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Fear Not

Stand fast against fear for I’m with you,
Do not be dismayed; I’m your God.
I’ll be your strength when you waver,
When fear knows no bounds; I am there.
When the world quakes and trembles,
Fix your eyes upon Me and know that
I love you and care.

I’ll hold you in My righteous, right hand
And will steady your feet as you walk.
Beloved fear not; I’ve redeemed you,
I have called you and paid your sins cost.
Be strong and courageous My child,
Be not terrified or dismayed.
Know I am with you and keep you,
And watch over you, come what may.

Cast all of your cares upon Me, child,
I care for you more than you know.
Be not afraid, though storms roar and rage,
For the Lord your God goes where you go.
I will never depart or forsake you;
I am with you, when you feel alone.
Fix your eyes upon Me, I will save you,
I’m your shelter in trials and storms.

A spirit of fear comes not from Me;
My spirit is power and love.
For I give discernment and knowledge and
A sound mind to blanket your heart.
Be anxious in nothing My child but
Pray for each worry and care.
Let your heart fill with thanks
For the good things;
Just trust and stop freezing in fear.

Come dwell in the shelter of My wings;
Come rest in My shadow of grace.
I’m your refuge and fortress; do not fear;
I will guard you in all of your ways.
Let go of all fear and just trust Me,
And seek Me with all of your heart.
And My peace will fall down;
My grace will abound even when
Life’s uncertain and hard.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Joshua 1, Psalms 18, Psalms 91, Isaiah 41, Isaiah 43,
Romans 8, II Timothy 1, Philippians 4

God Is In Control!

My Lord my God how great you are,
You formed the heavens and every star;
You separated sea from land,
You hold each man within Your hand.
How awesome are Your wondrous works;
Your plans and ways are not like ours.
And though our world may shake and fall,
You stand eternal, above it all.

You order planets in their place
You rule the sun and all of space
The heavens are Your holy throne
The Earth, a footstool, for You alone
The rocks cry out in praise to You
The Great Creator, the Only Truth
All idols fall before Your shadow
All knees will bow, for You are hallowed.

Your righteousness is like the mountains
Your wisdom; an eternal fountain
Your justice; deeper than the sea
Your grace makes Satan’s darkness flee
Your love is like the mighty ocean
Your truth, it reaches to the heavens
The Earth resounds all of Your glory
All nature tells of Your great story.

You are our fortress and our strength
Hide us beneath Your mighty wings
May we dwell within Your shelter
And angles hold us lest we falter
A refuge true, are You alone
A certain shelter in the storm
There is no other in earth or sky
That can compare to God most high!

We know Your ways are higher than
What man can grasp and understand
Help us to trust in ALL Your ways
The good, the bad; life’s twisted maze
O fix our eyes on You alone
To walk on trouble, fear, and storms
To lay down all our foolish pride
To see things through Your knowing eyes
So joy will fill our heart and soul
And peace and rest will make us whole.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

Lord God, I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit,  lifting my head and hands up to you

an honest prayer is uttered, no more pretense,

pride and self-righteousness are gone.

 

“take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball.

 

It’s beat is irregular,

emphasizing the deep wounds

and my desperate state of mind.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

A  rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

You, oh Lord, massage the healing balm

Of forgiveness and acceptance into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within.

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Below are the lines from a chore in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

 

 

Forgiving, Again

I’m sitting at my desk with the computer on, iPod playing with an inviting, warm mug of coffee sitting next to me.  They are waiting patiently for me to start work, but I don’t.  My feet are resting on the edge of my desk while I hold our big, fat cat in my lap.  She contentedly purrs and occasionally nuzzled me on the chin.  Absently, I notice how her soft, heavy, weight in my lap feels comforting.  I continue to stare out the window lost in thought.

My chest feels heavy like an invisible brick is pushing down hard between my breasts, my head aches, but it’s the heavy sensation on my chest that’s troubling me.  The weight isn’t the beginning of a heart attack; it’s the result of years of hurt.  This brick has been carefully constructed by the fibrous tissue of judgment, verbal abuse, bitterness, unjust behavior, self-protection, and un-forgiveness.  And it’s heavy, pressing down on my sternum making it hard to breathe.

