My Child; Come Forth!

free

Call forth Your people, into their true purpose
Out of the tomb and the grave clothes that bind us
Strip off the chains that have taken us captive
Set free our purpose to blossom and practice.

Sometimes it’s comfortably safe in the tomb
Where no one can hurt us and failure can’t loom
But each life’s important to God’s perfect plan
And failure to launch is what Satan demands.

Life’s pressures and hurts have blinded our eyes
They’ve robbed us of purpose and bound us in lies
But God has a plan for you and for me
To unbridle our gifts and set our talents free.

Gifts aren’t just arts, or teaching, or leading
But also of serving, hospitality, and giving
Together we form an ornate tapestry
That blesses our God and proclaims His majesty!

Lazarus was done; he’d been buried for days
It seemed all was lost and there was no way
But God’s mighty power called him out of the grave
To start life again, to be new; to be saved!

Out of the tomb, our mighty God calls us
He say’s “Child come forth, be free from the darkness!”
Strip off the grave clothes and soar like a bird
Become what I made you and no longer fear!

Embrace who God’s made you; you’re His great creation
Blossom and grow in your purpose and station
Do all that you do, as unto our Lord
Not for worldly approval that will come and go.

Bless Your name Father, our Creator, our Lord
Its You, Mighty God that we will adore
May we be a fragrance of blessing to You
As we use what You give us, with hearts humble and true.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Interesting Thing about Grace

grateful heart

Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.  A virtue coming from God.  A state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.  Approval, favor, mercy, pardon, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

I love God’s grace.  I like cuddling up to the knowledge that He loves me; accepts my sinful imperfect self while giving me undeserved forgiveness, unconditionally.  In God’s grace I find stability and security because there isn’t anything I can do that will separate me from the love of God.  If I disappoint Him, He won’t leave me, or hate me, or ignore me for a period of time.  God’s grace and love are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

By God’s design, humans are grace seekers.  We spend tremendous energy looking for love and in that love we desire grace.  Grace that allows us to be ourselves quirks and all, and that will forgive us when we make a mistake.  How many songs have been written about searching for love; a love that will accept us for who we are and forgive our faults; a love undeserved? 

Of course, there are many people who believe they have found true love and are overcome by the knowledge that someone accepts them completely.  However, the honeymoon always ends and the unconditional lover becomes annoyed with our quirks and eventually finds it hard to forgive our misdoings.  Quickly, the notion of unconditional love fades away.  But God’s grace and love do not fade away; they are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When we accept God’s grace and start to comprehend the spiritual depth of it, we become grateful, and grateful people are happy people.   As we grow in God’s grace we realize that it isn’t a one way street; those who receive God’s grace are compelled to humbly give grace to others.  Sometimes this means we must lay down our righteous judgment or individual rights.  This can be tough, but the reward is great.

Grace and Forgiveness are separate entities but it’s almost impossible to give one without the other.  To me, grace and forgiveness are related to each other much like inhaling and exhaling.  They are separate acts but one can’t be done without the other.  If you inhale without exhaling you will faint and the same is true if you try to exhale without inhaling.  And this is where God’s grace gets interesting.  Because God gives his grace freely to each one of us and we benefit greatly from the knowledge that we are set free from our sin it becomes incumbent on us to give grace freely to others. 

This is the part of God’s grace that doesn’t feel so cuddly.  My giving grace to others requires me to lay down my pride.  It requires that I not hold my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors under the harsh umbrella of my self-righteous judgment.  I must give grace to others because I’ve received unmerited grace from God.

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller addresses God’s grace by writing, “All humans beings are equally unworthy of God’s love and that therefore all humans beings have equal access to God’s grace.”  He also addresses what happens when we lay down our pride and choose to forgive others. “But if you let it humble you rather than embitter you, and turn to God instead of living for your own glory, then the death of your pride can lead to a resurrection.  You can emerge with a tender heart instead of a hard heart.”

I hope that you will embrace God’s grace.  That you cuddle up to it; finding acceptance, stability, and security there.  Then with a new understanding of the spiritual depth of God’s grace, extend it to others whether you think they deserve it or not. 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Psalm 86:15    but, you Oh Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Romans 8:37-39 in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor  height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 4:7   but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Titus 2:11 for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

 

 

 

God, My Only Savior!

praise

My heart is overwhelmed with thanks for Your unfailing love.
Your peace is resting in my heart its filled anew with trust.
I worship You and sing all praise to God, my only savior,
The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, I worship You forever.

You pick me up when I fall down, You make my burdens light.
Your hope pours deep into my heart and gives me brand new sight.
Oh make me clay in Your great hands; make me a shining vessel,
That I might be light in this world and overcome what’s evil.

I will not fear when trouble comes; my hands will not hang limp,
For El Shaddai is with me, when facing toil and stress.
The word says God delights in us and in His might will save,
He quiets us with His great love and we rise up with praise.

My spirit soars, My feet are light, I run and won’t grow weary.
He lifts us up on eagle’s wings above the dark and dreary.
I can’t believe that one so Great cares for this broken vessel,
I raise my hands, I give my heart to God, my only savior.

