musings of a hopefilled soul

Archive for March, 2012

Source of Inspiration

I’m taking a Bible study for which I have had to do a  review my life events.  For each fifth of my life , I have to review my age, events that happened, where I was spiritually and ways I could look back and see that God helped me through those periods of my life.

Today I recalled a poem that many others have also cited as inspiration that helped them through some difficult times.  I think it is worth repeating as it reminds us that we can go on and that life is indeed a learning process with many hellos and good byes.

The poem was written by Veronica  A. Shoffstall in 1971.  It is called “After a While”  I would like to share it today in my blogspot.  May it help you all as it did me at a most difficult place in my life.

AFTER A WHILE

After a while you learn the sutble difference

Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning

And company doesn’t mean security,

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts

And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats

With your head up and your eyes ahead

With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today,

Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,

And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn

That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

You really are strong,

You really do have worth.

And you learn and you learn….

With every goodbye you learn.

Author: Veronica A. Shoffstall

If you will allow Him, God can be that source of strength to help you through whatever you are facing today.  Be strong and take courage in God!

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Keep Doing the Right Thing!

Over a period of about 1 year, it became evident that I was gaining weight.  I wanted to lose weight but was minimally motivated to do so.

 I half-heartedly tried various diets, low carb, mediterranean, counted calories, and Weight Watchers.  Now I hasten to add that I was trying all of these things only half-heartedly. 

Any and all of these eating plans can work when committed fully to them.  My lack of commitment found me straying  frequently from any plan I was using at the time. 

I kept having the goal in my mind to lose weight but it all became suddenly  real when I knew I was going to have to buy new clothes as the ones I was wearing were starting to feel uncomfortably small.  This was a reality I could not escape as I adjusted and shifted my clothes throughout the day due to uncomfortable tightness. 

It is not that buying new clothes is a detestable task, but I would rather buy them because I have lost weight rather than gained weight.   

One morning about 4 weeks ago , I stepped on the scale and saw a number I had not seen in 15 years.  I GOT IT that morning, there was no magical solution here.  It was a matter of making a decision and sticking with it!  It was time! 

I looked on the computer and calculated calories that would help me lose weight at a pace I wanted, yet was healthy.  I started counting my calories. 

One day became two and one week became two weeks and here we are at four weeks.  I have lost 7 pounds and have more to go but am certainly realizing success. 

There is no easy way to do it.  If there was, everyone would be skinny.  As usual it all involves making up your mind, limiting food intake, and exercising. 

This is not earth shattering information.  It just takes doing it and doing it over a long period of time.  Seldom are there dramatic effects in just a few days but keep it up for one week, two weeks, three weeks and on and on and the results will be obvious.  

Lets compare my weight struggles with our relationship with God.   He saves us through grace and as we spend time with him he asks us to let go of those things that weigh us down in our Christian walk. 

He shows us in his word what we need to do. We think, “Well, I’ll do it this way ,”or we follow God’s plan for a few days but give ourselves too much leniency and  soon we find ourselves not following God’s instructions at all. 

He is so loving he picks us up and continues in that still small voice to speak in our ear.  “If you will just do it this way and keep doing it, you will see the change you hope for.” 

Galatians 6:9 in the NIV says this,”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” 

In our day of instant this and instant that we don’t want to hear that anything will take time before it happens yet that is what God’s word tells us.  Let’s make today the day that we decide what we want from God is important enough to make a committment to do it his way and keep dong it.  There will be a harvest, the benefit will be there.  It will pay off.  God guarantees it will happen!

The Effect

I recently finished reading a short book titled “The Butterfly Effect-How Your Life Matters”.  This book written by Andy Andrews , suggests that great people and events that have happened in our world can be traced back to the influence of many obscure individuals. Individuals who had some outside effect on a person or event that contributed greatly to the happening of the event or the success of the individual.

