Following Jesus Part 2

by Rhonda, May 06, 2022

Luke 8:43-48  And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[a] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[b] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

In Following Jesus Part 1, we talked about the importance of seeking Jesus.  There's really no better example of someone seeking Jesus than the woman in Luke Chapter 8.  Isn't is fascinating how Jesus is in tune with someone seeking Him so fervently?  In a crowd of people, He stopped everything He was doing to pay attention to her.  God is extremely aware and focused on anyone seeking Him in total faith.  He's also incredibly graceful to those seeking Him.

Following Jesus healed this woman.  Often, when we think about following Jesus, we consider what we have to give up in order to follow Him.  We can no longer enjoy our sinful lifestyles in the same way.  Our anger can't be spewed anytime we feel like it.  We might have to remove bad influences from our life.  We think we need to sacrifice to please Jesus and we look at what we have to give up to become a follower.  But, we are the ones who benefit from following Jesus.  Much like the woman who bled for twelve years, we are also healed when we follow Jesus.

Unfortunately, we as humans tend to be followers.  If we aren't following Jesus, we're following something.  When Moses left for Mount Sinai, the Israelites began worshipping a golden calf.  While we may not be bowing down to a golden calf, we're likely following something else that's leading us astray.  Why would we follow anything other than love and healing?  Instead, we choose fortune, fame, selfish ambition, addictions, and ego.  We choose things that lead us into bondage.  The only source of true freedom is following Jesus.  His goal is to heal His followers.

Shortly after my husband and I separated, I made a commitment to follow Jesus like I'd never followed Him before.  I truly didn't understand that by doing this, He would heal me.  I thought I'd heal myself.  I thought if I spent time in devotions, and if I did all of the right things by following Him, I would heal myself through my discipline and good works.  Why not?  I would relieve some of my pain and feel better about myself in the process.  As long as I kept a schedule of devotions, prayer time, and religious commitments, everything would be okay..

The problem was it seemed impossible to remain consistent.  When the realization finally came to me that Jesus was the one doing the healing, the pressure was off of me.  I didn't have to keep a rigorous schedule to feel better, then apologize profusely when I fell short.  I was interested in pain relief after my divorce.  But, God was interested in healing, and as usual, He was seeing the bigger picture.  

He was interested in freeing me from shackles that had been carried around for many years.  He didn't stop with the divorce.  He wanted to heal me from self focus, approval addiction, eating disorders, and many other things.  He asked me to bring my life and my decisions in line with my beliefs.  Bringing my life under His authority (not mine) brings peace and fulfillment - both to me as well as those around me.

It may seem like common sense, but it was a surprise to me that He didn't ask me to spend more time in church.  He told me You've found your place with me.  Now, I want you to find your freedom.  Let's truly bring your life under My authority.  I had always felt like I was following Jesus, but I had yet to find my freedom.  He didn't ask me to do more, He asked me to make different decisions.  My head was full of knowledge.  I didn't need any further study time.  Instead, He asked me to stay in my same everyday life, but live it differently.

So this is what it means to follow you? I asked Him.  One day at a time, one decision at a time? Just let you lead?  It seemed so easy, and I went to sleep that night with peace, resolving to try it the next day.  

The next day came.  

Let me tell you, I was so surprised by how often I was led daily by my emotions.  I knew the right things to do, but rarely chose to do it.  When God asked me to bring my life under His authority, it wasn't a small tweak.  I was going to have to make major changes, and the sheer amount of times I was falling short on a daily basis was overwhelming to me.  That night, as I poured out my heart to him in tears, He reminded me there were a few times that day I was successful.  I made a few, just a few, decisions where I allowed Him to lead.  This was progress.  He prompted me to write them down, so I did.  

The next day I tried to repeat the few successes I had the day before.  Feeling like a failure at the end of the day, I wrote down my meager successes in my journal.  I tried again the next day.  The next day, I gave up.  Then, the next day I decided I would try again.  And so on.    

I am still such a work in progress, learning how to follow Jesus and truly allow Him to lead in my life.  Every month that passes, I continue to make progress, but I still have my days of complete failure.  However, through this process of working to live my life differently, something crazy has happened.  

I've experienced healing.  Not a little bit of healing, mind you.  I've experienced some of the greatest growth and peace of my life.

How is that possible when I'm such a mess?  I am constantly screwing up.  I lack consistency.  I lack discipline.  Sometimes I completely fall off the wagon and go off the deep end.  Yet, in the midst of it, miraculously I've developed a heart that is continually seeking to follow Jesus.  Not a schedule.

This mess is becoming a healed, whole woman like never before.  I don't even know how its possible.  But, when I look back at my writings, I am starting to see more consistency.  I'm starting to see more discipline.  The devil constantly reminds me of my failures, but these things I've written down say otherwise.  Now, I am starting to look forward to recording my successes.  I'm proud of myself and what I've accomplished.  I am not so focused on the failures anymore.  I'm being healed, and I can guarantee you I wasn't the one who did it.

He is so faithful.  He is so gracious.  Following Him is the greatest thing I've ever done, or will ever do.  

I'm so grateful He takes the time to deal with this work in progress.

Following Jesus Part 1

by Rhonda, May 03, 2022

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The first step to following Jesus is to seek Him.  

I have a terrible habit of losing my car keys.  I wish I could tell you it is a result of getting older, but I've lost my keys since I was fourteen years old, holding a shiny new restricted license.  I've lost them in convenience stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, or (my personal favorite) locking them inside of the car.  At least the car I own now won't allow me to do that anymore.

When I was a teenager, my father would have to pick me up in random places after I lost my keys.  He always kept a spare, knowing I had a brain block when it came to finding my keys.

"Don't you pay attention to where you put them?" he would ask me with an exasperated sigh.

I can assure you I didn't.  

Even now, if I don't make a specific effort to remember where I put my keys, I will lose them.  I have to put them in the same place every time.  If I don't, I will have a very bad morning the next day, usually when I'm already running late.

As a redhead, when I lose things I get mad.  It isn't my fault, its the hair color the Lord gave me.  But, my kids can attest I'm no fun when searching for my long, lost keys.  As a coping mechanism, my daughter seems to have developed a superpower of sniffing out keys.  I have no idea how she does it.  I will lose my keys, and she will promptly walk into my office, fish under a stack of papers and walk out with my keys.

It really is incredible.  I need to enter her into some sort of talent contest.

But, I digress.

My point here is that when I'm seeking my keys, I'm not seeking anything else.  I'm not looking for my glasses (yes, I lose those too), a piece of chocolate (maybe later), or the TV remote.  I need my keys, and nothing is going to distract me until I find my keys.

We need to really, truly seek Jesus.  Spending time in the Bible will allow us to learn who Jesus is.  Prayer is our avenue to being known by God.  Seeking God also helps us to understand who we are, and what our purpose is.  God doesn't hide Himself from us, and if we seek Him, we will find Him.  

Seeking Jesus is a daily choice, and its not always easy.  I know I certainly have my days where I don't feel like seeking Jesus.  I'd rather attend my own pity party (alone), fall back into the pit of anger and unforgiveness, and isolate.  But, when I seek Jesus I'm less dependent upon my emotions.  My eyes are on Him, instead of continually worrying about what's going to happen to me.  I personally think the devil's agenda is doomed when we become less dependent upon emotions, stop thinking about ourselves, and seek Jesus regardless of how we feel.  Some days I'm successful, but if I'm honest, some days I'm not.

One of the biggest reasons we quit seeking Jesus is because the devil likes to shame us for our inconsistency.  The devil loves to tell us our victories mean nothing if we don't experience the same victories every day.  That's not true.  Our inconsistencies don't invalidate our victories.  Perfection has never been a requirement for following Jesus.  In fact, our inconsistencies can call us to His faithfulness.  Our faithfulness doesn't save us.  A perfectly consistent Christian life doesn't get us into heaven.  God's mercy is what saves us, and when we follow Jesus, our confidence can rest in His consistency.  Thank goodness for that!  

