Shirley's Soliloquies #287

01/24/2010

"Keeping God First"

It is emotionally disturbing to see the devastation in Haiti right now.  My heart aches for those poor people.  It must be a terrifying experience for them every time they feel new tremors.  News programs on TV show the people crying out to God, some for thankfulness, others for forgiveness.

I thought of 9/11 in our own country.  It was unusual how so many people turned to the Lord as a result of that attack.  For a while our churches were full.  People were earnestly crying out to God and seeking His forgiveness and favor.  Somehow when in dire circumstances, God becomes very real. 
 
In a way, it is really not much different in my life.  Whenever I go through some terrible trial or am in desperate circumstances, my cry to God is usually much more intense and earnest.  But when that has passed, my prayers seem to lessen in intensity too.

My own experiences in prayer are sometimes like breathing.  I need to breathe in order to live, and I need to pray in order to  live spiritually.  But whenever I exercise, I seem to breathe more heavily.  So when I face some terrible trial, I need to lean more heavily on God, and my prayers intensify. 

However, it certainly would be not be right if that would be the only time I would seek the Lord.  How would I feel if the only time my children wanted to talk to me was when they wanted to ask me for something?  I think I would quickly tire of that!

There have been a few Bible verses rumbling around in my mind this past week, so I feel that I need to share them.  The one passage that has been foremost in my mind is Psalm 37:4-5.  My husband had them inscribed in my engagement ring almost 57 years ago, so they seem to be stamped on my mind as well as in my ring.

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.

Yes, there is a condition there.  But it is also in the words of Jesus that are found in Matthew 6:33,

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be provided for you.

I remember the words of C. S. Lewis, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in:  put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

Maybe these disasters are a wake up call?  Maybe they are God’s megaphone to get everyone’s attention.  I need to ask myself:  Am I putting God First in my life?  Am I ready at any second to meet Him?  Or does it take some tragedy or trial to shake me up? 

In sunny skies, as well as in stormy weather, I must keep doing these three things: (1) Keep my delight in the Lord, (2) Keep my way committed to Him, and (3) Keep trusting Him when to simply trust Him seems the hardest thing of all.

 


Shirley's Soliloquies #286

01/17/2010

"A Little Lonely Bird"

The tiny little bird  looked so lonely, standing there all by itself.  It had suddenly appeared on our third floor balcony.  It stood there, looking first one way, then another.  Quickly it hopped a step, and once again looked one way and then another.  It flitted around, and finally flew away.  A minute later, I saw a few more birds flying around.  I wondered if my little visitor might have caught up with them or if it were still alone.

As that little bird, probably a sparrow, stood there all alone, I wondered about it.  It looked especially tiny against the backdrop of the vast Gulf behind it!  And that brought my mind to the words of Jesus when He was on earth.  Matthew recorded them in the 10th chapter, verse 29,

Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? 
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples.  He had given them wonderful power to do all kinds of miracles because He was sending them out into the world.  He gave them all kinds of instructions and warnings.   He knew what was ahead of them as He wanted to reassure them,

But even the hairs on your head have all been counted. 
Don’t be afraid therefore,
you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:30–31 

He spoke some words that I believe it would be good for all Christians to read and remember,

Therefore, don’t be afraid of them...
Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul,
rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:26, 28

How many times Jesus said, “Fear not!”  How many times He told them not to be afraid!  Then I thought of the words of the Apostle Paul recorded in 2 Timothy 1:7, where he said,

For God has not given us the spirit of fearfulness,
but one of power, and love, and sound judgment!

The disciples of Jesus were going out and would be facing all kinds of persecutions and hardships.  Down through the centuries God’s children have faced such challenges.  Even today there are many in some countries who are suffering great persecution for their faith.  I realize that most of our lives are easy compared to theirs, however, it could be that Christians here might also have to face suffering.  May I  remember that tiny little bird, and realize that I need not fear, for my Father in heaven knows exactly what is going on, and He cares!  (1 Peter 5:7).



Shirley's Soliloquies #285

01/10/2010

"I Can Only Imagine!"

I was resting on the sofa when I saw a spectacular sight! 

As I happened to glance out the window, I saw an overcast sky that caused a gray gloom on the Gulf of Mexico.  I noticed that it had stopped drizzling, when suddenly there appeared a large oval-shaped display of brilliant sunshine cutting its way through those thick clouds!  It sent bright glittering rays of light down to the gloom of the Gulf making it seem to come alive.  The rays of the sun breaking through the dark clouds caused the waters to sparkle like thousands of diamonds!

I was basking in the unusual beauty of the scene when all of a sudden an image I had formed from the passage I had recently read in Revelation chapter 21 invaded my mind.  It was stunning!  It described the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven arrayed in God’s glory.  My imagination ‘kicked into high gear!’ 

I saw the city with its twelve gates each made of a single pearl.  The foundation of the city wall was made of every kind of precious stone.  The passage named all of them.  That seemed to intensify the beauty of it.  It told of the streets that were made of pure gold, like transparent glass.  I imagined being able to see right through all that clear gold and all the precious stones that were glittering before my eyes.  The Bible described it in such graphic picturesque language. 

As I reflected on that passage in the book of the Revelation, I marveled again over the magnificent display outside my window.  The sun was cutting through the clouds, throwing sparkling rays down on the glittering waters!  Somehow in my mind, there seemed to be a similarity with the description of the new city with what I was seeing.   I had to stay there and bask in the magnificence of it all!  Then I thought of the next few verses (22-26) telling about what is to come in the future. 

The Bible says that the kings of the earth will bring the glory and honor of their nations into it and that they will walk in the light of that glorious city.  Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there.  The glory of the Lord will be its light!  I was enthralled, I could hardly sit still!

Then I began to think of all of the filth coming across television screens and written publications.  And I thought of the news that daily comes via newspapers , radio, and TV.  So by contrast, it was a blessing to read the next verses.  They made my heart leap for joy!  For they announced:

Nothing profane will ever enter it:
no one who does what is vile or false,
but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 21:27

I can only begin to imagine how wonderful it will be.  There will be no room in that heavenly city for anything profane, vile or false.  I remember the biblical exhortation that I need to fill my mind with all good  things (Philippians 4:8).  So it thrills me when I read of the perfectness, purity, and beauty there will be in that glorious place!  No wonder the nations will be flocking to it.  What a place that will be!  I can only begin to imagine!  Someday it will be a reality!



Shirley's Soliloquies #284

01/03/2010

"What Can I See & Do?"

The door of the New Year is just opening....I wonder, if I could peek further into it, what would I see? 

What will this new year be holding for me?  What will it be holding for my family, my church, my friends and my nation?  So far, it looks like a big white-out.  It is completely unknown.  So how can I prepare for it?  How can I be sure that I will be ready for whatever will be in store for me and for my loved ones?

I was reading the prophet Haggai last week, and it has stayed with me throughout this week.  I was remembering how the Lord came to His people, the children of Israel, and said through the prophet,

Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins? (1:3)

He told them to think carefully about their ways.  I can imagine that they were eating and drinking, trying to take care of their own lives, but it seems as though they never really had enough.  The Lord told them that He was withholding His blessings from them because they were thinking only of themselves while His house was laying in ruins.

It struck me, how true this is even today.  It seems that oftentimes I am so preoccupied with my own life and the lives of my loved ones, that I completely forget about what is going on around me.  I know this ought not to be.  I need to be concerned for the Lord’s work and for His purposes.  I need to live thinking, ‘How can I bring honor to the Lord and glorify Him?’ 

I know He doesn’t want me to build a temple in the same way He had told the children of Israel, but it occurred to me that He does expect me to take care of another temple.  I remembered what Paul said about my body being the temple of the Holy Spirit!

Or do you not know
that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God,
and that you are not your own?
For you have been bought with a price:
therefore glory God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This is amazing to me!  I CAN glorify God in my body.  I can take care of every part of it.  I can be careful about what I allow into my body, what I allow into my mind, and very importantly,  how I use my tongue.  I must remember at all times that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Then all that is seen and heard from me will bring honor to the Lord and it will glorify Him.

My prayer: “Help me this year, O my dear Lord, to be wise enough to see what I need to do in taking care of my body, and then may I do it.  I want to be obedient to You and I desire to honor and glorify You.”



Shirley's Soliloquies #283

12/27/09

"Blessings in Sharing!"

I remember being taught to share right from my earliest age.  But I also remember that it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.  Sometimes begrudgingly I would hand over my favorite toy when I was asked to share with a visiting friend.  Even worse was when I was shamed into doing it.

Now it seems to be a real joy to be able to share with others!  In fact, my husband has graciously but unwillingly shared his cold or flu with me.   I wasn’t too happy about that one though.  He definitely felt badly about it, but I suppose it was inevitable. 

So as I have been resting and recuperating, I’ve been thinking about people sharing.  I thought about the cookies I made a while ago and put into the freezer in order to be ready to share with people who might stop in for a visit.  I remembered the English mincemeat tarts and other Christmas cookies some friends shared with us last week.  I thought of our daughter who invited some of her friends over, and they all took off work one day in order to make Christmas cookies to share!

It is a special time of year!  And now that we have just gone through Christmas time when there is a lot of giving and sharing, I thought of those people who don’t have very much.  For them it is a difficult and depressing time of year. 

But how wonderful it is to see the Salvation Army kettles and hear their bells ringing.  They share.  Also many churches around here share.  In fact the New Life in Christ church here in Foley, AL has free dinners on Wednesday evenings before their evening service.  They also have free breakfasts before their Sunday School.  They have bags of clothing and food for all those who have those kinds of needs. 

It is wonderful to see churches trying to fill the needs of some who are suffering in today’s world.  But not only are they filling people’s physical needs, but also their spiritual.  Often after many services, people come to the front to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Some come forward to turn away from their way of life and to give their lives over to the Lord.

How rewarding it is to be among people who share!  In fact, our Lord Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  So the blessing is ours whenever we can share!

Now that we are on the brink of another new year, maybe this theme is more important than ever.  As we see the dismal economic conditions around us with so many people losing their jobs and some even their homes, the need for sharing should be uppermost in our minds.  Those who are Christians, even more than others, should follow the words of the Apostle Paul when he said,

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. 
At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity,
 we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.”
Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)

 


Shirley's Soliloquies #282

12/20/09

"But Who IS Jesus"

At this time of the year, when the birth of Jesus is uppermost in people’s minds, this critical question remains for each person to answer:  Who IS Jesus?  When he was on earth, his disciples reported that some people thought He was John the Baptist.  Others thought he was Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matthew 16:13-14).  But when Jesus asked Peter who he thought He was, he answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!
Matthew 16:16  (HCSB)

The disciples had actually heard the teachings of Jesus.  They had seen countless amazing miracles that He had done!  In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the Bible says that the “Word” was in the beginning with God and the Word was God.  It also says that all things were created by that Word (vss 1-3).  It goes on to say that the Word became flesh and lived among us.  So that Word, who was God, our creator, was Jesus!
 
He was in the world, and the world was created through Him,
...He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him,
but to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God to those who believe in His name.
John 1:10-12

After the apostle John recorded many of His miracles and told about His ministry, he exclaimed,

These are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:31

As the Messiah and as the Son of God,  He said,

I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh to the Father but by me.” John 14:6
The Father and I are one.” John 10:30
The Father is in Me and I in the Father.” John 10:38

Some people today say that He was simply a good person who lived on the earth a couple of thousand years ago.  However, this can NOT be an option.  For either He was Who He claimed to be, or otherwise He was a liar or delusional.  He could not be merely “a good person.”  

 Who was Jesus?   This leaves a choice for each person  to make.  It is the most important question in one’s life: What will YOU do with Jesus?   For He said

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me
have eternal life.  They will never be condemned for their sin,
 but they have already passed from death into life.”(NLT)
John 5:24



Shirley's Soliloquies #281

12/13/09

"An Answer to Prayer"

“Why doesn’t the Lord  answer my  prayer?”  How often has this anguished cry been heard?  Usually it comes when there is some terrible trial in one’s life, and the Lord appears to be deaf to prayer.
 
This came to my mind because of a couple of things that have happened recently.  The first was a couple of weeks ago at a Thanksgiving Eve service.  A young woman came forward to tell how hard it was now that she was clean of drugs, to realize what a horrible mother she had been in the past.  Consequently her children had been taken away from her.  She didn’t blame anyone because she knew she had not been worthy to have them.  But now she wanted to publicly thank the Lord for His renewed presence with her.  She asked for continued prayer for herself and for her children whom she dearly loved and missed.

