Posted by: ritagone | December 13, 2017

Leading On!

I have just come home from two and a half days in the Denver area, meeting with the Board of Directors of Communitas International, the ministry I have served for over 20 years as a board member and then board chair.  We are a church planting ministry focused in Western Europe but also in North and South America, Eastern Europe and further east there, and we have weathered some pretty incredible changes over the almost 50 years of our existence.  Last month our third president tendered his resignation after being with the organization for a decade in two key positions, and so we gathered with the Senior Leadership Team to discuss, to pray, to dream, to figure out where God is taking us next.  We also got to meet with Dudley to say good-bye and to de-brief with him, to hear his heart and to bless him before he moves on to a ministry in Texas that is a wonderfully close fit for his giftings and personality.  We were able to say good-bye to his wife and two lovely teenaged daughters, closure which is not always possible in these situations, and for that we are immensely grateful.  It was not an easy time: there were lots of tears and emotion and expressions of love and thanks.  A bit of criticism and “what if’s.”  That’s to be expected.  But after all of that, we eight, with the help of a consultant/facilitator who had been a part of the ministry for many, many years in the recent past, were able to talk, to plan, to organize, to laugh, to dream.  “How do we reassure the staff, who are probably worried and concerned in this time of transition, that they are in good hands?”  That was one of the questions we tackled, and I think we answered it well, or at least began to do so.  “What are some of the key measures we need to put into place right now for stability and continuity?” was another key question.

We didn’t get everything answered and settled, by any means, but when we finished our meeting on Tuesday afternoon, I think we felt that we had accomplished quite a bit.  I think we were comfortable with a job well done.  We had set ourselves up for the next “gathering,” a phone conference call for January, and the next gathering after that, another in person meeting in Southern California toward the end of February.  We’re meeting.  We’re talking.  We’re praying.  (That’s probably the most important part to all of this.)  We’re committed to moving forward with a mission we all believe in.

If you look at the photos below, you’ll see on the left the “serious” shot of us as a group, taking a break to take our picture together.  I wish I weren’t in the front.  I’m always in the front because I’m shortest.  Yuck.  But if you’ll notice, we’re smiling.  We’re standing close to one another.  There’s no tension.  No fists.  No weapons are drawn.  That’s a good thing.  The second photograph speaks for itself.  “Let’s do something silly,” someone said.  And we very easily slipped into silly mode.  Someone suggested that I looked like I was biting off Jeff’s ear.  I was not.  But it makes for a funny photograph, doesn’t it?

Pray for us.  In that mix of people are those who love and care for Communitas International right now in a special way.  Pray for wisdom and discernment and strength and insight for us.  And maybe even a donation or two thrown in for good measure.  We love serving a vibrant and intimate and loving God.

I hope you’re serving Him somewhere, somehow today too.

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Posted by: ritagone | December 6, 2017

Bye, Bye, Job! (And Thanks!)

Tomorrow I finish

 teaching Job at Connection, the Thursday morning womens’ Bible study at my church.  I started preparing to teach Job long about the first of this year, so it’s been almost a long time — full year — of reading various commentaries (written by Ray Stedman, Tim Keller, Elisabeth Eliott, Charles Swindoll and a few others), taking copious notes, putting together rough drafts of twelve lessons, re-doing some of those lessons, then re-doing them again, putting music along with the lessons, asking my daughter to sing songs that fit in well with particular themes of the various lessons, moving things around some more. Editing, shortening, editing some more. It’s been the equivalent of a part-time job!!

It’s what you do when you’re preparing to teach for about three months.  (The only Thursday I didn’t teach was Thanksgiving.)  You try to stay as far ahead as you can, knowing that every week, when you finish one lesson, you leap into immediate preparation for next week’s lesson.