We should never stop seeking Jesus because we've experienced a setback or a failure.  God wants us to receive His love every day.  If perfection were a requirement, no one would be called to follow Jesus.  But, Jesus confronts our inconsistencies and insecurities with his incomparable mercy.  

Follow me, He invites us.  Its time for you to be freed of these shackles that you've carried around for many years,  I have good plans for you.  

That's an invitation worth accepting.

The Power of Prayer Part 3

by Rhonda, May 01, 2022

 Can Prayer Grow Your Faith?

I posed this question to my kids this week.  

Alex thought about it for a few minutes.  

"Sometimes when I am praying about a worry, I realize it is a stupid thought that just popped into my mind and halfway through my prayer I'm not sure why I'm even taking the time to pray on it.  But even if its stupid, just taking the time to be with God and bring your worries to Him grows faith.  Sometimes problems get solved just by sitting there with God."

Leeza chimed in.  "Prayers are a way of me giving God an opening to work in my life.  Sometimes I pray for little things like for my favorite football team to win.  Sometimes I pray for big things like a loved one who is sick.  But, these are all opportunities for Him to work in my life, and when He works in my life, it definitely grows my faith."

I think they're right.  

Bringing our problems to God, whether big or small, creates opportunities for Him to work in our lives.  Is it possible the worries and problems we bring to God in prayer strengthen our relationship with our creator?  Every problem we bring to God may not be answered in the way we expect, but we can rest assured He always hears us and He's always working on our behalf.  His solutions to our problems are always better than our solutions.

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

I've heard this verse for years, and I've always thought it was notable His name would represent "wonderful counselor".  A person goes to a counselor to talk about their problems.  A counselor relationship is a very personal, intimate relationship.  Often a counselor knows more about you than your closest family members!  They are a trusted advisor in your personal life, helping you restore relationships and regain mental health. 

God desires this type of personal relationship with us, and more!  While a counselor can help us to view our problems differently, God can actually solve them.  He can take them onto His shoulders, remove our burdens, and remind us My child, I've got this.  I'm on your side.  Prayer is our avenue to this type of amazing, profoundly life-changing relationship.  It is the ultimate gift, allowing us to face our problems in life instead of crumbling under the pressure of having to go through trials alone.  We are never alone!  Isn't that an incredible realization?

When going through the cancer diagnosis, you are not alone.  Walking through a divorce?  You're not alone.  When the kids have driven you to the edge of reason, you don't have to shoulder it by yourself.  When the loneliness feels unbearable, the Wonderful Counselor is by your side.  Not only does He know how to solve our problems, He takes them onto His shoulders, reminding us that our only charge is to stay obedient to Him.  We can't save ourselves from our problems.  Jesus is the one who can save us and set our hearts free.  

Isaiah 55:8  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Part of the reason it is so important to pursue God's perspective is because He can see the future.  He can see the big picture, but we can't.  We live in the moment, in the day, in the clutches of our immediate needs.  We want a solution for our problems today, but God knows what's good for us tomorrow.  Prayer gives us opportunity to listen for His guidance, knowing He has a bigger plan in mind.

I've had some significant moments this week where I've felt very down.  Divorce is isolating, and there's times the lonliness can be very challenging to deal with.  While it is always helpful to pour out my troubles to God in prayer, I find when I listen during prayer, I begin to view my life through God's plans instead of my own.  God gives me new perspective and pulls me out of my dark places.  In those times, He reminds me the present isn't an indicator of the future.  My struggles won't last forever.  He has great plans for me.  I miss out on being reassured when I don't give Him time to speak into my life.

Take time to make prayer a meaningful part of your life.  Move it to the top of your to-do list, and let God shoulder the struggles you're experiencing.  You deserve to experience God's grace and when you do, it will transform your life.  

The Power of Prayer Part 2

by Rhonda, April 27, 2022

Communication is at the core of every relationship, including our relationship with God.  Prayer is simply communication with God.  It is our avenue to talking directly to Him, and hearing directly from Him.  Have you ever tried to have a close friendship that is based solely on a few meaningless texts?  It won't happen.  Have you tried to get to know someone without a heartfelt talk?  Its difficult to do.  Have you gotten close to someone by simply reading about them, without ever talking to them?  Impossible.

Prayer is an amazing gift.  

1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

The God of the universe hears us and we can have confidence in approaching Him.  The smallest, dumbest prayers are not lost.  Yes, even when you pray that you don't have lipstick on your teeth while you're talking, He hears it.  He heard it when you prayed for the sick loved one.  He heard it when you told Him you feel like you can't take it anymore.

I know when I was going through my divorce there were times I didn't feel He could hear me.  Things didn't go my way.  My marriage wasn't saved.  We didn't put things back together.  God didn't take me down the path I felt I should have gone down.  Surely, He must not have heard me.  

The Bible says otherwise.  When I really think about it, the heart of my prayers were that I would have a happy, peaceful marriage.  I prayed for a total turnaround, with both of our eyes on Christ.  It didn't happen.  But, it doesn't mean God didn't hear me.  He simply, in his infinite wisdom, knows right now reconciliation is not possible in my situation.
In the meantime, He reminds me the heart of my prayer, the request for happiness and peace is available through Him.  If I can keep my eyes on the things He's given, instead of what I don't have, my prayers turn from "Why didn't you do this for me?" to "Thank You for seeing me through the worst years of my life."

Prayers of gratitude will change your life.  Human nature pulls our eyes away from being thankful, but a focus on gratitude changes our prayers from a request list to a relationship.  Instead of asking for more, gratitude reminds us to look at what we have.  In the chapter of Luke, Jesus heals ten lepers.  However, only one returns to thank Him. Isn't that story telling of our human nature?  We can forget to be grateful in the greatest of blessings.  However, the one leper who returned to thank Jesus is the one who was changed on the inside as well as physically healed.  

Psalm 92
1It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!

Prayers of gratitude bring joy.  Focusing on God and the blessings He brings into our lives brings joy.  It isn't material things.  It isn't the promotion at work, or the ten pounds you want to lose.  More of what doesn't already make us happy isn't going to magically make us happy.  Its time to look for joy somewhere new!  Every day we have breath in our lungs is a blessed day.

One thing that I still use as a help in this area is a gratitude journal.  On the days I struggled to find anything good, especially immediately after our separation, I would look back on my gratitude journal to remind myself of the blessings God gave me during that time.  A gratitude journal also trains your mind to be looking for things to be grateful for.  When you're looking for blessings, all of a sudden, you'll begin to see more and more of them.  You'll start to notice things you typically would have missed because you're completely focused on your problems.  On the dark days, a gratitude journal is a good tool to help pull you out of the pit.

I remember when Alex was diagnosed with cancer at age 7.  We were in the hospital prepping for brain surgery, and I was in a very dark pit of despair.  As we waited for him to go back for surgery, the nurse had informed us we would be pushed back an hour.  "Why?" I wanted to know.  "Another child, more urgent, has been flown in this morning" was the answer.

I later heard the entire story.  A little girl had been flown into the hospital from overseas - paid for by her family.  Our neurosurgeon told the family his devastating diagnosis.  He could do surgery and give them hopefully another year with her, but the recovery would be very difficult.  Or they could say goodbye over the next few days.  

In my worst moment, there was another family going through more.  Alex's diagnosis wasn't fully known, but he wasn't dying in the next few days.  I remember God showing me the importance of always keeping my eyes on Him during that time.  Even if we only had a few months left with Alex, it was a blessing.  In our darkest hour, we had something to be grateful for.

