t bother me, because I knew that what had happened was as real as the sun above the clouds.  To this day, it has given me no fear of death and a wonderful assurance of the prospect of being with Jesus after this life on earth is over.

So back to our recent flight to Europe, when we broke through those dark, dreary, rainy clouds into the brilliant sunshine and blue skies, I realized why my heart skipped a beat!  It reminded me of my experience those many years ago.  1 Corinthians 2:9 says,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #204

06/22//08

"It’s a ‘God Thing’!"

Her face lit up like the sun breaking brilliantly through the clouds!  She exclaimed, “It has to be a God thing!”

A good friend had made it possible for us to attend a Military Reunion in Italy, and we were sitting in the airport boarding area waiting for our flight across the Atlantic.  There was a young lady sitting a few seats to the side of me.  She got up and asked if I would watch her books while she went to the restroom.

While she was gone, I noticed she was obviously a student.  There were various large books about mental disorders of children next to her seat.  When she got back, she thanked me for watching them.  I laughed and said that probably not many people would want to steal those books anyway!

She caught my interest in the subject and asked if I had been a teacher.  When I said I had, her eyes lit up, and she said she was too!  She said she thought I had been a teacher because teachers are friendly people.  She asked what grade I’d taught.  When I told her, she sparkled and said she had too!  As we were talking we realized that we had a lot in common!   She then told me she had taught four years and had seen the need of working with troubled children and decided she wanted to help them.  So she was pursuing this specialized field of study.  She was just completing the program and was preparing for a four-hour exam.  It must be a difficult one, for she said she was hoping to pass it the first time.

As we continued talking she asked how long we had been married.  When I told her 53 years, she said she had often wondered what the secret was for staying together in today’s world.  I told her that I really felt it was because we were Christians, and we both wanted to serve the Lord.

Her face became radiant as she uttered, ‘It has to be a God thing!’  She said that she had just become a Christian one and a half years ago.  She was amazed that we happened to be talking together.

I told her I wasn’t surprised, because when I was waking this morning, I asked the Lord to open my mind to His thoughts and use me how He wanted today.  I prayed, ‘Help me to see opportunities You want me to see.’  It confirmed to me that the Lord had brought us together.  I admit when her eyes lit up and she said she had just become a Christian, I felt like jumping up and giving her a big hug!

I thought later, how wonderful it is that there is such a closeness and unity among believers.  Even though we’ve just met, it’s as if we had known each other for a long time.  ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘The Bible says we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  There is a family relationship there!’  It made me think of my recent readings in the Gospels where Jesus said,

“Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”
Then he pointed to his disciples and said, ‘”Look, these are my mother and brothers.  Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
Matthew 12:48-49

I told her I’d be praying for her as she takes the exam.  She thanked me and said she’s noticed that prayer really works!  Meeting me had encouraged her.   She exclaimed once again, “It has to be a God thing!”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #203

06/15//08
"Unity in Christ"

Amazing news in our paper this morning!  Two local churches, a Reformed Church and a Christian Reformed Church, are going to share communion for the first time in 126 years!  The newspaper said “Two pastors talking over a cup of coffee will result in the passing of the cup between their two congregations.”  Evidently they had split more than a hundred years ago when there was an “internal disagreement” which caused some members to break away and leave the denomination.  It brought to mind Jesus’ sayings that I had pondered while reading the Gospel of John.

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  John 10:16 (ESV)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:20-21 (ESV)

My mind conjures up the image of not only those who were following Jesus in that day, but also down through the ages all who have believed.  Then I think of all the denominations that are in the world today.   All of them probably feel they are the ones who are truly faithful in following Him to the best of their abilities.  So how wonderful if every true Christian, regardless of their particular distinctions, could say, we are one with our brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Apostle Paul had much to say about unity in the ‘Body of Christ,’ even between Jews and Gentiles.  This was revolutionary in his day, because Gentiles were called ‘outsiders,’ ‘uncircumcised heathen!’ (Eph 2:11, NLT).  But Paul had received something new from the Lord that had been hidden from ages and generations.  It was basically that there was now no difference between Jews and Gentiles.  His words were remarkable!  Some people believed and praised God, but some hated him and went so far as to try to kill him!  Yet he kept proclaiming the news that,

“Christ himself has brought peace to us.
He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross,
he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us….
He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself
 one new people from the two groups.”  Eph. 2:14, 15 (NLT)

This is so wonderful!  How glorious it will be when Christ returns when we won’t have all these man-made divisions!  We will have fellowship with all believers, no matter what color, denomination, or socio-economical background!  There will be no insults or slights to anyone.  As Ephesians 3:6 records it,

“ Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News
share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.
Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings,
 because they belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Shirley’s Soliloquy #202

06/08//08
"Pointing the Way"

I noticed a most unusual phenomenon this afternoon.  I was sitting on our porch swing reading, when I looked up to rest my eyes.  Something very strange registered in my mind.

I saw a young looking, but tall, straight tree with a circumference of about a couple inches.  It was leaning on a 45-degree angle!  I thought perhaps it had fallen.  But as I was looking at it, I noticed it was blowing gently in the wind just as the other upright trees were.  It appeared to be normal and healthy, except that it was leaning at such an extreme angle.  I wondered how that could be possible!

Then I noticed that it was as if it were pointing to a straight, tall full-grown tree.  That was obviously a large healthy one.  Its perfection seemed to stand out among all the others.  How interesting!  The young abnormal tree seemed to be directing my attention towards the seemingly perfect tree.

Probably since I’ve been reading the Gospel of John, my mind went immediately to John the Baptist.  I thought how his ministry was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.  In fact, when the angel of the Lord told Zechariah of his son’s coming birth, he said, “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High because you will prepare the way for the Lord.” Luke 1:76, NLT

How interesting that after John grew up, people realized he was different.  He had been in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.  He was “clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.” (Mark 1:6).  The people were puzzled over his ministry.  They wondered who he was.  He tried to explain by quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.  ‘Make straight’ the way of the Lord.” John 1:23.   He was pointing the people to the Lord.  He said. “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Mark 1:7.

 It is interesting to see how John’s disciples seemed to be protective of him.  At one time they came to him, concerned because some of his followers were beginning to follow Jesus.  But John told them again that he was not the Messiah, he was only there to prepare the way for him.    He likened his ministry to the friend of the bridegroom who rejoiced greatly by being able to stand with him and hear his vows  (John 3:26-28).

