Posted in Uncategorized

Exciting News and Other Adventures

I didn’t want to place this post directly in my Verses series, even though I promise to offer a favorite verse or two in the course of this post, because I want to let you know that I’ve published a new novel!

A Love of Her Own is a story that began as my project for 2017’s National Novel Writing Month. I valiantly, or vainly, posted a first draft segment of the novel I was writing during that November’s challenge to share with you, my blog post readers.

2017 was part of the three-year stretch where life got serious and overwhelmingly challenging. As I wrote on that first draft, my mother battled ALS, and my family worked together to make her comfortable and try to enjoy each other as much as we could, treasuring small moments and counting as victories everyday things most of us take for granted. More than once, I wondered aloud why I had so stupidly committed to writing a novel in the midst of the chaos that was my life. I was juggling work, spending time at my family home nine hours away from my husband, and taking business trips out of town to boot.

Once I finished the initial project, the novel sat in the ether as my world continued to spiral. Eventually, I returned to the first draft to begin editing it, wincing at the lazy language and inadequate development that marked my first attempts at this story. After three additional edits, this novel is finally something I’m proud to offer as a finished piece of work for your assessment. You can find out more about the story here.

But, I promised a verse or two, verses I am glad that I’ve read, especially when it comes to continuing to pursue this dream I have of writing, even when I have to make time for this dream outside of a life already full of obligations. My earnest prayer is that I write because this is the gift God has given me to share with others and NOT because I seek my own glory:

There are different kinds of gifts, Paul tells the Corinthians, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

Sometimes, though, I get discouraged. I certainly don’t break any land-speed records selling novels. I don’t have thousands of followers or glowing reviews. Maybe God has a different gift in mind for me to be utilizing for His glory. Then again, maybe God’s idea of utilizing my writing is a different picture than the one I envision:

It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7).  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8). And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Most days, I work hard to trust that, if I do my part, God will use my efforts in the way that He sees fit:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).

In the end, if I help even one person with the words God gives me to write, isn’t that really worth all my effort? And besides, as hard as writing truly is, I enjoy finding the right word and not its second cousin. I love telling a good story that hopefully makes people think without telling them what to think.

I hope you too find joy in practicing the talents God has given you to help bring glory to our awesome Savior. If we never lose sight of the source of those talents, we should stay on track with using those talents for the purpose for which they were intended.

To God Be The Glory.

Thank you for taking the time to read these words of mine, whether you like my blog posts or my novels. I hope you find them useful in your own walk with Jesus.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: Know His Peace

“In this world, you will have trouble” Jesus tells us, “but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Never underestimate the value in this life of knowing where you will be spending the next one. Jesus provides us the ultimate basis for peace by promising us that His priceless gift to us is our salvation. “For God so loved the world, ” John assures us, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

My favorite verse to pair with this promise of our salvation is another promise, the assurance that no matter how much I screw up in this life, I cannot lose the love Jesus has for me:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-15)

The Holy Spirit, dwelling in me, is my compass, my direct connection to my most holy God. Knowing that I am assured a place in heaven because of the sacrifice Jesus made for me, I can go through this life working to become what Christ hopes for me to be when I arrive at my heavenly destination. “Therefore,” Paul assures the Romans, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).

But even this promise of final peace doesn’t guarantee that I feel peaceful all the time as I struggle to survive in a fallen world that is definitely full of trouble. Fortunately, the Bible contains many lessons about maintaining peace in the face of hardship upon which we believers can draw in order to maintain our promised calm when we believe in our loving God.

Peace comes when we keep God first in our minds and hearts. “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble,” the Psalms promise (119:165). Isaiah tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (26:3). Jesus explains, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Striving to do good in full knowing that God has your back is one of the best feelings in the world, freeing you from the burden of having to cross every t and dot every i and allowing you to love always and in all ways, just as Jesus gave us the example of doing. Whenever the world seems against us, we can feel peace knowing that we are walking with God in our minds and hearts as long as we strive to always put God first:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

Anxiety is a natural part of my every day world. I have to fight against it daily, in part because my brain is physically wired to worry, just like my thyroid is dysfunctional. But just because I have a disease that predisposes me to worry doesn’t mean I can’t find peace in God.