The second was at a communion service on Sunday evening. The pastor shared Scriptures explaining the significance of the Lord’s Supper.  He began in the Old Testament and continued through the New.  Afterwards, he invited people to the front to spend time in silent prayer mainly to be sure each life was right with the Lord before partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  After the communion service, he asked if anyone would like to share how the Lord had been working in their life.

One of the first testimonies came from another young mother.  It was an emotionally charged moment, not only because of the heart-touching communion service, but because of what she had to say.  She stood there with her three children, all who were probably under ten years of age.  They had big smiles on their faces!  She thanked and praised the Lord for the way He had worked in her life.  She told how following last Wednesday’s service, she had gone up to the front altar and had made a definite commitment to give her life and all she had over to the Lord.   She said that ten minutes after she had gotten home, her husband had called and said he wanted to give her children back to her.  She testified that she couldn’t praise and thank the Lord enough, because it was almost unbelievable that she was actually standing right there with all of her children!  What a dramatic miraculous answer to prayer!  Needless to say, there weren’t many dry eyes there.

What was the difference?  Why was the one prayer answered, and other apparently as yet went unanswered?  There could be many explanations, but strikingly the one young woman had sincerely and earnestly given her life completely over to the Lord.  I remembered the words of David,

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

I also thought of the reference that my husband had inscribed in my engagement ring before he gave it to me fifty-five years ago.

“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”
Psalm 37:4-5

My Heavenly Father is not unlike a good earthly father.  He is eager to grant the desires of those who live to please Him.



Shirley's Soliloquies #280

12/06/09

"Doggedly Digging"

A lady was standing on the beach watching something near her feet.   I followed her gaze and saw what looked to be a small half ball of fur concealed in a hole with sand flying from it.  As I came nearer, I saw that it was a miniature Yorkie.  Nearly its whole body was in the hole as it was digging, the sand flying past it!  I laughed as I remarked that the tiny dog was really serious about digging!  She said that she has a keen sense of smell and tries to find what she thinks she smells.

As I watched the tiny ball of fluff earnestly digging, it gave new meaning to the words “doggedly digging!”  That phrase must have been coined at such a time as this when someone was watching a dog determinedly digging for something!

As the lady and I were reminiscing about the breed, suddenly the Yorkie jumped back and started barking!  She barked and barked!  I said, “Oh, she must have found something!”  However, we kept talking.  Still the Yorkie kept going down into the hole, but then suddenly she’d jump back barking.  This happened a couple of times when I said, “She must see something, I’ll see what it is!”

As I cautiously stepped closer to her, I noticed in the bottom of the hole, two tiny claws were sticking out of the sand in the bottom of the hole.  It must have been a sand crab.  So I quickly stepped back and said, “Oh, she’ll get hurt!”  The lady looked also and quickly picked up her little dog.  She said that she’d better go and try to get some of that sand off her beautiful coat.  I quickly covered the hole.  I felt sorry for that poor little sand crab!

Doggedly digging!  If ever there were a visual example of that phrase, that was it!  That tiny dog just wouldn’t give up.  She knew there was something there, so she kept digging until she found it.

The thought came to me that there are people who continually search for “something.”  They don’t know what, but they apparently feel as if they are missing it.  So they keep looking.  However, when they get close to the truths in God’s Word, they are afraid to make a commitment.  Jesus said,

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life.
 But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
John 5:39

How much better it would be to keep “doggedly digging” as that little Yorkie did, until they DO come to the Truth.  And then not only to see it, but to accept it.  

“For the word of God is alive and powerful.
It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword,
cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.
It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Hebrews 4:12

‘Lord, may I doggedly dig in your Word, and may I be willing to follow what I find.’  Amen.



Shirley's Soliloquies #279

11/29/09

"A Mixed Message?"

I’ve been hearing a lot about giving thanks this past week.  But yet, the stores seem to be sending a mixed message.  Right along with the various orange, yellows, and browns of the ‘Thanksgiving Season,’ there have been displayed the bright reds and greens of the ‘Christmas Season.’  

It is a cheery time of year, however, I wonder if it is sending a mixed message?

As I was meditating upon all of these things this past week, I had to admit that  the stores are simply reflecting  my daily life.  How many times do I take the time to give thanks and praise the Lord except in a quick perfunctory way?  I confess that the amount of time in my daily communion with the Lord often seems to be much more occupied with my pressing concerns of which I think I must remind the Lord!
 
But how silly of me to be thinking along these lines!  Do I think that the Lord doesn’t know about all these things that lay heavy on my heart?  No!  Never!!!  The Bible says,

“Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help.”
Psalm 34:15

“For the eyes of the Lord range through the earth
to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.”
2 Chronicles 16:9

No, the Lord knows and He cares!  He is probably much more concerned than I am.  He not only knows and cares, but He anticipates my needs even before I ask!  For the Bible also says,

“Even before they call, I will answer,
while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
Isaiah 65:24

So as the “Thanksgiving Season” is here, and the Christmas Season begins, I will seek to continually thank God for His indescribable gift of everlasting life that I have because of His Son, Jesus Christ!  He came to this  world and paid the price for my sins by dying on the cross.  So now because I have accepted His gift, I have eternal life!

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”  
(2 Corinthians 9:15)

How thankful I am that I serve such a God who not only sees and knows, but also Who cares!



Shirley's Soliloquies #278

11/22/09

"Flawed, But Perfect!"

As I was walking along the beach this morning, my foot kicked something.  I didn’t think anything about it, because it is easy to step on a shell when I’m looking at the waves instead of where I’m going.

So I continued on another couple of steps, but my foot kicked something again.  It seemed as if it were the same sound and weight.  I thought it would be unusual to walk into the same thing twice, however I dismissed it right away because I was meditating on the beauty of God’s creation around me.  

Then when it happened the third time, I stopped and looked down.  It had to be the same thing.  So it seemed as if this must be something I was supposed to see.  

It was a small conch shell, about two inches in length, perfectly formed, not broken at all, but it did have tiny pinpricks all over it.  

It seemed unusual to see a shell that was not broken on the beach.  Most of them would be already broken from people walking.  Almost never do I see anything that is whole.    

I thought about the early mornings when I have seen people walking with a plastic bag in their hands, looking for good shells.  Some of the retirees collect them to use in Art Projects.  And some collect them for their grandchildren to use in school activities.   However, this morning the weather had turned  cooler, so not many people were walking, probably not more than a dozen.

Unexpectedly my mind went back to my early childhood when my Aunt Rena had a large conch shell.  She held it to my ear and said if I listened carefully, I could hear the ocean in it!  I remember that I was fascinated by it and wondered how the ocean could get into that shell!

But then I thought again about this little shell.  How did all of those tiny pinpricks originate?  Aunt Rena’s shell was beautiful and had a pearly shine to it.  So I wondered what had caused those pinpricks.  I did check the Internet but found nothing about what might have caused the tiny holes.

Then,  I checked the Bible Concordance, but found that there was no reference to shells.  ‘How unusual,’ I pondered.  In spite of that, I knew there was a lesson for me in that little flawed conch shell. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘I, like the little conch shell, am far from perfect.  But the Bible tells me that someday I will be changed.’  1 Corinthians 15:51-53 states,

“...we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible,
and we will be changed.
Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility,
and this mortal must be clothed with immortality!"

Yes, I am flawed now, but someday I will be perfect as He is perfect!  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you Lord!



Shirley's Soliloquies #277

11/15/09

"Will Hurricane Ida Hit?"

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him!  (Lamentations 3:25).  

How true this is!  Hurricane Ida had been  predicted.  It had been a Category 3 storm that had already done much damage in the Caribbean Islands.  It was predicted to hit Gulf Shores on Monday night.
 
Knowing this on Sunday evening, our friend Pastor Paul Wilde prayed earnestly for the Lord to intervene, to lessen the strength of the storm and to break it up before it reached our coast.  

Monday morning arrived with a dark sky and strong winds.  The waves kept increasing during the day.  It was mesmerizing to me as I watched.  I listened as the storm intensified briefly as it got further into the Gulf, but then it became a Category 2, and finally into a Tropical Storm with winds of 70 miles per hour instead of 100 mph.  My heart seemed to swell with thankfulness as I realized that once again the Lord did indeed answer prayer!  He is in control, even of the storms of the sea!  

The experience made me think of the disciples on the stormy Sea as they, totally frightened, wakened Jesus Who was sleeping peacefully in the boat amidst the violent storm.  Then the words of the hymn came to me, and I played the song on my little harpsicle,

“Master, the tempest is raging!  The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness, No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?  How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean, and earth, and skies,
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, be still!  Peace be still!

I can visualize how the disciples must have been totally astonished and in great awe of this ‘man’ who was with them.  Through all His teachings and miracles, they finally did realize that He was indeed “the Christ!” - their long awaited Messiah!

Just this morning I read in the book of Lamentations, how the prophet Jeremiah, amidst all the persecutions and troubles he was enduring, wrote:

“His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness!
I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
Lamentations 3:23-25

My heart sings, thank you Lord for your faithfulness to those who wait for You, who seek You!



Shirley's Soliloquies #276

11/08/09

"Splendor of a Sunset!"

Oh, what a gorgeous sunset!  

The blue sky formed a perfect canopy for what was going on nearer the horizon.  

As I looked out, I saw the sky turn a purple-blue with a tinge of pink.  Then it gradually flowed into  a more pinkish color with an orangish tint.  As I turned my eyes farther towards the setting sun, the colors turned into a brighter orange and flooded the sky with a golden cast.  

Finally, the great ball of fire captured my attention.  It was glowing across the sky framing the clouds with lights and shadows of a golden hue!  

It was breathtaking!  Words are totally inadequate.  How does one describe such an awesome scene?
How I wished I had my camera.  However, I didn’t want to leave the spectacular sight that was transforming the heavens before my very eyes.   A photograph could not have begun to capture the magnificence of it!

The next morning, as I continued my Bible reading in the book of Jeremiah, I read the words,
               
“He made the earth by His power,
established the world by His wisdom,
and spread out the heavens by His understanding.”
Jeremiah 51:15

I thought, “How fitting to read this passage, just after enjoying such a magnificent display of His power last night.”  Any canvas I might try to paint in order to capture such an amazing spectacle  would be seriously lacking!  I’m very thankful that my God is such an artist!

I’m also deeply grateful for my good eyesight, so that I can enjoy the wonders of His creation.  What a wise God and Creator He is to  not only display His artistry, but also to make my eyes and mind so that  all His wonders can be enjoyed!  I thought of Psalm 139,

“For it was You who created my inward parts,
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You,
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.”
Psalm 139:13-14

Thank you Lord, for all your wonderful works, and for being my great God and Savior!



Shirley's Soliloquies #275

11/01/09

"Discouraged?  Disillusioned?"

Is it that I am simply more aware of it, or is it really true that there is an increasing number of Christian workers becoming discouraged and disillusioned?

In recent months I have heard of a number who have made the decision to leave their churches and their ministries, seeking employment elsewhere.  A few pastors we know have gone to the extreme of actually leaving the ministry, seeking secular work.  There are also others within churches that no longer volunteer, some even going so far as to discontinue attending church.

Why is this?  What has happened to what they thought was their calling from the Lord?  Perhaps discouragement set in because of gossip or back-biting.  When such is directed at Christian workers, disillusionment sets in, making it difficult to focus on the job at hand.  There is a simple one-liner in Colossians that Paul wrote.  It states:  

“And tell Archippus, ‘Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord,
so that you can accomplish it.’” Colossians 4:17.

What happened?  Was he getting side-tracked in other commitments instead of what he was called to do?  There’s a story of a man exclaiming to his wife, “That’s it!  I’m not going back to that church anymore!”  But the disheartened wife responded, “But dear, you have to, you’re their pastor!”

Discouragement and disillusionment....  These two emotions are powerful.  The apostle Paul realized that it would be possible to become weary in the ministry, especially under adverse circumstances.  He wrote,

“Do not grow weary in doing good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13.

One effective way to forestall discouragement and disillusionment is to daily immerse oneself in the Word of God and in prayer.  Sometimes one must pause and consider if that which is occupying one’s time is really important.  The question needs to be asked.  “Does what I am doing have eternal value?”  By this question, one can discover what things are really important, thus freeing more time for things that are.

