Sunday, December 7, 2014

Can Anything Good Come From There?

God is full of surprises.  He draws good, profound things out of undistinguishable places and faces. Even "the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom the prophets also wrote [Jesus]" as Philip tells Nathaniel, emerges from Nazareth. Nathaniel is so shocked he instinctively blurts out, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"

Philip's response to Nathaniel's bias is invitational not defensive.  He simply says, "Come and see." So Nathaniel, instead of remaining stuck and proud in his assumptions, accepts the invitation and discovers that good can come from Nazareth.  God surprises him.

Many of us have believed the lie that nothing good can come from _____________.  You fill in the blank.  We might insert our name, a particular neighborhood, a certain church, a group of people, a politician, a corporation, a country, a gender, an ethnicity, or any number of options.  But God is full of surprises.

During this Advent season, I am working on removing some of my biases about myself and others. It's uncomfortable but good which is how spiritual work often feels.  I don't want to live a life wrongly assuming or predicting the workings of God. Nathaniel almost missed the opportunity to be a disciple of Jesus simply due to his disregard for Nazareth.  Fortunately for him, he pushed through and encountered God's plan.  I want to do the same.

Do you?

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden


Sunday, September 28, 2014

From Fed to Deny

In the 8th Chapter of Mark Jesus leads his disciples on a sequence of events that begins with a miraculous feeding of four thousand people and ends with a teaching on denying oneself.  Here are the five events:

  • Feeding of the Four Thousand
  • Healing of a Blind Man
  • A Question:  Who do you say that I am?
  • Teaching on Jesus' suffering
  • Teaching on Self-denial
The bridge that leads us from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity is a question and its answer not more feedings.  Jesus feeds and heals because he cares for our physical and spiritual needs.  But His feedings and healings were never meant to be the ultimate end.  They were meant to point us to His true and complete identity. The ultimate end is that we might become those who Jesus ministers with as well as to.   

Jesus' suffering and our self-denial only makes sense once we get the who-do-you-say-that-I-am right.  And we must answer that question in first not third person. It's great to have people in our life that we can point to as model followers of Jesus. But it's even greater when we can look in the mirror and see one as well.  The-who-do-you-say-I-am is more important than the who-do-they-say-I-am.

Here is the irony that is only discovered once one enters it.  With more Jesus and less us, we end up receiving, in greater abundance, a better version of the things we were originally chasing without Him.  It is a dimension of grace and blessing that far exceeds my ability to convey but is spoken of over and over by those persons of faithfulness who have gone before us.

So eat.  Receive healing.  But don't stop there.  Respond : You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Remember His suffering and death and resurrection.  And then deny yourself, take up his cross and follow Him.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus and for the gospel will save it. 

Move from fed to deny and minister with Jesus.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden 



Saturday, September 20, 2014

All of RVA

I am a son of this region.  My parents came here in the early spring of 1969, and I came along a year later.  Other than two brief excursions to northern California, RVA has been home for 45 years.  I love RVA and have lived in many of its areas - Churchill, near West End, Tobacco Row, the Fan, and Glen Allen.  And I have friends, eat in restaurants, pray, worship, and hang out in most of its jurisdictions. All of RVA is home.

Many have gone before me in working towards making this region a better place. And many will come after.  But now is the time that God has given me - given us - to be fully present and involved. It's an honor to serve alongside so many talented men and women who prayerfully work towards unity in RVA on a weekly basis.  Our work has the usual ups and downs but continues out of a sense of Calling to all of RVA.

I have been guilty in the past of overly honoring the subjective boundaries established politically by men. Territorial attitudes have hindered RVA for years.  If you are an historian, you know well the destructive outcomes from said boundaries. We are reminded of them daily.  All of RVA has suffered.

While I am not one to deny history, I am also not one to deny all of RVA the hope of its future. Sometimes it seems that we dwell more on our past than the future God is unfolding around us.  I will always have an element of grief over RVA's past. It would be irresponsible to not.  But I am infinitely more motivated by RVA's bright future.  I'm ready to be a part of new history and narratives that future generations will tell.  I want to surround myself with people who are more enamored with the future than the past - not forgetting the past but growing beyond it.  All of RVA's future is important.

God's people have a special opportunity to lead the way in our future - not with a religiously imperialistic agenda but with one that fosters justice, holistic flourishing, goodness, and righteousness for all.  Many faithful people, often unrecognized or honored, are daily working towards these ends. Thank you for all you do.  It is not in vain - it is for all of RVA.