The unusual thing about this brick is that it’s frequently weightless, as if gone from my life.  During this time my heart is hopeful and I want to spend time considering and praying about my relationships.  With a hopeful spirit I choose to forgive; I choose to lay my hurts down before God. I desire to draw closer to Him and see others through His eyes.

Then something happens to set off old patterns of abuse and hurtful words are hurled through the air and I feel the impact of them.   I feel them working their way into the brick, finding a comfortable resting place next to the other festering pain.  The brick is back, heavier than before, pressing mercilessly down on my sternum and I wonder how all those negative, hurtful emotions from the past can come back with such force after I have chosen to forgive and let them go. 

So, here I sit at my desk with every necessary tool for a productive day.  But instead of working, I watch the tree branches move to the rhythm of the wind while pondering the uncomfortable pressure of the emotional brick on my chest.  I want to know how to truly lay down the hurt from yesterday.  I want to forgive so deeply that past pain will not have the power to mix with and amplify the hurts of today.  But, I’m human and for some unknown reason God made us emotionally complex beings that feel passionately, struggle mightily, and desperately need His guidance.

With this knowledge I ask God for his forgiveness and help.  I acknowledge my pain is real, but so is theirs.  I admit my part in the situation, because I’m not innocent.  Then I thank God for the good within my loved one and within myself; we are both God’s children.  And the brick gets lighter; for now.  Each time I practice seeking God’s truth in the midst of emotional pain they strengthen me and give me courage to forgive, again.

I’m grateful that God’s forgiveness is not like that of humans, Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.”  This verse is comforting and humbling; how can God forgive so completely?  I long to be able to forgive like God, but as of today, I don’t fully understand how to forgive the transgressions of others.  Maybe that’s the point. Maybe our seriously limited ability to forgive keeps us humble before God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

The Bitterness Weed

The 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 inward, 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 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 more negative and our prayer time 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’ve become 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 can eradicate.

It’s true that starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It takes unmeasurable amounts of faith, humility, 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 seems 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

 

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

 

 

The Meaning of Christmas

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

healing-hand-of-god

I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit and lift my hands up to you

“Take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small from the wounds

 

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball

No longer resembling its original purpose

Rendered of little value or use.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

With a rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

A healing balm of forgiveness and acceptance

Is  massaged into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts and messed up lives

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Below are the lines from a chorus in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

God Controls the Course of World Events

is-god-in-control-truth-or-tradition-520x245

Fellow believers, whether you’re Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or undecided may I offer you hope through God’s word.  Daniel 2:21 says, “He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.”  The outcome of this election is in God’s hands, not ours.  Pray for our country, vote, then lay your anxieties down at the feet of God believing He is in control. 

This election has been particularly hostile; passions and beliefs are running hot on both sides of the aisle.  I’ve heard believers say “how can you believe in God and hold that political point of view?”  Comments like this are earnestly spoken by believers in both major parties; their convictions are strong.  May I ask, should we be treating each other that way? Questioning one’s belief in God because of their political views is harsh. 

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul addresses the Corinthian church because of a schism between Christians who passionately believe one teacher is superior to the other.  Paul cuts through all the dogma by asking a few thoughtful questions.  “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  Paul’s point was clearly made; we’re followers of Jesus, not man.  Our faith is in Christ Jesus not our leaders.

I believe the current presidential election has divided some believers.  I believe the outcome could bring about hostilities between Democratic and Republican believers. Whether Hillary or Donald wins, God is in control and he is neither Democrat or Republican.  There is room enough in The House of God for differing political beliefs.  We are members of the family of God and shouldn’t allow human leaders and our political views divide us.  We must seek God first, give grace to fellow believers and pray for our leaders.

Christian, remember the world is watching us and will judge us harshly if we turn against each other.  Extend grace to those whose political beliefs differ from yours; after all, we’re all voting according to our consciences desiring the best for our country.  When the presidential race is over, accept the outcome with God’s grace and continue praying for our leaders and our country.  Then, if you’re still upset get involved instead of bad mouthing the new leaders.  Be a voice of reason and positive action.  Reflect God’s principles.

