Monday, November 25, 2013


The push is on.

Have you noticed it too?

It seems like midnight of October 31st, the store aisle went from costumes, pumpkins and a splash of fall leaves, to all things Christmas and consumer hype. Marketing on the radio, television and internet have been blaring how short the shopping season is for 2013.  Advertising claims how we must “shop now,”grab at “never lower prices this season,” and even “pre-pre-Black Friday sales.” 

Our youngest daughter works in retail. Her position is called a visual merchandiser. Her job is to put together product in such a way, that when the customer enters the building they can see themselves owning it. The company she works for doesn't advertise, have great sales and will have no “door buster specials” to draw the crowds. They will however be open on Thanksgiving.

Last year at that one store, they sold over 400 pairs of jeans, just because the doors were open. People who found themselves milling around in the wee hours of dark, gathering big savings elsewhere, splurged on jeans that can be purchased at that premium price, every. single. day. of the year.

I get it.

I love Christmas too.

And I’m not sitting in condemnation of anyone or anything. But I don’t want to be part of the reason that drives corporations to stay open and demands that hard working people miss the one single day set aside to be with family and give thanks for all we have been given.

The masses can do what they do, but I want to take a different path. To slow the pace of commercialism in my own life and fully embrace family, home, time spent exhaling love, resting that what we have, is enough. 

So I have been intentionally grasping onto these wondrous days and pouring out thanks and thought I'd share some here with:

1. The first blustery day brought down the leaves that hung on long as the clouds rolled and the wind howled its warning of the change that rode on it squalling gusts.

2. My office being such a cozy retreat to read, write, and create. It wraps my heart full. 

3. Steaming bubble bath with chamomile and sipping on green tea.

4. A virtual exodus of tumbleweeds on a very windy day.  

5. Fresh baked bread with homemade choke-cherry jam. 

6. Four moon-rises where the evening light rose like a copper blazing ball and sat on the horizon as if it was too full to continue its journey across the sky.  

7. Half way through the study Breaking Free. Wanting my life to be a story of freedom.

8. Beautiful women, new friends, deeper relationships forged along with returning friends and the conclusion of the third session of on-line (in)courage groups. Only God could have dreamed this up!

9. Worship song This Is Amazing Grace Jeremy Riddle

10. One golden moment that I sped by, this blanket of leaves and the sun shinning brilliant, so much that I drove two miles back out of my way to capture with my camera. #wortheveryminute

11. Sick but thankful to be home and for things that bring comfort and speed healing.

12. My beautiful little blonde headed mentee Christina. She causes me to lean in on Jesus and to pray. 

13. Rare and wonderful time spent with my friend Cherri.  Shared birthdays and hearts for hearing from Jesus. 

14. Quiet Mornings, a cup of warm tea, time to read and consider all Jesus has done for me.

15. Saturday morning meeting with a room full of women that spend themselves to love on women.

16. Crazy full day that started before 4:00 AM, moments of grace in the crazy. So good.

17. Dancing in the living room to this.....  Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman 

18. The adventure and journey to attend the IF Gathering.

19. Walking this one day in the reality of all that Jesus wants from me.... is my heart.

20. An amazing, unexpected offer of a place to retreat, rest, write, rejuvenate.

21. Beautiful new friend Heather. We were instantly connected by the golden three-cord-strand of love for Jesus. Being able to worship together a few days later. Pure grace.

22. To grasp a few minutes of refreshment and a mug of hot chocolate.

23. My husband and his unconditional love for me.

 24. Preparing food like I would for those I love, for people I don’t know.  Blessed.

25. To be a Thanksgiving baby, but more, to be a child of thanksgiving.

26. JQ being home this week.

27. Seeing God be so creative and good to bless us with gifts for loved ones. Nearly done shopping. Miracle!

28. Lord willing, my whole family gathering in our home to celebrate the goodness of God.

I’m pushing back.

Running from the urge to decorate for the next holiday, just because we have an afternoon that both JQ and I are home.

Clinging to the quiet.

Clutching the heartbeat of Thankfulness.

I'm reminded too, that being thankful is a lifestyle.

It’s in the everyday. It’s in the wonder how we are able to draw another breath. Wrapped up in courage, to live different.

It’s the reality of living in this one spinning world, flying through this life, yet capturing the moments of gentle whispers of all that is good, lovely, true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. The best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8)

Thankful lives are lived out in thankful days, thankful hours and thankful moments.

Yes giving thanks is a lifestyle.

Happy Thanks-living friends.

Sometimes The Message Bible just says it so perfect, it makes me laugh!
Jump to your feet and join me?

On your feet now - applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God. 
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.

