Posted by: ritagone | July 10, 2019

By Design

Important words from Christine Caine’s devotional book, which I read every morning. Savor them and make them significant for you and your own life.


By Design


“God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.’” – Genesis 1:14



Have you ever stopped to think, Why am I doing everything I’m doing? Is this really God’s will for my life, or is it just what I think I’m supposed to do?

Questions like these can wake us up.  They can shake us out of living by default instead of according to God’s design.  The symptoms of a life lived by default are mechanically going through our days, probably feeling unsatisfied and unmotivated, and doing what everyone else is doing.  God has planned so much more for us.

Time is sacred. Let’s throw off the default life and learn to spend it wisely and well.  Let’s prayerfully take an inventory of where our time goes and how that aligns with God’s plans.  We always have the one true God to guide us – the one who lovingly formed us and numbered our days (Psalm 139:15-16).


Lord, please help me to be a good steward of the days You bless me with. I want to live joyfully in the sacred time You’ve appointed for me.

Posted by: ritagone | July 3, 2019

I Like Food!!!


Since Sunday I have been doing a 5-day fast which I purchased at my doctor’s office after my yearly physical last week.  (You might be wondering what you have to purchase in order to do a fast? Well, it’s not a complete fast but one where you eat soups that are reconstituted with water, kale crackers, bars, special tea bags, and a strange liquid that makes water into various flavors.)  It’s not only for weight loss but to kick your cells into some kind of rejuvenation, and I thought to myself, “I need a little rejuvenation, so why not try it?”

The first hurdle was to find five days in a row where nothing was happening: no lunch or dinner dates, no social life at all.  Fortunately my family – minus my husband, that is – were all going up to Idaho for (another) family vacation, so I knew they wouldn’t be asking for breakfast or lunch or dinner dates.  It was also a time on the calendar when my friends seemed to all disappear, so I figured I’d better take advantage of it and make these five days the fasting ones.

I am a creature of habit, particularly when it comes to eating.  I get a food in my sights, and it becomes my best friend.  Sometimes that’s good (I lose weight) and sometimes it’s bad (yes, you guessed it).  Lately, for the last few months, food has not been my friend where the scales are concerned.  My mouth has loved what I’ve been eating; unfortunately my waist has not.  Hence, the fast.

Now, being someone who likes to eat the same yummy things day in and day out, changing to eating…well, sawdust (the bars) and mush (the soups) has not been a pleasant change.  I do like the green olives.  They are, indeed, green olives; all you have to do is put them in the fridge and eat them when green olives are on your schedule.  I actually can tolerate the tea too.  It’s pretty difficult to ruin a good cuppa.  But if you told me that this box of foodstuffs was going to be my diet for the rest of my life, I suppose I’d ask you to let me just die of starvation instead.  I don’t like it at all.

I haven’t heard a positive word from any of my cells. They are not seemingly any happier than when I was eating the foods that were causing my jeans to be tighter than they should be.  I do keep glancing at the calendar wondering how fast Friday can possibly come around.

Maybe it’s a delayed reaction.

Yes, that’s it!  Friday morning, when the “fast” is over, I’m going to feel terrific, I’m going to be a new person, lighter, sharper, more tuned in to the world around me, every cell alive and throbbing with vitality!!

If that’s the case, I could conceivably do this again in a month or so….

Posted by: ritagone | June 26, 2019

That Was Heather Headley!!!



Almost 20 years ago Michael and I were in New York City and went to see a musical called “Aida,” based on the opera by Verdi, the story of a Nubian princess who falls in love with the Egyptian captain who enslaves her people.  The music was by none other than Sir Elton John, and the lyrics were from Sir Tim Rice, who gave us “Evita,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and my personal favorite Broadway show, “Chess.”  The cast was composed of names I wasn’t too familiar with at the time, performers who have incidentally gone on to become Broadway regulars: Adam Pascal, Sherie Rene Scott, and, in the title role, a tall, thin, stately woman of color named Heather Headley.

We didn’t know any of the performers by sight back then, as I said, so when we read the wall box in the lobby that informed audiences as to who was “off” that performance before the show, we weren’t too upset to read that the part of Aida would be played by someone else, not Heather Headley.  Normally you go to a Broadway show lured by a performer or two whose names resonate with you:  Patti Lupone, Bette Midler, Kelli O’Hara, whoever you know and love from past performances.  But because, as I said, we didn’t know the cast of this show, we took it in stride that the female lead wasn’t performing in this show and went happily into the theater to find our seats.

