(So appreciative of Susie Mire’s article in the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newspaper, The Pathway.)
Peace packaged with laughter
Rhonda Rhea shares her heart – and a little fashion advice – in her latest book, Whatsoever Things Are Lovely.
Rhonda pokes fun at herself and some of her accessory catastrophes that make for girls-night-out enjoyable reading.
At first, I wondered if the book would be frivolous, but Rhonda made it clear this was not a book for fashionistas by listing the top 10 reasons why it’s best to have cheap jewelry. No. 8: “When your favorite pieces start looking a little worn, a light coat of spray paint can shine them right back up.”
God’s Word isn’t used as just a pretty accent, it’s the central focus of the book. Rhonda shares practical suggestions for keeping your mind on whatever is true, pure and right with straightforward instruction to address sin. The balance of humor and scripture puts her writing in the vein of Beth Moore.
The chapters were just the right length. I found it perfect for a morning quiet time reading. Rhonda also includes a discussion guide, so the book can be read and studied by a ladies group or Sunday School class. Or you can simply sit down to read and it’s like sharing a cup of coffee with a godly girlfriend.
Rhonda is the wife of Richie Rhea, pastor of First Baptist Church, Troy, Missouri, and has a speaking and writing ministry to women. More information is at www.rhondarhea.org.
She recently answered these questions from The Pathway about her book and ministry:
Q: First off, are you really as crazy about accessories as you talk about in the book
A: Crazy like a fox. A well-decorated fox. A well-decorated fox with things to hide. For those of us at that mid-life mark, it’s not so much about “accessorizing” any more. It’s more about “camouflaging.”
Still I have to say, I’m probably not as psychotically attached to accessories as it might seem. Sometimes taking a fun topic—like everything blingy—and attaching a few points of humor to it can allow us to approach a more serious topic. The heart of the book is to let women know we can experience true peace and live a life of purpose as we surrender our brain—and our everything—to Christ. The accessory humor sort of gives us permission to go there.
Q: Being a pastor’s wife and a mother is usually a full-time job. How did you come to be a speaker and writer as well?
A: I love being a pastor’s wife and mom. Full time? You know it! Still, when my five kids were small, writing became like my therapy. Then when it occurred to me that others might need a little dose of the same therapy, I knocked on the writing and speaking door.
As a matter of fact, I asked God to swing the door open and shove me through it, or to slam it right in my face. That subtle stuff doesn’t work with me. He has done such a gracious act of door-swinging. It’s been a glorious adventure. I’m loving it.
Q: The theme of this book is “Whatsoever is Lovely” taken from Phil. 4:8. This seems like something that should hold strong appeal for women, but why is it so hard to keep our thoughts focused?
A: What a powerful passage. Philippians 4:8-9 tells us where to focus our minds so that we can experience the peace of God. But so often we let things slip into our lives and into our way of thinking that squelch it. Sin, of course, is the biggie. It matters what we let go on in our heart—and in our head. Choosing to dwell on sinful, rebellious, worrisome, fearful, bitter, dark thoughts will bring the opposite of peace. According to the Philippians passage, thinking on things that are true, pure, right, holy, friendly, proper, worthwhile and worthy of praise—that’s what will bring an “ah, peace” into our lives.
Another big reason we tend to let our thoughts scatter is that we women are so busy, busy, busy. Sometimes our lack of peace is a bit self-inflicted. The truth is, we have just enough time, energy, sanity—everything we need—to do everything God has called us to do. And if we have more than we can do without feeling like we’re going nuts, guess who’s added to the to-do list. We have!
But it’s also true that soul-peace has nothing to do with the calendar. You can be in the middle of a ridiculously stressful time and still experience the peace of God in the most profound way. It’s not about what’s on the calendar, or even about the struggles we’re facing. It’s all about where Jesus is in our lives. He is the source of peace. He is our peace.
Q: The book is described as “must have accessories for God’s perfect peace.” In your ministry, how much do you encounter women searching for peace?
A: Would you believe women from one side of this country to the other have told me that peace is so often their number one greatest need? Number one! I love it that I get to tell them that the answer is right there in the word of God.
When it comes to our thought lives, so many women consider themselves stuck in thought patterns that rob their peace. But we are not the victims of our thoughts. Sure, random thoughts may pop into our brains, but we get to choose what we dwell on. And what we dwell on is what will come out in our actions. I like issuing a little charge to surrender thoughts to Christ, then just watch as He delivers peace by the truckload.
Q: Humor is such a big part of your writing. Is this something you have to cultivate or does it just come naturally?
A: I’d say both. I come from a long line of beautifully twisted people. At the same time, writing humor can be challenging. Most of the time, I love the challenge. And I find there are few things sweeter than having people say that something I’ve written made them swallow their gum or made Pepsi come out their nose. Pepsi out the nose is probably the ultimate humor writer compliment.
Q: Your books have A LOT of God’s word in them. What sort of study and research do you do with your writing?
A: God’s Word is the chief place of study and research—not just for books, but for life. Even in the Philippians 4:8-9 passage, we’re told to keep our minds on whatever is “true.” Truth tops the list. God’s Word? It doesn’t get truer than that! When we focus our minds on his word, we see his truth becoming part of our thinking and then becoming part of our actions and responses.
Q: How does this book fit in with other books you’ve written in the series?
A: I fondly call it the “Dress for Excess” series. Each focuses on a particular passage of scripture and a particular topic. The shoe-themed book, High Heels in High Places: Walking Worthy in Way Cute Shoes, zooms in on Colossians 1:9-12, a passage about how to walk worthy of the Lord and what that means. The Purse-uit of Holiness: Learning to Imitate the Master Designer uses purse humor to lead us into a close look at 1 Peter 1:13-16, understanding the holiness of God and our personal (or “purse-sonal”) holiness. And in Whatsoever Things Are Lovely: Must-Have Accessories for God’s Perfect Peace, the “bling” book, we look at Philippians 4:8-9 phrase by phrase, zeroing in on the kind of thinking that will lead us into a life of peace.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share (besides “buy a copy of the book!”)?
A: Loving the way you think! I guess I would add one point of encouragement. Society would have us looking for peace in all the wrong places. It’s not in drugs or sex—it’s not even in finding fulfillment in work or success or good deeds. Not even ministry. Peace is found in being filled with Christ.
It’s not just knowing about the peace of God. The passage in Philippians says when we dwell on those good things, “the God of peace will be with you.” With! So it’s not trying to muster up peace, good thoughts, good deeds on our own. No, it’s resting in His presence.
And, of course, it rarely hurts to decorate it all with a few tasteful accessories.
(By Susie Mires for The Pathway (the official newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, www.mbcpathway.com), March 16, 2010 issue. Susie Mires is a freelance writer and a member of Green Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, and has been a regular contributor to The Pathway since its creation in 2002.)