Monday, December 04, 2006

Season's Meetings

About this time every year I seem to start meeting myself to death. Does it happen to you, too? Here we are, ringing in the season with this Christmas committee meeting and that planning event, then the other get-together—I really am MEETING myself coming and going!

I’ve got so much scribbling on my calendar; it already looks like it’s been through the blender. I’ve got some kind of Day-Timer smoothie here! Visions of sugar plums? I don’t think so. Not unless they’re one of the ingredients in the smoothie.

Before Christmas starts to lose some of its glorious wonder and meaning, I really have to get a hold of my calendar and keep it in check—or maybe just check it at the door.

Don’t you love the awesome message of Christmas the angels brought at that very first Christmas meeting: “Glory to God…and on earth, PEACE.” Peace through Jesus! We don’t have to form a committee—no meetings on this one. It’s the truth. I think I’ll just sit here and enjoy that thought for a few minutes today. Don’t you think it’s so much sweeter than any old sugar plum smoothie?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pushing Our Thanks Button


I hope this isn’t too personal, but I have this one pair of jeans I call the “breathing optional” jeans. I was going somewhere the other day wearing the death jeans, and I told my daughter something like, “Now if Mommy passes out, nevermind the CPR. Unbutton the jeans.”

And as a motherly disclaimer, I had to add, “Don’t look directly at that top button. One bad thread and it could put an eye out.” I really would hate it if I had to explain in the ER how my daughter got a concussion or something from a blue jeans button turned bazooka.

Anyway, I was very thankful that we made it home from our little outing without either of us having lost consciousness.

Speaking of being very thankful, isn’t it fun that we’re heading into the season that forces us to think about thanks? The Bible tells us to always be thankful. Always. That’s often.

So I’m making it a goal to be thankful always—for every breath. Especially for every breath that doesn’t rocket a button.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Going to Court?



How tickled I am that my two college boys are taking the Rhea family "to court" in such a good way. Andrew (left) and Jordan (right) are parked on either side of the cute Katie Porter representing their respective junior and freshman classes at the 2006 Homecoming Gala and Coronation at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Hannibal, Missouri. Katie is the junior girl homecoming rep. I loved getting to snap some pictures of their "court appearance." The entire evening was a royal blast!

Two on the homecoming court from the same family? That has to be some sort of historic event for the college. I know it's an historical event for the Rhea family. As the mother of those two fine boys, I think it's more of a HYSTERICAL event--since I'm so proud I could just cry!

And as the mother of two of the homecoming court guys, I'm wondering if that somehow makes me QUEEN. Not that it's all about me, mind you. But really. Could I get a crown out of this?

I guess I'm a little spoiled, since on the eternal side, Jesus has already made me royal. Again, not because it's all about me. But because he is full of mercy. It's all about him. It's all about what he's done.

And if I do happen across a tiara or two, I know just where to lay them. I love the Revelation 4:10-11 picture of falling down in worship, laying our crowns before the One and Only Worthy One. “And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.’” (NLT)

As proud as I am of my boys, I'm even more thrilled to serve in the court of the One True King. All glory to him!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chase Down That Car




Sure, the dog is calm and collected when she's sitting in the sun with my son, Andrew. But just let a car drive down our road. Suddenly she's a foaming car maniac. Gracie got out yesterday and before I could even bribe her with a gajillion doggie cookies, she flew down the road after a car. Why do dogs do that? Does chasing a car make any sense whatsoever? What was she going to do if she caught it? Did she think she was going to wrestle it to the ground and show it who’s boss? "Ha, I am GRACIE THE WONDER DOG and I have conquered the great metal beast in the name of all Dogdom."

I would make fun of her a little more, but I can actually be much too much like her to get away with it for very long. It’s like I unconsciously decide now and then that I’m going to chase down living a good life myself. Yeah, watch me, I can wrestle down that car!

But living a righteous life comes from giving God’s Holy Spirit control—not from taking control myself. If we want to be good people, we really have to understand that we can only do that through the goodness that God gives. Giving him control? It’s better than the best doggie cookies. That’s where I need to stay. Yeah. Sit. Stay.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hair-ware



Notice the new pic for my new website banner? I'm excited about (okay, so this is rather shallow) having more froo-froo in the do. Gotta love a hairdo with froo.

I have a friend who has made one of the greatest sacrifices for her husband I’ve seen in a long time. I mean to tell you, I’m deeply moved by her selflessness. Her name is Chris and she’s sacrificing…are you ready for this…the froo in her hairdo. Her husband has a new motorcycle he wants her to ride with him. That means she has to spend an hour or so getting her hair to poof in just the right way, then she has to smash the life right out of the poof with the bike helmet. Oh the humanity.

Personally, I’m not sure if I could make that kind of sacrifice. Give up my lunch? Sure. My favorite earrings? Probably even those. But my DO? That’s asking a lot.

My friend Peanuts (who incidentally, is the one who puts the froo in my do) said she would only make that kind of hair sacrifice if they were riding on the motorcycle—on their way to pick up a very large diamond. And then after she saw the helmet Chris had to wear, she decided it would have to be a diamond HOUSE.

Sacrificing the hairdo is big. But sacrificing our all to our Heavenly Father? That’s something altogether bigger and eternally more urgent. Romans 12:1 gives us sacrifice instructions: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." Not only the hair--the whole body!

Giving him control of every part of our lives is what makes this life more exciting than the wildest motorcycle ride. He knows just how to make the perfect adventure because he knows us so well—right down to the very number of hairs on our heads. Poofed and un-poofed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pockets Full of What?

I was watching my 13-year-old son, Daniel, empty out his pockets yesterday. Oh my goodness. He pulled out the wrappers from three Tootsie Rolls—and then a few seconds later he pulled out four furry Tootsie Rolls. I think he had the entire year’s worth of notes from his history class in one pocket and I’m just sure I saw his trombone sheet music in the other—the music for last month’s concert.

He seemed pretty excited when he found the lunch money he’d been missing. But both of us were disturbed when we saw something that looked like at least half of a science lab. How disturbing is it that there was this big hunk of something we couldn’t identify? How much more disturbing is it that it looked a little like it was frying in its own juices? How even more disturbing is it that he still didn’t throw it away?

I wonder how the kid can even sit down with all that stuff (bubbling and non-bubbling) in his jeans. All I could say was, “Daniel! Son! You need a PURSE!”
It’s funny that he’s carrying around half his life in his jeans. It’s even funnier that he has to keep pulling it all out every day when he changes clothes, and then stuffing it all right back in the clean jeans. Anyone else wondering why anyone would keep stuffing four furry Tootsie Rolls and an unidentified frying object back into the pockets?

It’s even weirder when we let it become a habit to carry around spiritual junk we don’t need, hanging onto stuff just because we’ve gotten used to it. Purse or no purse, if we’re carrying around sinful stuff, it’s past time to get rid of it. And it’s amazing how freeing it is to stop lugging that junk around! Talk about feeling lighter! And it’s exactly how we’re called to live. Not just “encouraged” to live holy. CALLED to live holy! First Thessalonians 4:7 says, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (NIV)

O Lord, may we learn to rely on your more and more to produce a pure and holy life in us, according to your calling—a life that will magnify and glorify your name!

Can you imagine how many amazing and powerful things we’ll see happen in our lives when we make that our heart’s prayer every time we talk to the Father?

Go ahead. Talk to him about living out the holiness he’s called you to.

And on a lighter note, I guess I’ll go ahead and talk to Daniel again sometime soon about what’s in his pockets. First I want to throw away the handful of furry Tootsie Rolls I saw in my purse.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dimples Are In the Eye of the Beholder

Just hours after Allie was born, nurses kept coming into my room and asking, "Is yours that beautiful baby with the huge dimples?" I beamed every time. Yes, that adorable dimpled baby was mine!

