The Kingdom…in a Nutshell

 by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.   Matthew 13:44 CSB

I love eating a big handful of money. Er…pecans. I meant pecans.

Seriously though, sometimes a gal just wants to snack on some of those delish pecans, right? And evidently also wants to cease having that extra $14.50.

Not to get all squirrely about it or anything, but I had a craving for them the other day and the only bag I could find at the convenience store was tiny—and eight bucks. I bought them anyway. Even though I knew that was just nuts.

I wonder if squirrels even know what they’re stashing away these days. If they figured it out and learned to trade them on the gem market, maybe they could leave those old trees behind and move on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky.

Our faith walk is often affected by what we squirrel away, spiritually speaking. Sometimes without even realizing it, we find we’re spending all our work energies angling for hanging onto comfort and ease and contentment in our circumstances. Sometimes our focus is stolen away by an intense desire to stash away money and things. Sometimes we can find ourselves desperately scrambling for great power, influence or fame—scrambling like we’re readying for the hardest winter.

As we’re following Christ, the “hardest winters” are the ones we experience when all those earthly aspirations leave us feeling disappointed, dissatisfied, disillusioned—empty. Joyless. Brrr. Even worthy aspirations are empty when we seek them selfishly, or we leave Jesus out.

Paul said in Romans 14:7 (CSB) that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” It’s not about that handful of snacks. We find joy as we focus on the kingdom of God, and as we let the Holy Spirit rule our hearts.

Two of the parables of Jesus teach us the overwhelmingly precious value of His kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46 CSB).

Jesus teaches that the kingdom is so valuable, a person will freely give up everything else in life to lay hold of it. The kingdom of heaven—that place where God, our King, rules.

For believers, the King rules in our hearts by His joy-giving Holy Spirit. To follow whole-heartedly is our calling. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Lord, by the working of Your Holy Spirit in me, help me focus right there, finding life, stashing away the eternally valuable, letting go of anything temporary I might selfishly crave. Giving all. As Your kingdom dwells in me, may I dwell in Your kingdom.

I want to pray that regularly, allowing Him to renew my focus every place it gets off.

That’s probably also why I’m giving up on my jewelry idea. The one where I make myself a necklace. From 24 karat pecan halves.

TWEETABLE
The Kingdom…in a Nutshell – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: How does knowing you are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven impact your life in the here and now?

Teach a Mom to List

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Teach a man to fish, it’s all good. But teach a kid a card trick and be prepared to watch it nonstop for like 12 years.

Like, “Is this your card?”…until college.

Understand, you have to make time for that. It’s one of the reasons schedule-juggling is trickier with kids. I’m not a structured person by nature, so in those years of raising mine, to-do lists became my friends. And enemies.

On any given day, I made a gargantuan list, then had to quick-plan for a dozen things that weren’t on it. Weren’t on any list. Ever. Who can plan, for instance, for an away-from-home potty-training disaster you’re forced to clean up with three Wal-Mart receipts, last week’s church bulletin and a Kit Kat wrapper (give me a break).

Our time raising children is short. I can get philosophical about it, for sure. I’ve long said, when one door opens, another door opens. And then also a side door. All the doors. And they never close. Because you have kids.

I wonder how many months of my life I spent closing doors behind this or that kid running in or out. I had five babies in seven years. That means in a 12-year span I probably slept four hours. Total. Essentially, I traded sleep for door-closing. It’s a thought that makes me smile. And it makes me want a nap.

Ever feel like your soul needs a nap? Jesus knew you would. He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30, CSB).

Rest for our bodies? We do have to make time for that. But soul rest is at least as vital. Anytime we find ourselves feeling burned out, weary, burdened—heavy—it’s time to step back and listen to Jesus’ call to “Come to me.” It’s an open door. And to our delight, it stays open.

When you’re frantically sorting one to-do list from another (is this your card?), and when your mind feels cluttered and weighted down with challenges and stresses, remember your Savior’s reminder that He waits for you. He will be your respite, your comfort, your encouragement. All you have to do is come.