Bless Your holy name O God, Your ways are always just.
Let the Earth cry out Your praise; Your people bow in trust.
Holy, Holy is our God, whose peace can’t be surpassed,
We fall before You, El Elyon to You, we will hold fast.

El Shaddai – Lord God Almighty
El Elyon – The most High God

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

 

 

 

Changing Seasons

                     woman grateful

The weather is in that awkward stage of changing from one season to the next. It’s struggling to become spring with warm burst of sunshine and sweet cool breezes that encourages the daffodils and crocuses to bloom and gently beckons us outside to dig in the garden or walk in the woods. And some days it does just that. But on days like today, winter’s pull is strong not wanting to give up his control. The cold wind whips and tugs at my coat as the rain pelts my face and gray claims victory over the sky. However, winter can’t win this battle; he will lose allowing spring to rise and give birth hope.

In this I have faith, it has happened for millennia. There is order in the chaos of the seasons. There is a calm after the storm. There is rebirth in the spring, growth in the summer, dying back in the fall, and dormancy in the winter.

If I trust in the natural order of nature can I also accept the order of my life? Do I rest in the knowledge that my harsh winters will give way to spring?

Do I rest in the divine order and control of God or do I fret and fight when I perceive things aren’t right?   Battling with a delusional mind that believes I can conquer winter and produce spring using my strength alone.

Change is swirling around me. Winter’s darkness clawing at my spring. I stand in the storm bombarded by the winds, with hands on my hips I yell at winter with all my might. I’m in control … of nothing!

I crumble from strain weeping, defeated. Eventually, I see spring’s light radiate from an opening in the clouds and remember God’s promises. I call to Him for help and He hears me. He wraps His arms around me, lifts me up to my feet and supports me through the storm giving birth to my spring.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

I spoke to the air, as if it could hear me,
And said “All I want is just to be happy!”
I asked with frustration, “Where does happiness lie?
I’ve searched but can’t find it, though I try and try.
I’m making more money; I bought a lake house,
I bought my dream car and got a new spouse,
I’m climbing the ladder and buying more things,
Some people might say that I’m living the dream.
But each time my happiness just fades away,
When I thought for certain, it finally would stay.”

A little old lady tapped me on the shoulder,
And said “Dear please hear me, for I am much older.
I once was like you…I lived to be happy,
But all I became was selfish and shabby.
It took many years for truth to come clear,
That nothing on Earth can keep happiness near.
Nothing we buy or those we hold dear,
Nor status or title, or money to spare.
Happiness really is just an emotion,
That shifts like the sand and moves like the ocean.
What we love today, changes tomorrow,
And chasing and grasping, will only bring sorrow.”

“I learned that joy flows from a heart that is grateful.
And never depends on what’s set on my table.
I realized that God has planted me here,
It’s my job to bloom where I am, without fear.
To become my best, in each situation,
To love others more than my selfish obsessions,
To pray for my needs, then let go of the answers,
For God is all-sovereign and He knows what matters.
When you’re discontent, tell the Lord… He will help you.
And ask for a heart that is changed and renewed.”

“The Bible says clearly to seek first our Lord,
It changes the heart and the things we adore.
God knows all our needs and He sees our hearts,
Tell Him your desires, for He is our source.
Rejoice every day in God’s perfect allotment.
Let thankfulness reign and live life with contentment.
As we wait on the Lord, He gives joy everlasting,
And fills up our hearts with whatever is lacking.”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

When Winning is Losing

                peace

Lately I’ve been struggling with the concept of talking with respect to my spouse even if we’re arguing.  I’ve also been thinking about why I find it important to win an argument.   And if I win,  did I really win.   They say there are no coincidences when God’s working in your life so, last week when this topic came up I took notice.

I was talking with a group of young married moms; they ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. The topic was Love Languages but somehow we ended up discussing how we argue with our spouses. One mom confided that when arguing with her husband she employs a “gothcha” verbal maneuver that includes using his weaknesses against him while employing her finely tuned verbal skills. These maneuvers allow her to win but I ask, “at what cost?” and “what has she actually won?” Is her victor’s cup etched with the words, “A win at the cost of a damaged relationship.” “A moment of self-gratification at the cost of a wounded spouse.”

Has she won a stronger marriage or better communication? Has she esteemed herself or her spouse in each other’s eyes? Has she gained a greater understanding of his needs or her own? Last question, has this win reflected God’s love? After all, that’s what we are commissioned to do. Ouch, these questions hurt, don’t they?

In our society winning is a big deal after all everyone loves a winner.  We want our favorite team to win. We want our favorite actor or musician to win. We want our children to win. We like winning and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we’re fighting to win for the right reasons. Here’s the issue with winning a marital argument by fighting dirty; we’re acting like our spouse is the enemy; they are not. They are our partners bound to us in mind, body, and spirit. Our goal should always be to encourage them. “But what if they’re just wrong or acting like an idiot or being derogatory” you ask. Good question, and the answer is a hard one; we’re accountable before God for our own behavior; only our own. This means we need to talk to our spouses with respect, not with similar bad behavior. And usually, if one partner ups the standard of communication and starts to listen to the other’s needs instead of justifying their own, with time the other will respond in a like manor.

