Posted by: ritagone | November 27, 2019

Thankful For…(Fill in the Blank)

I spent yesterday

morning at my grandchildrens’ school celebrating Grandparents’ Day, an annual occurrence where grandparents are invited and honored, served a light breakfast, spend about an hour watching and listening to a program that consists of very touching and endearing speeches and some amazing music – instrumental and vocal – to entertain

and amaze (with much of the vocal music put together by my talented son-in-law, Ed Rouse, I might proudly add).

Then, after lunch is served where you can eat with your grandkids (without their parents, which is a great deal of fun and not often occurring), you go off to classes with one or several of the kids, hoping that in your family you have enough grandparents to cover the grandkids. I got to see some dear friends, also there as grandparents to their own grandkids, catch up a bit with them, and enjoyed the day for that also.

At the end of the school day, I came away tired but entirely thrilled with my senior granddaughter Olivia’s classes, teachers, classmates (who politely looked me in the eye, introduced themselves to me and shook my hand, no less), and so proud of Olivia that had I had buttons on my blouse, they would have been bursting.

With Thanksgiving looming, it made me want to stop and give thanks to God for my four grandchildren, among so many other things that I know I often take for granted.  If ever there was a time that we can and should reflect on the blessings we have from God, it’s Thanksgiving.

So this is short and sweet: an admonishment to take time this Thanksgiving, if you’re cooking, setting the table, planning the games or festivities, whatever tasks loom before you in the next 48 hours, that you stop and take a minute or two to ponder the gifts in your life that God has given you, thank Him for them, and fill in the blank of the sentence in the title of this particular post:  I am thankful for …..

Posted by: ritagone | November 20, 2019

Time To Move On…

I remember in 2002 when Michael retired from the TV business.  It was a major change in our lives because, all of a sudden, he was around

the house.  We went from his being gone during the weekdays from morning till night to his being home — all the time!  I thought I would love having him home all the time.  I was wrong.

Because my life and my schedule stayed the same: I went to Bible studies, had lunch with friends, grocery shopped, etc., etc., etc.  So when he would look at me with doleful eyes and whine and say, “What are you doing for lunch?” I would reply, “I have plans.”  The inference was: “Make your own way.  You’re retired.  Get a life.”  Eventually he did.  He found plenty to do.  There IS life after retirement, no matter how busy and successful your career might have been.  And we adjusted very nicely to this new normal of his being around without a regular job to go to.  In fact, now it’s quite nice having him around all the time.

Now I’m facing a sort of retirement of my own.  At the end of this year, I will step down as Board Chair of Christian Associates/Communitas International, after over 20 years in that role.  This is happening for lots of good reasons, not the least of which is that I’m 75 years old now and slower, with less stamina than what I used to have for international travel, for thinking and working out problems, for dealing with “stuff” on an everyday basis.  It’s time for younger bodies and minds to take over.  I am not, alas, I have discovered, immortal or invincible.  I always said I wanted to leave before they were getting the hook and pulling me off the stage, so the time is now.

And it’s a good time to be leaving: we have a new President, a great guy, who I believe is going to revitalize the organization and take it further and higher than it has ever been before, following God’s leading into new projects and areas of the world and casting new vision.

We have a new, younger slanting board, with much enthusiasm and vitality, eager to bring new perspectives and energy to overseeing the organization.  And a new Board Chair, who has been with Communitas from the point of view of church planting in the south of France to acting as our Head of Recruiting for many years until he stepped into the secular world of business in Austin, Texas.  Now he combines business and ministry savvy and an enthusiasm for the job of leading a board and working closely with the President and other leaders to further what God has planned for this ministry.

Communitas is in my DNA and always will be.  I realize that when you quit a job or retire, your context changes, and the people you spent a lot of time with, talking on the phone, gathering together for meetings, shifts into new and unknown relationships, and that’s what I’m now preparing myself for.  I know it will be sad and bittersweet to not be in constant contact with the people who I have come to love and respect over the last two decades.

But I also know that this is definitely what I should be doing, so I’m trusting God to flesh out this new season in my life with something meaningful and exciting, whether it involves new people or those I already know, new ministries or something I’m already involved in.  Whatever my life entails, I look forward to it with relish, pressing on to what lies ahead but not forgetting for one second the blessings and the richness of relationships and experience that I have had the privilege to enjoy over the last years.