Fifteen years have passed and I can still hardly resist the urge to say to anyone willing to listen, "Will you get a load of the adorable dimples on that gorgeous girl?" Allie's such a good sport about it. She never rolls her eyes where anyone can see.

Of course, now that I'm older, I've also found that dimples sort of come in different flavors. Allie's have always been delicious. But the ones I recently noticed on my thighs are not nearly so cute. I backed into the mailbox a few weeks ago and my husband thought the dimpled fender left something to be desired, too.

Dimples may come and go, but the simple dimple truth is that it's not what's on the outside that counts. My legs still get me from point A to point B despite the thigh dimples. My car rolls along perfectly despite the dimpled fender. And while my sweet Allie has the cutest dimples ever, that's not what makes her gorgeous to our Heavenly Father. Even as a mom, I adore the dimples, but that's not what I love best about her. Allie has the most wonderfully tender heart toward the things of God. She has a love for Jesus and for his people that touches my heart in its deepest places. She told me when she was 12 years old that God was calling her to be a missionary and she has never wavered in her desire to serve him and win others. Now that's gorgeous!

In these bodies of flesh (both dimpled and non-dimpled flesh), we have a natural bent toward judging and rating importance by appearance. I can't wait until we see Jesus face to face and we understand fully how little these outsides matter. According to his Word, God looks on the heart.

I think he sees Allie's heart as something of great beauty. Hmm, I wonder if her heart has dimples.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thrills, Chills and Pain Pills

Thrills. We tend to get them in different places, according to our personalities, likes and individual pain tolerances. Personally, I get a real charge from a lengthy shopping trip (ooh, did I say “charge”?). My husband would rather smash his thumb with a large hammer than have to make a trip to the mall.

On the other hand, he loves a long bike trip on a nature trail. Heat, bugs, poison ivy and straining muscles I don’t even have? Just bring me the hammer. And a large dose of a strong pain reliever.

Thrills may vary from person to person and from hammer to hammer, but there is only one who should thrill us to our very soul. Only Jesus should be the absolute thrill of our lives. I love the hymn that includes the words:

All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me

Several times a day I have to ask myself if he really is more than life to me. From the shoe sale at the mall to the scenic nature trail, he is the Maker, the reason for it all, he is all of life. No, he’s more than life.

How easily life can become more to me than my Savior. I wish I didn’t have to admit what a spiritual wimp I can become at even the slightest distraction. Colossians 1:17 reminds me that he is more than life—whether I recognize it or not. “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” He IS life. And he is the only one who can direct us to live our lives in the right way. “It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power” (Job 12:10, GNT).

Know what’s funny? Life in his power is the only place to find real thrills. Maybe someday I’ll write my own hymn about it. It could go something like this:

He is my trip to the mall for a giant shoe sale
He is my husband’s bike ride on a long nature trail
He is the most magnificent deep soul-thriller
And oh so much better than any goofy pain-killer.

Find your every thrill and your very life in the power of the Savior. When he is all that thrills your soul, you’ll never need a hammer for anything body-related.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Swimming on the Blackmail End of the Gene Pool

My mom and my sister Gina came to visit a couple of weeks ago. What a hoot! Let me tell you, you get three women of this gene pool together and we're finishing each other's sentences left and right--whether the other person wants you to finish her sentences or not!

These are women who know me to the bone. Every quirk, every weakness, every stupid stunt I've ever pulled. Not that I have any quirks, weaknesses or past stupid stunts, mind you.

Okay, okay. I'll just go ahead and admit it. Mom and Gina have plenty of potential blackmail material. If you ever see either one of them driving a spanking new car with all the bells and whistles, and if you happen to hear them refer to it as the "Rhonda-quirk-mobile," you can know I'll be making the payments on the thing. No doubt at any moment I could be dog-paddling on the blackmail side of this gene pool!

But do you know what's wonderfully glorious? Mom and Gina have all the dirt on me, yet they've honestly never used it against me. I'm car payment free, as it were. Even more glorious, they still like me!

How like Jesus that is! He had all the dirt on me. That dirt was mine. Yet he chose to clean me up and make me free--all out of his love for me. John 3:16 and 18 in The Message says, "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life....Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted."

Acquitted! Not only did he pay my blackmail tab, he made me new--made it just like I never even had quirks, weaknesses, stupid stunts and everything so much worse. Ephesians 1:7 tells me just what happened to it all: "Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people--free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!" (MSG).

It's a miraculous thing to be so abundantly free.

I'm feeling especially blessed today. I'm eternally free. And to top it all off, I was so blessed to get to have such a way-fun visit with Mom and Gina--a way-fun visit that was entirely blackmail-free.

Of course, wouldn't it just blow my whole analogy to pieces if I found out that the only reason I'm not making blackmail car payments to my mom or my sister is that I've got just as much dirt on them? I don't think I'll ponder that one. I'll just sit here and feel blessed instead.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Find This Hard to Swallow?



We’re still getting used to having a puppy around the house. I call her a puppy, but I honestly think this creature is mostly GOAT. The other day we had company and Gracie came lumbering into the family room with our guest’s toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. Talk about embarrassing. At least she has good dental hygiene. If we could only get her to floss.

Every morning we harvest the Gracie leftovers from the family room rug. There is almost always a wide selection of sock parts. It’s amazing to me that she can turn one napkin into a half acre of napkin confetti. It’s all faithfully spread across the rug every morning like manna.

This morning, along with the manna, I harvested kindling from three colored pencils (she had already digested about a pencil and a half), and what used to be a package of paper. I guess that means if she happened to swallow anything live, it has enough art supplies in there to complete a nice project or two. I also found half a hair clip and one of my daughter’s new shoes—which now has handy ventilation holes in the heel—plus a shredded pizza box and pieces of what used to be the seven, nine and Jack of hearts. I think she was going for a flush.

One of the worst atrocities happened a few weeks ago when Gracie found Andrew’s huge hot pink loofa (we’ll talk about why my college boy had a huge hot pink loofa another time—suffice it to say it’s one of the big jokes on his college campus).

Andrew had just moved all his things home from college for the summer when Gracie noticed the loofa and I guess figured Andrew brought it home as a little souvenir for her. By the time we found her, hot pink fluff covered the entire family room floor. Oh the humanity. Pink loofa carcass everywhere! It looked like someone had plucked a ballerina. At least it wasn’t a total loss. There was residual shower gel in the loofa and the family room smells a lot less like puppy breath. Nevermind that Gracie is still blowing bubbles.

Paper or plastic? She doesn’t care. She doesn’t even bother to find out if it’s wood, hay or stubble, animal, vegetable or mineral. In shoes she does seem to prefer leather, though she’s yet to meet a shoe she would shun. It’s hard for me to imagine looking at my son’s flip flop and thinking, “My, that looks delicious.” But this pup? She’ll swallow anything.

Sadly, some people will swallow anything, too. But as children of God, we need to be intentional about what we believe. And we need to know why we believe it. We find dependable, never-changing truth in the word of God. Psalm 119:160 says, “Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth. Your righteous decisions are eternal” (MSG).

Earlier in Psalm 119 we read, “With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (vv. 13, 16). Now there’s something worthwhile to let past our lips: his word.

No need to swallow whatever we heard last. We can ever and always depend on God’s truth. And chew on this. He gives us wisdom to understand his truth when we ask. No bones about it—doggie or otherwise. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

So let’s seek the Lord, let’s do our truth homework and ask for his wisdom. No need to let the world’s philosophies “get our goat.” His truth goes down just the right way.

By the way, it’s nice to know you don’t have to be all that careful where you leave your truth homework. It’s eternal homework--the dog can’t really eat it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Remodeling




The pic is post-TV interview for "Living the Life" (www.livingthelife.com). I'm the one in the middle wearing the face that says "These shoes really hurt my feet." Next time I'm going to try to remember to always stand between girls who aren't so much cuter than me.

