That’s So Meta

My husband is one of my biggest fans. He has always told me that I am smart even when I feel like I am not. It is his fault then, ahem, that I am going back to school. I guess I could say it is to his credit or something like that, but I just spent an entire week studying the various metatheories of developmental psychology, so today it is his fault. In the midst of my blaming him for my crossed eyes and my headache, though, I have to thank him for a new perspective.

Meta. I know you’ve heard several people exclaim “that’s so meta” at least once in the last 15 years. It has been a thing, and it’s been quite profound at times, even if it isn’t exactly a full word. Usually you hear it when people are discussing more than one imaginary universe and how they “probably intersect” and it somehow changes their perspective on how one imaginary character’s reactions are good or bad based on this entirely new information. That’s science fiction, but in science in general “meta” means that we are examining the thing we use to examine the thing we want to know more about.

See where my eyes crossed.

I said all of that to say this: We humans are always looking for the reason for the reason, on and on until we hopefully find some overarching answer to everything. We are looking for the theory of the theory of the theory. We are looking for the why of the why of the why. You see it every day. In the news when a reporter says “police are still looking for motive” or “there is no cause yet known for…” and we find ourselves paying more attention because we might get an answer that finally makes us feel secure in our knowledge.

The further I go down this rabbit hole the more I know one thing: that we are designed to look for our source. We are designed to search for God.

God is the thing that over-arches and connects all of our various “universes” or “theories”. He is the answer. He is the answer to our philosophy, to our science, to our history, to our everything.

The psalmist was one of those philosophers who found that answer, over and over again:

Psalm 83:18

“Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

Psalm 97:9

“For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.”

Psalm 103:19

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

That is just a few of the times that God was referred to as over and above all of the things that we are so concerned with.

He is over and above our rulers.

He is over and above our disease.

He is over and above our history.

He is over and above our pain.

He is over and above our future.

He is over and above our fear.

The thing about the meta perspective, the over and above, is that it sees more than the problem or the answer. It offers the view of the interconnectedness of everything. It is what we are designed to look for, what most of us will spend all of our time looking for and what amazes us when we glimpse it. God has this perspective.

This should be a great reassurance. The one in whom we trust, God, can see more than we can ever hope to see. He can understand the why when we don’t. He can see the reason when we can’t. He can heal the real hurt when we only feel the ripples of that hurt.

Here’s another thing to think about today (cause you totally need one): That one who is over all cares about you. You can trust Him. You can trust God to see more and know more and address more than you are worried about in order to take care of you.

Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

That is so meta!

Ronda

What is the New Normal?

               Welcome to Easter 2021! It has been a year to remember, or forget, depending on what mood you’re in when you begin to go through the last 365 days of memories. But no matter how you view this past year, you have doubtless heard it called the “new normal”. This is a phrase I have heard way more than I ever thought I would. Every time some protocol changed, every time the numbers went up or down, every time we changed the face of some activity or holiday that had seemed immutable, there was someone there to say “well, this is the New Normal.” Or perhaps, as things continued to change, there was someone there desperately asking for an answer to the question “is this the New Normal?”

               Easter is a particularly good time to be asking another question: What is the New Normal? What do we mean when we say that? I’m just going to come out and say that I think what we mean is devastating change. But wait, this doesn’t always mean bad change. I mean that it will devastate the old way of being and establish something that no one saw coming. Christ brought devastating change. He came, and He changed everything.

               Maybe you know what it feels like to have everything change. It is more likely than not in the world that we live in that your life has drastically changed. If you moved your entire family to a new place for a job that just went away when the economy of our country changed. If you said your vows with forever in mind but forever just didn’t happen like you planned. If you trained for your entire life to do something and someone just told you that you can no longer do that thing because of a change in your health or an injury to your body. If you placed your trust in a person who turned out to be imperfect and human and unworthy of so much trust. If you had a plan for this life, any plan, which you just found out won’t be happening. If you have been there, then can you imagine what it must have felt like in the midst of the change that Jesus brought? I mean, how did the disciples feel on Saturday? They didn’t know exactly what would happen on Sunday. They only knew that the person, the cause, the belief that they had changed their lives for was seemingly over, dead, crucified. No matter what faith they had, it was harder to believe in the midst of such loss and fear.

               In reality however, the sucking loss that the disciples felt was not really loss at all, but change. The old was gone, but more importantly, the new had come. The old meant separation from God. The new meant reconciliation with God.

Sunday, and the days that followed as Jesus let His followers know what had happened, was the beginning of something no human had known since the moments we spent in the Garden with God before our fall. What an amazing sense of excitement, and fear, as everything changed and was made new. There was life to be had now, where before there was just existence. But some were not willing to give up the existence; it was scary to leave behind the old. It is still that way. Leaving behind what was is still scary on that day when you can’t see the new yet.

See, those people touting or bemoaning the “new normal” are stuck in Saturday. They cannot see Sunday. They do not know that God has made and is making all things new:

Revelation 21:3-5

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

               You can make your choice. You can see the Saturday of your change and think that this loss is where things will always be or you can ask God to help you be patient and see Sunday. You can be patient to see what God will do with the change. Something that is beautiful and perfect because that is what He is, beautiful and perfect.

Lamentations 3:22-24

“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.’”

               There is a reason that this is written in a book called Lamentations. A book where much of the words spent are crying out in pain and asking for deliverance. These words are important to remember in the midst of our lament.

When you awaken every morning, no matter what pain you feel, don’t listen to those voices shouting about the “new normal” of pain and separation. Listen to the voice of the one who’s compassions are “new every morning”.

Happy Easter! We welcome the change of Jesus Christ! He has renewed us.

Ronda

The Lesson I Never Wanted to Teach…or Learn

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Seems so simple! In fact, I think there’s even a Veggie Tales about it, which, as all of us know, means it is a pretty big deal. But what does it mean and why do we do it?

My husband and I have used it as a go to when littles start to push and shove or when they don’t share. It’s one of the basic tools in the parent tool belt. But my littles are getting bigger and some of the lessons I have always taught are being questioned by minds whose world is getting more complicated every day. It is time to re-examine the go-tos and know the whys so that I have an answer when they ask.

The latest test happened just recently when my oldest boy was dealing with his older cousin. Older cousin is reaching into teenagedom and my oldest is just getting into the 3rd grade, so they kind of remind me of a puppy following a big dog. Sometimes the big dog is not so happy to have the puppy around and barks a little. Add to that the fact that teasing looks very much different for teenagers than it does for 3rd graders and my boy was not so sure how to react. I, being uber mom (yeah right), went very quickly to the Golden Rule. But then my boy brought up a point that had me stumped: What do we do when the other person still doesn’t treat us the way we want to be treated?

Huh. Never really considered that.

Then I thought about it. Not once does the Golden Rule guarantee that we will be treated as we want to be treated.

That reminded me of my biggest revelation as an adult and the lesson I did not want to teach: You cannot make anyone behave the way you want them to. You can cajole and beg and manipulate and influence, but you cannot make them do anything.

The only person you can make obey the Golden Rule is you.

You want to know the really tough part about that lesson? Even if you follow the Golden Rule, your world will not suddenly be perfect. Kinda feels like a disappointment. So why do it?

There is a faith lesson here. God, your Good Father, has told you what to do, how to be a good person.

Listen, do, wait, get hurt, beg for help, listen, do, wait, get hurt, beg for help, listen, do, wait, teach.

When you do what God asks you to do, even when there is no obvious reward, even when you get hurt doing what is right, what you do will not only make you the person you are supposed to be, it will teach those who are watching you.

Yes, as a Christian, people are watching. Even if you aren’t a parent, people will watch you to see what you do. So, when you treat others as you would have them treat you and they do not treat YOU as you would have them treat you, who watched that happen?

Who was scrolling through Facebook and saw that exchange between you and that person who was a distant friend of a friend who thought your opinion was bunk?

When you sold that thing at a garage sale and the person accidently handed you more cash than you had agreed on, who was watching you?

You’ve been listening to me go on and on about this rule. Let’s head to the source, Jesus, and see what He actually said:

Matthew 7:7-12

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Isn’t it so stabilizing to go to the Word of God!

We find here an answer to the dizzying search I began in this post. Why do we do good when there is no guarantee that we will be treated well? We do good because we have a Good Father in Heaven who gives us every good thing that we need in this life.

So be good to others when it makes no sense.

Show them your Good Father.

Teach them what your Father has taught you. They are watching.

Work to become the good person God made you to be.

Have a Golden Week,

Ronda

The Search for Me

I think I’m telling you exactly how old I am, but well, most of you know anyway, so here goes. When I was in high school, one of the popular phrases in youth group was, “When the bell rings, remember who you are and whose you are.” Well, I no longer hear a bell every 88 minutes (block scheduling and all), but I still have a need to remember who I am.

There are multitudinous opportunities to define ourselves by what side we take in the current argument on Social Media or Television News or even in the Church. But if we do that, we are changing our “identity” every few conversations and re-defining ourselves with every new Meme. This will not do. The human mind was not created for such instability. It will lead to depression, confusion and anger. Does that sound at all familiar?

So how do we remember who we are? The answer has always been and will always be in the second part of my high school mantra: I have to remember WHOSE I am.

I am a creation of God. By the Grace of God I am a child of God, an heir to the kingdom of God. My identity, and therefore my action, is based in His Kingdom. When I remember this, I’m a lot less likely to get pulled around by all of the currents of identity available in my world. I’m less likely to think badly of myself or others. I’m less likely to take myself too seriously and less likely to underestimate my worth.

A couple of weeks ago, SouthPoint Church in Bixby, Ok had a speaker who expounded beautifully on this idea. Her name is Valencia Anderson and if you are curious, here is the sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaCI-pMNMQw&feature=emb_logo

She explains in a very clear way that we are not to find our identity in anything but God and that when we do, problems begin.

Don’t mistake your identity.

When we forget who and whose we are, we are open to letting others define us, or mis-define us. When this happens we find angst and derision and anger and misunderstandings that can lead to lifelong division.

Storytellers over the centuries have found material in mistaken identities. Shakespeare wrote of several characters who pretended to be what they were not to attain a goal and then found that there was more trouble in the mistaken identity than there would have been if they had just told the truth. Hallmark movies (a Holiday addiction, I must admit) are rife with mistaken identity. Generally, this means that the girl who accidentally showed up for a job/appointment/castle gets to spend a while dancing around in someone’s shoes until the boss/man/prince that she really really likes finds out and won’t speak to her for at least a good montage and then all is right when we all admit the truth.

OH, if life were like stories….but it kind of is.

See, if the character had just come out and said who they were to begin with, there would have been no story, no drama. No drama is a bad thing for Hallmark and Shakespeare but an oh so good thing in real life.

Avoid the drama. Have your confession scene early. Stand in front of the mirror and remember who you are. Remember that you are not defined by which side of the argument you fall on. If you’re doing it right, the side of the argument you eventually fall on, if there is any reason to be in the argument to begin with, will be defined by who you are. After you have left the mirror and must face those on the outside who would mis-define you based on what they think or want you to be, remind them who you are.

REMINDER: You are a child of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ and offered freedom from sin and death through the Grace of God. All you need to do is accept Him as your Savior and you will be re-defined, properly this time.

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

This means you’ve got back-up.

Have you ever seen a cop drama or western movie where the hero has no one backing him up? When the hero is unsupported, it is hard to believe that he will win. When a storyline includes no back-up it is either incredibly depressing or unbelievable.

My favorite kinds of movies all include that moment near the end when you feel like there is no hope left and the bad guy is talking about how alone the hero is or how there is no point in fighting because no one cares, and boom, best friend or that person you thought was mad and left sweeps in and gives the hero just enough cover or distraction to win the day and get the bad guy. There’s always that “I had your back the whole time, buddy” look somewhere near the end of the action, too. Ah, my favorite!

My favorite moments in my life are when I have to ask for help. Sure, not my favorite at the time. There is generally a lot of hair pulling or cussing or some other completely unflattering behavior before I ask for help. But the reason these moments are my favorite is the jolt I get when I remember that no matter what, I have someone there to help, I have back-up. When the enemy, the devil, comes to take what peace I have, all I have to do is call my “good buddy” God and I have all of the strength and guidance and support that I need to keep my peace. Ok, so “good buddy” may be the understatement of the year as far as God’s place in my life, but you see my point.

