The Details Are a Little Etch-a-Sketchy

September 25, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

I was working on a book in a wild fury. My fingers had been flying across the keyboard for the better part of an afternoon. I was in “the zone,” man. The zone is a very happy place for a writer to be—especially when a deadline is inching nearer. And by “inching” I actually mean barreling down like a locomotive.

Procrastination, however, just seems to be my way. I think it’s because I work so much better with that good, panic-driven rush of adrenaline. I’m pretty sure I do my best writing when I’m just this side of hyperventilation.

My computer had been misbehaving for days, and as the deadline loomed and I was rounding the corner of Chapter 21, my computer did something very evil. It swallowed an entire afternoon’s work. No recovery options. Gone. All that adrenaline down the drain! I felt like I’d been run over by The Little Engine That Couldn’t. I’m still considering typing my next manuscript on an Etch-a-Sketch.

There was no way to replace what I’d written. It’s not even that the details I’d put in there were sketchy. They were completely gone from my head. With any creative thought that might crop up in my little brain, the words slowly ooze out of the brain cells, track down the arms and through the fingers, then roll into the computer. But it’s a one-way track. Just trying to remember little tidbits of the book parts I’d lost, I was working myself into a good cry and a whole new level of hyperventilation.

Those times of tears and hyperventilation have a distinctive way of snapping me around to the most basic reality: God is in control. He wasn’t freaking out about those couple of chapters I’d lost. He didn’t have a hand on each of His cheeks with an “Oh no! Never saw that coming. How can I make any ministry happen here now?”

He is in control—and He’s the one I should run to and rest in. When I’m in the midst of a train wreck, and just as enthusiastically when life is clicking along on the smoothest tracks. Even when I’m in “the zone.”

He tells us in Isaiah 46:10, “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will,” (HCSB). Beginning, end and everything in between. He’s already written the story. Every chapter.

The psalmist speaks of “the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples,” (Psalm 65:6-7, ESV). A paraphrase of His name here is “Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash” (MSG).

The God who can muzzle the wave crash is certainly not undone by a computer crash. He is the sovereign all-powerful One. The Most High. He is the Redeemer. To say He’s more powerful than a locomotive is the ultimate in understatement. He’s just…MORE.

As you might guess, He was more than powerful enough to redeem the chapters I lost. I even liked the new ones better. Makes me wonder why I ever hyperventilate. Trusting in His power is so much better than breathing into a brown paper bag. And it’s for sure, He’s the only one who can put my loco in any kind of motion.

Follow Instructions, Use as Directed

August 31, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

If we actually follow the “lather, rinse, repeat” instructions on the shampoo bottle, won’t we end up stuck in a shower-time-loop for the rest of our lives?

Then again, if we read the directions on a lot of these products, we might instead just end up confused for the rest of our lives. Like the can of spray paint labeled, “Do not spray in your face.” Wow. Barely dodged that bullet.

Then there’s the blow dryer with the directions “Do not use while sleeping.” Again, whew—close one. And since we all seem to have such a difficult time figuring out how to grasp the complexities of the blow dryer, everyone will be relieved to know that there’s a blowtorch out there that actually says right on the label, “Not used for drying hair.”

I’m not sure why we’re especially confusable when it comes to getting good hair, but there’s also hair dye on a store shelf that gives the caution, “Do not use as ice cream topping.” And I thought I was a bad cook. I guess I must be at least better in the kitchen than some people because, believe it or not, there was actually a toaster that had to be labeled, “Do not use underwater.” Man. There goes all my underwater toast-making fun.

Even though I may never get to sit and enjoy my underwater toast, I’m okay with sticking to my convictions to remain a conscientious follower of directions. Lathering and re-lathering, it’s probably just a safer way to live. But so much more than any earthly directions, I want to do everything I can to ever-stick to my convictions to remain a conscientious follower of Christ.

In Matthew 4 we read about Jesus calling the first disciples to follow Him. “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV).

Simple directions? Not really. To follow these instructions they had to first let go of what they held on to for security. They had to let go of most everything they knew. Even people they loved. Yet each of the four “immediately” left nets, boat, father—way of life—and followed.

It’s still His instruction to us today. Leave the things that used to bring you security. Leave the shiny distractions that once completely held your fancy. Leave the people you used to devote your time and energy and heart to. And follow.

Following Jesus in the complete abandon He calls us to is to enter into a surrender-loop for the rest of our lives. Love, follow, repeat.

Following Him. Lather or no lather, there’s no safer way to live. Really live. Even if you never obey the other labels. Though I have to tell you, I hate to imagine anybody failing to follow the directions on the mattress that read: “Do not attempt to swallow.”

The Impact of Friends

August 6, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

Anytime you trip in front of your friends, the best thing to do is to just bounce right back up and keep on going. To the airport. And then leave the country. Maybe change your name.

Isn’t it a little hard to save face after your face just did a plant? Especially a face plant on gravel. Exfoliation gone so wrong.

The last time I took a tumble I didn’t do a face plant so there was no eating gravel or anything. But I think I do remember the faint taste of linoleum for a while. It was in a busy hallway at church. So it was really more the taste of linoleum and humiliation.

It’s always nice to have friends nearby who will help you up. Well actually, to laugh uproariously for several minutes first and then make merciless fun of you for years. But at least they do help you up somewhere in between.

I love the reminder in Ecclesiastes 4: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up” (vv. 9-10, HCSB).

Proverbs 18:24 also makes a thought-provoking point. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (ESV). There are times when it’s not enough to simply have someone standing by. Those surfacey kinds of acquaintances will come and go in our lives. But there is a true and lasting blessing in a friend who’s with you through all your ups and downs. Through every victory and through every tumble. And there’s great blessing in becoming that kind of friend to someone as well.