I think one of my favorite things about a TV interview is the make-up part. It’s like getting a make-over. But should I be offended that it took a solid half-hour to do the makeup on this one short woman? “We’re just enhancing what’s already here,” she kept saying. Never mind that she was mixing the makeup with something that looked exactly like a little tiny trowel. Enhancing? I think it was more of a remodel job. I’m just glad she fought off any urges to yell something like, “Hey, Harv! We’re going to need the belt sander, some heavy-duty mortar and an extra nail gun!”

Not that there aren’t times I wouldn’t be perfectly content with a bit of a remodel. My foundation seems to have settled at least a little. I have to wonder about my structural integrity. A little brick work, a little landscaping, maybe a sheetrock repair or two might just work wonders on this old house. After all, somewhere along the way I seemed to have picked up a few more bricks than my foundation could comfortably hold. I even asked the makeup lady about knocking off a few of these chins, but she just laughed.

Ever feel like you need a life remodel? A new addition here, a revamping there? Maybe you’ve strayed from the original blueprint, spiritually speaking. It’s easy to feel that way any time we lose focus of our real purposes in life.

Our real remodeling transformation happens as we allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in our lives. 2 Corinthians 3:17-19 says, “Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more” (NLT).

Now there’s a make-over! Through the Holy Spirit we can have a heart make-over that’s perpetual—constantly building structural integrity of the soul. And that’s real integrity. Even better, when the make-up job is finished and we’re ready to look into the mirror, guess who we’ll see. Jesus! As we allow the Spirit to do his make-over work in our lives, we become more and more like our Savior. How perfectly beautiful to have the mirror reflecting HIS glory! It’s a life make-over gives us ever-increasing joy and hope.

As for the physical make-over, I’m not putting my hope in that. Of course, I’m not totally dismissing the belt sander idea either.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Back to School

We’re gearing up for going back to school. That means the kids are making their way through the various stages of grief. They spent the longest time in denial. I think they assume that if they pretend it’s still June, none of the grownups will notice the calendar. I really can picture my kids trying to pull that one off. Imagine them picnicking, camping and working on their tans in the two-foot January snow. Dog days of winter? That doesn’t seem right.

Nope, no matter how long you hold your breath under water at the pool in your attempt to keep summer from ending, eventually you do have to come up for air. I got a clue the kids had made it all the way to the acceptance and heavy-duty mourning stages when I took all the pruny people shopping for back to school clothes and they all asked for black armbands.

Me? I’m coming to understand something about school more and more all the time. It’s never out. I don’t know at what point we learn it, but we do seem to finally grasp the lesson that after we’ve learned a few things, we learn enough to know that we never stop learning. (Speaking of back-to-school learning, please don’t ever, ever ask me to diagram that last sentence.) I probably shouldn’t mention to my children that in the big picture, school is never out. I’m picturing them running and screaming. And I certainly don’t want to have to fish them back out of the pool. Again.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). There’s wisdom in staying in God’s School of Learning. And great satisfaction, too. Making the most of our time is learning to keep learning—not wasting various appendages on fall-denial frostbite. It actually hurts much less to keep growing. As a matter of fact, there’s satisfaction there. And joy! Verse 14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives” (NLT).

Singing for joy to the end of our lives? That reminds me, too, to spend my time wisely. It reminds me that I’m getting nearer the end of life all the time. No getting around it. I’m getting older. But no matter how old I get, I’m still learning that I have so much more to learn.
So I’m challenging you to not only grow old along with me, but to learn along with me. Be cool. Stay in school!

Incidentally, I’m also finding as I get older (and this is one of those unrelated and not exactly joyous discoveries) that I’m pruny without staying under water at the pool.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

“And It Was Good”

“Mom, I noticed I was really good today.” I remember trying to fight the chuckle. At least I made it sound more like a cough. I think he bought it. It’s just that a five-year-old’s idea of good and a mom’s idea of good are sometimes oh so wildly different. I thought, Where was he when I was doing laundry and had to pull six worms out of the pockets of his shorts? (Two were still alive.) Did he not even notice that sucking Jello through a straw was not my idea of a good time? Did he still think convincing his brother that he was adopted was a good thing? Of course, if he meant that he hadn’t done any lasting property damage and that he hadn’t committed a single felony all day, then, sure, I guess we could call this a “good” day. And at least I never got bored.

Instead of saying what I was thinking, I managed to respond to with, “You do lots of good things every day. Did you know I like having you around?” I really meant it. That had to be a gift from God. He is so good.

Speaking of good, I love the account of creation. Talk about good! As a matter of fact, the first chapter of Genesis is full of “God saw…and it was good” accounts. “Good” in the Genesis context means, “exactly right for the purposes intended.” God had a really great week.

I can’t imagine anything sweeter than getting to the end of this life and hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In five-year-old-ese, I think it could probably be translated, “I noticed you were really good.” Not good in my own goodness, but good through the borrowed righteousness of Christ and empowered for good deeds through his Holy Spirit. That thought is sweeter to me than even the longest stretch of worm-free laundry. I can’t think of anything more glorious than hearing him say that I was “exactly right for the purposes intended.”

It spurs me on to the good works he’s planned for me to do. I don’t think sitting around watching soaps and popping chocolates all day was ever part of God’s plan. Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Tending and keeping was probably no small job. It had to be at least as tough as raising a five-year-old. But working for him is “good.” There is blessing in good deeds and blessing in hard work. Laziness was never part of God’s plan. Boredom either.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

My Vacuum's Lost Its Suckage

I had a little wrestling match with my vacuum cleaner this week. It was doing the wimpy-clean thing--you know, where you have to get down on your hands and knees and hand-feed it every little fuzz ball and potato chip crumb? If I'm going to do that, I might as well not have a vacuum cleaner. I could just pick up the fuzz and chips and throw them in the trash myself, couldn't I? Cut out the middle man.

Anyway, the thing had lost all its "suck-ocity." So I got it in a headlock and looked underneath to find out why. I found a little piece of sock, a length of yarn that could've been an entire sweater in another life, a hunk of rug from the kids' bathroom and a bunch of those little plastic price tag things. No wonder it didn't want to work! If all that stuff doesn't affect a vacuum's suck-ocity, I don't know what will.

At least it gave me a little reminder. When we let our minds suck up the wrong things, we can't expect them to work the way they're supposed to. There's so much garbage on TV, in magazines—everywhere. If we let our minds suck up trashy stuff, we shouldn't be surprised when we have a hard time dwelling on the things we're supposed to. We're told in Philippians 4:8 what kind of things we're supposed to think about: "Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise." (CEV)

There's lots less wrestling with our minds when we remember to fill them with the right things.

And personally, I'm also going to try to remember not to let my kids use the vacuum any more.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vacation Season

Vacation season is approaching. Gotta love it. We always have a great time on our family vacations, but there are challenges that are unique to that week or two. I think the challenges are probably timeless, don’t you? Of course, I do hope Jesus in his travels from town to town never had to say anything like, “No, Peter, I can’t make John stop looking at you.”

But can’t you just hear Noah: “You guys knock it off. Don’t you make me pull this ark over.”

Or the children of Israel asking Moses for the gajillionth time, “Are we there yet?”
Or how about the wise men on their journey to see the newborn king, “We’re not stopping again. And I thought I told everybody to go before we left.”

But you know, all unplanned pitstops, death glares from the front seat and refereeing “who’s looking where” aside, we’re all travelers all the time, really. We’re on this earth for such a short while—just passing through. We need to understand the purpose of every moment. And that purpose is in Jesus. Take a look at 1 Peter 1:13-19 in The Message: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, 'I am holy; you be holy.' You call out to God for help and he helps--he's a good Father that way. But don't forget, he's also a responsible Father, and won't let you get by with sloppy living.

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb.”