It was a fabulous show, with brilliant music and a great story.  And the female lead was amazing!  At some point I whispered into Michael’s ear, “Heather Headley couldn’t be any better than this gal!”

When the show was over, some two hours later, we were happy and humming the tunes.  We wanted to know who the understudy for Heather Headley had been, because we had been blown away, so we walked up to one of the theater staff and asked, “Who played Aida in this performance?”

“Heather Headley,” she said, looking at us like we were from another planet.

We were a bit awe-struck, so we wandered back to the wall box on the lobby wall, and there we discovered that we weren’t being notified that Heather Headley was not in today’s performance; we were being told that Heather Headley would be on vacation for two weeks starting a week from the day of today’s performance.  So yes, we had sat through “Aida” and that was Heather Headley!

Incidentally, she went on to win the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical that year against four other incredibly talented performers. (And she even thanked God for the award.)

So what’s my point about all of this?  What was a lesson that I learned from this experience, because, like so many other events in one’s life, this one taught me something invaluable: YOU DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW.

Michael and I were so sure that we were hearing an understudy for Heather Headley, we didn’t really get the chance to appreciate Heather Headley herself in her Tony Award-winning performance.  We kept shaking our heads at this singer who was belting out these songs and acting up a storm playing Aida, wondering how Heather Headley could possibly do any better, when all the time we were seeing and hearing Heather Headley at her finest.

So what if you’re seeing something and it’s the genuine thing, not a replacement, not an understudy?

We need to appreciate everything around us for what it is, and when we find greatness, when we hear it and watch it and experience it, we need to stand up and applaud until our hands sting.

I’ve never seen Heather Headley in a live performance since then.

I’d love to do so, this time knowing for sure that it was the real thing – Heather Headley – that I was watching.

And I wish for you that you have the ability to recognize greatness while you’re in its presence, not later.


Posted by: ritagone | June 19, 2019

Family Vacation

Welcome to oxnard green road sign

Last year our family of nine (Michael, myself, Dana and Ed, their three kids, Matt and his daughter Hannah) went to Hawaii.  We try to do a family vacation early in the summer, when everyone is out of school and work schedules allow it, and before everyone settles down to work and summer school and whatever else occupies that time between school semesters or fall workloads.  (Or, for Michael and me, more retirement!)  We had a great time in Maui.

This year we decided to try to make the vacation a bit easier (not to mention cheaper) by picking a spot we could all drive to instead of having to fly.  So we – and by “we” I mean the committee of two, Michael and Matt – selected the city of Oxnard, which has beach locations and is literally about 45 minutes by car from our homes.

Okay, so June gloom is a real thing in Oxnard.  But other than that, we had a blast.  We spent a lot of time at The Collection, a shopping mall that is like a town unto itself: shops, restaurants, and movie theater complex.  We played miniature golf.  We used one of the three hotel rooms as a game room and played various board games, card games, or whatever we had on hand.  We played ping pong in the room at the hotel complex designed for people to hang out in.  Many of us swam.  We ate.  A lot.

And then we capped it all off with a short drive to Ojai, where we walked around on the main drag of town and then drove to the Ojai Valley Inn and had dinner at their restaurant Olivella, which turned out to be one of the best, most memorable meals of my life.  We had a room all to ourselves, the best wait-staff ever, and a menu that was delicious from one course to the next.  For Father’s Day, all three of the dads enjoyed a very tasty bottle of red wine.

All in all, it was a great vacation, a wonderful time with family, and a joy.

If you have family that you enjoy being with, I wish you a vacation, time away, where you can savor each person and get to laugh and talk and just be together without so many of the usual distractions that keep us from focusing on one another.  It’s worth every cent you spend to do this.

And if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a family like this, my prayer for you as I write this – and as you read it – is that God will bring people into your life who will count as surrogate family, family “instead,” people that you can get away, get out of town with and really enjoy for a few days once in a while.  They don’t have to be related by blood.  Just by desire and by the hearts that bind you.

I don’t know where we’re going next year for our family vacation, but I do know that I’m already looking forward to it.

