Quiet Before the Lord

           Quiet beford the lord

Over the last six months my emotional strength has been withered down to a nub. During this time most of my significant relationships have been challenged in ways I could have never imagined and I’m tired.  Blindsided would best describe the way I’m feeling right now or maybe like a deer caught in the headlights; one of my husband’s favorite analogies. If someone had asked me to list the ten most likely things to happen in the next six month my list wouldn’t have included any of the current situations.

Just a few days ago I was talking with my sister and she gave me some really good advice, she said; “be quiet before the Lord, you don’t have to carry the burden or be strong all on your own.” Her statement made me question why it’s so hard for me to be quiet before the Lord; it’s such a simple thing to do, right?

She said, be quiet before the Lord … mmm. Attempting to follow her suggestion I sat down to pray and within a few minutes the phone rang. After the call ended I return to praying; then out of the corner of my eye I notice a dust bunny and it starts to nag at me. I get up, quickly take care of the offending object. Quiet before the Lord. I will my mind to be still and then I remember I had forgotten to feed the dogs and I rush into the garage to feed the poor dears.

Quiet before the Lord.

Why is it so hard to be quiet before the Lord? I’ve been searching my heart and mind to answer this question and I believe the reason is I’m in a state of questioning God. I’m questioning why bad things happen to the innocent and whether God actually answers my prayers. I’m wondering if He has abandoned my family and these questions are keeping me from entering into a state of calm or quiet before the Lord.

Quiet before the Lord.

Realizing that to be quiet before the Lord I needed to be honest with myself and God, I told Him I was questioning some difficult issues, but quickly asked him to listen to my prayer even though I was in a terrible state. My spirit calmed when I admitted my struggles to Him. God seemed to be saying “its ok daughter, I understand your questions, life is tough, but I’m God and not hurt by your questions. Tell me your troubles and I will listen. Tell me your struggles and I will comfort you. Tell me about your pain and I will heal you.”

So I told God my troubles. I shared with Him in excruciating detail my troubles and questions. I said, “I’m questioning if you’re there listening to me. I’m wondering why bad things happen to little children. And why good people have terrible things happen to them. And why good families fall apart, or nice kids become drug addicts.”

Continuing, I added, “I find the concept that You created humans deliberately with all of our emotional weaknesses and quirkiness hard to fathom. However, if You created us, You must understand our weaknesses and appreciates our quirkiness.” During this honest prayer I remembered that He gave us the Bible loaded with answers if we take the time to read and contemplate it. And for the hard questions the Bible is silent on, faith and prayer are required. The Bible says if we diligently seek Him we will find Him. Am I diligently seeking Him or am I too consumed with my pain and questions to seek?

After laying all these issues before God I became quiet before the Lord. It wasn’t even hard. My mind slowed down and my thoughts focused on God. I was quiet before the Lord, freed by an honest prayer and sincere seeking. He didn’t send lightning bolts to strike me or give me a heart attack. He eased my pain, answered my questions, and hug me with deep spiritual peace.

Quiet before the Lord.

Yes, I can do that if first I’m willing to approach God with an honest heart that’s seeking truth.

May you rest quiet before the Lord.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

STAND UP

fear1

Stand up  stand up, don’t be afraid for God is with you now
The times are dark but you will shine as at His feet you bow
You may feel weak and timid; you may seem tired and lost
But know that you are strong through Him; the one who paid our cost
Do not shrink back from holiness; the future, do not fear
For as you stand, He’ll cover you; your chains will disappear.

Trust God inside life’s battles; Fix all your hope on Him
Don’t run ahead and fix things, wait on Him instead
He lets His children struggle, to change our stubborn hearts
He stretches us and molds us, to Godly works of art
Be not conformed unto this world, don’t seek the easy way
For if our savior did that, we’d still be lost today.

Stand strong and courageous; obey God’s holy word
For when the way is darkened then you will stand assured
For we’re His mighty army, we’re here to take the land
We’re salt unto a dying earth; an extension of God’s hand
So fear not in the battle; our fight is not with man
For satan is the liar that seeks to crush God’s plan.

But our God reigns eternal; the battle He has won
And one day soon all knees will bow as darkness becomes dawn
Shout out to Him your worship; exalt Him in the land
Lets open wide our hardened hearts and be clay in His hands
All glory, praise, and honor, belongs to Him alone
The holy one who conquered sin, let’s bow before His throne!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Comfort of God

 ocean path

I know God is real. I know God is ever present. I know God loves and cares about me and yet, when I see his hand undeniably present in my life I’m humbled beyond measure. Last weekend my husband and I had the privilege of seeing God directly comfort us in a time of trouble and I want to share our story with you so you can be blessed by it too and be reminded that God’s ever present hand of comfort is always on His children.

Like many families, we have a relative who struggles with mental illness. In our family it’s my husband’s oldest brother. He has struggled with the demons of that terrible disease most of his adult life. The difficult job of helping him navigate the world was filled by his parents and different government services. That is until their bodies gave way to old age and their minds crumbled under the curse of dementia.