This life really is a journey we must travel with a deep consciousness of God. I want to remember to make the journey in a way that honors him.
Because he really is looking at me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Remain a Vegetable?

Okay, this is probably the kind of story you don’t hear every day. I was doing a book signing at our local Christian book store, and they had all kinds of great contests and give-aways. My assistant was there helping me with the signing, and low and behold, she won the giant blow-up Junior Asparagus! Yes, the Veggie Tales guy. And he was as big as me. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more thrilled over winning over-sized blow-up vegetation.

When the event was over, she put Junior in the passenger seat of her pickup. I had to laugh as I saw her driving off. I think she buckled his seatbelt, but I was still imagining the call: “I’m sorry to inform you, Mrs. Rhea, but your friend was in a terrible accident. She’s going to be okay, but I’m afraid her passenger…will remain a vegetable.”

Don’t worry, remaining in a vegetative state is okay if you’re already a vegetable. “Remaining” can be a good thing. Jesus instructed us, for instance, to remain—to stay in, abide in, hang on to—his love. How? By doing what he said to do. He tells us in John 15:9-10, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.”

Remaining a vegetable is good for a vegetable. Remaining lovingly obedient to Christ is good for a Christian. You’ll love what you discover in your remaining. It’s joy! In the very next verse, Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Not half joy. There’s complete joy in remaining!

By the way, and just so you know, Junior remains in his vegetative state. And while he may not be the chattiest passenger on the planet, since that book signing, my assistant hasn’t hit a single problem driving in the car pool lane.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Since my Who Put the Cat in the Fridge book came out last year, everywhere I go people tell me more stories of their cats popping out of their refrigerators. I’ve been amazed to find out how many “cat in the fridge” stories there really are. And people have found their cats in other weird places, too. Imagine opening the microwave in the morning to zap your jelly doughnut and having Fluffy leap out. Or how about hearing purring coming from your briefcase? Or suddenly seeing your trash bag take a walk on its own. One guy went to his dresser and had a pair of his underwear spring from the drawer.

One of my favorites was my friend whose mail carrier said she opened up the box to put the mail in one Monday morning and the family cat flew out. My friend asked her daughter about it. She smiled and shrugged, “Oh yeah, I helped him in there Saturday morning,” and she skipped out of the room.

I guess we all end up in places we don’t really want to be sometimes. I’m going to “let the cat out of the bag,” as it were. That’s when we need to hit our knees. Prayer is our ticket to where we need to go spiritually. We need to pray when we’re in tough spots. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us we need to pray all the time. Prayer is always in good timing.

Speaking of good timing, I’m thinking it’s just a good thing Fluffy flew out of the microwave BEFORE the jelly doughnut got zapped.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Worry Goo

I have friends who are organizational whizzes. I am nothing at all like them. I love them, often wish I was them, but sadly, there are hardly any similarities. I have a few pockets of organization in my life. Well, probably just enough to keep my family from going completely insane and to keep my editors from losing their spirituality. But much of my life is spent hunting through large piles of junk I should’ve thrown away, searching for the life-or-death kind of important items I’ve misplaced.

I do have one friend, however, who is much more like me than I’m sure she would ever want to be. Organization? Not exactly her watchword either. Her pickup, for instance, looks like it belongs to a homeless person. You would almost swear all her worldly goods are in there.

I took a ride in her truck recently, and I actually had to sit on a two-foot pile of junk mail, candy wrappers, books, file folders, and takeout bags from at least a couple of month’s worth of fastfood. There had to have been six pairs of shoes in the floorboard. They were sitting on top a pile of clothes. I think she could’ve been locked out of her house for a solid week without experiencing any real wardrobe shortages. I started to sit down on her taxes and noticed there was enough Bible study material under there to cause significant face-glowage. But all fashion, government and spiritual stuff aside, I had to draw the line at sitting on the can of biscuits I saw poking out from under some Styrofoam containers.

“Hey, I’m not sitting on a can of biscuits. What if it popped open and exploded biscuit goo and can shrapnel all over my rear end?”

“No way,” she laughed. “It’s been in here since last Christmas. Even if it popped open, the insides are probably too shriveled to do any damage.” She still humored me and tossed the thing on the dashboard.

I wasn’t convinced that goo shrivels instead of burgeoning. Hadn’t she seen the movie, “The Blob”?

I stared at the Blob-wanna-be as it rolled back and forth on the dash. “You have to know that could put an eye out.” Even as I said it, I pictured an entire office of health insurance personnel puzzled over where to file a claim reading, “cause of injury: accidentally assailed by canned bread product.” You really have to be careful what you sit on.

Funny that I should worry about what I was sitting on when worry itself can be such a dangerous thing to sit on. Jesus knew we would have worrying tendencies. He addressed it point blank in Matthew 6:27 when he asked the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Every now and then, we need to do a little self-exam. We need to ask ourselves if there’s anything we’re sitting on that we shouldn’t be. Are there any worries threatening to explode worry-goo all over our lives? Not only is it not adding a single hour to life, it can actually suck some of the goodness out of life.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us what to do instead of worrying. “Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7, MSG

Living a fretful life is no way to live. It’s the way to get ulcers. When we’re worried, we’re consumed by whatever it is we’re fretting over—even if it’s something that hasn’t happened. The focus of our worry becomes all we can think about. That means we’re not able to focus where we really need to. How can our focus be on worry and on Christ at the same time?

Let’s trade worry for prayer. It’s a trade that brings the peace of God.

Incidentally, it might be one less thing for you to worry about if I go ahead and tell you that there were no bread-related injuries reported after the truck ride. No dough-covered booty even. And there were fewer worries for me, too, since I knew that if I did need a change of clothes, there were several outfit choices in the floorboard.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Last Laugh

My husband preaches three services every Sunday morning. Every Sunday after the last service, his brain predictably shifts into some kind of alternate state. It’s like seeing his screen saver kick on—the brain parts are still working, but there doesn’t seem to be any real activity. I’ve learned not to give him any kind of information he’s really going to need until at least 3:00 p.m.

I can always tell he’s slipped into Post-traumatic Sermon Syndrome when I ask where he’d like to go for lunch and he answers, “Forty-seven.” One time we even caught him trying to get burgers at the McDonald’s drive-through by yelling into their trash can.

My favorite screen-saver moment happened one Sunday afternoon at Taco Bell. Richie had freshly entered into PTSS mode—I was just pleased he was able to place his order. But when it came time to pay, he didn’t have his special discount tag he keeps on his key chain. He asked one of the kids to see if he left his keys in the car. Jordan came back from the car wearing an interesting smirk. He said, “Dad, not only did you leave your keys in the car—you left the car RUNNING.” We all howled—though I think I was the loudest.

Every time we ran into someone we knew over the next weeks, I’d beg Richie, “Oh, please let me tell the Taco Bell story. Please, please, please.” He would roll his eyes and say something like, “Well, if you just have to.” I always had to.

About a month later, it came to a sad end. I was loading my bags into the minivan after a quick stop at Walmart. It was one of those hot July days. My shoes were sticking to the pavement. I thought I’d let the car cool off while I finished unloading, so I dropped my purse in the back seat and squeezed through to start up the van. I finished unloading, slammed the door, then realized I had locked myself out of my running car! I peered through the window. Yep, there was my purse. Cell phone, too. Everything I needed was in there—except ME!

I hesitate to tell you about my phone call to Richie’s secretary, but let me just say that the ladies at the Walmart jewelry counter heard something like this:

“Janet, I’m at Walmart and my phone is locked in my car. And my purse is in there too. And the keys. And, oh yeah, the car is running.
“OK, Janet, stop laughing. What do you mean ‘how will he find me’? OK, sure, Janet, go ahead and tell him to look for the woman on the parking lot with egg on her face.” Janet has just a little bit of a mischievous streak. I’ve always admired that about her.