 

During the time this group of ladies has been studying Job, two of our community have passed away, so we’ve been to two memorial services together, sharing the sadness that that kind of event brings.  We’ve shared laughter too, and lots of wonderful moments.  That’s what Bible studies like this are meant to do, and that’s what has happened.  It wasn’t just about being in God’s Word, although there was lots of that.  It was about sharing life together, personal stories and jokes and sweet moments of openness and vulnerability that can only happen when you are together week in and week out, along with the sad times of loss.

 

But first and foremost, I have to say that I myself am not the same person today that I was when I started immersing in the book of Job.  It has literally changed my life, in the way I think about God, who He is and how He moves in and through the world around me.  I will never be the same as long as I live.  The verse – the phrase – that keeps running through my head is 42:5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  It’s as if previously God had been shared with me, talked about to me, but now, He is in front of me, my eyes can see Him, He is a part of me in ways He never was before.

They say teachers often learn more than their students because they live with the material so much longer and get to go so much deeper, and I really believe that.  Job and I are now old friends.  Mrs. Job is known to me.  We are not strangers.  We never will be.  But more importantly, the God who is talked about in the book of Job – who is no stranger to Job or his wife – is much more known to me now too.

If this is what comes of teaching the Bible, then may I spend the rest of my days preparing lessons out of Scripture, whether there is someone at the other end of those lessons or not!

So good-bye, Job, and thank you for the life-changing lessons you have bestowed on me and hopefully a few others along the way.  What you went through – your sufferings and your time of hardship – were certainly not experienced in vain.

And if Elihu happens to be around, I have one question to ask you about him: is he still talking?

Posted by: ritagone | November 29, 2017

J.B. Phillips Has Something To Say To Us

Here’s a great little section in J.B. Phillips’ “The Newborn Christian,” a book which I continue to read every morning and continue to find a huge blessing in my life.  Hope you will too.

 

The Love Commandments

 

 

To love God with the whole of our personalities and powers is, according to the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 22:38, the “first and great commandment.” Yet among the thousands of people outside the ranks of the Church there would be very few who could be found to agree with him.  “Be a decent chap and don’t worry your head too much about God” – this is the working philosophy of a good many people.

Those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians are committed to accept Christ’s authority, though not unthinkingly; and when we come to look behind what appear at first to be arbitrary commands, we find that invariably He had good reasons for the principles He laid down.  So it is here…

Unless we believe in God and love Him, the qualities we value, the things we call “good” or “bad,” are purely a matter of personal opinion.  Your “good” may be my “bad” and vice versa…But Christians have an influence on national thought and conscience out of all proportion to their numerical strength; and even today a very large part of our tradition of behavior is nothing less than the fruit of Christian ideals having percolated almost imperceptibly into our habits of thinking…

It is comparatively easy for us to love those “neighbors” who are nice and friendly towards us.  It is easy to love the attractive and charming personalities of our friends.  But Christ made it quite clear that loving our “neighbor” did not stop at loving our particular circle, but loving all those with whom life brought us into contact.

You will remember His semi-humorous comment on those who thought that to love their particular friends was enough – “Do not even the publicans the same?” We might paraphrase that – “Aren’t even the tax-collectors nice to their pals?” No, if there is ever to be a happy and peaceful world we have all of us got to learn to understand and to love the difficult, the exasperating, and the unlovable – and that is a superhuman task.

I use the word “superhuman” deliberately, for by ourselves, without the inspiration that comes from loving God, it is plainly impossible for us to love, in the sense that Christ uses the word, our fellow men.

A clergyman probably realizes this far more acutely than the average layman.  There are many departments of life where obviously you possess more knowledge and experience than I do; but in this matter of living in love and charity with all kinds of people the parson has to know a good deal.  Forgive my plain speaking, but is it not true that if you find someone who is “difficult” or conceited or annoying, it is quite the easiest thing in the world for you simply to withdraw yourself and make friends with just those with whom you get on?  But such a course is not open to me.  I have to learn to understand and work with all kinds of different temperaments and outlooks, and in consequence I get a unique opportunity of seeing just how difficult is Christ’s second commandment – to love other people as we love ourselves.

