Saturday, July 26, 2014

Being Fruitful

The Lord reminded me this morning of a friend's house we visited a few days ago.  We went to spend a day with our dear friends before our upcoming 2 month trip to Mexico.  I always love to see her garden she has planted and see how it's doing.  She always manages to pack a lot of garden in a little space.  And, despite the critters that nibble away at her food, there is abundance.  So I began to ask what this was and that was, and then I noticed a pretty big space that lay open.  I assumed it was something that the seed didn't take, which happens, but it wasn't that at all.  She had a plant that started to come up that looked a lot like some kind of squash.  It wasn't one she planted, it had been dropped there from the neighbors garden. (Nothing more than a chain-link fence separate the gardens.)  She was excited that she was going to get squash.  If any of you have grown squash, you know it takes up a lot of space.  She cared for it, moved it to a larger spot so that it could really take off.  It got bigger and bigger.  Then the flowers began to come on.  The signal that the fruit of that plant is on the way.  The flowers came and went, and came again and died.  Finally, after realizing the plant was never going to produce the fruit, she pulled it out and threw it in the compost pile.  Slightly disappointed, but also wishing it hadn't taken up all that space in her garden.  She could have used that space to plant other things that would have produced fruit.

This reminded me of the time Jesus cursed the fig tree.  There was no fruit that was being produced, he cursed it, and it died.  How many times, if we are honest, have we not been producing the fruit we should be producing?  The Lord posed some hard questions to me this morning.  Have I been producing fruit, or just the idea of fruit on the way, the flowers? Do we only get as far as the promise of fruit, but it never comes? Are we taking up space, and taking away space from those that will be producing fruit?  

It's not easy to take the time to look, I mean REALLY look, in our hearts and pose the hard questions.  Force our flesh to be challenged.  See beyond our pride.  Have a kingdom perspective. 

I'm not saying we all need to be yanked out of the ground if we are not producing fruit in our lives, but instead, make the changes so that there is fruit, and in abundance.  We don't want to be like the "squash" plant.  Taking up space, giving the appearance of fruit but never delivering.  I have been around people like that and situations like that.  The time that is invested feels almost wasted.  I am grateful that God continues to tend the garden of our lives.  When we allow Him to prune, through the pain, producing more fruit.

So the questions I have been confronted with today will be the same I challenge you with:

What areas of my life have not been producing the fruit that it needs to be producing?

Am I in the place where God wants me to produce, or taking the place of others that need to be there?

The fruit I am producing, is it after the Spirit or the flesh? (Everything we do produces fruit.)

And don't forget, when the Vinedresser brings the pruning sheers it's a good thing.  He will only prune where He sees fruit, that it may produce even more!!! 

Blessings,
Rhonda

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beginnings

I read this passage, Zechariah 4:10, the other day and it really struck me.  It says, "For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth."

Who hath despised the day of small things? I think that is a question we can all answer honestly. We all have.  At least I know I can emphatically say "YES".  It feels so little at times, the small beginnings, the menial tasks, the basics.  But what is it that lays the foundation, if it's not the small things?

It made me think of this gardening season.  Here in Wisconsin, planting started much later that what I am used to, but it finally came late May/early June.  There is a joy when you plant a seed into that dark, rich soil. Water it. Care for it. Then one day you begin to see a sprout of green pushing through the soil.  I don't know about you but I act a bit silly.  There is such excitement over the fact that the seed I planted germinated, took hold, then began to produce and be what it was created to be.  Then the ultimate joy in partaking of the fruit.

It made me question a few more things.  Why do we despise the small beginnings? The tasks that we think no one sees or the thanks we never get (and "think" we deserve).  What do you think is really going on behind the scenes?

Immediately the Lord showed me that there is great rejoicing in our dying in the soil, germination, rooting and our sprouting.  Just as we rejoice over seeing that first sprout from the ground, knowing that there is life coming forth and we will soon enjoy the fruits of our labors; so is our Heavenly Father rejoicing over our "sprouting", our small beginnings.  He is seeing that there is fruit that will soon be produced from our lives.  We have died to ourselves, surrendered to His perfect process, care and tending to what He has already placed within us.

I like how it's put in Job 8:7 "Though thy beginning was small, yet they latter end should greatly increase."  The increase is His, and what a joy to be part of that increase.  The small things and the small beginnings are part of it.  We often times want to grow quick and strong, but that's difficult.  To handle the weight of the fruit that is produced you must have a strong stem, branches and roots.  It takes time, care and patience.  The willingness to submit and move at the pace that the Lord has given for each of us will bring much fruit and blessing in our lives and the lives of others.  