Jesus is the perfect example.  He endured all kinds of hardship.  Yet He did it willingly, not thinking of Himself, but of those whom He came to save.  So when thinking about my Christian service, I must keep in mind all that He gave up, all that He suffered and endured.  He thought not of Himself, but always of others and how He could serve them.  I can gain strength from His example.  May this be true in my life.

“Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself,
so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:3



Shirley's Soliloquies #274

10/25/09

"Our Indescribable God!"

It was indescribable!  At times, my sister and I were just about breathless.  We’d heard that Steve Green was going to be in concert at a local church and decided we’d go.  My daughter had gone to his concerts and had raved about them, so I was looking forward to it.  But I wasn’t really prepared for the blessings, not only in the music, but in the selection of songs.  They all glorified the Lord!  I was spiritually refreshed.

One song he sang was entitled “Indescribable.”   It touched my heart, probably because it reminded me of some of the prayers of the prophets I’d recently read.  I prayed along,

“From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God!”

Another inspiring song that Steve sang was without any musical accompaniment.   It was “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  Each verse he raised a note higher, ending the four verses in such a crescendo that the audience, who were obviously mesmerized, stood up and applauded.  The applause was not only for Steve’s rendition of it, but for our Mighty God whose Kingdom will be forever!

Yes, our God is Mighty, He is Amazing, He is Indescribable!  The Psalmist exclaimed, and I echo,

“For You have made me rejoice, Lord, by what You have done;
I will shout for joy because of the works of Your hands.
How magnificent are your works, Lord, How profound Your thoughts!”
Psalm 92:4-5



Shirley's Soliloquies #273

10/18/09

"God Hath Not Promised"

The words of the song “God Hath Not Promised” kept going through my mind these last few days.  Maybe it’s because of the dreary, dark days we’ve been having lately, the temperatures dropping, many people suffering from aches and pains in the colder darker days of Autumn.  So the song was appropriate.

“God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear many a burden, many a care. 
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide, swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep, never a river, turbid and deep."

BUT GOD HATH PROMISED
Strength for the day,
(“Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31)
Rest for the labor,
(“Come unto Me, all of you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28)
Light for the way,
(Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.”  Psalm 119:105)
Grace for the trials,
(“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9),
Help from above,
(“I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10)
Unfailing sympathy,
(“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15)
Undying love.
(God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16)
-Anne Johnson Flint, and The Holy Bible. (HCSB)

But whether there be pain, sorrow, or happiness...there is always God’s wonderful peace.

Let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7



Shirley's Soliloquies #272

10/11/09

"Is God Able?"

Yes, it is true!  Anxiety does rob people of sleep!  

Lately, I’ve been quite anxious over the trials that some of my loved ones are going through.  In fact, in the middle of the night, I wake up and start thinking about them, trying to figure out some possible answers to their predicament.  Then after what seems like a long time of sleeplessness in the dark of the night, I finally realize that I need to put Scriptures in my mind.  So I begin,

“Casting all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you!”  1 Peter 5:7.
               
I prayed, ‘Lord, I am casting these cares on you, I know you care for me.  Help me find peace.  
Suddenly,  the verses in Philippians 4:6-7 came into my mind:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything,
through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Those verses grabbed my attention.  ‘Yes, that is true!   So, Lord, I am placing this situation in Your mighty hands.’  Amazingly, after I confessed my lack of trust, and instead rested on His promise, I immediately fell asleep.

The next day, I thought, ‘Oh my!  How often do I do this?  Do I really believe God is able to give me His peace?  If I did, then I should not experience the anxiety I felt during the night.’  

But another perplexing  thought came into my mind, ‘Why is it that in the next day or two, I might take my concerns back?  It seems like I don’t continue to trust that God is in control of this situation.  Yet, I do know that God is greater than I am!  After all, He made the heavens and the earth, and everything in them!  So these things are really not making any sense at all.’

Then I fell back on God’s Word!  I thought of the great giants of the faith who also found that their faith would  falter at times.  But God was always faithful, and  He was longsuffering in His kindness and patience with His people!  He loved them, and took them back in spite of their human weaknesses.

So I’m very grateful for God’s wonderful kindness in that He gave us both His living and written Word.  I’m grateful for those  examples of His great forgiveness and love.  I can meditate on His Word every day.  I can join with the other ladies who are studying the book of James with me because we have learned again that it is extremely easy to say with head knowledge, ‘Yes, I believe.’    However, according to James,  it will make little or no difference if we are not willing to trust and to obey Him.  

‘Help me, Lord, to really believe, so that I am willing to obey.  I am now casting my cares upon You in exchange for Your promised peace.  You ARE able!  Help me in my weakness to trust you completely.’



Shirley's Soliloquies #271

10/04/09

"Show Me!"

I had to smile as I was reviewing my lesson for our Ladies Bible Study tomorrow because my mind went immediately to the frustrations of Elisa Doolittle in the movie, “My Fair Lady.”  All she heard were words around her!  She wanted  some evidence of their care and consideration for her!  She sang,

    Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn't one word I haven't heard.

Here we are together in what ought to be a dream;
Say one more word and I'll scream! ...
Show me!

It reminded me of this week’s Bible study in the book of James.  We are appreciating its practicality, its  “down-to-earth-ness.”  We know that it was written originally to the Jewish believers who were scattered all over their known world.  But we also know that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is profitable for teaching us.  We are learning that this book is hitting us right where we live!  

For example, we know that when a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, it is by God’s grace (His unmerited favor) that she has been forgiven and saved.  It is not of works, otherwise people would boast about it!  (Ephesians 2:8-9).  However James is concerned with the result of faith!  He wants believers to “walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.”  He said if you say you have faith, SHOW me!  Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”    The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10 that God created believers to do good works!  The apostles Paul, John, James, and the Lord Jesus Christ all taught the same thing about faith and works!  If the faith is genuine, – good works will follow.

It is very important that Christians live out the life that God has already  planted in them.  The only way to tell if a  person is a Christian is if good works are seen.  It is a little like the seed we plant in the ground, if it is good seed, the fruit will come forth!  So also genuine faith is evidenced by good works.  That’s how we know our faith is alive and not dead!  

I thought of my daughter and granddaughter driving 7 hours one way to be here for their brother’s birthday!  I thought of my sister, sister-in-law, and nieces making an effort to join us for lunch, even though we had just gotten together only five days before for my sister’s birthday!  I thought of my son going out and getting me a spot-lifter powerbrush stain remover because he knew how much it bothered me to have stains on the carpet that I couldn’t get out no matter how much scrubbing I did.  These things give me a warm, wonderful feeling!  To me, they are evidences of love in action!

Yes, even the apostle Paul urged good works as seen in the following verses.  May my faith be seen!

“ We are created in Christ Jesus for good works...
“Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous,...”
“those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works.”   (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 3:8)



Shirley's Soliloquies #270

09/27//09

"Last Day of Summer!"


Oh my, It’s the last day of summer!  It really seems impossible!  Also it’s my sister’s birthday, and my son’s birthday will be on Monday.  Our daughter will be coming to help us celebrate this weekend! 

All these things remind me that summer is quickly coming to an end.  Lest I doubt the fact, I am beginning to realize that the nights are getting longer and cooler.  The days are getting shorter, but they are still gorgeous here in the Midwest!  The temperatures are mild, and the leaves on the trees are beginning to change color.  They will soon be presenting us with a magnificent panorama of color.

This is a wonderful time of year.  It seems like it is a time of preparing.  After the busy summer and before I start  looking inside the house more, I need to prepare the garden.  Then I will check the cupboards for they will need a good cleaning.  And oh, those closets!  That is a definite MUST.  Something also has to be done about the carpet.  It needs to be cleaned again.  Lots of things to do.

The Fall Schedule at Church has started.  There are new Sunday School programs and lots of activities for everyone.  The ladies are starting their Fall programs and Bible Studies.  It is almost as if everyone has let out their breath from all the busy-ness of the summer.  Instead they are gearing up for activities to take their minds off the ‘Long Cold’ winter that lies ahead.

I smile to myself as I think of these things!  It is a comfortable feeling because each year it is much the same.  As the activities around me change, I look for the signs of the season changing.  In fact, the Bible even explains about God’s plan for the seasons:

“And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens
to separate the day from the night. 
And let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.”
Genesis 1:14 (ESV)

“He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.”
Psalm 104:19

Yes, the seasons come and go, but thankfully, there is something that remains the same!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

“Heaven and earth will pass away,
but My words will never pass away.”
Matthew 24:35 (HCSB)
                       
And these comforting words bring me contentment, because I know I can rest in God’s faithfulness



Shirley's Soliloquies #269

09/20//09

"I Felt a Calm"

He was on the 61st floor in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 9, 2001.  He and a large number of people were in the Atrium for a break from the conference they were attending.  He was standing close to a window looking out at the view of the city.  It was a beautiful sunshiny day.  

Suddenly he saw debris falling down past the window.  He questioned what it could be, and people around him thought probably someone was cleaning out a trash container on the top of the building.  However, it didn’t seem right to him.   

At one point, the building began to tilt and people fell to one side of the room.  Then it righted itself.  He thought to himself, “This is it.”  But instead of panic, he felt a real calm.  He had an assurance that whether he lived or died, it was going to be ok.  But, nevertheless, he was praying!

This is what Chad Creevy told a large crowd who were gathered to hear his testimony of what happened the second day he was in New York for business meetings.  The audience was spellbound.

I wonder how many people were thinking, ‘What if something like that would happen to me?  How would I feel?  Would I feel a calm?  Would I panic, thinking I was near to death?’ 

I began to pray for all the people who were obviously touched with this young man’s testimony.  He had been calm even though he knew that his life could be at its end.  I thought of the Bible verse in 2 Corinthians that says,

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

After he spoke, he accepted questions.  One person asked him how his Christian life had changed since then.  He answered that he appreciates the power of prayer more than he ever did.

What a calming thought it is to realize that the Lord knows all about me, all about the circumstances in which I might find myself.  There are times when it might be difficult to pray, but that doesn’t really matter, because the Bible teaches that,
                                   
“The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness,
because we do not know what to pray for as we should,
but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.
And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set,
because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Romans 8:26-27

What a blessed calming truth!  How wonderful to know that God is ready to help in time of need!


Shirley's Soliloquies #268

09/13//09

"Missing Out on Blessings"

Many times I have wished that someone would have been with me at a special event.  Sometimes later on I’ll even tell them, “You should have been there.  You really missed it!”

I thought of that this weekend when my sister and I decided we’d like to pick some blueberries.  They always taste so good when they are freshly picked.  We also like to freeze some so that we can use them later for baking specialities. 

We have done this together many times over the last twelve years, but somehow this summer got away from us.  We had been occupied with other things making it hard to get together.

But a  few days ago, we decided to go.  Eagerly anticipating the wonderful prospect, we left for the place where we usually went, but there was a sign saying they were closed for the season.  Disappointed, but not daunted, we remembered a neighboring farm where we had picked  previously.  However, it too was closed.  Suddenly, she remembered a place where berries grew wild, but when we got there, we found they were quite tart and very small.  We had missed out!

However, my sister isn’t one to give up easily, so we went north of town where there were more farms.  Finally  we found one that still had berries, but alas, we had missed the peak time for picking there also!  We ended up deciding to simply buy some so we wouldn’t go home empty-handed.

As I was thinking about our excursions and disappointments, my mind drifted to the Bible narrative about Thomas.  The Lord had risen from the grave, and had appeared to some of His disciples.  But Thomas was not present.  He had missed out on the wonderful occasion of seeing the Lord!   In fact, when they were excitedly telling him about it, he even doubted that they had actually seen Him.  He had seen them crucify Him, so he knew He had died.  He was sure that dead people just do not rise from the grave as the others were saying!  Thomas said that he wouldn’t believe unless he could put his finger in the holes where the nails had been in his hands, and his fist into his side.

How thrilling it must have been when Jesus did appear once again to the disciples; this time with Thomas present.  But how ashamed he must have felt when Jesus told him to put his fingers and fist into the holes in his hands and side!  I can imagine him heartbrokenly falling to his knees and worshiping, saying, “My Lord and my God!”

 How did Jesus respond to him?  He said,

“Because you have seen Me, you have believed.
Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”
John 20:29

I wondered how often I have missed out on blessings, simply because I was procrastinating, or because I felt too tired to go somewhere, doubting it would be worthwhile?



Shirley's Soliloquies #267

09/06//09

"Encouraging or Otherwise?"

