Posted by: ritagone | October 10, 2018

A Guest Blogger

Here’s a blog from one of my favorite bloggers, Amy Downing. I think you’ll all enjoy what she writes in place of my writing this week.

A Letter for the Greatest Letter Writer Ever

I believe that as we learn and grow in different areas, it is helpful to express our thoughts in a creative way to help us process. It doesn’t matter if you are studying science, grammar, or some sort of religion. Draw a picture of what you are studying, write a poem, photograph a story of pictures. Inevitably, it will give you a new perspective on the information. I’ve been studying a series of letters in the New Testament, written by a guy named Paul (or Saul depending when you knew him). I believe I will meet him one day, but until then, I decided to write him a letter . . . .

October 4, 2018

Hey Paul.

You scare me. I have to say that up front because I know everyone is thinking it. You are so, so INTENSE. Like when you talk, you must wave your hands a lot and your voice gets loud and you probably spit a little when you emphasize certain words. And that’s when you are feeling joyful.

I marvel at how you were raised to head down one very distinct path—everything you learned was to fight for the cause, to take down that new religion of following Jesus. And yet, yet . . . Paul! You figured It out. (Granted you had quite a bit of help from the blinding light, which caused you to lose your sight for three days. Yes, I think that could snap even the hardest hard-hearted people into seeing Truth.)

But I marvel even more at your perseverance through the crap after you “saw the light” so to speak—the beatings, the prison terms, the shipwrecks, the thorn in your side (you’ve caused quite a stir with that one), the snake bites . . . the loneliness, the rejection.

I ask how you managed it and in the very same breath I know exactly how you managed it. You tell us in your letter to the Philippians: “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

You were able to forget what was behind you? You make it sound so simple. It must have been easier back in your time when there wasn’t so much pain in the world.

But your life did carry pain, a lot of it, I know.

And you pressed ON. Paul, thanks for pressing on. Because you had a choice—when you were in chains, you literally sang songs of praise. When you were imprisoned, you wrote letters of encouragement to the early churches.

You strained forward to what was ahead—and that was Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for not giving up, so that we today have a real chance to not give up, too.

Grace and Peace, brother.

 

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Posted by: ritagone | October 3, 2018

What You Keep and What You Replace

 

 

My treadmill died yesterday morning.

I was walking on it, as I do most mornings, when it just stopped.  If I hadn’t been holding on to the side bars, I might have been thrown, because the momentum of walking stopped so suddenly.  This treadmill is so old that there are no safety measures, not the usual clip that goes from the machine to your clothes just in case something like this should occur, so that in case of failure everything shuts down and you don’t get catapulted. (There’s no safe place for an iPad either, since this treadmill was built pre-iPads, which explains why a few months ago when my iPad, balanced precariously on the one ledge which can serve as a place to put your device, flew off and to the rear of the treadmill, I instinctively turned around to go for it and wound up on the floor akimbo, slightly injured but fortunately with nothing broken.)  It is an old treadmill, as I said.

So when it died on me yesterday morning, my first reaction was to call the repairman who has come out several times in the last few years to fix “her.”  But then I remembered him saying that the repairs were going to be more frequent and more expensive, and I thought, “It’s time to replace her.  She has served me – and others – well, but it’s time to get a new one.”

So off I went and did just that. I’m pretty impulsive about things like this; just ask my husband.  When I make up my mind to do something, it happens pretty definitely and rather quickly.

The new one is coming Friday morning, and I must confess that I’m excited.  I’m quite sure this will be the last treadmill this old lady will ever walk upon.  I didn’t get all the buttons and whistles because I know what I want, what I need, and what will take me through the rest of my treadmill-walking life.  Nothing fancy, just minimal requirements: quiet, handlebars that suit me, a deep ledge for my iPad, readable digital numbers on the screen, and a few other things that I have come to appreciate or desire in my early morning walks.

And on a related matter, today, October 3,  I have had the same husband for 48 years.

In this day and age, I consider that quite an accomplishment, even better than a treadmill that has hung around my home office for a few decades.  He’s not a 2018 model, for sure, but then, like my treadmill, he’s served me well, and I’m going to keep him.

After all, it’s too overwhelming to get a new treadmill and a new husband in the same week!!!!

 

Posted by: ritagone | September 26, 2018

“We Learn As We Go”

If we stop going, we stop learning…

and

If we’re not willing to keep learning, we should probably stop going.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018

Seth Godin’s short and pithy blogs always challenge me, because he packs so much thought into so few words.

