Spiritual Life Church

 "Having God in Your Life Improves the Quality of Your Life" - Rev Daniel Hodlin

 


Pastor
Spiritual Life Church
Rev. Daniel Hodlin  
Ordained Minister

Stories of Faith

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The Test
I had it all—a good job, good co-workers, good pay, good perks, the respect of the people I worked for, a fair-minded boss who trusted me. But I was bored. I felt taken for granted. Underpaid. When the ‘phone call came, I succumbed to the temptation to trade it all in for more money and new challenges.

”Whoever digs a pit will fall into it…”
Ecclesiastes 10:8

Within a month, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. I was in the presence of evil cloaked as charm, good manners, nice clothes, but evil nevertheless.

The bright, beautifully decorated new wings were nothing more than stage sets. Lurking behind them were empty suites piled high with shabby discards, corridors of flaking paint, stained ceilings. Behind the new, modern façade hulked aging boilers and obsolete fire control systems. And behind the polished manners and ready smiles were hidden easy lies, greed, contempt for people, contempt for the law itself.

Every morning the CEO attended Mass. Before every major event, the managers joined hands in prayer. Evil disguised as faith, the greatest hypocrisy of all.

A crusader by nature, I fought on. I hung a prayer for protection over my desk. My Bible came to work in my briefcase. As I walked across the parking lot each morning, I prayed to God to give me strength, to protect me from my enemies. I found time each day to visit the Chapel.

”Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?”  Psalm 118:5-6

Time and again, I presented reports of serious problems to the Administration, to the Board itself. When I persisted, my boss subjected me to vicious personal attacks. Encouraged by a handful of supporters to keep the pressure on for change, I continued to prepare my reports. The attacks grew more frequent, more strident. The lies became more blatant, the contempt more open, the greed more obvious.

I prayed for guidance and strength, and kept right on doing my job. I would not be silenced. And, then, without warning, I was delivered from evil. I was unemployed, but I had held fast to my principles. I had not given in to evil. I had not joined the conspiracy of lies. I had been tested, and come out of the wilderness into a land of fresh, new possibilities.

”Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.”
Psalm 26:1-3

Blessings
Have you stopped lately to count your blessings? The number might surprise you. I know it did me. I was suffering from depression. I felt hopeless, helpless, my whole world overwhelming and dark.

”Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with crying; my throat is parched.” Psalm 69:1-3
 
I got help. And I prayed every day. The darkness began to brighten, dawn following night. And I began deliberately to count my blessings at the end of each day. It made a nice change from tossing restlessly, unable to sleep, plagued by thoughts of failure, of all the things that hadn’t gone right.

It was like one of those pictures where you try to find the faces hidden in the bigger picture. At first it wasn’t easy. I was always being drawn into dwelling on the bad instead of the good. But I asked God to strengthen my resolve, to show me the way. After awhile, I began to be astonished by the sheer number of blessings for which I could thank God each night! Even after the most discouraging day, I could find dozens of blessings to be thankful for.

With practice, I got better at focusing on the good things. My husband. A roof over our heads. Enough food to eat. A safe car trip. A pleasant waitress. A sunny day. A cardinal at the feeder. Having the energy and motivation to do the dishes and a load of wash on the same day. An unexpected e-mail from a friend.

To my amazement, the good always outweighed the bad. I fall asleep now in the midst of God’s blessings. Try it -- it’s a great feeling!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord his good; his steadfast love endures for ever…”
Pslam 100:1,2,4-5.

A public service message from Spiritual Life Church and the Ad Council

My Search for Salvation
As a child I never really dreamed of life only escaping life. Born to a drug addicted ex-con, my father was very abusive. My mother blinded by her perception of love tolerated all that came with his addictions. The abuse I endured for years was never known by anyone but God. I cried out to Him daily as a child, wondering where He was. Wondering why a so-called God of love could turn a deaf ear to my plight. Feeling abandoned and alone my only hope for survival was to withdraw within myself. Loathing life and all authority I became rebellious and defiant and quite mean. My sisters grew up thinking I hated them. I cursed the God that had not protected me and planned my own demise. Those plans were foiled due to the uneducated mind of a child. I had no shame in any of my actions or criminal acts. Being chased by the law as a kid was a thrill and knowing I was still a minor and virtually untouchable was an added plus to the chase. Once caught their options were limited due to my age and I was always set free. I see the kids of today act as I did many years ago and know that if they had love with discipline they would not be that way. I wonder where God is in their lives and I wonder if they too have cried out to a silent God as I did.

I suppose I question God because of my past. I can understand how a dysfunctional family can alter the rational thought process of an individual. I see the lives of people today and what they have endured and I understand why they have no faith. Brainwashed in different beliefs that have been empty and barren they have no basis or foundation and therefore are blinded by circumstances. The concept of a God of love falls on deaf ears due to the fact that they have never known love. I see the world and the state it's in and to me it is very depressing. I think that is why I long to believe in universal salvation.