Gratitude turns a terrible situation upside down, and causes you to view it differently.  Gratitude adds God into the situation, showing you His fingerprints, His presence.  Prayers of thankfulness are simply saying to God "I saw you today.  I know You were there."

He gives us so much to be grateful for.  

The Power of Prayer

by Rhonda, April 24, 2022

I drug myself out of bed on a Tuesday.  I've never been a morning person, and this day was no exception.  I had a work meeting an hour and half away, so today's alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.  I asked God to please stop time for one more hour for me, and then opened one eye to check the time again.  It was now 5:35 a.m.  I flung one leg over the side of the bed, then the other.  No time stopping miracles were on the agenda today.  

As I got ready for the day, my back started to ache.  I thought about how I should be exercising more so I don't wake up all achy.  Welcome to your forties, I thought to myself.  I took a seat on the little stool I keep in my bathroom to sit on when I put on my make-up.

My back pain started to intensify.  I must have really slept wrong on my back.  Feeling somewhat dehydrated, I went to the kitchen and drank a full glass of water.  About fifteen minutes later, I was lying on the floor, sweating through my pajamas, trying to understand why I was in so much pain.

I sent my Mom a text.  I think I need for you to take me to the hospital.  I started vomiting and then, I checked my phone again.  No answer.

I made my way to Alex's bedroom.  

"Son, I need for you to get up and take me to the hospital."  

It was about the only words I could get out, and as a Mom, I'm pretty proud of his response.  Alex doesn't have his driver's license yet, but he has a learner's permit.  He got up, took one look at me, and quickly grabbed his socks and shoes.  He just knew without asking a single question, even though I know he was nervous about driving me.  

We didn't say another word to each other as we made our way to the car.  He grabbed the keys, and within five minutes we were out the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, sweating, contorting myself into all kinds of positions trying to get comfortable.  

Alex slowed the car down as traffic came to a stop.  I've never seen it happen in our town before, but early in the wee hours of the morning, we were stuck in a traffic jam.  

"You've got to be kidding me," I whined.

"Mom," Alex's voice was breaking, "what's wrong?"

"I think I have a kidney stone.  I'm not dying, but I'm just in a lot of pain."

Alex nodded.  We said nothing else to each other except the occasional direction from me on where to turn, and even in my pain, I managed to remind him to use a turn signal.  Once a Mom, always a Mom.

I was so relieved when he pulled up in front of the emergency room.  As luck would have it, a man was standing outside with a wheelchair.  I opened the door and instructed Alex to park the car without me.  He looked a bit alarmed but nodded his head and said okay.  

"Do you need this?" the man asked me.  I nodded as I climbed into the wheelchair.  I still don't know why he was standing outside with a wheelchair when no one else was there, but I am sure glad he was.

Alex parked the car and returned to the waiting room with me.  Soon, they were taking my vital signs, and trying to find me an empty room.  As I was being wheeled back to a hospital room, I felt the pain suddenly lift.  Slowly at first, then I began to experience a significant amount of relief.  

I turned to my son.  "Alex," I said.  "I'm beginning to feel better."

Alex grabbed my hand.  "I prayed for you as hard as I could in the car."

By the time I got to the hospital room, I stopped sweating.  They asked me if I needed painkillers, and ten minutes earlier, I would have given my right arm for a painkiller.  But, I turned it down.  The pain had literally gone from about a level ten to about a level one.  

"Maybe the stone dropped into your bladder." the nurse said.

"I don't know what that means, but if it means the pain stops, then I'm happy." I said.

A scan confirmed that's exactly what happened.  "That's rare that it happens so quickly," the nurse said.  "But when it does, the pain usually goes away and now you'll feel much better."

I looked at Alex.  We both knew why it had happened.  

I took the rest of the day off of work.  Going through something like that tends to be a bit draining.  But, I can't help but think about the power of prayer.  I don't even know if I prayed for myself going through it.  I know I probably did, especially when I was lying on the floor, but I don't really remember. 

I think something special happens when someone else prays over us.  It reminds me of how important it is to pray for others when they can't pray for themselves.  Alex's faith is so inspirational to me sometimes.  His first response is always to pray when he's confronted with a gigantic issue.

James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

So often, we think of praying as a last resort.  When we've tried everything else, we give up and pray.  But, praying should be our first response.  Its our avenue to the God of the universe, and the power of prayer can never be overstated.  Miracles happen as a result of the power of prayer.

I am going to be doing a few more posts this week on the power of prayer, after I was so inspired by the events of last week.  The ability to know and be known by God through prayer is such an abundant blessing.  

I'm feeling much better this week.  I had to slow down a bit, which always gives me time to reflect and of course, write.  I am so grateful we have such a faithful, caring God who sees us when we struggle.  He never leaves us.  He hears the sweet prayers of a teenage boy praying for his Mom in the parking lot.  

We have a God who listens.  

Uniquely Designed

by Rhonda, April 20, 2022

Romans 12:6-7 "God has also given each of us different gifts to use.  If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have.  If we can serve others, we should serve.  If we can teach, we should teach."

Did you know that all snowflakes are unique?  There was a man named Wilson Bentley who dedicated his life to photographing snowflakes.  He perfected a technique where he captured snowflakes against a black velvet background.  The results of his photography are stunning.

Yet, none of them are the same.  Wilson Bentley was the first to argue no two snowflakes are alike, andhe was right.  He was enamored with these small ice creations, and sadly he died of pneumonia as a result of - yes, you guessed it - being outside photographing snowflakes.  He died pursuing his passion.

God's creativity is infinite.  I can't imagine a mind so endless it creates unique snowflakes. Snowflakes sometimes last a few seconds before melting!  Yet, He finds it worthwhile to create these tiny masterpieces.

God isn't into creating copies.  If God creates billions of unique snowflakes, imagine how many ways He makes each one of us unique.  He created each of us with unique personalities, looks, mannerisms, viewpoints, and even unique voices.  No two people look exactly alike.  No two people think exactly alike.

Yet, we spend so many of our days comparing ourselves to one another.  We want to be equal to, or better than, someone else.  It may be someone at school.  It may be someone at work.  It may be a sibling, a spouse, or even a friend.  We look for affirmation by comparing ourselves to others in our lives.  Depending on how we come out in the comparison game, we end up with either feelings of superiority or inferiority.  Neither is healthy.

Judging ourselves was never our role.  Comparing ourselves was never in the plan.  The only source of true affirmation is God's unconditional love for us.  We were never meant to be anyone but who God created us to be.

Comparison forever keeps us focused on all the things that are wrong with us.  When our focus stays on all of the things that are wrong, we become increasingly discouraged.  Comparison steals our energy and saps our strength.  

I remember when I was in the torturous confines commonly referred to as Middle School.  I hung out with a pack of pre-teen girls, complete with braces, who dressed alike, acted alike, and they all sounded alike.  The most popular of the bunch was a tall auburn-haired girl with a high pitched voice named Lisa.  Everyone wanted to be like her.

Being the weirdo I am, I even wanted to sound like her.  I remember one evening when I came home from school, I began to talk in a high pitched voice just like her.

My mother, never one to give dishonest feedback, stared at me.  "Why are you talking like that?"

"Like what?" I asked innocently.  "I always talk like this."

Mom laughed at me.  "No you don't."

"Yes," I argued back.  "I do.  I've always had a high voice."

Mom nodded.  "All right," she said.  "But you know, Rhonda, I've always thought you had such a nice voice.  Lisa, on the other hand, doesn't have as nice of a voice as you even though her voice is higher."

"Lisa's voice is annoying," my brother chimed in.

I got the point.  I was pretty embarrassed being called out like that. I immediately quit talking like Minnie Mouse and my mother graciously never brought it up again.

In our adult world, we may not walk around talking like a cartoon mouse, but we try to be like others in different ways.  We compete.  We become easily offended, defending our fragile egos as if they were actually important.  We let our self esteem rely on other people's opinions, allowing our moods to fluctuate like the wind, since they're dependent on other people's views.