I can only imagine what an exciting moment it must have been when he did finally see Jesus!  He exclaimed,

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
John 1:29, ESV

What a wonderful example he was!  He lived a life that was totally unselfish, having the one desire to point people to the coming Messiah/Savior.   So that reminded me again of that tree pointing in its own humble way towards the tall, mighty tree, I thought of the example of John.  Instead of being bothered that his disciples were turning to follow Jesus, He rejoiced and said,

 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30, KJV

Shirley’s Soliloquy #201

06/01//08

"Positive Thoughts"

My feet are cold!  To be exact, every one of my ten toes are cold!’  As I sat in my chair contemplating what project I was going to start next, I mused, ‘Strange, but it’s near the end of the month of May.  Certainly I shouldn’t still be so cold.’  Then I realized that all ten of my fingers were cold too!

It’s interesting how in retirement I have the luxury of thinking such thoughts!  I remember the constant activity, whether physical or mental, that I had before I had retired.  In retrospect, there doesn’t seem like there were so many times that I even thought about those individual fingers and toes.

That brought to mind a good friend of ours who always pooh-poohed such statements.  “Cold?  Why it’s not cold!  It’s all in your head!”  This was his familiar response even during the cold months as he climbed on a roof or to the upper levels of some building where he was working.

Going back further, I remember how my Dad would prove the power of ‘mind over matter’ as he’d try to get me to take some ‘castor oil,’ or some horrible tasting medicine.  “Mmmm, that’s good!” he’d say as he would taste a bit and smack his lips.

And I also thought of the times when we were young that Dad would take us for rides in the country on a Sunday afternoon.  When we’d pass a farm, invariably we’d hold our noses and try not to breathe!  But again, as he would deeply inhale the odors of the ‘natural’ fertilizer, he would say, “What?  That’s good perfume!”   In later years I remembered not only his psychology, but also that during his childhood, he was brought up on a farm.  Probably those odors brought back pleasant memories for him.

Some people talk of the idea of the power of positive thoughts as being something new.  But I think of the statement of Solomon who is said to be the wisest man who ever lived.  He said,

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

That verse brings me to the advice that was written about two thousand years ago in the book of Philippians (4:8, ESV).  Today it still proves to be true.  I know if I follow it, I am much better off.  Maybe it is ‘mind over matter’ or ‘positive thoughts,’ but these words continue to be good advice for me.

“Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #200

05/25/08
"Just Not Now"

I have to chuckle when I think of Kneessa, my daughter’s dog.  She really wants to obey her mistress, -- ‘Just not now.’  Linda will get her leash to take her out, and ask her, ‘Kneessa, do you want to go out?’  The little Yorkie will get all excited and run around in little circles, just out of Linda’s reach. So Linda will ask her again, ‘Kneessa, do you want to go out?  Come here then,’ and she will point to the spot where the little dog is supposed to sit.  But she will still run around in little circles, out of her reach.  Then Linda will say, ‘Ok, I’m going without you,’ and head for the door.  Sometimes the Yorkie will come really close and let her put on her leash, but sometimes she won’t, and she gets left behind.

I thought how ‘human’ that behavior really is.  I remember when our children were young.  They would behave in the same way.  Sometimes they would obey right away, but other times they would procrastinate and drag their feet.

But then, when I stop to think about it, when I was growing up, I’d sometimes be the same way.  Or even now, sometimes when my husband asks me to do something, I take my time before doing it.  I will do it…but just in my own time.  It’s not that I’m obstinate, maybe I might have other things on my mind, or else I could be kinda’ tired and want to put it off until sometime later.  But he would probably admit that sometimes he’s that way too!

When I was reading in the gospels, I thought about Jesus calling men to be his disciples.  He said, ‘Follow me.’  Their response was immediate.  There was no procrastination:  (Matthew 4:19-20).

”And he (Jesus) said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (ESV)

But sometimes men will say, ‘I can’t just now, I must do this or that.’  (Matthew 8:21-22; 19:21-29).

Thinking about it, I realize how much that is like the person who says, ‘I will give my life to the Lord, but just not now.’  Later, when I am older, but not yet.  At the moment, I want to enjoy myself.    Jesus told the story about a rich man who had a fertile farm producing wonderful crops.  The man said,

“I’ll sit back and say to myself,
‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come.
Now take it easy!  Eat, drink, and be merry!’
But God said to him, ‘ You fool! You will die this very night.
Then who will get everything you worked for?’
‘Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth
but not have a rich relationship with God.’”
Luke 12:19-21 (NLT)

“Behold now is ‘the acceptable time,’
behold now is ‘the day of salvation.’”
2 Corinthians 6:2 (NAS)
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #199

05/18/08
"Trimming, Pruning, & Cutting"
My hair keeps falling down onto my forehead and into my eyes!  Even when I wash it and brush it straight back, as it is drying, it still ends up on my forehead.  Finally, when it gets to becoming too much of a nuisance, I snip a little here and there.  Then I’m not bothered by it for a while.  But eventually I realize that it’s time for a trim by a beautician!

These thoughts reminded me of my hydrangea bushes!  They are overgrown with leaves!  Never have I seen flowers on them, just lots of leaves.  I trim them a little each year, but last year I was ready to dig them up and discard them!  Our friend was visiting in the Fall and suggested that I should cut them way back.  Be ruthless!  Well, I figured it couldn’t hurt!  Maybe they might know their time is limited and will produce flowers this year!  It’s worth a try!

Then it occurred to me the number of times the Bible talks about trimming or pruning!  I remember Jesus and His disciples were out walking one day.  They saw a fig tree with no fruit.  According to C. H. Spurgeon, it is the nature of the fig tree that the fruit appears before the leaves open.  So since there were already leaves, but no fruit, it was right of Jesus to believe that the tree was worthless.  It wasn’t living up to its purpose!  It was supposed to bear fruit!  In John 15:2  (ESV), it is recorded that Jesus said,

“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Mrs. H. S. Lehman wrote a moving song in 1924 that has remained in my memory through the years.

“The Master is seeking a harvest in lives He’s redeemed by His blood;
He seeks for the fruit of the Spirit, and works that will glorify God.

“Nothing but leaves for the Master, oh, how His loving heart grieves.
Instead of the fruit He is seeking, we offer Him nothing but leaves.”

This song breaks my heart!  How awful for my dear Savior to look at His own disciples whom He has redeemed with such a great price, and to see no fruit, just nothing but leaves.  How can we bear fruit?  The Bible says,

“And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead.
As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.”  Romans 7:4.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—
the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—
for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:11 (NLT)

I wonder if my life has something that needs to be pruned?  Now is the time to do some soul-searching.
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #198

05/11/08

"Blessings Beyond Measure"

This has to be the most outstanding Tulip Time we’ve had in years!  The tulips are absolutely perfect.  The flowering trees and shrubs are at their peak.  And the weather has been almost idyllic so far!  We’ve had sunshine and mild temperatures every day, raining only at night!  I can’t help wondering if that will last all week.  I thought, ‘It’s almost like we are living in a modern day Camelot!’