All help comes from my Father in heaven. If that means I need a good book or a good song or a good friend or someone to help me hold on when the world is out of whack, it all comes from the Father. That’s a good thing, because He never changes, He provides what we need in a world that constantly changes.

God is always the same. We are defined by Him. This is a steady definition. Remember back an hour ago (see I can admit I’m long winded) when you read paragraph 2 of this blog? I said the human mind was not made for instability. That is because we were made to find our definition, who we are, in God, the most stable being.

Find who you are in God. Do not be mis-defined by the shifting shadows of this world. Find your strong back-up, your strong foundation, here:

James 1:17 NIV

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

I pray that we all find our peaceful and grateful selves in Christ this week.

Ronda

The Blessing of My Weakness

I’m so tired. I’ve said this more than once during the last couple of months, and while I have been lacking in sleep (nothing new in our house), the words do not mean that I would like to take a long nap and then everything would be better. No, I believe that I have reached the end of myself several times since last January, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I have discovered my weakness, but I’m not sure that this is a bad thing. I think I have discovered something to be thankful for.

I’ve discovered that when my spirit is tired, I have less patience with others. This is bad.

I’ve discovered that when my spirit is tired, I hold tighter to my opinions, wrong or right. This is bad.

I’ve discovered that when my spirit is tired, I look for anything to sustain me for a minute longer. This is bad.

I’ve discovered that when my spirit is tired, nothing within myself will help me to carry on. This is good.

I’ve discovered the only thing to do when my spirit is tired is to turn to Jesus and say (or scream) “I don’t know what is happening, I don’t know what to do, and I cannot go one more step without you!” This is the best.

Knowing it is best to lean on Jesus, where do I look to find Jesus?

Charles Stanley recently said on his In Touch Ministries Radio minute (https://www.intouch.org/listen/todays-moment/the-catalog) that if you wanted to find out what was in the Sears warehouse back before you could go to the store, and before the internet, you would look in the Sears catalog. He went on to say that if you want to know what God has to say, you look in His catalog, the Bible.

So I went to God’s catalog to find what He had for me. Want to know what I found?

I found Biblical figure after figure struggling with their own tired spirit.

David spent much of his life seeking God when he was weary or struggling. The Psalms are full of his prayers to the Lord during the harshest times. I’m pretty sure (though the Bible says nothing of it) that he wasn’t hiding from a pandemic, but I kinda get where he was coming from, hiding in a cave from enemies who wanted him dead. Ok, I said kinda! I know that I really have no frame of reference for where David was in his actual life, but I know the man’s spiritual pain. I have often found his words encouraging when I am crying out to the same God for help. He very helpfully recorded the result of his cry here in Psalm 34.

Psalm 34:4-6

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.”

So much hope is found in those words. I know that our God is one who answers, and delivers (even from my own fear). I look forward to being “radiant” as I look to my God. My face is radiant because my tired spirit has reached the realization that I never really held everything all together in the first place. It was always by the strength of my Great God and the Grace of Jesus Christ that I was able to do anything at all.

This last lesson, that my strength comes from only the Lord, I learned from Nehemiah. This man was given a huge task. He was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. There is so much symbolism in this rebuilding story, but one thing I would like you to take away (please, if you get the time study all that had to go into the return of Jerusalem in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah), what I want you to remember is here in Nehemiah 6.

Nehemiah 6:9

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’”

It was that simple. There was no debating about where the strength to complete the task was going to come from. There was no considering all of the scary things the people around him were trying to say. He knew that they were trying to frighten him and all of his builders, he might have even felt that fear deep in his bones, but God would keep the fear from weakening their hands. God would ensure that the task would be completed. His tired spirit’s prayer was simple “Now strengthen my hands.”

I pray this week, for me and for you, that God would strengthen our hands to the task He has given us. I pray that He would make our faces radiant as we turn towards Him. I pray that He would awaken and strengthen our tired spirits.

Ronda

Hero Me Not – 365 to Thank You

Where I learn that I am thankful for the reminder that I am only human.

The world has really started to run on hyper speed lately! This is truly amazing when you think that we were supposed to all be huddled in our carb-filled toilet paper nests binge watching Tiger-something on the only streaming service that cares enough to ask if you are still watching or if you have passed out yet again on the couch. I was under the impression that this was pretty close to the standard this year was to have reached until “this all blows over”. Can you hear the eye rolls? No, I’m not getting political or scientific. I have taken all of the precautions that a thinking person should, and I have thought a whole lot. I’m just mentioning all of this because it seems like everything really has sped up and stood still all at the same time. Some of you will say “It’s the Rona” or “Election year”, but I really believe that this is just human nature. We run from thing to thing in the wind of the latest absolute need.

But this isn’t God’s nature. He is still God. No pandemic or election will change that. He is not huddled in our nests or raging on our streets. He is walking with us, waiting patiently for us to listen and do His will. He has already finished all of this. You may have heard the saying “don’t re-invent the wheel”, well, don’t struggle in fear of what your God has said is Finished.

With that in mind, I have been limiting my news feed sessions (some days more effectively than others) to about two per day and I have found one thing pulsing in my spirit while I allow the stories from our world to sink in: I am so glad that no one has ever made a statue of me.

I don’t want to get into the argument of should we or shouldn’t we, I just want to examine the why we already have.

Statues and Memorials are put up to remind us of something or someone from our past, something important to remember. God ordered His people to put up memorials to help them remember all that He had done for them. It isn’t a new practice and we are not facing a novel problem. If you happen to have had a statue of yourself erected in a city center or somewhere equally auspicious, someone thought that something you did in your life was worth it. But, here we are again on human nature, this also means that someone somewhere down the road may think that you do not deserve it because of some other thing you did. We are nowhere near perfect, no matter how heroic we may seem. And humans change with the current and we judge each other harshly. It seems that when we erect a statue, we forget that the person we are creating an image of is, indeed, a person and not a cartoon super hero.

I have a suggestion: let your heros sit on chairs, not thrones or pedestals. My husband has said that Abraham Lincoln is his most and least favorite President. I understand this thinking. You can admire a man for something he did that is good and worthy of praise, and you don’t have to forget all the things that they did that were not good and not worthy of praise.

No, I don’t want a statue made in my image. I know too much about me.

But God knows more. God knows the things that my mind hides from me in an effort to find myself likable on a daily basis. God knows all of my thoughts….ALL of my thoughts. And He loved me enough to save me from my sin. He loved me enough to show me the perfect path that was His plan from the beginning and to discipline me to stay close to Him.

No, I don’t want a statue, or the approval of this world. That is superfluous to what I have already been given.

Seek first His Kingdom! Seek first His Glory!

Everything else is cake; cake that will be eaten, perhaps enjoyed and then thrown into the trash by hands who do not know what it took to make it.

Everything else is statues; venerated one day, forgotten, then remembered again, if only in a faint light of their original intent, and then fallen.

Everything else is a streaming video service; they give you what you thought you wanted until hours later when you have wasted your time and have to yet again answer “yes, I’m still watching” to an uncaring robot who really only asked because it was programmed to (and can sometimes seem a little judgy).

Sort of kidding on that last one, but you see what I’m getting at. What seems desperate and important for us to grasp at here on this Earth is meaningless when we compare it to the freely given Great Gift of our Loving God.

I could go on for another 800 or so words, but God has already told this story over and over so, here you go:

In this portion of 2 Chronicles chapter 7, Solomon has just finished and dedicated the Temple. This was a huge feet passed on to him by his father. It had to be a really high time in his life, a time when he felt there should be statues of him (as wise as he was he was still a man). But God took him by the hand and reminded him of his humanity and the humanity of all of the people. God quietly let him know that there would be mistakes, but that if he/we would listen to God we would be fine. Here it is in the Message translation (I’ve read several and I like what all of them have to say, so please read this section in your favorite translation.):

2 Chronicles 7:12-18

“God appeared to Solomon that very night and said, “I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship. If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. From now on I’m alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. Believe me, I’ve chosen and sanctified this Temple that you have built: My Name is stamped on it forever; my eyes are on it and my heart in it always. As for you, if you live in my presence as your father David lived, pure in heart and action, living the life I’ve set out for you, attentively obedient to my guidance and judgements, then I’ll back your kingly rule over Isreal – make it a sure thing on a sure foundation. The same covenant guarantee I gave to David your father I’m giving to you, namely, ‘You can count on always having a descendant on Israel’s throne.’”

The next few verses are what happens if the God-defined people don’t stay close to God. It is instructive to read and I advise it; in fact, I advise reading as much of the Bible as you can whenever you can.

What I really want to get out of all of this and what I would pray that you get, is this:

Don’t put the approval of man or the good in this life over the Salvation and life with God offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Have a good week,

Ronda

Fear and My Thankful Heart: 365 Days to Thank You – I’ve stopped counting weeks ;)

It has been a very, very long time since you have heard from me. I’m sorry. I’ve found myself fighting a very old enemy and, honestly, I haven’t been fairing well.

You see, I was panicking before it was popular. Seriously though, I’ve had panic attacks. I’ve had irrational fear. I’ve had social anxiety. I’ve had fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success (yes it’s a thing), and fear of fear. I’ve never had stage-fright though (this is the point where everyone who has known me for a long time is giggling at their computer screens). The point is I’ve been battling with the wrong kind of fear for a very long time. It has slowed me down and kept me from many things, but in this time when the whole world is wrapped up in the wrong kind of fear….it took my voice.

The wrong kind of fear wrapped me up and… Took. My. Voice!

I couldn’t think of one thing that would be useful for any of you. I couldn’t think of one thing that I felt I could say. I couldn’t see for all of the panic around me. Instead I found myself, like so many others, on a binge diet of network news and an IV drip of Facebook.

This would not do.

So, it is time to examine both kinds of fear, the wrong and the right. I need to see why fear is a part of me and what has gone wrong. I say that because I believe that God gave us our emotions and our minds and I know for a fact that fear is a very basic part of our psychophysiology (been waiting years to use that word in a sentence, but I digress). Well, if God made me and fear is a basic response in me, what is going wrong that it now has such disastrous effects?

Follow me here for a bit as I ask you to use your imagination.

This is how I see it: Fear, as I know it, is like a giant, elaborately wrapped present. Think, overwhelmingly attractive, first gift to be picked and stolen in a White Elephant gift party, wrapping. When we see the wrapping we want to hold it and look at it forever, but that’s not how a present works, is it.

The first step when you receive a present is to take off that amazing wrapping. The temptation here for generations of grown women is to keep it “for later”. The problem for generations of toddlers is the idea that the pretty wrapping is the gift. Both of these groups draw a perfect picture of what I was doing with the “wrapping”  (the panic attacks and the fear of change, etc.) on my fear present. I was keeping it. I was admiring it. But, attractive as it may be to sit in the dark with the voices of doom, that is not what you are to do with the “wrapping” is it? You throw that stuff away. You don’t need it taking up room in some overstuffed closet in your mind. Throw it away. This wrapping was not what the gifter wanted you to have. This is the wrong kind of fear and it will steal everything good away from you.

The second step is opening the box. The box is utilitarian; serving its original purpose. This is the original response in my body. This is the response that keeps me away from that rattling sound in a field. This is the response that keeps me from eating without washing my hands. The response that makes me question the motives of a stranger before following them blindly. The box is good. The box has a purpose. But the box is not the gift. If we stop here we will be deeply disappointed or at least bored and we will never receive the gift. This type of fear reveals nothing. It keeps you living, not alive.

The third step is the gift. Beautiful and precious, this is what the gifter, in this case God, wanted us to have when He gave us the present. This is what is referred to in the Bible as the “fear of the Lord”. This is what reminds us that God is Holy, God is Pure, God is Almighty and we are not. This is what keeps us humble in the almighty presence of God. This is the fear that leads to wisdom. This is the fear that I am truly thankful for.

If you are still unsure of the difference between the fear I have labeled “wrapping” and the fear of God here is a quick indication:

The fear the world gives you (and wraps the true gift in) will paralyze you and close you down. You will not see anything outside of the fear.