Psalm 100 MSG

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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Pilgrimage Of Thanksgiving

I imagine, the trees had mostly shed their leaves, except for the few resilient ones that clung for dear life, as November winds cut deep from the northeast. And the table would have been set as it had been, every year before this, with the largest turkey to be found. Grandpa slipped juicy pieces into his mouth as he separated the white meat from the dark. All the sisters contributed side dishes. There would be a rainbow of the latest and greatest jello salads, with diced up fruit, some dotted with marshmallows. Three bean and green bean casseroles, yams steaming and a crystal dish of tart cranberry sauce, plus cans of black olives would be part of their celebration. Pottery bowls piled high with mashed potatoes, dripping with melting butter, complete with lumps, that every cook there would defend, saying, “It only proves the potatoes are real.”

My grandma was most known for baking pies with golden tips of meringue piled high. And on this day of Thanksgiving, there would surely be butterscotch, lemon, chocolate, pumpkin and pecan enough for all, plus leftovers for Sunday.

But on this particular day of feasting, my mom couldn't hear the laughter or chatter of those voices she adored, because she was laboring to give birth to her second child.

I came squalling into this world on that day of Thanksgiving, making my mom miss one of her favorite things: gathering with her family. In the wonder of it all, my beautiful mom with swept-back raven hair and fair skin, was birthing her own legacy that day. 

My earliest memories, were of gatherings at my grandparents’ home, and to this day is a gift I cling to. My mom was one of seven sisters plus one brother. Between them all, we were thirty-six cousins. While not all the cousins were able to be there every year, many were.  Treasured times in that small house bursting at the beams, with scampering children and aunts and uncles chattering. Many of the cousins would crowd in layers, on the stairs, eating black olives off our fingers and giggling at how amusing we were. 

Those were the easy days.

And life is an arduous journey.

As I traversed the hills and valleys of the everyday, buying into the press of what you should look like, comparison, trying to be better, beating myself up because I wasn't more of something and everything, I traveled away from who I really was. 

There is what I did to myself, what others inflicted on me and what life dealt me.

And as I lay in the valley of the shadow of death and destruction I came face to face with this fact: When I had much I was thankful for little. Yet, in the face of great loss my journey began toward being grateful for much.

Grateful for two small children that I had no idea how I could provide for. Grateful for a car that ran, grateful for the people in my life who didn't abandon me and were not intimidated by my pain or what a mess I was.

Yes, it begun when pain pumped though my veins, that I came alive.

Really alive.

Because pain makes you aware of every second that ticks on the clock, every breath that pushes air through your lungs and every heaving sigh of your chest. 

My true sojourn begins with Thanksgiving Day, but my real life of living thanksgiving began under the surge and swell of a torn soul. 

When I began to praise God, to thank God for what He was doing in me and my life, I stepped through an invisible, but oh-so-very-real gate.

God is working through my life, redeeming my destruction, igniting this work that He began and will see to the end. He is present here in my mess, and is using everything that has happened if I will allow Him.  

Life is journey, a pilgrimage of thanksgiving. The reveling in the everyday, the sorrow, the celebrations. It’s easy to celebrate when everything goes well. The real test of our substance is how we praise Him in the dark night of the soul, in the weeping, loss and sitting among the shards of broken dreams.

God is relentless in His redemption and grace.

Oh praise Him!

Thanksgiving babies only celebrate their birthdays on Thanksgiving Day once every seven years. But this thanksgiving baby desires to lives every day with a song of freedom and thanksgiving and feet set to the path of the sacred and mystery of Jesus.

I'm wrapping my arms around you. Yes. You. 

Real women extend grace, revive, and breath life into each other.

Live out your beautiful life today and live it thankful friend.

Linking up at these lovely places. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

When You Want To Be The Boss

Tucked under the veil of towering cottonwood trees, where strands of light filtered through like golden threads, we gathered fallen branches, stumps for chairs and and set the table on a carpet of matted grass. At the age of six, my first-ever-best-friend, Mary and I created an enchanted-to-us, forest home, where princess-mommies lived.  We honed our nesting skills, by making mud cakes and serving tea from chipped cups. 

She lived on a ranch that had towering barns with lofty hay mangers. Large wooden doors squeaked under the weight of their substance, when swung open. There was a chicken house and cleaning station where we collected, washed and candled eggs before putting them in cartons for her family to sell. The rugged bunkhouse was home to their hired men who rode high-headed horses out to work pastures of cattle. Her family lived in a stately brick home, that had many features I loved, such as the laundry chute we flew down like a tornado slide, a huge sun room that faced the west and the most elaborate office, anchored with a large wood desk, surrounded with a treasure trove of books stacked from floor to ceiling on three walls.   