For the last four years my husband and I have stepped in and taken over for his parents attempting to keep his brother safe, housed, and following the rules of different social services. As many of you know, some mentally ill people aren’t big on following rules and in fact can view them as an enemy. So when my husband would encourage his brother to clean his apartment so he wouldn’t be kicked out he was met with verbal abuse. Caring for an adult mentally ill sibling is not of easy. Caring for elderly parents with dementia is heart wrenching and stressful. Caring for both at the same time requires help from God!

Eventually he was kicked out of his apartment and spent a few months living in the local Gospel Mission until finally an agency found him a small apartment in a seedy part of town. We moved him in, warned him to follow the rules or he would lose this apartment, too. Within a year he was kicked out and once again living in the Gospel Mission.

The thing about staying at the mission is there is a limit to the length of time one is allowed to stay and my brother in-law’s time was up yesterday. I’ve spent hours calling different agencies seeking shelter for him; but the truth is he’s burned every bridge within these organizations. One lady who has dealt with him for years said the most loving thing we can do is let him fall; let him live on streets. It’s the best way to help him understand that he needs help from others and he must comply with the rules.

As you can imagine, my husband was consumed with guilt and grief about his brother, we talked frequently about what we should/could do? We wondered what our responsibility before God was. My husband was weighed down by the responsibility of both his brother and his parents.

Seeking a little relief from the stress we went to the ocean for the weekend. Sunday morning while walking down a trail high above the beach we happened upon a group of women singing “How Great Is Our God” our hearts were touched and we continued walking, quietly singing the song to ourselves. A sense of worshipfulness filled us both. Once we descended the stairs to the beach, we headed to the hard packed sand, and there written in large letters was ‘Psalm 46:1’. Curious, my husband looked up the verse on his phone and read out loud, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We both cried. God was wrapping us in a big God hug through His word.

But wait, there’s more. Monday morning before work my husband was reading the Bible and randomly decided to read from a book he’s never read before. Looking at the list of minor profits he decided to read from Nahum, possibly the most obscure book of the Old Testament. Turning to Nahum his eyes landed on Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” Tears welled up in his eyes, yes, God was hugging him.

What a personal God we have! God knew my husband and I needed extra comfort and strength; that we were at the end of our own and in love God wrapped His strong arms around us through His word. God is good even when life is tough. As Christians we aren’t promised a trouble free life; we suffer like all other humans. What we are promised is God’s comfort and wisdom while going through our very human existence. My brother in-law is out on the streets and my in-laws won’t find healing until they’re in heaven. Even though this is true, a greater truth is God is with us, comforting us, hugging us.

Debora Shelford-Hobbs

 

Our God: The Great I AM

mountain

A wind so warm and balmy blew my cares away
The sunlight shining on my face filled me with hope today
The rhythm of the rolling waves was music to my soul
And made me stop and marvel… that God is in control.

I sat and watched the sunlight sparkle on the dancing leaves
I watched the wind invite the trees to sway with grace and ease
I saw majestic mountains, standing strong and sure
And knew our God is great indeed and we can feel secure.

Standing in a field of snow, sparkling like fine jewels
Moonlight on a silent bay brought reverence to my soul
Surrounded by earth’s fragrance, while walking through the woods
Reminded me that God loves us and created all for good.

The thunder roared the lightning flashed in God’s display of might
The rain it washed a dirty land and brought forth brand new life
The clouds in all their glory swept soft across the sky
And sunrise bright with pink and orange cut through the darkest night.

Our God is great and mighty, creator of all things
And one day soon all Earth will sing its praises to our King.
For every knee will bow down on Earth and in the heavens
Singing praises to the King, as He breaks all oppression.

Our world may shake and tremble and darkness may abound
But know that our Creator is still upon His throne
He does not sleep nor slumber, He does not turn away
This mighty awesome savior is with us in the fray
So do not fear the darkest night nor trouble in the land
Our God is still the great I Am and holds us in His hands.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

A Letter of Joy

                    Letter of Joy

Tears slid down Leanna’s face while she read the ESPN article about her brother’s life. She knew the story was coming out, they’d interviewed her for it, but somehow it still hurt. Ben had been brilliant, charming, a gifted strategist, and a hard worker; a coaching superstar. The talking heads proclaimed him virtually unstoppable, at the top of his game and predicted he’d move on to the NFL soon. With remarkable speed Ben had scaled the equivalent of Mount Everest in the coaching world; coaching football at a Top 10 University. Leanna’s mind drifted back in time reliving the excitement of watching him coach; he’d been so passionate and animated, a sideshow worth watching. Rubbing her weeping eyes she squinted once again at the computer screen.

Eventually all coaches hit a losing streak that shakes their confidence and leaves them questioning their sanity. Ben’s losing streak found him unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the stress. Many coaches seek counseling or religion to deal with it, but Ben chose to find solace in booze. The truth is, he’d been using alcohol as a coping tool for years; a life pattern had been set. Unfortunately after the losing streak ended, his drinking didn’t.   The respect he once held with other coaches on his team began to diminish and before long he was on probation. For a while Ben was able to hang onto his pinnacle position with the help of well-meaning coworkers, friends, and family who made excuses for his erratic behavior. Ultimately, he was fired and soon after that his wife filed for divorce. The golden boy was losing his sheen. A smaller university hired then fired him; a pattern that repeated itself many times over the next ten years.

