Grand Opening

January 6, 2021 by  
Filed under Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

I read somewhere that when a man can’t open a jar, he has to throw it away and never speak of it again. Another guy told me that if he can’t open a jar, he comes back with a blunt instrument. What is it with guys looking for any excuse to crank up the chain saw? Okay, so I do understand a chain saw is not a blunt instrument. Unless, of course, you use it to try to pry open a pickle jar.

I admit I personally have an extremely underdeveloped jar-opening-muscle. It’s withered away from lack of use. That’s because I’ve been married all these years to a really great jar-opener. When Richie is out of town for any length of time, I’m in a real pickle, jar-wise. Not a pickle jar. A pickle. Jar-wise.

On the spiritual side of the story, however, I’m all about opening up. I never want to neglect exercising my faith by failing to keep a prayer connection with the Father open and active. We need to build spiritual muscle or we become withered, wimpy semi-believers who shrivel at the slightest pressure. It’s true, if we want to keep our spiritual muscle operating at full capacity, we have to consistently pray, thanking and praising Him, loving Him with our thoughts and words, trusting Him with every need, struggle and hurt, staying ever open and transparent before Him.

Allowing “prayer” to become merely a “churchy word” can happen all too readily. It’s easy to let it become more about what we want, or what we want others to think we’re doing, or what we say we’ll do, or even what we intend to do, than it is about communing with the Heavenly Father. It can become a ritualistic, empty religious duty in our hearts and minds rather than the enormously high privilege and sweet exchange that it truly is meant to be.

Any time we find ourselves stuck in a prayer funk, we need to give ourselves a little tap on the shoulder—a reminder of our vital need to open up those lines of communication and to see our intimacy restored. Paul said in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”

We need to get extreme in that devotion, and to stay extreme in our desperate desire to faithfully connect with the Father, heart to heart. Romans 12:11-12 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Dictionaries further describe that zeal as enthusiastic devotion and diligence, tirelessly passionate about a cause, idea, person or goal. That’s the kind of passion we want to take with us every time we enter our prayer closet.

A sluggish or apathetic spirit may squeeze out that passion now and again, but if we want to please the Lord and fruitfully live in His joy, we need to be all about getting right back on track in opening that prayer closet door.

That’s one thing we can always open on our own. With a grateful and expectant heart. And it’s the sure way out of any spiritual pickle.

Of course, now I’ve gotten myself all hungry for pickles. Guess I’d better call my husband. Somebody’s got to open this jar.

Cut and Dry

November 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

I confess, I’ve done a bad thing. Logic warned me not to do it, but I did it anyway. I cut my own bangs. Every time I take the scissors into my own hands, I promise myself I’ll never do it again. That’s because I never fail to end up looking at little like Star Trek’s Spok, minus the ears. And yet this is definitely no way to live long and prosper.

When am I going to get it? I’m just not a skilled bang-cutter. When I try, I’m operating miles outside my area of expertise.

The gal who cuts my hair, on the other hand, knows what she’s doing around a pair of hair-cutting scissors. She can trim, gel, clip and mousse with the best of them. And she’s pretty adamant about me staying away from hair self-service. She knows whatever mess I make—and I will make a mess—she’ll have to straighten out.

Isn’t it strange that I would take the scissors into my own hands, knowing my past haircutting record? I’ve thought about it, and I don’t care how badly I needed an operation, I’m quite sure I would never snatch the scalpel from the surgeon’s hand with a, “Oh, let me do that! I saw an appendectomy on the Health Channel one time. I can so do this!”

In an eternal perspective, I guess my hair—even my appendix—is not as important as it may seem. As a matter of fact, hair and body parts are simple compared to running a life. Yet how many times have I snatched the controls on that too?

When I take control of my own life, I make a mess every time. I’m operating miles outside my area of expertise. I end up whining to the Father, “Lor-or-ord, can you fix this, plea-ea-ease?” Wouldn’t it be easier to simply be obedient in the first place?

We please God and show our love for Him by “surrendering the scissors,” so to speak, in complete obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Then in John 15:9-11, Jesus tells us that we find real joy as we’re pleasing God, keeping his commands: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Joy. And not just any joy. It’s a joy that’s complete. It’s real life. Even a longer life. Proverbs 10:27 says, “The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.”

It’s a sobering truth.

Still, did it have to say “cut short”? Just another reminder I’m spending the next couple of weeks suffering severe bang humiliation.

Green Flowered Bag in a Black Suitcase World

September 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

I was waiting for my luggage at the airport recently and I made an interesting observation: I think about 90% of travelers have black luggage. If you have a black suitcase on wheels, forget about just reaching out, grabbing it off the belt and rolling on your way. Just try it and you could very possibly get mugged by a dozen or so other black-luggage-lugging passengers. I had to take my husband’s black luggage on a trip one time, and I lost two nails in a bad black suitcase scene. I think I still have a couple of emotional scars from that one. Talk about emotional baggage.

It was actually pretty funny when I watched it this week. Tons of luggage was sliding down to the carousel and every time the crowd spotted a black, wheeled bag coming down the pike, the entire mob leaned in as one. It was a little freaky. As the bag got closer, they would all circle around it like over-sized vultures.

Three or four would reach for it to try to check the tags. Then there were several awkward smiles. And then for that one person (who had probably already reached for the wrong bag a good dozen times), it would be sort of like when you guess the right price from contestant’s row and get to go up on stage. Ding, ding, ding! “I won! It’s mine!”