God Bless America,

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Are You There God?

i-ask-god-the-question-why

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.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear, Don’t Let It Stop You

skiing-2

We stood on top of Hog’s Back, an intermediate ski run at Stevens Pass, looking down at the mogul strewn and rather steep hill.  The night air was cold and crisp against my cheeks, thick with the spicy fragrance of pine and fir trees and fresh snow.  I sucked in the rich night air, holding it deep within my lungs for a moment or two, enjoying the sensation, then released it back to the mountain.  The ski slope was painted with lights and shadows cast from the powerful lights sitting high atop thick sturdy metal poles.  Skiers and boarders were swishing back and forth across the mountain, rhythmically moving to the sounds of nature.

I looked down at Sam, my eight year old, standing next to me, also deep in thought about our surroundings.  We watch as Jackson, his younger brother, and Dad headed fearlessly down the hill swishing back and forth.  I looked at the shiny helmet on top of Sam’s eight year brain and I know what he’s thinking. “What if I’ve forgotten how to ski down big hills?  What if I break my arm or leg?  What if I fall?  What if I fall and cry?  What if I fall, break a leg and arm, and die?  Is this really a safe and smart thing for me to do?”  Yep, that’s what was going on in that head, I knew it, but needed to ask anyway.  “Sam, are you ready to head down the hill?” I ask with a big confident smile on my face. “NO, I want to go back to Daisy chair … I’m not comfortable with this hill, it’s too steep … I want to go down another way” was his answer in a voice that started calm but grew in agitation as he spoke.

This was our first ski run of the season and we were ready to conquer the hill.  Well, almost ready.  We had skied the beginner’s chair several times to regain our rhythm and balance after the long break between ski seasons.  Sam was eager but cautious about reintroducing his body to the sensation of gliding over the snow on two highly waxed boards.  He’d been skiing since he was five and was quite a competent skier.  However, at the beginning of each season it took him a while to once again believe in the skill that he already possessed.  So, I reminded him about how he had skied this very slope many times last year and did well, he’d even raced Jackson down it once.  I reminded him that he already possessed the ability and skill; he just needed to trust his knowledge and body.

There he stood, a pint sized Michelin Tire Man in his grey down coat and thick ski pants determined to be immovable.  I knew he wanted to be like his older brother Ryan who talked about ski jumps and racing down the slopes with friends; or to be like Jackson who pointed his board downhill seemingly  never contemplating  the “what ifs” and when he fell, just laughed and got up.  But Sam’s mind didn’t work that way, it dwelled in the “what ifs” constantly asking question that were too deep and probing for a child.

So, we stood at the top of Hog’s Back, surrounded by the beauty of nature and fast moving skiers, discussing the importance of not letting fear stop you from doing what you know you can.  Sam knew he had the skill to ski down the hill; it was fear stopping him, not ability.  We talked about how fear can hinder someone from growing in character and skill, if they let it.  Finally Sam took off down the hill, slowly, cautiously, but he was moving.   Frequently he would stop, give me a squinty eyed look of disapproval and say something like “this is going to kill me” or “why are you making me do this”?  But, with slow progress we made it down the slope where he promptly asked for a cup of hot chocolate.  After a little rest we went back to Hog’s Back and Sam skied the same slope with more confidence, believing in the skill that he already possessed.

Many times over the years Sam and I have talked about how fear and insecurity can immobilize us from doing what we should or want to do.  We have talked about fear in relation to learning math and writing; in regard to school, friends, football, skiing and faith in God.  Fear is an issue that has resurfaced over and over again and each time Sam and I try to talk and pray through it.

Like Sam, I’ve had a life long struggle with fear and insecurity, so I’m able to understand how real and immobilizing fear can be.  Recently, the table was turned and Sam was the one giving me the “don’t let fear stop you, pep talk.”   A little while ago my husband and I decided it was time for me to reenter the workforce after many years of staying at home.  I spent a few months perusing Craigslist and other job boards, filling out application and writing cover letters.  Finally, I landed a job and felt so relieved at having the whole job hunting process over.  However, as I started the new job I realized how rusty my skills were and that I had a lot of catching up to do to be competitive.