Frankly, I see no prospect of our even wanting to obey the second commandment seriously until we have begun to obey the first.  We don’t really see other men and women as our brothers and sisters simply by talking airily about the brotherhood of man.  We only see them as such when we begin to get a vision of God the Father.  It is so fatally easy to talk highfalutin hot air about all the world being “one big family,” and yet fail to “get on” with the members of our own families, or with those who live next door, or in the apartment above us.  In sober fact, men do not really love their fellows, except their own particular friends, until they have seriously begun to love God.  It is only then that we learn to drop the destructive attitude of hatred and contempt and criticism, and begin to adopt the constructive attitude of Christian love.  So, then, the second reason for the command to love God being “the first and great commandment”’ is that we don’t really keep the second until we have obeyed the first.

 

 

This was written 40 years ago.  Wouldn’t you say it’s as pertinent and applicable now as it was then…maybe more so?

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 22, 2017

Grandparents Day, 2017

This is a guest blog by my husband Michael, who is the funniest person I know.  I can prove it: he made his living for 30 years being funny, writing sitcoms and producing them and being very successful at this.  So enjoy his contribution to this week’s Rita’s Ramblings; I know I did!!!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this.  I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends and that you appreciate and are thankful for all that God has blessed you with.

 

Our grandchildren (6th and 8Th grades) attend a private middle school near us. We were informed that today would be “Grandparents Day”. An opportunity to hear the middle school band and choir sing patriotic songs, visit our grandkids classes and see cute little pieces of pottery.

This will be fun.

In the English class (where the 8th graders are reading CALL OF THE WILD) the discussion was around the beating of the Husky “Buck” and the death of the other dogs and people on the sled.

Then sentences were outlined. I had no idea what the teacher was talking about when he started to explain how the object of a preposition takes an oblique case. I still felt bad for Buck.

Then it was on to our 6th grader’s art class where she was making what looked very much like a Fabergé egg.

Their other classes included algebra and computer studies where both students were designing computer programs for use with renderings based on “motion captured live action.” Whatever that is.

Then I dropped into the 8th grade science/engineering class where our grandson was working with a 3D printer making the housing for the small unit that will be sent to NASA for their next test flight to Mars. Something about the unit testing the gamma radiation in solar storms.

Clearly, I could not succeed at middle school in this place, even if I could get admitted.  I felt so profoundly stupid and was the most depressed I can ever remember being. It is bad enough that my phone is smarter than me, now I have a 12 and a 14 year old that make me feel inferior.

If you get invited to “Grandparents Day” at a middle school, watch out.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 15, 2017

A Wedding, Many Memories

 

This past week we went to the beautiful wedding of the daughter of friends.  We have such a long history with these friends, although, strangely, we don’t have much relationship with the daughter who got married or her sister. She was that much younger than our kids that our paths didn’t cross often when our two were growing up or when she and her sister were doing so. But there was still lots of inter-connectedness, which I find fascinating.  For example, the sister of the bride now works with my son-in-law.  The groom’s father took out my husband’s appendix a few year’s ago.  Many of the guests used to attend the same small local church, so it was like old-home week, greeting and catching up with one another.

In the top five Strengths of StrengthFinders I have Connectedness, so I love to see the web of history and family and job and church and whatever that connects people together.  So going to a wedding like this is a field day for me, a constant joy of recognition of someone you haven’t seen for years, perhaps, and talking about what he or she has been doing, what they’ve been up to, travels, kids being born, grandkids, accomplishments, sorrows, all of life covered in a few short minutes before you move on to the next revelation of connectedness (usually dragging Husband behind me).  I love it all; he, not so much.

This was a particularly beautiful setting at a local country club on a day that would rival a setting in heaven: trees full and lush and seemingly misplaced from a New England landscape, an outdoor terrace, the perfect temperature (it is Southern California in mid-November, after all), and a ceremony so beautiful in its writing and vision that I wish it could be published for others to copy.