Posted by: ritagone | June 5, 2019

Flying Past Grace

Last week my husband

and I saw a touring-company production of “Les Miserables,” the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 19th century classic novel of the same name.  Our daughter and son-in-law, both musical theater buffs also, were with us.  I had already heard some reviews by friends who had seen the show on previous nights, so I was anxious to compare notes, and to compare this production with those I have seen over the 30 years since the show originated on Broadway and in the West End of London.

This production had what I would call a very rushed first act, songs and scenes just flying by.  So much so, that the pivotal scene, the key issue of the entire story, both in the original book and in the play, I felt, got lost in the speed of delivery: the scene where Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who served 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, now out of prison and trying to decide his future, having stolen a bishop’s candlesticks and fleeing, is apprehended by Inspector Javert and brought back to “confess” his crime so that he can be returned to prison, where Javert firmly and completely believes he belongs.  Instead, the bishop, sensing the goodness of Valjean and wanting to be an instrument of God’s mercy (a great example, for a change, of the clergy being a good guy!), tells Javert that not only were the candlesticks given to Valjean, but he forgot other pieces of silver in his haste to depart.

Javert therefore has no claim on Valjean and must release him, and Jean Valjean, alone on the stage, recognizes that God, through the bishop, has given him a chance to redeem himself.  He vows then and there to make something of his life. He will make things right, he will do good to others, he will make his life count.

It is as close to a salvation/redemption scene in literature and theater as you will ever see…and it is quite moving when it is allowed by direction to play itself out a bit.

But alas, in the production we saw, apparently the director and cast wanted to get out of the theater as quickly as possible for their late dinner plans, because the scene and all its import flashed by a rather unsuspecting audience.  You really had to know it was coming, understand its significance to appreciate what was happening.  I wondered if most of the audience did so.

Too bad.

In a culture almost devoid of such metaphors and literary allusions to grace and mercy, I hate to see that when one does come along, it goes by so quickly that it isn’t appreciated for what it is.  If there were hints of grace all over the place, we could afford to let one or two slip by, but they’re in short supply, so we need to savor them, understand them, and learn from them when we can.

So my admonition to you, dear reader, is that you watch for displays of grace wherever you can, in movies, theater, TV programs.  Savor them, enjoy them, tell others about them.  The English poet Robert Browning said: “It is the glory and good of Art, that Art remains the one way possible of speaking truths…”  While I disagree that art is the “one way possible of speaking truths,” it is certainly a lovely way of doing so.  If it’s not done at mach speed, that is.

Posted by: ritagone | May 29, 2019

Heaven: The Ultimate Reality

Here’s an excerpt from my wonderful Nancy Guthrie devotional book for this year.  I’m loving how she speaks to me almost every day.


Heaven: The Ultimate Reality


All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God.  They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth. They were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. – Hebrews 11: 13,16

David (her husband) often said that Hope and Gabe (their two infant children who died early from a genetic disease) were not born for this life, but for the next.  They were unable to see or hear or function in this world, and they were ushered quickly to the next life, where they will one day receive resurrected and renewed bodies.  As we opened our eyes to the reality that this life is preparation for the next, our perspective about the “tragedy” of their short lives was transformed. We decided it was not really so sad that they spent only six months limited by a physical body that was hopelessly flawed. And I ask you, is it really less than the best if the person you love lives less than the eighty to ninety years we have come to define as a lifetime? Not if we see this earthly life as a rehearsal for the real thing.

While most great stories end with “and they lived happily ever after,” C.S. Lewis ended The Chronicles of Narnia’s The Last Battle much differently. As the heroic efforts of the Narnians fail, the storybook ending seems conspicuously absent. But immediately upon their deaths, the Narnians find themselves in a wonderful new land, where they are reunited with those they love and with Aslan himself. C.S. Lewis writes, “They were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Everything that had happened before was put into perspective as their real life and real story began.

So it will be for us when we embark on our real lives – our forever lives – in the presence of God. Then we’ll realize that what has gone before was just a shadow of — a prelude to – our real lives in heaven. This life is not all there is, and neither is it the best there is. There is something better, somewhere better. Someone better…than any thing, any place, any person who has captured our devotion in the here and now. It is real. And it is forever.


Heavenly Father, help me to see beyond what seems so real in this life into the joyful reality of the next. Give me eyes of faith to see into the distance and welcome the promises of God for a better place, a heavenly homeland.