I believe God’s promise that I should cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).  I trust in Jesus’ assertion, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). I try to follow the advice:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

My life has been filled with plenty of reasons to lose peace in the last few years, but my struggles have actually helped me get better at finding it. When I just say the name, Jesus, I feel His presence. I know He is loving me and following through on His promise to always see me through:

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

Peace is important for another reason. It is the basis of hope. Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Not only do we have hope for eternity, our peace in God gives us hope to make it through the challenges of this life.

What verses bring you peace?

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: Stay On The Straight Path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. –Proverbs 3:5-6

We live in a complex world, replete with complex choices. On any given day, we are bombarded with messages and information, so many details that discerning the truth takes time, patience and knowledge we often don’t possess. Like a stone being polished by running water, we sometimes let ourselves be molded by the thoughts of this world without realizing the implications that has on our relationship with God.

Submission can be hard. In this country, we pride ourselves on our independence, on our ability to take care of ourselves against even tremendous odds. But the truth of the matter is acting as if we alone control our fate makes us a slave to a world that thrives on chaos. If I control what happens to me, I have to be on top of all the details that make up my life all the time. I have to come up with contingency plans for factors I can conceive and even be prepared for calamities my finite mind has no way to perceive. Refusing to submit is an exhausting way to live.

Making my own choices comes with other hazards. My human mind is too often influenced by my human heart, the great deceiver.  My heart, no matter my best efforts, will always ultimately love me more than anyone else, no matter how hard I try to make it act differently. How else do people convince themselves it is okay to stray in an unhappy marriage or drink to excess when they are blue, or any of the other myriad mistakes we make when we are most fallibly human?

God loves humility. He honors those who live in full knowing of His omnipotence. I love this verse from Proverbs because it reminds me that I should not be trying to manipulate the world according to what I think should happen. Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I can depend on God’s guidance as long as I ask Him for it.

This verse also reminds me that I need to fill my mind with God’s messages and not the messages of this world. In His Word, God gives us insight into what is right and wrong. He shows us the value of loving Him first and doing our best to love others as much as we love ourselves. He proves to us that His peace surpasses anything this material world has to offer.

When I fully realize that God will make the best out of anything that happens to me, when I fully embrace Jesus’ admonition to only think about today, which has enough worries of its own, no twists and turns of this crazy world can truly phase me. All I have to do is call out to Jesus and trust in God’s promises to see me through.

God keeps His promises, even if His timetable is nothing like my own. Abraham learned this lesson the hard way, waiting decades for God to even give him a son when God had promised to make Abraham a great nation. Israel wandered the desert for forty years before finally reaching the Promised Land. From the time Nehemiah was written to the arrival of the true Messiah, almost 400 years of silence passed.

The world has enough perils without making more for ourselves. That’s what makes following God and sticking to a straight path even more important. This promise that humbling myself and acknowledging God’s supremacy will help me find the straight path in this life is a comfort when it feels like the world is against me, when troubles are abundant and my hope is bleak. Humbling myself to God’s will each day is the most important thing I can do because it allows me to trust in His power to help me stay on the straight, narrow path that leads to redemption.

In Christ,
Ramona

 

 

Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: Make God Your King

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.–Judges 21:25

This is one of those verses that I love, not because of the verse in and of itself, but because of the story it represents.

If you read the book of Judges, you’ll see that upheaval and uncertainty mark this period in the life of Israel. Coups, political intrigue, victories and defeat make for a life that is only consistent in its uncertainty. Over and over again, Israel finds prosperity when it chooses to believe in God and utter defeat when it falls away from following Him. Without making God their True King, Israel makes the mistake of doing what is right in its own eyes.

When we choose to live according to what we think is right instead of closely following what God has shown us to be right, we make ourselves vulnerable to consequences we often don’t even see. Our lives, like those of Israel, exist in a state of constant flux without the calming, constant influence of a loving God.

I am convinced that we live without a king most days without even realizing that’s what we are doing. If you asked us point blank, I am sure we would tell you that God is sovereign in our lives. But our actions, which are much more concrete than our thoughts, prove otherwise.

Here is a case in point to consider. Apparently, one of the latest fads (perhaps fueled by social media) is to do a photo shoot after the wedding day in which the bride “trashes” her dress. This practice is so popular that is has its own hashtag #trashthedress. Search the term on Facebook, and you’ll be bombarded with photos and videos with smiling brides ruining a symbol that has obviously lost all meaning.

A wedding dress should symbolize part of a sacred contract between several parties, parties which include God. Standing in a sacred space, a man and a woman make a covenant with God to form a bond that puts God in the center of a relationship that not only binds the man and woman together, but also creates a union between two different families. The woman’s dress, white to signify her purity, also signifies the sacredness of the vow the man and woman are making with their Holy God, their forever King.

