Sunday, August 30, 2015

Balancing the Ruts

One of the most challenging aspects for me of riding a four wheeler in the Wyoming mountains was the unpredictability of the trail.  It could change from a gravel road to a dirt path to a very rocky terrain in a matter of seconds.

Often I found myself, when the trail was fairly smooth, getting a little cocky, settling in and taking in the beautiful scenery a second or two too long.  One second I would be looking at a beautiful flowered covered landscape and the next I would be bouncing up and down, adrenalin pumping as I forgot to trust the machine to get me to stay on the trail.

There were many times when the trail was smooth where the tires rolled, but in-between there would be deep ruts.  If I wasn't paying close attention and feeling too comfortable in the smooth ride, I found myself trying to maneuver out of the rut.  It was a constant balancing act, staying out of the rut.

Ruts are so easy to get into and even harder sometimes to get out of.  Several times on the ATV trails of Wyoming, I'd be quickly trapped in a rut and feel like I was going to tip over and the machine fall on top of me.  

The last night we rode though, I was feeling pretty confident.  I had gotten used to my machine and felt I knew what I was doing.  The scenery against the setting sun was beautiful, and I was enjoying the view while thinking about where we were headed to end our week of riding.  The first full day riding I had crossed a creek bed at a baby snail's pace.  On the night before our last day I had made the announcement to Cody's mom and dad and hubs that I was going to ride through that creek fast enough to get wet.  

We were on our way to do just that and I was daydreaming about it all the way there. 

There were some pretty good bumps and I had even gotten sassy enough to gun the engine going over them and "getting some air."  But there was this bump that I saw in a distance.  It was between the smooth trail I was on and an unseen rutted trail on the other side.  Because I was too full of myself and daydreaming, I didn't take into account what may be on the other side when I landed.  Overconfidence hid from my mind the possibility of what a rut could do.

I only envisioned the air I would make between the trail and my machine as it flew over the bump.

Well, I lived to tell the story, the machine and I both stayed upright, but when I hit that rut I was going too fast to maintain control on the trail and get out of the rut at the same time and drove off into a field of sage instead.

Ruts are like that.  We get in them without knowing they are there.  Or we don't anticipate them and even forget the possibility they are still lurking.  We are living out our confident faith life, stepping out and doing and living in ways we hadn't even imagined when we started trusting the Machine to take us through and then BOOM!  Out from nowhere lies a rut to throw us off our course.

Walking in faith means balancing the ruts you were in before you started walking in faith.  The potential to fall into a rut is always there.  Even in the newest and most unchartered trails, ruts are formed when the pattern remains unchained and the wheels keep going over the same surface again and again.

Some of the ruts I balanced on an ATV were disguised by pretty grasses and flowers.  I thought I was on even, smooth ground....Until a moose or a mule deer or a pretty mountain caught my eye.  Then, before I knew it, the pretty flowers or grass did not have the strength to hold up me or my machine.  They gave out and gave up on me.  The ruts didn't always support me when I needed it.  In fact, they could have hurt me several times if I wasn't keeping my eye out for them.

So, keep your eyes on the rut and your wheels out of them.  Enjoy the scenery, but don't depend on the rut to carry you over the mountain.  



(No, I didn't ride on these rocks, but I'm told there are trails that go over rocks like these).

Trusting the Machine

I've been lovingly harassed for years by Cody's mother to try four wheeling.  

"I wish you would just try it, just once," his Mom would tell me in all manner of ways and emotion.  But I would shake my head and say, "No, it's not for me."

It wasn't that I denied her enjoyment or my own possible enjoyment, it was just that I wasn't really all that crazy about getting dirty, muddy, or, God forbid, hurt.  That's what I told myself.  But the real reason was this:  I didn't want to step out of my comfort zone and try something new because ultimately I knew I WOULD enjoy it.  And then what?

Well, after years of harassment, and no more opportunities or excuses to stand in the way of actually trying it, I got on.

I didn't ride the weekend of Cody's Memorial Ride because I didn't want to try something with all kinds of experienced riders watching me, putting in their two cents worth, and laughing at me.  It was pride, pure and simple.  That evil, dastardly sneak!  

