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


The pic is post-TV interview for "Living the Life" ( 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.