Reading Between the Lines

by Rhonda Rhea

Someone once told me that all crazy women have super-thin eyebrows. I don’t see how I could even begin to argue with that logic. So I pencil. And I pencil strong. I feel I have a lot to prove.

That’s one reason doing makeup in the car is such risky business. One hard stop and a gal could end up with a seriously high eyebrow. No one could ever be as astonished as that kind of brow implies. And please excuse me if the humor here is a bit…ah…highbrow.

The other day, even full-well knowing the risk, I was doing my makeup in the car. My daughter was driving and hit a bad bump at a very crucial eyebrow moment. I immediately shot her a half-angry look. Not because I was really angry. Hey, bumps happen. I gave her the look because suddenly I had one fiercely anger-shaped brow. That’s hard to get rid of. To find some sort of symmetry I had to line and over-line both eyebrows. We’re talking, eyebrows full on. Like, high-beam on. I just combed my bangs extra low and hoped people would read between the lines, as it were. Goofy road-bump.

If anyone knew about bumps in the road, it was Paul. Talk about some hardships. It was enough to furrow any brow. But in Romans 8:18 he tells us that those difficulties were not such a big deal. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us,” (HCSB).

Difficulties? Temporary. But the glory? It’s forever! Our future is so much brighter than anything dark we could ever encounter here. What hope! A few verses later we read, “Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience,” (vv. 24-25, HCSB).

It reminds us that we live between the times. We can’t see the big picture full-beam. We’re living in that space between the bumps in the road and the glory that awaits. But this we know: we can walk in faith and confidence in the here and now because our Father has a great plan for our future. He is a trustworthy God who keeps His promises. That means we can wait with assurance—eager, yet patient.

That assurance changes our perspective on life and its challenges. We’re able to focus less on the things that won’t matter in eternity and more on the things of God. Jonathan Edwards, great revival preacher of the 1700’s, prayed, “O Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”

Stamping eternity on our eyeballs is not about pencils or brows. It’s about keeping our eyes God-ward and staying ever-mindful of our future with Him, keeping His holy agenda at the heart of all we do. It keeps us mindful of those around us who need Jesus. It helps us sort out our thinking regarding bumps in the road and everything seen and unseen. We’re in this world, yes, but it’s good to know where to draw the line.

Knowing where to draw the line—yeah, that’s also good for eyebrows.

“…be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.] After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:9-11 AMP

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How does knowing God’s promises for our future affect your life today?

When Crickets Chirp and God Still Shows Up

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

For everything you can name, I’m pretty sure there’s an official phobia listed for it. If you’re afraid of phobias, would you be considered a phob-a-phobe? I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s noted in several places that there are surveys showing the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) and the fear of dying (necrophobia) at the top of people’s lists of most dreaded fears. In that order even.

As a public speaker—and one who is often billed as a humorist—I think tops on my list would be “necro-glosso-phobia.” Fear of death while speaking. Okay yes, I made that one up. But I’ve experienced it on a figurative level once or twice. Frightening.

One of those events particularly sticks in my mind. I was delivering what I considered some of my most rip-roaring material when…it happened:  nothing. A whole big lot of nothing. Hardly a snicker. I think I heard crickets chirping. Kind of a slow death, speaker-wise. The Bible says that laughter is like medicine. I’m telling you, this had to be the control group. Placebos for everyone!

After I spoke, a lady came up to me with a completely lifeless face. Truly lifeless. Without an ounce of expression, she monotoned, “I have never laughed so hard in all my life.” She didn’t crack a smile even then. It was so hilariously strange.

Here’s hoping we always look “alive” to the world. Know what “alive” looks like? It looks like love. 1 John 3:14 (NIV) says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

We have passed from death into life—heavy on the life! We need to pass it on. Others can’t see our redemption unless we live it out. And love it out.

It’s not a new message, but it’s one we need to hear often. We read in the same passage, “This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another,” (1 John 3:11 NIV). So how do we know exactly what that kind of love looks like? The same chapter gives us that, too:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (verse 16).