After this gorgeous, perfect, flawless ceremony, people were free to mill around and visit with one another before dinner was served, the perfect opportunity to say hello to old friends, people we hadn’t seen in many years, catch up and fill in the blanks.  Again, I love this kind of time, those connections, those moments that make you realize just how much people mean to you, even people you haven’t seen or talked to for a long time.

 

Then we were asked to go inside for the incredible dinner and program for the evening.

We sat at Table #15 with four other couples, but it was especially fun to be at the same table with one of the couples because of a long and meaningful history with them.  He knows our kids from their youth and poured into them for many years, and it paid off.  She and her family are part of the rich heritage of our church, and I see her wonderful mother every week at my womens’ Bible study.  Another of the couples shares a Broadway musical love with me in particular, and so it’s always fun to spend an evening talking about which plays we’ve seen or want to see.  The food was great, the fellowship was even better, and it was a constant stream of saying hello and greeting people, hugs, laughter: the kind of evening that happens only rarely, unfortunately. A magical evening that I won’t forget soon.

What you share with people around you is so important, the history, the connections, the love.  This was brought home to me so strongly Saturday at this wedding.  It made me want to remember every person in my life, and what I share with them.

 

As I get older and older, I’m more and more aware of these connections, and I cherish them more and more.  They are, after all, the web of life, what makes substance of every day, what gives history and meaning to what has passed.  And better than television are the memories that we can call up when we re-live the experiences we had on a Saturday afternoon at a gorgeous wedding!!!

You’ve had experiences like this too.

Make sure you remember them and treasure them too.

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 8, 2017

Sometimes Shorter is Better…

This is a recent Seth Godin blog (October 26, 2017, to be exact) that I love for its brevity and impact. Enjoy.

 

Important, popular or viral

Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought.

Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do.

Viral work is what happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what you did.

Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you’re going to need to choose.

Posted by: ritagone | November 1, 2017

What I Learned From the Book of Job

 

I’m teaching the book of Job on Thursday morning to a bunch of lovely ladies at my church.

I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed teaching a book of the Bible as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching Job, as heavy as that book can be, because of its topics: suffering, losing everything, sorrow, sadness.

Why am I enjoying it so much?  Well, to paraphrase from the hit song “New York, New York”: “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,” if you can learn how to live by reading the book of Job, you can literally survive anything.  Job did.  He’s become my hero.  I’ve watched him lose everything of any importance both physically and emotionally in his life, and then endure the badgering of four friends who got it all wrong and couldn’t shut up, who felt it necessary to tell him everything they thought he did wrong and that they thought they knew was right in their own eyes.  You know people like that: smug and sure of themselves, sure of how God works in everyone else’s life.  Really annoying under the best of circumstances, bu

 

t when you’ve lost everything the way Job had, it’s the very thing you don’t want or need in your situation.

And yet, he moved through their diatribes, and the ghost-like monologue of Elihu, who went on and on for six chapters and then faded away into oblivion, and wound up seeing God more clearly than he ever had before.  “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  I have come to believe that Job 42:5 is one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible.  I had heard about you, but now I’ve seen you face to face.  I liken it to a place you have always wanted to see in person – the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, or, for me, Red Square in Moscow – a place you’ve dreamed about and seen pictures of, and then, all of a sudden, there you are, standing there seeing it in person, and it’s every bit as awesome as you th

 

ought it would be.  No, more!!!  Job’s relationship with God will never be the same again.  True, nothing will make up for the loss of the 10 children he dearly loved.  But his relationship with the God of the universe will be deeper and stronger than it ever was before.  And that counts for quite a bit!

And when he died, after God had blessed him more than he had ever been blessed before he lost everything, the last verse of the book of Job says this: “And so he died, old and full of years” (Job 42:17).  I don’t know about you, but I’d settle for that epitaph any day.

