Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Believing So We Can See

Even the invisible airwaves couldn't hide the pain and disappointment hanging in the silence. My question to her wasn't intended to uncap the well of sorrow she had been pressing down.  

When her words came, so did the tears. 

"It wasn't supposed to end up like this," she half-whispered.

Her story may have unique characters and villains, but the narrative had a familiar ring to it. 

The pen of suffering written on lives through trials, disappointments, and loss can leave our stories hard to keep living. 

I have a file that contains letters and printed e-mails of brave and precious souls who dared to put into words their deepest disappointments and life altering pain. 

They tell of husbands who walked out, wives who bolted, children who rebelled and babies who died.

There are typed, tragic accounts of how drug abuse forever altered their loved one.... or how drug abuse altered them.

How mental illness stole the person they once knew, jobs ended, homes were repossessed and the life-long savings disappeared.  

And cancer. So much cancer.

What would we do if for one day –just one– the news reporters had only good news to report? 

That's just not the world we live in. 

We live in a world where people all around us are wondering how to take one more step forward.

It was in a particularly difficult season, one that involved a very close relationship, when I found myself feeling hopeless. 

The accusing voice of failure replayed a familiar chorus in my head, "This. Is. All. Your. Fault." 

For months, I wavered somewhere between anger at this person's choices, while knowing the reality of my own flaws and quite honestly being angry at God. After all, He was the One who allowed the core circumstances to happen in our life.

Driving alone down a long portion of highway I began to verbalize the pain. Perhaps for the first time, I wasn't trying to be brave or keep up appearances or control the situation. I wasn't even being polite toward God.

Gratefully we serve a King who isn't afraid of the raw conversations. He isn't put off by the ugly sobbing or when we dare to wrestle with Him about our deepest disappointments and hurt.

My grappling with Him in the difficulty didn't change His God-ness or His love for me. In fact, I think it was more clearly revealed.

I remember the stretch of highway I was driving on. I remember the words I said. And I remember the struggle and the ultimate releasing it all to God in a small burst of flickering faith.

The size of a small seed of faith.

I had finally reached a place of peace—a place of release– a place of knowing God would have to do the work in my heart and in those I loved.

I could move forward in confidence that He was in control.

Something about that place, those moments, were a turning point for me.

Even though what I could see had not changed, I felt like something  was settled.

That's how it was for Jacob.

He found himself alone, afraid and powerless as he was about to face his brother who had vowed to kill him years before.

It was a crossroads of where he had been and where he was going.

And there He wrestled with God.

In that encounter, some things were settled. God blessed him and changed his name.

Jacob the deceiver, became Israel the God-wrestler. 

And from that day forward Israel walked with a limp.

People who walk with a limp have my respect.

The things in life that didn't turn out like we hoped? Those are the things that help us lean on Jesus instead of ourselves.

No matter what our income, age, or credentials, at some point, we will have to embrace our powerlessness.

On the happy day, we come to the end of ourselves and our resources and all the trying to fix that husband, child, boss, or 10,000 other issues...... we are left with two choices.

We can focus on our problems or we can focus on the Problem Solver.

We can stare at the mountains or at the Mountian Mover.

We can run away or run toward.

We can worry or we can worship.

Worship is the thing that shows us Israel had more than a name change in the wrestling.

In Genesis 33:20 it says this: 
Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel).

After the wrestling? God was no longer a God, or a religion passed down. Nope. He became the Mighty God of Israel.  

God moved past vague and impersonal to very personal. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Israel.

In my own God-story there have been, and will be many seasons of learning and trusting and growing in my faith. 

Despite the circumstances that surrounded me, I settled the issue of Who had the power to do something about them.

I settled the issue of  Who I would serve no matter what the outcome. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Rhonda.

And the Lord has not let me down. 

The unending, uncomfortable, unpopular paradox is that we do learn through pain. 

Dear Fellow Limper,

You who are pressed down under the circumstances that did not turn out like you'd hoped.

To the abandoned, the hurt, and all who feel forgotten, passed over and taken advantage of.

For every person that has suffered, is suffering... deep loss and pain and various afflictions.

Don't focus on what you can see.

Believe that the Lord is mighty and working on your behalf.

Don't settle for going to church or going through the motions or merely listening to someone else talk about faith.  

Believe that you can know personally, "the Mighty God of ____________." (Fill in your name.)

Some things really do have to be believed, before our eyes can be opened to see.

With all my love,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Journaling The Journey

Some people have vast collections of valuable items.

I collect colored pens, pencils, and markers.