But God says, I have made you unique, designed to move along a path I've designed just for you.  Is that new guy at work outperforming you?  Be his biggest cheerleader.  Let him have the spotlight.  Is your sibling getting married and having kids before you're even on your second date?  Good for them, but that's not your path right now.  Is your best friend the mother to perfect children while yours continue to struggle?  Maybe its because God designed you to be the perfect mother for your children.  You're not perfect, but you're the perfect match for them.

We're not supposed to run someone else's race.  We weren't designed for it.  Our unique gifts from God are needed specifically for the life path God has designed for us.  God gave you the exact gifts you need to navigate your life, your situation.  Your gifts aren't designed for someone else's life.

You don't have to compete.  You don't have to prove your worth.  That task has already been accomplished.  You're priceless in your Father's eyes.  After all, He created you and He died to be with you.  

That, my friend, is true affirmation

The Center

by Rhonda, April 18, 2022

The alarm clock went off on Easter Sunday and I groaned.  Sunrise services (not truly sunrise service) started at 7:30 a.m. I pushed the snooze button.  It was an indecent time for a weekend.  

Fifteen minutes later, the alarm went off again.  I heard the water running in the basement, a sure sign my daughter was taking a shower.  If the kids were up, Mom needed to get up and get ready for church.  I drug myself out of bed and began to get ready.

I thought about how we could go out to breakfast after church.  I wondered if they would have fresh cookies or maybe even donuts to reward those of us showing up at the 7:30 service. I got into the car, and looked at my tired kids.  "Mom, not to complain, but I'm glad church isn't at 7:30 every weekend."  I nodded.

It began to rain.  It was chilly, I pulled my sweater over my shoulders.  The image of Christ hanging on the cross immediately flashed into my mind.  I wondered if it was this cold on the actual day of the crucifixion.  I wondered if He was cold.  I shuttered.  Horrible.  

I thought about my grandmother, when I was at her bedside as she died.  I remembered laying my hands on her feet, and they were cold.  If her feet were cold while she died in bed, then He must have been freezing.  He must have been so miserable.  

Yes.  He was cold.

Yes.  He suffered.

In that moment, my focus changed.  My morning wasn't supposed to be centered on my story.  My morning was supposed to be centered on His story.  Isn't that what His death and resurrection is supposed to do?  To change our focus?

We were never meant to be the focus of our own lives.  His story is always supposed to be the focus.  It was always meant to be this way.   When our lives are viewed in the light of His story as the center, we see the bigger picture.  We see the whole story.

Have you ever seen the movie the Sixth Sense?  Once you know the ending, you can never watch the movie again in the same way.  Everything in the movie makes sense because you understand the bigger picture.  Our lives are the same.  Jesus is the bigger picture and once we center our lives around His story, all of a sudden everything makes sense.

Take the disciples for example.  After Jesus was crucified, they went back to their old jobs.  Peter was fishing again.  They were defeated, not understanding the bigger picture.  But once they were first-hand witnesses to the resurrection, their focus changed.  After Christ revealed himself (to hundreds of people, by the way), the disciples saw the bigger picture.  

Now, they worshipped.  Now, they began to live their lives with one purpose and one purpose only.  To spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.  If it meant their lives, so be it.  They were no longer the center of their own story.  They understood they were part of a much larger picture - an important part - but not the center.

How radically different our lives would be if Christ was truly the center.  How radically different the world would be.  

We sat through a riveting Easter service at church.  Afterwards, both of my kids said they were so glad we got up early and went to the sunrise (not really) service.  I explained to the kids when I grew up, the sunrise service used to be at 5:30 a.m. and it was outside.  

"That would be so early," my daughter said.  "And cold."

I looked up at the sky and nodded.  "Yes," I said.  "It was."

The Love of A Crowd

by Rhonda, April 12, 2022

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” - Luke Ch. 23

The same crowd who celebrated and welcomed Jesus just months earlier had turned on Him.  Even one of His disciples betrayed Him.  Now, the crowd chanted for his torture and execution, even after the chief government officers could find nothing to justify His death.  The truth didn't matter.  The demands of the crowd were eventually honored.

Isn't the love of a crowd unpredictable?  Crowds are conditional, transactional, and fickle.  They give to get back, they build up to tear down.  One look at Hollywood tabloids can tell us how conditional the love of a crowd can be.  A celebrity might be on the top of the popularity list one week, but a few months later, the same celebrity has been "cancelled".  

I knew a family with a daughter in high school.  It was a fairly small town, and their daughter was a popular girl.  She made good grades, excelled in sports, and had a large network of friends.  She soon started dating one of the most popular guys in school.  Many girls had a crush on him, and out of jealousy, her network of friends began to disintegrate.  Rumors began to spread about her that were untrue.  Gossip turned dangerous when lies were told about things she supposedly said about other girls.  She was attacked one evening while out with friends by another group of girls.  She became suicidal and eventually (wisely) her parents moved her to another town, another school, and sought treatment for her.

How fickle the love of a crowd can be.  How cruel our world can be.  

The love of Christ is different.  It is unconditional, strong, and reliable.  

When I went through my divorce, I had no idea I was about to embark on a journey to learn about the love of Christ.  I was so disheartened by the people I had disappointed in my life.  I felt like such a failure because I couldn't make my marriage work.  But, nothing is more freeing and marvelous than God's compassion and grace.  We're not here to please the world.

We can't live a peaceful life when we are living to please the crowd.  The Bible tells stories over and over about how blessed people are when they align their lives with the will of God, and how miserable and wretched they are when they don't.  The crowd sways with the wind, and will turn on a dime.  So often, we chase after fleeting acceptance, trying to win the approval of those who - if we're honest - don't even know us that well.  Meanwhile, the love of Christ freely offers abundant life to everyone who turns towards Him.

A few years ago, my daughter came home from school, refusing to wear her glasses.  She is visually impaired, and her glasses are vital for her to see properly.  I asked her why.

"They make fun of me."

"Who?" I asked.

"The other girls.  They say my glasses are stupid."

My first reaction was to show a few girls just who was stupid.  But, after I calmed the spark straight to my red hair, I had a talk with my daughter.  

"If you listen to those girls and you refuse to wear your glasses, what will happen?"

"I can't see."

"Right.  You can't see.  Do you think the other girls can see fine?"


"So, the one who loses if you quit wearing your glasses is you.  You can't see, you won't be able to do well in school, and nothing will change for those girls.  They'll just move onto the next thing they don't like."

It wasn't our last conversation around the glasses, but isn't the same true for us when we try to lead life pleasing the crowd?  We change drastically to please them, and the one who loses is out is us, not the crowd.  We spend our time and energy trying to achieve an ever-changing goal to please the crowd.  Once the crowd is happy, don't forget, we have to keep them happy.  Meanwhile, our Savior waits, with His arms open wide, reminding us that we were never designed to pursue an unachievable goal.

I'm so glad He is so faithful. 

Perhaps its time to stop worrying so much about the crowd.  They'll never love you like Christ does. 

Seeking Peace

by Rhonda, April 09, 2022

Isaiah 1:19  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land

Peace is the result of a lifestyle obedient to Christ.

I've been rolling that thought over in my mind this week.  I remember when I was a teenager, growing up in a small town.  My Dad, being a talented mechanic, had painted and restored a Mustang he found for $400.  When he was finished with it, my $400 car got quite a bit of attention at my small high school.  I remember zipping around town in my new car, feeling like I had the world by the tail.  I was sixteen, thought I knew it all, and I had an awesome car to boot.  

I was sitting at the stop light in my Mustang one day, and a strange thought entered my mind.  What if you started living the way Christ wanted you to?  I immediately shook the thought out of my mind.  I'll be a good Christian someday when I get older, I reasoned to myself.  But right now is my time to be free and have fun.

