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 man-kinds 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!
How can we dare to shun His name
When we should only stand amazed.

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

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

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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

Hands

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One month ago we were blessed with the birth of our fourth grandchild, a beautiful little girl.   In honor of her birth I’m reposting this poem I wrote in honor of our first granddaughter.

Tiny fingers newly formed wrap gently around my pinky.   I’m amazed at their delicate perfection and I stroke them softly.

Pudgy little fingers power grip mine as toddler feet learn to navigate the world, one step in front of the other.     I’m amazed at the determination conveyed through your grip and I curl my fingers to steady you.

Your warm, firm palm presses close to mine while we walk down the sterile school hallway; it’s your first day of kindergarten.      I squeeze your hand tight not wanting to let go… ever.  I squeeze tight as if I can pass all the courage your life will need through this act.  I lift your hand and kiss it.

A careful hand guides a pencil across wide rule school paper diligently copying each spelling word.   I marvel at the competency of those little hands and wonder what great accomplish-ments they will have in the future.

Your two hands encase mine offering comfort and encouragement; they are only a touch smaller than mine now. “You can do it mom” riding a roller coaster is terrifying to me.    I glimpse the compassionate young man you are becoming and my heart swells with appreciation.

Hands larger than mine wave through the air as you demonstrate the proper way to throw a curve ball; each finger wrapped around it in just the right way.     I observe strength and confidence in each movement and an eagerness to learn how to do it right; I want to will your success into being.  I want the world to be kind to you.

Triumphant hands pump the air then toss the graduation cap with gusto.  You shake hands, pat backs, and embrace all, but it’s the big bear hug that smashed my face into your chest while patting my back that brings me to tears.      My heart fills with a unique bitter-sweet pride. I see the funny little boy, searching teen and confident man all at once and I want to hold on and let go, simultaneously.

A simple gold ring slides onto your finger and your hands hold hers in dedication.     I pray that your hands will hold tight and never let go of hers, I pray you will remain a man of commitment.  I hope you will still hold my hand and hug me.

Tiny fingers newly formed wrap gently around your pinky.      You’re amazed at their delicate perfection and stroke them softly.  I watch as a love deeper than words passes from you to her, and I smile.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

THE GARDEN

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A broken heart is like a garden
Blossom gone and soil, hardened
Summer, overcome by winter
Cold and windy; wet and empty
Gloom hides all that once was beauty.

In perfect time God breathes new life
In winters’ dark; in broken heart
Dark and blight scattered by light
Coming from the hand of Might
A seed of life, in love immersed
From broken soul a new sprout bursts
Beauty growing; hope now flowing
Giving life and a new story.
From the withered, new sprout grows
Crushing lies of loss that’s known
Restoring faith that summers’ come
And new life grows as death succumbs.

When winter tests the broken soul
When death and blight are all you know
Wait and hope in God alone
For you will see His mercy flow
From chaff and ashes springs new life
Birthing hope from pain and blight.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

 

 

 

Questioning God About Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Helping Grandmother Walk

A few days ago I took my mother in-law to an appointment with her doctor and found the trip to be more disheartening than I expected. Sporadically, as we drove her fragile and confused voice would break the silence in my car by asking, “Is it morning or night?” I answered, “It’s four in the afternoon, Barb.” During our twenty-minute drive she asked me this same question many times.   Trying to distract her I commented on what a beautiful summer afternoon it was.  She agreed it was beautiful, but wanted to know if we were going home. “No, we’re going to the doctor” I answer, again. “Ok” she says as if hearing this for the first time. My heart breaks.

Glancing over at her I observe a small and fragile figure that is as brittle as her voice. She is just a fragment of the robust women I once knew.  The years have been unkind leaving her shrunken and hunched, a miniature of her old self. She is so small you can barely see her white head over the dashboard. Her skin is parchment paper-thin and covered with bruises from falling or running into walls with her walker. When reminded that she needs to ask for assistance she replies, “I’m so disgusted at myself for falling.” I employ our standard reply, “You need to wait for the helpers to come get you out of bed, or help you to the bathroom.” To this logic she says, “I’m so disgusted with myself.” And the circular conversation continues but we can’t step off because, “what if she remembers, just once.” The merry-go-round keeps spinning and we’re holding on to the rail for all we’re worth.

I know the above snippet of a story is common to my generation. Many of us are dealing with the joys and pains of assisting elderly parents. It’s painful to see their once creative and sharp minds unable to recognize if it’s morning or night. And the sorrow increases when they say things like “my brain in all jumbled up.” They know something is wrong; they know they’re missing a beat. Watching my in-laws progress from being self-sufficient and elderly to having seriously diminished capacity has me questioning God and His designing of the aging process. Why did He design humanity so that at the end of life, no matter how you’ve lived, your last years may be spent digressing from who you were to a shrunken familiar shell housing a fragment of that person.

I wonder if the soul of those suffering with Dementia or Alzheimer’s remains unaltered by these cruel diseases. Is their soul still able to commune with God even though their mind is stuck on memories from a life long ago? Is their soul at peace even though they fearfully ask the same questions over and over again; trying desperately to make sense out of the fog and confusion that now rules their brains?  Or is their soul also in a state of confusion? I find myself frequently wondering, “God, what is the purpose of all this regression and loss?”  I’ve asked God where in the progression of Dementia or Alzheimer’s can His love, kindness, and mercy be found.

