Monday, April 14, 2014

Five W's

Surely at some point in your life, you’ve heard of the five W’s. You know them: Who, what, when, where and why. This “system” of rounding up information is used on everything from enhanced learning, website evaluations and even for digging deeper in journalism.

This morning as I was sorting out some things with the Lord, I realized that I was using this same method, even with Him. Several situations in my life where I’ve scratched my head, wrestled in my heart, questioned without answers and even doubted in the dark what God has so faithfully shown in the light.

Maybe you’ve been there. If not for you, then for someone you love. Ever ask these questions? Lord, what are you doing? What are you up to, anyway? What are you working on that my eyes have yet to see?

Or maybe, you’ve been waiting.  Is the question on your heart today simply, “When, Lord?” Learning to trust Him in the waiting can be so very hard.

The question of where isn’t far from some of us either. Where are you in this God? Where were you when ____________________. Where, God, where?

And then there is the hardest question of all: Why. Why, God? Why have you allowed this? Why have you not prevented this? Why have you not intervened? Why have you not _________________.
Why, God? W H Y?

I purposefully left off the first W, because for me it’s the only one I can answer completely and confidently: Who. He is God and He is faithful. He may or may not answer all of our nagging questions. We may or may not see Him work in the situations where we’ve prayed and waited for Him to. But what we can know is Who He is and all that He does promise to do, to be for us. What great comfort there is in knowing Who I can depend on. Who I can trust. Who I can put my faith in to not only save my soul, but walk with me through this crazy life. Of all the five W’s, this is the most important, the most significant. And at the end of the day, it’s the only one that really does matter.

Take hold of His hand and let Him take hold of your heart. Knowing Who He is will prove to be more beneficial than gaining answers to any questions that you may be wrestling with today. He loves you
so . . . He’s never going to let you go. Even with all your questions, in spite of all your questions, regardless of all those crazy stinkin’ questions.  Guess what? I still don’t know what. Still waiting on when. Don’t even know where. Why is still swirling at times. Oh, but I do know Who. And for today, my heart is resting in Who I know Him to be. I pray yours will, too.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Crossroad

I have been awake for quite some time. Okay, truth is, I've been awake for a L O N G time. It could be the horrible side effect from steroids, but I am leaning toward the Spirit of God who has finally nudged me out of my bed. Here I sit, coffee in hand, rain pouring down and a strong desire to talk about my Nana.

Willia Mae Hixson was a very unique woman. She lived on this earth just six weeks shy of her 100th birthday. She was a legend, not only in her own mind, but in the mark she left for decades on Cleveland, Tennessee. In some ways, she was Cleveland's "first" lady. First female who got to be "the first" for many things. From working with the police (she would search women who were being sent to jail) to being the first female writer for the Banner. She was the first woman to host a wildlife sports radio broadcast at a local station. The stories she'd tell, the memories she'd share—well, let's just say that growing up she had a captive audience. As I laid in bed thinking of her, my mind kept going back to something she had shared with me on more than one occasion. These were her exact words: "There are two roads to go in this life, Rhonda. The right road and the wrong road. Go the right road, and it will all go well for you. Go the wrong road, and it will end in disaster." 

In all due respect, Nana, I want to challenge your mindset just a bit. Based on my own life journey (52+ years and counting), I've learned that much of what you shared with me to be true; however, I must disagree that in traveling the "right" road, it doesn't always go well.

For me, traveling the right road means that I am living my life intentionally seeking God's heart and His will for my life. It means that I am active in a real relationship with Him and that in this pursuit, I'm following hard after Him as I live day to day. Not a perfect life, not a sinless life, but a life that is putting Him and others in front of self. Can I just say that it's been while traveling the right road that I've faced some of my deepest heartaches and suffered some of my greatest losses? Some of the most faithful servants I know have had the rug yanked right out from underneath them and have had the bottom fall completely out on their lives while traveling the right road. I'm sure there have been some who have wondered if they were really on the right road. Oh, Nana, you failed to mention that the right road isn't always the easy road. The right road, at times, is just plain hard.

Then there's the wrong road. The road that completely abandons God's heart and will to chase after what self wants—what the flesh of who we are craves. Choosing the wrong road means we stop at nothing in order to get what it is we want, regardless of what it costs us, regardless of who we wound along the way. People who look left and travel the wrong road, more times than not, really do know they are headed in the wrong direction. They have failed to obey God and they have ignored the wise counsel of those who love them enough to not only tell them the truth, but challenge them to walk in it.

Here's the simple truth about the difference between the right road and the wrong road. One leads to the Lord, the other will lead you far away from Him. It really is that plain and simple. The road that leads to the Lord, in spite of pain, heartache, heartbreak, rejection, even loss, will also be a road where the peace of God truly does surpass ALL understanding. The right road fills us with hope, in spite of circumstances that scream the complete opposite. The right road isn't filled with worry and will never echo regret. The right road may be a difficult road, but it does lead to good because He promises that He will work all things together for our good if we love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The right road is the best road, friends. He promises.