Real love sacrifices. The Jesus kind of love is a love that surrenders in humility. It’s a love that endures beyond the very worst offenses. When Jesus was asked which commandment in the law was greatest, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). A right-to-the-heart-and-soul kind of love. Being a follower of Christ means we love Him with everything we’ve got, and we love others in His name with the same enthusiasm. It’s our focus. Because it’s God’s focus.

Here’s hoping that if I’m asked to lay aside my rights, my fears, my possessions, my pride, even my very life for another, I’ll give the right response. No silence. No crickets chirping. Just love. Giving sacrificial love to a heartsick world that doesn’t know the love and joy of Jesus is the best medicine we can offer. And that, my friends, is no placebo.

… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:2 NASB

TWEETABLE
When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you love enthusiastically?

All That Glitters…Is Never Going Away

by Rhonda Rhea

Has it happened to you? You get that one greeting card with glitter on it—that one card—and next thing you know, your entire living room is a sparkle-palooza.

 Granted, I’m the kind of person who enjoys a good sparkle. Shiny makes me happy. But when I got one of those sparkly cards the other day, there was a sudden, panicked realization that there was more glitter in my living room than was ever on that card. I tried to brush it off, but it refused to be brushed. I vacuumed it. Then vacuumed some more. Still…glitter.

There’s a fear when dealing with glitter—the fear that you will never escape it. Ever. If it’s on your face? Accept that it’s a part of you now. Learn to live this way. Oh, and pass out sunshades to all your friends. They must learn to live with it too.

You’ll also need those shades as protective eyewear. A friend of mine went to her ophthalmologist when her eye felt persistently scratchy for a week. What’s that gleam in your eye? You guessed it. Greeting card glitter. She had to have a little glitterectomy. I asked her if instead of seeing her eye doctor, she should’ve gone to a cardiologist. Get it? Card-iologist?

Really though, how is it that what starts as one sparkly greeting card seems to produce enough glitter to cover that card and eleventy-dozen others? It’s just about more than I can handle.

Then again, what can I really handle? The popular Christian maxim, “God won’t give us more than we can handle” is one we tend to mail out like the trustiest proverb in the prettiest greeting card. But let’s think that one through. Because really, friends, everything is more than we can handle. In our own strength, we have nothing to shine.

First Corinthians 10:13 is often the backup text for thinking we won’t face more than we can bear. “But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it” (CSB). The passage’s context, however, is not adversity. It’s temptation. It’s not about the Father delivering us from tough challenges. It’s about the Father giving us strength to say no to sin.

There is strength for resisting temptation as we depend on Him. And Paul tells us as well that there is grace for every difficulty. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CSB).

Embracing His all-sufficient strength and grace when we’re struggling is a way for us to shine. Shining when shining doesn’t seem possible.

Our God is able to take the weakest sparkle and illuminate it with the glory-brilliance of Christ—all across our home, our neighborhood, and our city. Sometimes our world. We’re talking about a shine that never fades. Never goes away. Sparkle-palooza, indeed.

Oh, that we may ever learn to live this way.

Still though, a little side note to new first grade Sunday School teachers: there is glitter in your future. All over your Sunday School future. All over your Sunday School classroom. All over you. And it will never leave. I say, lean into it and shine!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: What are some of the little things that distract you from obedience?

Inking It In

by Rhonda Rhea

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season… Psalm 1:1-3 NASB

What do you do when you have a pen that won’t write? You sling it a few times in that stabbing motion, right? Hoping gravity will somehow jar the ink loose? Seriously, has that ever worked for anybody? After that, of course, you scribble. Then you scribble bigger and faster. You scribble hard and long. Then you scribble harder and longer. You scribble until you’ve scribbled a hole right through the paper. Then you stab the paper a few more times. That’s when you throw the pen.

You then look around to see if anyone saw you throw the pen. Then while you’re feeling silly for throwing the pen, you pick it up and put it in your pocket—as you pretend it slipped out of your hand. And flew across the room. Later when you get home, you find your pocketed pen leaked and left a giant splotch of blue on the front of your favorite shirt.

Argh, already. Pen! Why can’t you simply do your job? Consistently! Without making a mess!

