Sunday, August 24, 2014

When Trust Meets the Road of Rubber


A number of years ago when we were facing a move that we knew would have us moving again in less than six months I was new to reading the Bible.  I actually wasn't even reading the Bible as a whole, I was more or less just taking a peek here and there, too afraid to look too closely for fear of what I might find it saying to me.

Even though I had been a regular church goer I had come to a place in my life where I needed to put shoe leather to what I said I believed, rather than just let someone tell me what I believed.  I believed I had reached the point, to use several vernacular, "given my life to Christ, surrendered to Christ, believed Christ."  I don't know what you would call it.  Some are very offended by any words that reflect any action of faith on the part of a spiritually dead person, but there was something different I knew deep down I needed to do.  God had wrapped the gift and was handing it to me, I had to ask him to lift my hands from my side so I could take the gift and unwrap it.

Something was happening in my life that would end up rocking the very foundation I thought I had in Christ Jesus, but it was something that was a specific action during a specific time in my life where I had to let the rubber meet the road and say either, "I will follow wherever you lead," or "I will try and manipulate and figure my life out on my own."

It was during this time period, when my circumstances for living, for my family, my children, my home was totally out of my control.  We had to move and it sucked.  We tried everything we could to stay where we were for just four more months but we hit a wall every time.  We had to move.  For four months.  And then, move again.

It sucked.  It really, really sucked.

But during this time, during this struggle not only of physical circumstances, it was a spiritual struggle most of all.  Do I trust God enough to take care of this situation?  Am I willing to trust Him even though I can only see the inconvenience, the difficulty, and the stress of the situation, will I trust Him to take care of this for me?

It was a day of choices.

His way or mine.

I'm humbled to say now, that I "choose", yes, I made the choice to follow His way, not mine, to follow Him and the reason I did, was because as I wrote above, I was just peeking in the Bible, just kind of playing with it at that time, not really wanting to take it seriously, when one day, when I was crying and praying and whining I decided to try this Bible thing and my eyes fell on this verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Trust.  In the Lord.

With all my heart.  Not just some of your heart, Ronda, all of it.

Don't lean on what you think you know, lean on me.

In everything you do, from here on out, try to see me in the circumstances.

And you know what I'll do, I'll make it all work out just fine.

He got me with that verse.  Just that one verse.  (Smile).

It's been a wild ride ever since.  We moved.  We moved again four months later.  And a few more times after that.  If I've learned one thing from my life as a Navy wife, it's this:  The Navy never moved us.  God did.  Every time.

But He got my heart that day.  He got my attention to see the attention He pays to every detail of our lives.  He wanted me to live the moves and the pain of them and the sadness and sense of loss and heartache because He wanted my heart.  All of it.  Not just a portion, not just the part I was giving him on a Sunday morning.

He wanted all of it.

And He wants all of yours too.

Not to be mean to you or to make life less fun and sufferable, but because He knows how painful it is for us to try and figure things our for ourselves, NEEDLESSLY, when He's right there.  Waiting to take you by the hand and walk with you through the crap that this world brings.

It's only one word that will change your life and your thinking and your behaviors and your beliefs.

Trust.

You may think your circumstances are dictating your life, but they're really not.  God has an intricate, detailed plan in motion from the minute you are first formed in your mother's womb to the last breath you take on this earth.

Trust in Him with ALL your heart.  Don't trust your understanding or your logic or your rational thinking.  In everything you do, get to know Him through everything, see Him in everything you do, ask Him to guide you in everything you do, and your paths, your plans, your desires will work out better than you could have ever controlled or manipulated or planned.

Trust Him.  He's got you.

And boy, does He think you're awesome!


Peace,
Ronda

Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, August 22, 2014

Confession, Part two

I hit that darn invisible light switch yesterday.  The one that used to be on the left side of our previous home and is now on the right side in our new home.  Remember?

It got me thinking about the act of confessing that I told you about the other day.  I've been praying for you and wondering about you hoping that God is beginning to free you from some stuff that He's been trying to get you to let go of for quite sometime.

Anytime we try something new, at least for me anyway, I get gung-ho starting out and then hit a plateau and before I know it, it's like I never started the something new.  Ugh.

It's the same way with confession.  You might have read my last post and brought your dump truck of garbage and dumped it into the landfill - a suitcase wasn't going to hold out maybe?  Wink, wink.  That release may have felt really really good.  But now, here you are two days later and you're feeling the same crap creep up on you again.

Don't fret.  Do NOT fret.

AND.....

Don't stop confessing.

Even if you are thinking, "Ronda, I will never get anything done, there is just too much to confess," don't stop.  This is where trust comes in, that thing called faith that you have been given.