How is it possible to read a certain passage of Scripture time after time, year after year, and never have it really register?  That happened to me last night at our Ladies Bible Study.  Someone was reading Romans 1:9-17.  But as she read verse 12, it actually seemed to jump out at me, and I couldn’t follow the reading any more, for I was stuck on the twelfth verse

...that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

I thought of the apostle Paul, he was imprisoned, and yet he was encouraged just by hearing about the faith of other believers.  It made me stop to wonder if there might possibly be times when others might be encouraged by the example of  my life?

On the other hand, my thoughts then drifted to those who might be presenting a stumbling block to another person.  According to Philippians 3:18-19 it does happen.  Perhaps something might be said or done, maybe even unintentionally, that would cause someone to stumble (Romans 14:13).

I wondered about the Christian who is trying to be an example to someone else but goes with that person to some questionable place.  Perhaps the thought might be that the person could be won to Christ by witnessing there.  Or it might be that a Christian would invite another person for a game of golf or other recreation with the express purpose of witnessing.  However, what if there were no time possible except on Sunday.  So in order to win that person for Christ, compromise enters.

It doesn’t seem to be conceivable that something else might enter the unsaved person’s mind.  For example, the thought:  ‘It really isn’t important to attend Church on Sunday, because if it were, then my friend wouldn’t agree to a game of golf on that day.’

Not only is it a question of being a  stumbling block, but it could involve disobedience to Scripture.  The Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other....”  Also, a habit is in the process of being formed.

So instead of being an encouragement, a Christian might become the opposite.  I need to ask myself, ‘Am I being an encouragement, or perhaps unknowingly, am I becoming a stumbling block?   Are my actions causing someone to stumble?’

My prayer, Lord, is,

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way.”
Psalm 139:23-24


Shirley's Soliloquies #266


08/30//09

"Double-Mindedness"

Double-mindedness: Knowing what needs to be done, and never getting around to doing it?  Or maybe knowing what should be done, but doing something else?

I’m realizing that my thoughts can be scattered  sometimes.  For example, I knew I should get started on my soliloquy for this week, but as I was thinking about that, the Ladies Bible Study came to the forefront of my mind.  It will be starting next week.  And I need to prepare for the study.  In order to finalize everything, I needed to call someone in order to get another person’s phone number.

Meanwhile, I happened to glance outside and noticed that the sun was shining.  It seems like I  haven’t had the opportunity to be able to sit outside for a couple of months!  So I decided I’d better do that before the sun disappeared behind the trees.

However, as I was enjoying the sunshine for about five minutes, my son asked if I’d like to go to the library with him.  I rarely turn down any invitation to go anywhere!  I like to check out the magazines at the library, particularly the Christian periodicals to keep up with what is going on in the churches and keep up with the Christian world thought or view. 

So finally when I got back home again, I was able to get down to the business I had been anticipating that I should do in the first place.

I thought, ‘Life is like that.’  It seems that I can become so easily diverted or distracted from the task at hand.  I wonder if that’s what the Bible means when it says, “Give me an undivided mind....” 

“Teach me Your way, Lord, and I will live by Your truth.
Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.”
Psalm 86:11

Yes, that’s my desire!  I want an undivided mind towards the Lord.  I believe that even if I do get distracted in my everyday plans, I can still have a single-minded heart that is undivided in my ultimate goal of striving to fear and please the Lord. 

 
“Now the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him–
those who depend on His faithful love.” 
Psalm 33:18
    
“How great is Your goodness that You have stored up for those who fear You.”
Psalm 31:19

These verses are genuine gems!  They touch my heart and increase my desire to live single-mindedly to please the Lord.


Shirley's Soliloquies #265

08/23//09

"Discipline & Love"


Many people talk about “the God of the Old Testament” being a tyrant.  This really bothers me.  It makes me shudder.  I wonder if such people have ever read Psalm 105:17 (HCSB)?  “But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness.”

I’ve learned that God will only tolerate disobedience and evil practices just so long.   Sometimes I wonder if some people really understand how powerful and righteous God is.  When there is disobedience, and of course there is, then discipline will come.  Putting it in human terms, should God be any different from a parent?   Do we not chasten those we love? 

All too often the parent will give a child some instructions, and the child will ignore it.    But after a while, the parent will get tired of it and say, “Enough is enough!”  Then there will be consequences.  When a child is left to his own ways, trouble follows, and it must be corrected.  Discipline must be applied.  But that doesn’t mean the parent no longer loves the child.  No!  Instead  because he does loves, he wants what is best for the child.  And that means consistently teaching and training the child in the way he should go (Hebrews 12:5-13).

Because God loves us, He must also discipline.  But His discipline is perfect.   He guides and directs.  And sometimes, nudging is needed to get a person going in the right direction.  He desires that people should enjoy all the blessings of His love.  He provided the best way people would see what He is really like by coming in the flesh in the person of Jesus. 

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us,
because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world,
that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)

That is perfect love.  Kurt Kaiser penned the words and music of the song that expresses the feelings of many hearts, including mine.  ‘Thank you Lord, for your love, and even your chastenings.’

“Oh how He loves you and me,
Oh, how He loves you and me.
He gave His life, what more could He give,
Oh how He love you, Oh how He love me,
Oh how He loves you and me.

Jesus to Calv’ry did go,
His love for mankind to show
What He did there brought hope from despair.
Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He love me,
Oh how He loves you and me.”



Shirley's Soliloquies #264

08/16//09

"Watch & Be Ready!"


I thought I was seeing a couple of little angels when I opened the door!  I gave them both a big hug asking them if they were my little angels.  Then I looked up and saw my granddaughter holding her little one year old darling daughter.  I thought they were more angels, just larger and smaller in size.  The two little ones were my great grandsons, three and six year olds.  I was SO excited to see them!

I had been expecting them to come for a visit in a few days time.  Since we had just returned from Ohio the evening before, I thought I had time to prepare for their visit.  I needed to go grocery shopping because whenever we go away, I usually don’t leave much food in the house.  I also needed to get the house cleaned up.  But suddenly our plans changed – FOR THE BETTER!

I hadn’t seen them for about a half a year.  One, three, and six year olds have a definite way of changing, especially in six months.  Of course, my granddaughter is as lovely as ever.  Their children are not only exceptionally beautiful, but also very well-behaved.  It was delightful having them.

As I was contemplating their visit this morning, I thought of some of the statements of Jesus when He was on earth.  He told His disciples to be ready for His return.  They wouldn’t know exactly when,  but they were to watch for His coming.  He said,

“Be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming...
You also must be ready,
 because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Matthew 24:42, 44

The apostle Paul also warned the believers to be alert and ready for His coming in many of his epistles.  He especially talks about it in 1 Thessalonians 5.  He told the believers  that they were not children of the night but of the day.  Therefore His coming would not overtake them like a thief.  But they needed to be vigilant and be sober, putting the armor of faith and love on their chests and on their heads the helmet of salvation.

Later on, the apostle Peter also gave similar advice in his first epistle.

“Now the end of all things is near,
 therefore, be clearheaded and disciplined for prayers. 
Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength,
since love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:7-8

My granddaughter’s arrival reminded  me again that no matter when my Lord might come, I must be ready at all times.  I must always be prepared and ready to welcome Him.


Shirley's Soliloquies #263

08/09//09

"Just a Glimpse"


What is this about having “just a glimpse?”  Mental images flooded into my mind. 

A professor was explaining the way early Netherlandish paintings promoted religious piety.  He was projecting slides of the 15th century art that showed ways in which the visual images fostered particular devotional practices.  They appealed to the hearts and eyes.  He explained that the artist wanted the viewer to see with the “eyes of the heart;” getting “just a glimpse” of the divine.
                   
It caught my attention and I realized that I had to meditate on that concept for a bit.  The passages of Scripture where a person was given “just a glimpse” of God came to my mind first.  I thought of Moses begging God for just a glimpse of Himself.  And God answered him, letting him see His back.  How often Old Testament prophets desired just a glimpse of God.

But then I thought of the earth and sky, our vast universe.  I thought of the variations in textures and  all the different intensities and shades of color on earth.  Splashing across my mind came the contrasting blues of the waters and sky, the white of the clouds, the greens, yellows, and browns of the grass and other vegetation.  Then all the beautiful colors of flowers and plant life seem almost overwhelming.  The beauties of creation often cause me to stop and marvel.  I believe all of this is “just a glimpse” of His mighty power and majesty. 

Down through the centuries mankind has acknowledged God through His handiwork.  The oldest book in the Bible tells about  Job who lost everything.   Even after his friends had tried and failed to comfort him, he still had a glimpse that God was the mighty creator.  He exclaimed, “Stop and consider God’s wonders.”  

“Awesome majesty surrounds Him.
The Almighty...exalted in power!”
Job 37:22

The Psalmist, seemed to get glimpses of the Lord as he sang forth His praises,

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.”
Psalm 19:1

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.
His majesty covers heaven and earth:
Psalm 148:13

Thank you Lord, for these glimpses, not only in your Word, but in all that I see around me.



Shirley's Soliloquies #262

08/02//09

"Still More Exercising?"

I can’t seem to get away from being bombarded about the benefits of exercise

This time it was from a neuroscientist who was giving a  lecture to a class of retired people.  She engaged us in a discussion of the new research into the human brain and the possibilities that this growing body of knowledge provides for our daily living.

She talked about the development of the brains of babies, young children, teens, and then adults progressing into old age.  She mentioned the research that showed how even a baby in the womb already hears and responds.  She talked about the baby’s brain after birth, and how it actively takes in and builds on everything.  I thought of the Psalmist who wrote about how remarkably and wonderfully we are made.

“For it was You who created my inward  parts,
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
Psalm 139:13-14

Somewhere about halfway through the lecture, the neuroscientist also talked about the development of the brain throughout life, and also about atrophy in some cases.  She showed us studies of the differences in the neurons of the brain in a baby and young child with those of a child a few years older who is in school.  It was startling to see that the brain will prune what it hasn’t used in a while.  She said this pruning will go on throughout life.  “What we don’t use, we lose.” 

Then she stressed the importance of diet and exercise in order to keep a healthy brain.  My ears perked up, for I had heard those words before.  I thought to myself, “Not again.  This must be something I need to not only hear and understand, but to act upon.”

Romans 12:1-2 came to mind where the apostle Paul urged the believers,

“Therefore by the mercies of God,
I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this age,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

I know I need to take care of this body that the Lord has so wonderfully made.  But I also realize that I must continue to exercise my mind toward spiritual growth.  I must build on what He has done for me.  When I see Him, I want to hear him say, “Well done, thou good & faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).


Shirley's Soliloquies #261

07/26//09

"Exercise Profits, But...?"

Can a little exercise really make a difference?  My mind refused to accept the concept. 

Reflecting about it, I realized that I used to do a set program faithfully for about 5-10 minutes every morning.   I also regularly went to Curves.  But this Spring, I have not continued. 

Have I suffered?  Well, slowly my back and hips have started hurting, so it is now difficult to discipline myself to do anything.   Just moving around seems to be getting more difficult.  As a result, my body is telling me something.  My doctor and others have told me that I need to be exercising.

Recently my cousin and her husband were here, and they were telling us about an exercise system they were doing.  I had noticed how my cousin seemed to be standing up straighter and also seemed to have more energy exuding from her.  Not long afterwards, my sister and her husband started the program.  After only a couple weeks, I noticed a wonderful difference in my sisterཀ  She looks goodཀ   So, my son and husband agreed that maybe we should try it also.  We’ll see what happensཀ

As I began to look back on the subtle progression of deterioration, I realized that I could blame no one but myself.  First, I had stopped exercising at Curves.  Then gradually I stopped my personal exercises.  Also, I stopped walking because my hips and legs were bothering me. 

Through these realizations, it occurred to me that they held a lesson that could be related to the spiritual life.  Skipping my Bible readings and prayer one day might seem harmless, but then it is easier to do the same the next day. 

Then what about attending church?  If one were to skip going to church one Sunday, how much easier it would be to skip again the following Sunday.  The Bible warns about this in Hebrews 10:25,

“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.”

Yes, this is important.  Also, I do need to exercise my body.  It does hold some profit.

“For bodily exercise profiteth little:
but godliness is profitable unto all things,
having promise of the life that now is,
and of that which is to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8

So more importantly, as the apostle Paul wrote, I need to exercise myself to godliness.  How do I do this?  At the top of the list is being consistent in my time with the Lord:  in reading and studying His Word, and in prayer with Him.  Please, Lord, guide me in my daily walk with you..