I hadn’t waited long when I saw Richie’s car pulling into the lot. I saw a shining glow first. It was teeth. I don’t know when I’ve seen him smile quite that big.

All I could say was, “Boy, am I going to miss telling that Taco Bell story.”

There are passages in scripture that are related to that kind of boomerang fun-poking on a bigger scale. If you judge others, you’ll find that judgment coming right back around and smacking you in the head.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-5, “’Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.’”

Luke 6:37 in The Message says it this way: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.”

The principle is clear. At the point we think we have the right to condemn someone else, we’d better duck! That judgment has a kick. A critical, condemning spirit results in losing sight of another person’s strengths, loss of friendships, and a shortfall in our overall fruitfulness in life. It’s a bad choice from any direction.

Learning to see people the way Jesus does, and learning to love them the way he does is the way to stay away from a judgmental spirit. I would say that it’s a “key” to right living, but that might remind me of the Walmart episode.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Total Circus

I had a very weird day. My husband was doing some studying at home and the weather was gorgeous so he opened up the back door for some fresh air. But the puppy totally didn’t get the screen door thing. She kept trying to run outside, doing a full-speed face-plant against the screen. So to keep her from straining herself through the giant colander, Richie opened the screen too. Everything was fine until he finished his studying and went back to the office—without closing the door. I was working away at my computer, but I kept hearing a bird slamming itself against the windows. When our two cats started going berserk, I realized the thing was not slamming itself on the outside to get in, it was on the inside trying to get out!

I called my husband’s office to tell him there was a bird inside my house. And that I had really enjoyed living in this house. And how much I was going to miss it. He wasn’t in but his secretary had a good laugh.

I knew there was no way I could live with the bird all afternoon. I finally realized that if I wasn’t really going to move out (and it took awhile to make that decision), the bird was going to have to go. The dog and the two cats were all too willing to help me catch the thing, though I don’t think they were looking to set it free. The dog thought it was a cool new chew toy and the cats were looking sinisterly at each other, then back at the bird. I think each was trying to get dibs.

The poor bird was so confused. There were two stories of humongous, edge-to-edge windows but no way out. I opened the highest window I could get to and with broom in hand, proceeded to try to sweep the thing out the open window. I would give the bird a swoop with the broom, then a swoop to each of the other animals to get them to stop trying to help me. I think it must’ve looked like a lion taming act gone bad. What a total circus. One of the most frustrating parts was having a window wide open, yet still watching the goofy bird slamming itself against the closed ones.

Half an hour or so later, I finally managed to give the crasher the heave-ho out the window. The cats were sorely disappointed. I think they sulked all afternoon—although how can a person really tell if a cat is sulking?

The whole bird-herding incident made me wonder how many times I’ve frustrated my Heavenly Father that same way. He opens a beautiful window, but I smack my head against every closed one instead. I wonder how many gentle “broom nudges” he’s sent my way that I’ve fluttered and fought. We’re instructed in Ephesians 5:17, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Trying to find my own way is head-smashing foolishness. The next verse tells us to be filled with the Spirit—allowing him to influence our every thought and action, letting his way become our way. Being filled with his Spirit and lining up our lives with his Word is the only way to get rid of unnecessary fluttering, fighting and face-smacking folly.

I want to surrender to his will in every way, asking him daily to fill ever part of my life with his Holy Spirit. After all, who wants to be a bird brain?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Top Ten Signs You’re Not the Best Cook on the Block

I can’t remember anything I’ve ever prepared in the kitchen that’s eaten a hole through my skillet (not all the way through anyway), and I rarely send friends and family members to the hospital. Okay, so I’m not the best cook on the block. But it’s not like my cooking has ever set off Geiger counters in my neighborhood or anything. Maybe there’s been some minor glowing, but still, I don’t think there have ever been more than trace amounts of radioactivity.
If you’d like my personal take on the state of neighborhood affairs that should clue folks in to the fact that they’re not the best chefs on their block, here are my top ten:

10. Your family compliments you on your lovely cheesy potato side dish—but they keep pointing at your ham.
9. You give the dog your pot roast leftovers and he buries them in the neighbor’s back yard.
8. You call the kids to come to dinner and they beg you to let them do their homework and clean their rooms instead.
7. Some joker in your family puts one of those “Bio-hazard” signs on your garbage can.
6. You make meatloaf and banana bread for dinner, but no one can tell which is which—even after tasting them.
5. You accidentally drop your homemade bread while getting it out of the oven and you have to go down to the basement to retrieve it.
4. Every time you barbecue, one of your neighbors calls the fire department.
3. You make “Macaroni Surprise” but the surprise is that you have to use a sandblaster and a touch of Drano to get it out of the dish.
2. You buy Pepto-Bismol by the drum.
1. You accidentally leave your special frozen dessert on the table overnight, but it’s still solid the next morning—and you’re pretty sure you heard it singing in the night.


Boy, am I glad my Heavenly Father understands creating life and giving purpose so infinitely more than I understand creating edible cuisine and giving it flavor. He has taken great care to put each of us together. Psalm 139:15 says, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” (The Message) Bit by bit, ingredient by ingredient, the Lord followed his divine recipe for each one of us. He breathed into us the very breath of life and gave us great value by giving us his love.

James 1:18 says “God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made.” (NCV) What an honor! We are his focus in his most delightful presentation.

It’s his love that gives us importance. He’s the one who makes our lives significant. And praise God, he makes life something to savor—without even the slightest need for Drano!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Learning to Let Go…Again

It was probably the hardest chapter to write of any book I've ever written. I don't even have to think about the chapter number. It was chapter 25. The book? WHO PUT THE CAT IN THE FRIDGE. Sounds harmless enough, doesn't it (well, except for the cat)? But when I was writing the book and I got to chapter 25, I would type for awhile, then dry the tears off my keyboard. I practically had to wring the thing out. I even had to go find something else to do for awhile. Then I would come back to the computer composed, only to find myself sobbing again within ten minutes. Off I'd go again to do something mindless until I could pull myself together again. Back to the computer, up from the computer, back to the computer…I think that's the most exercise I've ever gotten while writing.

Chapter 25 in WHO PUT THE CAT IN THE FRIDGE became the spot I tangibly dealt with my oldest son going off to college. I think I ripped my heart out and pasted it on the pages. One minute I was looking into the eyes of the adored baby I cradled in my arms, the next minute I was cricking my neck to look up at the six-foot baby who was getting ready to head off to college.

Under the "No Regrets" subhead in that chapter, I wrote about something my godly friend, Janet Bridgeforth, told me. "She told me it's a wondrous blessing to get to this point in your children's lives and to be able to look back on the child-rearing years with no regrets. Not because we haven't done anything wrong, but because nothing has been left unresolved. Nothing left unsaid. Nothing left unconfessed. Nothing left unforgiven. We keep our finger in Proverbs around this time of life, don't we? 'Point your kids in the right direction--when they're old they won't be lost (Proverbs 22:6 MSG)."

I've had to pull out chapter 25 again. My second born son will be graduating high school. He'll be turning 18 tomorrow. I am so proud of Jordan--his sharpness, humor, talents, abilities, his love for righteousness--his love for Christ. I've adored this boy from second one. He has been such a blessed and special gift to me. Here I go, needing to wring out my keyboard again.

These are the days I want to make sure once again that nothing has been left unresolved, unsaid, unconfessed, unforgiven. I value Jordan and I value my relationship with him too much for that. I think he might laugh at the idea that anything on earth could have gone "unsaid." I'm sure you'll be shocked to know that I've said so much I think I might be getting on his nerves.

To the sweet readers who have shared so many laughs with me through books, magazines, columns and devos, I know this entry is a tad on the serious side--not my usual fare. But I wanted to encourage you, my friends, that if there's anything unresolved with family, friends, enemies--whoever--to find resolution. Make sure you've done everything you can on your side of the relationship. You're not responsible for the other person's response. Only yours. Once you know you've made it right on your side, you can find yourself in that blessed place of "no regrets." There's such peace there.