Measure of Conviction
Imagine feeling so strongly about your faith that you leave family, friends and home to flee to a different country, a country where you’re a stranger, isolated by differences in language and custom; unable to find work. But even in this place you and your fellow believers aren’t safe. Once again the threat of religious persecution drives you to desperate measures. You scrape together enough money among you to buy a ship that’s seen better days, a ship that will take you across rough, cold seas to your homeland, and beyond—if she doesn’t sink first.

The ship, named Speedwell, leaks so badly she must be abandoned before the final leg of your journey is complete. Still, your convictions remain as strong as ever. You, along with thirty-seven others who share your beliefs, board another ship. She’s twelve years old, a three-masted veteran of the wine and spice trade. Odds are she’ll be no match for the merciless, bitter cold ocean that lies between you and the Promised Land, the New Zion. But your trust in God carries you onto her decks. The journey has begun; there is no turning back.

Your faith is sorely tested during the sixty-five day voyage, begun in September. You’re alone in the vast northern ocean, trapped on a tiny ship crowded with one hundred and two souls. Many are wracked with violent bouts of seasickness. Battered by fierce storms, howling winds, and high seas, the ship begins to leak. Her main beam bows and cracks. Two men die. One of the leaders of your group writes in his journal, “They committed themselves to the Will of God.”

And then-- the Promised Land is sighted at last. It’s the nineteenth of November. The ship turns south, but is soon beaten back by the treacherous shoals and the breakers crashing against them. You have no choice but to retreat, to drop anchor off the inhospitable, heavily wooded, thick with brush. There are no  cozy houses, no welcoming port, no sheep or cows grazing placidly in green fields. Everyone on board knows there isn’t much time before winter sweeps in, unforgiving and deadly. Scouting parties go ashore. They find a spring and all give thanks to God for providing fresh water. There is corn, too, harvested and stockpiled, and this bounty, too, you take as a sign from God.

But this is a wild and desolate place, not much more than a spit of windswept forest and shore jutting into the ocean. Your faith is tested once again, when all aboard realize you can’t stay, and time is running out.
Tempers flare among your fellow passengers. Everyone knows that if some manner of settlement isn’t established and quickly, none of you will survive the brutal winter ahead.

The tired ship makes her way across the bay to the mainland. Here at last, is the Promised Land, the New Zion, where you and your fellow believers will be free to worship God in your own way. Here, you will make your stand. Winter takes its toll, claiming the lives of half your number, friends and family, ten children, fourteen women, and twenty-seven men. Only by the grace of God and the providential generosity of the native people do the rest of you survive until Spring. But it’s enough to found the settlement that will, for generations to come, bear witness to an unshakable trust in God, and the courage to risk everything for your faith.

How many of us today would be willing to test our faith by stepping onto the decks of the Mayflower?

The Pilgrims  
Did You Know?
A Brief History

Paralyzed by Panic
Several years ago, my parents died within two weeks of one another, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before the end of the next year, I was finding it more and more difficult to go shopping with my husband. Within a few years, I was leaving home only to go to work. I had agoraphobia, an irrational fear of going out into the world. If I did go out, to a grocery store, a drug store, anywhere, I had a panic attack, which, if you don’t know what they are, make you feel like you’re going to die.

My entire life spun inward, into a smaller and smaller center. I made excuses to stay behind in the office whenever there was a seminar or meeting outside the workplace. I did my shopping by mail. My husband got the groceries. Needless to say, there were no trips, no dinners, no parties.

Finally, inevitably, there was a conference I couldn’t get out of. I rode with three co-workers to the meeting, which was being held in a large hotel. In a big city. Downtown. My body was rigid during the entire hour-long trip. I probably said a dozen words altogether. Trembling, I made it through the parking garage and hotel lobby into the meeting room, where I could pretend I was at work.

Most people who have a phobia have had the experience of friends and relatives who don’t take their fear seriously. On that day, my co-workers, two of whom were nurses, all of whom knew I had a problem, insisted I come with them to get something for lunch. Too proud to say no, I went, out into a crowded, noisy city street. By the time we reached the deli, just a block away, I was shaking again. My legs were buckling. My vision started to get black around the edges. I couldn’t catch my breath. Don’t faint, I repeated to myself, over and over. They’ll call an ambulance if you faint. You’ll feel like an idiot.

To this day, I have no memory of going through the line in that delicatessen, of placing my order, or even eating lunch. By the time we got back to the conference, I was a limp, quivering, sweaty wreck.