Got doesn't pummel us with each and every sin or missing the mark all at once.  He knows it would kill us if He did it that way.  We have our general recognition of I'm a sinner, saved by grace and by this I know all is forgiven and I confess this.  But the day to day sins or the sins of the past, are brought to light slowly, and ever so gently so that instead of feeling like you can never confess EVERYTHING at once, He leads us into a quiet place of confessing as we go along.

Sometimes confession has two parts.  If you are convicted of a sin, say you were short with your employee or your child, and because you are practicing this walk of confession and you confess immediately your missed mark, than a little while later, it may come to your mind several other times in the past where you were short with someone or inpatient.

As the Holy Spirit brings those things to your mind, and don't go digging for them, let Him show you  them, you can then confess those things, put them in a suitcase because they will fit in a suitcase and leave them at the foot of the cross.  You don't need a dump truck in God's way of handling the past.

Our hearts are feeble and easily overwhelmed.  He knows this about us and He's a good dad and doesn't want to stand beside us with a long list of sins for you to feel guilty over.  We may do that to others, but God does not do that to us.  Not since Jesus anyway.

If you have children you know that when they have broken a rule you and they need to be disciplined you don't bring up the offenses of two years ago, you deal with the offense of the day.  The past offense may need to be addressed, but not at the time of the present offense.

When a person is arrested and goes to court on multiple offenses, each offense is a separate count in a court of law and is dealt with separately.  (At least that's what tv teaches - wink, wink again).

My point is:  you may be FEELING that it is pointless to confess because there is TOO much to confess.  Don't base your confessions on your feelings.  Base them on the freedom that has been won for you in each confession.

Let me say this loudly and in big letters.

GOD DOES NOT WANT YOU TO BE BURDENED BY THE KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR PAST OR PRESENT SINS.  HE WANTS YOU TO LET THEM GO AND BE SET FREE COMPLETELY!!

Now, the next part of confession is what to do about the consequences of our sins.  And this is the trickier part, because this is where God's enemies, and our enemies too, want to trip us up so we FORGET that we have been cleansed from our past sins.

Just because we've confessed doesn't mean we are set free from the consequences.  There is no punishment to be made in God's mind.  That was placed on Jesus Christ.

BUT, confession does not always stop consequences of the action.

HOWEVER, God, because He is merciful and just and caring and forgiving and kind and loving has the power to carry us through the consequences, holding us close, carrying us like a dad carries a little child after a long day at Disney World.  He's got you in the consequences too and He's not going to leave you.

You can take that to the bank.

God's got you.  The consequences may come and may be there until the day you die, but that doesn't mean you have to keep confessing the same thing over and over and over and over and over again ad nauseum.

Jesus is there to carry you through, to keep your eyes forward, to lean into through the struggle of throwing off what shame and guilt and regret want to throw on us.  He's got you.

Before you know it, your list of unconfessed sin will be so short, you will be living in the moment and so close to the Spirit of God that you WON'T WANT to do anything that comes close to sinning.

So hang in there, keep confessing, keep receiving the grace as God lavishes it on you.

You're so loved by Him.

Peace,
Ronda

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When confession frees the soul, the body sings

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1 John 1:9-10

confess - to admit you did something wrong or illegal; to talk about or admit something that makes you embarrassed, ashamed, etc.; to tell your sins to God or to a priest

homologeo - to confess, acknowledge, agree, admit, declare

hamartia - a sin, failure, missing the mark

katharizo - to cleanse; make clean; removing all admixture (intermingling of filth)

adikia - injustice; the opposite of justice; unrighteousness, as a violation of God's standards (justice) which brings divine disapproval; a violation of God's justice, i.e. what is contrary to his righteous judgments (what He approves).

It's so hard these days to come clean about something we've done wrong.  I struggled for years with secret sins that just weighed on my mind and heart, causing me to obsess and ruminate over and over again by justifying the things I'd done, the secrets I kept, trying to find peace from the turmoil and torture secret keeping left me suffering under.

It's really hard to come clean in 2014.  Not that it was any easier in the first century or 1453 or 1876, but it seems like today it's even harder to come clean and say, "I have sinned.  I have missed the mark."

Every "sin" has an out these days it seems.  They've got their own labels, their own party line, their own support network so that instead of saying, "I've missed the mark," it's ok to say, "I missed the mark but it's only because I have this disease or that disorder or that prognosis."   It's allowed more and more each day to discredit or justify  an actual conscious behavior since it is "caused" by something that has been found in a medical book or by an association.