Was it the great scientist who has the greatest effect or the mother who raised him, the school teacher who saw his potential, the professor who taught him or, a father who sacrificed much to allow his success.  The events of history were altered by a victory in battle  that allowed the United States to exist as it is and later be powerful enough to join forces against Hitler and help in his defeat.  All of our actions affect and influence those around us in a small or large way which ever the case may be. Some of the ripples may take decades to be realized.

As I contemplated the truth set forth in this little book, I began to think of a song written by Steve Milliken and Ray Boltz.  The title is “What Was I Supposed to Be?”  This song is written in reference to babies who are aborted by man’s intervention.  I will not give all the lyrics but the chorus and one verse, in particular, spoke loudly to me.  See what you think.

Verse 2

Would I be a prophet used in the ministry?

A doctor who would find a cure for some terrible disease?

Even if I’d been imperfect why couldn’t my daddy see that

I’d a been made perfect when You came back for me?

Chorus

What was I supposed to be?  What were my eyes supposed to see?

Why did I taste of death before I even drew a breath

or laid my head at my mother’s breast to sleep?

O Jesus, what was I supposed to be?

These are powerful thoughts and words sung by a Christian group called Acapella.   By our own acts of ending lives of unborn children are we changing the course of history, leaving problems unsolved because we have possibly ended the life of the person who could find the answer to that problem?  Are we ending the life of someone who could influence another person to greatness that affects our world in an unimaginable way?  The Butterfly Effect-How Your Life Matters.

God sees what we do not see.  What we do not see is how one person can cause a chain reaction of change or greatness.  God forgive us for focusing only on the now and not trusting Him when we cannot understand what He is doing.  It is called walking in faith.

A single solitary life does matter.  Maybe we can keep this in mind when the banner of abortion is raised touting Pro choice.  Pro choice at what expense?  Maybe we will never know that Pro choice was indeed a very expensive acquisition.

We’re Always Wanted On God’s Team

If you are any sort of football fan, you have probably been watching the story unfold about where Peyton Manning will choose to play this fall.

With the news out that Peyton is working on a deal with the Denver Broncos, the sports commentators are having a field day analyzing the situation.  This morning they were discussing the impressions they were receiving from the Bronco teammates of Tim Tebow.  It has been the general feeling that Tim will be released or traded to another team.

The sport casters were saying that teammates were not giving great endorsements of Tim or  verbalizing much about him being displaced by a legend such as Peyton Manning.  They ended up concluding that team members were still a little upset that Tim had received a lot of the praise for helping the Broncos turn their season around when it was indeed a team effort.

I feel Tim certainly came out in place of Kyle Orton who was struggling and If nothing else  inspired the team and motivated them to  a winning season.  I honestly feel the players current apathy to the consequences of the Manning deal is that the players have already moved on.  They have to move on and need to look ahead and not back.  They are excited about how the future will play out with someone as talented as Peyton now becoming their quarterback.

Football is a business and often very cruel.  A few weeks ago Manning had his own personal encounter with its cruelty.  My heart goes out to Tim.  He is a fine upstanding young man who works hard and is very determined and wants to be the best QB he can be.  He is not afraid to stand up for his faith and good for him as there are plenty who are not afraid to vocalize their lack of faith.

I understand about  football being a business.  I certainly understand an organization not wanting to pass up a chance to have a great QB be part of their team.

I just would like to take this opportunity to compare this real life situation to our relationship with God. Our lives are safe with him.  He will not throw us away and say “You were once important, but not any more. We will pass you off to the highest bidder and then carry on quickly forgetting what you did for us in the past.”

It is so reassuring to know that God first loved us and loves us still.  He knows that our QB rating is not so hot, but he sees how hard we are working, he sees our heart and sees how much we are trying, in Christ to be all we can be. He sees our progress even the smallest amount.

He loves us no less than the person with all of the talents and abilities because you see he created all of us.  God loves us.  That does not change, no matter how much time passes.  In his eyes and because of his love he considers us to be very precious.  Our hope and confidence is in him, not in the fleeting accolades of others.  We are and always will be wanted on God’s team.