Since our Heavenly Father has so much to say about the importance of our relationships, and since He included this particular bit of friendship information in His Word, I’m taking that to mean I need to be reminded. We need each other—when we’ve just taken a header and just as much when we’re gracefully tiptoeing along. I find myself remembering all the clearer each time a close friend offers godly counsel or encourages me to seek the Lord. I remember it well each time friends spur me on or inspire me to walk closer to Christ by their godly example. And yes, still again each time a friend helps scrape me off the pavement after a spill.

If you’re experiencing one of those seasons in life when your close friends are not as accessible, could I encourage you to keep praying, asking the Lord to send a bud your way? Who knows? He might drop one right in front of you. Maybe even in a church hallway. On linoleum.

Meanwhile, Psalm 37:23-24 tells us that, “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (NIV). Whether there is a friend nearby or not, the Lord is never absent or inattentive. Even if there’s a bit of a spill, we’re lovingly held.

True friends? They’re a blessed bonus. It’s amazing how the Lord can use them to impact our lives for Him.

Good impact. Because now we know there’s impact…and there’s impact on linoleum.

Hold On for Dear Life

July 3, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

Maybe I mentioned before that I always keep dried fruit in my desk drawer so I’ll have a healthy snack handy when I’m working. Except the fruits are so dry that all that’s left of them is these nacho cheesy Doritos.

Somehow that makes it an even sadder snack situation when I reach for my fruit and all I find in the bottom of the Dorito bag is a bunch of orange powder. I hate that. Some people would suggest that whenever that happens, I would do well to take the hint and go get an apple. Those are the people who just don’t get me at all.

Then there are others who say the nacho-powder is the best part. They’re closer to getting me than the apple group. Still, they would no doubt think it wasteful of me if they saw me throwing away a perfectly good bag of Dorito-dust. I’m sorry, but once I find anything in my snack stash in ash form, I toss it. Definitely time for a new bag of Dor-fruit-os. Holding on to the bag when its contents are practically an aerosol just doesn’t work for me. Spray-on Doritos? No, I say give the bag a decent burial and let it go. Stashes to ashes, Doritos to dust.

Sort of relatedly, our walk with Christ can be either wonderfully encouraged or it can be sadly thwarted by what we choose to hang on to. And what we don’t. Hang on to wealth or material things, success or power, popularity or fame, comfort or entertainment—or a gazillion other things that promise to satisfy but don’t deliver—and there’s going to be disappointment. If we hang on to pride or unforgiveness or any other sin, we inevitably find there’s not only disappointment, but devastation. And we usually also find that as we hang on to those sins, they also begin to hang on to us. It’s scary-amazing how easily sin can get a hold on you, isn’t it?

Even hanging on to good things can sidetrack our lives in a fruitless direction. Jesus said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it,” (Matthew 16:25, NLT). Holding onto anything in this life is letting go of too much of Jesus. That leads to a dead-end life with no fruit. None. Not even the dried up fruit of the Dorito variety.

So much of the victorious life in Christ is about knowing when to let go and when to hold on. We’re told in Deuteronomy 13:4, “Follow the Lord your God and fear Him. Keep His Laws, and listen to His voice. Work for Him, and hold on to Him,” (NLV). As we hold on to Him and passionately embrace all He calls us to be and to do, life becomes exactly what it’s meant to be. It becomes sweet. It becomes dear. So you could rightly say that holding on to the Father is very surely holding on for dear life.

The Yokes on Me

June 7, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

You know how I usually know I’ve been too busy? I open the refrigerator door and find fur. And then I stand there for several seconds wondering what it used to be. Then I stand there another several seconds wondering if I should have it spayed or neutered.

It happened again the other day. I was standing with the fridge door open and my son told me he heard something groaning. I assured him it was only me.

They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me. –For I must clean the refrigerator myself. That’s from Lamentations 1:21(ESV). Except I added the entire last sentence.

At the point I start rewriting Lamentations, I usually figure out that I’m too busy and it’s time to formulate another plan. Here’s the part where I have to confess that my Plan B is almost always exactly like my Plan A—only with more coffee.

The better Plan B? It rests in the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. And actually it’s much more appropriate as a Plan A. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (ESV).

As vital as it is for our bodies to spend time at rest, it’s even more vital for us to embrace some soul-rest. Anytime we’re feeling spiritually troubled, heavy-laden or burned out, Jesus reminds us, “Come to Me.”

When your mind is cluttered with a worried jumble of to-do lists and your heart is weighted down with distresses and difficulties, your Savior comes along with this reminder that He waits for you. He waits for you to come. It’s His desire to be your comfort, your encouragement, your hope, your victory. And all you have to do is…come.

How do we come to Him? We come as we sort out our priorities and line up our plans for every day with His. We come to Him as we make prayer and worship a priority and give His word an uninterruptible place on the schedule. In those precious places of prayer and worship and in reading His word, we find indescribable comfort. And guess what else we find. We find the items on an overwhelming to-do list coming into perspective and sorting themselves out. Often those things sort themselves out as we discover His calling to lay down a heavy yoke we’ve placed on ourselves—our own plans and some kind of big, fat, misdirected agenda. As we exchange those plans for His, we find a yoke that’s a much more comfy fit. Exchanging the yoke we’ve made for the one He has for us is always a trade of victory. We find grace. We find inspiration to keep going. We find joy. We find…Him.
Isn’t it fascinating that any yoke I place on myself is utterly and entirely exhausting? And isn’t it even more fascinating that the yoke of Christ is invigorating to the max in every little corner of my soul?

Every day, for every list, I need to remember to rest in Him. To give my soul a break, and to “come.”

As far as the fridge is concerned, I would love a break there, too, but I don’t see it happening. Looks like I’m going to have to knuckle down and clean it. Or maybe shave it.

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