The fear of God gives you hope and freedom. You know that you are not the most powerful being. You can rest in the knowledge that He doesn’t have to rest and plan in the knowledge that His plan is perfect and even if your plan does not work out, He has it all in hand.

Yes, my gift analogy isn’t perfect. but I believe that it might help you as it helped me.

One last thing to remember: God didn’t wrap the gift, I did. My human mind grabbed what the world was offering and wrapped up the precious gift of fear with all the fancy, unnecessary, wrapping.  Again, throw that stuff away! Do not keep it. It will just clutter up your heart and distract from the gift:

God is almighty.

The only one worthy of awestruck fear is God.

No one and nothing else is as big or as powerful.

This present time that scares us so much is not as big and as powerful as our God.

Keep this in mind as you remember that this awesome, powerful God is also the one who says He loves you. He is the one who made the ultimate sacrifice so that your impurity could be made pure and you could be with Him.

God Bless and Keep you,

Ronda

Thankful in the Routine: 365 Days to Thank You Week 11, 12 and 13

This post has been the hardest to write. Not because I don’t have anything to say on the subject. God knows that I am an expert in the mundane routines of life. It has been difficult because it keeps changing shape. Once I think I’ve got a hold of what needs to be written, it changes. But that, I suppose is the irony in the mundane: It is routine only until it is replaced by another routine.

But that is philosophy for another day. I’m here to talk about being thankful for the mundane. Those moments that are neither valley nor mountain peak. It seems to be harder to remember thankfulness here. We are just taking the next step or grabbing the next handhold. How do you say thank you for that? Let’s bring it down to reality and out of metaphor: How do you say thank you for the 798th load of laundry?

It is a hard topic to pin down, until it is disrupted. When our routine is disrupted by excitement or illness or fear or loss, it is easier to look back and be thankful for the day when all we had to think about was the next thing on our list. I know I have been there. When I sit in fear of the next huge thing happening in the world, I find myself wishing for the routine. I want to only be worried about the dishes.

But then, it all falls back into a routine again and I forget to be thankful for the dishes.

Be thankful for the routine.

Be thankful for the mundane.

Be thankful for the walk.

Not just when you are faced with no longer being in the routine or the mundane or the walk, but right now, while you live it.

There is a book I was given recently that really has shaped my perspective on all of this. It is written by an author who had the choice, and as the world says, the right, to fall into bitterness and anger and to feel slighted by the world; but she didn’t. This woman, Elisabth Elliot, has so much to speak into our lives about suffering and loss and about joy and gain. But then, in the middle of all of that she hits me with this quote:

“When I get up in the morning I do try to make it a practice to do some of my praying first thing in the morning. It’s a good thing to talk to God before you start talking to anybody else. I try to begin my prayers with thanksgiving. There’s always a long list of things for which to be thankful. One of them is I can get up in the morning, that I can be in a comfortable place, looking out over a very beautiful view. I thank God for the sleep of a night, for health and strength and for work to do.” –Elisabeth Elliot ‘Suffering is Never for Nothing’ (2019 B&H)

Some of you know who Elisabeth Elliot is, some of you do not (I guarantee it is worth looking her up), but suffice it to say, she knows what loss is, she knows what joy is, she knows what it is to walk with the Lord and live life thankfully. In this brief sentence she brilliantly states what I have been trying to say here. Live in thankfulness, even when every day is very much the same.

Do you remember a movie called “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray? Probably a movie you should watch on ‘Family View’ filtering if you plan to watch with the kiddos. The jist of the movie is this: a weather man gets stuck in a small town reliving the same Groundhog Day over and over until he gets it “right” but no one is there to tell him what “right” is so he has to stumble about on his own finding out every aspect of that particular day. By the time he gets to move on to February 3rd, he has begun to appreciate all of the things that he took so for granted before the time loop started. 

Sometimes I feel stuck in the same day as well. I know I’m not really stuck in the same day, but you get my feeling. In order for me to get out of my rut and feel like I’m moving somewhere I have to find a way to be thankful for each tiny aspect of each day.

It is more difficult to keep up thankfulness when we are moving through the routine, and because it is more difficult it is more important to make it an intentional thing.

What every day routines are you thankful for today?

Ronda

Thankful FOR the Bad Times: 365 Days to Thank You Week 10

I am blessed with some very strong, wise people in my life. The first is my mother, who is more insightful and kind and wise than she will ever tell you and who has dealt with more pain than you would imagine just meeting her in passing. Then there is my father, who is strong and good (though he will never admit it) and has led me to search out our Heavenly Father with every facet of my intelligence and spirit. I believe it is they who led me to find my wonderful husband. He will never admit to his kindness or his goodness. He sees the worst in himself and often misses the absolutely amazing things he does every day. His capacity for love and his ability to protect and care for us as his family are things he cannot see, but I adore. He was one of the first to let me know how our past difficulties are not to be regretted, but appreciated for how they shaped the person we are now. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with him. In our life together we have found ourselves in San Antonio and I am now surrounded in ministry by a group of strong women who have been through tough, sad or unimaginably painful stories and made it to the other side.

But these stories are not mine to tell. I just want you to keep this list in mind and begin to think of some of your own people as I go on to my next points. I promise we will come back.

Being thankful in bad times is something that is hard but, if I am intentional about it, I have found it possible. Being thankful FOR the bad times is an entirely different challenge. I’ve not mastered it, but I’ve made some mistakes that you might benefit from.

The first mistake is assuming that I have to find a good reason to be thankful for the yuck. I bend myself into all sorts of emotional shapes trying to explain to myself that this temporary annoyance, or in some cases, earth shattering event is good for me in some way and I should say thank you for that result. That is wrong. You see what I did there? I’m not thankful for the yuck, but for the result I can see it possibly bringing. This left me in a conundrum when I was faced with difficulties that did not have an immediately visible “good” outcome. I was lost and couldn’t see my way out and therefore, I lost my Thankfulness. I’m a talker, or a writer, and so it was easy for me to spin wild tales of possible “good”, but I have come to believe that this is not what God wants. There is a freedom in just saying Thank you for the yuck without trying to justify why I am saying thank you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to say thank you for it. It hurts. But, I say thank you, I’ll get to the why in a minute, and I am relieved of the duty of having to find the good.  I just trust that the good is there, even if I never see it.

Second mistake: I assume that I cannot be simultaneously thankful for the yuck I’m going through and really mad about the yuck. We’re complicated beings. God gave us ALL the emotions. Feel the yuck, acknowledge the yuck, share the yuck with God in your daily prayer time. Chances are He understands that the yuck is bad. Chances are He wouldn’t want you to go through the yuck if you didn’t have to, or choose to. He’s ok with your being mad at the yuck, whatever your yuck is. Just remember to thank Him. Yes, I know it sounds totally counter-intuitive, but it frees you from sinking in a spiral of complaint that makes the yuck that much stronger. When you feel both thankfulness and pain simultaneously, you are so much more truthful, to yourself and others, about your feelings and you have the life vest of thankfulness to keep your head from going under.

My third mistake is one that can cause damage to all kinds of good things: Comparison Shopping. I am very good at comparison shopping, so much so that I rarely make a decision (just a joke, but seriously, I have a problem). But this is a different kind of comparison shopping. This occurs when we see someone else’s yuck and think, “Well, theirs is so much worse than mine. I shouldn’t even consider mine a problem.” Or “Well, theirs is so much better than mine. If only all I had to worry about were their problems.” You see the damage this can do? One side sees us discounting our pain instead of acknowledging it. Yes, it may not be “as yuck” as someone else’s yuck, but it is still ours and we still feel it, even if we won’t acknowledge it. The other side sees us jealous and sarcastic and, eventually, bitter and catty. When we acknowledge the yuck that hurts us and stop wishing for someone else’s, we can say Thank you and begin to heal.

Here is why I believe we have to say Thank you. We don’t have to like it to be thankful for it, see previous paragraphs, but I’ve come to believe that Thankfulness, sometimes without understanding why, is the path to healing. Healing may not look like we had hoped, but the Thankfulness we have exercised along the path will help us to see the healing for what it is.

Now we can get back to that list of illustrious people I started with. These are the people that have helped me to see my mistakes in my attitude toward my yuck. They have shown me what thankfulness FOR the bad times looks like. God has truly blessed me with these examples and guides. I don’t have it all right yet. I’m still not always able to say “Thank you” for the bad times. To be honest, I’m still fighting tooth and nail to not say thank you. But I want to heal. I want to go through my yuck without sinking in it. I want to be able to help someone else with their yuck without using an empty platitude.

So that’s where I am. Maybe you have a group of people you can think of who exemplify this form of thankfulness for you. Spend some time this week thinking about them. Look for what they can teach you. God doesn’t send us through the yuck alone.

Ronda

Thankful In the Bad Days: 365 Days to Thank You Week 8 and Week 9

January was hard y’all! That’s the only way I can put it.

This post has been particularly hard to write. I’ve had several days that were just, for lack of better words, bad. I’m sure you’ve all had moments when nothing seems to work out and you feel that anger and resentment toward whatever is causing your problems begin to build. These days are the days when I feel least Thankful. Frustration, anger, sadness, confusion all seem to be blocks to that sort of spirit. What God is showing me in this season, though, is that these times are the times in which I need to be Thankful. Like I said, I’ve been struggling to write this and that is because even though God is telling me to be Thankful in the hard times, I don’t know how to tell you how that will work. But as my pastor at Mission City Church in San Antonio has said, what I preach to you is what God is teaching me. I have learned several benefits of being Thankful in these bad days and hard times.

The first result is a complete perspective change.

It was during a time when I was struggling with my sons’, um, strong personalities (ahem) that I learned this one. We were locked in combat over whether or not to take the shuttle in the church parking lot to our car less than 500 feet away when I was bit. Yes bit. My son has never bit anyone, but apparently we were both at the peak of frustration and words had failed him. At this moment I had two choices: I could visualize his future 20/20 interview in which he blamed me for “his turn to the dark side” on the Crime network, or I could find something in this situation for which I could be thankful. One path led to tears (almost walked that path all day) and the second path led to a good learning time with my boys and much less screaming and crying. The situation still, forgive me please for putting it this way, sucked, but I was much more equipped to handle it and much more apt to turn to God with my frustrations instead of taking them out on my boys and my patient husband.

The second result is the relief from carrying heavy grudges and resentments.

When I’m going through hard times, I often feel very heavy. I am not sure how else to describe it, but I feel like I’ve been carrying a huge weight all day and I’m just exhausted. Recently, my husband has had to work a lot in Dallas and that has left the work at home to me. I know that he is working really hard and I am so proud of him and how smart he is that I could pop, but I won’t lie, it is hard to be at home alone with two boys and two dogs. I began to feel like I couldn’t carry any more, then I began to write this post and it reminded me to pick up my Thanksgiving and put down my resentments. I praised God for having this all in hand even when I did not. I didn’t completely believe the words when I began them, but God has a way of echoing the words you need and I began to hear them over and over. On the radio was a song that said that God has got this, everything I was reading in my Bible Studies reiterated that God has got it all in His hands. Finally, I felt stronger because I was not holding on to the resentments anymore. My hands were busy Thanking God for all that He had in hand. When I’m tempted to pick up the grudges and the resentments again, I have to repeat “Thank you God” and I am only able to focus on His provision.

The third result has been to really irk Satan.

I think that sounds so simple, but simple is truth in this case. I’ve had many opportunities to dwell in Genesis lately. There is so much more there than you would ever have thought going through the stories in Sunday School. In the very beginning, Satan tried to bring us down. He had plans to destroy us (God’s creation) at every turn. Adam and Eve fell, Cain killed Able, Noah got drunk, Ham made fun of his father, The Tower of Babel was built, Abram and Sarai tried to bring about the promise on their own, Isaac’s family was all drama all of the time…You see where we’re going with this. But through it all, after every story is repeated: but God had a plan. You can bet that the success of God’s plan despite the complicated and convoluted plans of Satan was irksome to Satan, to say the least. Satan is our enemy. He does not want what it best for us. So, it is a good then when you can irk your enemy. Praise God, thank Him for all that He is doing and going to do and irk the enemy. Remember Joseph’s perspective at the end of Genesis after what had to be one heck of a bad time:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

Really, it is more than irksome to Satan. It totally disarms him when we are looking to be Thankful to God for what we know He can do.