I came home from work one afternoon a few weeks after I started my new job exhausted and rather than going into the house I sat on the front porch and let the warm afternoon sun sooth my up-tight muscles.  Adjusting to working full time was challenging, but it was the feeling of inadequacy about my skills and ability to perform my job that really had me down.  While I sat there Sam came out of the house and asked how I was doing.  My answer was surprisingly honest, I said “I just don’t know, I’m a little overwhelmed right now, maybe it’s not the right job, maybe I should quite.”  Well, someone could have cued the music because Sam gave me my speech about not allowing fear to keep us from our goals; how fear can make us doubt the talents we have and even prevent us from using them.  I smiled at my son and said “thanks, I needed that.”

Fear and its partner insecurity can immobilize us.  They can keep us from using and refining our talents.  They can hold us back from success.  They can prevent us from spiritual and emotional growth.  They can keep us from healthy relationships and keep us in unhealthy ones.  Fear and insecurity can keep us from stepping out in faith.  But with God’s help we can stand strong and face our fears and insecurities. Below are two of my favorite verses that help me move forward when fear and insecurity threaten to stop my progress in any area.

Isaiah 41:13 For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.

Psalm 27: 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

Remembering God’s Greatness

God is real

Over the last year or so, an uncomfortable and difficult question had been circling in Toby’s mind “Was God who they say He is?” This question inevitably led to another question; “did Toby still believe in God?” With life pressing in from all corners and disappointment in fellow Christians growing, Toby needed time to think so he drove to the beach and parked his car in the deserted parking lot. Lost in thought he stared out the rain streaked windshield.

As a child in Sunday school he’d learned about God’s greatness, His creative power; omnipresence. God was the one and only, all-powerful and loving creator. As an adult he had faithfully attended church with his wife and children, but over the years his belief in God had been chipped away by disappointment in humans, in the church, and with the evil they created.

“Who was God really”, he asked himself. If God was real, why did He love mankind? Why would he let imperfect man represent him? Why would he let imperfect man use His name as a surname, Christian, when every one of them was sinful? Toby thought that if he was God, he’d leave humans to destroy themselves with their greed, jealousy, prejudice, abuse and start over with an improved race. More difficult questions came to Toby.  “If God was real why didn’t he strike dead the rapist, pedophile, vicious dictator, and murderer? If He was real why didn’t he punish the religiously abusive minister, teacher, parent?”  Toby’s life was filled with Christians who claimed to be God honoring but lived in contradiction to that claim.

Toby’s mind was so muddled with confusion that it hurt. “God, who are you?” he said in frustration. “Are you really present in this world, seeing all the evil that happens daily?” Toby watched the white caps in silence; his mind seemingly blank for a moment or two.

In the quiet of his mind a Bible verse he learned in Sunday school come back to him. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Toby thought about this verse for a few moments; maybe those claiming to honor God but deliberately abusing others do suffer judgment. Judgment accompanied by the natural consequences of their decisions. Toby found comfort in this knowledge. He remembered another verse, Proverbs 16:2, All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Toby thought about all the times he’d justified his own bad behavior then considered the many times the motivation of his heart had been unjustly judged by others. God knew the truth in all these situations, this fact was oddly comforting to Toby.

“God, why not stop the abuser before they have the chance to hurt someone?” Toby asked. But he knew the answer; Free Will. What a mystery Free Will was because it allows for sin, but hopes for obedience. Free Will, each person not only has the right to choose to believe in God or not, but actually must decide which way they believe at some point in their lives. Because of Free Will, each day a person decides how to think and behave. God wants our love but gives every person the freedom to choose to not love and believe in him; amazing. Toby’s spirit still felt heavy, he was so disappointed in mankind. Then another Bible verse came to him. 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God looks at the heart and Toby looked mostly at the actions. Can a heart with good intentions hurt others? Toby knew the answer; Yes.