This time I got to simply stand back and observe. Why? Because my luggage is green. Not just green, but green with flowers. And if that’s not distinctive enough, I’ve tied a white scarf in a giant bow around the handle. I can identify my luggage before it’s even all the way down the chute. Never a doubt. I always know when mine is coming.

Jesus knows us that way. He can see us coming. How it fills our lives with hope when we’re assured that we are identified as His.

The Bible tells us that everyone who is born of God wins. 1 John 5:4 says, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

There’s even more dark stuff in this world than there is dark luggage. But for those of us who’ve by faith given our lives to Christ, there’s a bright and shining hope that is our ultimate victory. It’s brighter than the brightest green luggage and more distinctive than any white bow. You can say, “I won! Victory is mine!” Hope is instant once we understand what it is to become that green-flowered bag in a black suitcase world.

So go ahead. Check the name tag. If you’re His, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It’s settled. Never a doubt. The suitcase is yours. It’s a bag that comes packed full of all the hope you’ll ever need to carry you joyfully through this life journey.

And this is actually one of those times when it’s good to be left holding the bag.

Money Can’t Buy Me Fitness

August 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

We invited our church over for an open house not long ago. I really hate to admit to this, especially in writing. It’s bound to be used against me at my inevitable sanity hearing. But I burned more calories on my exercise machine while getting ready for that open house than I have since I bought the thing. Here’s the goofy part. I burned all those calories by shoving the monstrous beast out of the way and into the storage area. I was sore for a week. That’s just downright embarrassing.

Doesn’t it seem like simply owning the machine should be enough to get me fit? After all, I invested a big hunk of money in it. I think I thought I’d see the muscles start to bulk up and the fat melt away as I wrote out the check.

I wonder if there are people who have the same kind of warped view when it comes to God’s Word? Could they possibly think that by finding the biggest, fattest, most expensive Bible, they automatically become spiritual? Or maybe they think that while writing that tithe check they suddenly have a special understanding of the will of God.

But when we’re told in Ephesians 6 to put on the armor of God, we’re instructed in verse 17 to “take” the Word of God. Not just buy it. Not simply write our family history in it. Not to merely set it on a shelf for some kind of spiritual protection. We’re not to just glance at a few pages now and then. No, we’re to “take” the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We’re to wield it. How insane would we consider a soldier who strapped on the sharpest, shiniest sword, then went into battle trying to bop people in the head with its sheath? He would be even sooner destined for a sanity hearing than I am.

In Psalm 119:45 and 48, the psalmist says, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.” And in verse 32 he says, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding,” (NIV). Wow, walking, reaching, running—I think I’m in better shape already!

It inspires me all the more to stretch myself. To use God’s Word—really use it—and let it continually be at the center of everything I do and everything I am. That’s a big part of what being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in Him is all about. It’s at those times when we’re walking in, reaching for and running toward Him and toward His word that we find ourselves equipped to do what we were designed to do. That’s a great place to live.

And just so you know, I’ll be dragging my exercise machine back out of storage soon. I guess I’ll try a little harder to use it to do what it was designed to do too. Hey, do you think that hauling the thing back out might earn me enough aerobic points to get me through ‘til summer?

Qualities vs. Symptoms

July 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I have some very unique and useful character qualities. Granted, most better psychoanalysts might not refer to them as “character qualities” as much as they refer to them as “symptoms,” but still.

I think writers acquire an exclusive symptom or two…make that a “quality” or two…that others don’t necessarily encounter. Maybe it’s the inordinate amount of rejection we’re called to deal with, but insecurity is so often the order of the day. Not to mention that when fiction writers hear new little voices in their heads, they never medicate. No, they actually encourage the little voices. And then publish them.

This week, though, I experienced a “quality” beyond voices. It’s a weird thing that happens to me now and again. I look over the writing du jour and I keep thinking I’ve misspelled words—even when I haven’t.

I think I might be a typo-chondriac.

Interestingly enough, if the psycho-professionals come up with a 12-step program for typo-chondriacs, I’m pretty sure step one will be admitting you don’t have a problem.

When it comes to successfully walking out this life for Christ, though, we have to recognize right from the get-go our complete lack of ability to make it happen ourselves. We do have a problem. And without surrendering to the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit, there’s no hope for resolving that problem. No 12-step program. No self-help book. Personally speaking, I don’t even have a horn to toot. Not a leg to stand on. Not a keyboard to type on. It’s got to be all Him and zero me.

You’d think that would cause a more intense insecurity than even a writer has to bear. But it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. There is great security in knowing that I don’t have to depend on my own abilities. There is even greater security in knowing that I can so completely depend on the One who is all-powerful. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:3 that, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,” (NLT).

The Amplified version of Philippians 3:3 puts it this way: “Put no confidence or dependence on what we are in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances.” That pretty much settles it. Nothing we’ve done. Nothing we’ve said. Nothing we are. Nothing inside us. Nothing outside us. Victory in the walk of faith will only happen as we rely totally and completely in the all-powerful One. And in Him our security is sure.

So it’s not such a terrible thing to recognize that even though I’m a writer, with all the built-in insecurities and various “qualities” that come with it, I don’t have to live in insecurity. There’s freedom in recognizing I have nothing to offer in and of myself, but that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).

That’s especially refreshing to dwell on when I realize that on top of my typo-chondria, I think I might be coming down with a touch of kleptomania. Gee, I hope there’s something I can take for that.

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