Looking for answers I’ve google-searched and found some interesting ideas on the topic. Pastor Bruce Epperly wrote “still God has power in every situation.  God’s intimate love sustains caregivers and loving friends for the long companionship with persons with Alzheimer’s.  God’s inspiration awakens communities of care and invites us to see the divine in ourselves and others even when it is disguised by forgetfulness and incapacity.”  And Billy Graham wrote, “The real issue, you see, isn’t why bad things happen, but how we should react to them. Will we react in anger and bitterness or will we respond in faith and trust? Anger is a dead-end road–it only hurts us and those around us, and doesn’t solve anything. But faith gives us hope–hope for the present and hope for the future.”

It is the writings of these great men that I’m holding on to because they help keep my focus on what is truly helpful for my loved ones.  I can give them grace filled care while guarding my own spirit against bitterness.  I can remain hopeful that God will not leave them even though their minds have left us.

It’s true,  my questions haven’t been answered; they may not be answered until I’m in heaven. However, I’m willing to set them aside so I can use my energy on blessing my loved ones who are suffering.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Matthew 28:20 Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Romans 8: 39 Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

REDEEMED

 Mary Redemption

Her room was still like time had stopped, Her eyes at nothing, stared                             Until a beep from the machine, brought her back crystal clear.                                       She looked down at her arm and saw the IV in its place                                                      Just for a moment, she had gone back, to another time in space. 

Tears trickled down that old drawn face, her lips began to quiver                                     As she recalled the years gone by and pain that she’d delivered.                                        It all seemed clear, as she looked back; it wasn’t clear back then.                                   She wished to have a second chance, some way to make amends. 

The angry names her mother hurled still made her cringe in pain                                  And knowing that she did the same brought grief, regret, and shame.                            She didn’t end dysfunction, as she was sure she would                                                        And life went by, so very fast; it was too hard to change. 

She looked up at the ceiling, and yelled out “Are You there?                                              Do You care about me? Can You remove despair?                                                                 Does hope exist? Can change be known? If so, then show the way!                                  Hear my prayer, see my heart; I’m buried in mistakes!” 

Questions filled her weary mind as she lay there exhausted                                                 Is it true that God restores the hurt and broken hearted?                                                   She shut her eyes; her shoulders shook, as tears continued falling                                With humbled heart, and contrite spirit; she longed for a new calling. 

The hours trickled slowly by with no response from heaven.                                                But a strange rest had filled her heart and peace was like a fragrance.                           That restful state was broken with a stroke upon her hair                                                      A voice that she had longed to hear said “Mom, I’ve news to share.” 

“A year ago, at my ropes end, I gave my heart to Jesus                                                               Since that day I’ve changed and grown, more than I can measure.                                        I’m learning to submit my will and die to my own way                                                                   The chains that tightly bound us, He’s breaking more each day.” 

“I love you Mom, and know your plan was never one to hurt us                                     You too were hurt, and it’s been said; hurt people… will hurt people.                            But hope has come into my heart, revealing a new path.                                                      We cannot change the hurt-filled past, but hopes with us at last!”  

“For I can see a future paved, with a new legacy                                                                         It’s there for us if we will grow and seek God on our  knees.                                                     In God’s all knowing timing, He’ll heal each hurt and scar                                                          Submitting all and letting go; our lives will be restored.                 

“The devil brought destruction, to our heart and soul                                                              But God is here to lift us up and take back all control.                                                             We can forgive each other, as Christ’s forgiven us                                                                     He’ll wash us clean and make us new as we give Him our trust.”  

“Dear Mother, I invite you, to join us in this path.                                                                       To know that you’re forgiven and all that’s past… is passed.”                                          That withered hand reached out to hers, as tears rolled down their faces.            With breaking voice the elder said, “OH…the years I wasted.”  

“I’m sorry for the things I’ve done, and for the words of pain                                                   I wish that I could turn back time and wash it all away.                                                              But know dear, that I love you, and I’m sorry for the hurt                                                           I need the hope that you have found to mend my broken heart.” 

Just before the morning broke with no bells or alarms                                                        With peaceful heart, she breathed her last, and went to Jesus’ arms.                             Her children knew that she was free from bitterness and shame                                  And they rejoiced, with hands upraised, to hope in Jesus’ name. 

God used her children’s hurt-filled past; took beauty from the ashes                                 As they reached out to hurting souls and others who had suffered.                               No troubled path, no chains that bind, no mountain sized life problems,                   Are greater than the power of God who brings good from our losses.                         But stubborn hearts we must lay down; to change, we must be willing                       And as we do, we shall fulfill, God’s awesome, glorious, calling.                           

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Contemplating the Declaration of Independence

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I’m taking a side trip this post into some patriotic history, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve made it deliberately brief but hope my encouragement for you to read the Declaration of Independence is heeded. I know you won’t regret it.