One of the biggest harassment techniques Cody's mom used was to say this, "If you would just try it, you could go to Wyoming with us and take beautiful pictures of scenery that you can never see from the road!"  Ugh.  That knife went deep.

But still I stalled and balked and looked for excuses not to.

This year I couldn't find an excuse.  Anywhere.  Believe me, I looked.  We had a busy June and July planned, but August.....wide open.  What a coincidence that is when Cody's mom and dad were going to be in Wyoming.

I even cheered silently when hubs said that he didn't know about towing our camper out there.  My hidden smile quickly diminished when Cody's dad said, "Why don't you stay in our camper.  We have plenty of room."


You are not helping my case here, Buddy!

Well, the long story short is, we went, I rode and........drum roll please......


So, I have a few analogies that have been brewing in this head of mine ever since, and I hope to share them with you, but I wanted to share this one first.

The first day we got to camp, a Sunday afternoon, after driving almost two hours off the main highway on National Forest roads, I shook my head at Cody's mom and dad when I saw them.  We had passed several trails along the way that looked too steep and too rocky for this girl, and I was already planning my days of reading and writing while they and my husband rode. (I had drug along a pretty packed bag with my computer, notebooks, etc. to keep me busy).

But I knew I had to try at least once to get everyone off my back, so on Sunday evening when Cody's dad said, "Well, Ronda....," I said, "Let's get this over with."

I got my lesson from Cody's dad on starting, stopping, braking, etc. but the most important thing he said to me, and which I remembered throughout the week when I was wondering how in the world I was going to get down a rocky trail was this:

"Just trust the machine."

He told me to let it do what it was designed to do.  He gave me tips on standing up when the trail was bumpy, to let the steering do the work over the rocks.  He reminded me how to brake and told me that if I'm fishtailing, I'm braking wrong.  (It was a hard thing to do to trust the machine as I let it take me down a steep and rocky trail, but Cody's dad was right.  It did the job, beautifully.)

So here's the first analogy I want to share with you.

Trust the Machine.

When I heard those words, I knew I was going to be ok.  When I heard those words, I knew I was going to have the fun I knew I was going to have all along.  When I heard the words, "Trust the Machine," I knew God was saying, Trust me, again, Ronda.  I've got so much to show you."

So I did.

If I hadn't, I would have missed this.

So my question for you is:  What's your fear?  What are you afraid of trying that you know deep down you will like, but the reason you don't want to try it is because you know in trying it you will have to change?

I knew if I liked it, our boring life would not be so boring, and a little more costly.  I'm already planning on buying my own machine and helmet and goggles and clothes and storage apparatus.  (I hope I can get them all to match).

What are you afraid of happening if you try something new?  What's the worst thing that will happen if you do?  Gasp!  You may like it.  You may find yourself saying good-bye to a pretty mundane and boring life.

You don't have to go four wheeling in the mountains to face your doubt, but I wouldn't stop you from doing it if you had to.  

The Machine has got it.  The machine was designed to carry you through the hard places, over the rocky trails, into the deep waters.  He's got you.

Just trust the Maker of the machine.  The scenery is beautiful when you do!



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I think the Bible is relevant for today

1.  What other manuscript or writings have survived as long as the Bible?

2.  What other gods have spoken to their followers in such personal ways as the followers of Jesus can boast?  Do the 1000's of Hindu gods?  Buddha?

3.  Of all the languages in the world that could be used for writing the Bible, it was written in two languages of people groups still living, and living in large numbers today.

4.  The Bible outsells any other book, year after year.

5.  God has shown me how the Bible is relevant for me, personally.

6.  Wars have started, wars have stopped; churches have started, churches have divided; countries have fallen, countries have started; all because of one book.  Just one.  What other book has held such power for thousands of years?

7.  What other book starts with a set of rules and ends with throwing out the playbook and just living on faith?

8.  What books in history continue to confirm ancient historical events?  And are all time best sellers?

9.  What other writings - stories, poetry, novels, references - have described in detail the creation of the world and the end of time with authority?