It's been said many times before but needs to be said again.  All of RVA needs one another.  We are better together.  Wyndham needs Whitcomb Court.  Whitcomb Court needs Woodlake.  Highland Park needs Highland Springs.  Highland Springs needs Hanover.  Hanover needs Chester (ran out of alliterations).  Chester needs the City.  And the City needs its neighbors.  We now need to do more than say it. We need to live it.

So get involved.  Pray daily.  Work towards the good of our region.  Live regionally not territorially. See RVA as God does - a whole region of 1-1.5 million people.  Go visit an area you have never been before.  Be friendly.  All of RVA needs you.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden   

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious!
                                       Psalm 66

We shout with enthusiasm for things we love.  Crowds at sporting events scream to the point of losing their voice.  Concert goers raise their hands and sing along loudly.  Graduates hear family and friends cheerfully scream when their name is called.  Parents shout on the sidelines at their 10 year old's soccer game.  We sometimes even shout at inanimate objects like the T.V or computer.  We are shouters.

Shouting is not something we do all the time.  It's reserved for special moments.  If we were to shout all the time, aside from it being really obnoxious, we would need to find some other way to express and indicate enthusiasm.  Shouting is meant to be reserved for the right occasions.

In the beginning of Psalm 66 we are commanded to shout to God.  At first thought it sounds irreverent.  If I were in the presence of the President of the U.S. my instinct would be respectful silence and reflection not shouting (depending on the President!).  And so we are with God.  We think we should be exclusively silent - and there is a place for that.  But there is also a place for shouting.  

We are told two things about our shouting.  First, we are to do it with joy.  Shouting for the sake of shouting is empty.  It is designed to be an expression of enthusiasm for the One whose ways are higher than ours. Who woke us up this morning and put breath in our lungs.  Who fearfully and wonderfully made us in His image.  Who starts and ends seasons.  Who, even in low moments, is the One whose peace and comfort and presence never leaves or forsakes us.  With joy for these things and a thousand more, we shout.

And secondly, our shouting should make people think of Him not us.  The Psalmist says to sing the glory [fame] of his name.  Some shouting and dynamic expression of worship is nothing more than exhibitionism - putting ourselves on display rather than pointing people to God.  But we should shout only for the purpose of lifting up the name of the great I Am.  He is worthy of our vocal outbursts.

So go shout in worship somewhere this morning.  If that is not possible, shout in your car or your home or outside somewhere.  I will be shouting with my brothers and sisters at Commonwealth Chapel.  And in a mystical way, shouting with people around the globe who will give praise and honor to His name today.  Shouting is a good thing.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden       

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A First Sunday of September Challenge

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
                                                           Psalm 34:8

I have heard that whenever Mother Theresa was asked how things were going in Calcutta, her response was always, "Come and see."  Similarly, whenever we are introducing new food to our kids, they inevitably ask how it tastes. And our response is always, "Taste and find it."

There is no substitute for tasting and seeing things ourselves.  The Psalmist, knowing this well, invites us all to taste and see that the Lord is good.  I cannot taste and see Him for you - nobody can. All of must determine how we will utilize the senses God has given.

Wine and bread are the food of choice for God.  He has invited all of us to a grand, banquet table for endless feasting with Him.  The wine and bread, representing forgiveness and wholeness, never run out.  And there is room for everyone.  Look for the seat with your name card.

Seeing is a little more tricky because its less tangible.  But it is equally available. The ability to see God's goodness in both the small and big things of life is a game changer.  I have not fully arrived in doing so but am further along than yesterday. See the sunrise differently this morning.

And finally, don't taste and see alone.  God is still present when we are alone but celebrating Him with others is better for us.  So get out of bed.  Get out of your pajamas.  Finish breakfast and go experience God this morning.  There are so many wonderful places of worship throughout the RVA region.

I am excited to gather this morning with the community of Commonwealth Chapel - a multi-campus church dedicated to bringing hope, healing, and health to Richmond.  As we have entered our 10th year of worshipping together, I am grateful to be a part of a team of people who are seeking to bring God's Kingdom to 233 N. Courthouse Road, The National, and Park and Meadow in the Fan.  Can't wait to see everyone this morning.  Please join us.  All are welcome.  Taste and see.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden   

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In Expectation

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my
requests before you and wait in expectation.
                                                                                        Psalm 5:3

Expectation is different than arrogance.  Embedded in expectation is humility that does not exist in arrogance.  To be in expectation is to long for something in a way that cultivates our dependence on God.  To be in arrogance is to talk about something as though it has already happened in a way that is self-promoting. Arrogance boasts a self-dependence that inverts God's order, placing us rather than Him in charge.  The differences might be subtle to describe but are very evident in person. Have you ever been around someone who lives in expectation?  It's contagious and compelling. Conversely, what about an arrogant person?  It's repulsive.  Expectation is the space in which we not only wait but out of which God lifts up new things.  So consider these four thoughts:   

