So . . . I’ve Been Thinking

by Shannon Schwamb

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Oh how my husband shudders when he hears those words, and his response is usually “Oh, great!”  Ha-ha! Poor guy, he never knows where my mind will wander next.

The inspiration for my writings quite often comes from the simple, everyday events that make up our lives and consequently, the places they lead us to in Father.

Now, before we proceed; and as a point of clarification; whenever you see me use the term, Father, I am referring to God.  Calling him Father is not meant to be super-spiritual or even disrespectful, but rather has grown out of my understanding of the depth of relationship that God desires to have with me . . . with us.  I know and fully respect Him as God Almighty, but I have also come to know and to love Him as Father.

I really do see myself as one of God’s children and trust me, there have been times in my life where things have gone horribly wrong. Quite often, it is me that has gone wrong, and it has been during those times when I found myself desiring to climb into that great big lap of His, if for no other reason than to simply let him love me through it.  What an awesome, yet simple relationship we can learn to have with Him!

So come, wander with me, let’s see where life’s little lessons will lead us.  And should you desire to share some of your own wanderings, I’d love to hear from you.  Who knows, before too long you just might find yourself saying,

“So, I’ve Been Thinking . . .

 

BROKEN

                 Broken

One Sunday morning my daughter Christina and I were putting snacks out before service. I took from the refrigerator a glass pitcher that had been filled with ice and water. As I turned to hand her the pitcher it suddenly shattered and I was left holding nothing but a piece of the pitcher’s handle. Stunned we both just stood there looking at each other, incredulous to what had just happened.

Spontaneous glass breakage is a phenomenon by which toughened glass may spontaneously break without any apparent reason. There are two possible causes—a chip or nick that weakens the glass post production or an impurity that gets lodged in the glass during the manufacturing process.
Now whether this pitcher had acquired the crack during the manufacturing process, or after, doesn’t really matter, because if you have things, even nice things, and you use them…the likelihood is that one day they will get nicked, chipped, cracked, stained or broken.
In the same way, as we live out our life, we are going to get nicked, chipped, cracked and stained when we:
• face disappointments or feel let down,
• when we deal with other people, and
• when we face uncertain situations,
We are going to get hurt, and possibly even come to the point where we feel nothing but, broken.
Remember the old nursery rhyme:
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, could not put Humpty together again.”
 
And there in a nutshell is where many are willing to let things lie. We get banged up, and our lives are in a million pieces, just like the pitcher. However, unlike the pitcher, it is not a foregone conclusion that we will be  destroyed.
 
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT Paul wrote this;
(8) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
(9) We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

pressed – the Greek word used here is thlibo (thlee-bo) meaning ‘to crowd’. The definition of being pressed is ‘the act or operation of applying force’; squeezing; hem in

every way – a primary word meaning any, all; every manner of or means
crushed – to compress or hem in; to make miserable
perplexed – the word used here means, ‘to have no way out’

despair – to be utterly at loss, destitute of measures or resources; to renounce all hope

Paraphrased: I may be surrounded by a variety of situations, from every area of my life, which causes me to feel as though I am being squeezed by an unbearable force, but I will not give in. I will not say ‘there is no way out’, or that I have absolutely no resources from which to draw. I will not say that there is no hope! And why?

Because there is One who had the power to raise Jesus from death to life. Who has the ability to take hearts of stone and make them into hearts of flesh. One who has the power to save mankind, offer them forgiveness of sins and promise them eternal life…the One who is our way out! 

Recently Nelson and I spoke with a young woman who was in one of the worse battles she has ever faced; a battle of life or death, for herself, and that of her unborn child.

As we sat with her, held her, cried with her and let her talk out her fears. We listened as she spoke of her weariness, expressed a sense of hopelessness; and our hearts were deeply moved. More importantly, I know the heart of the Father was moved.

We told her that while we had never been in the exact situation she was, the answer…no matter the circumstance or situation…the answer is the same. We must hold on to our faith in God. We must recognize that the battles we face are very real and they are also every bit a spiritual battle.

Remember, Satan will use any and every means possible to chip away at our faith. He will apply as much pressure as he can to cause cracks in our resolve to trust in God. So we reminded her of the resources she does have.
We reminded her that Jesus armed himself with the truth of God’s word…so we encouraged her to pick up and read her bible. We reminded her that Jesus drew away from the crowds and spent time in prayer with God, so we encouraged her to spend time in prayer. We reminded her that God places us in fellowship with other believers, and together we are to build up and encourage each other.
 