10.  Because God said it is.

Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

living - zao - to live, experience God's gift of life

active - energes - at work, active, effective, productive of due result, energized, full of energy

sharper - tomoteros - sharper, keener

penetrates - diilnoumenos - I pass through, pierce, to go through, penetrate

dividing - merismos - a distributing, a distribution, a parting, dividing, severance, separation

judges - kritikos - able to judge or discern

thoughts - enthumesis - deliberation, pondering, inward thought, inner-passion, the emotional force driving meditation and reflection

attitudes - ennoia - thinking, intention, purpose, opinions

heart - kardias - the heart, the inner life, intention, the "affective center of our being" and the capacity of moral preference, i.c our "desire-decisions" that establish who we really are

hidden - aphanes - unseen, invisible

laid bare - trachelizo - to take by the throat, to overthrow, I am laid bare

account - logos - is a common term (used 330 times in the New Testament) with regards to a person sharing a message; logos is a broad term meaning "reasoning expressed by words"

What other book can claim such power?  What other book has such power to back up its boasting?
We have the Bible today.  We have access to the Word of God beyond any Moses, Paul or any of the writers may have ever envisioned.  We are educated.  We can find Bibles not only in Christian bookstores and libraries, but you can buy a Bible in Walmart, Target, online.  There is no other book that not only has the power to judge our hearts, but also has the power to comfort us when it does.  The Author provides both.  

How relevant is it for you today?  Open it while there is still the opportunity in this country to do so.





Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stinking up Heaven

A long time ago, there was a woman who lived a sinful life.  By sinful I mean the kind any parent never wishes for their daughter to live.  Do I need to explain?  One of the "perks" of living this kind of life was the woman sometimes received expensive gifts in payment for the service she provided her clients.

A long time ago, in the time this woman lived, her value as a woman was equal to a dog.  Maybe a little less.  Women were property and women were undervalued.

A long time ago, this particular woman, who had received an expensive gift for the service she provided, most likely from a manwho found her a little more valuable than his colleagues, brought her gift and laid it at the feet of Jesus.

A long time ago, when this woman brought her expensive gift, given to her by a man who valued her a little higher than a dog, for a service she provided to him that no parent in today's modern world would want for their daughter to provide, used this gift to anoint the King of Kings.

A long time ago, a gift received with shame and guilt, was used to anoint the King of Kings for his burial.

A long time ago, this gift of fragrance, when it was opened, filled the room.  Those around this woman and Jesus witnessed an interaction that left some in awe and others in disgust.

A long time ago the fragrance filled - pleroo - to make full, to complete - the room.

A long time ago an expensive gift, received in shame and guilt, was used to anoint the King of Kings, completing the room with a beautiful fragrance, filling it with a scent that reached the nose of Heaven.

A long time ago, a woman who lived a sinful life gave a gift to the King of Kings that would pave the way for us, in a time far in the future, to lay our gifts before the King of Kings; the gifts of shame and guilt and fill Heaven's throne room with the scent of a fragrance only the King of Kings can smell.

In a time that is now, your gifts can be laid down.

In a time that is now, the gifts that came from the shameful and guilt-ridden places can be given.

In a time that is now, the gifts that are given, will be opened by the King of Kings.

In a time that is now, the scent of these gifts, given by shame and guilt, will be a fragrant and pleasing aroma, reaching the throne of Heaven's grace.

In a time that is now.



John 12:3

The grace of Christ puts kind comments on pious words and actions, makes the best of what is amiss, and the most of what is good...The success of the gospel makes wicked men so angry, that they speak and act as if they hoped to obtain victory over the Almighty Himself.  (Matthew Henry)


We all have come through different journeys.  Everyone has a different journey.  I do not regret one minute of my past.  You know why?  God gave me my past for a reason.  To make me who I am today.  All the pain, all the blessings, all the joys that you have been on have made you the unique person that you are today...You are a unique person.
    You have a choice, right now, to say about your past; your past can either make you or break you.  And it's your choice.
    Your past can either be the most powerful thing that has made you the person you are or it can break you...Are we using all our experiences, good or bad, for God's kingdom?
    Your past can be a crutch to lean on or it can be a rod of power.  The memories f the past can become the blessings of the future.  And the choice is yours.
    God only asks one thing.  Look where you have come from.  Deal with it.  Thank Him for it and leave it with Him....And be set free.  (Carolyn Koons)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Walking the Line