Let’s disarm this bad time and be Thankful in it. Let’s be stronger, carrying fewer cares and looking wholly to God.

Ronda

My Precious: 365 Days to Thank You Week 6 and Week 7

*A nasty virus (human not computer) has caused this post to be a two-for-one kind of thing. This topic is worth it though 🙂 *

So much has happened since we entered this year with a cry of “Happy New Year!” and for some of us a cry of “I’m going to sleep now!”(at 12:01). I’ll spare you the details of my last few days, I’m sure we have all been faced with challenges and temptations to let our Thankfulness slide away. But through all that has been happening one idea has been jumping around in my head like a puppy in a travel crate: Precious. What is precious to us? What makes it precious? What does this mean for the way that I feel and express Thankfulness? And finally, what is precious to God?

First what is precious? We probably all immediately think of a least one thing, often home and family or time with God. But is it an objective measure? I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why:

My sons spent time playing outside at my parents house this Christmas break and while they were there, discovered the new foundation of sand and rocks my dad had laid for his new shed. This was a momentous discovery for them. And why? Because of rocks. They love rocks. They spent hours sorting them and found the most beautiful and precious sparkly ones they could and put them proudly on the arm of my mother’s Adirondack chair. Now, there is nothing inherently valuable about these rocks as far as I am aware (I’m not a geologist, I just mom here). So, what makes my boys so amazingly grateful for these sparkly rocks? They are precious to my boys, the boys made them worth something by wanting them and loving them.

I guess I’ve answered my first two questions all in one. First, the things we want and love are the things we find precious and it is that very wanting and loving that makes them precious (kind of circular, but I think if we stop for a minute it will begin to make sense). So, why am I taking a scalpel to this word? What does it have to do with being Thankful?

I love my family (as I hope is evident in this blog) and I thank God for them with a greater fervency than I thank God for the weather or a great parking space. I’m sure if you take a minute you can think of one thing that you find precious and thank God for with the same fervency. Our wanting and loving (making precious) has made us Thankful in a deeper way than if we just go down the list of what we should thank God for and spin off a little prayer.

Let’s look to the Psalmist for an example of what happens when you thank God for what you find precious.

Look at Psalm 139. David spends the first 16 verses of this beautiful and enthusiastic psalm talking about how much God knows and how there is nothing beyond His knowledge and then here is verse 17:

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Psalm 139:17

David placed the thoughts and actions of God in his list of things that are precious. He examined them and thought about them and was amazed by them. His amazement fed into an effusiveness that resulted in the Psalm that so many of us love to read. He was so thankful, because he made God’s thoughts his precious thing.

So, perhaps we should try something now. Let’s put God’s thoughts and actions into the precious category in our own heart. Let’s examine them with the same amazement and rapture that my boys afforded those shiny rocks. Wait a minute…we have something here.

Shiny rocks, that is all that some of the things we find precious in our lives amount to when all is taken into account. But God is more than our shiny rocks. Let us treat Him and His thoughts with all of the amazement and rapture we have been devoting to other things. I promise this tiny move will change your Thankfulness patterns.

But there is more to this word precious that I haven’t addressed:

God Finds You Precious.

You are not worthy of this placement by anything that you have done. You are precious because God loves you.

If you read through Luke Chapter 15, you will find three stories told by Jesus in an attempt to help us understand how God feels about bringing us close to Him again. First he tells us about a shepherd looking for a lost sheep, leaving the others just to find the one. Then he tells us about a woman who lost a coin and did what I think we have all done in our houses: turned on the bright lights and swept under all of the furniture to find it. Finally, he tells the story of the son who rejected his father and ran away only to begin to regret and run home to a welcoming father. All of these stories end in the shepherd, the woman or the father rejoicing over the return of the precious one.

I will end with this then:

You are precious to God and your life matters to Him, so much that He gave his Son to be a sacrifice so that you could be near Him. Be thankful. Your God is amazing. Make Him precious in your life. Be thankful.

Ronda

Let Us Not Forget: 365 Days to Thank You Week 5

I have to admit, I have lost track of time this week. It seems like the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve just melded together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we were just sitting on the couch eating Christmas treats (although that did happen). There has been so much going on, so many great experiences to remember. But I have lost track and have not done half of what I wanted to do. I think we can all relate.

There have been a few moments this week that have made me stop in the midst of the craziness: A moment holding my son who will soon start school and thinking of how much I will miss our at-home time; or a moment with friends wishing that the clock would just stop so that I could sit here and laugh and talk forever; a moment shopping for makeup with my mom, both of us acting like it was an everyday occurrence but both of us knowing it was a special time. These moments are the things I find myself saying Thank You for today. My soul is glorifying my Lord for these simple gifts.

But what happens when I go back to my daily routine? Will I stop and be thankful? Will I remember what being thankful feels like? Will I remember to let my soul glorify Him?

I believe that the way to make this happen in my life is to live in anticipation of what God has ready for me; to live in the hope of the next thing I can Thank Him for.

I have an example of what this anticipatory living looks like and it just happens to be located in the Bible after the verses I know we all read in church last week:

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38

Two verses. That’s all. And most people very rarely speak about her. But I promise you, not one word in the Bible is there by accident. So what made Anna rate two verses in the most Holy book of all time? She was in the right place and she did not depart from it. She was waiting for what God was bringing, and she gave thanks and spread the word when she saw the promise fulfilled by the presence of the baby Jesus.

For just two verses, they are kind of jam packed with back story. We know that she was married for seven years and we can assume she had been a widow for quite some time as we know she was eighty-four. We have a connection to others we have heard about (the tribe of Asher) and a family she belongs to through her father’s name (Phanuel). Luke did not leave her as a nameless person who also happened to be in the temple. Luke told us the story of a woman whose heart was waiting to say Thank You to a God she knew and a God who promised He would provide a deliverer. Her life became one big Thank You to God as she faithfully waited for that Savior. I can imagine the light coming off of her as she saw the fulfillment of the promise she had spent most, if not all, of her life waiting for. I imagine they could not stop her from talking about it all the rest of her days.

So, are we living in anticipation of God’s hand in the world or are we going to forget to wait for Him and miss the moment to Thank Him?

Let us not forget: Our God has promised, Our God is Good, and our very lives should be a Thank You for the things He has done and is going to do. Let the light of your thankfulness shine. Don’t ever stop telling everyone about what He has done. This is how our soul says Thank You to Him.

Have a Thankful New Year!

Ronda

A Mary Christmas Example: 365 Days to Thank You Week 4

Ah, the Holidays! I love them and I also find them exceedingly uncomfortable (think 13 hour road trip, four dogs and five kid cousins). But I know that I am not alone in that feeling here at the end of the year; we’re all in the same festively decorated, joyful, sinking ship filled with sugar cookies and candy canes.

But here we can learn a little more about Thankfulness. How to stop in the middle of our imploding plans and Thank God.

We learned the first week about what can happen to the meaning of a word or phrase when it is over used or miss-used. We evaluated our use of the words for Thankfulness and then last week we evaluated examples of Thankfulness around us. This week I would like to explore an example of Thankfulness from the Bible.

I don’t know about everyone, but I have a couple of really good plans for my life, well, I thought they were good. Apparently there are bigger things than me going on in the world because my plans rarely go exactly as I expected. But this is minor compared to the person we are looking at today.

Mary was a young woman with a plan. The Bible doesn’t say if it was her plan to marry Joseph or her parent’s plan or the cultural plan, but it was obviously THE PLAN. But God had a bigger plan. One that started in the garden when he said to the serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

A little back story for those of you who may not be as familiar: Mary was a young, unmarried woman, probably an early teen considering the culture she grew up in. She was engaged to a young carpenter and well on her way to being a good Jewish housewife. She had a knowledge of Scripture (what we know as the Old Testament) and she knew that her God had promised a Savior to deliver His people from the consequences of their sin.

And back story on the people: we messed up, a lot, literally from the beginning of our existence, and God put a plan into place to pay our consequences, which were, well, death.

So back to what we can learn about Thanksgiving.

Mary was going about her chores for a normal day when an Angel appeared. We say that so often that it has lost some of it’s impact. So take a minute to see it. Her home is filled with a light she has never seen before with her eyes. A voice that shakes her whole body says:

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28

He proceeded to tell her that everything that she and her people had been looking forward to was beginning here and now. It was beginning in her womb.

Her next actions are understandable. She went to her cousin’s house. Just so happens (not really because God has everything planned) that her cousin is pregnant with the prophet that will prepare the way for the Savior. It is what her cousin says that seems to drive home the power of what has happened to her:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Luke1:42

and Mary begins to sing a song of praise.

This song is alternatively called “Mary’s Song” and “The Magnificat” and has inspired other prayers and songs for ages. We have, as we are apt to do, twisted and misunderstood the meaning, using it for our own agendas, but the meaning is still the same and very powerful.

Magnificat sounds like a high church word, and it is, but it simply means to magnify. She was scared and excited and unsure of how this was going to change her own plans, but she magnified the Lord. That is what I want you to learn about Thankfulness.

Your plans may change. You may be in a place that you did not want to be in. You may be in a situation that seems very scary. But Praise God. Magnify God. This is when you will feel what it means to be Thankful. In this type of Thankfulness we are Thankful without seeing the reward. We are Thankful in Faith.

I’ve been all over the internet trying to see what impact Mary’s Song has had on the world today and why it continues to speak to people and I have found many and varied responses. So when I thought of sharing it with you today as an example of true Thankfulness, I wasn’t sure how I could do it without distorting the meaning even more. So I’ve decided to give you the background and context in which I want you to read it and now I am going to put it in print on this page. I want you to read it, reflect on it. Then I want you to write your own song of Thankfulness about any situation in your life that you truly did not or do not understand.

 "And Mary said,
'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble
estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all
generations will call me
blessed;
for he who is mighty has done
great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who
fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty
from their thrones
and exalted those of humble
estate;
he has filled the hungry with
good things,
and the rich he has sent away
empty.
He has helped his servant Isreal,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring
forever.'"
Luke 1: 46-55 

Mary was following the example of others in Scripture when she wrote this (see Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and that is a good place to start for us as well. We will follow her example in crafting our own prayers, songs, of Thankfulness to our Lord.

Merry Christmas,

Ronda

What do I need to change about the way I say Thank you: 365 Days to Thank You Week 3

Dear Readers (and you are dear to me),

It is nice to know that some of you have chosen to join me on this experiment, endeavor, whatchamacallit, all in the effort to better understand Gratitude and how and why we say Thank You.

I admit the last two weeks have seemed a bit crazy-pants, but there is purpose in the madness.

For those of you playing along, you may have realized that last week was not really about keeping a tally of how many times you said “Thank You” or “I appreciate it”, although that was literally what I asked you to do.

No, last week was about mindfulness. I called it taking your temperature. What keeping a tally forces us to do is pay attention to when and how we say Thank You.

You may remember our first Watermelon week. We learned that if you use a word over and over it can begin to lose its meaning. I don’t know about you, but while taking my Thank you temperature last week, I found myself using the words FIVE times at one drive-thru spot. I guarantee that the fast food service industry has not improved so immensely that it was necessary to slather on the gratitude as I seemed to. But that is when I realize it: I am not always grateful when I say “Thank You”.

That kind of hit me in the pit of my stomach.

If I’m not grateful, why do I say thank you? Is it simply to meet cultural norms? Is it because I feel the need to make my mamma proud? (I really do hope you are proud, though, Mom.)

I think there are a lot of reasons, but here is one I’ve been thinking about for a while: We long for the miracle that is Gratitude.

Think about this for a minute. Gratitude is a tiny miracle that we get to participate in every day. For one small space of time we are not thinking only about ourselves. In true gratitude we are endeavoring to shine a light on the efforts or accomplishments of someone else. But we are selfish in our nature as humans so how does this happen? It is and can only be a grace given to us from our Father in Heaven.

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines Thanksgiving as this:

“A duty of which gratitude is the grace. This obligation of godliness is acknowledged by the universal sentiment of mankind; but as a Christian grace it has some blessed peculiarities. It is gratitude for all the benefits of divine Providence, especially for the general and personal gifts of redemption.”