Posted by: ritagone | May 22, 2019

If We Have Not Grammar…

I’m reading one of the most esoteric books I’ve ever read.  I can’t even remember why I’m reading it, where the recommendation came from, except that I read her last book a while back, “Between You and Me,” which was Mary Norris’ fun foray into the uses and misuses of grammar and punctuation.  Yes, that book too was rather esoteric unless you happen to be, as I am, a former copy editor (‘TEEN Magazine, 1968-1970), trained by one of the best copy editors around to catch and eliminate all kinds of punctuation and grammar mis-steps.

Those of us who think this task is actually important – and Mary Norris is one of them, because she worked in the New Yorker Magazine’s copy department for many years – are often obnoxious about commas and semicolons and such.  We don’t think the world will end with a bang or a whimper but with one misplaced modifier too many.

So as I’m laboriously reading through the Greek words that are literally “Greek to me” and unintelligible, but enjoying her autobiographical stories of college and discovery of  her particular travel interests and such, relishing much of the book and kind of ignoring the rest, I was shocked – literally shocked – to come upon these two sentences yesterday, a day that will live in infamy in my copy editor’s heart: “My mother, like Demeter, had lost a child. He was a boy, named Patrick, and he was two years older than me.”


I read that second sentence again.  Surely I had been mistaken.  How could this be?  Surely a copy editor from the New Yorker – with a professional staff of copy editors who must have read and re-read this book in manuscript form before it went to print – could not, would not have let such an error get by them?

Did you see it?  Are you too short of breath right now?

Yes, her older brother Patrick was not two years older than “me,” but older than “I.”  You would not say “older than me am,” would you?  Then why would you write “older than me?”  That’s the prescriptive way to catch this very common grammar error: take away or add the proper missing word and see if the sentence still makes sense.  It’s one of the most basic mistakes people make, along with using “your” instead of “you’re” or confusing the “there, their and they’re”s.


I think Western Civilization as I know it is definitely about to end.  While everyone else is looking for icebergs to melt and vast food shortages, I’m telling you that a professional copy editor who wrote a major book published by a major publishing house has made a major grammar mistake.

We are all doomed.

Posted by: ritagone | May 15, 2019

Life Changing Moments

Life proved to me yet again this past weekend that your situation can change from one moment to the next, from one hour to another.

All’s well now, but for a time on Friday, I wondered if things would ever be the same, if there wasn’t occurring a sea change in my life that was going to be monumental.

So with everything mostly back to normal, I can look back and ponder the consequences of “what might have happened” and “what could have been,” think about a new road I might be traveling on even today, and thank God that that’s not the case.  But somewhere out there there is a woman – or a man – whose road has been changed, shifted in the blink of an eye, and now I can sympathize much more tenderly with that person.

What I experienced over this past weekend makes me want to savor life all the more, to be appreciative of each day, each hour, each moment.  Because truly we don’t know, first of all, if that moment or hour might be our last.  Or if they might be changed irrevocably out from under us.

So stop right now and be thankful, tell God what you appreciate about the life and circumstances you have, and be grateful.

Because you have no guarantee that by the end of this day your life will be the same as it is while you’re reading this at this moment.  I’m not trying to be morbid or depressing; I’m just saying that we have no control over the world around us, the people we love, or the circumstances that can affect our world and those people.


Posted by: ritagone | May 8, 2019

A Few In Sardis

No, it’s not a movie or book title.

It’s a potential book title, a title that I came up with decades ago for a book I wanted to write but never have.  It’s a pretty spectacular book title, I think, based on Revelation 3:1-6, Sardis being the one church which is not commended at all in the listing of the seven churches spoken to by Jesus, He who holds the seven stars in His right hand and tells these churches their good and bad points.   To Sardis (the ruins of the city which are pictured), Jesus says: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.  Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”

And so I condensed the text “You have a few names even in Sardis” to “A few in Sardis” for a book title that I thought was provocative and would certainly want to make me read further if I saw that title in a book store.

Except that I never got any further.  The best idea so far has been the title.  In fact, I think it’s such a good title that I checked to see if there is a book with that title; there doesn’t seem to be.  So I’ve still got an opportunity to write the story to go with the incredibly good title.

Life is a lot like this, isn’t it?  You come up with a great book title, and then…you’re stuck.  Nothing comes after that.  Blank. Nada.  Of course, it’s understandable that a great book title isn’t so great unless there’s something coming after it, like, a lot of other words that mean something!  What would the substance be around the title “A Few In Sardis”?  What does the title mean, how does it apply to life and whatever I want to say? I guess I don’t know the answer to that, which is why I haven’t yet been able to create the writing to go with the title.

