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.

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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!!!

Posted by: ritagone | August 28, 2019

Stop For a Minute or Two

I just wanted to share with you today a psalm, one of the early ones in David’s writing, Psalm 8, for a moment or two of worship.  Maybe your day is just beginning, as mine is, and this would be a good time to stop and recognize how much you love Jesus and His Father.  Maybe your day is halfway done and it’s a good time to stop and thank Him for loving you, for walking in front of you and guiding you in your journey.  Maybe your day is coming to an end, and before it does, stop for a minute to praise Him by reading this beautiful psalm that I came upon once again in my preparations to teach Ephesians very soon.

Wherever you are during the day or evening, whatever your life circumstances, I hope and pray that you and Jesus are walking together, that you’re getting to know Him more and more each day.  Please don’t miss these opportunities to stop and breathe and worship Him.

 

     1      O Lord, our Lord,

How excellent is Your name in all the earth,

Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

2      Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have ordained strength,

Because of Your enemies,

That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

3      When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

4      What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

5      For You have made him a little lower than the angels,

And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6      You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet,

7      All sheep and oxen—

Even the beasts of the field,

8      The birds of the air,

And the fish of the sea

That pass through the paths of the seas.

9      O Lord, our Lord,

How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

 

Posted by: ritagone | August 21, 2019

The Times We Live In!!!

This is going to be short.  The following paragraph caught my attention and at first made me laugh.  Then it made me want to cry.  You read it and decide for yourself what this paragraph says about where our interests and focus lie, and wonder along with me: REALLY??????

 

  • Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth

On August 10, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth announced they were splitting after eight months of marriage. “Liam and Miley have agreed to separate at this time,” a rep for Cyrus told People. “Ever-evolving, changing as partners and individuals, they have decided this is what’s best while they both focus on themselves and careers. They still remain dedicated parents to all of their animals they share while lovingly taking this time apart. Please respect their process and privacy.”

 

This is so amazingly horrifying on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.

Ever-evolving, huh?  Right!!

Well, at least they remain dedicated parents to all of their animals they share.  There’s that.

Civilization as we know it is over.  And if it isn’t, it well deserves to be.

Posted by: ritagone | August 14, 2019

What You See Is Not Always What You Get!

I have followed the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” from its beginning seven seasons ago to its ending recently.  Although I can’t fully recommend this womens’ prison series that is supposedly a comedy, because it is filled with bad language and much sexual content, there are often such moments of tenderness and warmth that I actually weep with recognition of the human condition.  So there’s that.

One recurring character since the first season was Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren – no relation!! – played by Uzo Aduba, who does a remarkable job of portraying a woman who has mental health issues while being completely relatable and vulnerable in her honesty and humanity.  In fact, I found her to be one of the characters I liked watching the most during the entire stretch of the series.

But never in my wildest imaginings would I have thought that this actress was capable of singing both opera and Broadway show tunes with the best of them!  Not until I saw a very short piece on “The View,” where she was guest-starring, and her hosts cajoled her into singing a bit of “O Mio Bambino,” a very familiar opera piece, whereupon I had to lift my jaw up from my lap.  Then, it was YouTube time, where I found, to my continuing amazement, that Uzo Aduba had a score of videos where she was singing solos and duets of many wonderful show tunes (including one of my favorites, “Lily’s Eyes,” from The Secret Garden), looking stunningly gorgeous and belting the song effortlessly.

Cut back to OITNB, where Aduba has won two Emmys for her performance as Suzanne.  You would never in a million years say that these are the same person, the same performer, the same artist.

And yes, there’s a message, a point here: what you see is not always what is there.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  Proverbs and clichés to that effect.  In other words, if all you had to judge Uzo Aduba by was her performance on the Netflix series, how unbalanced would that slant be?  You would see her as a wild woman, ranting and raving, wide-eyed, hysterical, a sad prison inmate.  You would miss completely this self-contained, articulate, talented vocal phenomenon who hopefully will have a very long career both in acting and in the musical world now that OITNB is over.

Where else have you and I failed to see something or someone below the surface?  I shudder to think of the many times this must happen in my life, my normal day, but I can’t tell you about those occurrences because I don’t know about them; they’re gone, and I missed them forever.

So one of my prayers today – for you and for me – is that God would open up the eyes of our hearts to help us see below and beneath the surface of faces and events, to the reality that beats to or sings a different song.

And, because I don’t know how to capture videos for this blog, I’m hoping you’ll go to YouTube and put in Uzo Aduba singing to see her talents in this area as well as her acting chops on OITNB.  You will be blessed, I promise you, and you’ll see the reality of what I’m saying here.  You’ll “get it.”  Believe me, you’ll get it.