Eventually, Ben found himself coaching a small, unknown team in Italy. It’s a long, lonely road from the top of the coaching world to the bottom and Ben’s decent had been a slow, painful, journey marked by failed coaching positions and relationships. He was self-destructive and it appeared to all his decent was unstoppable, and there it was written on the internet for all the world to read. She felt Ben’s life was being invaded and violated.

Leanna pressed back in her chair then stretched out like a starfish. It was so devastating having her brother’s life spread over the internet, waiting for judgment from all who read it. She could hear them saying, “what a loser, a mess, and a failure.” The article focused almost entirely on his faults as if there was nothing good left inside him. Over his ten year decent he’d gone to rehab twice and stayed sober for almost a year each time, but then something would trigger his addiction and he’d lose another job.

Ben and Leanna had had a tough childhood that left deep emotional scars on both. Leanna turned to Christianity to help heal those scares while Ben chose alcohol. He had been accepting of her faith and attended church with her when he visited. Thoughtful by nature, he sent her and the kids little trinkets from wherever he’d found work. He called regularly to see how she and the kids were doing, usually his words were slurred and his voice altered by the alcohol, but she was always grateful to hear his voice. Each phone call ended with her praying for him and the few times she’d forgotten to pray he’d say, “Aren’t you going to pray?” This warmed her heart and gave her hope. For Leanna’s part she’d send him Christian books about athletes who had turned their lives around by trusting God or music with a Christ centered message with hopes of softening his heart toward God. He read the books and would ask questions about the content, but never took the initial step toward belief in God.

The call notifying her of Ben’s death had come in the middle of the night. She would never forget the shock, disbelief, and bone crushing grief she felt at that moment. Leanna had laid in bed sobbing for hours mourning his life and his lost chance for redemption. The first week after Ben’s death she cried out God in frustration and disappointment, how could He let Ben die without saving him first. After a week of being mad at God and questioning His love she made an appointment to talk with her pastor. She needed answers.

How could she trust a God who didn’t answer the one prayer that lay deepest in her heart? Heading to the car for her appointment with the pastor she walked across the street to collect the mail. Absentmindedly thumbing through it she suddenly stopped. There tucked between the electric bill and junk mail was a letter from Ben. At first she just held it, as if holding her brother. Carefully she opened it not wanting to damage anything he’d touched. The letter started off newsy, his job was fine although the players were dumb as logs and slow as slugs. The food was good but his apartment was small and moldy. The second paragraph started with, “I’ve something to tell you that will make you happy, very happy. I’ve been rereading all those books you sent and started watching some preachers online and well, I’m saved now. For the first time in years my spirit feels light. Did you know that God loves you even when you’ve been a complete screw up? I have a father now, it’s God; couldn’t ask for a better father. We, you and I, couldn’t have a more faithful father, God is good. Thank you for praying for me all those years. I get it now.”

Leanna reached over and picked up Ben’s letter. “Let them talk, I know who you were. You were brilliant, thoughtful, sincere, and charming, a gifted strategist, a hard worker, and an amazing coach. But most of all you are my brother and a son of God, forgiven and renewed in Christ.” She turned off the computer realizing the letter in her hand, a gift from God, held all the info she needed to know about her brother. “Thank you God, you are faithful all the time.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Victory is Our Call!

victory

God has not abandoned you though you may feel He has
He sees a bigger picture that we can’t comprehend
So rest inside your trials, take a cleansing breath
Know that God is there with you, when life’s a swirling mess.

Sometimes the trials come in waves; they slap us to and fro
We pray with all our heart for change and cry out from our soul
We want the pain to stop right now and wonder why it’s there
It seems like prayers aren’t answered and feels like Gods not there.

But God is up to something, far greater than we know
He sees things through eternity; we see our weary souls
He uses the hot fire to cleanse and change our hearts
To make us more like Jesus so strongholds will depart.

We say we can’t take anymore; our strength is at its end
But that’s when God’s great power, will fill you from within
Let His strength wash over you; Let His courage fill your heart
And deeper faith will shine so bright into a world that’s dark.

Instead of closing off your heart and fainting with despair
Open wide your heart to God and tell him every fear
Ask for grace to face each day with fearless hearts that trust
Ask God to use the trials, for something pure and good.

So fear not in the trials; know God has a plan
Allow His strength to bear your yoke; unclench your weary hands
He loves you without waver and wants to see you whole
So trust Him in the fire and yield your heart and soul.

