Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who's Who of A to Z cheat sheet

I'm so excited to be starting the Challenge soon.  It will be a great distraction from everything else that is going on in the United States and around the world right now, won't it?  Life is getting really serious and I'm looking forward to spending time here each day, swimming in the word of God while visiting other participants in the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Before the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge begins I'd like to provide a cheat sheet of sorts if you find my topic interesting, but hard to follow.  Although I am providing my topics in alphabetical order, reading it out of chronological order may be somewhat confusing, so today's post is one that you can go back to each day and to help sort out in your mind the daily posts.  I will provide a link to this post each day so you don't have to go searching for it.  If you would like to wait till the Challenge is over and read it chronologically, this is the order you may find makes more sense.  (I know this all sounds confusing now, but by April 3rd or 4th this will make more sense).  So this is the chronological order (as best I can determine) of my topic:

Y
H
C
Q
U
R
S
L
V
N
G
A
I
Z
D
J
B
F
X
T
E
O
W
K
M

Don't hold me too close to this being an exact time roll, but for birth order purposes and how the story got started, this is how I would write it if I were, oh say, writing a book.  (I'm not, but if I were, the book has already been written, this is just my two cents worth of commentary on it).

As I studied and searched for answers to the questions that were beginning to invade my brain back in January when I was going to start my "Read the Bible in 90 days" (yeah, I think I got to about January 5th) I had to start with a notebook and pen to keep things straight.  I found I was stopping -  A LOT - and saying to the Lord,  "Wait!  Who was this?  What is going on?"

So the underlying theme of my Blogging challenge this year is based on the twelve sons of Jacob who would eventually be called the twelve tribes of Israel.  They would be the sons whose families would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years before Moses, the baby who was found floating in a basket in the Nile river and rescued by Pharaoh's wife.  Moses eventually grew up to lead those same families across the Red Sea and into the Promised land.

There are two sub themes to the twelve sons.  (There are 26 letters for goodness sake, I had to fill the holes somehow)!  So, if you stick with reading my Challenge posts you will learn about the original 12 sons of Jacob but we'll jump ahead in time once in awhile to the time the families of the original 12 were in slavery, through the mass Exodus from Egypt, a little bit about the Tabernacle and a lot about the shenanigans from the start of the birth of the first son, Reuben.  (I wrote the preceding paragraph awhile ago, and changed a few things since then, so you'll just have to trust me that it will all make sense and I'm writing about what I said I would write about.

The story begins like this:

God promised Abraham that He would have a bunch of children out of one child.  Out of that one child, Isaac, was born Jacob.  Jacob had a brother named Esau.  Because of the dysfunctional dynamics of that family, Jacob and Esau were not nice to each other and it caused a major rift and parting of ways for many years.

Jacob, because he had tricked and deceived his father, Isaac, and his brother Esau, with the help of his mother, Rebekah, became fearful for his life and ran away.  While on the run, Jacob had a dream.  In the dream God told Jacob, "I will," several times.

God promised Jacob land for him and his descendants,

he promised that all families of earth will be blessed through Jacob and his descendants.

God said, "I am with you,

                                      I will protect you wherever you go.

                                                                                        I will bring you back to the land I promised


                                      and 

                   I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised."

Those were God's personal promises.  To Jacob, the rascal, the manipulator, the conniver, the deceiver.

To which Jacob replied, "If God will be with me, protect me, provide food and clothing for me and if I return safely,

then the LORD will certainly be my God."

Hmmmmmmmm.

Sound familiar?

If God does this, then I will believe.

But I digress.

So in the end, what Jacob was saying was this, "I will not make God my God until I have proof.  Even though you have said you will and promised all these great things, I won't call you God until you prove yourself to me."

Again.....Hmmmmmmm.

Did God say, "Sorry.  It's my way or no way?"

Nope.

God did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the so opposite of what we humans would do... inhuman thing:  He blessed Jacob anyway.

But it was in hard ways.  I hate it when God has to do things the hard way to bless me because I choose not to believe him FIRST.  There's something about needing to test God out before I believe him.  Do you do that?  It's probably just me.

So, instead of trusting God right from the start, Jacob had to take matters into his own hands.  He fell in love with Rachel, but Rachel's father, Laban, tricked him and made him marry Rachel's sister, Leah.  Rachel was unable to have children, Leah was a baby factory.  But Jacob didn't love Leah.  He loved Rachel.