Posted by: ritagone | August 7, 2019

While I Was Away…

 

 

Last week at this time I was in Vancouver, B.C. (see photo, nighttime shot of part of the city) with my husband and our dear friends Alan and Deb Hirsch.  We were auditing a class at Regent College called “Poetry and Theology” which was taught by Malcolm Guite, a British professor/poet/theologian/lecturer who teaches at Cambridge University in England and also speaks all over the Western world.  His area of expertise is classical and British literature – especially poetry – as it relates to Christian theology.

Now, if that sounds dry, banish that thought from your mind.  At one point, while Professor Guite was speaking, I thought to myself, “If I weren’t already a follower of Jesus, listening to this man would cause me to become one.”  That’s how powerful his words and expressions were.  Sitting in the Regent chapel, where the class was held, looking around at the 100 + other students, some elderly, some college-aged, but all intently listening to what he had to say, I was struck by another thought: “This is what it’s like when someone is using their gifting for God.”  In fact, the three days that we attended the class were filled with such epiphanies, mind-opening awakenings that made me sit up and take notice of something that hadn’t struck me before.  That’s good teaching!!!

We had signed up, unfortunately, for only three of the five days that the class was going on.  But the good news is that soon recordings of the entire class will be made available, so I can listen to the lectures we missed as well as listening again to those we already heard.  They bear repeating.  I took very good notes.  Still, my notes don’t come close to capturing the insights, the beauty of the recitations of the poetry (stanza upon stanza, for example, of “The Divine Comedy” quoted from his memory) that he linked to great theological truths.  I know my God better for having been in that class.  And that’s also good teaching.

The rest of the time we were in Vancouver, we explored that incredible city.  If you’re looking for a place to go for a visit that has something for everyone, try Vancouver, British Columbia.  You won’t be disappointed.

But what really stays with me, what really has transformed my inner being and my heart is the class taught by Guite.  He is the epitome of the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  He looks like he just stepped out of Harry Potter’s Hogworts: long straight gray hair, beard, baggy pants, white T-shirt with a vest, very strong British accent.  Did he have a SAG card? Because he looked like someone had cast him as a professor in the latest Harry Potter movie for sure. But when he opened his mouth and began to teach, ah, the world was changed, enhanced, made more beautiful and meaningful by his words.

         And that’s great teaching!

Posted by: ritagone | July 24, 2019

A Few Thoughts

If you know me at all, you know that I love the writings of C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), both his works of fiction and his non-fiction.  In fact, when I

get to heaven, I’m going to greet Jesus first, of course, but after a few hundred years of conversation with Him, the next person I want to meet is Clive Staples Lewis, where I’m sure the line will be long waiting to talk to him.

I’ve been re-reading his fiction in the past month, all seven of the books that comprise what to me are the greatest work of story-telling around: The Chronicles of Narnia.  In fact, you know that game you play occasionally around the dining table, where your daughter asks, “If you could only take one book with you to a desert island, what would it be?”, my answer would always be the seven Narnia books (because they are, after all, a collection and so serve as one book).

I’ve also been re-reading some of his non-fiction prose.  Some of it is way over my head, filled with Latin references as befits a scholar and professor at both Cambridge and Oxford, much too erudite for this little girl with a Bachelor’s Degree from U.C.L.A. (class of 1966).  But one of the non-fiction works that I have relished re-reading is “The Weight of Glory,” a series of essays or sermons delivered by Lewis during World War II, a time of great conflict and disturbance in the British Isles to which Lewis brought his voice of sanity and reason and faith.

I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes in this book, just re-print it here and let you read it and mull over it yourselves, let it sink in and touch your heart and soul.

So here it is:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one

day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a m

ere mortal….Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (pages 45-46)

As I said, this is a paragraph to be thought about, prayed over, and taken into consideration as to its implications for our lives.  Please do so at your leisure.

I will be gone next week, on a little excursion to Vancouver, B.C., with Michael and friends, so there will be a respite from Rita’s Ramblings, but my heart will be here with you, hoping and praying that God is touching your lives in many wondrous ways.

Until August 7, be well and follow Jesus closely.

Posted by: ritagone | July 17, 2019

Hibernating from the Egos

Sometimes in life it’s just right to hibernate.

Sometimes the negative banter between the President of the United States and the captain of the womens’ professional soccer team is just, well, just plain ludicrous.  On both sides.  She’s arrogant and obnoxious.  He is not behaving as befitting his office.  There’s shame enough to go around.

And I just want to be away from it.

Someone said there’s a movement to encourage Megan Rapinoe to run for President.  Really?  I’m turning off the TV, my computer, and burrowing deeply into a quiet pillow.  Call me when it’s over.

I don’t know about you, but egos of any gender are hard to deal with.  Self-serving personalities of any age don’t sit well.

So…sometimes in life it’s just right to hibernate, as I said.  I’m taking my Bible with me, because when you get fed up with the swelling egos swirling around us all, you need a good dose of Jesus to counterbalance what you keep hearing and seeing.  And thankfully, He meets us right where we need Him!!!

 

 

 

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