What would happen if the next time an argument arises you took a few seconds to remind yourself that he/she is not the enemy. Their point of view is not an obstacle for you to conquer, it’s one for you to respect and work with. Compromise with. To accept because this opinion is coming from your life-partner and you want the best for them, right?

Keeping a marriage together is hard work and sacrifice and compromise and putting the other’s needs above your own. And honestly, at times painful. Sometimes these truths are forgotten when planning a big, beautiful wedding. The focus can become the wedding and reception and it becomes easy to forget that it’s not all about us!  When we say “I do” instantly it becomes all about “we or thee.” Oh my, these are difficult and old fashioned ideas.   After all aren’t my needs  important and who will take care of them if I don’t? Our society teaches us to be independent and that’s not a bad thing as long as we don’t take it to an extreme. Be independent, stand strong against false teachings, speak your mind, stay true to who you are, but do these things while speaking with respect to your spouse. Listen to their needs, they are part of you, you chose them. Remember, they are not your enemy even when they are irritating you to the breaking point.

Now, for my personal truth. I’m as guilty as the next person of not practicing the above wisdom. I grew up watching wives appear to never question their husbands and it infuriated me.   The good wife looked weak to me.  I determined I would never be like that and in my determination to be strong, I went too far. It’s taken me years to reprogram the ideas I established as a teenager. Talking with respect to your spouse, even when being spoken to harshly, is not weak; it is very, very strong. The thing is, if you learn to do this with your spouse it will carry over to other parts of your life. You will be a better person and reflect God’s loves in an honest way.

Note: if you are in an abusive relationship please seek counseling, you will never change another human being. It’s hard enough trying to change ourselves.

With love,

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Frozen

Frozen in circumstance
Numb, without feeling
World, swirling out of control
Lost in a blizzard
With whiteout conditions
My world is falling apart
Frozen lips, can’t form a prayer
Heart; an ice berg void of care
Forsaken, forsaken is all that I hear.

From this dark place Lord, lift me up
Give me a heart that’s hopeful
For I have lost Your narrow path
And need Your hand to guide me
May Your true love melt my cold heart
May Your light break this darkness
For I am weary, tired, and lost
And need my heart to blossom.

Please give me eyes that see beyond
This frozen land of blizzards
May my lips worship You in praise
For You alone are sovereign
Unfreeze my feet and hands today
That I might grow inside this storm
And shine with love from You alone
Please use these troubled broken times
To encourage others falling
For this storm came to change my heart
And shine on its dark corners.

In perfect time You’ll calm the storm
You are my mighty army
My God so good; my savior true
You save me from the darkness
You are my strength, You make me brave
My mighty shield and fortress
I give You all, submit my will
O God of my salvation
You make me thrive in troubled times
To walk upon my problems
To dance and sing to stand up tall
And worship You forever!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Coming to Peace with God and Dementia

                      the peace of god

Over the last few years I’ve written occasionally about the struggles my husband and I have encountered caring for his aging parents afflicted with dementia. We’ve gone through times of great heart-ach and unintended moments of comedy. Together we’ve cried and laughed to ease the stress. And spent hours contemplating the best care for their ever changing needs. We’ve questions what good could possibly be achieved when someone is suffering from dementia. Our conclusion has been humbling; the good has been a growth in compassion and grace in us both.

We also had to come to a place of humble acceptance of God’s design for the aging process. Honestly, at times this was very hard. We asked many times, “God, why do some adult minds slowly decay, reducing strong capable adults to vegetables?” It’s so unfair. Understanding the science of dementia helped us, some. However, the question still burned, “God, how could Dementia or Alzheimer’s be part of your perfect plan?”

Searching for answers in the Bible I found one verse that addresses the decline of the human body as it ages; Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 talks about the deterioration of our vision, hearing, thinking and physical strength. However, it doesn’t address Dementia or Alzheimer’s like conditions. My husband and I, independent from each other, came to a place of peace where we humbly accepted God’s design and tried to lay our questions down before Him; we chose to have faith. Honestly, there were days when we’d start questioning God again making our selves miserable. But we’d always came back to a mindset of faith instead of disillusionment, finding comfort in God’s presence.

The absence of verses concerning Alzheimer’s or Dementia doesn’t mean God has nothing to say about the struggles and pain families and their loved ones go through when a parent’s mind deteriorates. The Bible promises that in the midst of our pain God offers us hope, comfort, and guidance. He hears our cries and understands our broken hearts. I also believe He is with our loved ones as they lose their ability to reason because His Word says He will never leave us nor forsake us; Deuteronomy 31:6. This has to mean He is with our loved ones all the way through the progression of these terrible diseases

Over the years we’ve seen God keep His promises too many times to list; He answered our prayers and comforted our battered hearts. A little over a year ago we needed to find a home that offered full care: bathing, dressing, toileting, etc. The home also needed to have a room large enough for both my in-laws, their two lift chairs, and their beds. Several homes suggested they separate and have their own rooms. My mother in-law would not hear of this, being separated from her husband of over 65 years was not an option; this was sweet and understandable. The new home also needed to be affordable. We found the perfect home where loving care was provided, my in-laws were happy, and it was affordable. God answers prayers!