Good shall come if you will wait and walk in childlike faith
Surrendering your will and wants to God’s eternal ways
So face the storms with courage; stand up straight and tall
You are a child of the King and victory is your call!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

God, you are my rudder

hope in the world

The news is bleak all over the world

Wars, violence, tyranny

We justify the oppressor as if a victim

And judge the victim as if oppressor

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

The world is imploding

Right is called wrong and wrong right

Liars are leaders and applauded

Only the righteous are held accountable

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

Words spoken with the intent to hurt

Lies said against good men

Fabricated stories paint them for who they are not

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

Victimhood is now a religion

A multimillion dollar industry

Phonies yell with passions burning

Stirring up hate without thought of consequences

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

Once words of wisdom guided our leaders

Whether federal, state, or local

Now bogus polls and special interest groups guide the way

While the silent majority cries on their neighbor’s shoulders

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

Childhood is gone as if innocence is wrong

Little girls dress like hookers

And little boys are punished for being boys

While adults neglect their duty to discipline

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

 

The world is spinning in a self-destructive swirl

Causing hearts to be heavy

But there is hope in God, hope in truth and wisdom

God of the universe in in control, He does not sleep

I run to you, cling to you, God you are my rudder

Debora Shelford Hobbs

God Loves You: A Poem

love

For us He wore a crown of thorns
Nailed to the cross, He bore our scorn.
Clothed in only mankind’s sin
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb!
As he hung there barely breathing
He forgave the unbelieving.
He did it all for you and me
A loving sacrifice is He.

Do we really understand
The sacrifice in those pierced hands?
Do we know the Father’s love
That sent His son to die for us?
The author of… man, sky, and sea
Wanted to be close to you and me!
Let our minds absorb the truth
This holy God, loves me and you!

This God of love, commands the wind
Holds every ocean within His hands.
He marks the boundaries of the heavens
And sets the galaxy in motion.
He comes with victory in His hand
And shines His light over the land
Stand in awe, exalt His name
Almighty God… loves YOU this day!

So do not fear, don’t be dismayed
For God is great in every way.
He goes before us and behind
He gave His son to save our lives.
Open your heart; turn far from sin
Down on your knees begin again.
O worship Him, for He is holy!
He loves the lost and saves the lowly.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Eradicating the Bitterness Weed

                        bitterness weed

Bitterness:
Strong and sharp in taste: having a sharp strong unpleasant taste.
Angry and resentful. Difficult to accept: mentally painful, or very hard to accept
Synonyms: sour, acid, acidic, tart, astringent, vinegary, pungent, harsh, acrid

I’ve been thinking about the act of being bitter and how bitterness, if not dealt with, can affect every aspect of our lives.  Bitterness can blind a person to the love that is around them.  Bitterness has the power to turn a person inwards, making them selfish and self-consumed.  A bitter heart becomes brittle and intolerant.  A bitter person will find the bad in every situation unable to see the good.  Bitterness can strangle our creative energy.  And a bitter heart is unable to open up to God’s love, it is unable to trust in God’s love because it is always in a state of self-protection.

Bitterness is like a weed, it is a living organism that need sustenance to survive and when it’s thriving it has the power to weaken our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.  The Bitterness Weed is fed and nourished by our judgmental, negative, self-righteous, and unforgiving thoughts.  Because bitterness is living, it will either grow or wither depending on our ability to starve it with forgiveness or feed it with judgment.  Starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It requires surrendering our right to justifiable anger and judgment.  It demands that we not seek retribution ourselves for our pain, but allow God’s justice, which is a mystery to most of us, to have control. 

All of us at one time or another have thought, “They don’t deserve forgiveness” or “It’s not fair, they feel no pain and are suffering no consequence for their destructive behavior” and we’re right, it’s not fair from a human point of view.  So, in an effort to bring justice to the situation, we self-righteously judge the individual deeming them unworthy of forgiveness.  And then we move on, right?  Nope.

The problem is we’re not capable of judging others harshly and moving on.  We continue to judge them in our thoughts and before we know it we’re feeding the weed of bitterness.  Each time we ruminate over their bad actions and reassure ourselves of our righteous judgment, the bitterness weed grows stronger. Before long our outlook on life becomes a little more negative and our prayer time a little less frequent, and the Bible sits unopened for longer stretches of time on our night stand.

Before long we become bitter leaving a sharp and unpleasant taste in the mouths of our friends and family.  Unbeknown to ourselves we become sour, tart, vinegary, pungent, harsh, and acrid in our attitudes and relationships.  We have officially become bitter because of our self-righteous right to judge and not forgive.  We now have a healthy, bitter-weed garden within our spirit that only God’s love, wisdom, and forgiveness can eradicate.

It’s true that starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It takes unmeasurable amounts of faith, humbleness, and forgiveness to starve bitterness from our spirit.  But if we choose to do so, God will help us, He will give us strength when we have none, and the courage to continue to forgive even when it seem like justice is not being served.  God’s ways can be a mystery to us but when we follow them they always replace bitterness with beauty.

Debora Shelford Hobbs 

GOD GIVES LIFE RENEWED!