Isaiah 43:1….fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.

A Christian Heritage

I have referred earlier to a Beth Moore Bible study titled “Believing God.” In one section of the study, students are asked to divide their life into 5 sections.  Beth then asks you to go back and answer questions about your family, your birth order, memories, major changes during specific periods of your life, and the spiritual climate of your family.

It truly is an eye opener and allows the student to really explore their immediate and extended family and how all of this impacts your life today.  I am only in the first section of reviewing my life but already can appreciate the Christian upbringing I was privileged to have.

My mother was a stronger Christian than my father but both believed in God and tried to live lives pleasing to him.  We were regular church attenders and at an early age I came to a personal belief in God and He became my Saviour.

The little Assembly of God  Church I grew up in had many fine examples of people who loved God and lived their faith.  I can look back with fond memories of Sunday school teachers who greatly impacted the life of my brother and I.

We had great Sunday school class parties at our teachers home.  This was in the teenage years and we anxiously awaited the Christmas parties they hosted with the ping-pong table, the dart board, the game ducky , ducky, and all the fudge and popcorn we could eat.  It was always a fun time together.

Good reminders of other ways to have fun than just the worldly ways.  All of these memories were so many years ago yet when I reflect on them they bring a smile to my face and a realization of how blessed I was to grow up in the home I was in and to have the fine Christian education I had.

It certainly was the basis for me to grab hold of when there were times in my life of great turmoil.  It was the Christian upbringing that caused me to examine my life in the light of my Heavenly Father.  I knew He was always there and I measured my life with how it lined up with Him.  I fell miserably short of God’s mark, but because of my Christian upbringing  I knew God was faithful to forgive, cleanse my heart and get me back on the right track.

If you did not grow up in a Christian home but are a believer today, take pride in the opportunity to begin a heritage of faith for your family.  A heritage your children and grandchildren can look back on and treasure.

Faith is truly a gift of immeasurable value.  It means more than all of the possessions your children could own.  Believe me when times are hard they are not going to find solace in their possessions, but they will find an anchor in their faith in God.

Do You See Any Signs?

While doing some Bible study today I came across the account of Noah and the flood. Noah received from God instructions to build an ark with specific dimensions and take his family and 2 of very kind of creature into the ark.

God told him he would destroy the rest of mankind and creatures from off the face of the earth. Can you imagine how this all played out.  The Ark took 100 years to build.

Commentaries refer to how Noah was obedient to God while probably having to endure the ridicule of his neighbors who wondered if he had gone stark, raving mad.  Could there have been neighborhood covenants wanting to place restrictions on building  an ark in the neighborhood? Especially one that took 100 years to build!

His own family may have wavered in their belief that Noah had indeed heard from God.  Yet Noah continued to be very obedient to God building the ark exactly as  specified.  Old Testament sources indicate the ark was more like a box than the ark displayed in children’s bible story books. A huge floating box.

To enter the ark when God told Noah to enter,was also a step of faith.  Matthew Henry Commentary notes that Noah entered the ark when God said the flood would come in 7 days.Yet probably at the time of his entering the ark there were no visible signs of rain. Can you imagine them sitting in the ark knowing those outside were laughing at them as they, as well saw no signs of the impending proclaimed doom?

Noah’s family again, must have contemplated their father’s sanity.  Did he really hear from God?  Here we are sitting in an ark and declaring to everyone we know that a huge flood is coming and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.  Yet they must have respected Noah and his relationship with God and hopefully had a relationship with God themselves.

However it was, they stayed with Noah and discovered he did hear from God and they were spared the fate of those outside the ark.   What great lessons to learn from this.

For myself it is often hard to step out in faith when I sense or feel God is telling me to do so.  I don’t know if God audibly talked with Noah telling him the upcoming events and giving him the specifics of the ark and what animals to bring.