This is my favorite answered prayer. Over the last year my father in-law slowly lost his ability to communicate. On occasions he’d say random words but mostly he lay quietly in bed. One day my husband was praying on his way to visit and asked God if he could hear his dad’s voice once more. During the visit my husband chatted with his mom then went over to his dad’s bed and spoke to him for a few minutes. Just before leaving my husband said, “I love you dad” his dad responded clear as a bell, “I love you too son.” God is good and faithful!

My father in-law passed away this week. He is at peace. His mind has been restored. We are grateful his struggle is over and thankful for God’s comfort during these long and difficult years.

Here are two verses I especially like.

Isaiah 46:4And I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety.” I love the image of God carrying my father in-law to safety in heaven; what a comfort!

Isaiah 49:13Shout for joy you heavens; rejoice you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Well Done My Faithful Servant!

purpose

This is it. We have one life to be our very best.
To make the most of every day; to live our lives with zest,
To value most the things that last; to not be easily daunted,
To focus hard on good and right and blessings God has granted.
Though life is sometimes filled with trials; still what a gift it is!
There’s always good, if we’ll just look, for God is in our midst!

Each day live life like there’s no more, with purpose and intent,
With focus on relationships and in them, always give.
For when we reach our final hour, that’s all we’ll care about,
Not all the things that we acquired or a big bank account.
Did we love with all our heart? …Did we pour out kindness?
Did we forgive when we were wronged, like God’s forgiven us?

God has a special purpose, that He designed you for,
And you have gifts and talents, that should not be ignored.
For you can make a difference in this lost and lonely world,
And you are valued by our God, like gems and precious pearls.
We weren’t created to exist in passive isolation,
But we were made to grow and share Almighty God’s salvation.

When morning breaks take time to pause; commit the day to God,
Decide to bloom where you are planted and on each problem, trod.
Don’t be defined by past mistakes, but rather learn from them,
And you will blossom in your life and truly overcome!
Pride will never bring true gain… but it will bring a fall,
For there is nothing we can do, that God does not control.

Oh Father help us see in life, the things that really matter.
Help us fulfill Your glorious call and raise a victor’s banner!
Help us know our purpose, and help us see our gifts,
Help us rise when we could fall; pour courage into us.
Then on that day, when we stand before our God and Maker,
We’ll hear the words come from our God “Well done my faithful servant!”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

O Holy Night and the meaning of Christmas

 

birth-of-jesus

Merry Christmas friends. May God’s blessings be on you and your family; may God’s peace fill your soul.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols because of the deep truths within its lyrics. Every time I hear them my spirit is reminded of the magnificence of God’s love for humanity. The lyrics are poetic yet clearly convey the message of Jesus’s birth; “when He appeared the soul felt its worth.” I stand in awe at the beauty of this truth; only God’s love reveals to us our souls worth, this is amazing.

Hope. We all need hope. To me it feels like the world is in chaos, seldom does the nightly news leave me feeling hopeful for the future. In fact, it feels like the world is plunging into darkness. Even though the world appears to be heading in the wrong direction, there is hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise at the birth of Jesus. Rejoice in this truth and find hope in the fact that God does keep His promises. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”

A good friend; we all need a good friend. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. He was born in a manger and lived as a man; he understands first hand our earthly struggles. “The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus will stay by our side and walk with us through difficult times, offering hope and purpose through His Word.

We all desire to be accepted faults and all and to have our deepest needs understood by another. God knows our needs and our weaknesses, yet loves us; accepting us completely. “He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” Isn’t it wonderful to be accepted and valued by God!

Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness because of Jesus’s birth. His birth gave humanity a new and radicle code of conduct that said put other’s needs above your own; all of humanity are children of God; forgive as you have been forgiven, and love God with your whole heart. “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.”

The beauty of these lyrics lies in how accurately they reflect God’s love through the birth of Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure to have such a loving God and savior. A savior who loves us even though we constantly mess up in our Christian walk. We are blessed to have a God who knows the value of our souls, even when we don’t. This Christmas, let’s stand in awe at the magnificence of God’s love.

A blessing for you this Christmas season and the new year.

May your soul know its worth through Jesus Christ. May you know hope. May you have a faithful friend that will never leave you nor forsake you. One who loves you even though they know your weaknesses. May you know peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Here are the lyrics for O Holy Night.