God  frequently  uses people for His glory that we as humans would never choose.  That  fact gives me hope that no matter how insignificant, untalented, or floundering a child, spouse, or even ourselves might be, we should never write anyone off.  The bible is full of unlikely individuals that have made a vast difference in the world in spite of the odds.  God sees as incredibly valuable the very people you and I would pass over because He looks deep into the heart and searches far and wide for someone who has a heart for Him.  He doesn’t care about who we are, where we’re from, or how much money we have.  With that in mind, who knows what God has in store for you or those you love!

A simple man with no big plans
No lofty goals consume him
He didn’t come from wealth or gain
Nor high class education.
Most think he won’t amount to much
His future’s etched in stone
But thank the Lord, God values man
By his heart alone.

A waitress working hard each day
Just trying to pay the bills
She wasn’t born to silver spoon
Nor were her wants fulfilled
Just working class and most would think
For her there’ll be no change
But we don’t know, what God has planned
Nor what He has arranged.
God sees beyond man’s circumstance
Fulfilling hidden dreams.

Think about a fisherman
Who worked from Galilee
A simple man from lower class
No big-wig Pharisee.
He worked each day, just catching fish
Obscured from most mankind
Until The Son of God called out
“Come fish for souls of man.”
From that moment forward                                                                                        Peter was transformed,
When God perplexed the ways of man
And shattered social norms.

David was the youngest son
A simple shepherd boy
He had no right to leadership
Nor kingly path in store
But God sees things so differently
From mankind’s human view
And He looked deep in Davids soul
And saw a heart thats true .
God didn’t choose the obvious
He chose what man rejects
When the youngest son of Jesse
Became a mighty King.

God is not confined by man
We cannot know His mind
He chooses those we least expect
To show that He is God.
He doesn’t look at privileged lives
Nor beauty, fame, or brains.
He looks into the heart of man
And chooses in that way.

So if your life seems simple
No wealth or fame in sight
It really doesn’t matter
For God only sees your heart.
Do you have a heart for Him
A longing in your soul?
To serve and grow, to always change
To give His love to all?
If you do, then rest assured
That God will bless you too.
And you will see what God has planned
For someone just like you.
So yield your heart, turn back from sin
He’ll give you life renewed.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

A Valentine from God

Valentine from God

It’s two days before Valentine’s Day and I’ve been thinking about the different types of love and the many different ways we show our love to others. This caused me to ask a few questions. How do we learn to show love? How do we learn to accept love from others? The obvious answer is from our parents; which is true. However, I believe many of us have learned how to love and be loved from God’s perfect example found in the Bible. After all, The Bible is the ultimate resource on love.

A Valentine from God to You

You Are Precious to God

Matthew 10:30-31 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Psalm 147:11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

God Delights in You

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Psalms 149:4 For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

 God Will Not Forget You

Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

God’s Love is Steadfast

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations

Isaiah 41:10-13 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.

 God Will Never Leave You

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.

1 King 8:57 May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us.

God Will be with You Through Trials

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God Knows You

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Isaiah 43:1 Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

God Loves You

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

I hope this Valentine of Love from God encourages your heart, comforts your pain, and reminds you how loved you are by God.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

THE DAILY GRIND

busy 2

The Revelation…

Busy with demands of life
Lists so long I feel uptight
Caught up in the daily grind
To stay on top, not fall behind.
Working hard and trying to hurry
All around me seems a flurry.
Trying hard to be my best
So distracted that I forget
To shine the love that Jesus gives
To know my life is really His.
To keep in balance life’s demands
To step into His perfect plan.
To sit so still, before His throne
To hear His voice; to be His alone.

The prayer…

Lord turn my heart to  Godly gain
For things that last beyond the grave.
May my values and use of time
Bless and honor You, my God.
Help me to seek You every day                                                                               To read Your word; take time to pray.                                                                   O take away my tunnel vision
Please guide me as I make decisions.
Help me to stay out of Your way
To bless my neighbor… to serve each day.
Fill my heart with gratefulness
With peace and joy and love that lasts.
Help me Lord, to see like You
To seize each day and know Your cue’s.
To hear Your voice with ears wide open
With heart so soft and life devoted.
Please give me wisdom for each day
To guard my time and always pray.
To see where I am self absorbed
To care for those I once ignored.
May I fulfill the reasons why
You gave me breath and planned my life.
So when I stand before Your throne
I’ll hear You say, “My child… Well Done!”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

A New Year Rebirth

recovery

 

On January first, each and every year, Carmen took down her Christmas tree and packed away all the brightly colored decorations that adorned her home. Typically, by the end of December she felt the decorations had overstayed their welcome and was eager to put them away, clean the house, and make way for a new year. However, this Christmas had been a particularly meaningful one; causing her to feel sentimental while working, not wanting the beauty of it to be packed away.

Carefully, Carmen removed a handmade ornament of the manger scene; created out of popsicle sticks, burlap, and cotton balls. Tenderly touching the scraggly remains of the cotton ball she smiled thinking about a time long ago. Cradling it like a precious object, she lovingly turned it over to see the name written in red crayon, across the back; it read Ian. “How many years had this simple ornament hung on their Christmas tree?”, she wondered.  Ticking off the years in her head she remembered Ian had been six when he made it.   “That was twenty-two years ago; so many unexpected and tragic things have happened in those twenty-two years” she thought. Tracing the name with her finger she remembered his cherub like face, crowned with blond hair, smiling up at her while showing off his masterpiece.

