I live a busy life.  There are always things to take care of, place to be, chores to do, bills to pay, errands to run.  That’s why my drive to and from work has become my thinking and praying time.  My moment of solitude.  Frequently it’s the only time during a busy day I have alone.  That’s why so many of my revelations happen in my car, it has become my sanctuary. 

I was driving into work this morning feeling overwhelmed.  I was not overwhelmed by one big situation, but by many small situations in several different areas of my life, all moving in a decidedly disturbing direction.  I was so consumed by the scrolling list of difficult situations that I hardly noticed the usual landmarks.  My forehead creased with concentration while my mind bounced from one circumstance to another considering how painful, hard, hurtful, disappointing, and scary they all were. 

The more I pondered these different situations the heavier my spirit became.  I felt as gray as the heavy northwest cloud cover that touches the earth and goes up into the stratosphere; an unyieldingly gray every inch of the way.  One of the situations was genuinely baffling me; what was the right thing to do?  I didn’t know.   I felt  like I was standing in front of a brick wall and the answer lay just on other side, but I couldn’t get there.  In frustration, and honestly as a last effort before getting to work, I prayed.  “God, I just don’t know what to do, Please Help Me.”  Tears threatened at the edge of my eyes and I felt the anxiety leave me like a big exhale.  “Thank you God” I said, and a light bulb went on in my head, be grateful; bloom. 

 I made a deliberate, audible list of good things in my life.  I spoke each item as it popped into my head, and as I listed the good things my spirit lightened.  I felt like the person in the V-8 commercials who whacks the side of their heads and say, “I should’ve had a V-8” only I would say, “I should’ve been grateful.”  This is a lesson I’ve learned before and unfortunately I will most likely learn it again.  A grateful heart is a healthy heart and life is easier with a healthy heart.

The situations in my life have not changed, they are still difficult, but it’s much easier to walk through them with a grateful spirit. 

May you ponder the good things in your life today and be grateful for them.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Help – We’re Dying in the Desert

Does it seem like God is asking way too much of you in this life?  Have trials piled up so high that it’s impossible to see beyond the mountain of trouble? You know that God could easily help you, could easily change your situation.  After all He is helping other people all the time…You wonder why they are blessed while you suffer. When our desired goal seems constantly out of reach; when troubles rise up like mountains; when our needs aren’t met; when enemies come out against us…don’t give up.  God has a plan for you and it is a plan to prosper you, not to harm you (Jer.  29:11). However, He tests us, disciplines us, and refines us to prepare us for blessings yet to come.  God’s sees our lives in a whole and complete picture and has purpose for delays and hardship that are invisible to us and the rest of the world.

Consider the Israelites wondering and struggling in the desert for 40 years. That journey can easily be completed in less than a year so it’s understandable that the people grew sick and tired of wondering around a desert where trouble lurked around every corner. Would their hearts have stayed victorious and faithful had they known with certainty, that all the hardship and delays would be survived and they would in fact, enter the promise land just as God said? If they had understood that God was taking needed time to grow them in numbers and prepare them with government structure and laws to provide order… would their hearts have been grateful instead of complaining? The Children of Israel couldn’t see the whole picture, but God could.

The Israelites looked at their troubles and delays from a wrong perspective.  On the surface they seemed a cursed, joke of a people constantly in need and in danger but really they were being prepared for a great future by a loving God. Think about Jesus suffering – He was beaten, humiliated, and killed when he was completely blameless.  It’s easy to look at him from a human perspective as being guilty and being far less than blessed, but the exact opposite is true. Jesus’ willingness to walk out his horrific trial with grace and his seeing past the pain of the moment has rendered him the most influential and life changing man in all of history.

God had the Israelites, right where he wanted them.  The word says that if God loves us, He will refine us like silver to burn away the impurities in our lives and after being tried for a time, He will bring us to a place of good and abundance  (Ps. 66:10).   
God has placed us in our desert at this time, in these trials to refine us and discipline us and is preparing us for great blessing. God loves you. Even if it seems to everyone else that you aren’t favored…in reality you are very favored.  For whom God loves, he disciplines & trains (Prov. 3:11 & 12).  Our assignment is to humbly accept our task and to learn what God is trying to teach us with an open heart. We can be over comers, even in extended trials…even if it takes 40 years. 

There is no greater inspiration in the world than someone that’s a living example of walking through a terrible situation in faith and hope.  That person has ups and downs but doesn’t grow bitter and hard.  They stay hopeful and gentle, learning and changing for the better because of the hardship.  The impact a life like that makes on the world is greater than any famous person or successful athlete could ever hope for. You and I can be that person and God wants us to be that person.