So, to plant the seed for future tv soap operas, Leah and Rachel took matters into their own hands and tried to play God with their own lives.  Rachel couldn't get pregnant so she gave her servant to Jacob to make a baby.  Rachel's baby.  When Leah couldn't get pregnant anymore, she gave her servant to sleep with Jacob.  In all, 13 children, 12 sons and one daughter, all came from Jacob through four mothers.

Did it go that way because Jacob said, "Prove yourself to me, God?"  Maybe.  We'll know in heaven.  But until then, here is the breakdown of Jacob's children, in order of their birth.

Reuben, Simon, Levi, Judah (these four boys were all born to Leah, from Leah's body).

Dan, Naphtali (Bilhah, Rachel's servant, birthed these two boys, but Rachel is considered their mother.  Rachel was jealous of her sister, the one who could have children but who was not loved by her husband).

Meanwhile, Leah realized she was no longer getting pregnant, and, not to be out done by her sister who was LOVED more by hers (and Leah's) husband, but couldn't conceive on her own, gave her servant, Zilpah to Jacob.  Zilpah birthed Gad and Asher, but Leah took the credit and Zilpah's boys called Leah, "Momma."

Rachel, who was still unable to have her own children, bargained some plants that Leah's and Jacob's son, Reuben, had found that were thought to be fertility idols, and let Leah sleep with Jacob for the plants.

Leah, fertile Myrtle again, has Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter, named Dinah.

Finally, finally, Rachel gets pregnant and has a son whom she names Joseph.  Soon after, she has another son, but dies while giving birth to him.  Jacob names that son Benjamin.  So, if that has confused you, here is the simplified breakdown of babies/mommas/and one daddy:

Jacob's sons with fertile but unloved Leah:
Reuben
Simon
Levi
Judah

Jacob's sons with infertile but loved Rachel, via Bilhah:
Dan
Naphtali

Jacob's sons with Leah via Zilpah:
Gad
Asher

Jacob's sons with Leah (after the low price of a few magic plants)
Issachar
Zebulun
Dinah

Jacob's sons with Rachel:
Joseph
Benjamin (whom Rachel never knew)

The birth order of Jacob's kids
Reuben
Simeon
Levi
Judah
Dan
Naphtali
Gad
Asher
Isaachar
Zebulun
Dinah
Joseph
Benjamin

It is these 12 boys, along with baby sister Dinah, who formed the ancient history of most of the Old Testament.  Sadly, the details of Dinah's story are short and sad, but her life changes the course of two of her brothers and the consequences reached far and wide.

In the posts about the twelve boys there will be three quotes I will include:

what their mother said when they were born

what Jacob said to them before they died

and what Moses said about them and their descendants before he died

Clear as mud?  Good!  Let's get started!  See you on Friday!


Peace,

Ronda



If you'd like to get familiar with the story, or your curiosity gets the best of  you during April and you need to "find out for myself" what Ronda is talking about here's where you can start:

Genesis 26:19 - Genesis 50 for the story of Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and the rest of the soap opera characters and their shenanigans

Exodus - Moses, slavery in Egypt, escape from Egypt, wanderings and whining in the desert

The bits and pieces of trivia of the 12 tribes (formerly known as the 12 sons of Jacob):

Where you can find the 1st census numbers: Numbers 1, 3

Where you can find the 2nd census numbers:  Numbers 26

The Order  in the Desert:  Numbers 2

The Offering Order:  Numbers 7

The designated campsites around the Tabernacle:  Numbers 2, 3

The Ten Commands:  Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5

Jacob's deathbed blessings of his sons:  Genesis 49

Moses Blessing:  Deuteronomy 33

Ezekiel's vision of the Twelve Tribes:  Ezekiel 47-48

John's vision of the Twelve Tribes:  Revelation 7






Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Get your vomit ponchos on

I've been dreading this day.  The words which have been rumbling and rolling and sometimes shaking around in my head and heart are about to be vomit here on this post.  It's been a day I've dreaded to be perfectly honest.  I know that I've had these beliefs for a long time, I've let them sneak out here and there, like a toe testing the temperature of the ocean before it lets the full force of the riptide waves pour over the whole body.