Come to Him in prayer. Come to Him in worship. Come to Him through His Word. Give Him the first-fruits of your time and you’ll find the perspective you’re looking for. So often all the urgent to-dos sort themselves out as we remember His call to come, to lay down a heavy, burdensome yoke we’ve placed on ourselves, and exchange our plan for the just-fits comfort of His will. Would you believe, even when an unexpected disaster thrusts itself upon your list, you can still smile. His easy yoke comes with grace, joy, peace—everything you need for a genuine “successful existence.”

Responding to His “come to me” should top my every list. Relief from my own exhausting yoke. Strength and renewal under His.

As for my other lists, however, I’m still fishing through those. Guess I’m a work in progress. The other day I went to the store without my list and was proud of myself when I only took twelve thousand laps around the grocery section looking for something that wasn’t even on it.

“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord.   Ezekiel 34:17 NASB

TWEETABLE
Teach a Mom to List – encouragement with a touch of humor from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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 novel, Turtles in the Road, co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: What is weighing you down today?

Make a Choice, Make a Difference

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.                                                                                  Hebrews 5:14 NASB

We’ve lived in the same house almost 15 years. That means I’m on about the 5,375th consecutive day of turning on the garbage disposal instead of the light. Oy, habits.

I was working on forming better habits though. Breakfast, for instance. Surely I could at least pull together a bowl of cold cereal, right? Not as easy as you’d think. That first cardboard flap of a new cereal box? Major box-opening stress there. One wrong rip and the tab will never fit in the slot. You could hardly convince me I was not cutting diamonds.

Fast-forward to my discovery that I should never cut diamonds. The box looked like it had been opened by ferrets. Who probably don’t even eat bran flakes. I wanted to quit—and that was before I got to the titanium-reinforced bag inside.

Seriously, what are those bags made of? While I’m asking questions, is bag-rage a thing? Because I may have had that. When you finally find the one weak spot in the forcefield that IS that bag, how many times does the cereal just explode all over the kitchen?

People. If I was really meant to make this breakfast choice, wouldn’t a box of cereal be easier to open than a bag of Oreos?

We make choices every day. Often, we can make a mess, make an excuse, make a scene, make a get-away—or make a difference. Sometimes we only get to pick one.

The fact is, good habits don’t necessarily come with a switch to flick. We don’t make good choices according to how easy they are. They’re built with perseverance—and I need to be reminded often. Peter obliges in 2 Peter 1:12-13 (CSB): “Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it’s right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder.” This? It’s a worthy wake-up. Breakfast of champions, really.

I love looking at the verses right before in the Amplified version: “Therefore, believers, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you [be sure that your behavior reflects and confirms your relationship with God]; for by doing these things [actively developing these virtues], you will never stumble [in your spiritual growth and will live a life that leads others away from sin]” (vv. 10-11, AMP).

The word “diligent” here is from the Greek spoudasate, which means to labor over an endeavor—quickly and with earnestness. My natural selfishness encourages me to choose garbage habits—the easy way. Flicking all the wrong switches.

Yet my God will give me the want-to to choose well, and then He will give me the ability to persevere in it. Paul said in Philippians 2:13 (CSB), “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.”

Paul offers a great testimony in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (CSB): “So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” It’s an entirely different kind of “boxing,” I know. But I want to take on the challenge implied here with everything I’ve got. I want to make a difference.

Father, empower me to choose well. Work in me to accomplish Your good purpose, I ask. Grant me the discipline to stay at it with perseverance—all for the glory of Your kingdom.

That’s my prayer. And I’m going to make a habit of praying it.

TWEETABLE
Make a Choice, Make a Difference – encouragement and wisdom from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: How do you train yourself to make better choices?

That Settles It

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 ESV

I like to call them mild sugar cravings. And yet, there I go. Shooting out of the car, across the kitchen, and diving for the pantry. I need chocolate, ya’ll. I’m like a treat-seeking missile. That bag of chocolate chips in there? Target acquired. Locked on. Give me a minute and those things are gone.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but my mild sugar cravings have been known to choose my Sunday School class for me. Anyone else ranking classes according to donuts?

“She’s a good teacher and all, but she only serves glazed. And one Sunday she ran out.”

“Linda’s class? Somebody brings those chocolate-covered, custard-filled Long Johns.”

It’s not really my fault. It’s very hard to make a prudent decision when there’s a Long John involved. Did I mention the custard filling? Custard!