Shirley's Soliloquies #260
"My Gratitude"

07/19//09

Five years?!!  I couldn’t believe it!  My son reminded me that it has been exactly five years since I began writing these soliloquies!  Time really does fly!  He had been urging me to start writing something to share with others.  So I wrote my first soliloquy.  People have asked how I think of things to write about every week.  It has to be the Lord Who places thoughts in my head.   As I thought about these past five years, I decided to reread the first soliloquy:

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him sincerely and in truth.”  (Psalm 145:18)

How true that Scripture has proven to be through the years.  I began to reflect about the Lord’s faithfulness.  He is a faithful friend and a constant help to me.  Not only does he listen, “The Lord listens and heeds when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:3b), but He searches for those who are committed to Him so He can strengthen them! 

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

As I was musing over the Lord’s faithfulness, my experiences with my son came to mind.  It has been good having him nearby.  He seems to anticipate my needs and is a great help.   If I should talk about something I’d like to have done, he does it before I ask.  He helps clean the kitchen.  He waters the plants when I forget.  He helps me do heavy lifting and cleaning.  He solves difficulties I have with my computer.  He runs errands with me, and then we stop for a McDonald’s Frappe.  It warms my heart to see that he seems to enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with him. 

As I was reflecting over these things, I thought again of the way the Lord has always been there for me, supplying my every need, sometimes answering even before I ask.  He gives me ideas when I am writing.  He’s my joy in times of gladness and my peace amidst turmoil. 

As I was thinking of the similarities between the relationship with my son and that of my Heavenly Father, I realized how important it is for me to express my gratitude to my Father in heaven.  There are times when He answers my prayers and helps me.  How sad if I would fail to thank Him.  I should never take Him for granted after all He’s done for me!  I know how important it is to thank my son, so how much more important it is to thank my Heavenly Father!  May I never take His graciousness for granted, but may I always express my gratitude.


Shirley's Soliloquies #259

07/12//09

‘David was a shepherd boy who watched and cared for sheep.  At times wild animals came and he fought them off, protecting his sheep.  He was faithful in his responsibilities.  

When his brothers were away fighting the Philistines, David obeyed his father when he asked him to go to his brothers to take food and to see how they were.  He was obedient to his father.  

While there, he heard the giant Goliath bellowing threats and curses against the Israelites.  In the name of the Lord, he took out his slingshot and with a stone, killed him.  He was confident in the help of the Lord.  He was fearless with the knowledge of God’s help.

When King Saul’s mind was in distress and turmoil, David was called to play his harp to sooth the King’s troubled mind.  He was humble and able to comfort others.  

David’s military exploits caused jealousy in King Saul to the extent that he tried to kill him.  David fled, and at times had the opportunity to kill Saul, but wouldn’t because he knew he was the Lord’s anointed.  He was loyal to his king.

David became king.  He continued to grow in power.  The Lord blessed his kingdom.  However, at times he failed.  He committed adultery.  He even arranged to have the husband of the woman he desired killed.  David was captive to his human desires.  In the midst of his broken heart and spirit, he shared,

“Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love;
According to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.
Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.
Against you—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge….
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.”
Psalm 51:1-4, 12

David really believed that the Lord would be faithful.  He was confident that he would be forgiven and that restoration would be his.  So it’s no wonder that he exclaimed,
“I will sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever.” Psalm 89:1




Shirley's Soliloquies #257


"Peace Amidst Turmoil!"


06/28/09

Thunder and lightning were crashing and flashing insistently!  High winds and torrential rains were violently impacting the trees, even uprooting some huge ones, causing serious damage!  It kept on into the night with no sign of slowing down!

The next morning we saw the damage and the flooding.  Roads had collapsed!  Basements were flooded.  There was no electricity.  Cars were stranded in what seemed to be lakes.  I don’t remember ever experiencing anything like it before.

But I do remember a time when the storm seemed to be at its worst, there was a bright flash of lightning.  Thunder crashed at the same time!  That usually causes me to jump or at least starts my heart racing for a bit.  But this time, I felt a distinct calm come over me!  I don’t remember that happening before.  It was as if the Lord were reminding me of His presence amidst the storm.  I breathed a prayer of thanks.  I thanked Him for the peace amidst the turmoil.

Now, a couple of days later, I was looking out the window toward our neighbor’s condo.  There was a gentle rain falling.  But then I couldn’t believe what I saw because the sun was shining in front of our condo!  What a phenomenon!  It seemed to confirm what I felt in my heart, the Lord’s peace was being directed toward me.  
   
The Gospel of John came to mind.  As I had been reading the book recently, it struck me anew how many times Jesus assured his disciples that He was giving them promises of His peace.  For example,
 
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you;
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.
In the world ye shall have tribulation: 
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I thought how timely this message is during the current times of social and political turmoil.  In addition to the wars, the violence, and the economic woes that abound, and also the massive cleanup all around my own community, how wonderful it is to have such peace.  So now, I praise and thank the Lord for the graphic ways that He’s reminded me of His peace during the storms of life!


Shirley's Soliloquies #256

"Too Difficult!"


06/21/09

I just received word that a very dear saint of God is now with the Lord.  My heart jumped with joy as I thought of her actually experiencing the glory that vastly outweighs the troubles she’s had here on earth!  According to 2 Corinthians 4:16-19 that’s the reality she now has!  

Then I felt burdened as I realized that this cannot be a reality for everyone.  Some people feel it is too difficult to keep the mind focused on the eternal while here on this earth.  Interestingly, the recent birth of our great-grandson came to mind.  It isn’t possible for him to focus his eyes yet.  But oh, the joy when that precious little one begins to recognize his mommy and daddy!  It is as if he is no longer blind! 

I thought it is the same in the spiritual realm.  Mankind, generally speaking, is blind to eternal things.  Jesus was talking to people in a church, yes, to people in a church!  He said, “You say, ‘I am rich, I have everything I want.  I don’t need a thing!’  And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.’” (Revelation 3:17).

What could the Lord have had in mind?  Can church people really be spiritually blind?  According to these words, this is the case.  Unless a person believes that Jesus is God’s Son, and that He is who He claimed to be, that person is spiritually blind and cannot really understand the things of God. 

So how can that person get to “see?”  It is really quite simple, but for some, it seems to be so hard.  First, he must turn from his old ways, and turn to God.  It’s as easy as ABC!  It involves,  

Accepting that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Believing He died on the cross for sinners – Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23
Calling upon Him as Lord and Savior – Romans 10:9-10, 13

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,
and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God,
And it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved…
For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  Romans 10:9-10, 13

It’s really not difficult, is it?  In fact, it’s almost too easy!  It is just a matter Accepting, Believing, & Confessing.  Then your spiritual eyes will be opened and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 can become a reality!



Shirley's Soliloquies #255

"Challenges & Opportunities"

06/14/09

Challenges?  Yes!  All around me, I hear of people who are facing all kinds of challenges! 

Every day the news media tell of some businesses closing their doors.  People are losing their jobs.  As a result of losing their jobs, they are losing their possessions, in some cases even their cars and homes! 

Many families are not able to survive these challenges.  Sometimes there is a tendency to turn against those who are loved the most.  The “Kick the Cat Syndrome” comes into effect.  They don’t feel that they can retaliate against their boss or fellow-workers, so they turn against those in their own families, those who will not meet them with harsh words or actions.  Yes, sometimes it is the cat!  Often there is more said or even done than was originally intended, and unfortunately some families are broken apart.

This naturally affects the emotional stability of those involved.  The bills start arriving and the budget is stretched beyond the breaking point.  Often this results in a deterioration of physical or mental health.   

These are indeed challenging times, not only physical, emotional, mental, but even spiritual challenges.

My heart aches for these people!  Does God’s Word have anything encouraging for believers who are facing such challenges?  Praise God, it does!  It is good news!  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 declares,

“That is why we never give up.
Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now,
Rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
But the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Though it might be difficult to grasp these truths in the midst of life’s challenges, may I realize the opportunity it is for me to keep my eyes, my thoughts, and my heart focused on the eternal.  O Lord, help me to realize that when compared with eternity, this life is like a vapor – here one moment, and gone the next (James 4:14).



Shirley's Soliloquies #254


"The Sun is Shining!"


06/07/09

The sun is shining again!  After the cloudy, drizzly days we had recently, this has been wonderful!  The brightness even seems to make me feel better.  I love it!

Several instances of the positive effect of light flitted through my mind.  For example, a friend who had spent a month in Florida and had just returned back home sent me an email.  She wrote that it was hard to come back to the gloomy weather they’d been having in her State.

I’m also told that in some places such as Alaska, because of the long nights of darkness, the rate of suicides and depression increases alarmingly.  I understand that not only there, but even here, some people have bright lights installed all over their homes because they need the extra light.  Many things can cause depression, but I know that darkness and dreary days can be a part of it. 

Recently my son and I were talking about installing a Solatube in the kitchen.  Since there are no windows there, it would seem to be a wise idea.  We rationalized that it would also save on electricity because we wouldn’t have to have the lights on during daylight hours. 

My husband agreed that this would be a good idea.  Then I thought, ‘Poor guy, since he has cataracts, he probably thinks it is darker than it actually is!’  Recently, I remembered him straining to read his Bible while he was in the pulpit.  Shortly afterwards I noticed he was reading a large print Bible that I had been using before I had my cataracts removed!  I realized then that it is definitely time to have his cataracts removed too!  What a wonderful surprise he’ll have when he first realizes how much better he can see!  How he’ll enjoy the intensity of the colors, and especially the brightness of everything! 

Then I stopped to think about how awful the world would be without light!  I can hardly imagine being in total darkness all the time.  This brought to mind spiritual darkness.  In John 8:12, the Lord Jesus said, 

“I am the light of the world.  Anyone who follows me
will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”

The apostle John in 1 John 1:7 set forth the benefits of walking in Jesus’ light. 

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light,
We have fellowship with one another,
And the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

We are cleansed from all sin and have fellowship with other believers as we walk in His light!



Shirley's Soliloquies #253


05/31/09

It’s Time to Decide
“I have had enough, Lord, take my life, for I’m not better than my fathers.”  Whatever would make a prophet of the Lord cry out those haunting words? 

The book of First Kings records a sorry tale of the Israelites turning their backs on God and worshipping idols.  God had specifically and repeatedly warned them against doing this.  He told them that there would be judgment.  This time He sent a drought in the land, resulting in a severe famine. 

This sad story has an awesome conclusion.  It is recorded in 1 Kings 18.  Putting it in a nutshell, Elijah told King Ahab to meet him with all the people, plus all his hundreds of false prophets.   There, before them all, Elijah tells them to make a decision!  He said,

“How long will you hesitate between two opinions?  If Yahweh is God, follow Him.  But if Baal, then follow him” (18:21)

The Bible says, the people answered “not a word.”  So he told them to build an altar on which they were to put a sacrifice.  Then they were to call on their gods to send down fire to accept the sacrifice.  The people danced around their altar.  They even cut themselves hoping to get their god’s attention, but nothing happened.  Elijah taunted them by saying they should yell louder, maybe their god was on a trip or sleeping

Elijah waited all day while this was going on.  Finally, he told the people to come near him.  He built an altar on which he placed a sacrifice.  He even built trenches around it and poured water all over it spilling into the trenches.  Then he called on the Lord God, asking Him to let them know that He was God!  What a great, all-powerful God!  Fire poured down from heaven so that it consumed the burnt offering and licked up the water all around it, even the water in the trenches.  Then the people fell down and worshipped God!  Elijah told King Ahab to watch because the Lord God would be sending rain. 

However, when the King’s wife heard about it, she threatened Elijah so that he ran for his life into the wilderness.  It was at this point that it all just seemed to be too much for him.  He probably felt, what’s the use?  And he spoke those words, “I have had enough.  Take my life” (19:4).  These are sad-sounding words.  He probably felt he had worked and worked for God, always seeming to have to fight the crowd.   How did God, the One who knows the thoughts and intents of all hearts, the ever-loving God answer?  He sent an angel who told him to get up, to eat and drink.  Then He revealed Himself to Elijah in a very touching way (19:9-21).  To those who have chosen to accept Him, He is ever-present and faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).  

It breaks my heart to think that even now, there are some people who continue to hesitate between two opinions.  They go their own way one day after another, never bothering to made a decision to follow God.  They keep putting it off, thinking that there is always tomorrow.  But tomorrow never comes!  The Bible says,

“Look, now is the acceptable time, look, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2



Shirley's Soliloquies #252


"Triumphant in Trials"


05/24/09

Trials?  It certainly seems like it!
Someone close to me has been enduring physical problems during the past six months.  Now this past week he also lost his job.  He had good reason to exclaim, “What next?” 