Don't get me wrong.  I know we have stuff that's wacky about us.  I've said it here before, I have A.D.D. and that little brain "disorder" can and has helped me to miss the mark on more than one occasion.  I'm not making light of mental disorders or physical sufferings.  I'm NOT.  They are very real and very difficult and I have deep, deep compassion for you if you are suffering right now with any mental un-health.  Please hear me out.

It may be just me, but I've observed that there seem to be only a half a handful of ways offered to deal with this condition called sin or missing the mark..  Religion offers up two ways:  1.  go in a box, tell a priest, get your absolution and your orders for hail Mary's and be on your way.  2.  Have a group confession of sin, receive absolution from the minister and come back next week.  3.  Pretend we are all good people making bad choices.

I want to offer you a fourth technique.  And before I share this, I want to put this disclaimer up first:

This does not minimize the basic need to know and understand  that all mankind is sinful.  That all mankind cannot live a perfect life.  This goes deeper than the most important fact that Jesus cleansed us all from all sin, those we know, those we don't know, those we will commit, those we have committed.  The gospel message is clear, we have been pardoned for all sin, for all time because of what Jesus did on the cross.  So, with that understanding I don't think it is necessary to make that wonderful truth my point.  I hope to build on that wonderful Truth in a practical and applicable way that I don't think is talked about very often.  I get that, and I know you do too.  But getting that general view of the gospel does not always help us rise above the more specific and personal ways God wants to bring His gospel into our hearts to free us from "those" sins.  Those sins that we know, those sins that we feel guilty over, those sins that shame us.  Those sins that we can name and label.

Those sins.

That being said, from here on out, consider my two cents worth on this.

Agree (confess) with God that you are not just a "sinner"  or have a disorder or a disease and use that as your excuse for your behavior, but when you feel the guilt of what you did do or didn't do or should have done but tried to avoid or whatever is the case, agree with God, confess it right there on the spot.

And then, let it go.  If you need to make things right with someone, ask God to show you how.  If there is nothing to be done than move on.  But walk away from the guilt and shame of unconfessed sin after you've agreed with God about it.  Walk away from it.  See that "confession" as placing your missed mark in a suitcase or a bag or a box and taking it and laying it at the foot of the cross where it's meant to be and meant to stay.

See, if we confess, if we agree that we miss the mark in a whole host of ways, not just in the "big" sins like murder or lying or cheating or sexual sins or our general sinful condition (and isn't it funny how even all of those have excuses for now), we begin to taste freedom.

You are not meant to live under the power of your past, present and future sins.  You are meant to live victorious in spite of your past, present and future sins.

But what we do, what comes natural to us is to justify our missing the mark.  We like to blame it on our condition, our disorder, our childhood, our boss, our spouse, our job, our church, our dog, our teacher, our president.  What is unnatural for us is to blame it on the one who actually put the shoe leather to the action:  Me, you, us!

When we have guilt for past sins that dog us it often plays out like this.  See if you can relate.  I am reminded of a past sin and then wonder if I'm really forgiven for it, but my child comes in the room when I'm feeling guilt for that sin and he or she may be crying or just simply asking if they can have a drink of water, yet I snap at them for no real reason, except that I'm dealing with this guilt that won't leave me alone and I take it out on the first person or thing that is near me when it hits.  Then that child, because its feelings are hurt, goes and hits her baby brother because mommy (or daddy) snapped at them and they feel bad and then the baby starts crying and you have to deal with two crying children at the same time your spouse walks in the door and sees crying and yelling and decides he should just turn around and go back to work.  Then you get mad at your spouse for leaving you with two crying children when all the while if you had realized......

that if you confessed your sin the moment it struck you and agreed with God that yes, what I did was wrong and I'm trusting that you have taken care of my guilt and then went on to believe he is faithful and just to forgive you for missing the mark and trust that he is purifying you from all unrighteousness and cleansing you from the intermingling of filth that lies hidden in our hearts, what a completely different household you would have in just a few short seconds.

But, when we have to set up a time to confess to a person either publicly or privately, individually or as a group, a lot of crap can still happen, a lot more hurt feelings, a lot more fighting, a lot more crying will develop between the time we recognized our guilt and the time we can "confess" IT as an individual missing of the mark or a group collection of missings of the mark.

Confess on the spot.  Agree with God on the spot.

If you are feeling guilty, that's a good thing sometimes.  That's the Holy Spirit telling you to confess so you can move on.  Don't wait for an appointment, do it on the spot!  Don't waste your time trying to justify why you did it - "I'm this, I'm that, I have this disorder, I have that diagnosis, this happened to me as a child."  Ok, so you do.  But that doesn't do you one bit of good when you don't agree with God that you still behaved crappy but please, God, lavish the blessings of your purification and righteousness on me one more time anyway.  We make him out to be cheap and his grace, his beautiful grace is tainted when we do that.  When we make excuses for missing the mark his grace is worthless.  When we acknowledge we've missed the mark, not resting on our excuse for it, but really confessing that my condition or disorder or my past does not give me license to continue to miss the mark then the purification really can start.