In his blog from yesterday, he spoke about the ability to keep on learning as we age, as we move through life, and that’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.

So true.  So true.

May we never stop learning something every day, may we read and watch and listen and appreciate all the things we don’t know so that we can learn a new thought, a new way of doing something, a new skill, something that pushes us, prods us to be better, sharper, quicker.

“If we’re not willing to keep learning, we should probably stop going.”  Words to live by.

Posted by: ritagone | September 19, 2018

Pay attention!

My friend Ann Steigerwald introduced me to a great quote in a Mary Oliver poem (Sometimes is the title of the poem) which is quite applicable to our life right now:

“Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.”

 

I’m telling about it here: my oldest granddaughter, Margaret (we call her Meg) left for college (Seattle Pacific University) yesterday with her parents, to get settled in and begin her life as a college freshman.  How did that happen?  I remember clearly the day she was born, in Cleveland, Ohio, because I was in “the room where it happened.”  Life goes by too fast.  I’ve paid attention to hers, because she’s a star: an artist, a sweetheart, a gem.  I’m astonished that I’ve gotten to share in that life.  And I’m telling you about it.  I’m being faithful to the great instructions Mary Oliver gives to us, brilliant instructions.

You should be following these instructions yourself.  What do you need to pay attention to today, what do you need to be astonished about and tell others about?

Do it!!

Posted by: ritagone | September 5, 2018

Contradictions

 

 

I’ve been reading one of the “hot” recommended new novels in the last few days, called “Vox,” by Christina Dalcher.  Very similar to the plot-line of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, it’s a dystopian setting in the United States (of course) where women have been given bracelets or “counters” to limit their number of words to 100 a day, and shocked severely should they over-step that count.  They are no longer allowed to work, Scripture regarding their role in the home as subservient to their husbands (and male children) is everywhere for them to read (although of course they cannot read the Bible for themselves), and on and on it goes, with restrictions and limitations imposed by a government that claims to be making America moral again.

As always, Christianity is the culprit, or rather, the misinterpretation and abuse of Christianity.  But it’s easier for Jesus and His followers to be branded as the enemy than it is to present a healthy, understandable argument for what went wrong in America, land of the free, home of the brave.  Instead, we have seen the enemy, and it is the Bible and God, those who thump it, and anyone who believes that there’s a God up there who pronounces stuff we don’t like or believe in.

And of course for women these days, it’s mostly the men who are behind it, behind every evil being committed.  In Margaret Atwood’s book, written over 30 years ago, there were good men who had not been turned by the political power that believing “the right way” would bring them.  Men who would risk their lives to help a lady in distress.  So far I haven’t discovered a man like that in Dalcher’s novel, only sexual partners, which, by the way, amazes me, since I’d have thought that by now women would have turned completely away from men in that arena too and become total lesbians.  But no, heterosexual sex still sells novels, I guess, so there it is, an affair with a man who was nicer to her than her husband and oldest son were.  Wouldn’t you know it?

Anyway, the contradictions in this novel abound, I must say, as I read it, and I see them in other dystopian works both in writing and on the screen.  It’s as if the female writers can’t seem to condemn outright their male characters and just be done with it; they want desperately to find something redeeming in them after all.  (This is better than my cynical side that tells me that heterosexual sex still sells novels, as I said before, so you need a few nice men with whom the female heroines still want to have sexual adventures.)

I’m plowing through it, not because I’m loving it, but because I’m a bit OCD about finishing a book that I’ve started reading.  I keep bumping into the similiarities between this book and “The Handmaid’s Tale” and wondering, “Am I the only one who feels that it’s so similar as to be just this side of plagarism?”  Doesn’t anyone want to say that?  Is there a silent conspiracy because someone doesn’t want to use up her 100 words?

Okay.  I’m getting silly.

Could something like what this book promotes – or what “The Handmaid’s Tale” so vividly described – really happen in the U.S.?  I used to think not, but then again, other societies and cultures have said emphatically no and then watched helplessly as it happened.  And things being as they are, nothing is impossible.  Nothing would surprise me anymore.

But I do hope that at least we’ll keep our contradictions to a minimum as we slouch toward our doom.  That was meant to be sarcastic.  If we’re really on our way to purgatory, contradictions will truly be the least of our worries.

Lots to think about.