O Holy Night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices. O night divine O night when Christ was born O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here came the wise men from Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Adolphe Charles Adam

THE FAVOR OF GOD

mary

Have you ever pondered the life that Mary, mother of Jesus must have experienced? This topic has been on my mind lately while considering how true it is, that God’s ways are not our ways.  The bible says that Mary was favored by God since she was chosen to give birth to the Messiah. Yet, if Mary had been born in modern times, in our age of quick fixes and instant gratification; I doubt many of us would see her as favored.

Consider some of the difficulties in Mary’s life and keep in mind that she was mother to the promised Messiah…The King. Mary an ordinary girl, found herself pregnant before marriage due to no action of her own; a socially devastating situation back then. She had to travel approximately 80 miles on a donkey during the last month of her pregnancy which was an undeniable hardship.  Mary gave birth in a sheep’s  stall rather than in a warm and comfortable room; not exactly what you’d expect for the son of God. When Jesus was a toddler, they fled to Egypt with little notice to hide from King Herod; doesn’t it seem strange that the Son of God would have to run from anyone? Mary and her family didn’t live a life of privilege but rather she was of ordinary income and was married to a simple carpenter. That too seems backward; after all shouldn’t the Son of God live a life of luxury? Think of a mother’s heart as Mary watched her son rise to amazing prominence and then with no notice, her boy became scorn and shame. This poor mom watched as her son was tortured, ridiculed, and killed as a common thief even though he was innocent and even though he was the Messiah.
Her life sounds much harder than most of us will ever know.
This life is the one that God called “favored.”

God could have easily shown her our type of favor every step of the way and made her life easy but He didn’t, he let her live life with all its imperfections and hardships. The reality is, looking BACK on her life as a whole… she WAS greatly blessed and favored.

If an angel stood before me today and said “Greetings woman, you are greatly favored by God.” I would probably think that from the moment the statement was uttered, all would be well in my life and everything I put my hand to would be quickly blessed. That even riches would be bestowed upon me and my family, and that my children would prosper and be blessed. BUT…that is an incredibly short sighted view and a byproduct of our culture of self-gratification.
Our God isn’t a product of any one generation and instead always sees the whole, complete picture and simply doesn’t measure blessings or success by day to day events.

Mary was blessed even though a lot of her life was hard. After all, she has a fantastic place in history that no other woman can ever share and her son still lives and is still performing miracles in people’s lives.
That my friend is being favored by God!

When life is hard and circumstances fall short of expections; when we feel rejected or struggle with a trial; if money is tight and needs aren’t being met, it doesn’t mean that God’s favor isn’t with us.
If our heart is right before God, we can be assured that we are exactly where our great God wants us and our outcomes (the end of the story) will be beautiful too.  Remember God’s ways are not our ways: they are far higher than anything we can comprehend.

This Christmas, when need and want are paramount and short term blessings weigh heavily upon our hearts; let’s ask the Lord for eyes to see life through His eyes and to not be discouraged by day to day hardship. Let’s walk on the lie of instant gratification and follow Mary’s example, of hiding the truth in her heart and waiting patiently on God to demonstrate His favor in her life.

May the true favor and blessings of Almighty God be upon you and yours this Christmas season.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Thankful for the Bible

Bible

I love Thanksgiving. Could there be a more meaningful reason to share a meal than to purposefully remember our blessings collectively? Using our precious time to consider how blessed we are is inspiring.   This year while considering what I’m thankful for my thoughts went someplace they haven’t in the past. I realized how grateful I am for the Bible and what a gift God has given us in His word. He didn’t say, “Honor me” then leave us to figure out how to do that on our own. He gave us an instruction manual on how to navigate a growing relationship with The God of the universe. Through His Word we can gain understanding about the nature of God.

Personally, over the years I’ve had seasons of reading and studying the Bible and seasons where I’ve neglected it entirely. Usually, my seasons of neglect are triggered by disappointment in God. Oh, that sounds so arrogant, but it’s true, I’ve been disappointed and mad at God for not answering an important prayer or for letting a bad situation happen. And instead of drawing closer to Him and His Word I became self-protective and angry. My harsh judgments against God created a divide in our relationship that hindered my prayer life and my interest in reading the Bible. I moved away from God because of my lack of faith.

Over time, I became aware of how hard my heart was becoming. After asking God to forgive me, my heart softened and I was drawn back to prayer and reading the Bible and in reading the Bible I was reminded that God’s wisdom is not my own. That all things work out for the good for those who love the Lord. That He promises to never leave me nor forsake me; which is much more than I can say for myself. Then there is Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

I’m grateful for a God who actually listens to my prayers. I’m grateful for a God who always answers my prayers even if I don’t understand the answer. Psalm 66:19 says, “But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.” And when I struggle with my faith because of my lack of understanding I can go to the Bible and find reassurance that He is still on His heavenly throne.

It is a daunting task for us humans to attempt to understand God and His precepts. However, it’s an impossible task if we don’t read the Bible. I’ve had conversations with really bright people who pontificate about who God is and what the true significance of the Bible is to modern man. They wax poetically about deep and spiritual thoughts that create a God who is little more significant than humans. They seem to have it all figured out.