Basically what all of those fancy words mean (mine and those wiser than me) is that when we are truly grateful and show true gratitude it is not about us, it is from and to God. The only reason we are able to feel gratitude is because of His Grace.

So, here is our assignment for this week:

Keep a tally (or be mindful) of when others say “Thank you” or “I appreciate it” to you.

Sometimes you will see the miracle of the existence of gratitude (and I bet when you recognize it- your breath will be taken away) and sometimes it will just be the words our mothers said we should say. I want you to begin to collect examples of each and hide them in your heart. Begin to decide what needs to change in your own understanding of Gratitude and what that will look like in comparison and contrast to the rest of the world.

We decide which one it will be. Do we let God guide our Thank you’s into beautiful meaningful miracles, or do we try to make it all about us and let them become nothing but words.

Love to you all,

Ronda

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and, Thank You Very Much

Hey all! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving celebration, or as I call it, the celebration of the first day of Christmas sock season. (My mom’s the Christmas pro, she has a Christmas Sock pre-season).

And I hope none of you got stuck in a crazy crowd of doorbusters on Friday. But if you did, I hope you are recovering, or, if you enjoy that kind of thing, I hope you are happy.

I’ve been hinting lately about a huge project that I would like to begin with you all. It’s very exciting and I hope you can learn along with me, but if you can’t, I will share what I learn through the experience.

I’m going to call it 365 Days to Thank You. It won’t be literally 365 days, but we will start on December 1, 2019 and end on December 1, 2020. My hope is that we will enter next year’s Thankful season with a true, undiluted definition of thankfulness and that we begin to see the Grace of Gratitude.

I will not ask much. Each week I will have a little assignment in my blog. The next week I will discuss my experience of that assignment and have a brand new one to build on the one before. There will be a few supplies that you will need:

  • A notebook. This can be a leftover of a kids school supplies from last year that you kept because you spent money on it and you kid only used two pages and then lost it (this is based on a true story). Or this could be a clearance item from your local school supply store, or an old three ring binder or, well, really anything you can keep your notes in for this experience. Write “Thank You” on the front as a reminder of what we’re looking for here.
  • A pen or pencil. Your favorite or whatever writing instrument is rolling around in the bottom of your purse or car or that junky junk drawer that we never admit the existence of to our Pinterest personality.
  • Bible. Praise God these are easy to find in the USA.
  • Dictionary. Book or internet, most of them are the same, just don’t use Wiki anything.

Our first few weeks will be discovering what “Thank you” has become in ourselves and in our world. The first few assignments will seem a little strange, I have to admit. But if you will trust me and take this ride along with me, you will learn so much.

So, that being said, Week One. Here it is: Watermelon. Seriously, that’s it.

Over the next week, whenever the opportunity arises, use the word Watermelon. In conversations, in text or email but almost always out of context (that is with understanding friends of course). The first day I want you to write down how you feel about Watermelon and on the last day I want you to see if the word you have used over and over has the same meaning to you.

I know it’s weird, but Watermelon on.

Love you all,

Ronda

A Fall Controversy

It is November and our country is faced with one of the worst controversies we have ever known. It causes the most heated debates on all forums and has split families. What is this controversy you say?

Christmas music and decoration – when does it start?

I myself listen, secretly, from somewhere around June 1st.  Well, that may be an ever so slight exaggeration, but the point is that I fall pretty securely within the “Christmas as early and as long as possible” camp.

But there are those who vehemently disagree (within my own family). They are wrong of course. Just kidding. I can see their point. We don’t want to dilute the specialness (is that a word?) of the season or distract from the many other meaningful celebrations going on during this time of year. But for the sake of adult, mature debate (something sadly missing lately); let me point out a few of my reasons for Christmas love.

First, of course, is the general happiness that seems to come with the season.

My birthday lies just one week before Christmas. I have every reason to put off the carols, tree and lights in order to more appropriately celebrate myself. But that’s just it: I don’t want to just celebrate myself. There isn’t enough to celebrate with just little old me. The joy I find in the worldwide celebration of Christmas is a birthday present beyond compare! When I see someone smiling at a Christmas song or decorations, I can tell they are deep in a memory and a joy that is deeply personal yet so contagious.

Secondly, in addition to happiness, really the joy, there is also an acknowledgement of our losses.

This shared mourning can be a wonderful thing. I know it is a difficult time for some, but if we remember that there is pain and address it, and embrace it with warmth, there will be healing. Christmas is such a good time to begin healing from any disappointment or pain we may have felt through the year. We can find a warm, safe place to face the loss when we are surrounded by the light and warmth of Christmas and when we remember to surround others. What we learn in this season will help us find the hope and love we need to do whatever comes next.

My third and strongest reason for loving the celebration of Christmas is the name of Jesus Christ.

It is only in the Christmas season that you so often hear the name of Jesus proclaimed in places we humans have banned him. It warms my heart to hear the hope in His name coming from a speaker in a grocery store or mall. It’s like the rocks are crying out in places where we no longer speak the name of Jesus. Also, always remember, there is a reason that it gives us chills to hear “Oh Holy Night” or “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” sung by someone who spends the rest of the year bringing attention to their own antics. This is what it sounds like to hear the voice of the redeemed (even if the singer is not yet aware of the power of which they sing). It is a glimpse of what it will be like to hear every voice in the world declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ and begin to joyfully follow Him.

You may think I’m crazy on that last point, and really, I wouldn’t blame you. It sounds crazy to say that Christmas music sung by some otherwise worldly artists is going to begin to save a world running as hard as it can away from Christ. But I do have a reason to believe that this will happen, and no it is not Kanye (though I have to say Praise God for the redeemed). It is something Jesus said to John when John came to him concerned that someone “not following us” was casting out demons in Jesus name.

Mark 9:39

“But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.’”

So, here is my argument, in a nutshell, for the early and often application of Christmas trappings and music: Love, Joy, Healing and most and best of all Jesus Christ proclaimed for all to hear.

Love you all,

Ronda

Animated Life

Hello all! Sorry I was out last week. It’s life.

Speaking of life, I guess it’s just because I watch a lot of cartoons these days, but I started to think last week about what my life would look like as an animated feature by our favorite producer of all things animated, theme park, and mouse-like. I won’t say the name ‘cause I know we’re all thinking it and I’m not sure I could afford royalties if I mention anything specific, ahem.

So, as my imagination began to wander I thought I would write a “treatment” as they call it in the movie biz. Seriously have no idea how to do this, just really wanted to say “the biz” and “treatment”. In the midst of this “treatment” I began to realize some things about myself. So, here you go.

  • It would begin with a little girl skipping through life with her loving family, winning pig tail competitions and formulating theories on life that make her parents smile knowingly and giggle just a bit. Enter a small speck of fear and perfectionism.
  • Skip forward quickly through the “awkward” years because, let’s face it, there’s only so much awkward an audience can find endearing. Watch the speck grow into a shadow in the background.
  • Find the young girl just out of college, searching for her place in the big world. There are happy dancing and singing scenes, because you need that, and many adorably minor frustrations where we can watch her make that quintessential “I’m so harried” animation face while she blows a stray curl cutely out of her face. But in the darker scenes we see her do battle with the fear and perfectionism that has now grown into a dark, inky, tar like mass of anxiety and depression that threatens to take her over. She uses her own talents to suck the power away from this mysterious dark mass and it works, for a time.
  • We build to the Party. She wears a beautiful dress that makes her feel like a princess and gets the attention of the room, something she is not entirely used to accepting. But in the midst of this party there is a prince (cue the angels singing and the warm golden light), in a kilt. He’s too shy to say it, but he knows he will marry her.
  • They spend every minute of the next music montage together and the dark mass is at bay. 
  • We exit the montage with a dreamlike wedding in the woods. And they lived happily ever after with rolly pink babies and laughter for days. The dark monster is slain.

Except…there are a few pertinent places where the real thing is nothing like the stories of our favorite theme park mouse.

Much of it is true. There is so much happiness in my story and my Prince really did come in a kilt the first time I saw him. I love that memory.

And it is also true that in my life there has been a dark presence made of fear, perfectionism, anxiety and depression that I have unsuccessfully fought with writing and acting and singing and being good at my job and food and entertainment and any number of things. But this thing was not made powerless by all of my efforts, and it was not vanquished by my prince, my wedding, or my happy babies.

The entire catalogue of animated princess stories will tell you that “true love’s kiss” or something similar will get rid of the bad in your life.

But, they have forgotten: True Love does not come from people.

True Love comes from the One True God who gave His Son’s blood to cover our shame (John 3:16-17) and sent His Spirit so that we would not have to fight all alone this darkness that accuses us (John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7).

God is the only one who can conquer what I fight.

He is the only weapon that will be successful over the darkness.

There have been times when I have felt the darkness take over. These were times when I found it hard to breathe or sleep and relating to other people was not going to happen. I shared with you earlier about my anxious number obsession when I should be sleeping; all just a part of this darkness. It is in those times that I need to go to God, but I haven’t always done that.

I’m working on it.

WE are working on it: God and me.

Praise music helps. Reading His Word helps (especially the Psalms, they speak my language). Being with people who love me and love God helps me. Prayer helps most of all.

I share this now because I have realized lately that I am not alone in this experience. There are so many of us who have our own dark, inky, tar creatures lurking behind our happy Sunday morning smiles and photo worthy moments.

I want anyone else who is reading this to know, you are not alone. And not just because I have let you know I feel the same way, but because my God is for you.

To anyone who feels the darkness overwhelming them and whispering lies to them:

God hears you, He sees you, He loves you and He has given you GRACE. All you need to do is ask Him.

Love,

Ronda

Be the Hero Protagonist Lead Character Narrator of your own story?

Hi friends,
This post has taken a while.

It’s been kicking around in my head for a couple of days and I’m still not sure that I have the right direction to begin it, but there is nothing but to begin.

Let’s start with a pretty popular statement. I have often heard, and my children have often been told to “Be the Hero of your own story” and to “Follow your Bliss”.

Some parts of this empowering set of statements sound just great to my human ears. But there are a few questions I’d like to ask before taking these statements in as my personal principle: What do they say about truth? What about everyone else? And what about God?

The man who originally made these statements famous, Joseph Campbell, spent a great majority of his time examining religion. I studied many of his theories and those of the men who influenced him (Jung, Nietzsche, Joyce, Mann) in school. Sometimes what they said sounded very logical. It made sense, until they began to discuss truth. It became quickly apparent that this group of thinkers considered man before God and thought of religion as a crutch. They were sure that “truth”, as a concept, could be found only in weighing the “good” it was doing you, or how “good” it made you feel.

I’m sorry, but if you live in a world where there is no truth but how you feel, you are going to live in a very mixed up world. Your “truth”, your “bliss”, will change daily because we as humans change daily. There is no solid ground. No wonder there are record numbers of people describing feelings of insecurity and depression.

Let’s think about it this way: If every morning you woke up to find that the ground around you had changed from solid rock to liquid to magma and back again based solely on how you were feeling that morning, or even worse, how some other human was feeling, would you have any security upon waking?

So, I have not found “truth” in the philosophy of “Being my own hero” and “Finding my Bliss”.

Then there is the question of other people.

I know that the character I know the most about in my story is me. Obviously, I know my inner thoughts when no one else really does. I’ve been there to see everything I’ve done and not done. (So has God, but let us wait to address that[Psalm 139].) But does that make me the hero in this story? What about my husband, my parents, my children, my brothers and their families, the women in my Bible study, the people reading this long blog post now? Can I treat them as ancillary fleeting characters? Would I want them to treat me that way?

The interplay of “others” in our own story is way too complicated to treat lightly. Life is not like fiction or even non-fiction if you really think about it. Treating others as characters in service to the hero, you, makes you, well, let’s just put it bluntly, a jerk.

Other people have deep thought lives you know nothing about. They have pasts and futures you may or may not be a part of. They are beings with worth, not just characters put in place to further a plot or help you “find your bliss”.

And now I see I’m not even the main focus of my story sometimes. There is too much complication in real life to treat it so simply.

Finally, and most importantly, if I’m playing the big hero in my life, what about God?

I can, as many have, treat Him as some huge being in the sky who has no real bearing or interest in my life or how I live it, but that’s not my experience with God.