Some of my earliest, sweetest memories are in this place.  

But we didn't stay best friends, because at some point I just wanted to be the boss.

My mom called me her sweet blond haired, blue eyed doll. She said that I was shy and sweet for most of my young years. And though I doubt they knew the meaning of my name, my parents named me Rhonda, which in Greek, mean powerful river. I now know that I am an extrovert. A do-er. A high capacity, wake up early, go to bed late and crash hard somewhere in-between, kind-of-person. And quite frankly, it has taken too much of my life to realize that when my agenda, my will, isn't submitted to Authority, I'm dangerous. Dangerous to myself and everyone else.

In the world we live, this whole thing is misunderstood.

It begins with how we raise children. On one side we are taught and perhaps were even raised, that children are to be seen but not heard, that they should jump when told and spanked at the slightest hesitation in obedience. 

On the other side are beautiful children who fall in a heap at the slightest suggestion of not having it their their way, while their parents make excuse that the child is having a bad day, it's only a stage and how they don't want to break their spirits. And those children feel insanely insecure, because they were never suppose to be the boss of their parents.

Trust me, neither, being a controller kind of parent or allowing the child to control are what God designed. Perhaps that's why so many have such a distorted view of what kind of Father we serve. He isn't waiting to crush us for messing up yet He knows the freedom we will experience when we understand and respect authority. 

As we enter adolescence it's the strongest, most lovely and athletic that we esteem.  Eventually some of the ones who are brilliant, creative and who take risks are rise to the top. Still, we put our identities in all sorts of wrong places and are willing to step on, steal, grab and sneak around to get what we think we want and deserve in this life.

That isn't the model that Jesus gave us. He says in Mark 10:42   "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads." 

Have you worked with someone like this?  Someone who has an agenda and your job is to help them be greater? 

Jesus goes on to say, in verse Mark 10:43: "It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. "

Years ago, I got my first glimpse of what this really looks like. Though I'm unable to find the story to reference it properly, the essence of the testimony, that stuck in my heart, was how a woman who loved Jesus, served Him by cleaning toilets. It moved me so deeply and I remember praying, "Lord, I want to be willing to do whatever You ask, and that includes cleaning toilets if it will bring You glory." 

When Pastor John Stone arrived to our church a few years back, one of his first sermons was about the "Upside Down Life."  He gave tangible examples how you can live out, being a servant to others. We lead by example and the example we have been given is one of serving. It isn't this idea of one person is way up here on the top, a few others are the special people who surround that one person and all the others down-line are ultimately serving the person on top of the pyramid. 

It's all upside down in the Kingdom of God. Leadership is about Servant-ship.

Jesus had to explain this concept to the very  men who had followed Him for years. He said this, "Whoever wants to be great among you must become a servant." (read here?) 

Now, even secular companies, researching what makes some businesses better than others have found that it isn't just dynamic, gifted people in leadership who can build a better bottom line. No, they found that in very successful companies, often the distinguishing mark is that the leadership is humble

What they have discovered that great leaders do, is to serve the people that they lead.

Being humble is such a compelling characteristic that it draws people in. When we are approachable, show genuine concern for others, not living a self-agenda, but are for the people that we come in contact with, something powerful happens. 

Even if people don't want anything to do with Jesus, they will love working with and being around the Jesus-lover who lives out these truths. 

Living this way has a tremendous effect on us as well. Somehow it gives us great confidence and security in the One we serve instead of our own self focus.

Andy Stanley says we need to do this: "Leverage our authority for the sake of those under our authority."

He says it this way too: "How can I loan you me..... for you?"

It is another way of saying, "How can I help you?"

When we lose our ego, our pride, our control, our empty thinking that we are somehow better that anyone-else-in-the-whole-wide-world, we can extend what we have to give, to love on people. And as we lean all that we are, into all that He is, we give credit to and bring glory to the Savior.

We can not truly lead, if we do not humble ourselves to do whatever needs to be done.

Looking back, there are still strong ties and connections to when I was the little girl, who dreamed and played in that enchanting hand-hewn playhouse in the cottonwood trees with her sweet friend Mary. That child needed to learn to humble herself, which was actually freedom from fits of wanting things my way and failures from selfish ambition.

My adult self, has made a wide circle from being a selfish, child who didn't know how to be a real friend. I am still irresistibly drawn to the humble comforts of home, but my passion is to live out these crazy days on earth, being a blessing to all those I can give a bit of myself to.