I have to wonder if God ever asks that question about me. Is there such a thing as pen-hypocrisy? I’ll judge that pen all day for not consistently delivering. I’ll judge it for making messes. But if I get honest, I’ll admit there are entirely too many times when I’m not consistent in little steps of obedience the Lord has called me to walk out every day. And even though I’m not where I know I should be, or I’m not doing what He’s already shown me to do, I’m still fussing and scribbling because life isn’t unfolding the way I planned. What a mess. It’s a mess I’ve made with my own hands, mind you. I know that. The ink ends up everywhere except where it was intended. Not a pretty picture.

Life is much less messy when we stay consistent in His Word and consistent in what He’s called us to. I know, duh. No big revelation here. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that give us the most trouble. It’s neglecting those simple disciplines that can leave us frustrated at the end of the day—big ink stain and no eternal fruit. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work,” NLT.

So here are today’s lessons to live by. Lesson number one: Obey God. Number two is related: Stay consistent in doing what He’s told us to do in His Word. Then just watch. That mess you made? The hole in the paper? Confess and start again. He can redeem the mess. Even make it…art.  

Oh, and lesson number three: A cheap pen is—what? A buck? For crying out loud, just get a new one.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: What are some of the little things that distract you from obedience?

Hospitality—with Sugar on Top

by Rhonda Rhea

Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality… Hebrews 13:1-2 CSB

I’ve probably mentioned before that I don’t usually cook for the people I love. Because I love them. And while there’s much that could be said here about being hospitable, there are also a couple of sentences I could add about being “hospital-able”—which, I’m telling you, could also be a thing.

Sometimes I imagine chefs narrating while I’m in the kitchen. Mostly I hear them saying things like, “Oh honey. Just…no.”

You’re probably tempted to tell me I can still set out a nice table of prepped and packaged store-bought goodies. Been there, bought that. And thank you, snack-packagers, for having my snack-back. The last time I did that, though, I realized I’d accidentally purchased an entire table of sugar. In addition to the cookies and candies and chocolate-covered this and that, I bought two beautiful, humongous cakes. This is great, I thought. We have one to eat now, and another one to also eat now.

Seriously. How can I be so bad at snacks that I can’t even buy them well?

We have a Bible study in my home. We hadn’t met too many times before one of the ladies volunteered to bring the food. She brings snacks for every meeting. Every. Meeting. I confess, I pray for this woman now more than I ever did before. Everyone in our Bible study does. She can never, ever miss Bible study. Ever. We need her.

Just a reminder here, that when it comes right down to it, we’re all needed. Even those of us who might be considered hospitality-challenged (hospi-snack-ety challenged?) are included here.

In Ephesians 2:12, Paul recaps life before Christ, when we were “foreigners to the covenants of promise.” But then in the next verse, he reminds us as well that we are now included. Needed. On the “in.” “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Just a few verses later, he says, “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household…” (Ephesians 2:19, CSB).

Hospitality is not so much about our house. Or its snacks. It’s about that household—and expanding it to include others. As a matter of fact, hospitality is not merely welcoming people into our homes, it’s welcoming people into all our spaces. Into our lives. Into our hearts.

Hebrews 13:1-2 CSB puts it together this way: “Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality.” Without the heart, it’s not the genuine, Jesus kind of hospitality.

I love the part of this passage that gives us the how-to when it comes to loving and showing that hospitality. It’s in verse 20. “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (CSB) Who equips? Not narrating chefs. Not snack-packers or cake-bakers. Only our God equips us to do His will, through Jesus.

What sweet relief. Everything He wants to accomplish, He will do. All glory to Him.

It’s also a relief to remember that hospitality is about the people, not the party spread. I don’t even have to sugarcoat that. Though let’s be real, I could totally sugarcoat that if I wanted to.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: What do you do to welcome people into your heart and home?

Delusions, Illusions, and Better Conclusions

by Rhonda Rhea

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.   2 Corinthians 10:4-5 CSB

Opinions. I have them. Oh, how I have them. Loud ones and high ones. Colorful and wry ones. I try to make sure I come up with three or four good opinions to have on standby—just in case somebody asks for one.

I’m not at all talking about “informed” opinions. Those are in an entirely different category. Informed opinions require research and contemplation. Reason and thinky stuff. Probably charts and graphs. That sounds like work. Plus, if you get too informed on a topic, seems to me you no longer have an opinion. What you have there is a conclusion. Wouldn’t that cancel out the need for an opinion?

