By Rhonda Rhea –
I hear if you put a Whitman’s Sampler under your pillow, the cavity fairy will bring you…a $200 invoice from your dentist. If you try it, you should know that while the midnight snacking is awesome, there most likely will be some time in the chair in your future. On the other hand, you’ll probably be smiling all the way to the dentist.
Personally, I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to fight tooth decay while also utilizing my time more efficiently. Like this morning I’m putting toothpaste in my breakfast cereal. Gotta love a hearty bowl of dental hygiene in the morning. Four out of five dentists still think it’s a little weird.
There’s nothing wrong with utilizing our time well. But life is not really all about utilizing our time. It’s more about surrendering it. And not just a “sampling.” We’re using time well when we’re loving Him with all of it. And when we’re remembering His love for us. Even when life is cavity-filled or riddled with every other kind of difficulty, it’s good to remember that His love is ever sure and steady.
There’s great strength in a keen awareness of His great love. There’s great strength in loving Him with abandon. Difficulties can cause us to feel weak and fragile. They can make the future look dark and scary. But understanding His love for us and operating in loving surrender to Him gives us a different outlook on the future. We can smile. Whether or not those dentists agree.
The virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 is a great example: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future” (verse 25 NASB). This woman is strong—she “wears” that strength—and smiles at what’s ahead.
Resting in the love of God, relying on Him, strengthens us to the point we don’t have to fear difficulties. “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” (Psalm 112:1, 7-8 ESV).
Ah, there’s that key to a great smile. It’s not in what we do or don’t eat. It’s not in when or how we brush. A heart that’s firmly, steadily trusting in the Lord is one that can smile at the future, even in the face of problems. Those troubles don’t have to fill our lives with fear. Everything truly vital for life is perfectly secure. “The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side” (Psalm 121:5 HCSB).
I’d much rather spend my time relying and resting in the Lord, not fearing and fretting over any old difficulties. It’s true, I can always find a smile there. I can lie down at night, I can sleep peacefully. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust” (Psalm 4:8 AMP).
Sleeping with a smile. Nevermind any lumps under the pillow. Though you’ll want to keep in mind that sleeping with chocolate under your pillow at night can lead to cavities in the day. And for the record, also ants.
By Rhonda Rhea –
Big things come in small packages. I think the person who said that sat beside me in my high school geometry class. Even though I was really bad at geometry, I would never copy off that guy’s paper. Because that would be very wrong, yes. But also because the answer would also likely be very wrong.
Let’s be real. As much as I tried, I could never make myself care what “Y” equaled. Congruently (see what I did there?), I don’t care what size the package is. Just as long as the package is for me. I love it when the delivery truck pulls into my driveway. A friend mentioned the other day that she gets so much more out of sending a package to someone else than she does from receiving a gift herself. I plastered a smile on my face and nodded like I understood but I’m ready to be honest now: she doesn’t get me at all. And if she ever does get me, I’m convinced she’ll be a little appalled.
I was reminded recently of something even more appalling. Did you know that various studies indicate that 60 to 70% of our twenty-somethings—even those who were very active in church during their growing up years—stop attending church before they hit 30? Not a few of them. Not some of them. Most of them. That’s beyond appalling. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
When it comes right down to it, we don’t get to choose on behalf of the next generation. It’s not really a “package deal.” Each one will make his own choice to follow Christ or to walk away.
We can’t choose for them. But we can make sure we train them. We can continually speak the Gospel into the lives of the young people we’re around. Without a true saving knowledge of Christ, they take nothing solid into adulthood—nothing real to build their lives on. They need truth.
Training others in how to walk out a solid faith will always build up the church. Paul talked about it in Ephesians 4:12 when he spoke of training saints “in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,” (HCSB). We can tell them with our words and we can show them by our example how to love Jesus and love people in His name, passionately working for the Lord. We’re told that the people who get that will “no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit (vs.14 HCSB).
The truth in love. It’s what every generation needs. “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15 HCSB). As we give it out and live it out, we’re not only helping others grow, we’re growing in Christ ourselves. It’s better than merely receiving. It’s bigger than just giving. It’s the total package! You can copy my answer on that one.
As for my packages here at home, I’ve come up with my own theorems and formulas on that. Looks like I’ll probably always be at least a little appalling.
By Rhonda Rhea –
How about we all just do this thing together. Let’s simultaneously go to the pantry for something to snack on and stare at a box of instant potatoes for about three minutes.
It’s true, decisions can be tough. We make a lot of difficult choices every day. That’s why I try not to judge people, for instance, according to their snack choices. Even when they don’t choose chocolate. I try not to judge, but let’s face it, I don’t get them at all. You say potato. I say Butterfinger.
Relatedly, I also try not to judge according to the sandwich choices people make at Subway. I really do try. But seriously, what’s wrong with those people who pick anything that’s not honey oat? Don’t they know honey oat is like the Butterfinger of breads?
Okay, I do realize there are decisions we have to make every day that are bigger and more urgent than snackage. We live in an age when people constantly make disastrous choices. That’s not unique to our age. The apostle Paul also lived in an age when dishonoring God was the choice du jour for most. Just as they do now, people chose to rebel and chase after pleasure instead of following the Father.
Paul’s instruction to them was the same as we need to follow today: make the decision to give everything. “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 HCSB).