I can, as many have, treat Him as a punisher, watching every move I make and waiting to throw down some proverbial lightening when I do wrong, but that’s not my experience with God.

I can, as many have, treat Him as a candy machine, waiting for me to put in the proper payment for the gifts I want, but that’s not my experience with God.

None of these is the God I know. None of these is the God I have found in scripture. None of these is GOD.

God is the hero.

If you spend time in His Word you will find that God is a loving, patient, strong, just, merciful, graceful, beautiful, wise, caring, gentle God. He is all of these things, and only He can be all of these things all at once.

Read the story of Cain and Able again (Genesis 4:1-16). We got a chance to do just that in our Bible study last week.

Read it slowly. Do you see God in the story? Did you notice that God is the main character in this story, not Cain? Did you notice that God is patient with Cain (Genesis 4:6-7)? Did you notice that God tried to help Cain avoid the pain He must have seen coming? Yet Cain responded as all of us so often do: with selfishness and anger over the hurt he had received (Genesis 4:5, Genesis 4:8, Genesis 4:9, Genesis 4:13-14).

We could do that with any story of any of the characters of the Bible that we may have heard of in pop culture. I think most of the world would be surprised to learn that God is the hero, the main character of the Bible and of our lives.

So, what do we do with our story if we are not here to save ourselves and somehow be an ultra-mega-special person?

We are here to tell our story. We are the narrators.

Tell your story. Those who hear it will hear God in it, even the messy embarrassing or shameful parts.

Tell THE story. Because this story, though mine may seem in my mind to be the most crucial part, is one huge story made of many little parts all equally important and unimportant.

My story, THE story is always pointing toward the truth of a God who knows me, knows you, inside and out, good and bad.

I hope this long winded post says what has been clanging around in my heart and head lately because I think it is what God wants you and me to hear. I hope I am being a faithful narrator here.

Welcome to THE story.

Ronda

By the Numbers

Hello all!

We are gifted by God with the ability to count. I know this seems very elementary, but when you’re homeschooling preschool, counting is a really big deal. So, as I count to 30 over and over in hopes that a little someone can catch on, I have a lot of time to think about numbers.

Numbers help us understand the world. They help us know what fits where and how much of something we have or need. God’s word is filled with numbers. Take for example an entire book…called Numbers. They can be a wonderful thing, and they can also keep us up at night.

Here’s an example of the numbers that keep me up at night:

  • 1 in 100,000 – Births in which GSD (the disease that my son lives with) occurs
  • 26, 16, 11, 16, 23 – grams of cornstarch in each of the five servings my son takes in each day
  • 0.2 – The highest acceptable amount of Ketones for my son
  • 70 – The lowest acceptable Blood Sugar number for my son
  • 9,762,345,723 – The number of times I’ve felt guilty for what is happening in our family in relation to this disease which I now know was hiding in my DNA. I do know it isn’t my fault, but this is the amount of times my reason has failed.

I numerate this (see what I did there) not to whine or get any sort of sympathy. I just say all of this because I am sure there are others reading this that stay up at night with their own numbers. It’s a part of how we attempt to deal with the worries of our lives. But this kind of counting, these kinds of numbers, are not helpful; as evidenced by the fact that I am not sleeping when these numbers are running around in my head. 

But there is good news.

Our God is bigger than all of those numbers (even my guilt).

God promised an unfathomable future to Abram (before he was renamed Abraham) when He asked him to number the stars (Genesis 15:5). God promised something beyond what anyone could quantify. How long do you think Abram sat under those stars counting and recounting when it looked like God would not come through on that promise? Yet the Bible makes very sure to tell us that Abram believed the LORD and God “counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

God is bigger than we can count, which by extension, makes Him bigger than all of the worries we spend our nights counting.

So, tonight, when you and I are staring at the ceiling watching our particular numbers float by, let’s remember the one who gave us our ability to number and who is bigger than we can ever reduce to any number. God’s goodness is beyond anything we can ever count. Just like the stars in Abram’s sky.

We must remind ourselves constantly of His greatness. Perhaps by taking the actions of the Psalmist:

“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.” Psalm 71:15

Stop counting your numbers and let your mouth tell of deeds of your God. That will keep you counting on the good things, the perfect things.

Have a good night!

Ronda

A World of Fear

Hello my Friends!

This marks the first time my post will be on my blog and not in an email. Kind of a momentous occasion for me. You know my perfectionism and how it has been holding me back from moving this mountain. But look at that, God has given me the faith I needed to tell this mountain to move!

Besides moving past my fear of imperfection, I have been seeing a lot of fear. This is probably because of the season (Halloween and all) and possibly the political season (don’t forget to vote people).

 The other day I saw a billboard that was so scary, I hoped my children were looking the other way just so that we could avoid the middle of the night nightmares. But this wasn’t the first billboard I saw like this. It’s getting to the point that we may have to drive to school with blindfolds on until November 2nd!

That’s a little extreme, but really, this is a time of year when fear is exploited, even if it is of imaginary things.

There are some scary real things in this world lately as well.

We fear what our politicians tell us to fear. We fear our politicians.

We fear disease. If we listen to those prescription medicine commercials, we could also fear the cure.

We fear stating our opinions on social media. We fear being unseen on social media.

We fear confrontation. We fear continuation of behavior we should confront.

We fear walking outside in our communities. We fear loss of community.

Sometimes, when I spend too much time looking at this world, the fear can overwhelm me and make my heart hurt. It’s enough make me what to hide.

There is no need to hide, though, if I keep my eyes on the one who overcomes all fear.

Here is the call in scripture:

Philipians 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.

It is not accident, by the way, that the verse I quoted last week is the one right after this. The instructions on how to get our thoughts out of our contextual rut are the same for getting our hearts out of fear.

God brings reason to my fear and quells the chaos in my heart. He is the only one my heart will bow to in righteous fear, not craziness. Because:

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

I hope you all are doing well, and I hope you come back to my blog and see me again.

Love,

Ronda

Context: October 3, 2019 Email

Hey, look at that, it’s Thursday!

This week has not been very conducive to writing, in case you couldn’t tell by the lateness of this email.

I could spend the entire email updating you about this week, but that may take too long. I think I will just say that I will update you when a couple of these things begin to settle in.

What I want to talk about this week is Context.

Any of you who know me or have studied the Bible with me will know that this is one of my favorite words. If you talk with me for ten minutes about The Word you will hear me say “If you read the verse, read the chapter. If you read the chapter, read the book. If you read the book, read the Bible.” Context. It is so important to my understanding of God’s Word. But that is not what I want to say about my favorite word today (How do you like that for a cliffhanger transition?)

When I was driving my son to school, he began a conversation about memory and the brain.

He forgot Mommy was a Psych major, ahem.

So, it began with a simple question about why he remembers what he remembers, to which Mommy gave a highly complex answer regarding neurons and synaptic pathways (no, seriously, I went there. Guess I forgot he was 7, oops.) He was a trooper and really did ask all of the right questions. He even followed my weak analogies of what we think the brain does. And then, after a moment, he asked me if his brain was really like Riley’s in Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out. 

Hmm, so Mommy thought this was a deeper conversation and may have included info that he won’t need till high school, but I think we firmly answered his question.

The conversation had me thinking all of the way home though.

When I was in school I was introduced to an idea called Context Dependent Memory. It has a lot to do with learning and the definition per alleydog.com (a psychology student’s best friend) accessed today says:

“Context Dependent Memory refers to the phenomenon of how much easier it is to retrieve certain memories when the ‘context’, or circumstances around the memory are the same for both the original encoding and retrieval.”

Ok, so unless you are attending a psych class this is a bit much.

Basically, remember this: if you were chewing spearmint gum and were anxious when you read the material, it is more likely you will remember it later if you chew the same gum and feel the same anxiety when you are trying to remember it.

What does this have to do with God and my life, you say? Why is she rambling?

Here’s why: God made our minds. He knew that our minds, once started on a thought with certain context, were very likely to stay in that context.

If you are feeling depressed or hopeless, if you just had a fight with someone, if you just ran into the seventh thing to go wrong today, you will find that your thoughts naturally stay in that context. (This is why I can remember every time my husband didn’t take the garbage out when I am mad about taking the garbage out.)

So how do we change these circumstances?

How do we get out of the context that our emotions and thoughts have put us in?

I said it before but it bears repeating: God made our minds.

Here is the advice given to us from the Holy Spirit through the hand of Paul:

Philipians 4:8 ESV”Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

If we will make a concerted effort, with the help and grace of our Almighty Father (who again, made our minds) we can extract our thoughts out of the well worn contextual paths that have not helped us and drag them into the context of our God and what He has for us.

And He KNOWS this about us!

Isn’t that cool!

He knows your mind.

He knows your context.

He is outside of your context and He is sitting in that context right beside you until you come out.

Jesus died for our context.

God loves you and he wants you to concentrate on the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable excellence He has for you.

He understands that it will take your mind a bit to get out of the feelings and thoughts you’ve been in for years.

He’ll wait.

I hope that your day is full of wonder at God’s excellence.

Love you,

Ronda

Faith Beyond Me: September 17, 2019 Email

Hey ladies!

I have two things to say to you today: American Ninja Warrior and Blogging.

Yeah, I know, the two have nothing to do with each other. But they do, they so do!

Faith!

First: American Ninja Warrior. I have boys so, of course, this is THE show right now. If you haven’t seen it yet, imagine the grown up version of every playground challenge we ever gave each other in elementary school performed in a time limit and over a giant pool of water. Oh, and then you have to climb a 100 ft climbing rope (yes, just like the one from gym class).

There are a whole lot of people who do these competitions, trying very hard to reach the final million dollars (yes, if you climb the rope you get a million dollars) but only one has done it in the last 10 years or so, until last night.

Our house was rocking as two ninjas (as they call them) climbed the rope and one of them won a million dollars!

But it wasn’t the one who won who stood out to me. It was one of the almost-but-not-quite competitors. He made it almost to the very end and then fell. His interview after falling was amazing. He stood there sopping wet and smiling, obviously exhausted and said “I entered (the last obstacle) with nothing but faith.”

At first that struck me as odd. Was he leaving faith until all of his strength ran out?

No.

He entered the course with strength AND faith and when all of his strength was done…FAITH was left.

Now lets move on to blogging. Blogging does not seem like something that requires strength or faith, but for a perfectionist like myself, it has required both. Yes, I am starting a blog at speakpromisemamma.com.

If you go there, you will find a single page that I am very proud of, that has taken me FOREVER.

But soon, with God’s help, there will be menus leading you to blog posts. Just give me a little longer to figure it all out, lol. (Also, let me know if there is an old email you would like me to include on the blog.)

I tell you this for two reasons: Now that you know, you can hold me accountable to get it finished and also, if I am honest with you about how much of a challenge this has been for me, you will see how faith can move a mountain. 

It’s hard to tell about our faith moving a mountain if no one ever sees the size of the mountain.

Let’s look at what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 when things were not happening for those closest to him in the way they expected:

“He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'”

God brings us to our mountains and asks us to have a very tiny amount of faith to move them.

Your mountain may not be the same today as it was yesterday.

Your mountain will not be like anyone else’s mountain.

Your mountain will be hard for you.

Your mountain will scare you (they like to do that).

Your mountain may look like a loved one hurting.

Your mountain may look like you hurting.

Your mountain may look like losing.

Your mountain may look like more accomplishment than you think you can handle.

Your mountain may look like more failure than you think you can handle.

Your mountain is nothing compared to the tiny seed of faith you have been given by God.

Love you all,

Ronda

This Is Not Right: September 10, 2019 Email

Hello my friends!

This week starts our Wednesday night Fall Women’s Bible study. I am so excited! I will be leading us through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study, a study of Genesis 1-11. It is amazing and I hope that many of you have already signed up or are planning to join us tomorrow at 6:30.

This study ties in so well with Marian’s portrait of Eve from TueGather. The beginning of the greatest story is often overlooked but that doesn’t make it less important. Genesis is the foundation of the whole story, the reminder of what exactly it was we lost, how we lost it and the promise that God will restore us.

On that note, I got to watch a bumblebee work (I promise it really is on that note). 

Emoji

I’ve been afraid of bees since I was little, like hide in the car when we got to school because there was a bee outside, and because of this I never really watched them.