Who am I Lord, I ask him, to even think I can write these words?  What could I possibly know about the subject that you have enlightened upon me?  What if I'm wrong?  What if I'm just a figment of my own imagination and the words that are on the tip of my tongue will choke me instead?  What if I'm hated?  What if I'm banished from my family?  What if I'm left alone, sentenced to a life of no party invites, the awkward relative everyone tries to avoid or pawn off on the next unknowing victim?

Those are the thoughts that stop me.

Until the other day when I stupidly watched and read one or twenty too many posts and videos and comments beneath what happened in Chicago the other night and in Kansas the next day.

So this is for you, Church.  This is the way I see it.  This is what I have gleaned from careful and meticulous study of our Lord's words over the past 25 years. (No boasting here, believe me, there are many things I would have much rather be doing then be the bible nerd).

Chicago.

Politics.

Trump.

Rubio.

Cruz.

Division.

Hatred.

It is not the fault of any of these people or things or entities.

It's our fault, Church.  We started it.

It started with good intentions.  Luther had the best of intentions when he opened up the locked word of God and translated it for the common person.  Wesley had good intentions.  So did Guttenburg.  So did Calvin and all the other boys through the centuries who have been touched by the Spirit of God through the Word of God, the only means He has given any of us to understand or clarify his will and follow His Holy Spirit.

We've divided, we've fought, we've split, we've talked badly, we've judged, we've ridiculed, we've hurt - we have, Church.  We have.

We have found that it is more important to be right than it is to love rightly.  We have found that mercy is only really for those who believe it the right way, or say it the right way or worship the right way.

So when we find the "right" way, we fight for the right of the right way.

We've had our church splits over carpet, over doctrine, over women's roles, over sinning leaders.  We've had our hearts broken by what should be done and isn't, and what is done and shouldn't.

We are the reason there is division in our world.  (I know, I know, you're saying, "No Ronda, it's not that, it's sin.  That's why there is division."  Ok, just roll with me please.  We can't blame it all on the sin blanket.  Sin in us, yes, but sin still is not an excuse....for the child of God).

Jesus promised it.  He said, "I came not to bring peace, but division."  We shouldn't be surprised.  We really need not be angered by the violent divisions that are becoming even more fractured and bleeding.

We started it.  Not us literally in 2016, but the line of believers from the very first century, or maybe Luther's time at least, when infant man got his hands on divine words, we are the reason division is on the course it's on.

The world is not going to learn how to get along because the Church, the Body of Christ himself doesn't get along!

The Church doesn't get along because it's bride doesn't recognize the sweet voice of her bridegroom.

The Church is stuck in arguments dating back at least 700 years.  Give or take a few hundred.  And now the arguments have added politics and rights to the mix of trying to make them all fit in light of God's holy and true word.

Repentance doesn't start with the world, Church.  Repentance starts with the Church.  Repentance doesn't wait for the other guy to start either.  Repentance starts with me.  We can't play the playground game of waiting for the other one to say, "Sorry" first.  We have hurt our loving God's heart by our own stubbornness, our own arrogance, our own need to be right, our own fear of admitting when we're wrong.

I absolutely hated when my children fought.  Hated it.  There was nothing worse for a mother than to see my children mad at each other and refusing to budge or bend or give in or wait for the other to start.  I hated it.  I would rather have cleaned up vomit from all three for a month then to watch and feel the pain of my children fighting.

I think I'm like my Heavenly Father in that.

He doesn't approve of the fighting.  He gets why you take your stands, why you stand up for certain doctrine.  He gets that.  But he doesn't approve of your quick division.  He doesn't favor His children looking for who is more right or less wrong then the other.  He loves all his children.  He loves all life.

ALL LIVES MATTER TO HIM!!  

Church, it's not that you have believed a lie, it's that you haven't sought truth.  You've let others seek it for you.  You've let others study it for you and then tell you what they learn.  You let others be the Bible thumpers while you cower in embarrassment.  You let others believe you have all the answers and let them think you do.

Truth is truth, but, Church....none of us have it all right, and all of us have much of it wrong.  When we have absorbed and marinated and basted ourselves in the gospel in every facet of our daily life then, maybe then, you'll have the opportunity to judge someone else...when you're old and on your deathbed, if even then you're ready.

You can continue on in your bickering and silent judging over which doctrine is the most important after the gospel or which political candidate is most biblical.  Have fun.  Go ahead.