Don't settle for your diagnosis allowing you to have rude behavior.  You're better than that.  Jesus in you makes you better than that.  Don't let your diagnosis keep you from seeking the first treatment and maybe the last treatment or medication you ever need.

Confession may be the only treatment you need.  You don't have to get a prescription for confession.  You don't have to worry about medicinal cocktails in your system wreaking havoc on your emotions and your mental status.

Confess.

King David knew what it felt like physically to not confess.  He said that when he kept silent his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long.  He said God's  hand was heavy on him, taking away his strength like a hot summer day.  He knew what it was like to have his sin always at the front of his mind like a video playing constantly of his sin.  He felt crushed by the weight of unconfessed sin but when he confessed, when he agreed with God that he had done wrong, the weight lifted, he felt the washing of a clean soul right with God.  He wanted the things God wanted for Him, He wanted the pure heart and the steadfast mind.  It wasn't just a general condition he confessed, it was specific.  He knew what he had done wrong and he walked through the prison doors of unconfession a free man when he confessed specific sins to God.

Confess.  It's good for the soul.

God does not want you burdened by your past, present and future sins.  He does not want you in guilt or pain or shame one second longer than is necessary to place your eyes back on his forgiveness and love and mercy and away from the oppressive heat of unconfessed sin.

You are not going to surprise him by anything you confess.  He already knows it about you.  Confession is for you, not for him.  Confession, agreeing with God on how and when and why you've missed the mark countless times is the door you need to go through to receive the blessings that he won for you on the cross.

Don't wait till Sunday or when the confessional booth hours are open.  Confess now.  Be free now!
The only person hurt by you avoiding the reality of God's truth about your sin is you.  (And maybe your kids or your dog or your spouse or your co-workers or the lady behind the cash register at Walmart or Target.)

You are the one who has the problem.  Confession is the solution.

It's pretty cool to have access to instant cleansing when you instantly confess you've done wrong, thought wrong, spoken wrong.

Pack this crap up and leave it at the cross and start living the life He won for you.

Now.


Peace,
Ronda


2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 32; Psalm 51; Romans 6:11-23; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:11-14;
Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 4:1-2; 2 Peter 1:3-10; Jude 24-25

Monday, August 18, 2014

Checking off the bucket list

The house we now live in had been a vacation home when we purchased it and the purchase price included all of its furnishings including sheets, towels, blankets, pillows, dishes, kitchen equipment, bedroom furniture, couches, tvs and multiple toys to be used on a lake, including the boat.  We also inherited several bicycles in the deal for varying ages and genders.   We pulled the mom and dad bikes out this spring and have been enjoying them greatly.  

Last summer when we were settling in my husband and I made a bucket list of things we wanted to do and see now that we were living back here again, and one of the things on the list was to ride the Elroy-Sparta bike trail.  This trail was opened in 1967 as the first rails to trails program using abandoned railroads as bike trails.  The trail has been around almost as long as I have been, yet all the while growing up I never once rode on it, even though it started (or ended, depending where you rode it) in practically my back yard.  

All the years we made summer trips to visit family we said to each other, "one of these visits we have to ride the bike trail."  Yet, like so many things in life we talked about doing it but never did it.

Isn't it funny how God gets someone to do something they have been saying they want to do?

I got three days off in a row last week and we made it a priority to ride the bike trail.  We had gotten our bikes checked out by a local bike shop, new tires for Tim's and some gear adjustments for mine.  Tim had bought us both new bike seats earlier this summer to make riding a little more comfortable on our behinds and we were ready to roll.

We left our house just before 8am for the 30 minute ride to Elroy.  The cost to ride the trail for the day is four dollars but the trail office wasn't open when we got there so we got on the trail anyway with plans to get our tickets at our first stop six miles ahead in Kendall.

And we're ready to roll!

It was a beautiful day, a little on the chilly side as we started out and our first stop was at the official marker at the start of our ride.


The scenery was lovely, the trail was quiet, taking us past farms and cows and fields of wildflowers.  




 My new bike basket, carried my camera perfectly!
We stopped often to stretch our legs and get a drink and take pictures along the way.




Even though the complete trail is 32 miles we had no intention of riding that far in one day.  Our goal was to make it to the first tunnel, nine miles from our start, having to stop in Kendall to get our trail pass.  It was a nice even ride with no hills.  Once we got to Kendall we got our passes and looked around the railroad museum.