And oh how she needed to be built up, to be encouraged, to find strength enough to put her trust in God. She needed to believe that not only was He with her at that very moment, but that He will walk her through this situation every step of the way.

Now there might be someone reading this who is thinking, ‘she didn’t need to be told all that right then, what she needed were real answers; something tangible that she can hold on to right now.’

tangible – the quality of being perceived to the touch or sense of feeling

perceive – to know, to understand, to observe; to be affected by; to receive an impression

Based on these definitions, God is the most tangible and real thing we can have in our life.

Some time back I was speaking with another person, one who has gone through some destructive and hurtful times in their life; times that have brought them to the breaking point emotionally and spiritually. Sadly, on top of everything else they had to deal with, they also were dealing with feeling like they had been abandoned; judged by some of their family, friends, and even people of the Christian faith.

Now could I just interject one thing here? There is a saying, ‘Silence is golden’.

Well, silence may be golden for the frazzled Mom who has put up with screaming kids all day; or a teacher dealing with a class full of kids eager for summer break to begin; or after a loud concert that threatened to blow your eardrums out.

But silence is not golden to the one who has lost their way, to the frightened, the used, abused, the broken. Silence is not golden to those who question their value; who feel trampled upon, cast aside, or are hurting. These are the people who need love expressed towards them the most, not turned backs, wagging fingers, clucking tongues, or sounds of silence.

Psalms 69:20 NLT says this;
(20) Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me.

Truth be told, there are a lot of hurting and broken people who would say this sentiment best expresses how they feel. And trust me, when someone is hurting, actions really do speak louder than words, because quite often, hurting people don’t always have the ability to hear a lot of the words said to them; so keep it simple. ‘Thinking of you’; ‘I care”; or ‘I love you’, goes a long way to touching a hurting heart.

Another thing this broken-hearted one shared with me was this; they said that as they try to piece their life back together, they will be giving priority to the things that are of importance to them. I asked them if faith in God would have a place in this new life, and if so, of what importance would it be to them?

Their answer was, ‘I honestly don’t know right now. I do not know if faith in God will be one of my top priorities, or if it will have a place in my life at all. You see, I may put all the pieces back together, but signs of brokenness will always be there. The lines, the cracks…they will show…for they are now a part of who I am.’

Folks, I get it, for the time being the person was speaking out of their hurt, and right then, broken and hurt is what they saw.
 
So then what about us, are we willing to allow God to touch the hurting places in our lives, or have we settled for brokenness?
Coming to the Father banged up and broken is part of what this faith journey is all about. Jesus died for our brokenness. Though when we try to do the repairs ourselves, the cracks and flaws are still going to show; there will always be broken places in our lives. But when God is doing the mending, He has the ability to make everything new.”
 
2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB says;
(17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.
 
One last thing you need to realize; cracks and breakage are an ongoing occurrence. As we continue to bump up against and interact with people and situations, we are going to get dinged and nicked, therefore, mending and repairs will be an ongoing occurrence. 
 
So come to the Father cracked, broken or confused; and as you do, know this, you can have a start over. You can come weak and with a broken spirit. However, staying broken is a choice, as is allowing God to mend those broken places in your life.
 
So how will you choose to live, in the Father’s strength, forgiveness and love? Or will you choose to stay right where you are? The truth and reality of all this is…you really don’t have to be broken any more…the choice is yours.


If We Don’t Love…We’re Not Getting It Right

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NLT
(1) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(2) If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
(3) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
(4) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
(5) or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
(6) It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
(7)  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
 
Love never gives up
…have you given up on something, or worse yet, someone? God hasn’t given up on you; so please, reconsider your stance towards others.
 
Love never loses faith
…have you lost faith in someone…maybe even God? “Father, help those whose faith has been weakened, help them to believe again; in others, yes, but most importantly…in You!”.
 
Love is always hopeful
…is your hope fading…do you struggle to find a reason to go on? “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NLT)
 
Love endures through every circumstance
…has circumstances in life taken front stage for you? Maybe it is time that you put things back in perspective, knowing full well that God can work through any and all circumstances. Is anything too difficult for God?
 
Don’t walk away from people when they need you the most. And don’t wait for someone else to do it. Start reaching out for those in need. Reach out with Compassion, and a Genuine, Heart-Felt, World Rocking, life Changing…LOVE. May God’s Love always be our guiding force.
 
Let us love one another, for love is of God, and God…is Love.