1.  We need a sacred time of the day.
Each of us have a sweet-spot of the day.  It's the morning for some and midnight for others - or anytime in between.  The time of the day is not as important as the use of that time.  For our psalmist it was in the morning.  He tells us twice in one short verse that his conversations with God occurred in the morning.  No one will preserve your sacred time for you.  It is up to you to protect it from being highjacked.  This important decision transforms how we expect in two ways.  First, expectation is energized during our sacred times.  We should expect nothing less than fatigue and fog from a life that chronically neglects a sacred time of the day. And secondly, it keeps us primarily influenced by God's Will instead of our delusional fantasies.  Sacred times help us to consistently differentiate those two. 

2.  Expectation flows out of our conversations with God.  
There is a direct link between what we are asking for and what we are expecting. Expectations will never exceed requests.  Maybe your expectation problem is actually an asking problem?  Our conversations with God reveal the true longings of our heart.  When was the last time you tracked your conversations with God?  Do they need revising?  Are your expectations small because you are not asking God for anything big?  Asking God for something big, that is not connected to personal or material gain, is becoming a lost practice.  Our prayers tend to be narcissistic placing ourselves as the sole beneficiaries.  But what should we really be asking the big, living God who is the Savior of all people (1 Timothy 4:10)?  How you answer that question will dramatically shape your capacity and level of expectation.

3.  Wait time is not wasted time.
I have written and spoken much about waiting over the years.  It's an important theme personally because it's a weakness.  I hate to wait and probably you do as well.  Our culture is doing everything it can to eliminate waiting from the human experience.  Speed is the mission of the day as we seek to make life and information happen quicker.  But there is something fundamentally unnatural and flawed in a life void of waiting.  It erodes a dimension of our existence that is essential for being human. Namely, that we were created to flourish and develop slowly not quickly - at a pace that is holistically beneficial.  It's odd to me that we struggle so much with waiting given it is such a necessary part of life.  Our Psalmist seems as content to wait in expectation as he is knowing that the Lord hears [his] voice. Waiting can become as instinctive as asking.

4.  Wait in expectation not obligation.
"I guess we just have to wait," is a common phrase that comes out of my mouth.  When I or you speak like that we are communicating obligation not expectation.  I have noticed a significant difference in my disposition when I change the phrase to "I get to wait."  This might sound like nothing more than mental gymnastics.  It can feel that way at first.  But a true difference emerges when we push past it.  The initial awkwardness gives way to change.  Waiting in expectation produces something in us that can only come from waiting.  There are no shortcuts are alternatives for getting it.  We cannot get it by reading a book or downloading an app or attending another conference.  We must receive waiting as an appointed time by God for our benefit and growth.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden                  


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Hope Factor

Do you ever wonder if hope is overrated?  If it is only a psychological, coping mechanism with no substantive purpose?  That it is merely conceptual and not applicable?  That if it is real, you have never experienced it.  You are not alone if you resonate with these questions.  We live in a world where hope is becoming an endangered species.

I don't consider myself to be an expert on hope.  Like many of you, I struggle regularly with the gap that often exists between that which we long for and that which is.  I am not exempt or immune from the gap and certainly not in denial of its existence.  But even on my worst days, I can't get away entirely from the notion of hope.  It's like a lingering aroma that won't leave. It's present even if I've become conditioned not to notice it.  It quietly remains in my life even if I've pushed it to the farthest corner of my heart.

I refer to this as the hope factor.  Hope has a tenacious quality that allows it to survive and thrive in any circumstance.  Just when we think we have rid ourselves from it once and for all, we feel its faint pulse still pumping in our hearts.  The indestructible nature of hope makes it a formidable friend and foe.  In other words, hope is with us whether we want it to be or not.  It is comforting and annoying at the same time because we have a love-hate relationship with hope.  We can't imagine life without it, but hope can, at times, highlight what we don't have more than what we have.

So what do we do?  Embrace complete hopelessness?  That's depressing.  Embrace a disingenuous attitude of positive thinking?  That's fake.  Neither of these extremes are the answer because both place all the emphasis on us rather than God.  And therein lies the problem.  We try to originate and retain hope with human strength. Or we allow difficult circumstances to breed intense pessimism in us. But the hope factor, in it's purest form, can only be known in God's presence.  There is an inextricable link between God and hope.  Where God is, there is hope.  Where hope is, there is God. Where there is no God, there is no hope.