Then we were off to the first tunnel just three miles from Kendall.  We were feeling full of ourselves for sure.


 The unique feature of the Elroy-Sparta trail is the three tunnels that are part of the experience.  Two of the tunnels are 1/4  mile long and the other is 3/4 mile long.  But the funny thing about riding a trail to a tunnel is that the tunnel was made to get the train through a hill.  So our nice flat ride turned into a slow steady incline, climbing three miles before reaching the first tunnel.  It was not a hot day, thank you Lord, and we were glad to finally see the start of the tunnel come into view!






 You can see the "light at the end of the tunnel" behind me.  We left our bikes on the side of the trail and walked the 1/4 mile length and back.











When we came back to our bikes we visited with a family who started the trail about midway through and were heading back to their campground.  We began our nine mile journey back to our start and were grateful for the downhill ride coming back.  






After putting our bikes in the truck we found a cafe across the street and had a nice lunch to end our journey.  


It took us about four hours to ride the nine miles twice with stops for pictures and butt relief.  We thoroughly enjoyed the ride and have plans to do another portion in the future.  If you are ever looking for something to do I highly recommend this trail.  You can rent bikes for all sizes and trailers for the little ones too.

Have a blessed week!

Peace,
Ronda





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I missed it while I was laughing

I've been reading the internet feeds on the death of Robin Williams, just like most of you have I would guess.  It's so interesting to me how one person, one event, one disease, one disorder can polarize two people almost immediately.

From those who have suffered depression or mental illness to those who have tried to help those suffering to those who have been a recipient of someone suffering depression and/or suicide, everyone is so certain of their take on the topic from their view, I wonder, does anyone really want to understand the other's point of view?

I'm really wondering that today.

It doesn't have to be depression, suicide, mental illness in general, or addiction.  No matter the topic, politics, religion, parenting, divorce, you name it, there's so much talking going on but not a lot of listening.

Has it always been this way?

When I was a kid there wasn't too much talking about much these big topics.  There was a lot of suffering in silence.  We didn't talk about problems.  My parents didn't talk about their  problems and their parents certainly did not talk about problems.  But now, everyone is talking and no one, it seems to me anyway, is really listening.

And here I am, typing away, lending my cheap seats view too.

Ugh.

So many words.

Just bouncing and bouncing and bouncing and bouncing.

I feel responsible for Robin's death.  This is why:  Because I laughed when he was really crying inside while making me laugh.  I didn't know him personally, but I wonder now, did he ever wish we would stop laughing at him and see the pain he was really suffering?  I've read that he was the kindest man, that he would introduce himself to everyone who ever worked with him or around him.  He would take the time to find out about their families, their jobs and, from what I've read, found a way to connect with each person he met, even the gorilla.

But did any of us laughing at him ever take the time to find out about the side of Robin he didn't let anyone see?

Sure he was a talented, creative, imaginative guy.  But clearly, he was in deep, deep pain.

Maybe we thought because he was so rich he could buy his way out of pain or he shouldn't have so much pain, but obviously, in the end his money and fame didn't end it for him.

So I'm wondering now, not pointing fingers, just wondering, who is hurting around me, that I see everyday who feels they cannot share with me their pain or their fears or their suffering?  Who feels they always have to give me the fake side rather than the real side?

The thing about depression is, words don't always help.  Like "cheer up" or "things could be worse" don't really do the trick for someone who is on the brink of giving up completely.

I heard a woman on TV today say that she has never felt such darkness and felt so alone as when she was contemplating suicide.  Is that how Robin felt?

When it's so dark and so lonely for someone, and they are surrounded by so many words and tools and still they feel these deep and dark thoughts, where can they go?  Can they come to us and say without reservation, "I need help."  And if they do have the strength or courage to come to us will we brush it off with a pat answer or will we stop everything to walk them through the darkness?

Who of us is willing to stop talking (stop writing) and just start sitting with someone in their darkness?

Are you?  Am I?

It could be any of us suffering in silence and we could be judged for how we handle or don't handle our successes and failures and money and marriage.  Yet, are we willing to do or be what it takes for those who are suffering so close to the edge to be the light they can't see and the company they can't find?

Just wondering out loud, using words that have probably been said in a hundred different ways by people smarter than me.

In a few days, this will be old news.  We'll see his name mentioned at the end of the year on the roll call of "celebrities lost", but I don't think I will ever be able to watch one of his movies again without wondering about the pain he was hiding even then.

I missed it while I was laughing.

Peace,
Ronda