That did it. I decided then and there that this demon wasn’t going to rule my life. I wasn’t going to let it  cripple a wonderful marriage, or cost me my job. It had already wounded my self-respect. By this time, the Internet was in full swing. Searching every legitimate source I could find, I learned everything I could about agoraphobia, panic attacks and how they were treated. Knowledge is the enemy of fear.
 
Something else had changed, too, during those intervening years. I had re-discovered my faith in God. Armed with that faith and the latest medical information, I started slowly. Because I love books, I forced myself to go once a week from work to the nearest small drugstore to buy a paperback. And let me tell you, I prayed to God for strength during every moment of that modest adventure. What could happen if He was with me? Nothing. I was safe.

And so, with God’s love and support, my husband’s patience, and a lot of determination, I enlarged my world in stages. It took three years, but I finally was able to go Christmas shopping my husband at the biggest, busiest mall in the area. And then, the final triumph. I flew by jet to a job interview in another state. By myself. Was it coincidence that the passenger in the seat next to me was a Christian woman on her way to a conference? What do you think?

As I stood there in the middle of the concourse at O’Hare International Airport I said a prayer of profound thanks to God. With his help, I had done it. I had taken my life back!

This is important-- Not everyone can or should try to deal with a phobia like this on his or her own. Get professional help if you need it. Pray to God for strength and guidance. Take your life back. And don’t forget to thank God for your success!

Chronic Fatigue – Vanquishing the Energy Vampire
First, let me say this--  chronic fatigue and immune deficiency syndrome, or CFIDS, is real.  It’s not laziness, it’s not being tired, it’s not “all in your head” ( although, the last time I looked, my head was attached to the rest of me – how about yours? ) Not so long ago, the medical experts assured us multiple sclerosis was the invention of a bunch of hypochondriacs.  So you’ll pardon me if I take their learned pronouncements with a grain of salt. Looking back, my symptoms seem to date  to a hospital admission for one of those “viral syndromes” that no one can pin down without doing all sorts of exotic tests the insurance companies won’t pay for. The next twelve years were a roller coaster of wellness, and numbing, mind-fogging exhaustion.  I don’t look sick, which only makes it worse.  And it’s an illness you suffer alone, for the most part, an illness you don’t talk about, or try to explain.  At worst, people will peg you as a nutcase or a whiner; at best, they’ll tell you it’s the stress, and that they get tired, too. It wasn’t until I re-discovered God during a family crisis that things began to turn around.  I soon realized how blessed I was to have a husband who took my illness seriously ( that alone means everything to someone with CFIDS ); and stuck by me.  My doctor began to take me seriously, too, another blessing without price.  He started to study the available literature.  Good sport that he is, he even graciously accepted the stuff I got off the Internet for him to read! 
And just the other day, God visited me with a revelation that I was overlooking a resource right under my nose, a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation who not only granted me an hour of his own time, but who gave me the name of a physician just half an hour away who specializes in CFIDS and its apparent cousin, fibromyalgia. In truth, I’ve begun to believe that CFIDS itself is God’s gift to me.  Being able to talk to God as I go about the business of the day has given me a better perspective, a greater ability to laugh, to smile, to be patient with myself—and others.  And perhaps, one day, God willing, the cause – and the cure – will be found.

Heart Attack!
It was a beautiful, warm June day.  My husband was washing the car when he began to have chest pain. We tried to convince ourselves it was nothing more than indigestion, but the pain soon became so bad my husband agreed to go to the Emergency Room.  It was then that I knew it was the real thing.  My seemingly indestructible forty-four year old husband, my anchor, was having a heart attack. As I sat in the hospital waiting room, my eyes were drawn again and again to the spiritual pamphlets provided by the Chaplain’s office.  I’d been baptised, I went to Sunday School for years, narrated the holiday programs, still had my presentation Bible, said my prayers on my knees at the bedside every night.  But as a teen-ager, I thought I’d grown out of God, as if the Creator were Santa Claus and I was too old to believe in such children’s stories. I had been lost for years.  And even now I felt a little foolish as I strolled nonchalantly up the literature rack ( I’d waited until I was alone ) and quickly selected several pamphlets and stuffed them in my pocketbook, for all the world as if I was on a diet and sneaking a forbidden piece of cake. But that night, alone in the house , I read those pamphlets.  And when I went to bed, I prayed as I had never prayed in my life.  Not someone else’s words repeated by rote, but my own, poured out of my heart just as the tears were pouring down my cheeks, soaking my pillow.  In between great, gulping sobs, I asked God to forgive me for abandoning my Creator for so many years.  There, alone in the dark, I pleaded with God to keep my husband safe and restore him to good health. God answered me with a sense of peace I have no words to describe.  You have to experience it to know it fully.  Filled with this powerful warmth and knowing, I fell instantly asleep. Not long after he was discharged from the hospital, my husband was baptised, and God became a part of our daily life. Thanks to God, and to the doctors and nurses and others who were God’s instruments, I can still hug my husband – when he isn’t playing golf! --, and thrill to his wonderful laugh and sparkling eyes.