My atheistic friends will ardently disagree with me on this and might even be offended.  But it won't be the first time we agree to disagree.  That is the spirit and protocol of the public square. Nonetheless, my eyes are fixed on the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  Not because He makes life necessarily easier - or gives me special treatment - or makes me without flaws (far from that!). But because He gives us full access to His presence in which we find hope, peace, love, and every form of goodness.  His presence is the key.  The Psalmist says it better than I in the 139th chapter:  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

Hope resides in us when we reside in Him.  God's strength, not ours, brings it about and keeps it around.  It stays attached to us and begins to rub off on others as well. Hope is an incredible gift God gives us.  Don't exchange it for an imitation or lesser gift.  If you have already done that, exchange it back.  God is very flexible on returns.  He is the hope factor.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden           

Saturday, August 23, 2014

3 Thoughts About Doors

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. - Colossians 4:3

1.  God is able to open doors for us in any situation.

The courage in this scripture verse is not so much the content as it is the circumstance under which it was written.  We expect the great Apostle, Paul, to be focused on proclaiming the mystery of Christ. But to remain steadfast in that desire while in prison is to take courage to a whole new level.

I often hear people say that their proclamation of faith will begin when better times arrive - once they get past their current situation.  But the current situation becomes replaced with another - and another - and so on.  If we cannot believe God for open doors in our present circumstance than we will not in the future.  Our spiritual practices and patterns tend to move along with us.

Having an orientation towards open doors is a matter of the heart not circumstance. It flows from a God-centered perspective that beats consistently within us.  It is often counter intuitive to human desire but never misleading.  I wonder if Paul was tempted to write instead, "And pray for me, that God might get me out of here so I can be free."  While there would have been nothing wrong with that prayer, it might have misled Paul to a path of self-pity.  But, instead, by praying for open doors, Paul chooses the higher way of God's plan over his comfort.

2.  Better that God open the door than us kick it in!

Do you know any spiritual "door kickers?"  They tend to be loud and obnoxious, thinking that it's somehow good to pound and kick a door open even if God has closed it.  They harmfully assume it's noble and justified to force their beliefs on others despite a lack of interest or receptivity.  Abrasive, non-sensitive proclamations of faith are in direct conflict with Paul's instruction here.  Implied within his prayer for open doors is the realization that not all doors are open.  And that we would do well to trust God to open certain doors, responding readily to those opportunities.  Kicking a door open that God has currently shut is like telling God that He is wrong, and we know best.

3.  Neglected open doors are as wrong as kicked in doors.

It is clear that Paul does not want us staring motionlessly at open doors because there are God-intended purposes in them. Namely, that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Some of us would never be guilty of kicking in a door.  But doing nothing when a door is wide open in front of us might come easily.  Before we use all our energy ridiculing obnoxious Christians, let's look in the mirror and address lackluster efforts. After all, God despises the lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).

Neglected open doors are as wrong as kicked in doors because both lack trust in God. The latter does so by attempting to mandate the timing of God.  The former does so by sitting idly as the timing of God passes by.  Either case causes us to be misaligned with God's purposes.

Which one of the three applies to you?

Ex nihilo,

RJ Rhoden


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Trending In My Soul: Cities of Refuge or Refuse?

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) recently reported that there are now 45 million people worldwide in situations of displacement - the highest figure in 14 years.  Prior to a recent trip to the country of Turkey, these kind of statistics were like white noise, background information in a world I didn't see, feel, know or understand.  But all that changed, coming to an abrupt halt, when the stats suddenly became faces in front of me in Ankara.

The faces belong to a beautiful Kurdish family that escaped the destruction of their village in Northern Iraq by the Islamic State.  Right now they are being fed, housed, and helped temporarily in Ankara by the good people at Filipus, an outstanding non-profit organization that were also hosting us. Their older brother is already in the U.S. and is hoping to one day experience a safe and joyful reunion with his family.  Here are the trending thoughts in my soul as I ponder what I saw last week.

1.  Refuge or Refuse
    In the 35th chapter of Numbers, God commanded Moses to grant towns to the Levites.  In all, they were to receive 48 towns with 6 of them being designated as cities of refuge.  Verse 15 says, "These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them..."  One of  the functions of the Levitical priests was to advocate and care for the displaced - a function that, regrettably, has been rarely operational in my life.  It is in God's nature to grant refuge not refusal to those whom, for whatever reason, have been forced away from their homes.  The question I am asking myself right now is profound and overdue:  "How might I do my part in cultivating refuge for displaced people for the glory of God?"