Then to make it even more perfect, our daughter plans to come tomorrow from Ohio.  So she and our other daughter and I will be enjoying some of the Tulip Time activities around the city.  Strangely, our son and my husband don’t seem to be quite as interested in these things as we are!  But being together once again will be very special for all of us.

One of the first things we will do is to drive around the Tulip Lanes.  Every year the city sees that the tulip planting of millions of tulips on each side of the streets will be at their best.  It is an amazing achievement and absolutely spectacular to see!

I keep thinking, ‘How good the Lord is to me!’  How do I deserve all these many blessings?  We are living in an unusually clean, picturesque city.  And right now, everything seems to be going so well.

The other morning, I was reading the words of King David in 2 Samuel 7.  He said,

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house,
that you have brought me thus far?
Therefore, you are great, O Lord God.  For there is none like you,
And there is no God besides you….
And now, O Lord God, you are God,
and your words are true!”
2 Samuel 7:18, 22, 28

His words hit a chord in my heart.  In the last several days, my son said almost the same thing, so the words of King David have been mulling around in my mind, ‘Who am I that I should be so blessed?’  I stopped to think:  I have a comfortable home, a loving husband, wonderful children, and sufficient food to eat so that we do not go hungry.  I live in a clean lovely city in freedom without fear of persecution.

Then I think of many people around the world who don’t have these blessings.  Many people are suffering from untold physical problems, and some from terrible disasters.  Almost daily my heart aches when I hear about them.  I pray for them, even though I don’t know who they are, but the Lord knows!  He knows and He cares.  How comforting it is to be able to cast all my cares upon Him, knowing that He does care (1 Peter 5:7).

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth,
to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.”
2 Chronicles 16:9
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #197

05/04/08
"It’s  Spreading!"

They say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”   Well, sometimes it seems that way!  About a week and a half ago, a podiatrist recommended that I should get a certain kind of sandal for my fractured toes.  He said these particular shoes were very sturdy, and I would be able to walk better with them.  When I put them on and tried to walk without crutches, I found that I could!  It’s wonderful to walk without pain!

The next day, I heard about a neighborhood that was having garage sales.  I thought I would try to check it out.  So I slowly started walking.  Without thinking and without pain, I was walking from one street to another.  I was having so much fun!  After all, I hadn’t been able to do that without crutches for over three weeks!  But after a while, I realized that the top of my foot was hurting.  I was probably getting a blister from those new shoes.   By the time I got back home, I realized that it was a large blister that had broken open.  Now, over a week later, it still is not healing, but even seems larger and more inflamed.

As I was thinking about this inflammation, I realized that it is the body’s way to fight infection. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems to spread.  I thought of the similarities between something that starts out as a simple irritation but develops into a blister.  This could progress to being an infection resulting in something more serious, even in extreme cases to the extent of needing an amputation.  The wise person takes care to attend to the simple sore in the beginning.

I thought how similar a simple skin disturbance is to some behavior that could quite easily develop into a habit.  Some habits are good.  I thought of our great-granddaughter learning to walk.  She would try to take a step, but would immediately fall.  But undaunted by this experience, she would try again and again, until unsteadily, she took her first steps.  Now she is not only steady on her feet, but also she is walking and running without a thought.   Walking has become a habit to her.

Yes, some habits are good, but some could be harmful.  I remember the first time someone offered me a cup of coffee.  I thought what a horrible tasting liquid that was!  I was working as a secretary in an elementary school office during my senior year in high school.  The teachers came into my office on their break to have a cup of coffee.  They urged me to try a cup.  I declined, but they said I needed to be social since I was becoming an adult.  Adults drank coffee.  So I gingerly tried a sip.  It was horrible tasting!  But I forced down a swallow.  They kept urging me to drink more.  Slowly, I took a couple of swallows.  As days went by I knew I couldn’t disappoint them.  After a while, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was in the beginning!    Now I enjoy a cup, especially a cappuccino!

Yes, that’s how habits start.  Just as this awful looking sore on my foot started as a slight irritation that I ignored at first, it developed and spread until my whole body felt it.

It reminds me of the leaven or yeast that is mentioned in the Bible.  It starts out quite small, but it quickly can become large.  In fact, Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven was like the yeast that a woman used in making bread.  Even though she put only a little yeast in the flour, it permeated every part of the dough  (Matthew 13).  Just as a little sore or some habit can seem to fill the life of a person, one day the Kingdom of heaven will fill the earth.  What a wonderful day that will be!  In the meantime, I must remember that any action, whether for good or bad, can develop into a habit and spread.  As both Paul and the Lord said,

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  (Galatians 5:9)

Shirley’s Soliloquy #196

04/27/08

"Anticipation & Culmination"

The school bands are practicing every day!  A couple weeks ago we heard just the drums beating the rhythm.  The band members needed to practice their formations for marching in the Tulip Time parades.  Now we are hearing the music too.  I can imagine them marching on the fields, perfecting every move in anticipation of their performances during the Festival.

My sister has been busy making a Dutch costume for her granddaughter.  She will be in the Dutch Dance, sometimes performing multiple times a day.  Every article in the costume, there are seven of them all, had to be perfect.  She had to have so many inches for the hems, so many inches between layers, certain types of fabric.  It was very detailed and exact.  They came over one day when it was about half finished to show it to me.  I can’t wait to see it finished!

Our daughter and granddaughter are hoping to come for the culminating Saturday’s activities.  We have lots of things planned.  If possible, our son and daughter will be able to be with us also.  It is always so good for us to be together!

Some of the tulips are beginning to open their lovely buds just in time for our many visitors.  Millions of the tulips are planted along the streets and in stunning displays around the city.  The blossoming trees are almost in full bloom.  Spring!  What a welcoming sight here in Michigan after the long, snowy winter!

All around us the excitement is building in anticipation of these events: the special programs, the visitors to our city, the parades, performances, and activities.  The festival will culminate on Saturday.

In a way, it made me think of the believers in the early church.  Oh, the excitement of having Jesus walking, doing miracles, and living among them!  Crowds followed him everywhere.  Sometimes He’d try to get away from the crowds to pray.  But it wasn’t long before they heard where He was and gathered, waiting expectantly for more of His wonderful words and works.

Then the Bible says that a cloud took him “out of their sight” and two white-robed men suddenly stood among them and said, “Why are you standing here staring up into heaven?  Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return…in the same way you saw him go.” (Acts 1:11, NLT).

Wow!  Imagine the effect that must have had on them!  They must have felt downcast, realizing those days of having Him among them were gone.  But then after the wonderful news that He would once again return in the same way, they must have been filled with great anticipation.  No wonder their lives were dramatically changed.  Before, they had been scared, even denying Him.  But afterwards they went all over, even facing persecution and death to proclaim the good news concerning salvation and His return!  The culmination of these events hasn’t happened yet, so I can be anticipating the fulfillment of the following Scripture,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching us that…we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Titus 2:11, 13 (NKJV)

Shirley’s Soliloquy #195
04/20/08
"Shaking, Nervous, & Fearful"

All around I’m seeing people who are “shaking in their boots.”