 This morning I read The Declaration of Independence in honor of The Fourth of July (America’s Independence Day) and once again I was overcome by the wisdom and courage it possesses. I’m also made aware of the determination and strength of character the 56 original signers possessed. Each one put their lives at risk when they publically signed and formally declared the United States of America a sovereign nation. Their convictions that the USA needed to be free from Great Brittan’s rule were so strong the risk of death was a small price to pay.

The signers were a diverse group of men, many had the privilege of a formal education and were lawyers, doctors, professors, and politicians. However, others had an informal education and were craftsmen, farmers, printers, and politicians. Though their walks in life were varied they shared a deep conviction that the United States of America should be autonomous, self-directed, and unencumbered by the dictates of England’s King George III. This conviction kept them discussing and fighting with each other from June 7th 1776 until July 4th, 1776 when the finished document was agreed upon by all and signed.  After a month of discussion and several revisions this group of men managed to agree upon and create one of the most significant documents in the history of man.

The last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is not quoted as frequently as the second paragraph, but I find it empowering. It couldn’t be more straight-forward. “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” What strong and clear words these are, King George III had no choice but to take them seriously.

I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence in full this Fourth of July to gain insight and knowledge into our Country’s independence and the start of the Revolutionary War. The USA’s freedom from tyranny came at a high cost then, and continues to require sacrifice today; a price paid over and over again by men and women whose convictions and courage lead them to fight for their beliefs, much like our Founding Fathers.

This Fourth of July I feel a particularly deep gratitude to our Founding Fathers and their courage to argue with each other but not give up on their goal. Their courage to fight against a tyrant and their wisdom to agree that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

May you know  you are blessed to live in these United States of America.

 Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Hidden Within

I struggled whether or not I should post this poem as it deals with ugly things hidden within the heart and that makes it hard to read.  These hidden things hold names such as discontent, self pity, jealousy, pride, self-righteousness, selfishness, and greedy grasping. Though we may conceal these things to observers and even ourselves, they are never hidden from God, He knows our heart even better than we do. 

Hidden Within
I listened to her stories, of traveling here and there
Of seeing many wonders and having not a care.
I longed to see such awesome things and wished I knew those blessings
And as I sat there listening, self pity washed upon me.
But as I walked away from her, God opened up my eyes
He showed me my ungrateful heart and in disgust I sighed.

Oh God why do I struggle with discontent and greed?
I’ll never comprehend the grace that You extend to me. 

He sat there all in smiles, excited with success.
A new promotion, a big ole raise, his life is now the best!
I thought that he was bragging to tell us all like that.
I sat there with the fakest smile; distain was in my breast.
I walked away and asked myself…why do I act that way?
Am I that mean and petty? My heart sunk in dismay.

Oh God why do I cringe at… success for someone else? 
Forgive me Lord, please change me! This icy heart, please melt.

I listened to the story… knew it was barely true
Each so called fact that was described was exaggerated and skewed.
I wondered why he worked in lies; my heart filled with disgust
I sat there wrapped in righteous pride, my patience huffed and puffed.
But when I walked away from him, the veil fell from my eyes
I felt ashamed how I had judged and I broke down and cried. 

Oh God my God why do you care for one as frail as me?
I’m overwhelmed, can’t comprehend, Your love that sets me free.     

Just hearing her go on and on about her kid’s success
Set my skin to prickling, my heart had some contempt.
I walked away and asked myself just why I felt that way?
Was I that small and jealous? My heart sunk in dismay.
What’s wrong with me, why do I act so selfish and with pride?
I hung my head and felt ashamed; I wished that I could hide.

Its times like these my feeble heart will never understand
The mercy and the grace God gives, in spite of all my sin.
 
The project was my baby, I was so proud of it
And when she took the credit, rage filled within my chest.
Speaking up before I thought, I set the record straight
And in a flash, I looked so bad; I’d taken Satan’s bait.
I slunked away angry and hurt; I hated her that day.
But as I stewed God gently came and washed the pride away.

Oh Lord why do I strive for, importance be-fore man?
I don’t know why You love me, when I fight against Your plans.

Lord, open up my eyes to see what’s hidden in my heart
Help me to change and grow in grace; please give me a new start.
Help me to stop comparing… my life compared to others
To be content with what I have, know-ing that others suffer.
Help me to grasp the reasons  why You’ve put me in this world
Its to exalt Your name alone… not to exalt myself.
Help me to lay down all my pride and with You, humbly walk
To know You’ll raise up who You want, and in that I must trust.
May I help someone succeed… even if I don’t.
May I rejoice in wondrous news that’s good for someone else.
Fill my heart with thankfulness so I might not forget
The blessings that you’ve given me and in those, be content.
Help me stop the judging of, somebody else’s heart
And may I live each day, O God, displaying Your pure heart.
May Your spirit fall on me and color all I do.
Help my eyes to see the truth; bid hidden sin, adieu.

 

 Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Interesting Thing About Grace

 

 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 me sins and all, and gives 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 will not 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 unconditional 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 our unconditional lover becomes annoyed with our quirks and 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 happier 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 like inhaling and exhaling are.  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. 

 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.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Stories from Life and Words of Encouragement

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