You can have your discussion on whose practice of the sacraments is right or wrong, you can keep the wrong people in and the right people out forever, you can wonder how someone of another political party is a true Christian all you want....but it's not gospel.

You can make a list in your statement of belief and say, "Only if you agree to this 100% will you be allowed membership."  And so the one or two or ten people who can see about 80% because the Holy Spirit has not given the remaining 20% just yet, stay away.

And they seek out people to fill a hole only God can fill.

They seek out astrology and materialism and sexual impurities hoping to find the cork that will drown out the questions and the longings of their hearts.  They seek out political candidates and parties to give them purpose and meaning, rather than believing fully the purpose God has already planned for their life, long before they were born.

They cling to rhetoric that sounds good on the surface, that choices belong to the one who has to make them, that what is good for Followers of Jesus is acceptable for those who disdain his will.  They see us fighting and chiming in and taking sides and calling names and judging faith and they either cower or point their long fingers and say, "Seeeeeeeee!  Hypocrites!"  They see us call evil good and good evil.  They see us take stands when we should sit and remain sitting when we should stand.

It's not them, Church.  It's us.

So go ahead, 2016 believers.  Keep doing what you're doing.  Keep judging, keep ridiculing, keep arguing.  Pretty soon no life will matter.  Soon we will be facing our Lord and Savior.  Oh, that none of us hear him say, "Away from me you evil doer," after we've given him the list of things we have done in his name and for his sake.

We have not loved.  We have not acted justly in all things.  We have not shown mercy enough.  We have not loved enough.  We have not studied the full counsel of God enough.  We have not suffered for the sake of the gospel enough, like the Gospel suffered for us.  We have not been a slave to Jesus Christ but instead a slave to our own ideas and fears and wishes and dreams.

(It's not fun writing this.  I promise you, it's not. And believe me, these words are hitting me just as hard).

God found me, in the pit of religion, and pulled me out into the sunshine of relationship with Him.  God looked down into the pit of sin and shame I was drowning in and pulled me out into the glorious light of His mercy and grace.  Even when I had none of it right, even when I still have most of it probably wrong, He loves me enough to free me from my own blindness.

Jesus said, "Consider the cost of following him."  I've considered it.  I've weighed my options.  I've made hard choices.   I can sit and nod and smile and tell you what makes you feel good but doesn't lead you to a deep relationship with him, or I can vomit today and risk your anger.

Vomit stinks.  Truth hurts.  I've had to smell some pretty bad chunks and feel the pain of some really hard truths over the years.  It's not fun.  It's not easy.  It's down right painful and blinding at times.  But when my eyes adjust as they come into the Light and out of the darkness, the pain begins to diminish and I begin to see more clearly His hand clenching mine tightly.

I see him walking with me when I didn't know he was even there or even believed he cared.  I see him crying with me, rejoicing with me, loving me even when I'm dead wrong.  I see him pulling mercy out of that big bucket of his and pouring it on me over and over and over again.

So, when you get over being offended and annoyed or whatever it is you are feeling right now, I hope you come back and read this again.  I hope if you do come back, that you see the love and hope and excitement and joy I want you to have that can only come through true repentance.  It's not about saying you're sorry.  It's about regretting hurting God's heart, the heart of our sweet Heavenly Dad.  He knows our feelings get hurt from time to time, but it hurts him when we don't care how much it hurts him to see us fight.  He knows we care deeply about the issues of the day or at least at the top of the hour.  He knows what is hidden in the knotted mess of American politics.  He knows the way we should take and when He has tested us we will shine like gold.

It's time to stop.  Stop talking and listen.  Stop commenting and liking.  It's time to start.  Start reading and thinking and searching and searching some more.  It's not for anyone's sake that you do this but for your own. Donald Trump or Hillary or Bernie or anyone else for that matter is never going to be the one to say to you with deep love, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

(Take a deep breath. . . . . . . . . In through your nose, out through your mouth.  Feel His steady hand on your back, following your breathing, clearing your mind of earthly concerns and pointing your eyes to his view.)

Church, our fighting is hurting our Dad!  Our fighting is causing the world to fight harder and more violently!  What if the cure for getting along started with God's own kids getting along?  What if instead of criticizing, we pray?  What if instead of commenting, we put up the praying hands emoji? No one cares what you think but everyone wants to be heard.  Unfortunately we can't hear when we're doing all the talking.