I'm grateful for the small things, the small beginnings, the pruning of the Lord.  Rejoice in the time the Lord has taken to care for you; to see that the fruitfulness of your life be full!!

Blessings,
Rhonda





Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The FRUIT of the Spirit is....

I don't know about you but I have had many prayers with the Lord that were more of petitions asking/needing more peace, love, joy, etc...  Spent time looking up individual scriptures on how to have more of all these things.  Even finding books or devotions on how to have more joy or walk in more love and so on.  

It feels like there is a constant pressure to walk in a way that seems so difficult for our very flesh, our human nature.  Swimming upstream.  We become so focused on the individual character victories or over-focused on the individual character flaws that we miss the point completely.  

There is a much simpler way.  A way that can achieve so much more than one trait at a time or one attribute at a time.  That is the Holy Spirit.  What if we worked more on our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  What if we focused on filling ourselves with more of the Spirit.  

Many of us that grew up in church know by heart Galatians 5:22-23. We have memorized and repeated or made cute crafts for Sunday school these two amazing verses, but do we really believe every word it says? vs 22, "But the FRUIT of the Spirit is..." Did you see that?  How exciting!!! The very fruit, result, of the Holy Spirit living inside of us is "...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." 

It's like a fruit tree.  It's planted and grows.  What it has inside of it, the very things that makes up the very essence of the tree, causes the fruit to come forth.  It doesn't have to work hard at producing fruit, it is just a result of what it is and what it is created to do.  But, if it's not watered or pruned or receive sunlight it won't produce much fruit.  It may even stop producing fruit altogether and die. I am grateful that the Lord uses all His creation to speak to us!! 

The Holy Spirit is there that we may have this fruit in our lives, BUT if we don't water or feed the Spirit in us what else could we expect but a shortage of fruit.  His goodness to give us what we need to produce the amazing fruit we want to see in our lives is amazing.  The Holy Spirit that was given to live in us when Jesus ascended to Heaven.  He knew we would have need of the Spirit to produce fruit.  He gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us, to speak to us and tell us of things to come (John 16:7-15).  And the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)!!  God has set us up to not only survive in our earthly bodies and here on Earth, but to succeed.  We have everything that we have need of, there is nothing we lack, we are fully equipped.  

The only thing that may be lacking is our relationship with the Spirit.  I find that it is an ever deepening relationship.  The deeper your go, the more your allow the Spirit to guide your life, the more His fruit shines through.  It's a process with sweet rewards. 

I am on a journey that I know can only get better with time.  A journey to continue to die to self and allow the Holy Spirit be my guide.  A journey that will only enrich and strengthen our family, my marriage, ministry and relationships.  You can't beat a deal like that!!

So, how is your relationship with the Spirit?

Mine, getting better every day :)  

I Corinthians 3:16 "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"

Blessings,
Rhonda

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Where Do Our Real Affections Lie....

We were recently at a conference where the topic was I Cor. 3:10-15 about building with gold, silver and precious stones and not wood, hay and stubble.  Building with eternal treasures and with our minds set on eternal things.  Then my thoughts drifted to the parable in Luke 12:13-21, the parable of the rich fool.  In order to hold more of his earthly possessions, grain, he pulled down the old barns to build new, bigger ones.  Hold more "stuff".  When that night his life was being demanded of him, everything stayed here on earth.  It says in Luke 12:15 "Take care! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."  Was the things this man was storing up bad?  No.  It made sense to him.  It was useful things.  But, the real matter lies in the heart.  In verse 34 of the same chapter of Luke the Lord says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  

Luke 12:29-34 and Matthew 6:19-21 they speak of not storing up treasures on earth, but to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  I know there have been times in my life that the Lord has asked of me things and some of my first thoughts have been about my stuff or my earthly possessions.  There are times that people I know have not been quick to do what God has asked them to do, or put it off, because it interfered with their mountain of activities, busyness, and stuff in their lives.  It's not about having things that I feel we need to be on watch for, but, the things having us.  If the things in our lives keep us from being obedient to the will of the Father, then our hearts affections are not towards God.  Not fully at least.  

I know for our family, had we been in debt to stuff in our lives we couldn't freely have moved to other countries to fulfill the will of the Father for those times in our lives.  Had we been too busy or over scheduled, we would always have found reasons or ways that we couldn't do what God had been asking of us.  

In July of 2011, God asked us to come back to the States from Nicaragua.  It was a hard move for us and for our family.  We had not been in the States for 9 years (living here at least). We sold or gave away most everything we owned and our kids had to make the same difficult decisions about their stuff.  It was not an easy transition.  But wouldn't you know it, 2 1/2 years later, we have stuff.  It's amazing how quickly you can accumulate things, useful things, but it's still just things.  Also living here in the USA I have realized how everything revolves around more things/stuff.  The commercials, seeing others homes, lifestyles all lend to the desire for more.  