I love Johnny Cash.  I love his deep baritone voice, I love his real life songs.  Unfortunately, it was at the end of his life that I really started to appreciate the man behind the name.  It helped when Walk the Line came out - the movie about his and June Carter's life together.  His honesty and forthrightness about who he really was, all he'd done to make a mess of his life, struck a chord (no pun intended) with me.  He made no excuses for the life he'd led before he began to follow Jesus.

In his autobiography, Johnny said, "I guess I'm right where I'm supposed to be in my life right now; so I'm happy with that.  I don't have any regrets, and I don't carry any guilt trips around.  I shook all that off with forgiveness and soul-searching.  Forgiving myself mainly."

I remember reading or hearing him say, can't remember which, but I'm paraphrasing, Johnny said something to the effect of the types of songs he wrote and sang after he surrendered to Jesus.  He said he was waiting for God to give him spirituals to sing -more hymns - but God just kept giving him words to prison songs, cheating songs, etc.

Isn't that the way God works?  We think that he's going to make us these nuns and monks when we surrender to him, but what does God do?  Keeps us right where we're at!  Sometimes God doesn't ever take us from the place where we met him and sometimes he takes us kicking and screaming.  Every situation is different.  Every person is different.  Every encounter with the Holy Spirit is different.

There was a quote I came across a long time ago that sums it up best for me.

"Jesus gained the power to love harlots, bullies, and ruffians...he was able to do this only because he saw through the filth and crust of degeneration, because his eye caught the divine original which is hidden in every way - in every man!...First and foremost he gives us new eyes...

"When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God.  He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong.  He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath.  Jesus did not identify the person with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something really did not belong to him, something that merely chained and mastered him and from which he would free him and bring him back to his real self.  Jesus was able to love men because he loved them right through the layer of mud."

Helmut Thielicke

Jesus sees pass your shenanigans.  He sees way beyond your beliefs about yourself.  The beliefs that say to you, "I'm not good enough.  I've done way too many bad things.  I've hurt too many people.  Jesus could never change me."


Two things you need to know:

1.  Jesus is bigger than you give him credit for.

2.  Your sin is much smaller than you see it.

Yes, we've messed up.  We've done some horrible, horrible things that the pictures in our minds try to rob our joy and leave us feeling hopeless.  But that horrible thing(s) is not the end of your story.  That horrible thing(s) is what God used to show you how powerful and how complete his love is for you.  There is nothing, no thing too big that He has not overcome on the cross.  No Thing!

So, I'm going to ask you this...When are you going to quit running?  When are you going to surrender and give up the beliefs about yourself and what you think God thinks about you?  When are you going to face the truth about your life and how God wants to free you from your past's pain?


Tomorrow?  Next week?  When you get settled in your new house?  New job?  New nursing home?  When?  When are you finally going to just give up and give in?

The air is clear where truth lives.  The colors are beautiful where truth grows.  Our lungs breathe beautifully when peace settles in. The sounds are heavenly.  The lap of the ocean waves hitting the sandy shore beckon our hearts to taste and see that the Lord is good.  His love endures forever.  There is no end to his love for you.  

Your past can either make you or break you.  "When He lives within you, He wants to control our entire personality, our emotions, our intellect, and our will.  As we yield our emotions to Him, He can make a wonderful transformation.  He can remove all our fears, giving us His peace.  He can give victory over jealousy, envy, and quick temper if we let Him.  His abiding presence is perhaps more clearly seen in our emotions than any other part of our lives." (Unknown)

I pray you wave that white flag - today - and begin to live the life you were always meant to live.  Who knows, you may never have to do anything different in your life than you're doing right now.  You may be able to still write those drinking songs.

Jesus looks at us and loves us, right where we're at.