A friend asked my opinion about Instagram several months ago. I told her I figure I’m only about one extra-large floppy hat away from becoming an Insta spokesmodel. She said that was a delusion, not an opinion.

Still, I recently heard someone offer an opinion that was even worse than any of mine. We all hear this one a lot. “Go with your gut.”

What? My gut? Like I’m not getting rotten enough ideas from my brain, now we’re going to check in with my colon? How is that better?

How about this for something better. Instead of forming baseless opinions and going with our innards, what if we prepared our minds the Jesus way, set our hope firmly on His grace, and made decisions based on the rightness and holiness of God?

Like this: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:13-15 CSB).

To prepare your minds for action in the original context was to gather up the constraining robes so that a person could move forward unhindered. Hindrances begin in our minds as we let thoughts and opinions run rambly-like from brain to gut and back, unfettered.

Our actions are birthed in our minds. We’re called to be diligent—actively self-controlled—about what goes on in our headspace. Not necessarily ready with some wild opinion. But ever ready to replace self-thinking and worldly philosophies with the truth of God. And to let that thinking birth obedience and right living.

Conforming to the passions of our former ignorance, that unregenerate way of forming opinions, produces a continuous and frustrating inner battle. The ready mind Peter encourages is not one that excuses or rationalizes sinful thoughts. The ready mind reins them in—essentially rolling up the sleeves of our thoughts and putting them to work for the Kingdom, all in the power of Christ.

It’s fruitless to try to fight the mind battle on our own. Paul reminds us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 CSB).

So much for every “lofty opinion.” There is blessing, fruit, and a mind at peace as our thoughts are Jesus-captivated. This, I’m not afraid to say, is an informed opinion. Informed by the truth of who our Savior is—and how powerfully He works in us.

I’m sticking with that opinion. Not even once checking to see what my intestines might think.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep your thoughts and opinions centered on Christ?

Food for Praise

by Rhonda Rhea

Kids have super weird yet extremely discriminating palates. I know this to be true. I raised five of them. I’m telling you, I remember toddlers completely snubbing dinner, then half an hour later eating a dirt clod and washing it down with bath water.

It’s not like I don’t get it on some level. Not on the dirt clod/bath water level or anything. But believe me, there are parts of this concept I completely understand. The things I know I’m supposed to eat? Sometimes I just don’t want to. Forget your kale. What even is tofu?

Then there are the things I’m not supposed to eat. On that topic…well let’s just say if my husband put my favorite gemstone in a lovely ring setting, that gem would probably look like a chocolate truffle. By “look like” a chocolate truffle I mean it would be a chocolate truffle. And then there would just be an empty setting where the truffle used to be. I’m also not entirely convinced that my birthstone is not a tiny cinnamon roll.

Keep your carats. And your carrots.

I know I’m supposed to be a grownup. I’m supposed to say some yesses to kale and no to dirt clods and jewelry you eat. But what are we supposed to do, even as grownups, when we just don’t want to?

When we hit difficulties in life, sometimes praise can become more challenging. Instead of singing His praises, often in those times all we want to do is cry to Him, “Get me out of this!”

I’ve heard people say it’s hypocritical to praise God when we’re just not feeling it, and I would never suggest we pray things to God we don’t mean. He knows our hearts inside and out anyway. I would suggest all day, however, honestly recounting who He is.

It’s during our struggles that we do well to remember we’re praising God, not the circumstances. Praise doesn’t even require being at peace with the circumstances. It doesn’t necessitate understanding them either.

As a matter of fact, praise isn’t so much about our need to understand what God is doing. It’s really more about recognizing that He’s bigger than our understanding. And that He’s better than our best, most enthusiastically optimistic idea of how good He is.

He’s also completely aware and in control of our trials. He’s not uncaring. He’s loving and kind and good. He’s big, He’s powerful, He’s holy, He’s omniscient, He’s…everything. Praise isn’t for us, but still, it’s in our praise that we become all the more aware of who He is.