I listen patiently, waiting for the right moment to interject a few questions I feel are important, “Have they read the Bible for themselves? Have they studied the Bible to see who it says God is?” The truth is, we can’t gain personal understanding of God without reading the Bible. If we neglect studying it there is no way we can make an informed decision about who God is and what His relevance is in the world today.

Many people ask how the Old Testament, which can seem brutal and ancient in customs, could be relevant in our lives today. The answer is found in the very imperfect nature of the Old Testament heroes. They are flawed, like you and me, but choose to continue to honor God through failure, difficult and bleak situations. Their stories encourage us to keep serving God even though we’ve failed miserably in our Christian walk.

The New Testament shows us how to live each day in the grace of Jesus’ forgiveness. How to put others needs before our own and how to forgive because we’re forgiven. The New Testament is filled with life giving wisdom if we’re willing to read it and put into practice what it teaches.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season my heart is thankful for the Bible and the deep spiritual wisdom and understanding that it offers us, God’s children, if we make time in our busy lives to read and study the Word of God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

In Stormy Gale, Our God Is There!

jesus wheel

The vessel shook as each wave hit, its bulwarks bowed and strained
The hull cried out in strong protest; the sounds were that of pain
The ship’s alarms rang out the news that they were in distress
The sky was lost to storm and waves and lighting flashed and hit
Ice clung in shapes that looked like creatures crawling from the deep
The deck was washed in white sea-foam; the wind hurled snow and sleet
The rigging cried in its abuse, the tie downs all were breaking
And chaos reigned, the darkness pressed, the crew felt small; like nothing
Some men stayed frightened in their bunks, while others worked and prayed
The Captain stood strong at the wheel, his focus true and brave
The storm kept beating at the ship and each blow took its toll
As it grew heavy from the ice, it struggled with each roll.

The vessel took on water, the pumps strained with the load
The walls of water hit so hard destruction was foretold
The crew prayed hard and stronger, as hopes light flickered dim
The Captain prayed from deep within and sang loud an old hymn
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait
The sky, not the grave, is our goal”
As he sang out louder, his heart grew full of faith
And hope lit up his fearful heart and joy took sorrows place.

He gripped the wheel and faced the storm, with a brand new strength
And prayed; O God please bring this boat, to a place that’s safe
Hold these men in Your great hands; part these thunderous waves
For if You save us from this storm, we’ll live to share Your praise
You are a God of miracles; The sea hears Your command
But ne’rtheless I trust You; we rest in Your great hands
I will not fear a hungry sea, for by Your hand I’m saved
And whether life or death prevails, my soul in You remains
For You alone are sovereign, You know what is in store
I humbly bow before Thee and trust, though this storm roars
A sweet rest filled his spirit; a peace from heaven fell
He let the Lord take all control; his soul before God knelt.

Jesus took the Captain’s hands and guided him that night
And as the crippled boat neared land a beam came into sight
The Captain wept and stared in awe; he knew that lighthouse well
The broken boat would make it home, though they had been through hell
The crew fell down onto their knees and worshiped God almighty
And vowed to tell all who had ears, about their wondrous story
They knew there was a reason, that God still gave them breath
The veil had fallen from their eyes because of this hard test
Almighty God’s our lighthouse, a beacon in the dark
For He alone commands our storms, and brings us safe to port.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

Are You There God?

 

???????

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my breaking heart?

Do you care God, that my strength is gone?

My body and mind are numb.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my parents, ravaged with dementia?

Drooling and muttering, not knowing my name.

I no longer exist to them.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my friend lost in mental illness?

Homeless, clueless, mad at the world

Unable to make decisions for his own best interest.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Diligently I work, giving my all

While others refuse to contribute

Then take credit for the results as their own.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

My loved one is addicted and lives in denial

It’s always someone else’s fault

They’ve mastered the art of victimhood.

 

Are you there God, Listening to my prayer?

The world is crazy, out of control.

Good is called evil and evil good.

Those who speak truth are shunned.

Those who speak lies are called leaders.

 

I cry out to God, my heart is breaking.

God, do you hear my prayer?

Are you aware of my loved ones pain?

Please show me that you are there.

 

God answers in His word

Yes, I am here

I am near the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.

I will wipe away every tear from your eye.

 

I am your fortress and high tower

I will wrap my wings for protection around you

My power is made perfect in weakness

I will never leave you nor forsake you

 

I will renew your strength.

You will soar on wings like eagles;

You will run and not grow weary,

You will walk and not be faint.

 

God is our refuge and strength,

An ever-present help in trouble.

Even in darkness my light shines.

Yes, I am with you.  I am Here.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Take Every Thought Captive

Take every thought captive and you will stand strong
Resist all temptation to fixate on wrongs.
Focus on things that are good, pure, and true,
With a heart that is thankful and mind that’s renewed.
We must stay alert to our thoughts and dark musings
Or they’ll take control and like mountains, stand looming.
They’ll shadow the light that God always shines
The light that brings hope into hearts and to minds.