There are few people I know who have been blessed as I have been to be in the role of Board Chair of an organization like Communitas, especially, I might add, few women.  I don’t ever take it lightly. I never will.

Posted by: ritagone | November 13, 2019

Creatures of Habit

For their entire lives (almost 10 years and soon to be eight) our two dogs, Sherlock and Watson (please don’t laugh – we thought we were pretty clever at the time that we named them!) have slept on our California king bed with us, Sherlock tucked between our heads with his own head on part of the king-sized pillow, Watson at our feet, rotating back and forth as one of us moved or rolled over (because we seemed to be disturbing her).

Now, as they are “getting on” in dog years, we’ve noticed some mobility issues (with the dogs, I mean), some back leg problems, mostly as a result of jumping off the bed when they want to get down.  Getting up on the bed is easy: we have a set of stairs and a wooden chest in which we store blankets and other things we haven’t looked at since 1994 at the foot of the bed.  They climb up easily onto the bed via that route.  But when they want down, they have never gone down that same pathway.  They just jump off either side of the bed onto the floor.

Which, as we all know, is fine when you’re a pup, but not so good as you age into maturity.  Like humans, tendons, muscles and cartilage tend to deteriorate, and injuries can more easily be sustained, especially from jumping.  These are small dogs, 15-19 pounds (Sherlock being the lighter dog), but the trip to the ground is relatively long consistent with their weight and age.

So our vet – who has taken care of both of them since their births – suggested getting them to sleep off of the bed from now on.

Easier said than done.

Also like humans, dogs are creatures of habit, and so, when we removed the stairs and the chest from the bed and set up two very comfortable beds for them on the floor this past week, this was caninely – should I say doggedly —  unacceptable.

At the end of our bed we saw two heads looking at us with questions and concern.  They were both up on hind legs staring down at us, or up at us, as the case might be. And, I might add, a bit of “Oh no, you don’t!!” on their faces.  Yes, there was whining.  Lots of whining.

I confess our determination to keep the dogs off the bed lasted a very short time.  Okay, not even half an hour.  (See photo of smug Sherlock staring at camera in victory, while Watson is the black blob sound asleep already.)

Raising children was easier than dealing with dogs.  Children can sometimes listen to reason.  Dogs are too much creatures of habit; they want what they want, what they have always had, and reason plays no part at all.  But then, when they’re up on the bed with you and they look at you with those soulful brown eyes and lick your hand, who can resist?

Obviously not Michael and me!

Posted by: ritagone | November 6, 2019

Annoyed

Another person whose blogs I read with interest and stimulation is Seth Godin, whose pithy writing gets right to the point.  He’s not a follower of Jesus, but it just proves that truth is truth, whoever speaks it.  I like the fact that he writes short and terse, readable in a few minutes but applicable to what’s going on in my life.

Hope you enjoy this post of his, which I found brought a smile to my face and made me think.  Who could ask more of a blog?

 

 

 

 

Annoyed

Does being annoyed serve any useful purpose?

If it does, are there classes you can take or experiences you can pay for that help you become annoyed? We have gyms to get fit and mindfulness exercises to get calm, but I’m not sure I’m seeing a widespread movement toward seeking annoyance.

So, if being annoyed is simply a side effect of something else we do, and it’s not actually useful, why do we work so hard to amplify the annoyance we feel? Why create a narrative, push hard against the powerless bureaucrat or the stuck pickle jar simply to make ourselves even more annoyed?

The only person who is getting taught a lesson is us.

 

Posted by: ritagone | October 30, 2019

My Head is Spinning!!!

Sometimes there’s just too much information and emotion coming in, and my head literally feels like it’s spinning and going to careen off my neck and into a wall.

Over-stimulated.

It must be what a person with ADD or ADHD (what’s the difference between the two? I’ve never understood that) feels like all the time, and it’s not pleasant.  Too much TV, too many thoughts going round in my head, studying to teach on Thursday morning, which means the book of Ephesians is percolating constantly (pretty heady stuff in itself), the news and the fires and the winds and is the world coming to an end?