I Want To Know Christ

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:10-11
What a statement the apostle Paul made; I want to know Christ! If we were to stop right there we would have enough to keep us busy for the rest of our lives here on earth. But people being people, we want more! Therefore, many of us
would be willing to embrace the next part of Paul’s statement, that we want to know, “the power of his resurrection”, but many have no
desire to seek the “fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” After all, mama didn’t raise no fool! And truly, who of us would chose a path that 
makes us uncomfortable; much less take it a step further and suffer? Let’s get real, that is not what we thought about when we chose this life of faith.
 
Consider this though; if we truly want to know Christ, as Paul wrote about, then we must be willing to walk not only in the glorious power, but we must also find kinship with Jesus in the sufferings as well. Now before we proceed any further we should probably take a look at the definition of suffering.
 
Suffering -bearing; undergoing pain, inconvenience or damage; permitting; allowing. The bearing of pain, inconvenience or loss; pain endured; distress, loss or injury incurred; as sufferings by pain or sorrow; sufferings by want or by wrongs.
 
Wow, look at this! Part of our sharing in Christ’s sufferings is to do it the way he did it, by permitting and/or allowing the sufferings to take place. Which means we should not whine and gripe about it while doing so either. How did Jesus do it when he was faced with the suffering of the cross? Acts 8:32 has this reference, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.”
 
So besides our wanting to know the mighty power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, what are we willing to give up (loss) or what pain, inconvenience, distress, sorrow or injury will we endure, all for the joy of knowing Christ! It is a personal choice for each one of us, and one not to be made lightly.
 
And let us not ignore or gloss over this one aspect of the definition for the word suffering; “sufferings by want or by wrongs.” Now each one of us has a dream or desire that is near and dear to our heart. Something we may actively pursue, or think of wistfully from a distance. Some may feel it so fiercely though, that their wants and desires literally haunt them, or cause deep distress.
 
The same can happen regarding promises of God. Do you feel you have received a specific promise from God regarding something? Good! Hold on to it and believe that what He said he would do, he’ll do! But don’t allow the promise to become larger than the One who promised. Don’t let the promise, or the want, desire or dream to consume you to the point
where you become discouraged, frustrated, or where you lose your faith, in the waiting.
 
Use the waiting time in getting to know Father better. Commit yourself, as Paul did; allow your heart to cry out, “I-Want-To-Know-Christ!”


“You Must Follow Me”

John 21:15-17, 20-22

(15) When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

(16) Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

(17) The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

(20) Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.

(21) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

(22) Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

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Jesus was not calling into question Peter’s character. Jesus knew Peter. He knew every bold act and rashly spoken word. Like when:
  • Peter declared, “Lord, this shall never happen to you!”  as Jesus spoke of his death
  • he asked Jesus to quantify how many times he must forgive someone
  • he felt the need to remind Jesus just how much the disciples gave up to follow him
  • Peter said, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
  • he fell asleep, instead of praying, when Jesus was at his own crossroads at Gethsemane
  • or after Jesus was taken and Peter was accused of being one of Jesus’ followers and he said the words, “I don’t even know him”.

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

 I was out doing a bit of gardening this

 morning and as I have done countless times
 before I  read all my little garden stones as
 I worked. One in particular really stood out
 to me, probably because I never really was
 quite certain what the author meant by it.
 Simply stated it reads: “A Garden Is Evidence of Faith”.

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Styling

Styling

I was thinking about styles and how much and often they change.

We have experienced the beehive and shag hair styles; double-breasted suits, flapper dresses, mini-skirts, Victorian era dresses, and tie-dyed pants.

Yes, styles come and go; but there is one style that does not change with the current times; that is the style of being godly.

Not necessarily religious…but godly.

Religion is what man has made of the God stuff. Sometimes it is a genuine effort to understand or explain God, but it has also been used as a weapon or tool to keep people under submission. In the hands of man religion can take the form of fear and intimidation; or in ignorance it can be used to judge and condemn. Some also use religion, in hopes that God will like us better.

So what does it mean to be godly?

The term godly means to have god like qualities or attributes; to fear and revere God and to allow this to lead us to acts of kindness to humanity; to live godly is to walk quietly and faithfully before God; to live in His ways.

A wonderful story of godly living is found in the Book of Ruth.

Bible commentators speak of the remarkable faith and devotion that Ruth had for Naomi, and rightly so. But what caused her to be willing to go to a strange land with her mother-in-law? What made her cling to this woman, even over the blood kin  and gods she had back in Moab?

I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t the influence of Naomi living as a godly woman that so dramatically changed Ruth’s life.

Do not urge me to leave you”, Ruth said. I do not think this was said in the form of a simple request; I hear a passionate plea in her words; possibly even desperation at the thought of losing what she had. Ruth had the opportunity to witness first hand the example of a godly life.