Seriously, I thought those people who keep bees were crazy. My mom is allergic to bee stings and I love my mamma! So, watching a bee for any length of time was not something I planned to do.

But there I was, waiting in the Whataburger line for my giant Diet Coke, and there he was, doing what bees do.

I watched and as I watched it occurred to me, he wasn’t attacking, he wasn’t lying in wait to sting me. This beautiful (and believe me it is a miracle of God that I can say that) bumblebee was doing what he was created to do. As he went from flower to flower I realized, the flower is doing what it was made to do as well, even though they may make me sneeze.

So, in a world filled with things that make me sneeze, itch, cry out in pain or fear, the good that God created still lies beneath.

I’m gonna make this a short note today and leave it there.

God’s perfect creation is there, albeit damaged by sin, if we will just be still and watch Him work.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  Hebrews 11:3 ESV

Love,

Ronda

All The Things: September 3, 2019 Email

Hey ladies! 

This summer has been busy! I was wondering if some of you may have had the same experience I had while trying to do “all the things”. 

The Mom-centric (or wife-centric or employee-centric) experience. You know that moment when it seems like you are the only one who does ANYTHING, and then you hear someone say “I don’t know, I can’t, ask (insert your name here)”

I’m not sure if you have felt the flames; the flames behind your eyes that start when you realize that someone is pushing something off on you that they could do but don’t want to and it would just add to your already full plate. Hmmm, maybe I’m alone here, I don’t know 

Emoji

Anyway…I was feeling this way the other day when the list was just too long and the needs of those around me seemed too much.

I don’t know about the truth of this, but my husband said that I was banging dishes around and slamming the door when I took the trash out?

I’m sure he exaggerated, right?

Ok, so maybe not. But in the midst of what I was sure was righteous fury, God brought to mind a lesson He has been patiently putting in my path lately.

I could practically hear His voice say again, for the millionth time this week,  “What is this anger doing and who is it hurting?”.

He waited patiently for me to go through all of my smarty pants answers to get to the one He has taught me: My anger hurts me. My anger does not change the situation for the better, it does not suddenly make everyone think like me and apologize profusely for the hurt that I have imagined they have given me. No, my anger was separating me from the people I needed to help me, from the people I love.

We are emotional creatures and our emotions can be beautiful, all of them. But when we let them take control and build a wall around us, they are not as God intended them.

Proverbs 18:19(ESV) says:A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

I always assumed this meant to walk carefully and not offend my brother, but maybe there is a second way to look at this. 

My offended heart, my anger, may make me a strong city. Sounds safe and sound, and extremely lonely. 

So how do I break down this castle of hurt that I’ve built?

I’m going to start here:

2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

I’m going to remember what is important, Jesus Christ and the best news ever: that He came to deliver me from my sin.

I’m going to take captive that anger, those thoughts of how I am somehow mistreated because of the things I do on a daily basis, and obey Christ. 

His command was to love one another, but I’ve found it quite hard to love past my anger castle, so I’m tearing it down.

Love,

Ronda

A Different Goal: August 27, 2019 Email

Hey ladies, how are you?

It has been a productive Summer but Fall is a time of starting.

Only New Year’s Eve rivals this time of year for goal setting.

Seems like everything I’m involved in has started setting out goals for the year.

This is a great thing. Goals keep us going and keep us going in a positive direction. (Notice how carefully I avoided saying “moving forward”? I’ll get back to that in a minute.)

Here is an important point about moving in a positive direction. When we begin to follow Christ we do not begin perfected.

Let me say that again, we…are…not…perfect. 

Christ has welcomed us in as we are but He is always, very gently (even if it doesn’t feel gentle), pushing us toward His Goal for us.

But there is a difference in how I set and reach for goals and how God sets and expects me to reach for His Goal.

When I set a goal and reach for it, I sometimes feel like I’m running. Checking off things on my list and moving to the next thing, always assuming that this is accomplishing the goal.

When God sets His Goal for us, our actions have to be a little different. There is a lot of trusting (Proverbs 3:5, Romans 8:28, Psalm 56:3). And I mean a lot of trust. There is stillness (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:14). There is humility (John 3:30). There is tearing open and exposing what we have so carefully hidden (Ephesians 5:13). There are plenty of rules, all from one big rule (Matthew 22:36-40). Some rules may not make sense at first, but as we experience life will become amazingly clear in practice. There will be pain and temptation to leave the path He has set (1Peter 5:8-9). And there is healing (1Peter 5:10).

And the goal? 

My goal may be something like finishing a Bible study or losing weight. All great goals for me that will probably make my life a little better. But compare that to His Goal for me, becoming Christlike, and my goals seem like small potatoes to say the least.

Here’s the crazy thing about His Goal vs. my goals: when I’m reaching for my goals I’m often reaching in a million different directions and not really going anywhere. But when I’m reaching for His Goal, He is holding my hand and moving me in a beautiful dance, always moving toward Him. There are pauses and steps backward, but I will never be losing ground when I am with Him.

So my little goals will continue (I find that some of them are all taken care of when I keep His Goal in mind), but my ultimate goal will guide me –

Reach toward God, develop a Christ-like life in Him.


Love you all,

Ronda

Time: August 20, 2019 Email

Good evening my friends!

I can hear you right now: “I don’t have time.” Neither do I. But this is something God has been working on with me lately. 

He made time. 

Like, he literally made it for us to live in.

He does not live in it, He lives outside of it. 

As a fan of SyFy (ahem, kind of a confession there), I am familiar with human kind’s obsession with time. There is no shortage of movies about time travel. And it never fails that no matter how much time the hero has available, via time machine of course, time always becomes the one thing he/she never has enough of. 

Even if you don’t watch time travel movies, you are familiar with deadlines and time crunches and the pressure that something so hard to get a real understanding of (have you ever heard “time is relative”?) has on our lives.

So what do we do when we are hard pressed by time, running out of time, short on time or even when we have time on our hands?

We remember the one who is the same Yesterday, Today and FOREVER! (Hebrews 13:8)

I have a little challenge for you when you are overwhelmed by the idea of our time here on Earth: Read Genesis chapter 1, then read Job chapters 38-41. Yes, I know it is a lot and you JUST told me that you had no time 😉 , but you can stretch this out over several days. I won’t judge 

Emoji

Here is my point: We are overwhelmed by our time crunches and our calendars and our own ultimate end in sight, but God, being outside of time (stay with me here) is like my kid with his trains. He sees the whole line and He can enter it at any point. He can’t run out of time.

God is here with you now.

God was with you when you hurt.

God will be with you when life is tough or when it ends.

And He never, ever changed who He was, is or is going to be.

His Grace and Forgiveness on the Cross was not a “limited time offer” so to speak, either. 

This is the most important thing I will say in this email or any time: The blood of Jesus reaches into all of our time and is there for us no matter how long we think we have walked away from the offer.

I love you all and I hope you see your time a little differently today.

Ronda

Tying Myself Up In Knots: August 14, 2019 Email

Wow, this week seems to have gone by much faster than I needed it to!

The speed with which the Summer is ending (the school season, most definitely NOT the weather) is shocking! So many schools have already begun and my son will start school next week.

School starting means one thing: Panicked parents back-to-school shopping in three cramped aisles of Walmart. 

While this year we have taken advantage of the miracle of online shopping, there are still some things that you must get just the “right” color of and so, Walmart’s back to school aisle is where I found myself the other day with two little boys feeling the utter boredom that must be shopping at age 4 and 7. 

They were being amazingly quiet while I busied myself finding the things that must have been stocked by someone who won hide and seek as a kid, and any mom will tell you that quiet is not always a good thing with little boys. Sure enough, I heard my youngest say “Mom, Help” and  looked back at the cart to see that he had tied his wrist up with the cart toddler seat belt.

Don’t ask me how, he’s a 4 year old magician.

While I was extricating and comforting him, and praying our merciful God would keep him from doing it again in the next ten minutes, it occurred to me that this is a perfect picture of what I have been doing with my life lately.

Tying myself up in knots.

I have my lists that never get done and the guilt that comes from the uncompleted items at the end of the day.

I have the conversations that were, um, less than Christ-like on my end, that play over and over in my head.

I have the moments of Mom-craziness when I yelled instead of reasoned.

I have phone calls not made.

I have cleaning that really shouldn’t be put off…again.

I have that gift I should have given.

I have that sin I still think about even though my Jesus has covered me.

All the knots.

But God knows. God is in the business of untying knots so much more complicated than mine, so much more complicated than yours. He will not fail to untie your knots if you will let Him.

Let Him.

Paul was one of those people gifted at tying himself in knots or finding himself tied in other people’s knots, but in his letters we can see that he put his trust in God to pull him out of those things and he reminded his audience to trust in God as well. He wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter about his “affliction” in Asia. Here are his words:

“Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”2 Corinthians 1:9-10 ESV

The “God who raises the dead”!

Whatever your knots are, “He will deliver us”.

He will deliver you.

Love you all,

Ronda

I Don’t Know…2: August 7, 2019 Email

Hey ladies!

I’ve got to start today on a serious note.

These last couple of weeks have been hard on our country. There are so many hurting. Some fighting for their lives or mourning the lost life of someone close. And of course Facebook, Congress, and all of the other platforms are taking this opportunity to tell us all what is wrong with the world. Because we are all 100% sure they have the answer, right?

We don’t have the answer. God does. We aren’t necessarily trusting Him though, are we.

I would like to take this opportunity to expand on an idea I shared from Jen Wilkin a couple of weeks ago. She wants us to “lean into the ‘I don’t know'” in our Bible study, God of Creation, and I think I was pretty clear that I think this is an amazing idea to apply to Bible study.

I am so excited for our Fall Bible Study were we will be using her “God of Creation” study, sometimes I have to stop myself from sharing too much from it – it all applies so well! 

This idea is not just useful in study of the Bible (or any other subject for that matter). This idea, this attitude is perfect for how we deal with tragedy and hurt in our world.

First, in our own hurt.

It is OK to turn to God and say (or in some cases in my life, scream) “I don’t know”! He knows that we don’t understand everything that happens. He knows that there are some things we, in our human minds, will never understand.

In our economy, loss makes no sense, pain makes no sense, but in reality, it is OK for it to make no sense.

I don’t know if I’m communicating this very well, but I know one who practiced this in the most beautiful way: David in the Psalms.

It doesn’t take too long reading in the Book of Psalms to see David’s questioning in his pain:

Psalm 3:1Lord, how many are my foes! how many rise up against me!

But David doesn’t end it there.

He beautifully transitions and embraces the “I don’t know” when he leans completely on God, knowing the only answers come from Him:

Psalm 3: 5 I lie down and sleep, I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

He finishes his Psalm, his prayer, with the assurance that whatever deliverance comes, it is from the Lord

Psalm 3: 8 From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

That is just one of the shorter examples of David crying out to God in his “I don’t know” and being OK with “God knows but I don’t know”.

Finally, in the hurt of others.

We are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). We are not called to have all of the answers and fix it for those who mourn. That is, most often, not our job. Sometimes it is just our job to hold our hurting sister, or sit next to our hurting brother and just agree with their “I don’t know”. It is hard, but when we all support each other in coming to the Father with this and trusting that God knows, we can make it through even in the “I don’t know”.

I realize it’s been a long email for the subject of not knowing, but I hope it helps to learn that it is OK to go to God and trust Him even when you don’t have the answer or will never have the answer.

Love you all,

Ronda

The Blessing of I Don’t Know: July 23, 2019 Email

Good Evening Ladies!

Summer just keeps moving along.

As Fall approaches, I have so much to remember. All of the information floating around in my head and I always feel like there is information I am missing. Just part of being Mom/etc. I guess. Sometimes I feel like I need to have all of the answers. It leaves me kinda stressed, to be completely honest.

But have you ever met someone who “knows it all”?

Say, for a completely random example, a 7 year old telling you all about how to cook. After a minute, it’s cute, but then….The voice in the back of your head will begin to whisper “Tell him he doesn’t know everything and that’s ok”. Then you will answer your little voice “How do I do that without making him feel really bad about himself?” This will go on and on for a short while until you come up with the standard: “That is wonderful honey! Now go watch cartoons.”

Knowing everything (so to speak) is stressful for the knower and kind of annoying for everyone around them. 