They’d lost that beautiful boy for years, but now he was back; Carmen smiled at this thought. Somehow, between work, their other three children, community involvement, and church, Ian had slipped away from them. At first he was quiet and methodical in his rebellion; careful not to step over well-defined family rules. He was smart, and spent tremendous energy blending in or looking like a “good kid” while walking on the edge of disaster. Finally, during his senior year in high school Ian was caught with drugs in his possession. After much heartache and legal fees he was given community service hours and was mandated to attend substance abuse classes. During the whole mess Ian never showed an ounce of remorse or a contrite spirit. In fact, he became more belligerent and arrogant; this was when Carmen and Jim knew he was in serious trouble. Although he attended the addiction classes he openly thought they were a joke and frequently made fun of the instructor’s ignorance. Thinking about Ian’s first encounter with the police drove the smile from Carmen’s face. She sat down on the couch, resting her head in her hands.

Their hearts were broken, Carmen spent hours researching on the internet for answers; none were to be found. Jim agreed to attend counseling with her but left each appointment feeling like a terrible parent. Eventually, they stopped attending together; Jim shut her out, and Carmen fell into depression. After struggling through the first year Carmen plugged into a support group and began to find strength enough to take care of her family. Next she learned how to ask for help and began to freely ask for prayer; which helped her cope but Ian was still out of control.

He spent years lost in drug addiction, absorbed in a world of self-delusion, unable to connect with reality. Eventually he was living on the streets panhandling and stealing to survive. Carmen and Jim lived in fear for and of their son. Sometimes he would show up high, all glassy eyed and cloudy, saying things that made no sense. Other times he would wait until they were gone, slip in a window and steal items of value. They were devastated and spent years trying to help him, but nothing worked. Overcome with grief and discouragement, Carmen fell into depression again. Ian’s addiction years hurt everyone in the family, they all bore the scares of his manipulation and lies.

Then a year and a half ago Tom, from a local drug outreach program sponsored by a church, found Ian passed out on the sidewalk. After several months of diligently building a relationship with Ian, Tom convinced him to enroll in a six month rehab clinic sponsored by a local church. To the amazement and joy of all who knew him, Ian graduated from the program having successfully owned up to all his wrong doings. That was four months ago and he was still clean and sober.

Lifting her head, Carmen flipped the simple ornament over again examining the three figures; Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. She marveled at how the birth of Jesus had brought hope to the hopeless, giving them a rebirth or new life. Ian and his past were washed clean through Jesus’ blood, he’d been given hope while in despair. Ian had come home for Christmas and Carmen thought her heart would break from joy having her whole family home for the holidays. For the first time in years Ian sat at the table talking with the family. He laughed, played games, and enjoyed helping with the dishes.

Ian had been open and honest with his family and talked freely about his gratitude for God’s forgiveness. In fact, he was eager to share what God had done in his life. When sharing about God’s healing power over addiction he said several things that stayed with Carmen, “My escape had become my prison” And “True freedom is found in the hope of God.” Tears of gratefulness slid down Carmen’s cheeks as the thought of these words of truth being spoken from her son who’d been lost in lies for so many years. “Thank You god”, she said out loud, “Thank You!”

Tears streamed down Carmen’s face as she stared at the simple ornament. Jesus’ birth made Ian’s rebirth possible; her heart felt overcome with gratitude. Standing in front of her dead and mostly deconstructed Christmas tree, ready to put away the old and make way for the new; Carmen understood what it all meant. Ian had been reborn and separated from his past for a new life through the birth and death of Jesus. Thank you God for your faithful love, she prayed, I’d lost hope but you didn’t. Thank you for a New Year Rebirth.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

O HOLY NIGHT, O GLORIOUS NIGHT!

BABY JESUS

O holy night when earth stood still
The universe proclaimed God’s will
When God became a mortal man
A sacrifice for every sin
Stars and sky announced His coming
Mary’s heart was full with knowing
Her little babe so unassuming
Would change the world and bring renewing.

O holy night when hope broke through
The angels sang and heaven knew
The babe had come to save mankind
Heal broken hearts, give sight to blind
The prophecies were all fulfilled
In virgin birth, on night so still
Emmanuel, our one true Savior
Atonement for our sinful failure.

O holy night, O glorious night
Sacred; like no other time
The shepherds heard, the wise men knew
God’s perfect plan was now in view
To crush the barrier of sin
And join the heart of God to man
The world would never be the same
O praise our God, lift high His name!

O holy night, in Bethlehem
When God confounded the ways of man
Born in a stall, the son of God
Not with riches, fame, and awe
Who would have thought the King of Jews
Would be so humbly introduced
For God’s ways aren’t the ways of man
His wisdom reigns above our plans.