The happy brides following a trend and trashing their wedding dresses aren’t thinking about the message that sends to the world concerning the symbol of this sacred vow. But, they are letting their own sense of right guide them instead of God’s sense of right. Would you post pictures of yourself trashing your baptism clothes? What’s the difference?

No wonder we live in a world where marriages splinter regularly. By forgetting God is our King, we’ve also forgotten that marriage vows are meant to last a lifetime, as sacred as the covenant we have with God and Jesus, the covenant that allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in us as long as we believe.

So, how do we make God our King each and every day? It begins by humbling ourselves daily, acknowledging that we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the right choices each day. We need to know His Word so that we understand God’s standards for right and wrong.

If we find ourselves doing things the way the rest of the world does them, we should step back and consider our path, for God’s ways are not like man’s. Jesus tells us that the path to His Kingdom is narrow, not wide. If your choices are generally easy, almost no choices as all, then chances are you have strayed from that narrow path in which God is King.

We live in a busy world, but don’t let busy-ness get in the way of making choices influenced by God as your King. Taking the time to humble yourself and your mind before God is time worth taking. Most importantly, it is time God will reward with the peace of mind God alone can provide.

In Christ,
Ramona

 

 

Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: Be Courageous

verses I am glad I have read

Even if the world around us claims differently, often at the top of its lungs, God’s Word contains a wealth of information pertinent to a modern life, to your life. No matter that sometimes my head may spin with the names of rulers and countries I can’t pronounce or that I become uncomfortable with the knowledge of my own sin by reading about the stumbles others have made, reading the Bible ultimately offers me the skills I need to survive in a fallen world. Within God’s Word, I find the verses that keep me hoping, that help me strengthen my faith, when I would otherwise fall into darkness.

To begin this 2019, I’d like to share some of the many verses I’m glad I have read. Whether they help me when I am afraid, are vital to my understanding of my relationship with God, or just plain make me feel good, these verses give me some of the best reasons I could offer for investing time in reading God’s Word.

The first verse I want to share comes from the Old Testament. (Yes, there’s plenty in that book, the Bible Jesus read, that we can apply to our New Testament lives.) In Joshua, God brings to completion the promise He made to Abraham so many generations before, culminating his initial covenant with the Israelites by finally allowing them to enter the Promised Land. Joshua, who replaces Moses as leader of the people, guides Israel in its quest to defeat the native peoples of Canaan and to help the nation disperse the newly conquered land between the tribes of Israel.

But Joshua knows better than anyone that he does not lead alone. In handing Moses’ reign over to the younger man, God tells Joshua,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9

Joshua will need to hold these words close through the years, for, on paper at least, Canaan possesses superior forces and arms. Indeed, time and time again as the story of Joshua unfolds, perhaps in order to prove His power, God’s presence on the side of Israel is the only reason Canaan falls.

But that’s just the  bare context of this verse I’m glad I’ve read. This is one of those verses I can lean on whenever I am afraid or tempted to give up. I may not have God with me in a literal tower of fire and light as the tribes of Israel knew Him, dwelling in the tabernacle and leading them through the desert, but what I have I think is even more dear because it came at the ultimate price. The Holy Spirit, the promised gift from Christ that comes to those who repent and believe, dwells in me. The Spirit is always present to guide me, as long as I do my part to be still and listen.

One of the easiest ways to call the power of the Spirit into any given moment is just to call out to Him. Jesus, help me, is such a simple phrase. But when it is spoken in earnestness, you can depend on feeling His immediate presence, helping you to find the peace you need to make it through your current troubles.

Don’t believe me? I don’t expect you to. Test this practice yourself the next time you are feeling particularly low or stressed. Ask Jesus to help you. And in the meantime, stay focused on His Word as much as possible. The more quiet time you spend with God, the more weapons you have when you really need the armor only God’s love can provide.

I hope you already have your own plethora of verses you’re glad you’ve read. Maybe we can share them this 2019 and grow our faith together.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living

Free From

 

Natural, whatever that means, is in. People all around the world search daily for products and ways of doing things that are as clean and simple as possible. Being free of synthetic chemicals or genetically-manufactured ingredients, eliminating waste by recycling and switching to re-usable instead of disposable packaging are all growing trends on this planet that seems to shrink minute by minute.

