The Battle

by Rhonda, July 21, 2023

I'm watching the sun setting from my office window.  My neighbor's American flag is flying in the horizon.  It is torn, ripped by a series of storms that passed through our state last week.  Yet, the flag still flies as the wind blows.  The sun peeks through the pieces of worn fabric as it sets, creating a beautiful and patriotic view.

Every sunset is different, and I can't help but marvel at God's creativity every time I watch one of his unique masterpieces in the evenings.  The sky becomes art, as He draws on His canvas.  He never paints the same scene twice.  To have a mind like that, can you imagine?

I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier a few mornings ago and decided it was time to start obeying God.  He asks the smallest things of us, doesn't He?  I made my coffee, stumbled onto my deck, and I spent 15 minutes with him before starting my day.  The time flew by, and I wished it was longer, feeling like a horrible person that it took me this long to be obedient to Him with such a small amount of time.

But then, I had the strangest day.  

Problems at work exploded.  I missed an appointment due to dealing with problems at work.  My kids had issues that were frustrating.  I was tempted by just about everything imaginable to become angry.  I got an unexpected bill in the mail.  Then I was notified I'd been summoned for jury duty.  I was extremely stressed for the majority of the day while problem after problem unfolded.  By the end of the day, I felt numb and slightly bewildered, as if I were coming out of battle.

It was weird, especially considering I got up early to spend time with God so I can work on my anger.  Then, my entire day made me angry.  I thought I would see progress.  This was regress, the exact opposite of progress.  I was going in the wrong direction and I was really angry about it, which was yet another problem.

The next day wasn't much better.  More problems at work resulted in an inappropriate amount of anger from me.  Problems are frustrating, yes, but they shouldn't be infuriating. I don't like it.  I don't want to be that person.  I can't help but think about why I'm so easily triggered.  

Maybe it doesn't matter.  Hurt from the past, pressure in the present, and fear over the future all play a role.  I can cite people, situations, and even things I've done to myself as likely culprits.  I've been through a lot over these past few years, including a divorce, and I just don't know if it is a good use of my mental energy to rehash all of that.

I just need some healing from the Healer.  I guess God already knows that.  He's been showing me over the past few days that the situations can be varied, but my responses are the same.  I'm operating from a place of pain more often than I care to admit.  

And that makes me angry.  Of course.

Last night, I must have gotten less than three hours of sleep.  After I decided not to rehash my triggers, I tossed and turned, rolling over all kinds of scenarios in my mind.  All of them were infuriating.  I wasn't treated right in this situation.  My parents weren't there for me in my childhood.  My divorce still hurts so much.  The list went on and on, and my mind was replaying one bad hit after another.

I wasn't just angry, I was in a pit of anger.  My inner turmoil bubbled over as I prayed for peace and begged for sleep.  But, as soon as I finished praying, I began running another scenario through my mind that made me angry all over again.  I replayed every painful instance of victimhood I could think of.  

Around 2 a.m., I had a thought.  What if my angry flesh sensed it was no longer going to have its way in my life and it was throwing a fit?  What if my flesh was trying to make me uncomfortable so it could drag me into a pit of anger?  What if this was a gigantic tantrum?

Even after this realization, it was hours before it settled down.  But do you know what?  Christ is stronger than this anger, and Chris has already defeated this anger.  I just have to ignore it, I don't have to defeat it.  Short-lived suffering is nothing compared to long-term peace.  I am in it for the long game.

I had no idea when I decided to obey God and work on my anger that I would step into the ring of an epic spiritual battle.  My flesh has decided to whine, complain, and fight for control over my life.  It is dangerous and destructive and it has been allowed free reign for far too long.

So, every day has been the same 15 minutes in the morning.  It doesn't seem like much, but it is what God is asking of me right now.  As I get stronger, He may ask for more, but for now it seems this is enough to trigger all kinds of fleshly temper tantrums.  I've hit a nerve and things are certainly welling up.

Tonight, I got a shower, crawled into bed and felt angry over the smallest of things.  It is so defeating.  I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.  And, I will put my head on the pillow at a reasonable time so I can get up a bit earlier tomorrow.  

I trust Him with this and I believe in His ability to heal me.

The Surprise

by Rhonda, July 16, 2023

Our city goes all out for 4th of July, and the entire sky is lit up with the celebration. We always look forward to our 4th of July parties.  Fireworks, food, and swimming in the backyard pool typically make for a fun gathering.  This year was no exception.  