It is all upside down in Gods Kingdom. The first shall be last. If we want our children to be leaders they need to be servants. And if we want to be the boss, then we need to be a servant to all.

How can I loan me, to you friend?

What of yourself can you offer to others to strengthen them?

Linking up here and still counting blessings:

#1249 My gentle husband
#1250 Our furry family. Olivia, Brandy and Jessica
#1251 The Lord providing for Emily, free housing until the end of the year.
#1252 A complete answer to prayer, to be able to attend the If Gathering. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When You Are Beautiful

The auditorium was filled to capacity. The women chattered nervously as they filed into the arena, faces flushed with excitement. Perched high above the ground floor, directly back from the stage, we settled into our seats, purchased at the last minute, for the event. The small band of women who had traveled together were strangers really. We had packed up our best faces and clothing, loaded into an average van with our ordinary lives, driven six hours and arrived here with expectation.

There was soul-stunning, heart-reverent worship and then the speaker began to teach. Honestly, I don’t remember the scripture, but I remember the subject matter, and I was not prepared for the raw emotion and reaction it would invoke. The passages she read were familiar, but as she took the scripture apart, examining the words, one by one in the original Greek meaning, there was a reference that had to do with the eye.

The teacher went into the audience and choose one precious woman and sat down beside her with every lens and microphone poised. The famous woman cupped  the unknown woman’s face in her hands and began to speak tenderly to her about the meaning of this verse. She suggested that it was as if Jesus was gazing into her eyes and telling her how beautiful, how cherished, how adored she was. The delicate woman chosen from the audience handled this extremely intimate encounter with such grace and only a few tender tears.

I was undone.

A literal flood of emotions awakened. Unexpected raw pain.  I sobbed, the ugly, uncontrollable cry where every kind of thing is released and pours out of your face. Quite frankly it scared me. Even writing these words today, fresh tears sprang forth again. Not like the first time, but it is a tender place, to believe that anyone, especially the God of the Universe truly loves us so intimately and desires for us to know how He sees us beautiful.

That was over a decade ago and if the Lord has shown me one thing in my years of ministry and service to women, He has made it crystal clear that few women believe the truth of their beauty. 

A few years ago, in a small group, the subject matter was about believing God's truth over the lies of the world and the enemy. Without much thought, I asked each woman to share a single word, that may be a lie they had believed about themselves or had spoken to them. Just a single word that they had long embraced in their hearts. What poured forth was unexpected, deep pain. 

Each one was quick to speak the one word.

It was on the tip of their tongues because they had made it part of how they saw themselves. Words like, ugly, unwanted, stupid and fat. Typing those awful words breaks my heart right here. And worse, I know that it grieves the heart of our Father deeply, that we have believed the lies of this world over what The Lord says about us in His Word.

Can we just stop it?

The only way we can stop believing what we have been told, or cease listening to what satan accuses us with, is to replace those thoughts and ingrained beliefs with the truth of the Word. It is no small matter ladies. This subject is at the very core of who we are. In the beginning, God created women as the pinnacle of His creation. Not an afterthought, but the crowning jewel of all that He created and said, "It is good."  The enemy has waged a full-scale attack on women and the demoralization of  women every since. 

We, who believe in Jesus, need to make it our focus, to take to our Father every single place in our soul, bath ourselves in the truth of His word to get healing, so we can hand off a healthy legacy to our daughters and the daughters of others. 

We have to stop it.

Stop dragging our baggage and comparing ourselves to others. Cease listening to the things that promote the lies blaring from every television, magazine, and billboard. If we, the women who claim to know Jesus don't live like we believe what God says about us, who will lead the way for all the women who need freedom in this area of their souls? 

We need to be the beautiful change.

We have to be the beautiful change that women are dying to believe.

Beth Moore in her classic study Breaking Free, the story of her deliverance from, in part, childhood victimization, talks about four things most women dream of: To be a bride, to be beautiful, to be fruitful, and to live happy every after. She goes on to say that the enemy wants to destroy our dreams while God wants to give us more than we can hope or imagine.

Indeed, my sweet friends, God wants to cup your face in His hands, sweep back the wisp of hair and the dust of life that is distorting your view. He wants to heal your wounds, disgraces, failures, losses and deepest secrets. 

We have to hand Him all of it, along with the reins of our lives, so that we can walk in all that He has for each  us. 

Indeed. The enemy certainly knows how dangerous it is if we believed these truths.

You are His beautiful, pure bride whom He wants to be overwhelmingly intimate with.

You are beautiful.

He has plans for you to be fruitful, and there really is a happily ever after, not only in heaven but here too, when we live sold out for Him.