Okay, it might be a little bit my fault. Mild sugar craving meets kids’ Christmas stockings. That’s when I start to question myself. Because my kids have been out of the house for several years. But I found a chocolate snowman. He’s got to be from at least four Christmases ago, but that little guy is mine.

That should be a reminder to me that my “mild cravings” are out of control and it’s time to corral the sugar intake. If the snowman has lost his wrapper, and I just pick the fuzz down off him and eat him anyway, that pretty much settles it: I have a problem.

I’m so glad that on an eternal scale, Jesus settled the biggest issues. We never have to wonder about His love for us. It’s big and beautiful and intense. Eternally more intense than anything I can choco-crave. He proved his immense, unconditional, unshakable love when He died on the cross to make it possible for us to have a right and tight relationship with Him. But then He went all out to prove His power to save. The same power that saves us from sin raised Him from the dead. That? Oh my.

That really settles everything.

How glorious—a risen, living Savior! One who gives us life! “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV).

I love the way the question is posed in this paraphrase: “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He’ll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?” (MSG).

Because Jesus is alive, we’ve been made spiritually alive in Him. It’s one of so many reasons I love celebrating His resurrection. The Easter season reminds us that Jesus settled it. All. In one Earth-rocking event. I will celebrate Resurrection Sunday with intensity—with absolutely everything I’ve got—until Jesus comes again and beyond.

Back on the sugar craving side of things, I would like to point out here at the end, that my enthusiasm to celebrate the season has nothing to do with chocolate bunnies. But still, you will NOT want to put those little guys in my pantry.

TWEETABLE
That Settles It – Thoughts on Easter from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: What thought thrills you the most this Easter Sunday?

As Far as Accountability Is Concerned

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was scrubbing furiously, trying to get the hot fudge stain out of my fave workout shirt. And then…the revelation. It was like, “Oh hello, irony. For a minute I didn’t see you there.”

Not that the new diet isn’t going well or anything. Because I don’t think it actually counts as eating badly if you only ate your husband’s dessert because you forgot you already ate yours. Doesn’t count. Because, “forgot.”

It’s not that I haven’t tapped into all the diet helps presently out there. But I considered I might not be doing it right when I started typing “healthy recipes” into my phone and auto-correct filled in with “pudding cake and cheese dip and lies.” Also, auto-correct can be very judgey.

In the meantime, I’ve found there are stages a person must go through before accepting a new diet: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Donut…and then I’m not exactly sure what comes after number four. Very probably another number four.

The other day, after too many fours, I knew I needed some human accountability. I may, however, have overdone it there. This afternoon I was reaching for an oatmeal cream pie when a sniper fired a warning shot.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t concern myself as much with sniper fire as I do with taking accountability seriously. Would you believe I’m actually scripturally compelled to “be concerned”?

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB).

The Greek word translated “be concerned” means to so focus the mind—to consider this thing so carefully—that the result will be the right response. And this “be concerned” is in the present tense, so it’s not simply referring to a one-time consideration. We’re called to seriously and perpetually think of ways we can promote love and good works, encouraging everyone in our sphere of influence to love Jesus by the way they love and serve each other.

And isn’t it almost another irony that we promote those things as we ourselves live in that love? That means our accountability is loving—no bullets. It’s not even “judgey.” It’s more “stir-uppy”—stirring up others to love and good works.

This kind of accountability looks best when no one is aiming for condemnation or judgment. Not for wounding or shaming or angering, either. It can happen when we lovingly confront. But it should never be our aim. Loving, not sniping. It’s good to let humility be the order of the day when someone else is concerned enough to “stir” us as well—even if we don’t necessarily agree. The truth is, we don’t exactly have an auto-correct, either.

O Lord, may we love You better as each of us buoys the other. May we inspire and encourage—and be inspired and encouraged—to love you, love each other, and to love serving.

Even though it’s not a new message, we can decide to be okay with reminders that we’re accountable to one another. Because, never mind the desserts and the four stages of donuts or whatever, sometimes…“forgot.”

TWEETABLE
As Far as Accountability Is Concerned – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: How do you build up the believers around you?

Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I’m not going to lie, I allowed my kids to make a few bad hair decisions as they were growing up. I did it for two reasons. 1) I knew I would be able to show them the pictures years later and tease them mercilessly, and 2) if everything was all hair perfection for them growing up, how would they ever learn to be funny?