Negative thoughts run us down rabbit holes
And Its hard to get out, for the thoughts take control.
They cover God’s truth and seep through the mind
And to everything lovely, the eyes become blind.
Allowing our thoughts to grow negative roots
Will taint every word and produce ugly fruit.
They will rob needed sleep and waste precious time
And Satan just smiles for we bought his lie.

Focus your mind on things worthy of praise
Renewing your mind in the Lord every day.
Be constantly thankful, let joy set the tone
For negative thoughts will dry up our bones.
If we will just trust Him and see through His eyes
With hearts full of worship to our God on high.
The peace that surpasses all man’s understanding
Will rule in our hearts over negative rantings.

Let your heart not be troubled, do not be afraid
For we are God’s children so don’t be dismayed.
Take every thought captive in line with God’s truth
Confess sin and failings and His peace will ensue.
Press on to the goal that we have through Christ
And bless Father God with our thoughts, words, and lives.
Help us oh Lord to recall Your commands
So we might obey and in holiness stand.

May we hear our own words; may we become wise
So we see ourselves through Your holy eyes.
We extol You our God; bless Your name forever
Array us in hope no matter the weather.
May the words of our heart and our meditations
Be acceptable to You our Savior; Redeemer.
We bow before You, the King of all Kings
May Your light fill our hearts and Your peace fill our dreams.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen
.

A Renewing

man grateful 

A Renewing

When waves of adversity crash down upon you.

When your heart is heavy with concern.

When the future is uncertain and your path unclear.

When relationships once full of joy are heavy with despair.

When your belief has waned and your mind is numb.

When your soul is overwhelmed.

 

Call out to God.

He will hear you.

 

Lay your head upon His shoulder.

He will wrap His arms around you.

Tell Him your courage is gone.

He will renew your strength.

 

Open your wounded heart to Him

He will heal it.

Give Him your despair.

He will give you peace.

Give Him praise.

He will give you joy.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Isaiah 40:31

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Arise and Shine!

lighthouse

Arise, shine for your light has come
The glory of the Lord has risen upon
The weary soul, the broken hearted
The overwhelmed and those in darkness.

The Lord your God is here with you
True Love and joy He offers you
A mighty warrior; our shield and sword
Lift His name high in one accord.

Almighty God; He is our strength
Our source of courage in times of pain
He gives us feet to scale the heights
He lights our path and gives us sight.

The Lord will hide you in His wings
An awesome fortress; our Mighty King
He is our shield; a towering wall
A loving God who hears our call.

The great Redeemer; He will come
To those who humbly trust His Son
He’ll level mountains in our way
He will bring justice on that day.

God will accomplish all He’s planned
No evil stands before His hand
Just stop and think that He’s YOUR God
To Him you’re precious though we are flawed.

Oh fear not in the darkest hour
Our mighty Savior will give you power
To walk on trouble, trials, and fear
For in His name Victory is here!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

God’s Amazing Grace

cross in sunset

  Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given

Humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

 A virtue coming from God.

 

Grace from above pours over me.

Spilling freely from God’s never ending cup.

Washing clean my darkened mind, bringing rest to my soul.

 

His healing ointment of grace soothes away

My guilt and shame, restoring peace to my spirit

Setting me free from the bondage of sin.

 

My arms open wide to receive His grace.

It envelops me inside and out.

I kneel and weep at His feet for a forgiveness underserved.

 

God’s abundant grace releases me

From the stifling power of fear

Freeing me from the whispering lies of insecurity.

 

His grace filled Word offers hope and strength

Replacing all condemnation from the past

Freeing me to be creative, loving, forgiving.

 

I’m loved by God, with all my flaws.

He values me as a precious jewel.

He has plans to prosper me and give me hope.

 

God’s grace has the power to change my life,

Heal relationships and mend my broken heart.

God’s amazing grace sets me free from the past.

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Don’t Wish Away Your Life

It’s easy to find ourselves at any age, in a state of discontent.  Most often, the grass really isn’t greener on the other side and the other side will bring its own set of problems.  The best way to prosper in this imperfect life is to be thankful for what we have and for each stage of life because it goes by far too quickly. This is my least spiritual poem, but its a message that applies to all. My own Dad, said to me many times, “Don’t wish away your life.” Those are true words of wisdom.

Her 18th birthday was getting close but not quite close enough
For she could hardly wait to be free of childish stuff
She couldn’t wait to leave for college, to head down her own path
To begin to live the future and be free of Mom and Dad
No parents breathing down her neck, no teachers keeping tabs
A truly independent girl, giving life a stab.

Her Daddy always told her, “Don’t wish your life away
But savor every moment for time quickly slips away”
She thought those words were silly for tomorrow’s always better
And on she marched at a fast pace, thinking she was clever
But then she realized the stress of keeping up her grades
Of barely having money and dealing with roommates
She focused on the stresses; blind to what was good
Getting out of school… was all she understood.