But this morning I was quite impressed because he sent me an email with the following Scripture verse.  He said it had really encouraged him. 

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."  1 Peter 1:7

I looked it up in the New Living Translation of the Bible and was thrilled with the translation.  What a blessing!  I had to share it.

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold."

So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much peace and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

What a blessing and comfort this passage was to him, and also to me!  It reminded me of a song written by Esther K. Rusthoi that we used to sing,

“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.  Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; One glimpse at His dear face all sorrows will erase.  So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

Thinking of trials brought to mind many of the Old Testament saints whom God tested in order to strengthen them for the things that lay ahead (Hebrews 11:32-40; 12:5-11).  The New Testament also speaks of such testings.  This passage that is recorded in 1 Peter 1:7 tells me that such tests continue.  I had to think, “Why should I be any different from the people who lived in the past?” 

Instead, whenever I feel that I am being tested, I can gain strength by looking forward to that day when Jesus Christ will be revealed to the whole world.  It will indeed “be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”

Romans 8:18



Shirley's Soliloquies #251


"Smiling with Joy!"


05/17/09

Oh the relief!  I had steeled myself to have over a dozen teeth extracted.  And in addition to that, I needed to have some bone removed from the roof of my mouth and also along the lower gums.  I dreaded it!  But I knew it was needed, so I steeled myself at the prospect of having it done.
However, my dear husband said, “Why don’t we take a trip to Ohio, and see what our long-time dentist friend has to say.”  I had gone to him for over 40 years, so I respected his opinion, and knew I’d be comfortable with it.

I called his office and made an appointment.  Finally we got there.  He checked the digital imaging and studied the whole situation in my mouth.  Then he ‘Hummmed,’ and ‘Ahhhhed,’ and said, “I think I can fix this.”  I couldn’t believe it!   My heart nearly stopped!  But when I did believe it, my relief was so enormous that he must have been able to see it.  He started the procedure that afternoon, and now three weeks later, we were there again and he finished it.  I was so pleased and surprised!  My teeth have not looked this good for years.  He’s a genius!  Then he said, “Now I want to see some big smiles!”  I think I’ve not stopped smiling since!

On the way home, I was thinking of all the times in the Bible where it talks about happiness and joy.  The verses that came to my mind immediately were:  “A glad heart makes a happy face.  A joyful heart is good medicine.”  (Proverbs 15:13; 17:22).

Then I thought of verses like,

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasure of living with you forever…. So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!  Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure.”  (Psalm 16:11; 32:11)

I thought also of the words of Jesus recorded in John 15:11,

 “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!”

And the words of the Apostle Paul recorded in Galatians 5:22

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

However, then I thought of the admonition of the Apostle James, 

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:2-4

So, whenever circumstances arrive when I don’t feel like smiling, I will remind myself of James’ exhortation.  I will remember that it is at such times that the Lord is still working on me!  I will also remember the gifted skills of that dentist friend who made it possible for me to be able to smile and maintain a happy face.  At the same time, I will thank God for him.



Shirley's Soliloquies #250


"The Breeze of Unfailing Love"


05/10/09

As if in anticipation of something special, the tulips are bobbing their colorful heads in the breeze.  It all seems quite right, because once again, it is the week of Tulip Time!

For months, the city, schools, and residents have been planning and preparing.  School children have been getting their ‘Dutch Costumes’ ready.  Some have had to buy new ‘wooden shoes.’  The teachers have been preparing students for their part in Thursday’s Children’s Parade.  They have been designing and making objects for the children to carry.  Some have been decorating bikes they will ride.  

The school bands have been practicing for months, not only the music, but also the marching formations.  The “Dutch Dancers” have been enduring strenuous practices since the beginning of the year.  Their costumes have been inspected to be sure that each one is according to the strict standards of the Festival.

Miles of streets have tulips of many varieties planted on each side.  But one of the most breathtaking scenes is the acres of tulips that have been planted around the city and in the Tulip Farms.  They are all gently swaying back and forth in the breeze. 

Yes, it is a special time of the year in Holland, Michigan.  Eyes are now focused on the weather forecasts, and prayers are being said, hoping for appropriate weather for the next few days.

My sister and I went to a program presented by a local church last night.  The Matthews Brothers and the Singing Crusaders were in concert.  At one point, one of the Matthews brothers commented on how much he enjoyed coming to Holland, especially at Tulip Time.  He mentioned that every time he comes, he enjoys going to Lake Michigan to watch the waves gently rolling up on the shore.  He suggested that the audience think of those waves representing God’s love, gently washing over us.  It was a beautiful, peaceful thought.  It brought to mind once again the images of those tulips moving as a result of the breeze.  To me they also seem like the waves of the Lake. 

I thought how like God’s love that is, constant, always there, always consistent, always unfailing!  Mankind’s love is here one minute, and then it is often gone the next.  But not God’s love!  It never ends.  Even though at times His love is ignored, it is still there, constantly blowing over those who love and fear Him.  The Psalmist penned words of God’s love when he wrote,

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” (23:6)

“Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.”  (36:10)

“For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever.” (100:5)

“But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him.” (103:17 NLT)

Thank you Lord, for your consistent, unfailing love!



Shirley's Soliloquies #249


"A Most Unusual Thing!"


05/03/09

It was a most unusual thing this morning!  It made my heart swell with happiness, joy, and peace!

I had opened the patio door because, though overcast, it was quite mild, about 70 degrees outside.  I picked up my little harp, tuned it up, and began to play chords.  Then I went into the wonderful song popularized by George Beverly Shea many years ago, “How Great Thou Art!” 

Through the patio door I heard the birds singing their little hearts out while I was playing that song!  It was as if they were praising the Lord too!  Then I went into the song, “Amazing Grace!”  Still the birds kept up their trilling along with me.

After that I stopped and played Largo.  But then, immediately I noticed the sharp contrast!  The birds had stopped their singing and warbling! 

‘Strange,’ I thought, ‘It is almost as if they were deep into praising their Creator too.  It brought to mind the little song that I had learned as a child, “The Birdies in the Tree tops sing their song!”

“The Birdies in the tree tops sing their song,
The angels in their chorus sing along.
The flowers in the garden blend their hue,
So why shouldn’t I, why shouldn’t you,
praise Him too?”

How good it is to praise the Lord, but how seldom I stop what I am doing, and earnestly take time to actually do just that!

I thought of the Scripture in 1 Chronicles that tells of David who for the first time decreed that thanks be given to the Lord.  Some of what he said is,

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth,
Proclaim His salvation from day to day…
The Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and joy are in His place…
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:23, 26-27, 34

May I say, like David (Psalm 34:6), and do as the little “birdies” do,

“I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.”



Shirley's Soliloquies #248


"Oh, Those Annoying Viruses"


04/26/09

How insidiously some things can creep into one’s life!

My computer was acting strangely, and all of a sudden, a popup flashed across the screen.  It was something about a virus, so I clicked on it.  Ad then it just kept going and interrupting what I was doing.  I wasn’t able to do anything without something popping up!  My daughter said that I do have a virus protection, so I shouldn’t pay any attention to those things.  They want people to buy their program, and it scares most people, so they do.  She said, ‘You never click on it, instead delete it right away.’  The computer said I had 34 viruses in my computer!  Well, that made me nervous.  She suggested that I should go to the computer store, and let them get rid of it.  She said it would be next to impossible to do it by myself.  So I took it to the computer store.  Thankfully, they are fixing the problem.  How quietly a virus can creep into a computer and cause havoc!  Gradually at first, but then taking over!

Then my mind went to my son, because he has had to take off work for a few days.  It was impossible for him to do his job.  First he had a twinge of pain, but before long, it cause havoc in his whole body, so it was difficult to even move without pain.  I thought of the Scripture in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12.

“So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;
If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
1 Corinthians 12:26

Our daughter also had a type of the flu that started in a soft, subtle way.  But eventually she had to call off work and go to the doctor to get antibiotics to be able to function normally.

Then I thought of my recent problems with my teeth.  Those teeth suddenly broke off from a fairly healthy body.  The problem must have been building up gradually, maybe a lack in my diet, weak bones and teeth, or yes, maybe even old age.

How important it is to take good care of the body!  1 Timothy 4:8 speaks to me,

“For bodily exercise profiteth little:
but godliness is profitable unto all things,
having promise of the life that now is,
and of that which is to come.”

That settles it!  This verse states that there is some profit in bodily exercise.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I realize that my exercise has gone by the wayside this past month.  I need to get back to it.  I also need to be more diligent in watching the things I’m eating.

So the things I need to keep in mind are:
    (1) I need to do more physical exercise;
    (2) I also need to watch more carefully the types of food I am eating; and
    (3) Most of all, I need to train myself for godliness because that promises benefits in the
life to come!



Shirley's Soliloquies #247


"He Knows My Anxiety"


04/19/09

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Those words from the 23rd Psalm kept going through my mind as I was waking during the early hours of the morning, 2:32 AM, to be exact.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want….”

It has been an interesting few days since we arrived back from our winter domicile in Southern Alabama.  My husband & I had gone to a local restaurant, and I had ordered a salad, mainly greens plus a few small tomatoes.  I put cottage cheese on the top.  Well, as I was chewing the salad, I bit down on something hard.  I thought, ‘Hum, that’s strange!  There shouldn’t be anything hard in there.’  So I moved the food around a bit in my mouth until I found the hard piece with my tongue.  I thought, ‘That feels like a tooth!’  Then I felt around with my tongue, and sure enough!  I found a hole where the tooth should have been!   I thought, ‘Oh dear, our first Sunday back home!  And also, it was Easter Sunday!’

So later in the morning, I called the dentist that I had gone to a number of years ago.  But he was out of town.  I called my sister, and she told me her daughter & son-in-law liked a particular dentist.  She gave me his name.  I called there, and they asked when I could come in so the doctor could look at it.  I went nearly right away.  They were very thorough in the examination and procedures.  I was greatly impressed.  However, the news I received wasn’t good news.  It seems that I am in danger of losing most of my teeth, some due to cavities behind fillings, some due to normal wear and tear of my aging teeth and some because of bone loss.  He recommended that I have 13 teeth extracted and replaced with dentures.  I’ll also need a couple of crowns, and there are bone protrusions on the gums that need to be removed.  It all sounded drastic.  I admit these prospects seem to come to the forefront of my mind every time I have a restful moment; not only due to the trauma of it all, but also because I have no dental insurance.

But during the night, it seemed the Lord gave me the 23rd Psalm.  I had learned it so many years ago, and it has always given me great comfort.  I lay in bed thinking about this Psalm until about 3:30.  Then I thought, ‘I might as well get up and start my devotions.’

Yes, ‘the Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.’  He is totally in control of my life, so I can rest in Him,

“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.”
I Peter 5:7

And as my Shepherd, He is watching over me, He knows what is happening in my life.

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!”  (Psalm 137:17)

Oh God, I do thank and praise your Holy name for all your wonderful thoughts toward me!



Shirley’s Soliloquy #246


"Whoosh!  It was Gone!"


04/12/09

Whoosh!  That had to be supersonic!  It was that fast that my cell phone disappeared down the toilet. 

I had been doing some cleaning in the condo and was up to the bathroom.  I had flushed the toilet (a water-saver type) and was bending over to clean it.  But, alas!  My cell phone slipped out of my pocket right down into the bowl.  Instantly I reached down to catch it!  But like a flash it was gone!  

My heart sank!  What was I going to do?  I really depended on that cell phone!  I felt horribly cut off from everyone, that is, everyone except the Lord!  He Himself promised, 

“‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
So that we may boldly say,
The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)

 I’m so grateful that I don’t have to depend on things like cell phones to keep in touch with Him!

But then as I continued to think about that cell-phone incident and the lightning speed of it, I thought of something else.  At times, life seems to be like that too.  Like a flash it can change!  One minute everything seems to be going so nicely, but the next second, the unexpected happens. 

I thought about an apparently physically fit sports figure that had dropped dead while in training. 

Almost daily, the news reports the murders of people who hadn’t expected life to end so horribly. 

In a major earthquake in Italy, the numbers of those who were killed keeps rising.  People of all ages were killed!  I wonder how many of them were ready to meet God?

Then I thought of a friend who found out a month ago that she had cancer.  She died this past week.  It was totally unexpected! 