We can’t begin to even scratch the surface when it comes to understanding His greatness. David wrote “His greatness is unsearchable” in Psalm 145:3 (HCSB). Praising Him, though, reminds us to search anyway. To get our focus off ourselves and the temporary struggles of this life and to place that focus on the eternal God who is ever-worthy. The first part of that very same verse celebrates that “Yahweh is great and is highly praised.”

Sometimes when I need some food for praise, I hang out in the entire chapter of Psalm 145 for a bit. Or Psalm 8 or 111. Or the joy of Psalm 100 or the music of Psalm 150. So many more. They’re food for praise despite our troubles.

And with or without our truffles.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation. What is your food for praise?

The Christmas Feels and the Christmas Fills

by Rhonda Rhea

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot

That Christmas feeling. All year long. Because Christmas movies. All. Year. Long.

I have a high threshold for these things. I watch them all. So when Christmas rolls around for real, I get excited. Christmas movies—at Christmas!

I’ve seen enough of them to know that to experience the season well, you have to fill it with the proper Christmas components. Christmas cookie-baking (spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is love), decorating the tree while singing loud carols (possibly falling off a ladder), ice-skating, brushing something off someone’s face, and of course, making snow angels. We don’t always get a good Christmas snow outside of the movies. For the record, dirt angels are not the same. And Christmas laundry could also become a thing.

I had a little trouble last year. Not with the dirt angels, but with the tree-decorating/ loud singing part. A dozen extra packages of tinsel and too many extra-loud choruses of “Joy to the World” and I got the worst sore throat. Pretty sure I had tinselitis.

There’s a different kind of loud message around this time of year though. It’s both loud and subtle—and not funny. It’s a message to fill the season. Fill it with stuff. Fill it with busy and merch and different kinds of hustle and bustle—and the fullest lists. Lists on lists on lists. Fill it with chaos and stress and nary a silent night, much less sleep in heavenly peace.

I’ll tell you exactly what I do not want my season filled with. Regret. That’s what happens when we let our focus drift to the wrong fillings. There’s a beautiful filling that happens, however—as weird as it sounds—in the proper emptiness. An appreciation of Christmas, and life itself, blossoms as we fill life with…sacrifice. Fill it with surrender.

As we surrender to Jesus, life is filled with purpose. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 CSB).

I can fill up with the temporary—money, fame, success, power—whatever this world might offer. Gaining it all. Losing myself. The ultimate regret. But surrendering to the Lord, holding nothing back, opens the door to full life. Joyful. And joy-full.

We were never meant to fill ourselves with joy. We weren’t built to wrangle purpose out of our existence. Trying it leads to joylessness—and regrets on regrets on regrets. 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”

Jesus came to bring joy to this world, fully knowing what it would cost Him. What a glorious example of sacrifice. He set aside heaven and His rights as God-King, trading them for suffering—and all for the joy of closeness with us.

We can trust that when He asks us to abandon all and follow Him, He does it with our good in mind. If we let go and grab on to Him, we will always find that His plans for us are bigger and better than anything we could’ve dreamed up. This is a King I can follow without reservation.

That thought fills my heart with singing. Year-round. Though from here on out, I might do the actual singing (with a bit more reservation).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself from regret at Christmas?

Mapping Out the Day

by Rhonda Rhea

You guys and your fancy-schmancy words you like to use when giving directions. Like “Northeast.” And “left.”

I admit it, I have no sense of direction. North, south…and whatever those other two are? I don’t have them. There’s probably not enough space in my brain for a compass. Maybe because I filled a lot of brain space with a big list of foods that would be better covered in chocolate pudding. It’s not my fault that there are just a whole lot of things that needed to be noted.

I’ve had this sense of direction problem longer than GPS has been in existence. That means I’m all the more thankful for my phone. Having GPS and all its beautiful maps and finders and directions means I’m not forced to roll down my window and ask a stranger what state I’m in. Any more.

I’m still one of the few people on the planet who can get lost, however, even while instructions are being spoken to me. When I’m heading out of a parking lot with my directions all plugged in and ready to go and the GPS lady tells me to “head north,” I suddenly realize she doesn’t get me at all.