O holy night, when Christ was born
He brought us hope to be restored
He broke the chains that bind us tight
He split the darkness and gave us light
He is the way, our one Redeemer
He stands on high, our Lord and Healer
O worship Him, lift up your voice
Our sacrifice; in Him, rejoice!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Thankful for the Bible

17791138-hands-holding-open-book-in-front-of-sky

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 throne.

It can be a daunting task as 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

The Power of Prayer

prayer

If we knew the power of prayer
From fervent hearts and faith that’s pure
Down on our knees, seeking God’s face
Crying out from depth of pain
The world would see His power released
As fervent prayers flow from our lips
For in that prayer a mountain moves
Hearts are changed, our health…renewed.

As we stand in humble faith
With prayers that touch His holy face
Asking for our hearts desires
But trusting Him with whens and whys
Seek Him with your heart and soul
Tell Him your cares; He’ll make you whole
Pour out your heart, pour out your needs
Tell Him what you feel and think
Don’t be afraid, He already knows
The hidden thought, the darkest soul.

Rather than shouldering worries and cares
Obsessing or’ problems and troubles you bear
Pray out each thought, pray out each worry
Trust Him and know that God knows what He’s doing
Ask Him to change you and make your heart pure
Take captive your thoughts and stand on His word
Bind Satan’s lies that say God’s not there
Bind every spirit of pride and of fear
Pray that what Satan intends for his purpose
God would take back and from ashes bring good
Don’t be afraid to approach our Gods throne
He’s waiting for you to finally come home.

What would we see if the church really prayed?
With wide open hearts that are ready to change
Praying that God’s perfect will would prevail
Praying for hearts that will serve without fail
Praying for healing for every sick person
Praying for change in our hearts and our thinking.

The power of prayer has barely been tapped
Oh what we’d see if we’d follow God’s path
Mountains that crumble and deserts that bloom
Christians that walk upon trouble and gloom
People fulfilling potential and purpose
Lives that are healed and faith that is certain
Know who you are, you are God’s chosen heir
His power is there if you seek Him in prayer.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Contentment vs. Complacency

 

Contentment vs. Complacency

                               contentment

Complacency: a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better. An instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction.

Contentment: The state of being happy and satisfied: the state of being content. Content: Pleased and satisfied: not needing more.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the difference between contentment and complacency. What does a contented life look like and how is it different from a life lived complacently. The Bible says we should be content in every situation; how does one do that? Looking for answers, I read the definitions of both words in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and realized that the second word of each definition sets them apart. It says that complacency is a feeling while contentment is a state of mind.

What is the difference between a feeling and a state of mind? A feeling is temporary. Our feelings change during the course of a day, every day.  We can start the day feeling happy, enjoying the smell of coffee and contemplating our schedule.  About mid-morning the phone rings and a family member carelessly offends us with harsh words.  Instantly our happy feeling becomes one of hurt and insecurity.  Our feelings are real and important however, they are temporal and forever in flux.

 A state of mind seldom changes and is based on our belief system. Feelings affect our day, while a state of mind affects our future. This is powerful; when the Bible says we should live contentedly, it’s saying we need to live each day believing in God’s faithfulness. Believing that God is in control, has a master plan for our lives, and is taking care of our needs. That’s why Paul could say in Philippians 4: 11-13 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul’s state of mind was that of contentment, firmly grounded in his faith in God.

While researching the difference between state of mind and feelings I learned that feelings can slowly morph into our state of mind. That’s why it’s important for us to carefully monitor our negative feelings. Unchecked, they will slowly change our state of mind. I found a list that shows how this morphing takes place. Anger can become resentment, sadness – depression, envy – jealously, embarrassment – shame, disgust – hatred, and fear – paranoia. All of which are not part of living a contented life. In fact, if these negative feelings are left to fester in our thoughts, they will grow, eventually becoming our state of mind. A state of mind controlled by negativity and defeat.

Another difference between complacency and contentment is that complacency doesn’t desire to make the situation better and usually has a component of unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction. On the other hand, contentment doesn’t need change, but doesn’t resist it and is firmly based on the promises of God.  A contented person could happily stay where they are or accept change because their contentment is based in faith, not in feelings. Faith by its very nature grows therefore, I believe a contented person will be actively engaged in the process of growing and improving all areas of their life.  Motivated by contentment not discontentment.

May your state of mind be one of contentment.

Isaiah 23:3-4   you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

 Debora Shelford Hobbs

OUR FORTRESS STRONG

 

FORTRESS

Almighty God so full of  grace Your love is constant through my mistakes
You gently mold my prideful heart into a shining work of art
The disappointments known to man You use for good… to complete Your plan
I stand amazed at Your great power; sea, stars, and sun, before You cower
I bow before Your mercy seat, my pride cast down beneath Your feet.

You see me through Your wealth of patience, though I’m a weak and rebel servant 
You love in spite of my slow learning, in You alone there is no turning
In You there is authority, to break strong-holds and become  free.  
I worship You, most holy God. Your grace and mercy know no bounds
I give my heart, hold out my hands… to God my Father, the beginning and end.