But what about God’s word?

Aren’t we supposed to read it and know exactly what it means and have the answer for everyone who asks?

Well, yes and no.

You should read. You should examine and learn. We are called to have answers for those who need them (1 Peter 3:15). But knowing everything is no way to go into a Bible Study. It is no way to learn.

When you open up your Bible, if you go in with the spirit currently held by my 7 year old, pretty sure that you have this thing down pat and need absolutely no new information, you will come away with none of the answers you (or anyone else) need.

So, experiment with me.

Open your Bible with the freedom of “I don’t know”. 

When you read a particularly troubling or difficult passage – turn to your Teacher, your Heavenly Father, and say “I don’t know”. When you read a passage you have read a thousand times – turn to your Teacher, your Heavenly Father, and have the grace to admit “I don’t know”.

This frees us up to listen to what God’s word says or to learn about who God is without the confusing blockades of our own “knowledge” of what should be the case. It frees us up search for more without feeling inferior or wrong for not knowing everything about it up front. Most importantly, it frees us up to hear our Teacher when He is Teaching.

Because:
The Wisdom sharer of Proverbs 3:5-8 says

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Love you all,

Good night,

Ronda

Everything: July 16, 2019 Email

Hi Ladies!

It is Tuesday again. These summer weeks are flying by. I hope you all are doing well and finding God’s word an inspiration every day.

Today I woke up, as it seems I do most days, with a song stuck in my head. Some days it is the theme song to a kids show (let’s be honest, that’s most days) and some days it’s an old hymn, but today it was something that I’ve heard many times on the radio. I’ll spare you the earnest attempt at describing a song in text and suffice it to say that the words that stuck out were “Lord I surrender all that I have”.

I took the time while this was playing over and over in my sleepy brain to pray a little prayer. I want to give my Heavenly Father EVERYTHING I have.
Then I started listing what I was giving Him and something occurred to me:

Everything I have is His to begin with!

The image that I see to describe this is Mother’s day/Father’s day presents when kids are little. We have to help them with every step and the paper and all of the little things they think to include are things they ask us to provide. But when those little hands present that hand made gift to us (even if we had to go as far as writing the words for them) our hearts are touched and we thank them and give them huge hugs.

God is that Daddy. 

He watched us ask for the materials that make up our little lives day after day. He writes the words we can’t yet understand. He draws the plans that we can’t make our little hands draw. But when we look up to Him and say “Here Daddy! This is for you!” I guarantee you that there is a smile on His face and hug ready for us!

He loves us so much. He is the provider of all that we have, all that we need. 

This is the fully developed (fully awake) prayer that I have prayed:

Lord, Heavenly Father, I give you my everything, knowing full well that it came from you in the first place. I love you!

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

I hope your day is blessed and your week is a blessing,

Love,

Ronda

The Path: July 10, 2019 Email

Hi Ladies!

I hope you all have had a full and fulfilling summer so far. I know last week was exciting as we celebrated the fourth.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with family this summer and to explore again the memories of what made us who we are. I love to hear the familiar stories and learn some what I was not around to watch.

Listening to these stories is like looking behind us at the path we have already completed. It is clear where we were, where we took turns, where we had to backtrack and take another path.

But the path before us is usually not that clear.

It is difficult, I might say impossible, to make the correct turns with what we can see with our own eyes.

We need a map.

When I moved to San Antonio from Tulsa, Oklahoma, I most definitely needed a map. I had one map to study when I was in my house and a GPS on my phone for emergencies, and still I got lost a time or two. I got really tired of that little noise the GPS makes when you take a wrong turn and the term “recalculating” became infuriating.  But studying the map has paid off and I can at least take my son to school and church and not get lost. 😉

But seriously, life is confusing, and we have a tendency to walk through most of it without a map. I’m not talking about the GPS app on our phones, I’m talking about the one and only guide to life: God’s Word.

There are times in life when it is not clear what the next move is.

There are times when we are sure that we have gotten ourselves so far off of the map that we will never find our way back.

There have been times when I have felt like I was making far too many left turns and I would never, ever make progress.

But the Mapmaker is faithful and, even though I still cannot see the end of the map or where exactly I’m going, I trust that He will guide each turn and “recalculate” when I mess it all up.

Have you ever thought about how many times God talks about our Path in the Bible? Trust me, a quick word search is worth it. Here is one of my all time favorites:

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Have a wonderful day and remember to listen to your Mapmaker!

Love you all,

Ronda

Happy Birthday USA!: July 2, 2019 Email

Hey ladies!

Can you believe that it is already July 2nd! I hope you are all going to have wonder-filled, fun celebrations this week.

While we are facing the craziness of all of this wonderful celebration, I find myself working hard to remember where it all comes from.

Really there are two kinds of freedom: The kind of freedom that the world celebrates and the kind that those who have been set free by the Savior Jesus Christ celebrate.

I know that is such a simple statement, but it is simple because it is the first simple mistake that we all make.

We all celebrate side by side, but some of us celebrating are loving “freedom” but not fully understanding what that freedom means. When this happens, the path gets muddy and we start to follow any leader that can attract our fleeting attention, whether they are good and true or not.

What are we supposed to do with this freedom?

I think we can be sure at this point that every junior high kid that said “it’s a free country” might not have understood the complete concept.

Let’s turn to the Bible to find the direction we seek.

1 Peter 2:16″Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

So, I’ll keep it simple.

We are to be the example of freedom, true freedom.

Yes, we are free to do anything and this freedom will make our choice to do the things that “show proper respect” and “love the family of believers” and “fear God” and “honor” the government, stand out. 

We are free to choose because God wanted our love to come from our choice, not from oppression. 

This freedom is truly beautiful and worthy of celebration!


Have a beautiful celebration in love with God!

Love you all,

Ronda

Pinterest and Proverbs: June 25, 2019 Email

Hey ladies,

So, I think we have all heard the saying in the last couple of years, “Don’t compare your life to somebody else’s Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram, etc.” And I know that is absolutely true.

Social Media is not real life, but still I find myself getting caught up. It’s very enthralling to watch the best parts of everyone’s lives scroll by on the phone or computer screen. I have spent hours, especially now that I have a high school class reunion coming up, looking up old friends to see how their lives are going, or at least how they look like they are going.

I step away from these sessions, after liking and laughing and loving and wowing, thinking “Wow, good for you! That is incredible! I’m so happy for you.”

But in the back of my head there is that voice.

I think you all know it.

That little itch in the back of your brain that starts in quietly and then starts shouting: “Yeah, so happy for them. You dropped and broke half of the eggs you had just purchased in the grocery store parking lot today!”

(This really did happen. I cried. I’m over it.)

“And this Pinterest Mom would have taken those egg shells and made them into compost to feed the organic garden from which she gets the vegetables to make those beautiful meals that her five home-schooled kids, who’ve never once seen any screen time, eat with joy and beauty at a table she made from a pallet she found at the back of the grocery store where you couldn’t even hold your eggs!”

(Did not really happen, but you get my drift here.)

Social Media is great to keep in touch, but don’t  believe most of what you see. No one takes a picture of their absolute worst, crying in the grocery store parking lot, days.

That said, we have been provided with the opposite.

The Bible.

It’s like God is reaching down and whispering (whilst crushing that crazy back-of-my-brain voice with his thumb) “I love you. See all of these people I used? They didn’t always have things perfect either. You’re ok. We are going to make something beautiful of this mess.”

Let’s take a quick look at just one of the passages we’ve read in the earlier part of our reading this summer. The genealogy of Christ. 

We know that not one word in the Bible is wasted, and that means that each name on that list is there for a reason. Shall we look at a few? I think it might be time:

Let’s look at Matthew 1: 1-16. I won’t write it out as that would make this even longer, just read along.

Abraham – (Genesis 20) gave in to fear and claimed his wife was his sister, brought big problems on a whole nation.

Judah and Tamar – (Genesis 38) Talk about dirty laundry! Trust me, it’s a soap opera.

Rahab – (Joshua 2) A prostitute by trade before she met the Hebrew spies.

David – (2 Samuel 2:11) Called a Man after God’s own heart. Still an adulterer and a murderer.

There is more, but we could be here forever.

All of these people, flaws included (and shared in the Bible for all time), were deemed worthy by God to be a part of the official genealogy of His son.

So, maybe we can read the Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram posts a little less and the stories of the flawed, yet loved, people in the Bible a little more.

Love you all,

Ronda

What Do We Treasure: June 18, 2019

Hi ladies!

I hope your summer is going well. I can’t believe how fast it is going. My vacation time with my boys always seems too short.

Something I have discovered being the mom of two very imaginative and talkative little boys is their absolute love for anything that even remotely appears to be a treasure box. Every time my 4 year old sees an old looking box with a hook and eye closure and metal straps across the top, he has to touch it, to open it, to see what “treasure” is inside.

Treasure is a popular topic in the Bible. There are plenty of stories of treasure being claimed by victors of battle and such, but there are also reminders in the Psalms and Proverbs of the treasure of wisdom and where that comes from.

Jesus reminded us in Luke 12 and Matthew 6 that our treasure is in Heaven, not earthly treasure that can be so easily lost.

Then Paul wrote to the Colossians:

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:2-3


Early in our reading this summer we learned that several times during Jesus’ life Mary “treasured” what she was seeing in the life of God’s son. (Luke 2:19 and 51)

I noticed something about these last two uses of the word treasure: They speak about Christ and understanding.

Mary was seeing something unfold that few would have the privilege to see, certainly no one would see it from her perspective, and she didn’t always fully understand it.

In Luke 2:19 it says she pondered the things she was treasuring.

In Luke 2:50 we learn that Jesus’ parents didn’t understand what he was saying to them and in the next breath we learn that his mother treasured these things she did not understand in her heart.

I think were I am trying to go here is this: Your heart may not look like an old timey pirate’s treasure box that so excites my little boys, but it is a treasure box. 

It is the place where we put everything we are learning in our Bible study. A place to put these precious nuggets of knowledge and wisdom that God lets us see so that we can ponder them and learn from them. While doing this we may discover that God’s plan is so much more than us, that we may not understand it in it’s incredible vastness.

Let us, like Mary, quietly treasure what we don’t understand so that we may have the privilege of watching Him work.

God Bless you all this week,

Ronda

What’s On Your Plate: June 12, 2019 Email

Hi Ladies!

No matter where you are, the fellowship of a Bible Study is wonderful and there is always something to learn from God.

That is the point of my email today, as a matter of fact. Don’t ever let where you are in your ability to study the Bible or your Bible knowledge keep you for meeting together or opening your Bible.

I love that Marian and the Women’s Ministry at Mission City Church called this Summer reading plan “Come to the Table”. That is just what it is. God has put a banquet in front of us of His glorious knowledge, wisdom and presence. It may seem overwhelming at first, but that’s just because it is more sustenance than we have seen in a while in this dusty desert of a world we live in.

My life kind of revolves around food right now, so this is an easy metaphor for me. 

My littlest has to have a certain amount of certain foods every day or his body will revolt on him and we’ll be right back where we started. It can be frustrating for both him and us and, more often than not, our dinner table is less joy and more begging and fighting. But, something he has said over and over lately makes me think about how we accept the feast that God offers with His Word:

He says “It’s too much!”

At first I thought he meant too much on his fork or something like that, but then he used the phrase anytime he was frustrated or overwhelmed by anything.

That’s when I got it.

It’s too much = I’m overwhelmed, help me.

And as parents, we do help him. He is able to take in the great amount that he needs when we help him take it in at a pace that fits him.

God does that with us. 

The list of Bible verses in front of you may look overwhelming. Tell God, “It’s too much”. He will be faithful to help you see it in portions and at a pace that you can handle.

Some of us, on some days, are ready for deep examination and many, many commentaries and cross references and on other days it’s all you can do to open and read the first passage. 

Some of us are only ready to take a verse at a time. 

But all of us will be filled by God with exactly what we need to live this life and walk with Him.

Don’t get overwhelmed and step away from the table, please.

When it feels like too much, remember God is there to help you as a loving Father. He understands your need and your limitation.

One of my favorite passages from the Bible for when I feel like God wants more than I can give is this:

Hebrews 14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God Bless you all this week,

Ronda