Recently I was chatting with a friend who said she was feeling a little “lost.” She told me she felt rather directionless, like she couldn’t seem to get a good handle on her joy, and she didn’t know why. I asked her how her time in Bible study was going, and she rolled her eyes at me. But she rolled them with a smile. She said, “Wow, I should’ve known you were going to ask me that. And I should’ve known to ask myself.”

As we chatted, she preached herself a little sermon. It was adorable. She started with, “That’s it, isn’t it.” It was a statement, not a question. She ended her sermon with a response to her own invitation, determining to set her course at the first of every day.

We met again the next week and I was amazed to see the difference in her demeanor. Talk about being back on the right road. She said the change wasn’t immediate, but it was dramatic. Oh, the difference God’s Word makes in our every day.

The battle for control of our internal compass—our spiritual direction—is a fierce one. The enemy fights to turn us onto a fruitless path. Our own flesh wars against us, too. But we can’t get to a victorious life of purpose without plugging in the right directions. The Psalmist got it. “Keep me from the way of deceit and graciously give me your instruction. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set your ordinances before me,” (Psalm 119:29-30 CSB). If we want to win the battle against the enemy’s lies and against our own sinful desires, we need the truth of God’s Word.

I had to smile when I read a paraphrase of verse 35: “Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway!” (MSG). Life’s journey really does take a happier turn when we’re traveling according to God’s direction and by the wisdom and instruction we find in His Word. Sometimes it’s a state of joy we didn’t even realize we were missing.

And by the way, if I do ever again feel the need to roll down my window to ask what state I’m in, there’s no reason why I can’t do it in a state of joy.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: Has God’s Word guided you in your walk with Him recently? Please share!

In Step—Two, Three, Four—with Jesus

by Rhonda Rhea

I’m not one to dance like nobody’s watching. Mostly because I don’t want to watch it, either. But I do sing loud. And big. Sometimes with motions. So while I might not necessarily dance like no one is watching, I have been known to sing like I’m vacuuming.

A couple of months ago, I did accidentally bust a few new moves, but it was because a bug flew into my hair. That was some sweet choreography. Embarrassing, sure. I didn’t even know I had those moves in me. A couple of my kids saw it, as a matter of fact. And then they begged me to put those moves away and never pull them out again. It was worth the bug in the hair just for that.

I heard it was Charles Baudelaire who said, “Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” He obviously never saw my moves. Either that, or he was super bad at poetry. So hold on, Charles. Sorry, but this could be one more little proof that we can’t believe everything we hear.

When it comes to walking out this life in faith, we can’t believe everything we hear there, either. Those who don’t follow Christ will tell you that if you do all your stepping just so—if you have just the right look, the right family, the right houses and cars and things—if you have all the right moves in all the right places—then your life will be a graceful dance. They’ll tell you that when you know the right people and can say the right words in the right way, that’s when life will be good.

Sadly, you don’t have to try the world’s way for very long before figuring out that those moves make up a dance that’s everything awkward. It ends, not just in embarrassment, but in emptiness. Relying on things and power and self to make us happy will always end in that vacuum. With no singing.

How do we find the remedy for that emptiness, in the most graceful, spin-and-swing-and-whirl-of-joy way? Not in our culture. Not on our own. It begins in His Word. “Make my steps steady through Your promise; don’t let any sin dominate me,” (Psalm 119:133 HCSB). Our choice here? Let evil govern our steps. Or let the Lord. “Through Your promise” means “by Your Word.” And the indication in the original language is that the psalmist isn’t actually talking about our own sinful nature here, though that’s a battle we never take lightly. But this refers to sinful influence. He’s asking for deliverance from the dominance of evil people.

All too often in life’s dance, we take our cues from those who would love nothing more than to lead us off in some wrong direction. In that same psalm, we read, “I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word,” (Psalm 119:101 HCSB). It means literally “I hold back my feet.” Hold on, feet. Do the right thing. We have to give the Word of God a place of prominence and let it lead in how we think and act and live—every step.

As we do, oh what a difference! “Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your instruction; nothing makes them stumble,” (Psalm 119:165, HCSB). It’s the difference between peacefully and gracefully moving through a day, and stumbling embarrassingly out of control.

Poetry in motion. Or plummeting in an awkward commotion. Because seriously, some moves are never meant to be busted.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you give the Word a place of prominence in your life?