I may or may not have purchased a pen because it claimed to be, “...the best writing pen in the world.”

I own –blank– leather-bound journals in every size, color, and fancy functionality.

So I've had to admit I like to collect the tools of journaling more than I like the actual work of journaling.

The art of journaling is sprinkled across the vastly visual world of social media. Designs full of detail, color, and imagery.




These women not only journal but they make each entry a creative masterpiece. It causes me to sigh a bit ...and to feel guilty. Guilty that I can't even consistently take a pen to hand-scrawl an entry onto paper.

Simple. Just words on a page.

No flowers, swirly-gigs or even fabulous freehand stick people.

I've read plenty on how and why journaling should be part of my life.

And I've seen first hand a simple and effective way to journal through my friend and accountability partner. She uses a common, black, wide-ruled, composition notebook. Her handwriting is neat, and thoughts precisely recorded. The size makes it easy to carry the journal with her everywhere she goes and when the last page is filled she closes it and grabs a new one. Easy.

The beauty of this practice in her life is so evident. She has one of the most honest and deep walks with Jesus, that I've personally witnessed.

However, the system that worked for her just did not seem to work for me.

Still, I could see journaling as a spiritual discipline and I wanted the benefits that must come along with doing it.

Certainly I've tried repeatedly to succeed at journaling and have drawers full of journals to prove it. Pages partially filled with months of silence between entries. It makes me wonder now, what work God was doing in my life that I missed in those long silent gaps.

Twenty years, this has been my experience. Try. Fail. Guilt. Repeat.

Until about nine months ago. That's when a small group of beautiful women came together and decided to do a 40-day prayer challenge with some specific goals in mind.

Someone suggested that we begin a new journal for the challenge. Goodness knows I had a few empty ones to choose from. In fact, I had enough that I brought a stack of them to offer anyone who was interested.

From the beginning, I assumed this would be like so many other failed attempts. I'd begin strong and end with empty pages to record my failure.

Perhaps it was the accountability (though no one has ever seen my pages) but for those forty days, I heart-bled words and prayers and worship with ink between faint lines.

At the end of that 40-day challenge, the movie War Room came out. I'm so in love everything about that movie. At that time, Priscilla Shirer, who starred in War Room, came out with her book, Fervent.

With the focus on strategically praying for important areas in my life and those I love, I found so much that I wanted to record in my journal.

In fact, I filled a journal.

And believe it or not... (me talking to myself) I had to purchase a new journal.

I needed a deeper reason to journal and prayer seems to be the motivation that I needed.

My new journal isn't fancy. It didn't cost much more than a cup of my favorite coffee, but it's kind of priceless to me.

At its core, writing things down simply helps me to remember.

Remember what God has been showing me. Remember what and for who I've had on my heart to pray.

Writing things down can be as uncomplicated as jotting down a name that comes to mind or a verse reference. It can be as elaborate as pages of my heart being poured out in ink dusted with tear stains.

I've already gone back to revisit my last journal to see how many prayers have been answered that were recorded there.

Journaling has given me perspective in some of my difficult circumstances.

Journaling consistently, along with recording what I'm reading in the Bible has increased the level of intimacy in my walk with Jesus. I feel the warm breath of His present tense words on my life.

Just in recent weeks, as things have been unfolding in some surprising ways in our life, I've run to record them in my journal. The verses, the things that have happened without our striving. I've written them down so I don't forget how God has revealed Himself to me. To my husband and I. To our family.

Recording what we've seen Him do, has made this relationship with Him feel even more tangible.

More personal.

And I found myself re-reading those pages when circumstances scream that what we've felt God's leading us too isn't true. The journal reaffirms we have seen God leading us in a direction even if we don't know completely what that will look like.

I wonder if Abraham had a journal. I wonder how he recorded the things God was doing to confirm the direction he was heading. After all. Abraham and Sarah left what was comfortable and familiar to go to a place they did not know. There had to be days they wondered if they miss understood their calling.

Journaling gives purpose and direction to our journeying.

These months of consistent journaling, have been an invitation from to God to speak into past pain, current situations and future dreams.

He has placed on my heart to pray for blessings I've never thought to ask for.

For instance this prayer: "God what is something that You'd like to do in our lives that would not only bless us but our family and others?"  From, Battle Plan For Prayer, by Stephan & Alex Kendrick 

I recorded that prayer and dated it, with a note: "Lord I have NO idea what that could be." And it feels like God is saying: "I know what that looks like and you may want to take notes."

A prayer like the one above, is so honoring to God because the Bible says He has good plans for us.