Toby started thinking about the nature of God. While thinking about God he realized that over the last few years he’d spent too much emotional energy and time thinking about how other humans had disappointed him, hurt him, and hurt others. He had focused on sinful man and not on the Holiness of God; this thinking had depressed him and caused him to lose hope. Numbers 23:19 said, God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? What a comfort it was for Toby to meditate on the holiness of God and not the sinfulness of man. “I Choose to believe in you God, please help me understand these things that trouble my soul.”

One more verse came to Toby, Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing,” “God please quiet my troubled mind with your love; please be with me Lord.” Toby prayed, “Please help me stay focused on you and not on mankind for you are The Holy God and we are imperfect humans in need of your love.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Let Go! And He will Give You rest

Image result for pictures of peace

When I seek His presence, a peace comes over me
When resting in His shadow, I’m new and I am free
Oh to walk so closely with my Great and Mighty God
Protected in His mercy; engulfed within His love.

When I’m walking closely, with heart and soul laid bare
When I’m clay within His hands, I soar where eagles dare
When I lay down everything that my heart holds so dear
The presence of His spirit falls and makes my vision clear.

When I walk within His path; and hear His still, small voice
The peace of God floods over me and uproots every doubt
When I know that He knows best and rest within that truth
My pride-filled heart melts away; with mind and soul renewed.

When I lay down selfish gain and let God lead my way
Trusting Him with outcomes and all I lose or gain
His presence overwhelms me and I am not afraid
He makes my life a symphony; a poet’s best refrain.

So why does my heart wander, distracted by life’s cares
Holding on to burdens that cover me in fear
And why does pain and trouble, make me forget my God
Why do I strain against His Yoke and act like I am God?

Why do I let pride rise up strong and rule my wicked heart
Why do I think my needs come first, self-centered in my life
Why do I forget that You, always know what’s best
That when I let You lead my way… I overcome each test.

O God please give me eyes that see when my heart turns to stone
Give my mind understanding; a heart for You alone
Give me ears to hear Your truth and shut my ears to lies
That I might have discernment and from my ashes rise!

We praise You in the darkness, we praise You in the light
We trust You Holy Savior, with hearts and souls contrite
Blessing, honor, glory, and power to Your name
The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords; Its You alone we praise!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Importance of Being Grateful

                    cross in sunset

Pam sat in the small auditorium eagerly waiting to hear the main speaker at the church’s women’s retreat.  The theme of the retreat was “Living a Grateful Life” and she desperately wanted help in understanding how to live daily with a grateful attitude.  Somehow over the last several years her attitude toward life in general and her family specifically had become negative.  Pam knew her negative attitude was damaging her most precious relationships and that it wasn’t honoring God.  With her whole heart she desired to change, but it was difficult establishing a new way of thinking.

The speaker began. “Lately I’ve been thinking about how important the act of being grateful is and how it can effect our everyday lives.  Learning to live a grateful life is such an important goal that when I type “being grateful” into the Amazon search box the results show 22,226 titles concerning this topic.  The Bible has more than 68 verses that specifically address being grateful or thankful to God for and in all our circumstances.   Pam thought, “68 verses!  I didn’t realize how important being grateful was to God.” 

The speaker continued.  “Why is it important to God that we Christians discipline ourselves in having a grateful spirit?  I think it’s because the act of being thankful focuses our minds on God, and His faithful hand of provision.  It puts the emphases on God and diminishes the frustration of our daily trials.  Practicing a grateful attitude helps us see and appreciate the many blessings God has given us, even when the blessings turn into momentary trials. ”Pam identified with this last statement; so many things she’d once considered a blessing had become trials in her life.

The speaker went on.  “A grateful attitude is a powerful attitude because it can change our body language, tone of voice, thought pattern, and interaction with others.  A grateful attitude increases our energy and inspires those around us.  A grateful attitude will help keep us mindful of the fact that we are blessed by God and he loves us mightily.  A grateful attitude may not change our situation or circumstances, but it will help give us strength while going through them and make our days much more enjoyable.”  Pam wanted to be grateful; she wanted to be a blessing to others.