If the road you are traveling has you at a crossroad and the steps that have led you here are surrounded by confusion, doubt and have you withdrawing from not only the Truth but those who live by it; if deep down you know you are pursuing your will and not His will, then more than likely, you're on and will continue to head down the wrong road. Stop. Look. Listen.

"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." - Jeremiah 6:16

Yes, Nana, there always have been and there always will be two roads to walk in this life. Thank you for encouraging me to walk the right road. Traveling the right road has also given me the rest of the story: It may not always go well, but the journey with Jesus is worth it and it does end well. Oh, does it ever end well.

Are you at a crossroad today? Having a hard time deciding which way you want to go? Is self screaming left, while Savior whispers right? I pray God's word will encourage and challenge you: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)

Seek God's heart through His Word. Invite the wise counsel of those who love God and are seeking His heart through His Word. Let Him speak to you today as you stand at the crossroad and consider the outcome of going left vs. right. If you choose the right road, it will have been His voice saying to you, "Yes, dear one, this is the right way. Walk in it." The promise is also that as you do, you will find rest for your soul. The left road never leads to it, no matter how long we walk on it or how we might try to convince ourselves otherwise. Deep down we do know which road we've chosen and which road we are making our journey on.

I wasted nearly 28 years of my life walking on the wrong road. There were signs all along with way, but I ignored them. I went the way that seemed right to me. It was a messed-up life at best and the one thing I lacked that I so longed for was peace. Never did find it traveling the wrong road. Then I met Jesus and the journey on the right road began. For many of these (almost 25) years of walking with Him, I've ran strong. There have been seasons where I've walked and in all honestly, I've had seasons where I've crawled. I've had seasons where I simply had to rest. Resting doesn't mean quitting. Sometimes we must rest so that we can have the strength to get back in the journey of traveling on the right road.

Stand at the crossroad and look. Look left. Is it costing you your relationship with the Lord and those who you love and love you? Is it a road of compromise? Is it a road that has left your heart tangled and do you feel as if you're struggling to breath? Now look right. Consider all that can be gained in your life by going the right road. Peace with God, peace with others. An authentic relationship with Christ that comes from delight and not duty. Genuine fellowship with other believers. Not a life without pain, but a life with great promise. A journey on the right road that does end well. The choice is mine, friend, and the choice is yours.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It seems the older I get the more aware I am of how quickly time passes. Maybe it's because I recently spent a few days with my aging parents. Maybe it's due to all the social media and the exposure to countless pictures of my daughter's friends who are now grown and raising families of their own. When exactly did these kids who used to swim in my pool, slumber party at my house, roll my front yard—when did they grow up? Could it be that my own daughters are moms and I have this incredible privilege of watching them raise their own kids? Add to the evidence the wrinkles that I see on my face which also serve as a daily reminder. Gosh, there are days I simply wonder where time has gone.

How true it is that we each have only 24 hours in a day. From the time our feet hit the floor until the time we crawl (sometimes fall) into bed at night, our days are jam-packed with just living life. Whether you work in or outside of the home, whether you are a Mom/Dad with little ones, or a retired empty-nester, we all are guilty of letting the day get away from us. But what if today was our last day to live on this earth? The last day to touch those we love, to hear their voice, listen as they laugh? What if today was your last chance to live your life to the fullest, to experience something new, to take a chance, to step outside of the norm or what feels so comfortable for you? What if?

I confess that I am a routine person through and through. Even though I don't mind change, the truth is, I like things to stay the same. I like order. I like life best when it runs like a well-oiled wheel. I tend to function best when I'm doing what I know I'm good at, or better yet, what I'm comfortable at. After living through four years of consistent change, I'm not only adjusting more and more, I'm actually beginning to settle into it. I've learned (and yes, the hard way) that nothing stays the same in this life—nothing except God's extravagant love and His promises which are strong, steady and true.

So, friends . . . LET'S LIVE THIS DAY. The clock is ticking and if we're not careful, life will pass us by. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why we call it "the present."

Let's take this gift of today and use it all up. If you can, change the routine a bit. Drive to work a different route and look for changes in scenery along the way. Take the time you would have used for self and offer it to someone else. Nothing on your to-do list is nearly as important as investing into another life. Laugh with others and at yourself today. Try a new food—reach out and make a new friend. Speak to the person behind you in line at Target. Turn on the radio, open the window or sunroof (for ultimate praising while driving) and sing to the top of your lungs. Be intentional with the hours you've been given today. Make some memories with someone, somehow, someway. And if we're given the gift of tomorrow, we'll look back on today with no regrets.

I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence.
1 Corinthians 7:29/The Message