(Man, God, you're laying it on me here.  Gulp.)

What if............?  It'd be a wild ride, wouldn't it?  But Truth is always worth it.



The peace that passes all understanding is the peace I wish for you my friends,

Ronda

Colossians 3:15







Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Riding on a float

I remember it like it was yesterday.  July 4, 1976.  I had just turned 10 years old.  My little rinky dink blink and you'll miss it town was putting on a Bicentennial celebration like no other town for miles around.

My mother was part of the Homemaker's club, a group of probably 10-20 women, homemakers, who had the idea to host a Bicentennial parade.  Hours and hours and hours and months and months and months of planning went into pulling off the greatest shindig Cataract, Wisconsin had ever seen.

For a few hours on that warm summer day, the town with a sordid reputation was the celebrity.

There were floats and bands and clowns.  Astronaut Deke Slayton was honored in a float contest, as he was a native of the big town down the highway.  The winning entry was quintessential Wisconsin, farm boy to astronaut, with a miniature barn and rocket ship riding around the streets of my small village.

I got to ride a float too.  My grandfather had a collection of Maytag motors.  Still to this day, I don't understand the significance of them, but I am told that his collection numbered in the hundreds if not thousands.  We decorated a hay bale trailer with red, white and blue streamers, and surrounded it with a sampling of his motors.  I got to sit in the center of the trailer, making my parade debut in a period costume my mother had sewn, on top of all her duties of helping organize the event.

It was a proud day.  A happy day.  My little town, almost able to be counted on a handful of hands and feet on a normal day, was filled with hundreds of people lining its streets.  The streets I walked on, rode my bike around, played in without worry were swarming with happiness.  With joy.  With excitement.

It was a great day to be an American.   On that day it didn't matter what happened the day before and we certainly, at least I wasn't, worried about what was going to happen tomorrow.  It was all on hold, the pause button had been pushed.  It was a great day to be a ten year old girl riding on a float celebrating America's independence.

I've never forgotten that day.  That day still fills with me joy and pride.  And hope.  I wish you could have been there.  I wish you could have seen what I saw as I rode around on a hay trailer throwing candy, wearing my Betsy Ross costume.

Maybe the ten year old girl in me is driving my hope today, my pleadings today, my prayers today.  Maybe the ten year old in me is screaming for all of us to STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER!

A ten year old's eyes are sponges.  They absorb good.  They believe.  They wonder without worry.  They have hope even though they don't know it is hope that is inside them.

I wish we could have that day, right now, in this horrible, hateful violent time we are living in.

July 4, 1976 was a great day to be an American.  I want my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren to know how great it is to live in a country such as the United States.  I want them to feel the wonder and joy of living in a land where anything is possible with the desire to try.

I want my great grandchildren, sixty years from now, to be celebrating harder than my little town celebrated forty years ago.  I want their lives to be such that when they look back on my life and their ancestors that their wonder and hope and joy is is even greater than mine was forty years ago.

That's what I want.  I hope it's not too late.


Peace,

Ronda







Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The way God rolls

I wonder sometimes why we don't hear God's audible voice today. It seems the easy thing to do to get the attention of people. When God spoke in the Bible, especially to his naughty children, the Israelites, everyone who heard it was afraid, with the exception of course, of Moses, who conversed with the voice speaking to him.   When God's voice was audibly heard during the times of Jesus, there was discussion amongst the hearers of what was heard. 

So now He's left us with written words...a lot of them. Without being audible they still put fear in some, humble gratitude in others, wonder and hope in many. No one can argue with how we each "hear" his word. He speaks to each of us with it, where we're at, to our unique lives. It doesn't take a booming voice, surrounded by fire, for his words to penetrate the heart. Sometimes it only takes one, two, or just a handful of words to calm an anxious heart. 

Be still. 

Stand still. 

Do not fear.

Take courage.

Do not be discouraged.

Stand firm.

Rest in me.

Come to me.

I am always with you.


I like to think he has given us his words in a written language so that we can read it in the moment, we can go back and reread our favorite parts, like a young couple in love read the love letters over and over again. The written word speaks to the heart in a way no shouting audible voice can ever do. That's how God rolls.

Peace,

Ronda



Exodus - pick a spot, any spot and see how Moses conversed with the voice of God.
John 12:28