Proverbs 4:18 says,

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

My instructor for the Chaplain course I took shared the following story of a man their church had been praying for.

One day the man came to church…and continued to come for several Sundays. At the close of one of the services this man responded to an invitation to accept Christ as his personal Savior. Later some of the people asked him what finally convinced him to have a relationship with God.

Did he hear something in one of the sermons that stirred him, or was it the words to a particular song that captured his attention?

Quietly he said, “I have been watching one of the ladies in the church; every time I saw her she was faithful and joyful in her relationship with God, and I told myself, “I want what she has.”

Living your life faithfully before God and being joyful in it can inspire others to want this for their own life…especially when times get tough.

A time comes to all of us when we must trust God against all earthly evidence, because at the moment we cannot see the way to go. God promised in Isaiah 42:16;

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Ruth wanted what Naomi had. She might not have yet understood it all, but she knew enough…saw enough to know that it was real!

Ever meet someone like that? Someone whose relationship with Father is so genuine, so heartfelt that it stirs you to your very core?

I did. And knowing this person, watching their life, witnessing their own trials and heartaches; and yet seeing their passion for Father through it all; is what started me on my own journey. It started as a quest of sorts, for my purpose was to educate myself about God, in hopes that I would know more about him.

But somewhere along the path I came face to face with the Living God…not just facts and figures…but God Himself. It is a journey that has changed me…and now my relationship with Father is the richest, most precious thing that I have. And all because someone lived a faithful, godly life, which caused me to say to myself, “I want it!”

So you see…the type of relationship you have with God really does show. We can talk a good story, we can say all the right words, but in the face of adversity, what we believe will show through. It will come out in the day to day living of our simple lives.

Daniel 12:3 says,

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

By walking faithfully before your God and allowing that faith to show in all things, you really can influence those around you.

Faith and living godly is what we need the most, and neither one will ever go out of style.

Anyways…I was just thinking

 

 

 

 



Centerlining

JesusEyesAt the time I retired from my job at Sun-Maid we were in the process of centerlining all the production lines. The basic premise is to run each machine, fine tuning it as you go, until you discover the combination of settings whereby the machine performs at its optimum ability. I was thinking about this the other day…only not so much about the equipment on a production line as much as Father…and the centerlining He is always doing in my life.


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Reaching for Father

Reaching for FatherThe other day I was passing through the kitchen and happened to noticed three empty Diet Coke cans on top of the refrigerator, which Nelson had placed there, to be disposed of at a later time. Shaking my head I reached up for them and laughed to myself thinking, “O well, instead of being irritated, guess I should thank him…after all…at least I’m getting exercise every time I strain to reach the things above me”.

Then it came to me…It’s the same way with reaching for the things of Father.


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God Knows

Gate-Wood-Garden-GG318bThe other day Nelson and I went to visit Jerene, a friend of ours who has not been feeling well. As a matter of fact, she recently had an episode of weakness while she and her husband were shopping and suddenly she started to go down. Immediately a young man rushed to her side and told her not to worry because he was trained in medical issues and he would remain with her until help arrived. She told him she didn’t know if he was a Christian or not, but that she was and believed God had sent him to help her.


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Swaying to the Music of Father

Jason and JonasSeveral weeks ago during our morning worship service I noticed my great-nephew, Jonas, sitting high on the shoulders of his Dad, Jason. As the music was playing, Jason was singing, and he began swaying from side to side; as he did so . . . I noticed that little Jonas put his arms high up in the air and he began to sway in time with his Dad.

I smiled as I watched the two of them and it struck me how some might have grabbed a hold at the first sign of movement, clinging as it were, for dear life. Instead, there was Jonas, sitting tall and fearless, swaying in rhythm with his Dad . . . trusting that he was in control of the situation and would not let him fall.


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3 Responses to “So . . . I’ve Been Thinking”

  1. Connie Stoffel says:

    Hi Shannon, love your post! Hope you and Nelson are doing well! Greg and I think about you both so much! So glad we can now keep up with the both of you on Facebook. So excited that we can see all that the Lord is doing at Church of the Redeemer, and Wow, is He not exactly that , our Redeemer! I would love to hear all that the Lord is doing. Send me an update when you get a minute. Blessings to the both of you and we will be praying for you!

  2. donna null says:

    thank you Shannon such a beautiful way to remember How much Father Loves us, like we Love our kiddos and grandchildren, only more if we can even imagine that. Thank you my Friend

  3. Kathy Vercoe says:

    I ENJOYED YOUR NEW POST, SHANNON.

    LOVE, AUNT KATHY

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