We seek to be free from other things as well, things like pain and discipline and hard choices. Instead of sitting in the quiet of our mind, we sit with our eyes glued to electronic screens, streaming cat videos even as we wait in line at the supermarket. We long to be free from confrontation so that we embrace a live and let live way of doing things. We trade momentary comforts for the much longer-lasting future of our eternal home. Why don’t we humans realize that in seeking to be free from so many of these hard things, we also free ourselves of the many blessings available to us when we fully embrace God?

I have heard it said that hell is God’s way of giving non-believers just what they have asked for, an existence without Him. But, even we believers sometimes live as if there is no God without realizing all the implications of a world free from His ever-present love.

Without God, life’s challenges amplify. We have no knowledge of salvation to lean upon. A world without God, without a master Creator, has no grand plan, only a kind of chaos that can give and take without rhyme or reason, without purpose. The bad things that happen only teach us the pain of bad things. The good things of this earth are the limit of the good things we will ever know. We let our own minds define good and bad so that my definition of right ultimately ends up being someone else’s definition of great pain.

When we face the world on the world’s terms, we accept as okay behaviors and attitudes that break God’s heart. We allow the world to think there is nothing wrong with sexual immorality, making any relationship acceptable, negating the importance of marriage and faithfulness. We allow our words to be foul and hurtful and mean, even when we think we are doing right. Worse, we hold back words that need said in order to avoid offending a world that thinks it wants to be free from God.

But living always and in all ways in full knowing of God’s omnipotence offers a different kind of free from. The things we are free from when we fully embrace God are the most important things of all.

With God, all things are possible, which means that even when the worst things happen to us, God finds a way to bring something positive out of the bad. Maybe, we learn to slow down and appreciate the little things in each day that build into a peaceful life. When I find myself worrying about things that might happen, turning to God instead and putting my mind to thanking Him for the smell of honeysuckle in the air or the slick fur beneath my fingers of a kitty cat purring in my lap helps me feel centered and less stressed.

Believing in and following God also gives me freedom from judging, myself as well as the people around me. Only through a God-inspired lens do I tap into the ability to empathize and see life from multiple perspectives. I am free from a self-centered reality that only leads to loneliness and emptiness when I fill myself up with the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when He came to live among us.

Jesus tells us to come to Him because His yoke is light. Because His grace is a present for all who believe, we are released from the burden of always being perfect. Salvation under the law means that breaking even one of God’s rules puts you in breach of the entire contract. Salvation under grace means that as long as we recognize our stumbles and repent of them, we maintain our wonderful, personal relationship with our God. Being free from the burden of the law frees us to embrace living Christ day to day.

Be free from the fear of your future, free from the fear of losing out on forgiveness, free from the impossible expectations of a greedy world. Turn to your personal, omnipotent Creator. Love and live Jesus and be free from everything except the only things that matter.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christianity

I’m Missing My Jack-O-Lantern

Jesus wants to fill me up. The entry from my reading in Jesus Calling a few days ago reminded me that sometimes, in order to make room for Himself inside the worries and cares that crowd into this human vessel known as me, Jesus has to carve out the room He needs to fill me up with His Spirit.

Like a pumpkin full of stringy guts and hundreds of seeds, the inside of me can easily fill with ideas and concerns that take me away from God instead of drawing me closer to Him. When I worry about the treasures of this earth instead of the valuables from a heavenly perspective, I take myself farther away from God.

Often, nothing clears up the proper priority of things better than crisis. In crisis, we realize how little in importance are worries such as having new carpets for the relatives visiting this holiday season or how the prices on everything keep rising so that we can afford fewer luxuries.

Think back on your absolute worst times. Did you not turn to God then, asking Him for help and peace? These troubling times have a way of narrowing our focus back on God and the importance of a heavenly perspective. Like a Jack-O-Lantern artist preparing a pumpkin for display, sometimes Jesus has to scrape out the mush that gets in the way of putting Him first to make room for His Spirit inside our murky souls.

Why is space for Jesus to fill us so important? Maybe it is to make room for the light, the love of Christ that Jesus tells us should not be hidden but rather displayed for all to see. Like the candle burning brightly through the smiling face of a Jack-O-Lantern on a dark October night, we Christians can shine the light of God’s love every day.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Through the challenges of this holiday season, let Jesus make room to fill you up with His joy and peace so that His light in you shines bright no matter how dark the shadows around you.

 

In Christ,
Ramona