The Bible says in James 4:14 (KJV),

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. 
For what is your life? 
It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

As fast as that cell phone was gone, this life can be gone also.  I think of Hebrews 9:27 that says,

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

No one can avoid this appointment, but I wonder how many will be ready?



Shirley’s Soliloquy #245

04/04/09

"Seeing Clearly"

As I was riding along yesterday to the church where my husband was to speak, I was astonished at the amount of sand on the windshield of the car!  I remembered that it had been quite windy overnight. 
 
When we left in the early morning, it was just beginning to get light, and the car was in the shadows.  But when the sunshine came out and shone on the windshield, the layer of sand made it difficult for me to see! 

I thought to myself, ‘Well, if that isn’t a good object lesson!  The sunshine does reveal how dirty things really are!’  I had thought I could see clearly through the window until the sun shone on it!

That reminded me of something my older sister had said to me probably 60 years ago.  Maybe it came to mind now because she and her husband had been visiting us for the past several days.  My thoughts went back to that time long ago.  She was suggesting an object lesson that I might want to use in teaching a lesson to a group of four year-old boys.  She told me that the closer a person gets to the light, the more clearly the dirt is revealed.  In the same way, the closer a person gets to the Lord Jesus Christ, the more clearly sin can be revealed in one’s life. 

How similar that is to the beam of a flashlight.  Recently my husband was trying to find something behind a dresser.  However, it was difficult to find.  So he got a flashlight and pointed it toward the object that he was trying to find.  It was impossible to see it without the light, but the closer he got the light to the object, the more visible it became!  He needed that light to reveal what he needed.

I thought of the words of one of my favorite songs written in 1922 by Helen H. Lemmuel,

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?  No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Certain things do seem to lose their importance when I am reading my Bible, meditating on it, and spending time in prayer and fellowship with the Lord.  The writer to the Hebrews penned (12:2 KJV),
 
“Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

But the more I am looking to Jesus, the more of my own imperfections are exposed.  I suppose that is because I am comparing myself with Him.  As I bask in His presence, I desire to clean away the ‘sand’ that is distorting how I view things in my life.  His Light shows off my imperfections.  But someday, I will not have to have these sandy, cloudy imperfections in my life, because I will “see Him as He is.”

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:
but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him;
for we shall see him as he is.”
(1 John 3:2)



Shirley’s Soliloquy #244

03/29/09

"Powerful Waves, Powerful God"

There are some powerful waves out there on the Gulf this morning!  And the ‘Spring Breakers’ are ‘having a ball’!  They’re jumping the enormous waves, and sometimes getting thrown about like a cork on a stormy sea!  Others are on their surfboards waiting for the right wave to ‘ride’ them in. 

Still others are farther out away from the shore.  They are on boards with a kite or what seems to be a half of a parachute.  It carries them on top of the waves.  They are pulled along by the wind and appear to glide over the top of the water.

Every time I watch them, it draws my mind back to Lake Michigan.  When I was younger I’d love to jump the waves whenever they were large enough!  I can still feel the thrill of it all! 

But since I’ve been reading through the gospels once again, another picture fills my imagination.  It is the disciples in a boat on the stormy sea.  Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the back of the boat.  When frightened, the disciples awakened Him.  He rebuked the waves, and the sea became quiet.  The disciples were astounded that even the winds and waves obeyed his voice! 

It reminds me of the old song, written by Mary Ann Baker (1831-1921),

“Master the tempest is raging!  The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness, No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?  How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep.
Refrain
The winds and the waves obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, be still!  Peace, be still! 
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, peace, be still!

In Psalm 4:8, the Psalmist wrote,

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
 for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”

Then I thought of so many of my friends and acquaintances who are facing the various storms of life.  The waves around them sometimes seem to be too large for safety, almost overwhelming.  But no storm is too much for the Master!  After all, He’s the One Who created the heavens and the earth.  “Acknowledge that the Lord is God.  He made us, and we are His.” Psalm 100:3.   I must remember that He has control over the storms of life.  Truly He is all-powerful even over the stormy waves of life.

“that you may know…what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward
who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.”  Ephesians 1:18-19



Shirley’s Soliloquy #242

03/15/09

“Forgive Me!”

A lady was quite agitated because she missed the 8 AM mass, and she didn’t think she’d make the 9 AM one either!  Evidently, during Lent she felt she had to go every day.  

Some other ladies overheard her.  They pointed to me and said, ‘Ask her.  Her husband is a preacher. Maybe she can help you.’  She immediately came over to me, but I quickly assured her that I couldn’t forgive her sins!  Only God can forgive sin!  In response to my statement, she immediately made it quite clear to everyone that she didn’t have any sins that needed forgiveness anyway!  

I thought how many people feel that way!  Probably the reason for this attitude is that most people think they haven’t broken any of the Ten Commandments.  Therefore they haven’t sinned.  But, I pondered, why then does the Bible say,

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.”  1 John 1:8 (KJV)

The Holy Scriptures also state that if anyone has even thought wrong thoughts, it is as if they had already broken those laws.  According to the Bible, things such as bitterness, anger, coveting, or even so-called ‘white lies,’ are sin.  The Bible seems to know how hard it is for a person to admit to having sinned!  When I stop to think about it, even that would be a sin, because it goes on to state (1 John 1:10),

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Certainly, everyone agrees that no person is perfect, so everyone needs to be forgiven.  Romans 3:23 (NLT) states that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard..”  But how thankful I am that God’s Word also says,

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 (KJV)

Like I tried to tell her, only God can forgive sins.  And He does this through His Son, Jesus Christ!  The Bible is clear about this.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6  (ESV)
“There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men,
the Man, Christ Jesus.  1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)
“Therefore He is always able to save those who come to God through Him,
since He always lives to intercede for them!”  Hebrews 7:25 (HCSB)
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14 (KJV)

How I thank you Lord, for this assurance that I can go directly to You whenever I need forgiveness!



Shirley’s Soliloquy #241


03/08/09

“Too Tired!!!”

I’m just too tired!  It’s horrible being so tired!  I’m not used to it!  Usually, I’m on the go nearly all the time and do really well.  But now!  Whew!

I have one less Bible study that I’m leading right now, so maybe that should ease things up a bit.  But it seems I am feeling just the opposite!  My husband keeps telling me that I have to slow down.  Well, now I’m thinking, maybe he’s right, I should slow down a bit.

Then the thought crossed my mind of when Jesus was on earth.  The crowds were always following Him, wherever He would go.  At one time He got in a boat so he could teach the crowds.  Another time He asked his disciples to get Him across the lake, but alas, the crowds followed Him there too.  The Gospel of Matthew goes on and on telling about the crowds coming.  No matter where He went, they followed Him.  He seemed to be constantly listening and attending to their every need: healing their various diseases, casting out demons, and even raising the dead!  He never turned anyone away.

After a while, He sent His disciples out two by two, giving them authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-14; 6:7).  So they went out “telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God.  And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” (6:12-13 NLT).  When they came back telling Jesus all about their ministry tour, He said (6:31),

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”

He told them this because so many people were coming and going, that they didn’t even have time to eat!  They left by boat.  But when they arrived, they saw that the people had run ahead along the shore in order to get there before them!  What was His response?  The Bible says (6:34), “He was moved with compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  But then, even though they were tired, the passage continues, “He began teaching them many things.”

He was always ready and eager to help people whenever there was a need.  Yes, He knew what it was like to be busy and tired.  Yet He never sent the crowds away.  Instead He said,

“Come unto me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
And you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT)

Simply meditating on these Scriptures, my spirit is being revived.  I exclaim with the Psalmist (23:1-2),

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.”


Shirley’s Soliloquy #240

3/01/09

“Bitterness, a Challenge?”


Some of my friends and I were facing up to the fact that sometimes we do tend to harbor bitterness, especially when we see thoughtless behavior exhibited. 

We spoke of how we have felt when we observe the behavior of people who seem to forget that there are others around beside themselves.  We mentioned such things as how they drive around a corner, cutting directly in front of another vehicle, nearly causing an accident!

Some brought up how badly it made them feel when other people walked noisily into an exercise class or a computer class already in progress.  They made it impossible to hear and follow the instructions.  Also at a recent inspirational meeting, people were talking with each other during the speaker’s presentation.  It made it difficult to hear and so it interrupted the challenge and the emotion of the moment. 

Another situation we agreed was hard to bear was when we felt that we had been wronged.  Those wounds cut deep into our souls.  They were not easily forgotten.

All of these things had come up recently in different groups, with individuals, and at different times.  But in every instance, we admitted that these things were troubling.  They became like a sore that would not heal, continuously festering under the surface.  We knew that at times we tended to do our best to try to forget about them.  But they still didn’t go away. 

We also agreed that if we harbor these grievances, bitterness would rear its ugly face.  And according to God’s Word, this should not be allowed to continue.    

But the question arose, ‘How can we get rid of bitterness in our spirits?’

The apostle Peter said to one who had already believed their message (vs.13), “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”  Acts 8:22-23.  (Repent & Pray).

The apostle Paul wrote of how bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit.

“And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit, who sealed you for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander
Must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.
Ephesians 4:31

Ephesians 4:32 continues with something positive that we can seek to put into practice,

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,
Forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”
Ephesians 4:32

May I strive to accept this challenge and never allow bitterness to make its home in my heart.



Shirley’s Soliloquy #239

02/22/09

“If I Knew…”


“If I knew that today was going to be the last day of my life, how would I alter my day?”

That was what I read in my Bible study booklet.  I was expected to answer it.  ‘But,’ I thought, ‘that is a loaded question!  It can’t be answered glibly.’  I paused for a while.  Then I closed my book and put it away.  I wasn’t ready to answer it.  So I sat back and closed my eyes.  But the question wouldn’t leave me.  ‘How would I alter my life if I knew that today was going to be my last day?’

Usually when I’m asked questions like this, I glibly respond with something like, ‘I’d live it in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord.’  But this time, I thought, ‘this is too general!  I’m not really thinking of the question.   What would I change?’

Recently I’d just finished reading the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  In these parables, Jesus was urging his hearers to be ready for the Master’s return.  They didn’t know exactly when He would.  But it was definite that He would return, and they needed to be ready for it!  In his parables, the people were not concerned about the return of the master, that is, until he came.  But then it was too late!

I thought about all my friends and loved ones.  Is it possible that any one of them might not yet have settled the question, ‘If I were to die today, where would I spend eternity?’  The Bible says,

“…Behold, now is the accepted time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2 (KJV)

‘But,’ someone might ask, ‘how do I accept this salvation?’  Romans 10:9-10 is very clear.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness;
And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Salvation is simple, and it is an urgent need!    It also gives a comforting assurance.  The Bible says,

“… God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
He that hath the Son hath life;
And he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: 
that ye may KNOW that ye hath eternal life,
And that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
1 John 5:11-13

So if this were the last day of my life, these are the things I’d want my loved ones to believe and receive.


Shirley’s Soliloquy #238

02/15/09

“Taken for Granted?”

Here I sit, comfortably snug in our little condo.  The sun is just beginning to cast an early glow on the horizon.  I am resting in the security and warmth of this little rented place that we call ‘home.’   I look forward to the quiet mornings when I can read and meditate on the Scriptures and spend time in prayer.  

“At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice;
at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly.”
Psalm 5:3 (HCSV)

Suddenly, the thought of that pilot who successfully landed his plane on the Hudson River entered my mind.  It seemed that everything had happened so quickly.  I had to think that it had been not only due to his skill, but also a wonderful miracle.  From all reports, the pilot had such a calm demeanor that I thought that he might be a Christian.  I imagined him breathing a prayer each morning somewhat similar to that of the Psalmist, and also such as the following verse,

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
For to you I lift up my soul.”
Psalm 143:8 (ESV)  

What a blessing it is to be able to have this privilege of going to God’s throne of grace to find help in time of need!  The writer to the Hebrews gives us assurance that this is indeed possible.   

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Earlier on TV, I had heard a man being interviewed.  He had been on that fateful flight.  The thing that caught my attention was what he said.  He mentioned that he and his wife now have a greater awareness and appreciation of each other.  They will never again take each other for granted.  

Then the startling thought came to me, ‘How often do I take my family and friends, and especially my husband, for granted?’  I have to admit that more times than not, I do.  But how much more alarming would it be if I would take God’s comforting care and guidance for granted?  May this never be! 

