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Time for Some OT Homework

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  • Stephen J. Hall
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NOTES FROM THE VALLEY August 6, 2006 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 8, 2006
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      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
      August 6, 2006

      "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      There are times in my life when I become deeply discouraged about my
      failures. I want to be like Christ, but I fall woefully short EVERY
      day. Pride, anger, impatience and lust are just a few of
      the "demons" that I can't seem to defeat. I pray for forgiveness
      and strength. I commit not to give into them anymore. But just
      when I think I'm making progress, some little event will trigger one
      of them to make its presence felt again. The guilt comes and I feel
      so frustrated and ashamed. Shame that leaves me reluctant even to
      pray anything beyond, "God, You must be so disappointed with me."
      Shame that always leads me back to the Old Testament.

      One of the lessons I've learned from reading the Old Testament is
      that many of it's central characters shared my feelings of
      dissatisfaction with themselves and their failings. Abraham, Moses,
      Jacob, David, and Jonah are just a few of the more notable
      examples. And yet, God never gave up on them, never stopped loving
      them. And because they didn't give in to their failures, but
      continued to place their faith and trust in God, He was able to use
      them in mighty and wondrous ways. Each of their uniquely different
      experiences with God is a testament to His unfailing love and
      grace. The love and grace He freely offers each of us, even when we
      fail.

      Another lesson I found in the Old Testament comes from stories like
      Daniel in the lion's den. In the story, men conspire against Daniel
      because of his faith in his God. Daniel trusts his God, even in the
      midst of the darkness and fearful circumstances of a night in the
      lions' den. God responds to Daniel's trust with an angel who
      protects him. Daniel was saved, the conspirators destroyed, and God
      was reverenced "throughout all nations" by decree of the king.
      Through this story and others, God is saying, "I'm in control.
      Trust me and I will take care of you."

      When I read the Bible, I have this image in my heart of God, my
      Father, standing behind me, leaning over my shoulder and personally
      guiding me as I read. The Bible says it's the Holy Spirit, through
      the power in God's Word, opening the "eyes" of my understanding. To
      me, it's my Dad helping me with my homework! My Old
      Testament "homework" is His gentle way of reminding me that my
      foundation is not who I am or what I have done, but Him. He has
      given us Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, and Jonah to teach us that in
      spite of our human weaknesses and failings, His love and grace
      towards us is eternal and unfailing. And He has given us Daniel and
      others to teach us that even in the darkest of times we can have
      faith that He will provide for our needs and turn even the most
      impossible situation to some eternal good. But the key element in
      both these lessons is us giving our trust and lives to Him.

      "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." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

      My thanks to all the dear friends God has given me to encourage me
      and remind me of His faithfulness and His love when the reflection
      in the mirror becomes disturbingly unclear (1Corinthians 13:12
      NIV). Love you,
      Steve


      DO IT ANYWAY!
      (Mother Teresa)

      People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
      Forgive them anyway.
      If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
      Be kind anyway.
      If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true
      enemies;
      Succeed anyway.
      If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
      Be honest and frank anyway.
      What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
      Build anyway.
      If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
      Be happy anyway.
      The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
      Do good anyway.
      Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
      Give the world the best you've got anyway.
      You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
      It was never between you and them anyway.



      THE SPARROW AT STARBUCKS
      (Author - John Thomas Oaks)

      It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop n 51st
      Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square. For a
      musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world,
      I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play
      your tunes right. I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my
      friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion
      instruments. During our emotional rendition of "If You Don't Know
      Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs
      across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.
      After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing
      along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.

      "No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you
      like to sing up front on the next selection?" To my delight, she
      accepted my invitation. "You choose," I said. "What are you in the
      mood to sing?"

      "Well . . . do you know any hymns?"

      Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my
      teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I
      gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."

      "Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."

      "Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

      My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes
      on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one." She slowly
      nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and
      faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to
      sing.

      Why should I be discouraged?
      Why should the shadows come?

      The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed.

      I sing because I'm happy;
      I sing because I'm free.
      For His eye is on the sparrow
      And I know He watches me.

      When the last note was sung, the applause crescendo to a deafening
      roar. I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole
      year! That was beautiful!"
      "It's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.
      "Why is that?"

      She hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song." She
      grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was
      business as usual. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last
      week." I said the first thing that found its way through my
      silence. "Are you going to be okay?" She smiled through tear-
      filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just
      got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and
      everything's gonna be just fine." She picked up her bag, gave me
      her card, and then she was gone.

      Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that
      particular coffee shop on that particular November night?
      Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that
      particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I
      just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her
      daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe
      it. God has been arranging encounters in human history since the
      beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he
      could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an
      ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep
      trusting him and singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.



      THE MOUTHS OF BABES
      (Jonathan G. Yandell. Garden Grove, California. Leadership)

      Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was
      forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could
      not leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led more
      than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China. In
      their book The Hidden Price of Greatness, Ray Besson and Ranelda
      Mack Hunsicker tell what happened:

      "During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng . . .
      she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a
      sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching
      safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-
      loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. 'But
      I am not Moses,' Gladys cried in desperation. 'Of course you
      aren't,' the girl said, 'but Jehovah is still God!'"

      When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again
      that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can
      trust in him.