Some are nervous because it’s exam time!  Even though they have studied diligently, there is always the underlying thought that maybe I haven’t studied enough!  What if I can’t recall what I’ve studied?

Some people are having physical tests themselves, resulting in surgery.  Some are undergoing chemo or radiation treatments.  Then they suffer all the side effects of these procedures.

Some are fearful because of the election in our country coming up this year.  What is the wisest way to vote?  What will be the outcome of it?  Nerves are on end.  Which way should we turn?  What’s the best thing to do?

Some people are caring for loved ones who are having physical problems.  Some have heartaches in their own families, with their own children or grandchildren.  It seems every family has some heartache they are bravely enduring.  I remember my mom telling me, “Honey, people look like they are happy on the outside, but every family has some little cross they are bearing.”  Down through the years I have found that very true.

It reminds me of the Psalmist who gave such good advice,

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers, be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good,….
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act….
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way;
 over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Psalm 37:1-9 (ESV)

A verse that has come to mean a lot to me is 2 Timothy 1:7.  I keep it in the back of my mind.

“God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

So then I can chide myself, like the Psalmist of old (42:6), and say,

“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.”
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #194
04/13/08
"Rejoicing and Suffering Together"

“For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
…If one member suffers, all suffer together;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
1 Corinthians 12:12, 26

Recently these statements of Holy Scripture became so much more alive to me.

First of all, since I dropped a heavy weight and injured the two toes of my foot two weeks ago, I have been taking extra care of them twice a day.  I’ve learned to walk with crutches.  Gradually as the pain has been subsiding, I am happily walking without the crutches, just with the special protective shoe – still taking care to clean, apply antiseptic, and bandage them twice a day.  But even if they were only little toes, they still caused great distress to the rest of my body!  And as they are beginning to show healing and improvement, the other members of my body are beginning to relax and feel better too.

Secondly, we were in Ohio for a few days where Henry preached at Calvary Chapel, a fellowship filled with many dear friends.  While there, we were also able to be with our daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Paradoxically, it brought tears to my eyes, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and rejoicing, just to be with all of those wonderful people that we love so dearly.

We experienced and heard of recent blessings and causes for rejoicing, but also of deep pains and sufferings.  Their pastor was recently released from the hospital.  That was a miracle in itself, for he had been in dire physical straits, including complications from heart by-pass surgery.  He had a complexity of serious conditions.  Yet, the Lord was gracious and has been restoring him back so that he can be with his beloved flock.  One of our other dear friends unexpectedly had to be taken to the hospital because she was experiencing difficulty breathing.  However, now she is back home recuperating.

In a graphic way, we realized that we suffer whenever any of them do, and we rejoice with them in all their victories and causes for praise.

I have come to deeply appreciate the Bible and its wonderfully figurative language.  It intensifies the meaning so that I can better identify and even feel what is being said.

And so, 1 Corinthians twelve came to the forefront as I began considering these recent events.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
1 Corinthians 12:26
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #193
04/06/08
"Handicapped!"
Wow-ow!  Talk about painful; this took the prize, at least this time around!  I was putting my cappuccino maker into a plastic bag for our trip home when a heavy steel cylinder fell on my toes.  I yelled and hopped around in great pain, and then I noticed it was bleeding.  Henry came quickly and put paper towels on it and helped me to the sofa.  He got ice and more paper towels.  The nail had been pushed up out of the root of the toe and the other toes were already turning colors.  After looking at it and it didn’t stop bleeding, he took me to the emergency.  They cut the rest of the toenail off, and gave me a shot, antibiotics, pain medication, and a special shoe, crutches, and instructions to keep it elevated.

After spending the afternoon and evening at the hospital, we got back and fell into bed exhausted!  We were supposed to be packing the car for our trip back north.  Once again, I wondered about the timing for all this to have happened.  However, Henry got the car packed, and eventually we were off to our home up north.  While we were on our trip, I realized some of the reasons why this might have happened now.

We had stopped at a Hardees’ for a sandwich on the way.  Henry was ordering for us and I struggled to a table with the crutches.  I found out there is an art to using crutches!  It’s not as easy as it looks!  In fact, I have come to appreciate the provisions made for the handicapped much more than before.  For one thing, being able to park nearer the stores is something that is deeply appreciated.  Another thing that means a lot is the extra room in restrooms for handicapped carts or crutches.  Also, I noticed that people seem to be extra nice and thoughtful.  They hold doors open and seem almost overly pleasant.

But getting back to the restaurant, there was a black man seated in a corner table.  His head was almost touching his right shoulder, and his left arm and hand seemed to be disabled.  As I was trying to maneuver into my seat, he saw my special shoe and crutches and asked what had happened.  I told him.  Then he kept talking; his eyes seemed almost out of control, darting around.  It was very hard to understand him because besides slurring his words, he had one of the most extreme southern Alabama accents I’d heard.  He seemed lonely.  He kept talking, his eyes darting all around, but suddenly they focused on me again.  He asked, “Who am I?”  I didn’t catch what he said, but after his eyes wandered for a few seconds, he again looked intently at me and repeated it, “Who am I?”  I understood that without any trouble.

I looked at him and said, “You are a person that God loves!”  He caught that right away, and seemed relieved.  He continued talking, and from time to time I was able to understand what he said and then was able to answer him with Scriptures.

I thought afterwards, that was not like me to be talking with someone like that, but somehow I think I was there at the right time.  I might have been the one who was the vessel through whom the Lord chose to reach out to him.  There was one other young fellow sitting in a booth alone.  Obviously he had heard all our conversation.  Many times I have prayed for the Lord to open my eyes and ears so I will be able to be used of Him in some way.  I don’t always realize the opportunities until they are past, so I am thankful when I can and do.  I realize that, regardless of my circumstances, He can use my eyes, ears, and mouth to see, hear, and speak His Words.  I must always “Be ready at all times to answer someone of the hope within you.”  1 Peter 3:15 (GNMM).  I thought again of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV),

“God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Shirley’s Soliloquy #192
03/30/08
"Amazing Power!"
The amazing flowers, so brilliant and beautiful, coming from tiny seeds and bulbs, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ were in my mind. Probably I was focused on them because it is Spring and it is also the time when the religious world celebrates Easter. But then I thought about the power manifested in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. What a miraculous event that must have been!