Next the speaker addressed the damaging effects of a negative attitude.  “On the other hand a negative attitude will have the opposite effect.  It will drain our energy, change our body language, tone of voice, thought pattern, and interaction with others, for the worse.  And it will discourage those around you.  A negative attitude will hinder our prayer life and Bible reading.  That’s why as Christians it’s imperative that we discipline ourselves daily to have a grateful attitude.”  Pam felt like the speaker was describing her and felt deep pain within her spirit.  She prayed for God’s forgiveness.

Concluding, the speaker addressed specifically how a God honoring attitude of gratefulness impacts the family.  “Sometimes our greatest blessings can also be our greatest struggles.  For example our families are indeed a great blessing.  However, when our husband’s idiosyncrasies start bugging us or when the children are whining, fighting, and generally driving us crazy, they can feel more like a curse than a blessing. This is when we need to practice the discipline of being grateful instead of giving in to negative thoughts about our loved ones.  If we allow that initial negative thought to take root in our minds, it can quickly grow and before long our annoyance with a few little quirks becomes the filter through which we see our spouses or children.  That’s why we need to discipline our minds to be thankful to God for the many blessings He has given us including our families instead of dwelling on our irritation with them.  When we choose to do this it will bring our negative thoughts into captivity and release ourselves to love as God has instructed us to love.”

That’s what Pam wanted, to honor God by disciplining her mind to be grateful, enabling her to love as God intended.  The speaker passed out a list of Bible verses about gratefulness, Pam read them and determined to use them as her daily guide to disciplining her mind to be grateful daily.

Psalm 100: 1-5 (A Psalm for giving thanks.)  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. 

 Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 4:6   do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippian 4:8   Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

Hold On To God’s Promises

                       Victory

My desire is for God to use me. My heart longs to make the right decisions that honor Him. I want to love humanity like Jesus does and to forgive easily. That is my aspiration. However, I keep getting in the way of God’s work. I keep messing up. Sometimes my mess-ups are just between God and I, other times they’re visible to many. Either way, my heart is saddened by my failure. Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever wondered, “how can God use a screw-up like me?” I have. After all, we know our flaws; the nasty thoughts, careless words, selfish demands that reflect how imperfect we are. How many times have we ignored the Spirit’s nudging to reach out and be vulnerable to someone in need? Or allowed our insecurities to hold us back from opportunities placed before us. Oh, the guilt and self-doubt that grows in our minds because we know the truth about ourselves; we are imperfect, deeply flawed creatures.

This leads us back to the question, “how can God use a flawed person like me?” The answer is found in the lives of our biblical heroes whom God loved, used, and blessed. When feeling unworthy remember that Moses had a short fuse, was insecure, and murdered a man. David was too young, killed a man and had an affair. Sarah could be impatient, temperamental, conniving, pouty, jealous, and a complainer. Yet, God used them to do amazing work and He will use you too.

Does this make you feel better? It should. God loves you and has work for you to do just like Moses, David and Sarah. The work He has for you may not end up in history books, but it is important. We may never know the ripples that spread from encouraging one person; or from making a difficult but right decision. Each day we leave a mark on the world constructed from our choices and behaviors and when we follow God’s precepts the mark we leave will be a positive one.

The other part of being used by God is walking in victory. We know there’s victory in the lord, the Bible makes this clear in both the Old and New Testaments.  Yet, many of us struggle to live in victory because we focus on our failures and short comings instead of God’s grace and forgiveness. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Each new day He offers us forgiveness and hope even when we’ve blown it the day before. He also promises to strengthen us and make us victorious. 1 John 5:4 says, “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world; our faith.” And 1 Corinthians 15:57 reminds us,  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Embrace this victory! When self-doubt and defeated, negative thoughts dominate your day and prevent you from moving forward in Christ; claim victory in the name of Jesus and recite these verses over and over until you know in your heart Christ is with you, giving you victory in all situations. Isaiah 41:10So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

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

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

 

 

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