Presenting our bodies and becoming a living sacrifice is a choice. We make a decision to please the Father—or not—with every move we make and with every thought we think. Everything we have, body and soul, physical and spiritual, must be surrendered to Him if we want to live in victory. Every time we surrender, we’re choosing to feed our spirits in a way that readies us for living the way He designed us to live. Isn’t it amazing the freedom we find in surrendering to Him that way?
That surrender begins in the mind—that seed-spot of every decision. The next verse in Romans 12 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (HCSB). We’re just plain foolish when we expect our minds, the birthplace of our decisions, to spontaneously make the right moves in their natural state.
A few chapters later in the book of Romans, Paul addresses the unrenewed vs. the renewed mind. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 ESV).
A mind set on the things of the flesh is a mind that makes decisions based on its own selfish wants and desires. The renewed mind is bent on making every choice to please the Father, even at the sacrifice of the body. And the result of making the right choice? Life! Even peace! “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6 ESV).
These really are “life and death” kinds of decisions. So much more so than the Butterfinger choice. Even before you check the nutrition label.
By Rhonda Rhea –
I confess, my closet is not the tidiest. But all five of my kids were teenagers at about the same time. Nobody knows the closets I’ve seen.
I remember deciding at one point that if any of the teens’ closets were going to get straightened out, I was going to have to be in on it. Then I think I probably went and got a tetanus shot.
We started with Kaley’s. She was around 15. Being the word-minded person I am, I thought about the origin of the word “closet.” Isn’t it from the Greek, “closetorium,” which means “where the dog wouldn’t even throw up”?
Somewhere along the way, some of the disgust gave way to fascination. We were both riveted when we found broken crayons stuck to an old sucker stick. She told me it had been at least two years since she’d eaten a sucker. Took me ten minutes to throw it away. We found math papers from third grade, the box from a SpongeBob clock she no longer had and a VCR she had completely taken apart. Ten thousand VCR parts. You can’t even vacuum that.
That was about the time I seriously thought about just closing the closet door. And not opening any others. Boy, would it have been nice to just close my eyes to the whole thing and go back to my happy life of closet ignorance.
I probably don’t have to tell you that’s not always the best plan. Second Kings 6 tells of a time when a warring king had surrounded Elisha’s entire city. Army, horses, chariots—the works. A situation so much stickier than any old sucker. Elisha’s servant asked what in the world they were going to do and Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16 ESV).
I have to imagine Elisha’s servant looking at the two of them, then the army, then him again with, “So…Elisha…math is not exactly your thing, right?” But Elisha did something amazing that he really didn’t have to do. He asked God to open his servant’s eyes. And He did. Verse 17 says, “So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Wow! I love picturing that mountainful. A heavenly army—one that numbered more than the miscellaneous parts of any number of VCRs.
O Lord, forgive me every time my faith is as small as my earthly vision. I can too often be like Thomas who wouldn’t believe until he could see for himself. Jesus’s words to Thomas? “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” (John 20:29, ESV).
Seeing is believing. But believing without seeing? That’s real faith. Do you ever wonder what the Heavenly Father might be doing this very minute that we can’t see? Do we trust him in complete faith even when he doesn’t “open our eyes” to those things?
I want an eyes-wide-open faith! A dogged faith.
Which, incidentally, has nothing to do with any kind of closetorium.
By Rhonda Rhea –
Okay, so here’s an idea. A taco, but with a folded hamburger patty for the shell. Because nobody lives forever anyway.
It makes me want to imagine there’s actually a quote that goes, “Ask not for whom the Taco Bell tolls. It probably tolls for thee.”
I’m not sure how to stop my brain from coming up with new ideas that add fat content to my diet by the thigh-load. You’d think my cholesterol numbers would scare me straight. Of course, this is precisely why I don’t regularly have my cholesterol checked. Knowing might actually be a strain on my heart.
Some people don’t know that cholesterol can produce extra adrenaline that way. I do wonder if at some point my heart and thighs will together rise up and tell me enough is enough.
When it comes to faith, though, is there ever a point we feel we have enough? And how much would that be? Even the disciples asked Jesus to grow their faith (Luke 17:5) and they were eye-witnesses to the miracles of Christ. They heard His words firsthand.
This life is full of challenges. We need a faith that’s not merely “enough.” We need faith that’s meaty. Double-meaty, even.
We beef up our faith every time we remember exactly where that faith is placed. It’s not faith in faith. That’s just a lot of extra fat. Hebrews 12:2 refers to Jesus as “the author and perfecter of faith,” (NASB). Our “Author” creates our faith in the first place. The Greek word used there can also mean “captain.” The word for “perfecter” means “completer” or “finisher.” He originates, creates, generates our faith. He captains, steers, controls our faith. We can fully trust Him to perfect, complete, sustain our faith.
Take a look at the paraphrase: “No extra spiritual fat…Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in… When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG).
Each time we think of the One who originated and sustains our faith, and each time we remember the cross of Christ and all that’s been done to complete our faith, it revs our faith up all the more. We’re talking good adrenaline here. Not a strain on the heart. As a matter of fact, nothing is heart-healthier.
All the Lord has done for our faith is oh so enough. Our faith can rest in His “enough-ness.” The hymn says it so well:
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.
(“My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” by Eliza E. Hewitt in Songs of Joy and Gladness, 1891)
Let’s fix our eyes on Him and His “enough-ness” and let our faith pleasantly rest there. And let it flourish there.
Faith in Him. Faith in what He accomplished on the cross. It’s faith folded into faith. And that’s beefy—in only the very best ways.