With those things in the back of my mind, I was completely astounded to read in the New Living Translation a portion of Scripture in Ephesians chapter one! It grabbed me, and it hasn’t left my mind yet! The apostle Paul wrote,

 “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.”
 Ephesians 1:19-20

Talk about incredible! Talk about mighty! It is absolutely astounding! To think that that power that raised Christ from the dead is available to me leaves me speechless! All I have to do is to really believe it and claim it in my life! Why does this sometime seem so hard to do? Some people say, that was written in the gospels, that isn’t written for us and has no application for us today. But then why did the apostle Paul write in Ephesians that it is for us who believe him? Do I really believe that anything is too great for God to handle? Of course not! Well then, why do I not accept it in my everyday life and live it?

I thought of the first chapter of Luke where the angel came to the virgin Mary, and told her that she would conceive and bear a son whose name would be called Jesus. Mary was taken aback, for she said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? (ESV).” The angel answered her,

“For nothing is impossible with God!”
 Luke 1:37 (NLT)

This reminded me of the chorus written by Eugene Clark that we sang when we were children:

 "Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God;
Nothing is impossible when you’re trusting in His Word.
Hearken to the voice of God to thee; ‘Is there anything too hard for Me?’
Then put your trust in God alone, and rest upon His Word;
For ev’rything, O, ev’rything is possible with God.”

I need that total childlike response. Nothing is impossible! Jesus had told the man in Mark 9, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (vs. 23). May I respond in honesty as he did: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (vs. 24).

Shirley’s Soliloquy #191
03/23/08
"New Life!"
I was excited when I saw the Easter lilies along with the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths in full bloom on the street corners here in southern Alabama!  In fact, I couldn’t help myself from putting my head out the car window because I had to try to get a whiff of those incomparable fragrances!  It is almost impossible to believe that I saw those little bulbs wilt and die last year.  Yet miraculously this spring they appeared again in all their beauty.   How interesting that they had to die before they could be resurrected into the newness of their fresh life and beauty.  I thought it is just like my Creator God to give me such a striking object lesson to illustrate my new life in Christ.

That reminded me of the visit of our friends from England last week.  During the time that they were with us, Norman spoke four times in five days in different churches and also at a Christian Businessmen’s Luncheon.   In every meeting where he spoke, people were convicted, knowing their lives needed a change.  Some came forward to give their broken lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ, and some rededicated their lives towards a more faithful and fruitful service for Him.  They knew their old way of life had to go.  They had to say ‘no’ to their old ways, and ‘yes’ to God.  So they did an “about face,” they turned from their old ways and looked to the Savior for help.  They needed to have that old life die, in order for the new to spring forth!

What an object lesson there is with those beautiful flowers!  Just as they had to die in order to bring forth beauty and new growth, so a person has to say ‘no’ to the old life, and begin anew with Christ Jesus as the director of this new life in Him.  The Bible clearly states that,

“I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
Who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20, ESV

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ,
he is a new creation.
The old has passed away;
Behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-18, ESV

How appropriate that this Sunday is Resurrection Sunday!  It is a time for new life all around us.  It is a time to say ‘no’ to the old self, and ‘yes’ to the Lord.  It is a time for me to examine my life and see how I can be a better vessel, fit for His use.  I need to cry out with the hymn writer, (James E. Orr, 1936),

“Search me, O God, and try my heart today…
Lord take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride,
I now surrender, Lord—in me abide.”
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #190

03/16/08

"Why, Lord?"

In spite of gracious considerations, a split took place in the church.  It left deep hurts among the people who were left.  But they cried out to the Lord, united with one purpose to seek His leading.  And He led!  They called a new pastor who showered godly love and grace on them and on all who came in contact with him.   The work began to experience growth again.  Their love for each other seemed to fill the place and was extended to anyone entering.  The Lord was blessing.  BUT THEN their beloved pastor went into the hospital with a complexity of physical problems.  He is still in the hospital weeks later.  Why did this happen when the Lord’s presence and blessing seemed so evident?  WHY, LORD?

My husband and I were meeting our friend whose husband had suddenly died a few weeks ago.  We were going to walk around the Mall and then go to a Luncheon and Spiritual Feast put on by the Pensacola Christian College.  We had a wonderful morning together.  Close to the time for lunch, I walked her to her car.  But as she was getting her keys out, we decided it would be nicer if she would ride with us.  So we walked through several lanes to get to our car when she suddenly remembered that she had left her purse on her car’s trunk!  She immediately started running back, frantically thinking of the likelihood that her purse with all its contents would be stolen. In her distressed state of mind, she failed to notice the cement bumper guards in the parking lot and tripped and fell over one of them.  Her eyelid was gashed open, bleeding down her face and on her clothes.  She bruised her leg, hand, and wrist.  A huge lump was forming on her forehead.  We immediately took her across the street to the Hospital’s Emergency to get attention for her.  It should have been such a blessed day together instead of the way it turned out.  I thought how awful that this happened to her such a short time after her husband’s death!  WHY, LORD?

We took our car to the Express Oil Change where they told us we should have our transmission flushed.  So we made an appointment to have it done the next day.  We felt good that he had caught something that might have become a serious problem.  However, soon after we had that done, we noticed that the transmission started grabbing.  It grew progressively worse until we wondered if we’d make it back home again.  Needless to say, we had it checked by several people and found it would cost between 2000 and 2500 dollars.  We didn’t have that kind of money.  But my husband was scheduled to speak at several churches an hour to an hour and a half away during the next few weeks.  Since we didn’t trust our car to make the trip, we had to rent one.  We wondered about this timing.  WHY, LORD?

I thought of a little Illustrated Story Book for children that I used years ago.  It told of a little lamb that was very inquisitive.  He was prone to wander away from the shepherd and find himself in serious trouble.  The shepherd saved him from disaster time after time.  Finally the shepherd said, ‘Little lamb.  You are so precious to me.  I can’t risk losing you to some wild animal or other disaster.”  So the shepherd broke the lamb’s little leg.  Then he had to carry him constantly close to his heart.  By the time his leg was healed, he was so used to being close to the shepherd that he never wandered away again.  He learned to love his shepherd so much that he always wanted to be near him.

I wonder if sometimes a little nudging to keep my eyes fixed on my gentle Shepherd might be needed?  I know He wants what is best for me, even though sometimes it means going through trials and sorrows.  Help me to have ears to hear and a mind to listen when You call.  May I respond like young Samuel did,

                   “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel!  Samuel!”
And Samuel said, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.”
1 Samuel 3:9
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #189

03/08/08

"Peace or No Peace"

Since I was very tired, I thought I’d better put my head down on the sofa for a few minutes. We were planning to go out with friends, and I didn’t want to be too tired to enjoy our time together. So I closed my eyes.
 