Or, applied in any number of other ways, you’re off to a great start on some project, some enterprise, but then it fizzles, and there’s nothing after the glowing beginning.  A relationship, a job, a task, a study of some sort, anything that will take hard work and dedication, commitment, adherence to the mission.  It’s easier to start than it is to finish; this I learned when I came up with the book title and then couldn’t find the rest of the book to go with it.

So I’ve got my work cut out for me, don’t I?

In the meantime, isn’t that a great book title?

I’m on my way!!!


I hate to keep harping on television shows for lessons in life, and yes, I do do other things besides watch tv mini-series, but this one is so amazingly profound that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it today.  Plus…it’s somehow also incredibly funny.

Last week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” – and I know many of you reading this are not GOT fans, but don’t stop reading just yet, because the moral of the story is just as applicable to non-fans as to those who have been feverishly following the series for years and anxiously awaiting the last batch of episodes before it all ends in a few weeks – was the much anticipated Battle of Winterfell.

You don’t need me to tell you all about it if you’re not a watcher of the show; all you need to know is that the bad guys are corpses brought back to some semblance of life just so they can kill the good guys or even the semi-good guys, in true GOT fashion, because there are plenty of those.  There are also dragons and crypts and lots of swords and fire. Not to mention thousands upon thousands of fighting men (and some women), so the spectacle was long-waited for.

Plus, the on-going publicity for this episode made much of the expense the producers and HBO had gone to to insure that the viewing audience would absolutely be enthralled by the spectacle of the battle scenes; the claim – reiterated many times – was that no motion picture or television series had ever seen the likes of this kind of pageantry and grandeur when it came to battle scenes.

There was only one problem:

The show was so dark that it was almost impossible to see much of anything, including all the action that you knew was taking place because the sound track was doing a great job of portraying the screams and groans and dying sounds that accompanied what were probably incredible battle scenes.  I sat there wondering if there was any way to make my room – my home office – any darker, because I absolutely could NOT see what was going on.  Every once in a while I’d get a flash of something – thank you, dragons breathing fire! – but then…darkness again.  Blackness.  Just shadows and motion that indicated something was happening.  But you couldn’t prove it by me.

I was amused to see on Facebook the other day so many Twitter feeds about this very thing, some of them hilariously funny.  For example, in a article which referenced quite a few of these remarks, someone tweeted: “Turning off my own lights isn’t enough. Everyone in DC needs to turn out their lights for it to be dark enough in this house to see what’s happening in this episode.”  Another tweet: “Imagine spending millions of dollars on history-making battle sequence and you don’t even bother to light it well enough for anyone to see what’s going on…” And another comment, “I was absolutely convinced that we needed to upgrade our television and watch it again.”

Well, you get the point, I’m sure.

And as I smiled and laughed reading these comments, I was struck by a few life lessons, because indeed life lessons are all around us if we are willing to look for them.  Here’s what this episode of Game of Thrones, The Battle of Winterfell, taught me:

First, you’re almost never the only one to react a certain way.  While watching the episode, I was sure I was going blind or that old age had finally done my eyesight a turn and I’d have to adjust the tv for it permanently.  I was a bit shocked when I saw the abundance of comments that agreed that the episode was too dark for so many viewers…and these are just the few I read on Facebook.  I imagine there are many, many more out there, and so I am not alone.

Second, you can spend an awful lot of money and still make a horrendous mistake.  I don’t know where the buck stops on something like the lighting or lack of it on a tv episode, or if everyone on the crew came away after watching early screenings of The Battle of Winterfell and said, “This is amazing; just what we want!” But surely there’s a gap between what they created and what the viewing audience wants, and that’s a lot of money for what may be a big mistake.  Not the end of the world, but it teaches me that mistakes come in all price ranges.  And this one isn’t going to cause a war or global warming furtherance, so on that kind of scale, it’s not so bad.  There, I’m calmer about the darkness of the episode already, seen in this light (no pun intended).

Third, there’s a potential moral or story in everything.  Look for it, shape it, tell it, and laugh about it.  Share it if it’s good enough to share, or just tell it to your spouse or a good friend if it’s not that good.  But just creating the story in your mind is a good exercise of your creativity, so be willing to do the work to put it together.

And now, I’m going to watch tv tonight, and I’m going to look for the lightest, brightest shows I can find.

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