And then I read a poem by Mary Oliver, one of my favorites, and I’ll share it with you because it settled my spirits and my spinning head faster than anything.  It’s called “I Worried,” and it goes like this:

 

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers

Flow in the right direction, will the earth turn

as it was taught, and if not, how shall

I correct it?

 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,

can I do better?

 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well,

hopeless.

 

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,

am I going to get rheumatism,

lockjaw, dementia?

 

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And gave it up. And took my old body

and went out into the morning,

and sang.

 

Poetry is God’s gift to us to make our head stop spinning.

Try it some time.

 

Posted by: ritagone | October 23, 2019

WHAT IF GOD ALWAYS SAID YES?

Here’s another great devotional out of the book “Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie, which I’m using this year as one of my morning devotional studies.  It really hit me this morning, and I hope it impacts you in a profound way too.

 

WHAT IF GOD ALWAYS SAID YES?

 

He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will not mine.” – Matthew 26:39

 

While some people understandably took offense at what they deemed a lack of respect for God in the movie Bruce Almighty, I appreciated how it illustrated what might happen if God always said yes to our prayers. Jim Carrey’s character in the movie is granted the power of omnipotence and assumes responsibility for answering prayer requests sent via email to God’s computer. He takes the easy route and types “yes” over and over, which he later discovers has profound and harmful implications he never anticipated.

The fact that so many of us become indignant toward God when he does not answer our prayers as we would like him to reveals the superficiality and consumer mentality we have toward God. If he gives us what we want, we think he is good, and if he says no, we quickly assume he must not be good. But the reality is, often God’s noes are the best gifts he can give us, because we pray as sinners, using prayer to advance our selfish interests. If we knew that God would grant our every request, certainly we would ask for those things we think are best for us – health and wealth and success and comfort – rather than what God has deemed to be best for us – our increasing holiness and humility, faithfulness in service, and awareness of our utter dependence on God. So in his mercy, God spares us from getting what we want. When God says no, he is protecting us, preparing us, and loving us.

And lest we think our Father doesn’t love us when he says no, we need only consider the love for us that caused him to say no to his own Son. Kneeling in agony as he faced the Cross, the fully God, fully human Jesus asked God to take away the suffering that was ahead for him on the cross if there was any other way to accomplish our redemption. And God said no. Imagine if God had said yes to this prayer of Jesus. Jesus would have been spared the wrath of God pouring down on him, but we would not have been spared. In saying no to Jesus, God said yes to you and me and all those who will believe.

 

My eternal Yes, you have shown me how to submit my will and my desires to yours so that I want nothing more than for your will to be done. Teach me to hear the yes in every no I receive from you in prayer.

Posted by: ritagone | October 16, 2019

Pain 101

My favorite writer, C.S. Lewis, sarcastically wrote: “If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.”  I think what he meant – or at least one of the things he might have meant, if I might be so bold as to interpret the great man – was that when you are in pain, it’s difficult to get past that pain to do anything else or to think about anything else.

I’ve been very fortunate in my 75 years.  I have never had a broken bone or a surgery that has taken away one of my organs.  I’ve been extremely healthy and relatively doctor free except for the minor ailments that have besieged me during my lifetime: migraine headaches that are now more or less under control due to new medications, thankfully.

 

So it’s been a learning experience, among other things, to have had a really sore right arm for the last four days, a soreness that came out of nowhere.  I didn’t bump it or hurt it lifting something; there’s no immediate cause for the pain I’m feeling.  The only thing I can think of is that I slept on it wrong and, at my tender age, that’s a federal offense pain-wise.  Heating pad treatment doesn’t help.  Advil seems to work.  I don’t want to go to the doctor yet because I know that that will most likely result in a series of specialists and other procedures and such, and I want to give it time to heal on its own.

I have a massage this morning, my regularly scheduled bi-weekly appointment and a luxury that I indulge in because I’ve lived to 75 years of age!!  She comes to my home and sets up in my bedroom, and for one hour I can feel the tensions and cramps of the last two weeks being massaged away.  So maybe that will help my arm, but it’s not really that kind of discomfort, so we’ll see.