 

Posted by: ritagone | August 29, 2018

Seth Godin’s The Paradox of Popular

As most of you know, I love Seth Godin’s blogs.  Here’s one I particularly like for its social relevance.  It’s short but pithy.  Read it and enjoy.

 

Most things are liked because they’re popular.

I know that seems to be a redundancy, but it’s worth decoding.

Pop music, for example, is a must-listen among certain populations because that’s what “everyone else” is listening to, and being in sync is the primary benefit on offer.

The paradox, of course, is that you have to walk through a huge valley of unpopular before you arrive at the population that will embrace you because that’s the thing to do.

The focus on mass acceptance, on the big company or the mass market embracing you, distracts from the difficult work of being embraced by people who lead, not follow.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | August 22, 2018

#Thankyou!

 

 

 

Our Communitas 50th anniversary gathering at High Leigh Conference Centre (notice my very British spelling of the last word, please!) in Hoddeston, England, about 45 minutes by train north of London, was a smashing success by any definition.  Great workshops (I’m going to learn more about the Enneagram and where I fit in, for one thing), training sessions, lots of free time, a TedTalk format for the speakers, which allowed about 10 of our people, varied in nationality and age and topic, to share their stories and their hearts with us in a manner that was both captivating and challenging.  But best of all, of course, was being with the people of this particular community, people I have come to know and love over the last 20 years of my life.

About 20 years ago, when I was a mere child (!), Linus Morris, founder of Christian Associates International, asked me to come onto the board of the organization.  I was a housewife with very little experience in this arena.  I was reluctant to serve in this capacity, but Linus persuaded me that it would be a good thing to do.  At the first board meeting I attended, I met about 10 men — pastors, businessmen — all godly, all high-powered dudes, all friends’ of Linus, who were there to serve and to give of their time and energy and money for this organization that they believed in, which planted churches in Western Europe where Christianity was failing to attract people to the beautiful but empty churches there.  Immediately one of the board members — ultra-conservative and believing that women had no place on boards — threatened to resign if I joined this board.  (You can imagine how that made me feel, as insecure as I already was!)  Amazingly, all the other board members let him resign, insisting that I should indeed become the first woman board member of CA.

  At the first board meeting I attended, I met about 10 men – pastors, businessmen – all godly, all high-powered dudes, all friends of Linus’, who were there to serve and to give of their time and energy and money for this organization that they believed in, planting churches in Western Europe where Christianity was failing in attracting people to the empty churches there.  Immediately one of the board members – ultra-conservative and believing that women had no place on boards – threatened to resign if I joined this board.  (You can imagine how that made me feel, as insecure as I already was!)  Amazingly, all the other board members let him go, insisting that I should indeed become the first woman board member.

So because of Linus’ belief in me, because a handful of gentlemen I didn’t know at all at the time rallied around me, my life was changed forever.  Twenty years later, now Chairman of the Board of what is now known as Communitas International, we are still going strong.  I have travelled to places I would never have seen otherwise, I have met so many people from everywhere in the world, I have experienced things that I never would have experienced had not Linus encouraged me to step into a role I felt I was not capable of carrying out.

So at the 50th anniversary conference, it was my distinct and overwhelming pleasure to stand on the platform and introduce Linus, who was there as our special guest, to an audience of people, many of whom didn’t know our founder, many of whom did and loved him dearly.  It was an honor I will not soon forget nor ever take for granted.

Earlier that morning, in one of the TedTalk formats, one of our staff had done an amazing talk on the fact that she had been sexually abused by her college youth pastor, and the repercussions of that in her life, which were many and often severe, understandably. It was a talk done so well, with such skill and vulnerability, you could truly hear a pin drop, and you could sense that everyone listening was carrying her burden with her.  In the era of #MeToo, this is a subject that needs to be discussed and shared, and those who have experienced such abuse are brave to make themselves so vulnerable and transparent.  But the irony was not lost on me that that same day, later in the evening, I had the privilege of standing up there and talking about a man whose integrity has never wavered, to this day, whose honor and righteousness are uncontested.  He may sneak the occasional fish head into your purse when you’re not looking, but he is as upright and sold out to Jesus now as he was 50 years ago when he felt God calling him and his family to ministry.  His godliness and strength of character only shine brighter and brighter through the years.

Find people you know who, over the years and decades, have maintained their righteous stance before the Lord and before people, and thank them.  Honor them.  We have an obligation to call out and deal with those who have violated God’s laws and peoples’ personal space, but on the other hand, we should also recognize those who protect and uphold the value and integrity of the people around them.