May I say now, “well-done, me.” Because I have pictures. And the laughter is very satisfying. And also, all my kids are hilarious.

I’m also big enough to admit that sometimes when we look at those pictures, the bad hair is mine. I’d rather call it a bad mousse day. Or as I’ve come to more often refer to it, “Serendipity-Do”—since I never knew exactly how that hair would turn out. Or how the gel would come off.

When I say that I’m big enough to admit it, sometimes I mean my hair was big enough. Big enough for whatever. Oh my, the sheer “bigness” of that hair. I look at the photos of those three-story bangs and wonder how it all held up without girders and trusses. I think the highest hair stood with a lot of teasing, spraying, wishing and even more worrying. Plus another jar and a half of the gel-mousse-plaster-of-Paris of the day.

Back then I also worried on windy days that those bangs might accidentally achieve enough thrust, drag, weight, lift and hairspray to fly me a couple of counties over. Oh the worries of heavy-duty aerodynamic bangs (hair-o-dynamic?). It’s enough to…well…make your hair stand on end. Or turn it gray.

Worry in all aspects of life can be as sticky as cheap mousse. It’s even sneaky. I often convince myself that worry works. After all, most of the things I worry about don’t happen. Doesn’t that mean it’s working?

Even in all its slick sneakiness, there’s something we can do with worry. When we feel we’re coming unglued (not a hair reference), and we don’t know what to do, we have a choice. We can trade in that worry. “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (Philippians 4:6, CSB).

Trading worry for prayer, petition and thanksgiving? It’s the most amazing exchange. And you’re not even going to believe what comes along with it. A gloriously unexpected peace. We’re told about it in the very next verse. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, CSB). A heart-and-mind-guarding peace straight from Jesus Himself!

Seeking Jesus—heart and mind on Him—is the key. He said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow.” He preceded that command with, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33, CSB). When His peace rules, the fears that seem three stories tall one minute, appear appropriately minuscule the next. Is there any worry—anything at all—that can stand up against the perfect peace of God?

God’s peace has proven its ability to stand up against the biggest heartbreaks, the highest life-threats, or even the smallest and goofiest hair events—even events with pictures.

On the pics topic, I’m backing off my kids a hair. Possibly because for every shot I take at one of their styles, they can always pull out a Glamour Shot of mine.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.                                                                                                 Isaiah 41:10 NASB

TWEETABLE 
Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head – Encouragement from @RhondaRhea (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-CaffeinatedWhen the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic. 

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.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep your worrying under control?

 

To Make a Long Story Pie

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Isn’t it great when someone says, “to make a long story short…”? Because then you know to cancel your plans for the rest of the day.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m not one to talk about long stories or the people who tell them. I’m known for being more than a little on the wordy side. And still, even in a personal conversation, I sometimes have trouble listening to others whose presentations are longer than three minutes. Especially if they don’t have visual aids.

People. Give me a cartoon. Flannel board, maybe. A graph or a nice pie chart even. Not necessarily because of my inability to focus or anything but it’s always good to be—hey, now I want pie.

Speaking of the abrupt segues of people with short attention spans, I opened the microwave the other day and found a piece of pie in there. I thought, Where in the world did that come from? Then I remembered. I put it in there two days before. Wow, bet that thing is done now.

All focus deficits aside, I really am trying to learn to listen better. Even without the pie chart. Or the pie. James 1:19 tells me that “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak,” (HCSB). And boy oh boy, can I get those backwards.

So how can we be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak”? Listen faster, speak slower? Actually, I’m quite sure it’s not a matter of speed. More often we need to simply replace the speaking with the listening.

How many times have I already been putting together some kind of “impressive” response in my mind while someone was still talking? All too often I should still be listening when I let my words take control of my brain and my lips. Letting our words take control is letting our flesh take control. And you can bet sin won’t be far behind.

Words out of control can lead to anger and all kinds of sinful responses on both sides of a conversation. James connects words and the angry responses we need to avoid in that very verse when he calls us to be: “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” and the next verse explains that “man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19, 20, HCSB).