So I'm taking this opportunity to say one thing I haven't really been able to say to Jordan--only because I can't say it without bawling my head off. And you know how teenage guys just love that. I haven't been able to adequately express to him how desperately I'm going to miss him. Heart on the page again. I love you so much, Jordan.

But as he heads off to college in a few months, I know he "won’t be lost" as Proverbs 22:6 puts it in The Message. He has his head on straight and his focus on Jesus. What a beautiful place of "no regrets" he's helped build for his mom. Praise the Lord for the man of God he is making my Jordan.

And in other issues, at least there's the possibility of slimming down in this season of life. Up from the computer, back to the computer,….

Saturday, March 18, 2006

There's Too Much Blood in My Caffeine System

I just recently found a new appreciation for the beauty of the chocolate and coffee blend. Two beautiful caffeine sources in one giant mug! I had too many the other day and I don't think my top eyelids touched the bottom lids for about six straight hours.

I know caffeine isn't really good for you, but I still have a hard time figuring why I should waste space on little old things like corpusles and such here in my caffeine system. Shouldn't we get those little suckers out of the way and make room for more mocha latte?

Okay, okay. I guess totally replacing a blood system for a caffeine system might not be the healthiest idea I've had. In fact, it's pretty amazing how many things I can get completely backwards when I'm deciding what's good for me.

Spiritually, for instance, I can convince myself that doing things my own way is what brings happiness. But in fact, trying to find direction on my own and to do things my way doesn't take me in the right direction at all. Jeremiah 10:23 says, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." Guide my own life in the right direction? Not happening! It's just not in me. I need the God of the universe to direct my steps. He energizes my walk--and he's unspeakably, infinitely better than anything hot and mocha.

The Lord God is the only way to a truly healthy life in every way that counts!

Of course, a little de-caff probably wouldn't hurt either.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let’s Keep Growing

I have a friend who is peeking today. She’s expecting and it’s ultrasound time. I told her it would be an easy call. If she sees a pink bow on the little head, it’s a girl. If she sees a remote in the little hand, it’s a boy. Of course, my husband might say that you can tell it’s a girl if there’s a tiny credit card in one hand, a can of hair spray in the other, and a ring of chocolate around the little lips.

Actually, as a mom, I remember that the best part of taking a peek was seeing for myself that all was well with the wee one yet to be born. It was always so reassuring and so amazing to see how the baby was growing and developing.

We’re called to be constantly growing and developing spiritually, too. In Acts 2 we’re told about the first century church. “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church…They joined with other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…They worshiped together…” (NLT) It’s interesting to me that the same things that were encouraged for growth at the very first—teaching, fellowship and worship—are still important factors in growth today. We need to stay plugged in to a local church body, joining with other believers, working to advance the Kingdom.

People often think of plugging into a church when they have their babies. It’s a wonderful thing to recognize our responsibility to raise up the next generation to love Jesus. But we don’t start needing the church at the point of parenthood. With or without kids, we’re instructed to stay faithfully connected to other believers. Hebrews 10:25 says, “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other….” (NKJV)

You can find great teaching, fellowship and corporate worship in the local church, as well as support from fellow Christians and a place to roll up your sleeves and get involved in the lives of people and in your own ministry. God has given each of us a gift of service that we need to be using in the church. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT)

Let’s use our spiritual gifts to help the church—let’s keep growing. And while we're growing, we might as well consider using our ultrasounds to find out if we need to buy batteries or chocolate.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Matching Up

I've been pondering some of the big issues of life this week. Like when is it really okay to wear white shoes? Does the "no white before Labor Day" law apply to purses, too? Where does light beige fit in? And what do we do now that they have a color called "Winter White"? Big issues.

Okay, I'm kidding. I know shoe color is not really the life or death issue of the year. If I wear the wrong color shoes too early in the year, it's not like it'll bring on the next season before it's ready. And the flowers bloom whether I pull out the pastel shoes or not. But I have to tell you, it's a pretty good feeling when I know I'm wearing an outfit that matches up with the season. I admit I would be some kind of uncomfortable if I had to don my snow boots and wool scarf on Labor Day. I would be uncomfortable and I would look pretty goofy.

It's even more uncomfortable when we say we know God in the most intimate way, yet don't do what he says. Talk about goofy. First John 2:3-6 says, "Here's how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments. If someone claims, 'I know him well!' but doesn't keep his commandments, he's obviously a liar. His life doesn't match his words. But the one who keeps God's word is the person in whom we see God's mature love. This is the only way to be sure we're in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived." (The Message)

If I ever do make the goofy decision to wear snow boots on Labor Day, it's not likely to bring on a premature winter. Shoes don't really make the season. And obedience doesn't make a follower of God. But a follower of God will no doubt obey or he's not truly a follower. Truly knowing him changes the way we live. Verse 29 in that same chapter in 1 John says, "Once you're convinced that he is right and righteous, you'll recognize that all who practice righteousness are God's true children." (The Message)

Let's let our obedience be evidence that we know him and love him. It's a good feeling to let your obedience match up with your heart's condition--in spring, summer, fall or winter white.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Totally Dependent

I SO depend on the gal who does my hair. You gentlemen might not understand this, but there’s a certain trust between a woman and her hair dresser. I feel especially blessed that the girl who does my hair (her name is Peanuts...really) is also a special and dear friend. Now that's sweet. Every time I go in to see Peanuts at her shop, I put my hair in her hands (incidentally, in return, she puts her hands in my hair).

I knew it was time to go in this week. Having grayed early in life, I have to be careful not to get that parfait look. White layer, chocolate layer looks good in a dessert, but not on a head. When I glance in the mirror and notice a white skunk stripe down the center, I know it’s past time. The Cruela Devile look is just not for me.

It’s even worse when I’m not the only one who notices. I hate it when a tall person looks down at the top of my head (being five-foot-zero has definite hair disadvantages), and says in a bullhorn voice, “Do not look directly into the roots—corneal damage may occur!” It’s one thing for people to be blinded by my beauty (clearing throat here), but this is something entirely different.

So I went in a few days ago for my hair fix. Being chemically dependent on hair products doesn’t necessarily need an intervention, by the way. Anyway, it was practically magic. In just an hour or so, voila! I was transformed! No corneal damage, no “Touched by an Angel” kind of scalp-glow happening—just good, hair. Did I mention I love my hair gal?

While I’m confessing my dependence, let me just say that I have another one that’s eternally more significant. I’m depending on my Heavenly Father for so much more than good hair. He is my very life. Isaiah 26:3-5 says, “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on GOD and keep at it because in the LORD GOD you have a sure thing.”

Hair colors may come and go (I’m especially sure about the going part), but our God is a sure thing—ever steady—ever dependable. I can trust him with all of me, not just my hair. Relying on him for everything I need in life provides a rest, a peace and an unexplainable joy that doesn’t have anything to do with circumstances (including skunk hair). It’s better than magic! My dependence on the Lord has a powerful way of transforming my life.

And to think it all happens without harsh chemicals.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fight the Good Fight

“I get the front seat!” I’ll bet I’ve heard that battle cry over a million times. It’s usually followed by someone else shouting, “Nuh uh, first one there gets it!” That sounds the charge. I watch incredulously (you’d think I’d have gotten used to it after a million-plus times) as a herd of determined, wild-eyed kids dash for the coveted passenger seat of the car. Stampede! I’m usually trying to shout warnings toward the herd to stop running and watch for cars as they dart through traffic and leap over potholes. My shouts are pretty futile. The kids never hear them. Every word is tuned out and entirely too late anyway. They don’t hear because they’re focused on the goal: shotgun.

The kids never seem to completely grasp certain laws of thermal dynamics. They don’t slow down. I watch and wince as they’re plastering each other against the car door. It’s a five-kid pile-up.