Above all, I hate thinking about the pain, the discomfort, being aware of it, having to work around it.  I’m not used to it.  But I’m trying to be mature about it.  No, beyond that, I’m working hard to pray it through, to ask God to show me what He wants me to learn from it.  I’m studying the book of Ephesians and teaching it every Thursday morning, and if ever there were a book of the Bible filled with lessons about how to bear up in one’s pain, Paul is there to tell us how to

look your pain – physical, emotional, circumstantial – in the eye and then get on with living for Jesus.  I want to be like Paul.  I don’t want to be like Rita, who wants to whine and say, “Why me?  Why is this happening to me?  I don’t deserve this,” so many times a day that even I get sick of hearing it.

And after all, it’s only a sore arm.  It could be worse.

So if it might be, okay, Paul, show me how to let Jesus in, how to not let pain be the winner in this wrestling match.

And if it’s temporary, then this too shall pass, and I’ve got more important things to focus on.

And yet, as C.S. Lewis said, pain does pull us away from whatever it is we’re wanting to focus on.  And there’s the problem…of pain.

What are you learning or have you learned in the midst of whatever pain you have suffered or are suffering?  It’s a good question to ask.

Posted by: ritagone | October 9, 2019

What’s a Hug Worth?

If you’ve followed the Amber Guyger story, you know that she was a Dallas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man when she mistakenly thought he was in her home.  It’s one of the saddest, most unnecessary crimes I’ve ever read about.  I don’t think she meant to do it, and she certainly seems to exhibit terrible remorse.  But still, a man is dead, and no amount of remorse will bring him back.

In a courtroom last week, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Judge Tammy Kemp is a black judge, a woman of faith who for 25 years has attended the same church in Dallas, where she serves as a deaconess.  She keeps a Bible in her chambers so she remembers to pray.  She encourages defendants sentenced to prison terms to use that time to remake their lives into something positive.

So when Guyger was sentenced to a decade in prison, she asked the judge for advice and a hug.  Now, that alone is fairly unprecedented in criminal justice proceedings!  Judge Kemp told her about the sermon she had heard in church the previous Sunday: the parable of the Lost Sheep, where the shepherd who has lost one sheep out of 100 still goes looking for that one lost one (Matthew 18:12-14).   And then she gave her the requested hug.  That photo has gone viral, but not always positively.

The victim’s brother also gave the perpetrator a hug after she was found guilty of killing his brother.  He forgave her.  Most people, I think, read about that and saw the photo of that hug and were brought to tears because of his position of forgiveness, because it is so rare and so touching.  A brother forgiving and reaching out to his brother’s murderer.  Unheard of.  If you haven’t seen the viral photograph of this hug, Google it.  It should bring you to tears.  I’m not sure if there was any public outcry about his forgiveness of Guyger’s crime.  (In our world, I’m sad to say that there probably was.  How sad is that?)

But the outcry against the judge is coming hot and heavy: she shouldn’t have put forth her religious beliefs. Why did she bring a Bible into the courtroom? She violated separation of church and state issues, and on and on and on.

The judge, who has become one of my heroes, felt remorse all right: that she had to be asked twice by Ms. Guyger for that hug.  Judge Kemp hesitated because she knew what the backlash was going to be, and didn’t rush right into the embrace the defendant asked for.

I can only shake my head in bewilderment, that a hug and a Bible can be so severely criticized in a culture where shootings run rampant, where hatred is spewed everywhere, and where people feel that they have the right and the privilege to tell everyone else how awful they are for behaving in a way they don’t agree with.

That a judge would come under severe criticism for hugging a person in her courtroom who so obviously admitted and felt remorse for what she had done is beyond me.  That that same judge was willing to hug her and give her a Bible speaks about courage and bravery in the face of a culture that doesn’t “get” the right thing to do when it is faced with it.

God, make me willing to hug like Judge Kemp when and where I can.  And may that hug – and that Bible – find blessings and results in the heart of the woman who received them.  And may she pay it forward in her surroundings in the prison where she will spend the next decade of her life.

Posted by: ritagone | September 11, 2019

DISPLAYING THE GLORY OF GOD

   As I’ve shared often here, I’m using Nancy Guthrie’s “Book of Hope” as one of my devotional books this year and loving it.  Nancy and her husband had a baby girl, Hope, born with Zellweger Syndrome; she lived for only six months.  Another child, Gabriel, was also born with the disease and died even sooner.