Journaling has helped me better see the details of Gods protection and blessing and timing. Plus a deep sense of relationship, trust, and gratitude.

It has given me a deep sense of belonging to Him.

I've experienced great rest and release as I've handed over the stuff of life in prayer and dated it.

No doubt there are things that I get to pray and hand over, again and again, but the journal feels like I hammered a stake in the ground on the enemies accusations and my own doubt.

Journaling has taken the pieces of my life, placed them like stones in a riverbed, smoothing them over with His truth, making newly beautiful material that can be pieced together on the path being laid out before us.

It has taken my eyes off of things that distract me and helped me focus on His work in me. in this season.

Journaling has stirred up things in my soul. 

I certainly don't understand how God meets us in the pages of Scriptures and proceeds to sit down to process how that applies to the details of  this right now life, but journaling has helped to open my eyes to that reality.

The pages of scripture are moving from my head to my heart. 

The more I write down the story unfolding in my life, the more I realize it's actually God's story being written on my life.  

 I'm new to embrace this need to write, to journal the journey. 

"...for we are each the product of His hand, heavens poetry etched on our lives."
Ephesians 2:10

I am God's masterpiece.

- - -
Tell me how you record your journey?

How do you see His hand, heavens poetry, being etched on your life friend?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Once Upon A Banquet Table

It was an eclectic gathering of textures and golden light. Patches of greenery, wood, and elements of gold and silver were softened with tumblers of fresh cut baby’s breath. Spanning across the eighty-foot balcony, overlooking the lake, rows of tables and straight lines of white chairs invite guests to come and sit.

The planning. All of it.

The guest list. Family, friends, and the influential people in the lives of the bride and groom.

The food. So much food.

The forecast hung like the billowy blustering clouds rowing across the sky. Freezing temperatures along with rain mixed with snow arrived and stayed for days just as predicted. On the evening of rehearsal –rehearsal for a beach wedding– rain fell heavy pushing everyone into small spaces.

Sometimes there is just no turning back, even if you don't know how to go forward.

All along there was never a plan B. That's how our youngest daughter lives.

And even if I have no control what-so-ever--- I want everyone to be comfortable and feel like we sat a place at the table just for them. Not to impress, but to serve and to bless.

I was raised in a home of feasting.

A home where everyone who entered was welcome. We had a farm-sized table that was filled with platters of food, pitchers of fresh brewed tea and always, always, some sort of dessert.

I was taught –– or at least it was caught –– that the common thread of hospitality and blessing others is making people feel like you've saved a place just for them. Even if someone dropped in, we acted like we'd been waiting, with their favorite meal or a secret family recipe.

In the middle of that spring flashback of a winter gale, with all the tables set, we were left to pray. We prayed that dawn would break, the wind would die down and the sun would burn off the damp chill.

There is no explanation except God.

He answered our prayers.

A few hours before the wedding march was set to play, the wind became only a playful breeze, the sun warmed the sand and made light dance on faces. It was wonderful and sweet and romantic.

It felt like the Lord blessed the gathering and their lives now stretched out before them like a great banquet.

I don't see how we could have ever doubted Him. After all, He is God and He knows about how to set a table and throw a banquet.

In the Psalms, David wrote about the banquet God prepared for him. Those verses contain some of the most beautiful imagery and comforting truth.

In the book of Luke, Jesus was invited to a wedding. His first recorded miracle took place there. The turning water into wine. It is one of my favorite stories. A blog post needs to be written about just that.

And this week I was reading the narrative that could be named, "Once Upon A Banquet Table."

Jesus was invited to feast at a prominent man's house.

It was a gathering of whos-who. The significant. The outwardly amazing. The powerhouses. If there were things like Instagram and Facebook at that time, the newsfeeds would have been flooded with snapshots of them lifting their goblets and posed pictures with the host.

But Jesus. He wasn't afraid to mess with their status-quo thinking.

Instead of joining in with their self-promoting ways, Jesus took this banquet opportunity to teach some truth.

Truth, that I'm guilty of missing too.

Truth, of how we live on this earth today will impact how we will live in eternity.

He tells the man who invited him to the dinner: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  

That was upside-down thinking then. It's upside-down thinking now. 

There is another banquet yet to come.

It's a banquet we don't want to miss.

We will be on the guest list in heaven if we believe on earth the testimony of Jesus.


They are vivid pictures of Jesus and His church.

Banquet tables.

A living representation of communion, of fellowship, and of being invited.

The feasting and the joyful gathering of many. A place prepared for you.