Linus Morris is such a man, and I’m so glad he has been in my life for the past quarter of a century.  And I’m so glad he was able to be with the staff of Communitas for our celebration.  It wouldn’t have been the same without him.

There are people in our lives who have had profound influence on us.  How often do we get to say “Thank you” to them?  If you have any kind of opportunity to do so, take advantage of it.  Let them know what their influence has meant to you, how deeply changed you have been by their attention and positive movement around you, and then…

Go be a great influence in someone else’s life.  Pay it forward!!!

 

Posted by: ritagone | August 15, 2018

The Know-It-All

 

When we were in London last week, one of the fun “tourist-y”things we did was a London tour in a beautiful iconic black London taxi cab.  For three hours you are driven around London with a driver who is an experienced tour guide giving you a tour based on your desires and requests.

I had asked for a tour for the two of us that was not the usual, since Michael and I had been to London enough times that we wanted to see something out of the ordinary.

It was a hot day, as it had been for over a month in London, with no air conditioning in the black cab because no one in England expects such continual heat.  The lawns and gardens everywhere were yellow and scorched instead of green and lush, something you don’t see very often in the U.K., a marvel in itself, but not so shocking to someone from Southern California.  (Proving that everything really is relative!)  We spent a lot of the three hours in traffic, which was not Jerry’s fault, but which made me feel I was paying to sit bumper to bumper in another country, a weird feeling.

But the result of sitting was that while we were at a traffic stand-still, we got to listen to Jerry.  Jerry was a man of some girth, in his late 40’s or early 50’s I would guess, of that size associated with a person who doesn’t move about much but sits a lot.  He said he was from Edinburgh but he sounded very Londonish to me.  And he did love to talk, which I suppose is essential to the job of tour guide, which he claimed to have had for 12 years, prior to which he was a London cab driver.  So he was well suited to his work, for sure.

At first Jerry was very entertaining and told fascinating stories and anecdotes.  I do love me a good anecdote.  Then, however, I started to notice something very distinct about him: he was an expert on everything: he criticized and complained about the national government over and over again.  Well, who doesn’t do that?  But the implication in his criticism was that he knew exactly how to do it better, what the stupid mistakes of the politicians were and how easily they could be remedied if only Jerry were in charge of things.  People talk like this all the time in the culture we live in, don’t they?  Apparently everyone can do a better job of running the government, be it local or state-wide or national, than anyone actually elected to do so.  That’s nothing new.

But then I noticed something very specifically arrogant about Jerry as he talked on and on, some of it about local color (and therefore part of our tour package and very interesting), and some of it about other topics in general, based on whatever and wherever his mind went, but always pointing to the fact that Jerry knew best.  For example, he asked Michael what field his career had been in, and when Michael told him he had been a writer of television programs, an answer that almost always elicits a fascinated response from his listeners, Jerry seemed a bit impressed but even more eager to inform Michael with his own knowledge of how television shows are made…or should be made.

Writing tables were much too large nowadays, said Jerry, as if he had just come from one and found the size of it off-putting.  Most people don’t even know what a writing table is, much less how big or small it should be.  I’ll give him this: Jerry knew just enough about this subject, the television business, to be sort of intelligent sounding.  He obviously watched a lot of tv, for one thing, because he could name many, many shows, both past and present.  But I saw a small smile curling on Michael’s mouth, even though my husband is too kind and polite to say anything, and even I knew enough to know that a writing table’s size has nothing to do with the quality of the television show itself.  This was after Jerry told us that the reason many contemporary television programs are so bad is because the writing staff is way too big.  The smaller, the better the scripts, and therefore the better the tv shows.

        What amazed me is that Jerry waxed on even after knowing that his listener was a retired television man.  Did he do the same with retired doctors, lawyers, plumbers?  Did he tell them how their fields could be improved if only those in charge would listen to Jerry?

The know-it-all can’t help himself.  He really, truly thinks that if someone were to hand him (or her) the keys to the oval office or the mayor’s  or the governor’s, or whoever is in charge, he or she could do so much better.  There would be less crime, less waste, less stupidity on the part of everyone, and efficiency would rule.  It would only take his or her clearness of vision and insight and strength of will to see through the legislation necessary to create the brave new world in the wings.

If only it were that easy.