         Out of her despair and sorrow came this book of worship to the God she drew closer to each day, each week, each month.  Her personal experience has given courage and comfort to thousands of people around the world, and so I share this particular devotion with you in the hopes that it will bring you courage and comfort and more understanding of what it means to worship the God of the universe.

 

DISPLAYING THE GLORY OF GOD

 

“Teacher,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” – John 9:2-3

 

Shortly after Hope’s birth, we realized that it was going to be very difficult to explain her condition and our thoughts and feelings about it over and over.  So we sent out a card to everyone we knew, explaining that her life would be very short.  We closed by saying, “Our desire is that God would be glorified in our lives and in Hope’s life in the months and years to come.” From what I knew of Scripture, I believed that we had the ability to bring glory to God in how we responded and dealt day by day with this difficulty.  I believed that the purpose of Hope’s short life and my life was and is to glorify God.

But that belief became more real to me a few months later at the Good Friday service at our church, as David and I read the same lines we read each year, retelling the story of Creation and Redemption and the ancient prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.  That year the words seemed to leap off the page.  No longer was it necessary for me to interpret the whole of Scripture in my efforts to understand God’s purpose in Hope’s life.  That night I read it clearly in Jesus’ own words, spoken in response to the disciples when they asked why a man was born blind.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3 NIV).

Are you looking for purpose in your suffering?  Would you be willing to make it your purpose to allow the work of God to be displayed in your life?  The very glory of God can be displayed in your life in a way that is unmistakable.  How? You can reflect the character of God in your response to suffering. Instead of demanding that God explain himself and his purpose, you can decide to trust him, recognizing that your circumstances provide an unparalleled opportunity to glorify God just by trusting in his purpose, even when you can’t see that purpose.

 

Glorious God, it seems unimaginable that you would choose to reveal your glory through my life.  But what a privilege! Would you show me what needs to be cleaned away so I might be a faithful reflection of who you are?

Posted by: ritagone | September 4, 2019

I Interrupt My Regularly Scheduled Rita’s Ramblings…

I was going to do something completely different for my Ramblings today, but there was an unforeseen event this past Sunday morning that turned me in another direction.  A God moment, if you will, that I want to share with you instead.

I watched a recorded third round of the U.S. Open women’s tennis tournament.  Why, you might ask?  Well, once upon a time I was not only a bit of a tennis player (okay, okay, decades ago, but that qualifies indeed as once upon a time), but I’ve always enjoyed watching various matches and tournaments down through the years.  This was one involving the 15-year-old American phenomenon Coco Gauff and Japanese #1 player Naomi Osaka, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

As matches go, it was pretty clear cut: Osaka won in two sets.  Gauff put up a good fight, but she was clearly outpowered and out-maneuvered by her 21-year-old opponent.

But that’s not what I want to talk about here; it was what came at the end of the match that was so amazing.  Gauff – she is, after all, only 15 – was very teary-eyed and weepy when the match ended.  She stood at the net to congratulate her opponent, and Osaka approached, hugged her and obviously was saying something of import to her.

The media – in this case ESPN – interviews the winner of a match like this pretty quickly after their victory, wanting to capture the enthusiasm of the audience and the joy of the victor.  Sometimes the loser kind of skulks off to the locker room to lick his or her wounds.  In this case, Osaka had asked Gauff to stay around and let the interviewer talk to both of them.  She shared her victory with her opponent, praising her, even praising Gauff’s parents for raising such a great young lady and tennis player.

I tell you, there was probably not a dry eye in the stadium.  I know that as I watched, I had to grab a few tissues.  Why?  Because you very rarely see this display of kindness, of generosity of spirit, of good sportsmanship in any sport.  It was sincere, it was quiet yet strong.  And, as one of the commentators stated, in years to come it will not be the match that will be discussed; it will be Naomi Osaka’s handling of Coco Gauff’s tears and disappointment.

And what that said to me, in a little microcosm of life, is that there are still good things that happen, still good people around who know how to behave, who know how to be tender and kind and thoughtful.  Watch for them, and when you meet them or see them, make sure you let them know that what they have done is appreciated and valued.

So my hat metaphorically is off to Naomi Osaka.  She went on to lose in the next round.

But in reality she’s a champion; she’s a winner!!!

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