“The Lord watches over the path of the godly…
“…They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
“Let them all praise the name of the Lord.
For his name is very great;
His glory towers over the earth and heaven!”
Psalm 1:6, 2; 148:13 (NLT)


Shirley’s Soliloquy #237

02/08/09

“Faithful Servants”

As I was reading the Gospel of Matthew, I had to stop in chapter 23, verse 3.  I thought sadly that this could have been written about our society today.  Jesus was speaking about the religious leaders of His day who were interpreting the law of Moses.  He said, 

“Therefore do whatever they tell you and observe it. 
But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach.”

It reminded me of the saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  Or the other common quote, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you are saying!” 

Jesus didn’t stop there, He went on to say that these same religious leaders (vs. 4-5),

“Tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders,
But they themselves don’t lift a finger to move them.
They do everything to be observed by others.”

In contrast to that attitude, I thought of this past Sunday when we joined together in honoring a pastor and his wife.  They had served faithfully for the past 57 years in the same church and surrounding community. 

It was wonderful to hear the testimonies of people, many who were in full-time Christian work.  They had traveled miles to honor this couple.  But not only people from afar came, but also those of the surrounding community who knew of their faithfulness. 

However, best of all, the testimonies of their own children and congregation were the real blessing to me.  They were the ones who observed them every day.  They lived and worked alongside of them.  They knew how their Christianity was being lived out!  Sometimes I had tears in my eyes as they expressed their gratitude for their faithfulness. 

They told of a time when they were building the Fellowship Hall, their pastor was in his overalls working right alongside of them.  No matter what had to be done, their pastor was working with them.  Often he did jobs that needed to be done by himself when no one was watching.  His wife also was a wonderful helper at his side.  Whenever there was a need, they were ready and faithful to serve.

1 Corinthians 4:2 states that,  "it is required for a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ to be faithful."

I wonder about those calling themselves “servants” today.  Are they like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day?  How many are like this pastor & his wife who have worked so faithfully and tirelessly even when no one was watching? 

Then I wonder about that day in the future when the Lord comes and everyone will appear before Him to give an account of everything done in life, whether good or bad.  What will He say?  Hopefully it will be,

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)



Shirley’s Soliloquy #236

02/01/09

“God’s Magnificent Mighty Power”


I stood on the beach watching the ‘mighty’ waves crashing on the sandy shore.  As they thundered loudly, my mind exulted in the greatness and power of God!  As I looked towards the horizon, my heart cried out,

Oh, the magnificent power displayed on the waters of the Gulf!
Oh, the sparkling waves for as far as the eye can see!
The wonders that are hidden among the unknown depths
Are more than I can conceive!       -slh

I thought also of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, crying out in fear over the ferocious power of the waves threatening to capsize their boat.  They cried out to the Lord, and He stilled those mighty waves.  They were amazed and said (Matthew 8:27 HCSB),

“What kind of man is this?  --even the winds and the sea obey Him!”

My heart rejoices to think that this “Man” is none other than my Savior, Jesus Christ!  My heart cries out with the songwriter, “How great Thou art!  How great Thou art!” 

As I was contemplating this song, I had to check its origin since it has seemed to touch so many hearts for so many years.  Interestingly, I found that Carl Gustav Boberg from Sweden penned the song in 1885, then it was translated into English by Stuart K. Hine.  George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows popularized it during the Billy Graham crusades.  I remember sitting in front of our old upright radio so long ago when I first heard George Beverly Shea singing it.  Tears came into my eyes, as I entered into the words and music of this man of God as he sang,

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

But then I thought of the Psalmist who also stood in awe of the power and majesty of our great God!  He wrote so many hundreds of years ago,

“The mighty oceans have roared, O Lord.
The mighty oceans roar like thunder
The mighty oceans roar as they pound the shore.
But mightier than the violent raging of the seas,
Mightier than the breakers on the shore –
The Lord above is mightier than these."
Psalm 93:3-4

“The Lord is a great God,…
The sea is His; He made it.”
Psalm 95:3, 5



Shirley’s Soliloquy #235


01/25/09


“Needing A Physician”

Oh!  That poor little toe!

About a half a year ago, I dropped a heavy solid steel cylinder on my two little toes.  The middle toe must have taken the brunt of the weight, because the nail seemed to pop up at the root, and the blood came gushing out!  There was no stopping it!   I grabbed paper towels, but they were soon filled with blood.  Of course I yelled!  My husband came and helped me hop to a chair.  He took over, trying to stop the flow of blood.  When we couldn’t control it, he said, “We’d better take you to the Emergency.” 

It was very early in the morning, so the First Care wouldn’t have been open yet.  When we got to the Emergency Room, they proceeded to control the blood flow.  Finally a doctor removed the nail from that middle toe, bandaged me up, got me crutches, and I was able to be on my way. 

Now, a little more than a half a year later, both toenails have grown back.  But the middle one, where the nail had been surgically removed, hasn’t been growing back normally.  It has been quite painful for some time.  It has been getting not only red and swollen, but also larger on one side.  Needless to say, it has been very sore!  So I decided I’d better go to a doctor. 

The podiatrist examined the toe.  He explained what he felt had happened.  Then after he had deadened it, he showed me that the nail was growing sideways into the side of the toe.  I had no idea it could go that far into the toe.   He removed the root and along the edge where it had been growing into the flesh.  He said that sometimes when the toe has undergone some trauma, it does that.  Now after his expert treatment and advice, it is just a process of healing again – which by the way, it has started doing!

As these things were mulling around in my mind, I remembered someone recently saying to me, “I’ll start getting back to church after I get myself cleaned up and in better shape.” 

I thought, ‘No, that’s not the way it works!’  I needed that physician when I was at my worst!  And now again, after a half a year, when my toe had slipped back into a bad state, I knew I needed a doctor!

I thought the healing had begun after the Emergency Room treatment.  I had begun to heal seemingly.  But then it got worse.  I didn’t say, ‘Oh dear.  I don’t dare go to the doctor, he might see how badly I’ve been healing!’  No!  That would have been foolish! 

I remembered reading about when Jesus was on earth; there was a similar situation.  The Pharisees had asked His disciples why he ate with tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus heard them and said,

“Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do….
I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners!”
Matthew 9:12 (HCSB)

When I was at my worst both times, I knew I needed a physician! 

And since the Bible says that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), it follows that all need the Savior.  And that Savior is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the ‘Great Physician!’



Shirley’s Soliloquy #234

01/18/09

“Follow Me”

The past couple of days, something struck me anew while I was reading my Bible.  How many times have I read these passages, but they never hit me like they did this week?

The first passage was in Matthew 4:18 where Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee.  He saw two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew.  They were casting their net into the sea.  The Bible records the story in Matthew 4:18-20.  Jesus said,

 “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers for people.”
 Verse 20 says,
“Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”

Then Jesus went on from there and saw two other brothers, James and John.  They were in a boat with their father.  They were mending their nets.  So He called them too.  The Bible says,

“Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”(verses 21-22).

A little later, I was reading in Matthew 9:9, and again I read that Jesus saw a man sitting at the tax office.  He said to him,
“Follow me!”
 The Bible continues,
“So He got up and followed Him.”

How striking these verses are!  Jesus called those men to follow Him, and immediately they got up and did just that! 

It didn’t make a difference that they were fishermen or a tax collector.  It didn’t even make a difference that a couple of them were with their father, or that the others weren’t.  The Bible says immediately they followed Him.

It seems it would have been so normal for them to have said, ‘Well, wait a minute, I’ll just finish what I’m doing and then I’ll come. 

I do wonder what I would have done?  It brings shame on me when I have to confess that usually I’m not so quick to do what I’m asked.  Lately, I tend to do it in my own time.  Most likely my response would be, I will in a minute.

So these verses are a challenge for me to take inventory of my life right now.  I want to be sure to be aware of what the Lord is asking of me.  I want to be sure to hear His voice, and follow his leading.

Since He’s not here on earth, I need to have ‘ears to hear’ (Rev. 2:7), when He places some person in my path whom I can help in some way.  I need to have ‘ears to hear’ when He speaks to me through His Word.  I need to have ‘ears to hear’ if I’m tempted to procrastinate instead of obeying immediately. 

I need to have ‘ears to hear,’ and not only to ‘hear,’ but to immediately obey Him.


Shirley’s Soliloquy #233

01/11/09

“Making the Right Choice”


Fear is sitting heavy on many hearts.  As I am beginning to read through the Bible once again, and as I look at world events, I am reminded of how often choices need to be made during the course of one’s life. 

I thought of the groups of young people I’ve seen who roam the beach during college break.  They cruise along, whistling and yelling at other young people, looking for thrills and excitement.  I often wonder who among them might be a young person who was brought up in a Christian home, who might have decided to take advantage of the lack of restraints.  Some are living for the moment, not thinking of the consequence of decisions they are making.  Some are not willing to pay the price it might take to stand out from the crowd and do what is right.  Why is this so difficult?  Maybe fear is part of the reason.  Maybe it’s simply choosing to live for some fleeting pleasure.  It’s all a choice.

How many times in life has one been called upon to make a choice?  Joshua (24:15) told the children of Israel, “Choose for yourselves today the one you will worship.”  This is a choice everyone must make.       

Galatians 5:9 says, “A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough.”  
It only takes a little.  I remember when I’d leave strawberries out overnight, and one bad one would spread to the rest.  I’d need to throw out the bad in order to save those that were still good.
 
Jesus said  (Matthew 7:13-14),
 “The gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction.
and there are many who go through it.
 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

The right road, God’s way, is not always the easy road.   Annie J. Flint composed the following,

“God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, Light for the way,
 Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy and undying love.”

These words made me think of some of God’s promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippia
ns 4:13
“Come unto Me, and I will give you rest."   Matthew 11:28
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path.”   Psalm 119:105
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
 but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.”
  1 Corinthians 10:13
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   2 Corinthians 12:9


Shirley’s Soliloquy #232

01/04/09


“Happy New Year!”

I woke as usual thinking, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this another good day!’  Then I realized, ‘It’s the New Year!’  And I thought of all the wonderful prospects that lie ahead. 

First of all, I get to start reading my new Bible.  Every year’s end, I check out the bookstore sales to find a new Bible that I can read in the New Year.  A different version helps keep me alert when I’m meditating.  Also it has fresh, new pages so I can mark the verses and record my thoughts that have special meaning to me.  I was attracted to a Bible that had a beautiful blue and gray leather cover.  So I started looking at the introduction to see what kind it was, the scholarship of the translators, and its readability.  After I checked out a number of my favorite verses, I gave it to my husband and asked him what he thought of it.  He examined it carefully and gave his ‘OK.’  So with the money he gave me for Christmas, I excitedly bought it!  Now today, I start reading it!

Secondly, my daughter and granddaughter asked me if I could make them some sweaters they had seen in two books.  I was looking for a new handwork project, so I happily agreed.  They sent me the books with the pages marked.  Now my challenge is to find the appropriate yarn so I can get started.

Thirdly, I will be leading a Ladies Bible Study on ‘Prayer.’  I always look forward to my Ladies Bible Studies.  So it’s with eager anticipation that I am waiting to meet these ladies and begin this new study.  I know we will be growing together as we look deeper into God’s Word.

Next, my husband and I will be attending a new 10-week study for couples.  It will be Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, and he has been asked to be their leader.  So together we are looking forward to this! 

Finally, at church last night, the pastor’s wife gave me a couple of old books she had brought for me.  One was entitled, Musical Instruments from the Renaissance to the19th Century, and the other was “Original Sacred Harp” Standard Melodies.  I couldn’t wait to get home so I could check them out, especially the Sacred Harp standard melodies.  I couldn’t put the book down.  So far, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the harp, but rather music from 1844-1971 that could be sung with four notes in ‘Dispersed Harmony.’  I found it very interesting!  Much of the music seems to have been written in the minor key and has words of old poets such as Newton, Watts, Wesley, and Cowper.  Recently, I’ve realized that I enjoy harp music in the minor key.  So I can hardly wait to arrange some of these melodies for the harp.

Then I started thinking about the New Year.  Last night the pastor mentioned the decisions that will be made this coming new year.  Some choices will be ‘spur of the moment’ ones.  Some will change lives forever.  This was a sobering thought.  I thought that it doesn’t have to be any major decision, but even something as simple as what program I will be watching on TV or what books I will be reading.  Whatever goes into my mind: “Garbage in, garbage out!” was the saying of a motivational speaker I’d heard years ago.  How true that is!  In this New Year I want to try to follow the words found in the Bible,
 
“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—
if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 (HCSB)