Its funny how nearly thirty years later, I still remember that conversation with the Holy Spirit in my car.  I didn't know it was the Holy Spirit at the time, but now of course, I can recognize God's prodding a bit better.  Isn't interesting how we view obedience to Christ as limiting?  We think by choosing Him, we somehow give up our freedom?  Our peace?

The problem with the teenage girl at the stoplight is she was struggling.  She was either completely egotistical or on the floor in despair.  There wasn't much peace happening in a life of such extremes, and she was always grappling to understand her pain.  But, she wasn't willing to follow the calling of God on her heart.  

I'm glad I eventually made the decision to listen.  I've had plenty of humbling moments since then, and I can honestly say the one thing I've learned is saying yes to God doesn't mean I'm losing my freedom.  My freedom is lost when I take ultimate free reign to do whatever I want.  If thirty years has taught me anything, it has taught me that I am rather incapable of running my own life.

I'll give you a humorous example.  About ten years ago, my anxiety was on fire and I was looking for anything to give me some relief.  My job was overwhelming, I was drowning in Mom guilt on a daily basis, and I was honestly just exhausted.  I felt like a failure because I couldn't keep up with everything.  One thing that brought me peace was spending a few minutes in the evenings with our Mastiffs.  I decided since I enjoyed our dogs so much that in my spare time (none) I would start a large dog rescue.  I researched the land I would purchase, made plans on the debt I would need to obtain, and sketched the kennels.

I prayed to the Lord to help me make this happen.  But, I could never quite get my plan to come together.  Instead, I kept hearing sermons on living a simple life, and I read verses that reinforced the "less is more" message.  One night, after some lengthy time in prayer, I was deeply convicted that God's calling on my life was not centered around dog rescue.  (Please note I have great admiration for those who run dog rescues, but it would have been a ridiculous endeavor for me at the time). 

I am so glad I did not obtain a bunch of debt and overwhelm myself by needing to care for fifty dogs when I could barely keep up with my current life.  Sometimes I have to chuckle at myself.  I can come up with some pretty hairbrained ideas.  But, God's plans for my life are always the right plans.  I was seeking peace in the wrong place.  Instead of buying some land, building a dog kennel, and overwhelming myself with more responsibility, I needed to turn to the Lord and find my peace in his promises to me.  His plan was much simpler than mine.

His plan for me wasn't immediate, though.  It required my obedience to Him.  I had to get some help.  I sought counseling, and I committed to going every week even though I didn't feel like I had the time.  I went on medication for about a year.  I studied His word daily, looking for all passages that pertained to my situation.  As I gained strength, I took control of my schedule.  One piece at a time, He simplified my life as He led me out of a very difficult season.

God's word is a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path.  Jesus illustrates His relationship to His followers by example of a loving shepherd to sheep.  Sheep don't have the pressure of having to lead, having to make all of the decisions, or having to map out the route ahead.  Their job is to trust and follow where they're led.  Even when they're led through rough terrain, the shepherd cares for them, binding up their wounds and leading them to stable ground.  The only thing that's asked of the sheep is to follow, and the shepherd leads them to safety.  Well-developed trust brings God's peace.

Obedience to God requires setting aside our stubborn wills to listen to His calling.  I've found with God I almost always have to let go of something old to pursue something new.  Leaving behind old ways is hard, and we're often tempted to revisit them in times of stress, but separating ourselves from our old ways frees us to move into something new with God.  

The price of being stubborn and foolish is often the loss of our peace.  It isn't worth it, not when our Savior has something new and exciting in store for us.

God Is With Us

by Rhonda, April 05, 2022

Isaiah 43:2  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  

There's been a few times in my life that I knew, without a doubt, that God was with me.  I recall one time I had to give a big presentation for work.  I struggle with severe anxiety.  Nothing heightens my anxiety like the requirement of giving a presentation.  For some, this wouldn't be a big deal.  For me, it was a terrible trigger.  

In a boardroom full of people, on a topic I honestly wasn't an expert on, I was going to be in the spotlight.  The night before my big day, I practiced and I practiced, flipping through my paper presentation.  I rehearsed while walking around my bedroom, in my pajamas.

But, no amount of rehearsal was going to save me from what I knew was coming.  I would be tortured for the entire night with fear and anxiety.  I knew I wouldn't get much sleep because I would lie awake convincing myself I was unprepared.  I shook from the fear.  I was sick to my stomach.  I could feel the adrenaline surge through me, as I sat on the side of the bed begging God to give me some relief.  

It was around midnight.  My body was racked with fear, and after I prayed for what must have been the twentieth time, I felt relief began to course through my body.  I've never felt anything like it before, and I've never had it happen since.  It was a physical sense of relief, almost a cooling sensation, that slowly made its way through my body.  

I knew it was God.  

I said nothing, I prayed nothing.  I slowly crawled back into bed, not wanting to disrupt the peace I was experiencing.  I slept heavily the rest of the night, not tossing or turning once.

The next day, He gave me the strength to pull off the presentation well.  

One of the Bible's biggest messages to us as believers is that God is with us.  He won't leave us, even though fear tells us otherwise.  In fact, fear is banished in the presence of The Almighty.  His presence is so powerful that fear can't withstand it.  God's love is the most powerful force in the universe.  His love is eternal.  Put that into math terms, and your instructor would say it is infinite.  There are no limits to His love.  Yet, He turns His powerful, infinite love towards us, vowing to never leave for forsake us.

In his powerful, infinite love, He says no issue is too insignificant to bring to Him.  Afraid of a presentation?  Talk to the God who knows communication.  Afraid of being alone?  Talk to the God who knows comfort.  Afraid to start over again?  Talk to the God of new beginnings.  When fear is welling up in you, come to God and pour out your heart.  

The most powerful force in the universe loves YOU.  He loves you in that perfect way you've been looking for, but haven't been able to find.  He loves you when you'd had a bad day.  He loves you when you don't get your work done.  When you lie, He loves you anyway.  When you fail, He wants to pick up the pieces.  He sees you out there, trying to make everything work.  

Our Savior died for you, He loves you so much.  

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  John 3:16

To Love God

by Rhonda, April 03, 2022

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

My daughter arrived home from work looking tired.  She'd been on her feet, working in a busy restaurant, and she was ready for a break.  Her face was pale with exhaustion from studying for midterms, and dark circles below her eyes told the story of late nights of schoolwork.

As she walked in the door, she collapsed onto the couch.  Glancing into the kitchen, she asked me, "What's Alex up to?"

"He's getting ready to bake a cake," I said.  "He has to bake a cake for his culinary class this week.  I don't have time to help him because I have to work.  Would you mind?"

She sat quietly on the couch for a minute.  "Just answer his questions," I prodded.  "You don't have to bake the cake."

Slowly she nodded.  "I will, don't worry Mom, we'll get it done."

She took her tired self into the kitchen, sat on a barstool, and began to read Alex's recipe.  He was trying to determine the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, and his frustration was starting to boil.  As I headed out to the office, a thought entered my mind.

She is loving the Lord with all of her strength.  

When God commands us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it is because all are needed to fully love God.  If we love God with our mind, but no strength, then we have a head full of knowledge with no action.  If we love God with all of our strength, but not our heart or mind, we have worthless, empty good deeds.  God in his infinite wisdom knew that we needed to love with all four to fully love him with all we are.

The Heart:  Loving God with all of our heart is the core of a person's identity.  Have you ever heard the phrase The heart wants what the heart wants?  What if our hearts wanted Jesus?  Loving God with all of our heart means we have a high priority on maintaining our connection with Him.  We fall away from God when we don't maintain a personal connection with Him.  Our heart can be set on many things.  We can set it on money, status, relationships, or whatever else captures our attention.  But, when we set our heart on God, that's where our affections will live.  