There’s usually a questionable finish on the passenger seat race. It’s a photo finish with no photo. You’d think it would be easy enough to find the winner. After the other kids are peeled off, it should be the kid who’s smashed the flattest against the door. Flattest kid wins. But after some loud and animated squabbling from the pancake kids, I often end up driving home with the front seat all to myself. It’s one of those Solomon-type motherly moments: “If you’re going to run like crazy people through a busy parking lot, and if you’re going to argue over it, then I’m going to have to cut the passenger seat in two…I mean…then you’re all in the back seat.”

For the duration of the ride, there are all kinds of death whispers coming from the back. “You know I was first.” “You never said ‘go.’” “Why were you trying to stomp on my shoelaces?” It’s amazing how the race can be long over, but the battle still rages on.

This life is like a battle—a much bigger battle. Ephesians 6:12-13 says, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” (HCSB)

Making a stand in this life is not about getting the best seat in the car. It’s fighting the “good” fight. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (NIV) The “good” fight is never over the petty things we come up with in our own flesh. And it’s not a battle we fight in our own strength, but one we fight in his strength, with the armor he provides (take a look at the battle gear in Ephesians 6:14-17).

In 2 Timothy 4:7, The Message describes the good fight as “the only race worth running.” The whole passage reminds us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and his coming. It has a purifying effect on our lives and keeps us fit, ready to run toward the worthy goals. Our focus should be as clear as a passenger-side door to a herd of wildly sprinting kids.

Let’s never tune out the instruction to fight the good fight. Let’s not wait until it’s too late either. And let’s see if we can raise our kids with the passenger seat still in one piece.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wall-to-wall Obedience

I've been trying to eat healthier. As part of the new regimen, I tried a protein shake for breakfast. Have you ever tasted liquid carpet? Surely liquid carpet has to be better than this stuff. It coated every molar in a weird wall-to-wall sort of way. For the longest time I felt like I needed to shave my tongue. Surely something is wrong with that stuff. Sticking to a healthier diet doesn't necessarily have to come with a hairy tongue, does it?

Sticking to the life of obedience doesn't have to be hairy either. We need to seek to draw our nourishment not from every trendy new place, but straight from Christ himself. Colossians 2:6-7 says, "And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught." (NLT)

Drawing nourishment from Christ is nothing like drinking carpet. There's real refreshment in that deeper life. There's growth there. There's faith there. There's spiritual vigor and vitality--all without the Astroturf aftertaste!

So live in obedience with your roots firmly planted in Jesus. There's divine health in his truth. That's the kind of spiritual diet we need to stick to if we want to stay healthy.

On the physical health side, if you decide to try sticking to one of those protein shake diets, watch out for rug-burn.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Lotion Quotient

My husband is convinced that lotion is scented slime imported from the place of the dead. I have no doubt he would sooner wallow in lard than use one of my creams. As a matter of fact, he says he can’t understand how anyone can put that stuff on a clean body without feeling all dirty again.

He even goes so far as to make one of those pained-looking faces after I’ve driven his car post-lotion. He says it makes his steering wheel gooey. Picture him trying to drive using only a thumb and forefinger from each hand. Such a commotion over a little lotion!

Me? I love the stuff. To me, it’s sort of medicinal and therapeutic all at the same time. I guess I’m a lotion lover because I’m one of those rather dry women (skin, not wit). If you’re like me and can rub your hands together and make sparks, you know what I mean. When I put on a lotion potion, my hands make that “glub, glub, glub” sound.

I consider myself creamed to perfection when I’m so greasy that my fingers keep sliding right off my computer keyboard. If you’re ever reading something I’ve written and you get to “dk7n>le#i4ig*20;slhc&mo$b,” you don’t need to worry. It’s most likely a little lotion slip and you can picture me smiling.

If I were Balm Queen, no one would ever be lotion-poor. Lotion for all! After I made sure no one was deprived of their lotions, I would go out and swim in my own personal pool of lotion. Of course, I’d never be able to get out. Just try climbing up a pool ladder when you’ve been swimming in lotion. That’s okay. I’d be satisfied to soak in my lotion ocean.

Just as lotion satisfies a dry woman, a thirsty soul can be satisfied by seeking the God who hydrates us at the very center of who we are. Psalm 63:1-3 says, “God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory. My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.” (HCSB)

He is the God who quenches. When we seek him and desire him in this dry place, he satisfies oh so much more than the best lotions and creams. He fills our every real need by his strength and for his glory. And it’s all out of his faithful love for us. Better than lotion. Better than life!

I love sharing the message of the satisfied life with others. I love passing it on to my children. They’re receiving the message better than they are my lotion notions. I thought they would love it, for instance, when I bought the tissues with lotion added right in. I asked one of my sons how he liked them. He said to direct all other such questions to his attorney. There’s a lot of his father in that boy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New Puppy on a Roll

Big adventure at the Rhea house this week. We just took in a spaniel-mix puppy. You can’t pick up a tennis ball or stuffed animal in here that doesn’t make a slobber-log squishy sound. The entire upstairs smells a little like puppy breath. Every square inch has been sufficiently sniffed, then thoroughly chewed and slobber-covered.

It’s an adjustment for all of us, granted, but the biggest adjustment is on the part of the two cats who haven’t entirely unpuffed since the pup lumbered through the front door. I think I actually saw the spaniel grin when she tried to greet the kitties. I didn’t have a puppy language interpreter, but she seemed to me to be saying, “Hey, those look really chewy! I wonder how far that fat one can roll.” Fortunately for the chewy cats, the puppy seems to think the stairs are some sort of magic portal and won’t even go near them.

So the downstairs has officially been claimed by the cats and they’re setting up a little kitty kingdom. You have to go through Cat Customs and prove you’re not even remotely canine to even go down there. They’re checking I.D.’s.

Speaking of I.D.’s, when we’ve given our lives to Christ, we become part of his kingdom. Not kitty related. Our identity is in him. No need for a magic portal. We have Jesus! No big dog fear either—no need to fear anything at all. The God of the universe is on our side. His kingdom is the most glorious place to be.

I could write about it all day. As a matter of fact, I would write more, but I just heard a weird sound. Does it make a weird noise when a fat cat rolls?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Salad

Like 97% of the over-civilized world, I started a diet January 1st. The good news is that I think I've finally hit on a diet I can stick with. It's an all-salad diet. Any and every salad is considered health food, right? So why not a hot fudge topped chocolate chip and spinach salad? Hide a pork chop and gravy in there and you can hit every corner of the food pyramid. And you should see my Ding Dong salad. It's a beautiful thing. Slice a couple of those chocolate beauties over a bed of Iceberg and you've got yourself some health food you can sink your teeth into. Mmm, I love salad.

So here's my salad-inspired Valentine’s Day love song for this year:

Chocolate, chocolate can't be beat
Chocolate dark or semi-sweet
Chocolate cakes and chocolate candy
Blood sugar's up but I'm choco-dandy

Chocolate hot and chocolate cold
Chocolate new and vintage old
Chocolate makes a lovely ballad
And the perfect topping for my health food salad

Just as chocolate can transform even an all-salad diet into something sweet, Romans 12:1-2 tells us to let God transform our lives into something sweet by allowing him to change our thinking. "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is." Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

I'm putting my brain on the altar. Not a pleasant visual, but it really is a good way to live.

By the way, since the passage mentioned that we need to give our bodies to God, maybe a total choco-diet is not exactly the best way to go. Did I mention I've gained eight pounds on my all-salad diet?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Die Laughing

Where did we come up with the term “die laughing”? How many chuckle fatalities do you suppose there really are?