God has never audibly spoken to me.  Usually when I think God is speaking it is a sensing in my spirit with a few confirmations at times and at times very little else is shown.

The idea that Noah and family were entering the ark with probably no signs of rain shows me that God often asks us to step out, to let go with no signs on the horizon of what he has promised.  It is a total step of faith.

It is a given that we do not take a fleeting thought in our head and act on it without prayer and thought but when those have been done, we need to step out in God’s timing.

Noah obeyed God and he and his entire house were saved.  This part of the account of Noah and the ark gives me hope and faith to continue to believe in God’s direction even when I see nothing before me.  While I wait I have faith to continue trusting that it will happen just as God has told me.

Could It Have Ended Differently?

  

Spring is almost here and the Easter season is upon us.  Many practice their faith by attending weekly services that remind us of Christ suffering, death and resurrection.  

I grew up in a Christian home and since a child have heard the Easter story. One would certainly think I had considered every angle of this story and know every reason and thought behind the horrible death Christ suffered. Yet each year as the Lenten season arrives I find myself reviewing the contrived, unscrupulous trial of Christ.

I keep hoping   this is the year Pilot will finally get it right. Surely this time he will do as he should have done so long ago and find Christ without fault and set him free.

Maybe this time the crowd would remember that only a week ago they had been shouting praise and adoration for Jesus. They would recall waving palm branches on the streets of Jerusalem and declaring him “King of Israel”.

Maybe this time they would declare the release of this innocent man instead of Barabbas.  Surely this time the crowd could see the Chief Priest were provoked not by Jesus guilt but His goodness. 

Surely this time Christ would not have to endure the flogging with the glass and bone imbedded whip slicing through his flesh, severing vessels and nerves.

Please don’t let Him have to go through this!  HE’S INNOCENT, I cry silently in my thoughts. Maybe this time he wouldn’t have to suffer being mocked by the soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe on His back. I didn’t want him to have to endure being spit on and repeatedly and sadistically beaten with the staff he had been given as a form of scepter.

Wouldn’t it be possible this time to escape the horrible death of crucifixion? The spikes that pierced his hands and feet.  The jolting that sent shock waves of searing pain as the cross was dropped into the ground.  The unbearable pain in his hands as they supported his weight while tearing his flesh.

Scripture reminds us he was fully God and fully Man therefore feeling every pain that any human would feel in his situation.  In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed that this cup would pass from him but submitted himself to his father’s will.  Christ agonized over having to endure this awful death, sweating as it were great drops of blood. But just maybe the story would end differently this time.   It is all too horrible and unfair!  

 I pause and let the whirling thoughts in my head settle like dust to the ground. Quietly, gently the spirit of God speaks to me and touches my spirit. “My precious child, I created you. I love you beyond anything you can imagine.  Your sin was so great that it separated you from me.  A sacrifice was needed to pay the penalty and span the gap between us.  I saw down thru the annals of time.  I saw you would need forgiveness.  I saw the night when sleep could not be found as you pondered the horrible nature of your sin.  I knew you would cry out because of the hopelessness of your condition.  There was no other way to help you dear child.

 The only way to help you and the rest of the world was for my perfect sinless Son to become the sacrifice for your sin.  Those who tormented and mistreated him thought they were taking his life from him but he freely gave it for you.  It never was really about the choices they made anyway.  I could have sent legions of angels to set him free. 

From the garden of Gethsemane it was only 10 min to the wilderness of Judea.  If it had had been my plan, he could have escaped into that wilderness never to be discovered by the soldiers. If I wanted it to end differently, I could have made that choice but where would mankind be today?  Lost and without hope of being saved.  No hope.  Who can live without hope?  And the only true hope is found in my son and his death and resurrection. 

Each accusation, the beatings he suffered, the strips on his back were for you. For your forgiveness, your healing, your eternal life. You cannot dwell on the past and what others should have done.  You must dwell on what I did for you.  Receive it and believe it and allow it to change your life.”