No sooner had I gotten settled, than my eyes popped open again. I saw the most beautiful sight that I thought I had ever seen! The sun was shining on the Gulf of Mexico. What made it so unusual was because the water was very smooth. There was hardly a wave on it. There were just little ripples for as far as my eye could see, and each ripple seemed to catch the sun in such a way that it looked like they were holding a magnificent display of diamonds. It was sparkling brilliantly! The whole scene seemed to catch my entire being and brought a quiet peace to me. I had to breathe a little prayer of thanks to the Lord for calming my spirit in such a graphic way.

Yet as I was contemplating this peaceful scene, I remembered many times when the water hadn’t been this calm. Sometimes it would seem like the waves were crashing angrily against the shore, and I would almost tremble with the power of it. The water would appear to be a darker, more foreboding color, churning up huge waves a long way out. Then my heart trembled, and I thought of verses in the Bible like Isaiah 57:20-21 (KJV) that uses the imagery of the angry ways.

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest,
 whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
   There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
 

Especially in these troublesome times, I see many people whose thoughts and hearts are filled with unease and fear. There seems to be an underlying longing for something of which they really aren’t aware. They feel lost and hopeless.

But there is hope! Because when Jesus was on earth, He told His disciples (John 16:33, ESV),
 

   “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
   But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
 

The Apostle Paul clearly spelled out this peace when he wrote Romans 5:1 and Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT),
 

     “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith,
          we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”

     “…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.”
 

Again, I thank you Lord Jesus for being my Savior,
and for giving me peace even in the midst of life’s storms!
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #188

03/01/08

"The Elder Brother"

‘He was angry! He wouldn’t join the celebrations when his younger brother came home! It still irked him to think that his brother had gone to his father and asked him for his inheritance. It was as if he were wishing that his father were dead. And his father had actually given it to him! To make matters even worse, his brother didn’t want it for something worthwhile at all. No, he went out and squandered it in loose living, even with prostitutes. Now he has the nerve to come here today, looking like a tramp. His clothes were filthy and ragged, and he stunk like the pigs he had been living with. He had even eaten the pig’s food since his money was all gone. But his father had been waiting, looking off in the distance; guess he kept hoping he’d come back. When his father saw him coming, he actually ran to him and hugged him! In that condition! Then he had him cleaned up, given a ring, and even new clothes. He treated him royally!

The elder brother commiserated with himself, ‘He had never been treated that way. He had been working in the fields, doing everything he was supposed to do. He had never refused to do anything his father asked of him. No way was he going in there and join in those festivities! He couldn’t believe it when his father came out and begged him to join them, because, as his father had said, ‘Your brother has come home!’ Well, he wasn’t any brother of his after the way he’d treated his father!

‘So he told his father! He told him plainly, “Look these many years I have served you and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

‘He told him all right! But what did his father say? He told him that he was always with him, and everything he had was his. All he had to do was ask and he would have thrown a party for him and his friends too.’ (Shirley Hudson’s paraphrase of Luke 15)

Interestingly the Bible doesn’t say if the elder brother repented and joined in the celebrations or not. He might have chosen to remain outside of his father’s house. How sad! I’d heard two sermons of this parable in the last four days! Wow! I thought. That must have hit those Pharisees and scribes hard. In fact, verses 2 and 3 imply that the parable was aimed at them. They were the religious and self-righteous people of the day!

A short time after that, Jesus spoke of two men who went into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who stood and prayed thanking God that he wasn’t like other men were. But a publican stood off to the side with his head bowed begging God to be merciful to him, a sinner! Jesus then said that everyone who exalts himself would be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:13-14).

But then I thought, this must be something that I should also hear since two preachers had it as part of their texts! Sometimes I find myself being self-righteous. Like the rich young ruler, I say, I’ve kept these commandments all my life! But then I pause to reflect on what James says in chapter one, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (1:26).  He also says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”  (2:10).
 

                                Amazing words! I’m so glad Jesus died to pay for all my sins. Thank you Lord!
 
 



Shirley’s Soliloquy #187
02/23/08
"Whiter Than
Snow!"

I’ve been seeing pictures in the news about the snow. I see people venturing out of their homes, tightly holding their clothes around themselves trying to get some protection from the blast of the winds and blizzard conditions. I see cars and large vehicles sliding on the roads, causing accidents. Schools, churches, and other gatherings are having to be cancelled. Even flights are being cancelled, causing crowded conditions in the airports. I see people trying to find a place to sleep while waiting for their flights to resume. Brrr, it brings back memories and makes me shiver!

But in spite of personally having experienced conditions like this, I love to see the snow, especially when I’m inside, looking out the window! It is awesome to see those gorgeous snowflakes falling lazily down. Sometimes the ground, trees, and branches covered with the snow look like sparkling diamonds!

Imagining the beauty and purity of the freshly falling snow brings to mind Psalm 51:7 that says,

    “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Then the old hymn written by James L. Nicholson also comes to my mind.

       “Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole; I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
                               Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
                           Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
                               Whiter than snow, yes whiter than snow,
                          Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”.

It’s strange how different songs seem to bring special people to my mind. I can almost hear my husband’s dear friend in England, John Eades, wholeheartedly singing this song at the top of his voice! However, now John is singing it in heaven!

What a shock it was when a few days ago his daughter-in-law called to tell us that he had died unexpectedly! My heart nearly stopped! But shortly after hearing this news, memories started flashing through my mind. I always loved to hear both John and my husband tell about when Henry led him to the Lord. They were in the British military together. After Henry was promoted, he was assigned to John’s room. John must have been leading quite a rebellious life at the time. But obviously the Lord had His hand on him because Henry was able to lead him to the Lord. After that his life drastically changed. He became filled with the Spirit, instead of alcohol!

         “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the
                                             Spirit"
                                    (Ephesians 5:18, ESV)

When John was discharged from the military and got back to England, he married Margaret, his lovely sweetheart, who was already a godly Christian young lady. A few years later the Lord led Henry & me back to England. John realized that was an opportunity to have Henry teach Bible studies in his home. Those Bible studies grew until they formed a church. They still have a witness going there to this day. John was an unusual character! There could be no other quite like him! He was a wonderful testimony and witness to all around him since then and down through the years. Now he is experiencing what it actually means to BE “whiter than snow!”  He will be deeply missed!
 
 



Shirley’s Soliloquy #186

02/16/08
"The Sand on the Beach"

Our daughter, Joan, and I were reading on the beach yesterday, enjoying the sunshine and soaking up the Vitamin D! We like being out there because we can hear the waves splashing on the shore, and that is such a relaxing sound.

We went for a walk and felt the waves rolling gently on our feet. It was quite refreshing. But sometimes a larger wave would unexpectedly come with more force and surprise us by rushing up our legs!

The sun shining on the water sparkled like diamonds. We marveled over God’s handiwork! She took lots of pictures to remind her of her trip when she returns to her family and friends in the cold north.