All are invited but not everyone will accept the invitation.

Here on earth, we get a glimpse of this glory. There is something holy and incredibly beautiful about a person, about the people, who make everyone feel like there is room at their table. They look like Jesus.

And someday.... the scene will change.

Dawn will break and the Son will reveal the Great Banquet.

The banquet He has prepared for those who love Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Believing His Promises & Waking Up Dreams

The rhythm of my life has the sweet scent of ordinary days.




Most days, I rise to the gentle strum of a guitar –on my alarm.

I wander into the kitchen in my favorite cotton hoodie and yoga pants to make one large coffee.

Cupping that motivation, I descend to my office and settle into the reclaimed, repurposed chair that's covered with  sea blue faux velvet fabric. For almost a decade I've thought about getting a fancy, neutral, photograph worthy chair.

But no. This one is like a friend who has walked many miles of life.

Here I read.



My life is good. I'm glad for the lack of uncommon.

It all feels cozy and known and held.

In my neighborhood, I know what time it is by which neighbor is driving by.

All of this is beautiful. All of this is a gift.

Until twelve days ago.

That morning? I did all the things I usually do.

The sky laid out with soft blue streamers of slender cirrus clouds overhead and green tufts of grass poking through the winter ground outside my office window.

The weathermen had been squawking for days about snow. I was made aware of this when the checker looked over the top of her trifocals, surveying my half a gallon of milk and the single dozen of brown eggs. "Not sure you have enough for the weather we're expecting," she warned.

Before I could even respond, she went into the three-day forecast, which around here involves some wind. I resisted the urge to go back and pick-up a bag of licorice and thanked her for the information.

I book my hair appointments months in advance. Hair is that important. I realize the vanity of it all. Still, few things could warrant canceling, including the grocery-store-lady forecast.

By now the sky had turned to low yellow-grey clouds.

The wind rocked my midsized SUV and the flag at the bank leaned into the southwest.

Two hours later things had definitely changed. Piercing wind delivered snow and reduced visibility to the hood of my car. The streets were layered with ice and a milky blanket of snow.

This is when light split the sky and the deep boom of  thunder shook the atmosphere.

Blizzard + thunderstorm.

I'm almost six decades old and have never experienced the wonder of it!

They call it, "an abrupt and radical meteorological change." A collision of cold air clashing with warm, moist air.

It's rare and frightening and unsafe.


In the middle of this new-to-me phenomenon, I had one last stop.

Only a few minutes and I would be able to head home.

There, in a small office with someone I only casually know, a conversation arose.

It was an unexpected conversation. It led to an uninvited observation. I left the office half annoyed and half wondering why it felt like a holy moment.

I'm sure they had no idea of the odd weight of their words.

For five miles, visibility was limited to the sharp drop-off that leads to the canyon on the right side of the highway. The snow blew and the thunder crashed and things inside me shook.

Finally, I pulled into the garage at home and closed the door. But I could not shut out the encounter.

Thunder vibrating the chambers of my  mind and lightning struck some fire in this soul.

And a dream awakened.

The wind howled and the dream yawned and stretched as it rose from its deep slumber. A dream that quite frankly I didn't know was inside of me.

I've believed in the promises of God, but lately I've been undone by the dreams He plants in our DNA.

Dreams that would take God Himself to accomplish.

Dreams that aren't safe or tidy or comfortable.

But we are walking forward and the doors have been opening.

So we are going to keep walking forward until we see how far this sleeping giant will take us.

This feels like a thundersnow-dream.

Surreal. Near zero visibility, crashing thunder and streaks of lightning.

Abrupt and radical. Doubt clashing with faith.

It feels like God has jolted me/us out of our beautiful ordinary life and revealed a glimmer of His glory and His desire to bless us.

And I believe it's a dream that God has been weaving the intricate plans for all along.

Out of the storehouses of the heavens, He awakens dreams in the heart of a dreamer –when the time is right.

He stirs up the atmosphere of a soul and starts writing a new chapter to the story. And the wind of the Spirit is flipping the pages.

The world says we make our own dreams happen, but that is not what I'm living right now.

God woke up the dream and it's wild and not one that I could manufacture.

For us, it's hard to believe and impossible to accomplish –apart from Him.

We want to live this for His glory. We want to seek our happiness in the Lord alone, but tucked away in this verse is a promise. When we desire to know God, He knows the dreams planted deep in our hearts and He is apparently willing to wake them up, stir them up and then fulfill them.

I feel uncomfortable and known and held.

Stay tuned for the unfolding.
© Rhonda Quaney