But, the questions we must ask ourselves are real, necessary and need to be confronted:

Where, now, does our desire for more of the Kingdom fit in?  

Where is our desire for more of God?

Desire for the things that moth nor rust consume and where thieves do not break in and steal? (Matt 6:20)

I believe that God is causing us to turn our affections towards him...not out of fear, but out of love for our Father.  Not because the economy or future is unknown or seems uncertain...but because the one rock we can stand on, the one true foundation, that does not change, shift or shake is Jesus Christ and the faithfulness of the Father.  In Him we have the strength to do all that He could ever ask or require of us.  

Matthew 6:25-33 and Luke 12:22-34 encourages to trust in the Lord and not worry.  He knows what we have need of.  He is a good Father!! All He desires is we follow Him with our whole heart, obedient to His call.  Matthew 6:33 says,  "But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" Many of times we have put our focus too much on the latter part of that verse...all these things will be given to you as well.  Things, amazing how our focus can shift.  But the true focus should be on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  It even says that we must strive, put great effort forth, first for the kingdom of God. 
Have we spent enough time daily focusing on the kingdom of God first?  

I encourage you, forget putting all your thoughts and emotions into the things of this world, the busyness, accumulating more stuff/things.  Seek the Kingdom first!!! He is a good Father, He promises to take care of us, and He will.  

Take some time and search your heart.  Where do your affections lie?  Have there been times that things of this world affect your ability to do the things God has asked of you?  This is a daily dying to our flesh, the ways of man, but the results are worth it.  Fully submitting to the Kingdom of God and receiving His full Kingdom backing in return.  God is good, faithful, eternal. 
Let's dwell on the eternal!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Time to Return...Now to Some Questions

Well, I guess it's a bit funny that the day I decide it's the day to resume the blog is April 1st.  I promise, I did not orchestrate this, maybe the Lord did.  I'm sure the Lord enjoys the joy in this.  

I'm sure you noticed the looooong hiatus taken from this blog.  It was a complete walking away for a season.  I felt like the Lord was asking me to refocus my time and my energy.  First and foremost comes my children and my husband.  We have had the unique opportunity to move to Wisconsin this past fall and enjoy a much needed focus on our family.  

It may have been the coldest winter in over 30 years here...people kept apologizing...but the growth and warmth that has been felt as a family is wonderful.   I would suspect God knew what he was up to :)

---------------------
I fear many times we miss out on some amazing times that God has for us or those around us because things don't appear as anticipated.  Wisconsin wasn't a place that many would have expected.  We had questions and many from others.  It may not appear to be a "good" idea, by our standards.  Or maybe it doesn't fit a five year plan that's been well thought out.  It may come across as more of a detour than a direct route.  

But the real question is, 

Do we really trust God? 

Do we really trust His direction?  

Do we really trust His ability to do the work in us that is needed to form Himself in us?  

What is our real desire?  

Isn't it to be more like Christ? 

                    OR 

Is it to be more well-liked or well-known? 

Are we afraid to confront these questions that face us?

Have we been avoiding the very working of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

I propose that you and I, stop, and allow some of these confronting questions to be answered.  To ask the Lord, the Holy Spirit, to do His very working in us to be more like Christ.  

I encourage you to do as it says in:

Romans 12:2 - be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable of perfect.

James 1:2-4 - My brethren, Counting it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Words of encouragement come bounding off the pages of the Bible, like life giving oxygen, but to our spirit.  What could be more amazing than that!! He desires us to be COMPLETE, lacking NOTHING!! The goodness of God is immense!!

Be encourage, don't resist the working of the Spirit of God.  Humble yourselves, He gives grace!

Be blessed, 
Rhonda


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hearing His Voice

Roger is currently on a trip to Nicaragua.  Ministering and checking in on things that we have left in the hands of Michelle and Eliseo to oversee.  He's been gone since Valentine's Day and it feels like it's been a month.  I usually get to talk with him on a daily basis, but this last week has been different.  He's been traveling with two friends from Shreveport to the northeast of Nicaragua and on Rio Coco (bordering Honduras).  These are some areas that are remote and don't get consistent cell phone reception.  It has been a few days since I have gotten to talk, even if it is just to say "hello, and I love you".  Today I got to speak with him for a good 5-10 min.  It was sooooo good!  I haven't seen him in nearly 2 weeks, but to speak to him and hear his voice, there is nothing like it!  