I'm praying for each of us to fully wrap your souls around these truths. It is not too late in our lives to turn and embrace Jesus and all that He has for us in this season of life.

It is not too late to look into the heart of  our Savior and take Him at His word.

You are beautiful.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

When You Are Looking For Church

Tucked on the side of one howling hill, far away from the nearest small town, stands an old county church. It is partially cloaked by evergreens that hang their shaggy arms low, under the weight of age. White paint clings to the century old boards and simple hand-crafted windows line the building on three sides to let the morning sun penetrate the interior and the warm glow of a sunset to flood every crevice and corner.

A modest cross with peeling paint, caps the roof, reaching toward the sky.

Dark clouds hung low and a veil of moisture was visible as we bent into the uphill walk. Sharp drops of rain pelted our faces and the cold pierced our skin. The black iron sign arched above, framing the chilly scene. The sign reads "Eclipse."

This place known as the Eclipse Church and Cemetery, is said to have had the first little pine coffin buried around 1890, because of the death of a baby. It wasn't long before the wildness of these hills claimed more lives and the area was eventually fenced off and set apart as a community cemetery. The church was built in 1916 and it has served as a welcome retreat to gather in the big events of life. Celebrations such as weddings, holidays and baptisms would bring people from miles away. People found comfort in this tranquil place in times of deep sorrow and tears as people pass from this life. Indeed these walls have seen the span of what makes up all of life and death for decade after decade in this, still, wild and largely untamed prairie.

I've heard some people think that "church" is obsolete and antiquated like this old building.

Some folks think that only weak people need to do church and too many times I've heard the statement that church buildings are just full of hypocrites. While some of that can certainly be true it makes me think about why I love church.

The word "church" is rendered in the New Testament from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning "an assembly" and "to call out" or "called out ones." So, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

In plain English, -we are the church.

To have a church building is a gift. It is there that we gather with other folks, to be strengthened, to use the talents we have been given to serve people and quite frankly, to grow-up. We tend to compartmentalize church. Like it is something we do once a week, instead of something that we are all the time. As long as this world remains as we know it, church will remain because Jesus said that it would.

When we believe that Jesus is who He said He is, then we have His Spirit in us wherever we go. And so many times we are the only church that people will experience, because they are afraid to step foot in the building.

Part of the problem is there is a moment when we trust in Jesus and a lifetime journey of becoming more like Him. Therefore church buildings are full of humans who are on the journey yet who still mess up all. the. time. We are wanting to be more like Jesus, yet acting like we don't. So there we are, being hypocrites. Wanting to do good and failing to do the good we want to do. (read here?)

That is a lot to wrap my mind around.

And if you are reading this and I have offended you, can I just stop right here and tell you that I am deeply sorry? Would you please, please, please forgive me? And the next time it happens would you tell me straight out and give me a change to make amends with you again? Because I am just a mess and I want to love you the way God loves you, but I'm still learning what that is.

When I first trusted that Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for my sin, I heard this man say, "When I meet a new person in the church I apologize for offending them, because if they are around me very long it will happen." 

Now I realize this is a little crazy, but isn't it just true? So many times I didn't even mean to hurt a person, yet do. Then it seems, no matter what you do, the person still rejects you? Jesus is a non-negotiable for me, but all the other stuff... it's just life and details and I'm a dreamer that believes Love can triumph over it all.

A church building is intended to be a place where people gather together... to laugh and learn, to be known and accepted. Where there is singing, music, people hugging, children running and laughing and crawling, with faces glowing from the laughter, down the isles and in the halls of the building we call our church home, but I never want to forget.... that I am the church.

 Against the backdrop of rolling sand-hills, the cross of the little country church rises like a beacon toward the sky. Indeed when Jesus breathed His last breath on that cross a solar eclipse overshadowed the land, an earthquake rattled the ground, dead people came back to life and started to walk around town, and the veil in the Temple was torn. (read it here?)

The cross stands as a reminder of the price He paid.

Like this little country church, the doors of His church are unlocked waiting to swing wide open, in welcome to those who want to enter.Then we become the tangible, living, breathing church sent out into all the world.

Oh may our lives and hearts point people to the One who loves us all so deeply that He hung on the cross and said, "It is finished."

Special thanks to Linda Tucker for allowing us to visit Eclipse.
And to Amy for going on the adventure with me and taking some of these pictures.
** Love you. So. Much. **

Counting Blessings Here....

#1245 To meet once a week with my little friend Christina
#1246 So many baptisms in our church. Beautiful thing every single time.
#1247 Husband home for a week. Crazy in love with that man.
#1248 Day lillies and roses are still blooming. 

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© Rhonda Quaney