Loving God needs to be the central theme of our lives, even when we've made mistakes.  Even when sin seems to creep back into our lives.  We can be determined that we will continue to reset our course over and over, continuing to pursue a personal connection to Him.  Without constant correction, we'll end up in Siberia when we want to be in the Bahamas.  When our heart strays, we can ask God to please help us to finish the race to continue seeking Him.  Returning to God over and over is part of loving Him with our whole heart.  What is it that your heart dwells on?

The Soul:  Loving God with all of our soul means we love God deep down inside, regardless of whether our emotions are up and down.  There's a part of us, deep inside, that knows our Creator.  When the heart stops beating, the soul will continue on, and our souls are continually searching for God.  When emotions are up, our souls can still love God.  When our emotions go wacky and want to rage when there's no chocolate in the house, our souls can still love God.  Soul love for the Lord is a deep love, an unshakeable devotion to the One who loves us perfectly.  

Circumstances can certainly wreak havoc in our lives.  Emotions can trigger us into sinful actions.  But, we can't live by what we want, think, and feel.  We must live by the word of God, and our deep soulful love of the Lord can remain, regardless of our wayward actions.  The flesh will always fight to satisfy the soul with things of the world, but the Holy Spirit, when given control of the soul, will continue to grow a deeper love for God.  

The Mind:  I personally believe the hardest part of this commandment is to love God with our minds.  Our minds, without being continuously led to the Lord, will be full of doubt, fear, and unforgiveness.  But, God is leading us alongside a way He designed just for us.  Whenever we are struggling with problems, we must guard our thoughts and spoken words carefully.  If we focus too much on all of the thing that aren't working in our lives, it won't take long for our discouragement to increase and our strength to be sapped.  Instead, we can take time to praise God.  We can read words of scripture that help us rejoice in Him.  

The wonderful thing about working to love God with our minds is the greater ability to make right decisions.  When we study and spend time in the word of God, our hearts began to become aligned with God's will for our lives.  Love is a choice, and loving God with our minds is a daily choice.  Our minds must be trained and taught to love God.  The devil never seems to let up, and he is always delivering consistent attacks.  His goal is to gain control of your mind, moving you to away from loving God, and dragging you into a terrible pit.  But, we can train our mind to turn from these things and focus on God.

The Strength:  Loving God with all of our strength is loving God with all of our physical energy.  As humans with limited energy, each day only holds so much strength for us to use.  I came to the conclusion a while back that I should not put my devotions off until I am exhausted, wanting to go to sleep, causing me to rush through God's divine appointments with me.  I should be giving God the best of my day when I am energetic, not the worst leftovers.  

We are commanded to serve each other by praying for one another, encouraging each other, teaching each other, honoring each other, forgiving each other, and even bearing each other's burdens.  We can love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.  But, we can't fulfill the list above without using our strength.  Where we spend our energy matters.  God doesn't command us to work nonstop, make as much money as possible, and retire early.  While working is important, our energy is given to us to also love others.  When we use our energy to do the right things, without tiring of it, God will take care of everything else.

Tonight, as we ate Alex's cake, I looked at my weary daughter.

"Today, you loved God with your service to your brother.  You did the right thing even when you didn't feel like it."

She smiled, gave me a hug and headed to the basement for some much-needed downtime.  

This week, I want to refocus.  

My goal is to love God with everything, and more than anything.  Because He loved me first.

A Grateful Heart

by Rhonda, March 29, 2022

I was riding in the back of an Uber, traveling towards the airport for my flight home.  I'd never been to Maryland, so I was looking out the window, enjoying the sights.  The scenery was fascinating to me, and I enjoyed the views even when we weren't in the greatest of neighborhoods.  

We were driving along our route, nothing out of the ordinary, when something caught my eye.  Near the highway, someone had put a small shed-looking structure in their front yard.  It had the words "Prayer Stop" painted on the front, with two lawn chairs sitting in front of it.  I looked again at the two worn chairs, facing each other, sitting in front of what resembled a children's playhouse.

I smiled.  I couldn't help it.  Who would put a Prayer Stop next to a busy highway, in their front yard? I wondered why it was there.  I wondered if anyone had ever stopped at the Prayer Stop.  I wondered what happened when you stopped at the Prayer Stop.  There were two chairs, clearly set aside with purpose, to allow someone to pray with you.

I knew I was already late to the airport, and I figured my Uber driver would think I was completely crazy if I asked him to pull over.  So, as I watched the Prayer Stop fade into the distance, I wondered about the stories it held.  I bet God had used the Prayer Stop, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see his work.  

I came home, googled The Prayer Stop, and found the history behind this structure:

This tiny prayer stop was allegedly built by a man who's life was ruined by alcohol. Once he hit rock bottom, he felt that God had saved him. Showing how grateful he was, he decided to create a tiny prayer stop on the side of a busy street so any motorist could stop and pray.  "There's no condemnation in the Prayer Stop. I committed most every sin myself before the Lord delivered me, and now I know true joy."

Who would put a Prayer Stop in their front yard?  Someone radically transformed by Christ.  Someone with a grateful heart.  

I wonder if my heart is so obviously grateful.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In the craziness, the busyness, of this life, do we live as if we truly know Jesus paid an enormous price so we could be set free?  No matter the depth of our sin, God is always finding ways to pull us back into relationship with Him.  He never gives up on us.  God's very nature is to heal, restore, and forgive, even when it requires the utmost sacrifice. 

The more we truly believe the truths in the Bible, the truths that actually set us free, the more grateful we will be in this world.  Remember, its not the voice you hear that determines the type of life you have, its the voice you believe.  Let us truly believe God's promises to us.  Let us truly understand He is our Savior today, tomorrow, and forevermore.  Let us be continually reminded that His purpose is to show up when we need Him most.

Then, let us be grateful.

Choosing Kindness

by Rhonda, March 27, 2022

I stepped out of the bathroom stall in the women's bathroom of the airport.  She had her stuff sprawled all over the counter.  Her hair straightener was plugged in and various components of her make-up were strewn across the counter.  Her hair was dyed bleach blonde, her face smeared with lipstick that wasn't applied quite right.  She wore a short miniskirt and when she looked at me, the hard life showed in the lines across her face.

I was returning from a week of working offsite.  Tired and hungry, I just wanted to get home, have dinner, and see my kids.  I hesitated to choose which sink to use to wash my hands, since her stuff was everywhere.  I stepped forward and turned on the water to the sink furthest from her. 

She stopped and looked at me.  "Excuse me," she said.  "Do you know how far...."

She trailed off, so I didn't answer her.  She tried again.  "Excuse me.  Do you live here?"

"No, I don't.  I'm sorry." I responded.  I reached around her charging cellphone to grab paper towels.  Our eyes met, and I looked straight into the face of addiction.  I wasn't positive, but it seemed as if her eyes filled with tears for a short second, before shaking her head and turning away.

"Well nevermind, then.  Thanks." she returned to applying her make-up in the mirror.

I opened my mouth to say something to her, but at that moment, my cellphone buzzed in my back pocket.  What time will you be home?.  I stepped out of the bathroom and texted my kids back.  I hurried over to baggage claim, looking for my bag that would surely be rotating on the carousel.  After waiting a while, I retrieved my bag and I began to follow the exit signs to leave the airport.

As I walked away, I looked over at the women's restroom.  I should have asked her if she was okay.  Pulling my roller bag behind me, I walked back to the women's restroom.  I looked around, but she was gone. There was no straightener, no cellphone, and no makeup on the counter.  

A cleaning lady looked up at me as she emptied the trash can. "Looking for something?"

"No," I answered.  "Thank you."