As a matter of fact, I hear more studies every day that indicate the exact opposite. Studies show that a good belly laugh lowers blood pressure and boosts the immune system. That means that people who laugh more get sick less. They’re better able to fight off illness. Laughter has been found to help the circulatory and respiratory systems as well. It helps chemically with stress levels, too. It even helps a person deal with pain better.

Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest giving this information to a woman in labor—especially if you’re the husband. It’s amazing how strong a woman in labor can be. No, I don’t think laughing away labor would be a good suggestion for a husband who would like to leave the hospital without having to be admitted himself. And I doubt we’ll ever replace “hee hee hoo” with “ha ha ha.”

But if you’re in the midst of some of that non-labor kind of pain, it might be just what the doctor ordered to have a little chuckle. It may seem unnatural to be laughing through pain of any kind. But since laughter helps with physical, emotional and mental health, maybe we should stop fighting it and let ourselves laugh when the time is right. I love Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT) Doesn’t that mean we should stop fighting the giggles and take our medicine?

Incidentally, you might be interested to know that a good belly laugh burns a few calories, too. It’s medicine and it’s practically aerobic! One more reason to laugh—and one more way to be inspired to work toward a merry heart. A merry heart will add “life” to your life. So go ahead. LIVE laughing!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Envy-wrecking

Do you have a friend who looks good in absolutely everything she puts on? Argh! The girl could drape herself in the cover of her car and look classy enough for the fashion runway. If I draped myself in a car cover, I guarantee I would look more like a Buick. And I'll just go ahead and admit that I need to drop a few pounds off these fenders.

Envy is such a dangerous thing. It throttles peace--and worse, it leads to anger, even rage. Psalm 37:8 says, "Stop your anger! Turn from your rage! Do not envy others--it only leads to harm." (NLT) The envious, angry person experiences painful harm personally. Proverbs 14:30 says, "…envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones." (AMP) But it's more than just personal rottenness. That harmful rotten character often spreads, spilling over onto family and friends.

How do we avoid bone-rotting envy and wrath? We replace them with love. 1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy…" (NIV) Love is the opposite of envy.

Anytime we catch ourselves envying, we can ask God to love that person through us. He loves to answer that prayer. As he gives us love for the one we're tempted to envy, we discover that love always wants the very best for others. It rejoices in the victories of others.

Yes, even if the others have exceptionally sleek fenders.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cues for Living

I was working at the computer when I heard this primal kind of yell from the family room downstairs, “I NEED A TOASTER STRUDEL!”

Weird.

It was about 7:00 in the evening and the “strudel alert” was totally out of the blue. I said, “What in the world brought that on?”

My 15-year-old daughter answered—with great drama, “I’m the victim of a major food cue here—and I have to have the strudel!”

Don’t let anyone tell you advertising doesn’t work. At the last food cue my kids pooled their money for a late night DQ run. I think they might’ve dipped into their college savings. Can you imagine my teenagers trading their college educations for a couple of cookie dough Blizzards?

There are especially good cues we can give in to, though. It’s good to have mentors in the faith—people who faithfully offer us cues in fruitful Christian living. Jesus gives us our ultimate cues for living, of course. We can wholly trust his example. He was an example to his disciples and to us, for instance, when he washed his disciples’ feet just before he went to the cross. After taking on that servant role, he said, “And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15, NLT)

It’s Jesus who gives us a flawless example. He’s the one who will never, ever disappoint. But he can also show us so much through the godly people he brings into our lives. It’s good to watch people who unswervingly watch Christ.

If you’re watching my kids, however, you’d better be prepared to swerve into Dairy Queen.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hair Peace

Have you ever gone to a lot of trouble to get the perfect hair look? You gel, tease, mousse, iron, spray--everything just short of taking it to the kiln at the ceramic shop for a good firing. You finally get the exact hair look you’re going for, then you take your hand mirror and back up to the bathroom mirror only to find a frightening hair disturbance in your blind spot. Some call it a hurricane; it's a giant swirly with a large eye. Who wants an extra eye in the back of her head?

The other day I found a major meteorological occurrence in the hand mirror. It started in the northernmost hair regions and moved slowly but steadily to the south, reeking hair destruction and devastation all along the path of the storm. No doubt a category five. Would we call that a "hair-icane"? How in the world can I keep my head when my hair is gusting at break-neck speed?

It happens in life, too. Everything is going fine--clear with only scattered challenges. Then suddenly a storm sneaks up on you from behind. It's one of those high pressure systems that develops without much warning. Before you know it, blast the storm sirens--you're in the middle of a giant swirly.

Those kinds of disturbances happen to everyone at some time or another. Thankfully, we have a Savior who gives us peace in the midst of the storm. As we trust him, he can speak the words "Peace, be still" into every life and into every situation. It may not necessarily evade the hair instabilities, but it can certainly help us weather out the struggle. His peace is all we need to make it through.

So don't be surprised when a swirly struggle hits. No need to have blind spots, spiritually speaking. Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (NIV) You can keep your head if your mind is fixed on Jesus and your heart is trusting him.

Let his peace rule and your day will feel so much more sunny--in every atmospheric condition. Every shampoo and condition, too.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Money Can't Buy Me Fitness

We invited our church over for an open house a few weeks 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 it. Here's the goofy part. I burned all those calories by PUSHING the monstrous thing into the storage area. How embarrassing.

Doesn't it seem like just owning the machine should make me fit? After all, I invested a big hunk of money in it. I'm sure I thought I'd see the muscle multiplying and the fat melting away even 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 Ephesians 6:17 tells us to "take" the Word of God. Not just buy it. Not 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." TAKE it. We're to wield it. How insane would we consider a soldier who strapped on the heaviest, shiniest sword, then went into battle trying to bop people with its sheath? He'd be more destined for a sanity hearing than even me.

Let's use God's Word, let it become a part of what we do and even who we are. That's a big part of what being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in him is all about. That's when we're able to do what we were designed to do.

And just so you know, I'll be dragging my exercise machine back out of storage this week. 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?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Crying Over Exploded Milk


With a houseful of teens, it would totally frighten you to know how much milk I have to buy in a week. Let's just say sometimes it takes two or three of us to push the cart. When you buy so many gallons at a time, one of them is bound to get missed somewhere along the way. That "somewhere along the way" happened at exactly the wrong time of the year. A few months ago we had loaded about eight gallons of milk into the car, but never noticed that only seven made it into the house. That lost gallon was in the floor of the minivan under the last seat, lurking…plotting its evil attack.

It was in the hottest days of summer and, of all times for the minivan to need a repair or two, that happened to be the week we had to put in the shop. Three days in the shop. Three days of temperatures over a hundred degrees. The milk swelled up and--horror of horrors--exploded all over the car! Oh, the humanity. It lobbed milk shrapnel all over the entire back seat. Milk? No, maybe it was closer to CHEESE. And the smell! It was something like a barf and old socks combo--with cabbage. It made it into every single nook and cranny of the vehicle. The milk/cheese cleanup was nothing compared to the stench fallout we had to deal with for weeks. My eyes are watering just thinking about it. Oh well, no use crying over spilled cheese.

There's a certain cool driving look. All the windows are down, the left elbow edges just outside the window; the right hand hangs casually over the steering wheel. Of course, it's not nearly as cool when you're in a MINIVAN. But we still got plenty of chances to get the cool look down. We're talking about a lot of time riding with the windows down.

Taking care of sin issues in our lives is even more important than taking every gallon of milk inside the house. When left to simmer, they can explode all kinds of ugliness in our lives, and it can spill right over into the lives of those around us.

God is so gracious and forgiving when we confess even the biggest sin detonation in our lives. Psalm 51:1-2 says, "Generous in love--God, give grace! Huge in mercy--wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry." (TM) Nope, holding onto sin is definitely not cool. Letting him scrub away that stench is glorious--it's better even than that new car smell! Now that's cool!

As for us, we're still exercising a lot of "coolness" riding with the windows down. It's still cold out. We're a little too cool.