There are so many know-it-alls out there that if we just put them in control, we who are so utterly incompetent most of the time, all our problems and worries would be over.

It makes me stop and realize the many times I think I know it all and come off that way.  Please, God, and please, anyone who knows me and loves me, stop me in my tracks when I start to sound like Jerry, so pompous, so sure of the right answers and the only way of doing things and so condescending toward those who aren’t behaving the way I think they should.

Jerry was a fascinating guy for three hours.  Most of what he had to say about London history was interesting and well-studied on his part.  But Jerry should not be running the government, nor should he probably be overseeing television scripts.  I wish he saw and understood that truth.

It would make Jerry a much more likeable human being.

Posted by: ritagone | August 1, 2018

On the Tip of the Tongue

Here’s another great piece out of my daily devotional book by Timothy and Kathy Keller, “God’s Wisdom For Navigating Life.”  This excerpt is from August 6; I’m reading ahead because I won’t be here from August 5-14 and don’t have room in my carry-on suitcase for the book.  So this also will be my last Rita’s Ramblings post until August 15; you’ll have to do without me (!) for two weeks while I’m in London for a few days of fun with Michael and then Communitas’ 50th anniversary celebration gathering north of London in Hoddeston for a few more days. 

 

 

GENTLE PERSISTENCE.  A “gentle answer” can quickly de-escalate an angry feud.  We might infer that gentle speech means being mealy-mouthed, compliant, or pacifying, like saying to a bully, “I give up.” Here we see that is not true at all.  The metaphor of breaking a bone means that a gentle tongue is better at breaking down hardened resistance to an idea than aggressive words.  You may still argue pointedly, but in a gentle, patient, respectful manner.

This insight fits in well with the New Testament exhortation that no matter how much someone may oppose us or may even have wronged us, we must forgive him or her from our heart, first and unconditionally.  This drains out so much of the contempt and disdain that can easily creep into our voice when we are contending with someone.  Most of us are either temperamentally direct, bold, and persistent or gentle, calm, and deferential – but never both.  Yet the wise learn to be both.  They follow the one who always showed boldness without harshness, humility without uncertainty, who spoke truth but always bathed in love.

Do you tend to be direct and persistent or gentle and deferential? How can you combine them?

 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you combined qualities of humility and majesty as no one else has ever done.  And through the gospel, which both humbles us into the dust and makes us kings to reign.  Make us, in your image, gentle but absolutely insistent on truth.  Amen.

Posted by: ritagone | July 25, 2018

The Leaderboard

 

In golf, in racing, in many other competitions in life, a leaderboard is used to display the standings between competitors.  Who’s ahead?  Who’s winning?  Who is the favorite?  Who’s coming in second?  Third? What’s the most prominent, important, significant among a host of things?

This image took over my life last week as I was faced with a potentially serious health issue: did I have a tumor on my adrenal gland that was causing a chronic rise in my blood pressure and a drop in my potassium levels?  And if my blood pressure was elevated to serious heights, could I travel by plane to London and spend over a week doing fun things and then attending Communitas’ 50th anniversary conference at High Leigh, a Christian conference center north of London?  Was it too risky?  And the potassium levels being so low were sounding quite dangerous too, as the endocrinologist informed me upon walking into the examination room: “You know, people die from potassium levels this low!” Thank you very much,” I thought to myself. “It’s nice to meet you too.”  This particular health issue immediately assumed place #1 in my mind on my health leaderboard.

Up until then, #1 on my health leaderboard has been my migraine headaches, trying to find either a cure or a way to cope with them.  All of a sudden, though, migraines moved down on the leaderboard to a #2 or even #3 position as other issues crept up, other health anxieties that, for one reason or another, needed to be dealt with quickly because of travel or for whatever reason (like imminent death from low potassium, I guess).

And then I realized that life is like this with so many other things as well: we have mental leaderboards about so many issues in our lives: family, finances, jobs, health.  We rank issues according to how pressing they are or how serious or how much time they grab of our attention.

So what if I could make the leaderboard of my life the things that Jesus told me were the leaderboard of His life?  To concentrate on loving God with all my heart, soul and mind, and doing whatever it takes to make that happen…and to eliminate everything that prevents that from taking place.  And to concentrate also on loving my neighbor, my friends, my family, the people all around me that God puts me in touch with, with all my heart, soul and mind.  And to eliminate everything that prevents that also from taking place.

Now that’s a leaderboard worth having in my life!

 

 

 

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