Proverbs 10:19 says it well. “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise” (HCSB). If we desire to live well—to “accomplish God’s righteousness”—maybe we don’t need to be as concerned about an attention deficit as we are about giving our attention to the right things. We’re not walking in righteousness, nor encouraging it in others, when we let our me-focused words run wild, when we focus on having our say rather than finding ways we can use our words to build up another, and when we let our focus slip away from genuinely caring for the people the Lord has called us to love.

O Lord, may my focus be always on You. Use my words to love others in Your name.

I do want to love others with sweet words of grace, Proverbs 16:24-style. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body” (HCSB).

And forgive me if it’s the ADD talking here, but to me, that sounds a whole lot like pie.

TWEETABLE
To Make a Long Story Pie – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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 novel Turtles in the Road, co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-CaffeinatedWhen the Heartcast Channel Movie Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic. 

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.

Join the conversation: Have you found ways to make yourself a better listener?

Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I get it. Sometimes we have difficulty letting go of the season. I was thinking that this year we should try something different. We could try doing Christmas—and then when it’s over, we could wait until next year to do Christmas again. My good friends—who also happen to be my neighbors—kept their Christmas lights up, and even the tree up, until June last year. June! It was so cute. They still turned the lights on every night. When summer rolled around, we were trying to decide if it was a late Christmas celebration or an early one for the next year.

When they came over for Bible study one evening, I teased them, “Tonight you will be visited by the Ghost of CHRISTMAS IS OVER, PEOPLE!”

Then again, I’ve heard a lot of people judge when it’s time to take down the Christmas tree by how dry it is and/or whether or not it’s currently on fire. Counting my blessings. Since my neighbor’s tree is fake.

I do understand how tough it can be to get motivated to take the decorations down and put them all away. Decorating? So exciting. But taking them down is rather a bummer. Last year I tried, “Okay, Google: Take down my Christmas lights,” but…nothing. There really should be an app for that.

Still, you know what? My neighbors might just have it right. Their twinkling tree and all the shiny lights on their house lit up our neighborhood most of the year. Maybe I’m the one who needs to adjust my thinking about what’s seasonal and what’s not. The truth is, my neighbors don’t leave their Christmas decorations up because they’re lazy about taking them down. They leave them up because they love Christmas. They really, really love Christmas.

The pre-Christmas celebrations started long before there was a first Christmas. Seven-hundred years before Christ, Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness,” (Isaiah 9:2). Then in verse 6 he wrote, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (CSB)

This? Oh my, this is something to shine about. Jesus confirmed it when He said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14, 16 CSB).

Light up the neighborhood. Light up the world.

We sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” every year. It’s a song sung to the city where our Jesus was born and it includes the phrase:

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.”

The everlasting Light that shone in Bethlehem is still shining. Our Father doesn’t want us to pack away our thoughts of our Savior’s coming like so many Christmas decorations. We’re to shine Gospel-light-living through our streets and through our world.

So let’s do it. Let’s light it up in every season.

And if you’d specifically like to see it lit up come summer, head on over to my neighborhood. We’ll leave the lights on.

No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.  Luke 11:33 NASB

TWEETABLE
Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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 and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

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.

Join the conversation: What are ways you can light up your neighborhood and world?

Christmas List-less-ness

by Rhonda Rhea  @RhondaRhea          

I was readying for a marathon Christmas shopping session when I suddenly felt noticeably…list-less. Not tired or disinterested or anything like that.

Not listless. List-less.

As in, we were into December and I hadn’t made the Christmas list. Hadn’t checked it once, much less twice. What was I thinking?

That list is usually taking over my life by early November, sassing me and hounding me and pitilessly bossing me around. A pushy little monster, that list. Every time I’d sit down to create it, I would start feeling a little Frankensteinian. Why would I purposefully create that beast? If I didn’t make it, it couldn’t bully me, right?

While I’m not necessarily listless around this season, now that my five kids are grown, I do sometimes get a little sentimental. I still grin at some of the outrageous want-lists I got from my kids. Sentimental now. More like “Santa-mental” then. What even were moon shoes? Just saying. Frankenstein’s monster would wear those.

Why is it so easy to get overwhelmed with the to-do lists and the Christmas lists and the monster lists of more monster lists in the season of giving? Shouldn’t I be feeling less Frankensteinian, more frankincense-ian?