She dreamt of something different; she was tired of her life
She thought if she found something new, true happiness she’d find
Forgetting her Dad’s warning, she wished away her days
Before she knew what happened, graduation came
She thought “Life will be easy now and I’ll have lots of money
And married life will give me days that always will be sunny”
Her Daddy always told her, “Don’t wish away your life
But enjoy every moment for discontentment will bring strife.”

Her new job was a hassle her boss was less than nice
And marriage wasn’t all she dreamed; sometimes she felt like ice
She knew her hopes were failing; she didn’t know just why
But as she sat and pondered a little voice replied
“Be thankful for each moment, don’t wish away your life
For life is never perfect; discontentment will bring strife
Be thankful for each blessing and focus on what’s right
For bad things always live beside what’s good and what is bright
So rest when things aren’t what you thought, enjoy each stage of life
And you will shine in a dark world as a ray of light.”
Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Healing of a Wounded Soul

                Healing the wounded soul          

Amy let out a guttural growl followed by a loud “darn it!” Protectively, she wrapped her wounded finger tightly with the other hand, applying pressure hoping to alleviate the pain. Her frustration level was already high today. The kids were ornery and her husband Chuck appeared to be deliberately employing every last irritating quality he had.   Accidentally smacking her already injured finger on the counter’s edge was the end of her rope. She could feel the irritation boiling up inside; a full hissy-fit was about to erupt. “Family hide”, she thought, “I’m one unpleasant women right now.”

While running cold water over the offended finger hoping to minimize the pain,  Amy realized the house had grown strangely quiet. “Odd” she thought “they were just here deliberately bugging me.”  Putting some crushed ice in a zip-lock bag she headed to the family room for a little rest; the house was still quiet. Her mommy instincts said it would be wise to see where everyone went, but she didn’t want to, she wanted peace and quiet.

Lying down on the couch she propped up her right hand on a pillow. The pain was subsiding a bit however, her irritation was not. Lately, Chuck had been difficult, prickly like a Sea anemone, reacting to everything negatively. At first Amy had given him grace, after all his career had hit a difficult patch. But instead of receiving her grace with the minutest amount of gratefulness, he’d became more difficult. Amy’s feelings were hurt. She believed her reaction to his prickly mood would be different, maybe her patience greater, if they hadn’t been through so many difficult years already. Amy felt used up and tired. Why couldn’t Chuck just grow-up, mature, evolve, become a better man; and stay that way instead of lapsing back into old negative patterns?

Her finger began to throb even with ice on it and she wondered if it was broken; the house was still quiet. Laying there absorbed in her pain a thought wiggled its way into her considerations. Her wounded finger was much like her relational wounds with Chuck. Both wounds were easily injured and each time it seemed to take longer for them to heal. Truth is, sometimes the reinjured wound hurt more than the original one. “How many times do I have to forgive the same old bad behavior” she stewed. “God, I don’t want to forgive him again, please help me, I know it’s the right thing to do.”

An uncomfortable thought floated across Amy’s mind. “How many times has God forgiven you for the same sin?” “Is your intolerant reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior equally bad behavior?” Amy didn’t like this thought, it put way too much responsibility on her; after all Chuck was the one with issues. This self-righteous attitude didn’t last long, she could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Again, “Is your reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior also sinful behavior?” She thought about all the self-righteous thoughts she’d had and the disrespectful words uttered in response to his prickly behavior. Painfully, it dawned on her that her own destructive behavior could be hindering both of their emotional and spiritual healing.

“Oh God please forgive me; forgive me for not forgiving as you forgave me. Forgive me for being such a hypocrite. Please help me to see Chuck as you see him. Please help me treat him in a way that honors you. I’m sorry God, I didn’t realize how out of line I was.” Amy knew she needed to ask Chuck’s forgiveness and that was going to be tough.

“Why aren’t you holding Chuck accountable for his bad behavior?” she complained to God, even though she knew the answer. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, it’s the only behavior we can control. “Ok God, I’ll humble myself and ask for forgiveness.”

Suddenly the kids and Chuck appeared with a bouquet of flowers freshly picked from the yard and some homemade cards. Stunned, she asked, “What’s this?” “We’re sorry for being ornery today, will you forgive us?” Yes, of course I will. Thank you kids.” Now it was Chucks turn.  He approached her with one beautiful red rose, got down on his knees and said, “Honey, I’m sorry for being such a negative guy lately, please forgive me.” Amy stared at him for a few moments then did what she knew she must. “I forgive you honey, but will you also forgive me; I’ve been harsh and disrespectful toward you.” Chuck looked at her and said, “I’ve waited years to hear you say that. Yes, I forgive you.”

An uncomfortable sensation enveloped Amy. “He’s been waiting years to hear me say that? He thinks I’m the one with issues!” She started to laugh and the kids and Chuck looked confused at her reaction. “We’re all such nuts,” she said “perfectly imperfect nuts and blessed beyond measure to have each other and God’s unmerited grace.”

May you be humbled with God’s gentle hand of correction and may you know you’re blessed to have an imperfect family that loves you.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Stories from life, Words of encouragement, and Poetry to lift your soul.

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