Be strong in the Lord, trust Him even when it hurts and submit with joy at His feet. Let go of what you want and grasp on to what He wants. You will be a light to many and truly become the salt of the earth adding a flavor that is absolutely spectacular.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Little Things Count

In the course of our everyday life there are things we do that serve God, reflect God, and honor God, even though we may not realize it at the time.  A few years ago I really wanted my boys to attend the church youth group but sports and other school activities made attending impossible.  However, our church offered small groups for teens on Sunday nights where 10 to 20 kids met at a designated home to ate, played games, and learned about God.  This was perfect; I was determined to have my boys attend.  They agreed to go with one condition;  they each could bring friends.  Well, that sounded like a win win proposition to me; we had an agreement.   And that’s how I began driving around picking up a few extra teenage boys every week and driving them to home group.  It was my pleasure to take the boys even though each week was a wild adventure.

One spring Sunday evening the noise coming from the back two rows of my Expedition was several decibels above normal with the laughter, razzing, and bantering of seven boys between the ages of 13 and 15.  The late spring sun was low in the sky but still bright.  Its rays were  filtered by the long, heavy branches of the majestic old cedars, pines, and maples that lined Bond Road creating mystic looking rays of sun across the highway.  Spring was in the air and the boys had a raging case of spring fever.   I leaned my head back against the head rest and took several deep cleansing breaths to help release the tension that was beginning to creep its way from my shoulders to my neck. 

I turned up the jazz on the radio to drown out the noise coming from the back, but soon turned it off; there is no drowning out 7 rambunctious teenage boys in one car; silly girl.   I was thankful this ride would last only 25 minutes.  I found myself smiling and shaking my head many times as I listen to the fast flowing stream of conversation.  I glanced in my rear view mirror frequently making sure random things were not being tossed from the car; it had happened before.  Each time I glanced in the mirror I would see a different combination of heads; they were bobbing around imitating the flow of the conversation.  “Is every one wearing their safety belt?” I asked.  They all said “yes” and for one moment put on their innocent, angelic faces. 

Every boy in my car was energized, feeding off each other’s need for more bantering which was getting more and more outrageous.    A few times I had to say, “Hey, that’s enough” they were definitely dancing up to that line where a parent needs to step in, but they never went over it.  This group of boys knew how to expertly navigate the space between the line and you’re in trouble.   

All of a sudden there was quiet.  Then I heard an eeeewwwwww, and a “who did it” and “Charlie gross” I quickly hit the window button and leaned my head towards it, but it was not opening up quick enough.  Oh my gosh!  I sucked in the fresh air as deeply as I could.  The back of my car was really in a ruckus now.  Six of the boys were making gagging noises and gas related comments while Charlie was doing his best to defend his self-respect when……. Oh, my gosh, he did it again.   The boy sitting next to Charlie started pushing on his shoulder telling him to get out.  Charlie flipped over the back row seat and put himself in the “way-back” compartment of my Expedition. 

It seems the boys had a hot sauce eating contest before leaving my house and Charlie ate a whole slice of bread covered in a hot sauce aptly named “Pain.”  I guess the Pain did not agree with his stomach.

After several more explosions from the back accompanied by loud comments we mercifully reached our destination.  The instant I parked the car its doors flew open as boys spilled out.  I pondered letting the home group leader know about Charlie’s problem but decided to let them find out on their own.

Now, what does this goofy story have to do with serving God you ask?  Recently I ran into Charlie’s mom and we chatted for a while catching up on our respective families and agreeing that life was just so busy.  She lamented about not having time to volunteer at church or go on missions trips.  She went on to say how she appreciated my driving around picking up the boys and taking them to home group regularly.  She said, “I really appreciated that, I think I will try to serve the Lord by doing what you did with my middle son.”

This was an eye opener for me, I recognized the home group leaders as serving the Lord after all they were teaching these young people about Godly principals. They were truly
doing a good work for the Lord and at times I had felt bad about not being able to lead a home group myself.  I had no idea anyone was paying attention to my “home group taxi” and most of the trips to and from home group were anything but spiritual, but I was doing a good work for the Lord and people did notice.  We can serve the Lord even in the little things that seem purely functional and undeniably not church like.

Frequently, we admire the home-group leader, Sunday school teacher, missionary, and preacher as having a ministry and purpose directed by God while our own daily lives are just a series of survival tactics.  But this isn’t accurate.  Our daily lives are filled with opportunities to do little and slightly unglamorous things that count in a big way to others.  Remember, little things do count.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

John 12:26, If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.  If anyone serves Me, Him My Father will honor.