I left the airport, walked to my car and began the long drive home.  I wondered what would have happened if I had just been a little more kind.  Sure, I don't live in the city, but I could have helped her.  I thought about Jesus on the drive home.  I thought about how He was often seen with the most scandalous people, much to the disgust of the Pharisees.  I thought about how He would have treated the woman in the bathroom.  My mind recalled the parable in Luke Chapter 15:

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent

There's no question about how He would have treated the woman I encountered.  I can't help but to want a heart like His.  Jesus' passion is seen in the Bible when the lost are found (and aren't we all lost?) and He never loses sight of his passion.  He gives significance to the lost because of His love for them.  Even when bringing them back requires sacrifice, He is willing to stop at nothing to pursue every last one of his sheep.  If we need any further confirmation about his passion, we can simply read Luke 19:10:

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 Jesus didn't miss an opportunity to be kind, especially to the lost.  We should be so intently focused on God and his calling for our life, that when distractions come, we are not moved.  God calls us to kindness, self-control, a spirit of generosity, and a commitment to humble service.  Do we really want to be interrupted in the middle of our crazy schedules and meticulous plans to serve God?  Did I need to return a text instead of showing kindness to someone in front of me?

This world has so much brokenness.  In particular, the women of this world seem to have so much pain, and so often their cries are not heard by other women of faith.  They walk alone, going through the trails of life without someone walking beside them.  God calls us to notice the people around us, and we are to introduce hope into dark lives. We are to reach out to those around us, and light the way to the only One who can provide healing for life's trauma.

I  have a goal to stop allowing my daily responsibilities to get in the way of pursuing the calling that God puts on my heart.  Distractions should never drown out a calling.  Responsibilities, while important, should not replace Jesus' passion for my life.  

Joy and peace are found in pursuing His will for our lives anyway.  The one who missed out due to distractions in the airport restroom likely wasn't the woman battling addiction, with her makeup strewn all over the counter.  Its very possible the next woman entering the restroom helped her.

No, the person who missed out was the one who was busy answering the text on her phone and hurrying to the baggage claim. 

It was me. 

The Emtpy Flask

by Rhonda, March 23, 2022

My children are adopted from an orphanage.  We live a blessed life here in America and we don't struggle with scarcity of food.  But, my kiddos knew what it was like to go hungry before they came home with us.

I remember the first time I gave them a banana, and I was so surprised by their squeals of delight.  They asked me several times to make sure.  Mama, can we have the whole thing?  In the orphanage, when they got a banana, it was sliced into tiny pieces and split between at least ten children.  They'd never eaten an entire banana by themselves.

One of the biggest struggles we had around food was with my son.  When he would eat, he would pack his cheeks full.  He looked like a little chipmunk every time he was finished eating.  He would stuff as much as he could into his cheeks, and he didn't care if it took him an hour to chew all of it.  He wanted to make sure he got to the food before everyone else did.  It took us years to stop him from stuffing his cheeks every time he ate.

When we live in a world of limited resources, it is difficult to image a Savior who has unlimited resources.  If someone at the table eats a lot of food, it means we might not have enough.  If someone else does well, we may not advance.  If someone is good, we cannot be as good.  

But, God is a God of unlimited means.  Our joy is deeply intertwined with fully understanding who Jesus is and what he's done for us, not what we can grasp for ourselves in this world.  Jesus has unlimited love and unlimited forgiveness.  He can provide everything we're looking for in abundance.  Sometimes I wonder why am I looking around, grasping for what I can get in this world, seeking empty flasks?  I have direct access to a flowing well in Jesus who provides everything I need.

Jesus did not grasp for the power of the world.  Instead, He emptied Himself.  He let go of his right - yes, it was His right - to exert His power.  In fact, when He was tempted with all of the fame, all of the wealth, and all of the glory of the world, do you know what He did?  

He chose you.

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew Ch. 4)

The world steps on others to elevate themselves.  But, we are called to imitate our Savior.  The highest of high became the lowest of low to elevate you.  Our salvation is by faith, by grace.  Thank goodness it isn't by works, because I'd be in so much trouble.  

Since God is so graceful, we can live as though we're a people marked by the gospel.  Jesus has unlimited resources, so we can live generously, love lavishly, and extend forgiveness to those who don't deserve it.  We can give these things to others without running empty.  But, to accomplish this, we need to stay close to God.  Our focus must be on keeping our hearts facing Him, and not allowing ourselves to be overshadowed by the world.

When loving is hard, when forgiveness doesn't come easy, just remember.  We find our joy by going low like Jesus.  That's how we become higher than we could ever dream.

Pick Up The Mat

by Rhonda, March 20, 2022

Over the past week, I've found myself entering into some thoughts that are not serving me well right now.  I find myself thinking about ways to reconstruct my old life.  For whatever reason, I thought about some of the better times, before everything fell apart.  Then, I thought about how to manipulate my situation to reconstruct my old life.  Unfortunately, every scenario I entertained required taking my current situation into my own hands instead of trusting God and listening to his instruction.

Sometimes, the urge to return to familiar is overwhelming.  But, familiar isn't always better.  

After all of this work around healing after divorce, after all of my conversations with Christ over moving forward, I was pretty disappointed with myself.  I could feel myself sliding backwards, and my anger and despair were returning.  I wanted my old life back, even though I knew it is not possible, nor is it God's will for my life.  I was trying to live in the past, instead of seeing what God has for me in the present.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is change how we think about our circumstances.  What if, during this season, God simply wants us to get well?  My story is beautiful, but my story has hard things in it.  God doesn't write boring stories.  But, maybe that's the point.

Our life is called to a journey - a transformation.  God is not really interested in rebuilding my old life.  He's much more interested in the transformation in me during this journey.  Actually, I believe he's more interested in the transformation along the journey than the destination.  Manipulating my circumstances, as well as other people in my life, to try to recreate what I had does not lead me along a path of transformation. 

It isn't God's will.

This weekend, I read the story of the man by the pool in Bethesda in John 5:

4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

I'm pretty familiar with this story, but I noticed a new detail when I read it this time.  Jesus told the man to leave.  He told him to pack his things, get up, and walk.  Why was it important to Jesus that the man left?  He'd been there for thirty-eight years.  Where was he supposed to go?  Why couldn't he continue to hang out by the pool?

The man was an invalid, and the place he had lain for thirty-eight years was for invalids.  But, Jesus healed him.  He'd been transformed.  He didn't belong by the pool anymore.  He was being called to a new life, and a new place.

When I came across this truth, I had to ask myself an honest question.  Do I want to get well?  If so, I've got to get out of this place, because I don't belong there anymore.  I am not supposed to stay in the same place, acting like God hasn't healed me.  

God is writing a beautiful story in me (and you).  When I try to live in the past, I'm trying to trade my story and my journey and return to a place that I no longer belong.  I could spend my time reconstructing my old life, but here's one thing I know.  I can have everything I think makes me happy, but without Jesus I have nothing.  Spending time trying to pursue things outside of God's calling is pointless.  Only in His presence is fullness of joy.  

Jesus had the invalid leave the place he was in because he was no longer an invalid.  I am no longer a broken, shattered woman trying to pick up the pieces.  God continues to heal my heart, and he continues to give me strength. Do I want to get well?  Am I willing to pick up my mat and walk?

Yes, Lord, I am.

To Be Well

by Rhonda, March 18, 2022

I wanted to be well.  

I remember a few months after we'd separated, I begged God on the floor of my bedroom.  I want to be well.  Teach me.  Show me.  I can't live like this anymore.  

Months of pain, grief, anxiety, and fear were taking their toll.  The sleepless nights wouldn't let up.  The pain felt as fresh as the first day.  Nothing was getting better.  Nothing was helping.  Simply getting out of bed, showering, and eating were all I could accomplish.

Help me, I prayed over and over.  I'll do anything.