After a while we walked back to the lounge chairs and read until we felt we had enough sun. Besides the wind seemed to be getting a little chilly. So we went back upstairs.

In the evening as we were sitting in the living room together, I was running my fingers through my hair. I felt it was quite wind blown and messy. Joan said it looked “fluffy!” I liked that better. But at one point, as my fingers were going through my hair, I realized that there was sand on my scalp too!

That reminded me that in the mornings when I put on my glasses, sometimes it seems like they are so dirty. I look through them, and there seems to be a fine layer of sand on them! As I stopped to think about it, I realized that even the car appears to have a fine layer of sand on it in the morning. I am told that even a little sand in the motor can cause a lot of damage! I guess that’s what being near the beach is like. Sand gets on everything.

So as I lay awake in the wee hours of this new day, I began thinking of different analogies that could be compared with the sand. For example, the tiny grain of sand can hardly be seen, but when the grains are multiplied, they can either become a beautiful sight or a horrible nuisance!

Another thing that came to my mind was that as gently as the sand infiltrated into my everyday existence, so might sin or bad habits insidiously creep into my life! If it comes just as a grain of sand, it isn’t noticeable at all. But when multiplied, it can become a hazardous thing. Or when it is where it shouldn’t be, then it could also become a nuisance or worse.

I need to be constantly on the lookout for such possibilities and “nip them in the bud” before they bring serious problems into my life.

                             “Let no one say when he is tempted,
             ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil,
                                 and he himself tempts no one.
             But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
                       Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,
                         and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
                                      James 1:13-14  (ESV)
 
 


Shirley’s Soliloquy #185

02/09/08
"He Spoke!"

He Spoke, and water was turned to wine. (John 2:1-11)

He Spoke, and the storm quieted down. (Matthew 8:23-27)

He Spoke, and the sick were healed. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)

He Spoke, and the demons were cast out. (Matthew 8:16-17; 28-35)

He Spoke, and the dead arose. (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25, John 11:40-44)

He Spoke, and the Blind were made to see. (Matthew 9:17-21)

He Spoke and the dumb were able to speak. (Matthew 9:22-23)

He Spoke…never had a man spoken like Him! (John 7:46)

He Spoke!

What amazing days those were! How is it possible that they still rejected Jesus in spite of all His teachings and miracles?
        “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who
    did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
                                         John 1:12 ESV
 

‘I have believed in His name and have received Him! So I want to thank you again, Lord, for your great plan of salvation that includes even me! I pray for strength and courage to stand for you whenever around me there is opposition and rejection. Thank you also for your promises….

            Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
                                         (Matthew 11:28-30)
                     I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.
                                           (Philippians 4:13)
    My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
                                               (Phil. 4:19)

With tears in my eyes and a grateful heart, I thank and praise You for strength just when I need it.’

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,

So that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

For the sake of Christ, then,

         I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
                          For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
                                     2 Corinthians 12:9-10
 
 
 

                       Shirley’s Soliloquy #184
                                                                                                              02/02/08
                             "Grumbling!"
Grumbling!

I was filled with mixed emotions as I was reading the book of Exodus. Why couldn’t the Israelites remember all the wonderful things God had done for them? Yet time after time, they grumbled!

I read how the taskmasters in Egypt had been especially cruel to them. They increased the amount of bricks they had to make. Then they said they had to search for the straw themselves to make them, but still fill their quota. Because Pharaoh became afraid they were getting too numerous and would rebel, he ordered that their boy babies had to be killed. They certainly had a lot to grumble about! But then God…

God heard their cries and miraculously delivered them from their horrible bondage. He raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt. First Moses had to plead with Pharaoh to let them go. When he refused, God again intervened and sent plagues that were only on Egypt, but not where the Israelites lived. Finally, Pharaoh did let them go, but later realized he didn’t want them to go. He and his armies followed them!

Meanwhile, the Israelites were nearing the Red Sea, and the grumbling started again! They said, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Moses replied by telling them to watch the salvation of the Lord that He was going to work for them that day. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Amazing!!! And of course, that’s what happened. The Lord caused the waters of the Sea to stand up on both sides and they crossed easily on DRY land! However, when the Egyptians were crossing the Sea, God caused the waters to fall back and drown them.

In spite of that great salvation, once they were out of Egypt, they started grumbling again. They couldn’t find water. So the Lord came through for them and miraculously provided water. He told Moses to throw a log into the bitter water, and it became sweet. Then they came to the wilderness of Sin and grumbled some more! (16:7-8). But again God answered giving them all kinds of meat, as much as they wanted and a bread like substance called ‘manna.’ Moses must have been sick and tired of their grumbling by this time! As I read this, I am amazed at God’s longsuffering and patience!

All the grumbling reminds me of the song we used to sing when we were children:

“Oh, they grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; they grumble on Thursday, too;

Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday; they grumble the whole week through!”

Am I like this? I started thinking about the conversations of the gals exercising at Curves. It’s been colder than usual over the past few weeks, and we’ve been doing quite a bit of grumbling about the weather. Then someone remarked, ‘Well, just stop and think what the weather is like up north! They have single digit numbers for their temperatures, or even lower! We have it pretty nice here!” Everyone quickly agreed, and the grumbling stopped! Yes, I often wonder, when will God’s patience with us end?

What does Paul tell the Philippians? He told them:

   “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent,
          children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,
                           among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
                                   (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)
 
 





Shirley’s Soliloquy #183
01/26/08
"He Lied!"

He lied! Not only that, but he almost sacrificed his wife to save his own skin! What kind of a man is that?

I’d finished reading the book of Genesis and this episode kept coming back to my mind. I read in chapter twelve about the Lord making a promise to Abram that He would make a great nation of him and he’d be a blessing to all nations. Abram had obeyed God’s call to leave his home and had journeyed into Egypt. However, even though the Bible calls him a man of faith, (Hebrews 11), there was a time when his faith failed. When he got to Egypt, he told his wife that she should say that she was his sister. He said he was afraid that the princes of Egypt would see her beauty and kill him so they could have her. Well, when they did see her, she was taken into Pharaoh’s house. But the Lord was in control of the situation in spite of Abram’s fears. He caused all kinds of troubles for Pharaoh until he realized that the woman was Abram’s wife. In the next chapter, Abram calls on the name of the Lord, and fellowship was restored.

Then later on in the twentieth chapter, the same thing happened! By that time the Lord had confirmed his promises to Abraham and made a covenant with him. Abraham had seen the Lord’s hand of blessing upon him time after time. Wouldn’t it seem he should have learned his lesson? But he still succumbed to the same fears about his wife and losing his own life. This seemed to be His weakness. The evil one knows where God’s children are the weakest, and it is there that the deceiver attacks. Thankfully, when reading the end of the chapter, Abraham’s relationship had been restored with God once again. The Bible says he prayed to God, and God answered his prayer.