But, this year, we had some special guests from Ukraine.

I sure do love that family, and I really enjoyed celebrating 4th of July with them this year.  It was probably my favorite 4th of July.  At one point, while my brothers set off yet another gigantic firework, the father of the Ukraine family looked up at the sky and said, "dreams do come true."

The things we take for granted living in this country.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I said no to God.  If I refused to act on something I clearly knew he was calling me to do, if I had not filled out the paperwork to sponsor a family from Ukraine.  They would still be stuck in limbo, and I would be wondering what happened if I had actually taken the leap.

I wonder how much I miss out on now, when He asks me to do something outside of my comfort zone and I refuse.  I bet I'm missing out on a lot.  It makes me want to be more obedient, more often.  

My issue is often times I find myself disobedient in the smallest of things.  Like perhaps I don't need to watch YouTube for hours on end.  Or maybe I don't need to buy that impulsive thing.  Or I can be kinder to my kids.  But, after watching the incredible miracle he worked for my family, and the family from Ukraine as he stitched our lives together, I have to wonder.

Am I missing out on more?  

It seems like common sense that God leads us down a path towards a better life.  But, if that's the case, why are we so resistant?  He good plans for our lives and His plans are not to harm us.  The Bible tells us so.  But, do we really believe that?  Do we really believe Him?  Or, is it just that we're resistant to being uncomfortable?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how insignificant this life is compared to eternity.  Yet, I spend so much time worrying about the little things.  I worry about my health, my money, my decisions.  What would happen if I just really believed that God leads me down a path towards a better life if I follow Him?  One decision to follow Him leads to another, which leads to another, and soon obedience becomes a habit.

I bet the disciples had the time of their lives following Jesus.  Yes, of course, I know it there were some very difficult times.  But, they spent the remainder of their lives faithfully preaching the Good News.  They couldn't forget it, and they couldn't lead their lives any other way.  They had the time of their lives following Jesus.  They experienced things we can only imagine, and they never wanted to deviate from the path He taught them.  

I want to be the same.  Yet, I'm so easily derailed.  Even Paul said, I do the things I don't want to do, and I don't do the things I should do.  I can certainly relate.  Paul and I might have been best friends.

I think obedience starts with the small things.  I've been reminded this week that anger is my default emotion as I've found myself getting upset over the smallest of things.  More days than not, I wake up angry.  Every day it is a different reason.  Some days it is over something significant and other days it is over nothing.  But the devil has a heyday with my short fuse. 

God has asked me to start dealing with this first thing in the morning,  He wants me to confront it head on by spending time with him as soon as all of this starts.  But, life is busy.  I get up and I am often late, fervently getting ready for work, trying to get out the door.  I tell myself I'll deal with it on the drive into work, but I'm often distracted and forget about it completely.  The next day is a carbon copy of the prior day.  And the cycle continues until I blow a fuse.

I wonder what I'm missing out on by not being obedient.  Actually, I don't have to wonder.  I'm missing out on peace, contentment, and healing.  All because I won't get up 15 minutes earlier, or because I stayed up late the night before and I'm too tired to focus that early in the morning.

Its a small thing, but at the same time, it is a big thing.  Why on earth is it so difficult for me to be obedient when God is asking something so little of me?  And, it is for my own benefit? One has to question their level of intelligence to be this stupid.  I can do something so big for Him, such as bringing a family here from Ukraine, yet be so disobedient in the small things.  

Disobedience in the small things is perhaps where most of our misery lies.  It is where the battles are won and lost.  Our small decisions every day make all the difference.

So, as I've asked God to show me the next big thing He wants me to do, I anticipated something big.  I thought maybe He would want me to start a nonprofit.  Maybe write a book.  Perhaps lead a Bible study at church.  But, He has asked me to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to deal with my anger.  

I really didn't expect that.  It is such a small thing, and it seems so insignificant and if I'm honest, boring. I'm ready to "do" things for God.  I didn't expect Him to ask me to change for Him.  But, how could I have not seen this coming?  This is God's calling card.  He's always changing us for the better.  He's always forming us into the image of Christ. 

Christ didn't live an angry life.

So, tomorrow, I've set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier.  The only way to heal anger is to seek the Healer himself.  It is time to start the new life of adventure He's calling me to, even though it wasn't what I anticipated.