So I went in reading and studying and learning about the book of Job the first of this year with low expectations, or maybe I should say no expectations at all.  I read almost a dozen commentaries, from Charles Swindoll to Tim Keller to Elisabeth Eliott to Ray Stedman, I took notes, I thought and I processed and I prayed.  And I prayed some more.   And God has done what He is so good at: He has turned my world upside down and blessed me more than I could ever have imagined.  And in turn I am seeing that this book is a blessing to those ladies who are attending the class.  I know this because they are telling me so.  And it’s not me, truly; it’s how God is speaking to them through what Job endured, what he learned, how he grew and stretched and touched the heart of his Savior.

 

If you are looking for a great blessing, might I suggest you spend some time before the end of 2017 reading the book of Job.  Ask God to bless you, to open your eyes to the richness in the words and thoughts contained in it, and tell Him that you want to come away from it a changed person.  Tell Him that you want to see Him, not just hear about Him, and I bet you anything you won’t be disappointed!!!

 

Posted by: ritagone | October 25, 2017

A Puritan Prayer

This is a prayer I read in a book “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.”  I find that other peoples’ prayers are often helpful to my own prayer life, as you can tell by the number of times I have used someone like Peter Marshall’s prayers this year as I have read through his prayers to and for the Senate of the U.S.  Other peoples’ prayers loosen up my own thoughts and feelings so that I can direct what I want to say to God.  I hope this helps you do the same.  I was going to write something profound on my own this morning, but I had a blitzing migraine yesterday and was laid up all day.  I promise that next week I’ll be back with an original thought!!!  But meanwhile, this is better than just “making do.”  Enjoy and savor it.

 

When thou wouldst guide me I control myself,

When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself.

When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself.

When I should depend on thy providings I supply myself,

When I should submit to thy providence I follow my will,

When I should study, love, honour, trust thee, I serve myself;

I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself,

Instead of thee I look to man’s approbation, and am by nature an idolater.

Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee.

Convince me that I cannot be my own god, or make myself happy,

Nor my own Christ to restore my joy, nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, rule me.

Help me to see that grace does this by providential affliction, for when my credit is god thou                 dost cast me lower, when riches are my idol thou dost wing them away, when pleasure is my all thou dost turn it into bitterness.

Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart;

Show me that none of these things can heal a wounded conscience, or

Support a tottering frame, or uphold a departing spirit.

Then take me to the cross and leave me there.

 

Posted by: ritagone | October 18, 2017

Another Peter Marshall Rambling

Peter Marshall’s prayers never cease to amaze and touch me.  I’m almost finished with the book as a devotional this year, but I know that I will pull it out and read it again and again soon.  Here’s another of the prayers that linger in my heart.

 

 

Wednesday, June 2, 1948

 

O Lord, let us never be afraid of a new idea or unreceptive to a new thought, lest we pull down the shades of our minds and exclude Thy holy light.  When confronted by mystery, help us to remember that we do not have to explain all we know or understand all we believe.  But give us the grace of humility and the spirit of the open mind, the courage to persist in face of difficulties, and a steady confidence in the power of truth.

 

Help us all to learn something this day, that we shall be wise at its close and more ready for our eternal home when we are one step nearer.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Posted by: ritagone | October 11, 2017

Something To Think About…

As always, I’m struck by another Peter Marshall prayer out of his book of prayers that I’m reading through this season in my early morning devotions.  Read it and see if it blesses you as it has me, especially in these times when everyone seems to be self-centered and kind of crazy-making!:

Monday, May 24, 1948

 

“Our Father in heaven, today we pray for Thy gift of contentment, that we may not waste our time desiring more, but learn to use and enjoy what we have.

 

We may not know everything, but we may know Thee and Thy will.  We need not be rich to be generous, nor have all wisdom to be understanding.  Our influence may not be great, but it can be good.  Our speech may not be eloquent, but it can be truthful and sincere.  We cannot all have good looks, but we can have good conscience, and having that, we shall have peace of mind and need fear no man.

 

May we be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as Thou, for Christ’s sake, hast forgiven us.  Amen.”

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