O thank you God! I can’t believe, You sent Your son to die for me
He bore my sin, suffered my shame; Nailed to the cross… naked and in pain
My righteousness is filthy rags, but through Your Son, I’m pure at last
I worship You most Holy Father, forgive my sins and faithless falters
All Mighty God! The Kings of Kings! The heavens and earth Your praises sing!

Your ways are far beyond my grasp; Some seem unfair… like terrible tests
But You are God, You see beyond…our daily struggles and painful loss 
O give me eyes to see like You, and ears that hear and know Your truth
To put aside my mortal wisdom to gain Your truth and eternal vision 
I worship You, O  awesome  God, my hope, my song, my Fortress Strong!     

You are my fortress and my strength, my anchor sure, my everything                                                              There is nothing that can compare, to the great love and grace You share!                                                       Our God reigns, He is not dead! He rules the world…justice in hand                                                                     Lets worship Him in everything, with hearts that trust our Lord and  King                                                             All glory, honor, worth, and power, belongs to God our Fortress tower!                                                           

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Hope with Substance

fall trees

Karen was distracted during her morning walk, not by the beautiful autumn oranges and reds that decorated the maple trees, but by a deep and consuming thought. Was the pastor right? Yesterday he’d said that going through life attempting to create hope based on ourselves was simply enduring life. This was confusing to her because over the years she’d read many books proclaiming they held the secret to living a hope filled life. Some preached that saying a positive affirmation daily would change lives. Others insisted that quietly sipping a cup of tea daily would add hope, peace, and a positive attitude; while still others claimed yoga would do the trick. Some declared a written life plan read daily and adjusted frequently would bring about a strong hope for the future.

However, yesterday the pastor said that these practices didn’t have the power to sustain and encourage one through the difficult times of life because they’re based on humans and humans are remarkably inconsistent. Now, he maintained there’s nothing wrong with any of these practices, it’s that they lack true power to provide constant hope. And since they’re lacking true power we end up enduring life’s hardships rather than living with hope through them. Living with true hope is a gift from God.

The pastor asked the congregation “where does the true power of hope come from?” then waited a moment before answering  “God’s Word. You see, hope based on God’s Word is a hope grounded in theology not human whimsy. The Bible is God’s promises to humanity and they’ve stood the test of time; they are greater than you and me. God’s promises surpass human understanding. When we appreciate and believe this truth we are free to live with hope daily; God’s unchanging hope.” The pastor then read Lamentations 3:21 -25 “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”

The pastor went on to say that God’s hope is a byproduct of trusting in Him. That each day His mercies are offered new to us, His children, when we place our hope in him.  Actively, we need to choose to trust in God in all situations and He will give us hope through His word.

Karen considered all the years she’d attended church and how this idea of basing her daily hope on God’s promises had escaped her. Did she live with daily hope? Hope that good not evil would reign in her life? A crisp breeze ruffled the hem of her jacket and she absent-mindedly pulled it closer to her body. After some contemplation she decided that typically she relied on her own inner strength to get through hard times; after all she’d weathered a lot of difficulties over the years. However, this practice of self-reliance had left her constantly fearing what the next trial might bring. She’d become a worry-wart with a deep inner fear of what might happen to her family next and whether she’d have the strength to weather the storm. Sadly, she had to admit she was enduring life even though she attended church, said positive affirmations, and practiced yoga.

Reaching deep into her jacket pocket she pulled out the printed list of bible verses that addressed God’s promises given out yesterday at church. Carefully, she read down the list. Jeremiah 29:11 – 13; “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Karen pondered this verse for a while. It was saying God had specific plans for her and they were plans for good not evil. “If I said this verse everyday instead of a positive affirmation I’d feel more secure, more hopeful.” She thought. Sitting down on a park bench she continued reading.

Romans 5:3 -4; “not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love had been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Psalm 42:11 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

Hebrews 6:18 – 19; “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.”

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen.”

Karen read through the list several times letting God’s promises of hope warm her soul. “Yes” she thought, “these are my new daily affirmation, God’s word gives me something greater than myself to believe in and that’s comforting.

May you find daily hope in God’s promises.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

A Soul Offended

offended

When bitter strife replaces peace; offenses grow… and poison grace.          
When hurts flood in with dark deluge and pessimism guides our view.
When every path is blocked with battle; the heart turns cold and becomes fragile.
Our minds tell us to be on guard and we hear words through wounded hearts.
As we smolder in hurt and pain; where grace once grew, now judgment reigns.

With righteous heart we dish out blame, we feel like victims in life’s hard race.
We fix our focus on others’ faults, pointing our finger while blaming all.
We throw our shoulders back and say, “They’re the ones that need to change!”
We think we know the heart of man, when God alone knows their real plans.

O Lord show us our wayward hearts, expose our sin so pride departs.
Cast out that dark, offended spirit; give humble grace that knows no limit.
Help us see the offender’s way, through Your eyes and heart of grace.
Help us to pray before we speak… to know our understanding’s weak.
To know You’ve placed us where we are to test our faith, to try our hearts.
Help us to trust when life’s unjust …to see ourselves like others must.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

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

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