The Heat

by Rhonda, July 02, 2023

I am recovering from a hysterectomy, which is probably TMI, but we're best friends so I figured you should know.  The fun part is the hot flashes that follow the surgery.  What's even more fun is when the A/C breaks on your car, in the hottest months of summer, and you're also having hot flashes.   I literally think I'm going to catch on fire every time I drive around town.

But I digress.

There's been a few other challenges this week.  Insurance has over-billed me.  Cellphone carriers are not giving me the deal they've advertised  (I knew it was too good to be true).  The A/C broke in the car.  The other vehicle we own is in the shop.   

Did I mention I'm having hot flashes?  The interesting thing about them is you're not just hot, you're also incredibly angry.  I thought I was going to take a baseball bat to my printer earlier this week, just like in the movie Office Space.  Then I realized I was just having a hot flash.

But I digress again.

With my wild mood (and temperature) swings, I can't fully discern if I am overreacting to normal life events.  It is challenging to keep everything in proper perspective.  But even without the broken A/C, hot flashes, and uncooperative printers, life is hard.  It is hard for everyone.  Something always goes wrong and in this broken world, I don't know why I continue to be surprised when things are, well, broken.

But, as I struggle to keep my calm with my cellphone carrier, I am reminded of one thing.  Jesus is with us always, everywhere.  I cannot imagine the annoying things that must have popped up everywhere He went.  People followed Him, disciples argued, and Pharisees plotted His death. Yet, He was never deterred from His mission; to do the will of His father.  His focus was on loving others, and His message of love changed the world.  

I wonder how my focus can be the same.  Even if I do feel like I'm going to catch on fire if we have one more hot day this summer.  This has been on my mind lately, and likely the Holy Spirit is prodding me to get back on the right track.  I know I'm too easily offended.  I know I'm getting upset over small things that don't matter.  I know I shouldn't take a baseball bat to the printer.  

When I consider all that Jesus dealt with, are things within my life really so bad?  For that matter, are they even that important?  Should all of my peace be wrapped up in things of this world?  That's a sure way to live a disappointed life.

Peace is an odd thing, isn't it?  It is given to us by God, yet it is something we have to continually fight to maintain.  

Last week, after my temper flared over the unimportant, a bigger problem surfaced.  It was time for my son's annual MRI.  He's a two-time cancer survivor at age 18, and his annual scans are highly stressful.  While my concerns over the cellphone bill and the printer faded in the midst of something more serious, the mental fatigue from dealing with those issues remained.  

I was battling for calm while sitting in the doctor's office, waiting to hear if his cancer had re-appeared.  I couldn't help but be angry over sitting in the office alone, without a spouse to lean on.  In fact, I was angry over everything.  The doctor was late.  Traffic was difficult.  You name it, I had a complaint about it.

Soon, the doctor appeared and assured us that everything looked good.  There was no new cancer, and my son has healed well from his last surgery.  All of the news was positive, and we were so relieved. My kids and I smiled and hugged each other.  Yet, even after that amazing news, my peace didn't return.  As I drove home, I was still troubled.  My mind was moving onto the next problems awaiting me at home, not even taking the time to thank God for the blessings He'd just bestowed on my family.  

Isn't interesting that even with a change in the most serious of circumstances, peace does not reappear?  I guess that's the problem with our peace being dependent upon things of this world.  There's always something to worry about, something to be upset about.  

Do I really want to be the bitter, angry, hot-flashing lady who everyone steers clear from at the family gatherings?

Not particularly.  Quirky, yes.  Bitter and angry, no.

I want to be like the leper who returned to thank Jesus for what He'd done for him (Luke 19), not like the other nine who went on with their lives without returning to say thanks.  I want to be the one who is different.  I want to keep my eyes on Christ.  I want to be grateful for the miracle, not distracted by something insignificant.  

Jesus was too important to allow small, insignificant battles to trip Him up.  And, so are we.  These distractions in our lives do not need to cause any further disruption.  Through the grace of Christ, we get to enjoy the fruits of our hard labor.  Why would we ever choose to worry them away?  That's the true tragedy of allowing ourselves to become easily offended and angered, not the actual offense.

Let us be peaceful.  

Not everything has to go our way.  Not everyone has to agree with us, and its okay if they don't.  We can't require that in order to have peace.  

All we need is Jesus.