I like thinking about the gifts given to Jesus, the gold reminding us of His kingship, frankincense of His role as Priest, and myrrh foreshadowing His death. If we listed other elements of the spirit of Christmas giving, I think we would top it with not only the three gifts to the Son, but:

  • The Father who gave the Son.
  • The Son who gave His life.
  • The Spirit who gives His constant presence.

Focusing on this triune “list” helps bring our other lists into perspective.

More people are depressed around the holidays than any other time of year. Many cite the stresses of the to-do-list-busyness. For others, it might be financial challenges or missing a loved one. Some have unmet expectations of that perfect holiday.

If you’re battling some lingering listlessness, try adding a couple of things to your to-do list:

  • Check the expectations. When we expect all our plans to come off just so and then they don’t, disappointment can become a monstrous joy-zapper. Not a single one of us can control every aspect of an event, and we can’t control even one aspect of a person.
  • When we’re joy-depleted, focusing on our King, our Priest, our Sacrificial Savior can miraculously bring joy back to life. Jesus said in John 15:11, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (CSB).

Guess what. No more listing needed. That last one? That’s it! Complete!

David said, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, CSB). David asks the Lord for one thing. One. David, what kind of list is that?

Lord, let my lists all boil down to this one thing: worship in Your presence. Oh the joy there!

I want to pray that prayer all season. All year. All always.

I should report, too, that I did finally make those lists. Then I tamed them by sewing them into one list and shooting electricity into it. Still not sure why I gave it neck-bolts.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.  Psalm 16:11 NASB

TWEETABLE
Christmas List-less-ness – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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 and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

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.

Join the conversation: What is your greatest joy-stealer?

Search High and Low—Without the Low

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I just finished digging through my purse for about 20 minutes, desperately searching for a business card that I’d stuck in there a few days ago. Know what I found instead? Yeah, besides the candy bar of unknown origin. Or age. I found instead the list I spent 20 minutes searching for yesterday. I have proven once again that it’s not just about the looking. It’s also about the overlooking. And, multi-tasker that I am, I can do both simultaneously. Even while eating a candy bar. (Don’t judge. It was chocolate. It’s not like I had a choice.)

My husband doesn’t judge. He doesn’t even tease me when I can’t find something in my purse. One reason is that he’s a really nice guy. I’m pretty sure the other reason is that he knows I see his office on a regular basis. Not that I’m comparing Richie’s office to my purse or anything. Nevertheless, I have to say, if he added nail polish, some lip gloss and a travel-sized can of hairspray, I could picture myself putting a shoulder strap on that office and hauling it to the mall to find shoes to match. We recently had to rummage through his office on a hunt for his keys. We searched high and low before we found them. I was glad to make it out of there in one piece. And without tetanus.

Today I was also rummaging around in Scripture—though it was an entirely different kind of rummaging—and the word “seek” caught my attention. “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4 ESV). I may look for a business card, look for a list, look for the keys—even look for the candy bar I didn’t know I had. But no search is as vital as this one. It’s a three-pronged search that I never, ever want to overlook. We’re told to seek the Lord, seek His strength and seek His presence. And to do this searching “continually.”

It’s a high search. To seek the Lord is to actively desire a connection with Him. It happens through reading His Word, through prayer, through worship—and through keeping fervent our desire to know Him more and more. Seeking His strength is recognizing that all might is His and that there’s nothing we can do in this life without His empowering. Seeking His presence is understanding that He is in us and that He’s at work around us. It’s surrendering to Him, asking for His filling. It encompasses a stubbornly determined, unrelenting desire to love Him more completely and serve Him more passionately.

Guess what happens when we seek the Lord continually. All the other searches in life fall into perspective. That’s a happy place—with or without the candy bar. The verse right before says, “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (Psalm 105:3 ESV).

A heart that’s rightly seeking is a heart that will rejoice. I want to glorify His holy name in the way that I seek. I want to be all about the looking. Never the overlooking. That’s definitely a key element in a life well-lived.

Incidentally, any time you find a key element, you might want to make sure you don’t leave it in my husband’s office. Or my purse.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB

TWEETABLE
Search High and Low—Without the Low – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout 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 and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

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.

Join the conversation: How has God revealed Himself to you when you have sought Him out?