This is the truth in every relationship.  The Lord was showing me how much He longs to hear us on a daily basis.  There is comfort, joy, peace, love, etc... in hearing His voice!  Even if we don't see Him we hear Him.  He's there, He's for us and not against us.  He's all about relationship.  The "knowing" of His voice and His will.  We need to be as hungry for the life giving words from our Father as we are from others.  How much better to hear His words. The one who loves us more than any other. Wants the best for us.  

Talk with Him today.  Listen.  Hear.  Nourish your spirit.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I Guess We're Really Doing This...

We arrived back to Nicaragua in May with a lot on our minds.  We spent a majority of the plane ride home, mentally going through our house, pricing and figuring out what we were going to sell.  Then we began to talk about how we were going to break the news to our friends, both Nicaraguan and missionary friends that we have become so close to.  Oh, how we didn't want to have to do it.  If we thought there would be an easier way, we would have found it, trust me!  We knew it would be so hard.  
When we arrived, we were so glad to be back, but sad because we knew it was for such a short time and we were going to have to say goodbye.  

Roger had a conference in Puerto Cabezas, in the northeast, less than a week after we arrived, we also had to get school supplies out to the schools and communities, and we had a clinic in just days.  We had a lot going on right away, but also had the impending move in the forefront of our minds.  We realized we couldn't think about leaving yet and had to focus.  Once we finished those tasks we'd hit it with full force, and did we ever.  

I was feeling the weight of all the logistics...selling, packing, leaving.  It's always a balancing act, as people leave, to have just enough stuff left behind so you can live but not too much where you are having people in your home up to the last day picking things up; and packing all at the same time.  We were talking with some friends of ours one night via Skype (pretty sure God inspired the invention of Skype...amazing) and she gave us a great idea.  Sell, pack and get out of your house early, rent a furnished apt. so that you can have time to spend with the people you want to spend your last weeks with, friends.  I literally felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders.  It was such a freeing moment.  We immediately called some friends of ours, missionaries, who happen to have a guest house.  God answered our prayers, they had the house free for nearly 3 weeks so that we could use it.  

We began to get serious about this purging thing.  Everything must go!!! We could only move back with suitcases and totes.  So if it wasn't really important or too big it was sold or given away.  Now, don't get me wrong, there were things that were important that we parted with, but it was tough to make the cut :)  We were also blessed by some other missionary friends who had teams that were coming down that offered to take some totes back for us; who also happened to live close to where we were moving to...God again!!!  I really wasn't for sure how we were going to scale everything down from 9 years of living, and accumulating, to 8 suitcases.  God must have known we needed the help.  And the kids were grateful too.  There were just things that were hard to part with for them, and as a parent, it's hard to ask them to do such a hard thing sometimes.  They were already giving up and leaving everything they had ever known. 

Well, within a few weeks we had everything sold.  It was a very liberating, but sobering realization.  This move was really going to happen.  I was trying so hard to stay focused on the logistics that when we finally had a chance to catch our breath it hit me hard.  We were really saying goodbye to our lives of 9 years.  We were really leaving the work in the hands of our new directors there.  We were really saying goodbye to so many friends that had become more like family.  We were really leaving it all behind.  

We spent the last few weeks working with our new directors, Michelle and Eliseo, making sure they were ready to take over the Nicaragua projects and work.  We also took every opportunity to spend time with our friends there, both missionary and Nicaraguan friends.  We tried to enjoy the last days to the fullest.  The goodbyes were, by far, the hardest.  Not knowing when the next time is that we would see them.  We are still planning on visiting Nicaragua, but after spending year after year with these families, birthday parties, weddings, babies, it just doesn't seem the same to maybe get to see them once a year.  It's still hard to think about it.  We miss them all so much.  

But God had asked us to do something for Him.  And we knew it.  He had asked us to leave our country behind.  To follow Him and His leading.  To be obedient in the midst of difficulty, when it wasn't what we wanted.  Not our will but His.  He had been faithful to us during this whole process.  He worked things out before we knew we needed it.  Our truck sold in days, we had a house to live in, we were able to bring more suitcases back with us, and just a few weeks before we left Nicaragua we had already found out we had an apt. that would be open for us to rent within 2 days of landing in the States.  The hand of God had been over us and seen throughout this whole time.  I know it would have been so much harder had we not known without a doubt that this is what God was calling us to do.  His peace, in the midst of sadness, reigned in our hearts and minds.  Don't get me wrong, there are still days that are hard, but I know God will see us through.  

July 10th we landed in the States.  Two months and 5 days after we returned to Nicaragua.  What a crazy two months they were.  Without God, I don't know how it could have come together....but I  wouldn't have wanted to go through it without Him.