The Pilgrims -- Did You Know?
The Mayflower started her career as a trading ship, first for tar, lumber and fish; possibly whaling; and then Mediterranean spices and wine.

The Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower first went ashore at present day Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, not Plymouth. It was while they were anchored here that the Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed.

Pilgrim clothing wasn’t limited to drab colors. Estate inventories refer to red waistcoats and cloaks, purple cloaks, green gowns, green breeches, and silver buttons. No buckles (they came later).

The people aboard the Mayflower weren’t a group of stiff old men. The average age was thirty-two. Three of the women were six months pregnant when they boarded the ship. Thirty people were under the age of seventeen. There were fifty-one men, twenty-two boys, twenty women, and eleven girls.

Two people died at sea, the young apprentice to Dr. Samuel Fuller, who was mourned; and a non-Pilgrim, a bully given to profanity, whose death was described by William Bradford as fortunate, the hand of God at work. There was one birth at sea, two (one a stillbirth) while anchored.

When the first women left the ship while she was anchored off Cape Cod, it was to do the laundry.

The leaders worried that the girls were too fragile to survive the journey. Ironically, at the end of that first horrific winter, it was the girls who had the lowest death rate.

At least one of the Pilgrims already had what we would call a “rap sheet”; it would grow longer over time, listing everything from attempted mutiny to the sale of illegal spirits.

The Pilgrims -- A Brief History
The Puritans got their name because they were unwilling to accept the compromise position the Church of England had taken between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism; they wanted to purify the Church of England, throw out the prayer books, simplify the ritual, honor a strict observance of the Sabbath.

The moderate contingent favored purifying the Church of England while remaining within it. Because they couldn’t agree on how to proceed, they split into two groups, those who wanted to follow the Presbyterian model of a central church government over the presbytery of ministers and lay elders of the parishes; and those who were called Congregationalists, who wanted a completely self-governing church.

The extremist position was held by the Separatist Puritans, who made a clean break with the Church of England. As the more openly radical group, they were persecuted by King James I, and were forced to flee to Holland in 1607 and 1608. They settled in the university town of Leyden, but life in a foreign country was difficult and they feared the terrors of the Inquisition if Spain re-conquered Holland.

The Leyden Separatists raised enough money to buy the ship Speedwell, on which thirty-five members of the congregation and their leaders sailed back to England. On August 15, 1620, the Speedwell and the Mayflower set sail for the New World, but turned back twice because the Speedwell was leaking so badly.
Finally, some of the Speedwell’s passengers boarded the Mayflower, which set out from Plymouth, England on September 16, 1620. Of the 102 passengers on board, 51 were Puritan Separatists.
 
The voyage across the North Atlantic lasted sixty-five days. Fierce storms almost broke the ship apart. Two men died. They were well past the point of no return, a small ship alone in a raging northern ocean.

Land was sighted on November 19, 1620. The ship headed south, perhaps toward a land patent in Virginia, but more likely – at least as far as the Puritans were concerned – toward the mouth of the Hudson River. The vicious shoals and pounding breakers forced them back within a half-day. The Mayflower dropped anchor off Cape Cod, at present day Provincetown, on November 21, 1620.

The non-Puritans – the “Strangers” -- aboard the Mayflower were so angry at the change of plans a mutiny seemed imminent. In a phenomenal demonstration of leadership, the small group of adult male “Saints”, or Puritans, convinced 41 men to sign a document by which they agreed to form “a civil body Politick” and promised “all due Submission and Obedience” to its “just and equall laws”. This was the Mayflower Compact, the first plantation covenant, and the basis for the American tradition of government, resting upon the consent of the governed. Deacon John Carver was elected as the first New World Governor chosen by free people in a free election.

It was at Provincetown the Pilgrims first went ashore. They found a freshwater spring and a stockpile of harvested corn, but as a whole, the area didn’t look promising. Finally, word was sent from across the bay to bring the Mayflower to the mainland coast. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth on December 26, 1620. Half of the colonists would die, but with the help of Native Americans, enough of them survived the brutal New England winter to carry on their vision of the New Zion.

The bulk of the next group of Puritan colonists, founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, centered in Boston, were Congregationalist Puritans. They didn’t arrive until 1630, but they were larger in number and within a decade induced thousands of additional settlers to join them. In 1691, Plymouth was absorbed into the larger and more powerful Bay Colony. By this time, a number of groups had already split away from the strict Bible commonwealth to found New Zions of their own in other parts of New England and elsewhere.

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