During this terrible time, I kept wondering how a normal, regular sinner like me could be transformed by Jesus Christ.  I needed victory in my life.  I needed strength beyond me.   While some of the events leading up to my divorce were beyond my control, some of my pain was also self-inflicted.  Being well meant that I had to pursue change. Change was what I desperately wanted, but how on earth could it happen?  

These were the right questions for me to be asking, even though I didn't realize it at the time.    God was using this experience, painful as it was, to grow me.  He was calling me to leave my old ways behind and explore what a deeper relationship with Him really looked like.  

If you are in this situation, first and foremost let me tell you the good news about bad seasons is they always end.  Your situation will do whatever it can to shame you into thinking you're too weak to move forward.  This is not true, and it is not the will of God.  He has plans for your life.  He wants to use you, not for who you used to be, but for who you are becoming.  If you allow Christ to use this situation to change you, it will open the doors to a whole new world.

If you will grant me the privilege to speak a few words over your future, I'd like to share a few things I'm believing for you (and me!):

You are called.  There's no question about it.  Just as the apostles were called to leave everything to follow Jesus, you are also called away from your old life (your old ways) into a new life with Him.  God is using this situation to call you into something new.  Plan B isn't meant to end your life.  Its meant to reroute it into something new with Him.  Now is the time for a fresh start!  Wouldn't it be tragic if you moved from one bad situation to another, never learning from God?  Don't fight Plan B, instead trust God with it.  Turn it into a training ground for the future, allowing it to change you for the better.  

You are convinced.  Jesus is who He says He is.  He loves you.  He died and on the third day He was resurrected.  It really happened.  The more you are convinced of His love for you, the more the Holy Spirit will make your faith bolder and bolder.  Every time you worship God, something happens to break the power of evil.  Every time you become consciously aware of God's love for you, you become a bit more secure.  Watch for God's love for you.  Look for the little things.  You'll be blown away by how He shows up in your life.  Remember, you are on the right path.  Listen more to God and less to your doubts.  

You are committed.  The disciples (except one) were committed.  They were all-in, and they didn't turn back.  This was an incredible, generous generation who took God at His word and took the gospel to the ends of the earth.  You're committed, too.  You're going to take God at His word and stop believing the lies the devil is telling you.  You're going to believe you are blessed.  You're going to be brave and do what God has called you to do.  When you decided to follow God, you began to view yourself differently.  You are not your job, your income, your relationship, or your house.  Don't believe for a second you're behind everyone else.  Your path is just different.  Today marks a new road for you, committed to following God's will.

Remember, God is a God of promises.  In today's world, no one keeps their word.  But, we have God's stability to lean on, not our own.  As long as you stay on the path God is leading you down, you will be blessed.  

Follow your road, even if its Plan B.

Forgiveness Part 2

by Rhonda, March 15, 2022

I didn't want to do another post on unforgiveness.  

I continued to look for inspiration around something else.  But, every topic I've come across this week is around forgiving others.  My e-mail has coincidentally populated with Christian messages about forgiveness.  My YouTube subscriptions are updating with lessons on forgiveness (Part 1 and Part 2, no less) as I quickly scroll past, not wanting to face it yet again.    

No, I'd rather have some sort of enlightenment on a new topic.  Maybe, I told myself, it will come to me in my sleep.  Last night as I slept peacefully, I did actually have a dream.  

I dreamed about my eyebrows.

Being a redhead, I've never had any color whatsoever in my blonde eyebrows.  But, in my dream, I had distinct eyebrows.  I looked in the mirror and I had defined, colored, perfectly manicured eyebrows.  They were colored a little dark for my hair color, but in fact, they existed.  It was fascinating. 

I made faces in the mirror during my dream.  I lifted them for a surprised look.  I lowered them for an angry look.  I had so many new emotions I could convey with my newfound eyebrows!  In my dream, I picked up a make-up wipe and tried to remove the eyebrows.  But, they were permanent.  I had permanently perfect eyebrows!  I inspected them from all angles before my dream suddenly ended.

As I woke this morning, I laid in bed for a while, telling myself it was absurd to actually think I had different eyebrows.  But, I couldn't stand it, and after a few minutes I hopped out of bed to check on my eyebrows.  Just as I suspected, they were the same shade of white as the night before.  

I looked to the ceiling. 


The eyebrow dream really doesn't have much to do with anything, except to illustrate when you're ignoring God's lessons and you then ask for a spiritual dream, you might get a dream about eyebrows.  I'm not sure if that's true for everyone, or just me.  

So, let's talk unforgiveness.

It has come upon me this week with a vengeance.  It seems unfair that I'm still dealing with this, since I did a good job of forgiving last week and I earned my gold star.  I am starting to sound very much like Peter, asking the Lord how many times I have to forgive.  This is a difficult phase post-divorce, and it seems like every day I am finding yet another reason to be angry.  

But, I must remind myself I'm not after a gold star, I'm after freedom.  I want to move forward.  I don't want to live in the past, allowing anger to fester into bitterness.  I refuse to allow my mind to remain in this state, continually producing toxic emotions that will drag me further down the pit.  
I made a list to refocus myself this week.  Perhaps this is helpful to you, too:

Unforgiveness causes tremendous stress.  Did you know when there is an excess of stress molecules flowing through the body, the first target is the circulatory system?  Your heart literally feels the emotion causing the stress (Dr. Caroline Leaf).  Forgive.  Don't let somebody else's bad behavior ruin your life and your health.  It will literally give you heartache.

Unforgiveness wastes energy.  When in a state of unforgiveness, you're continually trying to collect from people who cannot pay you back.  No one has the power to heal except Christ.  By looking for restitution from the person who is hurting you, you're actually putting the power of your peace in their hands time and time again.  God will pay you back many times over for what was taken from you in the past.

Unforgiveness causes us to settle.  When you choose to hold onto the past, you are not living your best life.  Do not settle for less than God's very best in your life.  God asks us to forgive.  God is a good God, who only wants good for His children.  If He asks you to forgive, it is because He has something better for you. 

Unforgiveness prevents change.  When you want change in your life, you have to do your part.  People typically don't just fall into blessings.  So, do you really want to get well?  Do you really want to change?  God won't change you without you being on board.  But God will help you with anything you are willing to give Him.  As long as you are blaming other people, it keeps you from seeing your part that has to change.
Unforgiveness puts "self" in control.  This is never a good thing.  You don't have to feel warm, fuzzy feelings to forgive.  You can make the decision to stop living by your feelings, and start obeying God.  When you do what's right, without tiring of it, God will take care of the impossible things.  You no longer have to manipulate a situation to get what you want.  Instead, "self" is removed from the driver's seat, and you just have to stay obedient to God and let Him handle it (in His way and in His timing).

Unforgiveness spiritually neutralizes us.  Your greatest responsibility is pursuing the dreams God has given you.  The devil will try to stop you by keeping your focus on past wrongs, hurts, or hangups.  As long as you're focused on wrongs from the past, you won't have any energy left to dream the dreams God puts on your heart.  Remember, sometimes your plans have to fail in order for God's plans to proceed.  Stay focused on God's plans for your future, not your failed plans from the past.  

Unforgiveness prevents forward progress.  You almost always have to let go of something old to take hold of something new.  Forgiving allows you to separate yourself from your old ways.  The things that God asks us to lay down are the things that are usually making us miserable anyway.  God's plan is for us to enjoy our life in abundance.  Progress will never occur when you are busy avenging yourself.  Revenge prevents peace, which stops you from moving forward.

God always shows us what we need to do, but God won't deliver us from a problem we keep feeding.  We must stay in the fight to forgive, asking God to increase our faith so we will have the ability to make forgiveness a lifestyle instead of a one-time decision.

This week, I'm ready to fight for my freedom.  I am not meant to live under the dark shadow of the past.  Its time to let go of the old and embrace the new.

I hope you join me.