It is really wonderful to realize that whenever any of God’s people go through some temptation or failing, when that person seeks God’s face, He gives some special blessing. I have seen that over and over in the Scriptures, and have also experienced it in my own life. The thrilling thing with Abraham and Sarah is that shortly after that episode, the Lord visited Sarah, and she was able to conceive and bear a son!

I found these passages of Scripture in Genesis very reassuring. I thought no matter how often God’s people fail, when His face is earnestly sought; He hears and heals them. And blessed fellowship can once again be renewed. This thought brought 2 Chronicles 7:14 to mind,
        "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my
    face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin.”
                                          2 Chronicles 7:14

Jesus said, “Ye have not, because ye ask not!”  The Lord is waiting for His children to come to Him with their troubles. He will not force Himself upon them, but instead waits for them to realize their need and come to Him. It was the same in the gospel records: Jesus would pass a person by until that person would call to Him for help. Then He was always ready to supply the need. Even today, He says,
               “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.”
                                              Philippians 4:19

I’m so glad God didn’t whitewash His people’s failings, otherwise I’d never be able to continue on at times when I think I have failed Him. But “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9  (ESV). Paul wrote,
                 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,
                  that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures
                                              we might have hope.”
                                             Romans 15:4  (NLT)
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy
01/19/08
"Tragedy at the Bridge"
Our area seems to be living in a state of shock! Four children, ages 1, 2, 3, & 4 were missing! A day later, Lam Luong, the father confessed that he had tossed them off the highest part of the very high Dauphin Island Bridge. Immediately rescue teams began searching the coastal lands and waters of southern Alabama. However, at first they were not able to find the bodies. So hundreds of people joined the search. Finally after about four or five days, the 4 year-old was found. Then after another day, the 3 year-old was found a few miles further west. Yesterday the third was found washed ashore in the marshlands of eastern Mississippi. The search is continuing for the last body.

People are shaking their heads, wondering what could possibly have gotten into this father to do such a horrible thing to tiny, helpless children! He said he did it as an act of revenge against his wife. It really is quite unthinkable to do something like that to such young helpless babies. Even as I’m writing about it, it leaves me with a sick feeling. I couldn’t help but think that he had to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol for him to do such a horrible thing. It turns out that was the case.

However, as I continued to think about it, I thought of the verse in Jeremiah 17:9 that states that,

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”

This verse makes so much more sense now! It seems to be putting it mildly to say the heart is desperately wicked when things like this happen. How can someone deteriorate to such a degree that he would do such a dastardly deed? And to his own children?

I think it is because of the hopelessly lost feeling of the person who in his own mind seems to think there is nothing else to live for, who has no hope except to escape in drugs and alcohol.

Is there a remedy? Yes, the first step needs to be a definite direct relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One Who gives hope.

      “He who has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son of God has not life,
       but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
        John 3:36

Then I believe it is vitally important for the new believer to have fellowship with others of like precious faith. Having good friends in a Bible-believing church can put a safety net around a Christian, for they will stand alongside one another in times of stress or trouble and offer help as needed. The Bible says,

  "Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
        Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
                 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do,
  but encourage one another,
 Especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
 
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy
01/12/08
"New Beginnings"
Stuck in the sand, I saw a white arch decorated with greenery. On either side of it were two candles also stuck in the sand. Large potted plants were placed on each side of an improvised walkway to the arch. ‘There’s going to be a wedding here!’ I thought to myself.

And sure enough, as I was walking back along the beach, I saw a couple with another man whom I assumed would have been the preacher standing in front of the arch. They had their heads bowed in what appeared to be a rather lengthy prayer. My heart skipped a beat in gladness realizing that it had to be a prayer from the heart. They were probably uniting in a Christian marriage! When they were finished, I heard cheers! I looked toward the huge condo where people were standing on their balconies waving and cheering! They must have been watching the ceremony.

I thought how fitting it was to have a wedding ceremony at this time of the year. They will be beginning their New Year as man and wife.

Since I’ve been reading the book of the Revelation recently, the scene on the beach reminded me of the passage in chapter 19. My heart wells up and nearly bursts with joy as I read about this glorious day!

”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.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
And his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.
And the angel said to me, ‘Write this:
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
Revelation 19:6-9

That passage reminds me of a story that Jesus told when He was on earth. It was of a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son.
When everything was ready, he sent his servants out to notify those who were invited. But they had other things to do and refused to attend. Naturally the king was furious. So instead he told the servants to go out into the highways and byways and invite everyone they could find. Then the banquet hall was filled with all those who accepted his invitation.

What an analogy this is! Jesus came to the Jewish people, but few accepted him. So now the invitation is open to all who call upon His name! Whoever does can have a wonderful New Beginning!

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
                  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12  (ESV)
 
 
 
 

Shirley’s Soliloquy #180
 01/05/08
"Unexpected News"
Late afternoon on the last day of the year, the phone rang. I answered, and heard, “Shirley?” It was my friend. She and her husband were planning on having lunch with us day after tomorrow. Probably there was a change in plans. There was a pause and a catch in her voice, and she said, “Russ died.”

My mind couldn’t take it in. “Who?” I asked, “What?”

“Russ, my husband. I found him lying on the ground this afternoon. He had a heart attack.”
 

Later, I started thinking about them. They go to the gym 2-3 times a week. She has always been health minded. She’s read widely about health issues and been careful to fix foods that were good for them (most of the time!). But in spite of all of this, there he was lying dead on the ground.

After the shock of it started wearing off, I thought of Russ. He probably had been out in the yard, climbing trees, trimming branches, doing things he enjoyed – making his wife nervous! And with no warning at all, he drops dead, and is with the Lord! I thought, ‘What a blessed way to go!’

But his poor wife! The shock of finding him there! They were always together. Now she will be alone in their beautiful home. His absence will leave a huge hole in her heart. She was so used to him taking care of things for her. Now he won’t be there to help.

Ever since I read the Pollyanna books as a child, I’ve tried to find something good in every situation. It’s sometimes very difficult to do. As I continued to think about our friends, the only good thing I could think of about all of this was that we have the assurance that he is with the Lord. What a way to end the old year and begin a New Year. Time will have no meaning, for “a thousand years is like a day” to the Lord. Next thing Russ knew, he’s right there with the Lord.

Scripture is always a comfort to me. Many verses came to mind in these early hours. For example,

                 “For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
                 2 Corinthians 5:8  (KJV)

          “We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died
                   so that you will not grieve like people who have no hope….
                For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again,
     We also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back the believers 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.”
                1 Thessalonians 4:13, 16-17  (NLT)

  “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
             1 Corinthians 15:51-58  (NLT)