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 Kim Stokely –
If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
I loved that joke when I was a kid. It still makes me smile, mainly because it reminds me of my childhood growing up in New England.
I once had the opportunity to visit Plymouth Plantation, the historical spot where the pilgrims first came ashore in North America and made a home. A life-sized model of the Mayflower, the boat that brought them across the Atlantic, rests in the bay. And, at least when I was there some (cough, cough) forty years ago, a large granite and iron barrier, reminiscent of a Greek temple, had been placed around Plymouth Rock, the boulder the pilgrims had to step on first before coming ashore.
Even as a kid I remember thinking, how could they possibly know that?
Did Miles Standish have a Sharpie quill marker to make sure they remembered the exact rock, among the millions along the New England shoreline that our forefathers jumped on to keep their feet out of the salty water? Although these guys were all about formality and the importance of their journey, I don’t think, after 2 months at sea in a wooden boat with so many unwashed people, that anyone cared that they had to step on a rock to get to land. I think they probably had trouble keeping everyone from jumping over the rails and swimming to shore. In fact, the first written mention of Plymouth Rock came almost 100 years after the Pilgrims landed. Oral tradition may have picked this rock, but I’m still not convinced that the one enshrined in Massachusetts is “the one”.
God doesn’t give us such nebulous facts when it comes to the story of His son, Jesus. The first four gospels include eye witness accounts of Jesus’s days on earth. Most scholars believe they were written before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D. This means they were written within 40 years of Christ’s death. Many of the names, dates and events can be historically cross-checked with secular accounts. God wanted those of us who came later to know His son almost as intimately as those that walked with Him. He inspired the Gospel authors to write vivid accounts of Jesus’s words and actions so we could learn, as they did, from the great rabbi.
By Liz Cowen Furman –
After months of fighting it off, I succumbed to the bug my son and his basketball team passed around all season. I discovered something. I am a wimp. I cannot imagine how they played basketball with this sickness causing fever and ache to the very marrow of the bones. Ahh, youth.
As teenagers are wont to do, they kept going even when the bug struck. In one game my son played, he made seventeen points, then came home and collapsed for the entire weekend. He was so ill, but nothing would stop him from playing.
Determined to have a different season than in previous years, they now had much-loved coaches they would work forever to please. As a mom, I sometimes wished the sick kids would have been sent home, not to share their germs, but in the end they were learning to be part of something bigger than themselves.
At one game early in the season, a mom sitting next to me said, “Oh no! I just realized that the combined ages of our three coaches is less than my age.” Hoots of laughter. What the coaches lacked in years they made up for in passion. Our son, Matthew, 20, was the level three coach.
Their season record wasn’t great but several of their losses were by 2 or 3 points, not the usual 20-40 from the previous coaches’ reign.
The season finale was against archrival Evergreen. A nemesis they hadn’t beaten in eight years. Every time we play them a thousand fans attend. Evergreen won by 29 points earlier in the season. The last game was also senior night so all the parents (even grandparents) attended.
The local newspaper showed, and the concessions stand burst with meal deals to sell. Three hundred cupcakes stood at the ready for players and their families after the game.
In the locker room pregame, Coach Eric showed a video he made of their season. Then he stood up and said, “What do you want your legacy to be…?” He later said after his speech he looked up and most of the seniors were teary eyed. He thought his plan had backfired.
What happened when the boys took the floor won’t be forgotten any time soon.
I’ve never seen such determination in the eyes of our boys. We won handily by 18 points, (19 of which were my senior son Micah’s—I had to throw that in because I’m his mom) but what was so fun to see was the way they played.
All the previous years of agony with a bad coach and all the ego-deflating losses they endured somehow melted away that night. When they remember their high school basketball careers, they will no doubt remember the win against Evergreen in front of God and everybody!
I am beyond thankful for the three coaches they had this year. After the final buzzer Coach Eric kissed his hand and pointed heavenward, in a gesture of thanks to the Father for granting them this win. Priceless.
By Kim Stokely –
Our family pets love laundry day. We had a parakeet who could say two phrases, “Hi, bird” and “Praise God!” He loved to chirp back to the various squeaks and clicks the dryer made. When it came time to fold clothes, he’d tweet happily and call out “Praise God” while I worked. His gentle reminder to be thankful for God’s provision of clothes helped make the chore easier.
Alas, the bird passed away and now we have Ollie, the sock thief. This puppy has a nose for the smell of Tide and a desire to eat all of our socks and unmentionables. Who knew that washing clothes would require making a game plan of defensive maneuvers to keep the little fuzz ball from stealing items not only out of the laundry basket, but out of the dryer itself? While I’m busy folding t-shirts, Ollie sneaks behind me like a white, puffy ninja and slides a sock from the dryer. It’s only when he’s out of my reach that he lifts his head and trots happily toward the living room. It’s that happy gait that signals he’s done it again. I spend the next two or three minutes like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, chasing the fluffy delinquent in circles around our house until he drops his loot.
As harmless as chewing a sock seems to be, I know that should he actually swallow the fabric, it could cause his little tummy a world of trouble. I knew of a Dalmatian whose fetish for socks landed her in the vet’s office, undergoing emergency surgery. Ollie may not understand why I keep taking away his seemingly harmless toy, but I do.
I love Ollie to pieces but get so frustrated by his constant desire to do the wrong thing. Whether it be to chew socks or tunnel under the fence, I have to keep a constant eye on the wily puppy. If only he understood that the boundaries I put up were for his own good. To protect him from harm and help him to grow up healthy.
I suppose God looks at us the same way. All of us are tempted, at least at some point, to do the wrong thing. Like Ollie, we may not even know it’s dangerous, but God does. Psalm 25:8-9 says “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (NIV). Just as I try and be patient with my puppy, God is patient with us. He guides us and, if we are willing, trains us to walk in His ways.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run. The house is too quiet. Ollie must be up to something.