      _____________________________________________________________________
      ___________________

      Copyright © 1998 - 2006 by Stephen J. Hall - Notes from the
      Valley and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and
      encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please
      feel free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you
      have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would
      like to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us at:
      steveh.rbis@...
      _____________________________________________________________
      ___________________________

      Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
      everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
      your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-2 The Message)
    • Stephen J. Hall
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NOTES FROM THE VALLEY August 12, 2007 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 10, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
        August 12, 2007

        "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        There are times in my life when I become deeply discouraged about my
        failures. I want to be more like Christ (loving, caring, giving and
        forgiving), but I fall woefully short EVERY day. Pride, anger,
        impatience and lust are just a few of the "demons" that I can't seem
        to defeat. I pray for forgiveness and strength. I commit not to
        give into them anymore. But just when I think I'm making progress,
        some little event will trigger one of them to make its presence felt
        again. The guilt comes and I feel so frustrated and ashamed. Shame
        that leaves me reluctant even to pray anything beyond, "God, You must
        be so disappointed with me."

        I'm going through one of those periods right now. God has been so
        very good to me this last year. Even with Cathy's recent medical
        problems, the evidence of His love and grace are overwhelming. And
        yet, I have been struggling with this growing sense of
        dissatisfaction with myself and the way I'm responding to life's
        changes. Mid-life crisis? I don't know. But whatever it is, it's
        causing me to feel really disconnected from the people and things
        that truly matter in my life. It's a very troubling feeling. One
        that always leads me back to the Old Testament.

        One of the lessons I've learned from reading the Old Testament is
        that many of it's central characters shared my feelings of
        dissatisfaction with themselves and their failings. Abraham, Moses,
        Jacob, David, and Jonah are just a few of the more notable examples.
        And yet, God never gave up on them, never stopped loving them. And
        because they didn't give in to their failures, but continued to place
        their faith and trust in God, He was able to use them in mighty and
        wondrous ways. Each of their uniquely different experiences with God
        is a testament to His unfailing love and grace. The love and grace
        He freely offers each of us, even when we fail.

        Another lesson I found in the Old Testament comes from stories like
        Daniel in the lion's den. In the story, men conspire against Daniel
        because of his faith in his God. Daniel trusts his God, even in the
        midst of the darkness and fearful circumstances of a night in the
        lions' den. God responds to Daniel's trust with an angel who
        protects him. Daniel was saved, the conspirators destroyed, and God
        was reverenced "throughout all nations" by decree of the king.
        Through this story and others, God is saying, "I'm in control. Trust
        me and I will take care of you."

        When I read the Bible, I have this image in my heart of God, my
        Father, standing behind me, leaning over my shoulder and personally
        guiding me as I read. The Bible says it's the Holy Spirit, through
        the power in God's Word, opening the "eyes" of my understanding. To
        me, it's my Dad helping me with my homework! My Old
        Testament "homework" is His gentle way of reminding me that my
        foundation is not who I am or what I have done, but Him. He has
        given us Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, and Jonah to teach us that in
        spite of our human weaknesses and failings, His love and grace
        towards us is eternal and unfailing. And He has given us Daniel and
        others to teach us that even in the darkest of times we can have
        faith that He will provide for our needs and turn even the most
        impossible situation to some eternal good. But the key element in
        both these lessons is us giving our trust and lives to Him.

        "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." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

        My thanks to all the dear friends God has given me to encourage me
        and remind me of His faithfulness and His love when the reflection in
        the mirror becomes disturbingly unclear (1Corinthians 13:12 NIV).
        Love you guys,
        Steve



        DO IT ANYWAY!
        (Mother Teresa)

        People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
        Forgive them anyway.
        If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
        Be kind anyway.
        If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true
        enemies;
        Succeed anyway.
        If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
        Be honest and frank anyway.
        What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
        Build anyway.
        If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
        Be happy anyway.
        The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
        Do good anyway.
        Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
        Give the world the best you've got anyway.
        You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
        It was never between you and them anyway.



        THE SPARROW AT STARBUCKS
        (Author - John Thomas Oaks)

        It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop n 51st
        Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square. For a
        musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world,
        I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play
        your tunes right. I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my
        friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion
        instruments. During our emotional rendition of "If You Don't Know Me
        by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across
        from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along. After the
        tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on
        that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.

        "No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you
        like to sing up front on the next selection?" To my delight, she
        accepted my invitation. "You choose," I said. "What are you in the
        mood to sing?"

        "Well . . . do you know any hymns?"

        Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my
        teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I
        gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."

        "Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."

        "Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

        My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes
        on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one." She slowly nodded
        her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the
        center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.

        Why should I be discouraged?
        Why should the shadows come?

        The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed.

        I sing because I'm happy;
        I sing because I'm free.
        For His eye is on the sparrow
        And I know He watches me.

        When the last note was sung, the applause crescendo to a deafening
        roar. I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole
        year! That was beautiful!"
        "It's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.
        "Why is that?"

        She hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song." She
        grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was
        business as usual. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last
        week." I said the first thing that found its way through my
        silence. "Are you going to be okay?" She smiled through tear-filled
        eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to
        keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna
        be just fine." She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she
        was gone.

        Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that
        particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence
        that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular
        shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just
        happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter,
        who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it. God has
        been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of
        time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into
        a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a
        revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and
        singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.



        OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
        (Jonathan G. Yandell. Garden Grove, California. Leadership)

        Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was
        forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could not
        leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led more than a
        hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China. In their book
        The Hidden Price of Greatness, Ray Besson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker
        tell what happened:

        "During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng . . .
        she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless
        night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-
        year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of
        Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. 'But I am not
        Moses,' Gladys cried in desperation. 'Of course you aren't,' the girl
        said, 'but Jehovah is still God!'"

        When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again
        that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can
        trust in him.
        ______________________________________________________________________
        __________________

        Copyright © 1998 - 2007 by Stephen J. Hall - Notes from the Valley
        and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and
        encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel
        free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have
        something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would like
        to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us at:
        steveh.rbis@...
        ______________________________________________________________
        __________________________

        Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
        everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
        your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-2 The Message)
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