2.  One is Better than None
    I cannot help 45 million people but I can help one family now and then another and another and another.  Our lives are to be responsible, thoughtful, and intentional with that which God places in front of us.  Let's not allow the magnitude of the problem to rob us of the opportunity to help just one. Because when we do, it is never only one that is the benefactor of said help. Our acts of kindness set into motion responses and benefits in others that go far beyond our perceptions.  In fact, we probably never actually see the ultimate fruit of goodness.

3.  Political Implications
    I have no background or training in the complexities that swirl around and thru the refugee problem in the world.  My suspicion is that the volume of people right now that are in desperate need of immediate help is overloading the  system.  And it is simply not capable of responding in a timely, effective way.  We need to pray for those whom hold offices that make decisions regarding this global problem. Let's pray for wisdom, unusual unity, fresh ideas, and an overall attitude of compassion to govern their meetings and deliberations.  May a legal and efficient process emerge for migration and reestablishment that is owned by all of us.  And may God's people be visible at that table of decision-making advocating for refuge not refuse.

4.   The Friendly Side of Digital Technology
      Digital technology is often fodder for debates regarding its benefits and/or detriments.  We get upset when we see young people unable to look up from their smart devices - as we should.  But we also see the incredible connectivity that has emerged as a result of the digital revolution.  The process we have entered to help this Kurdish family has been greatly assisted by FB, Twitter, Google, email, mobile phones, and the world wide web in general.  Digital technology is becoming a kind of global language that, if used correctly, is a unifying benefit not a detriment.  These important tools can and should be maximized by us.  Scripture shapes and informs our theology; digital technology gives us a way to connect and communicate.  And in that order, we discover the friendly side of the e-world in which we live.

This blog is only one, small expression of my new desire to join others who seek to support refuge not refuse for those searching for a new home.  If you have any desire to help us with this Kurdish family, please contact me @rjrhoden or or share this blog.  I am hopeful to hug their necks one day on U.S. soil, introducing them to our community, our people, and our version of a city of refuge that originates and flows from the heart of God.

Ex nihilo,


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stealth Prodigals

There are different kinds of wandering.  Of them all, the most painful due to its intense loneliness is what I refer to as stealth wandering.  If you have ever spent a season wandering without anyone knowing, you can identify with the kind of loneliness I am speaking.  Different from other types of wandering, this kind is not triggered by anything in particular.  It slowly evolves over time without a discernible starting point.  It develops out of spiritual ruts, fatigue, quiet doubting, desire to please, lack of balance, and, ironically, a keen sense of right and wrong.  Let me explain. 

Stealth prodigals are stuck in a conundrum.  They are well aware at all times of competing; co-existing; opposite thoughts that have taken root in their hearts:
1.  Jesus needs to be Lord but other things look good also.
2.  I trust in the goodness of God but I trust that bad stuff happens too.
3.  Godliness leads to blessing but the ungodly seem to be doing fine as well.
4.  God is present but it does not often feel like it.
5.  The Church is a spiritual family but a dysfunctional one.
6.  People are capable of change but it seems to rarely happen.
Yes, these thoughts are in all of us.  Faithful living does not exist without some awareness of them.  But stealth prodigals take these competing thoughts to a dangerous place.  They develop an intense disillusionment from their complexities.  They become paralyzed and overwhelmed by them to the point of deep depression undetectable by most people.  And though they feel incredibly guilty they choose loneliness over help.

The pain of stealth wanderers is complicated by pride and fear.  They stubbornly believe that resolution should only arise from personal not collective effort.  “God and I can get this worked out,” they privately try to convince themselves.  But this only makes things worse.  And there is also fear.  “What if others discover the internal struggle?”  “What if my spiritual family begins to view me as unspiritual?” they wonder. So external expressions of faith are maintained disingenuously which, not only is unhelpful, but proves to be more destructive and guilt producing.  And anger takes root.  Stealth prodigals do not like themselves or their wandering but struggle to break the cycle.

Our churches are full of stealth prodigals.  Right now they might be teaching Sunday school, leading a small group, greeting and ushering, playing music, teaching, or quietly slipping in and out.   And there is a spiritual battle underway for their futures.  The deceptive enemy of our souls continues his assault relentlessly and effectively - convincing them that acknowledgement will only make things worse.  But our Heavenly Father’s love and kindness, timely and strong, can come to us in our stubbornness.  He sends along a friend, a counselor, a bible study leader, a caregiver, a pastor, a relative, or a surprise visitor that becomes our minister.  God makes his appeal through that person who now becomes a part of our story.  Others not themselves rescue stealth prodigals.

Hear this good news.  I cannot state it strongly enough.  Jesus receives all prodigals - even stealth ones.  He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”  The fatigue that comes from wandering dissipates in Jesus.  And peace and rest of body, mind, and spirit reestablish their rightful place in our existence.  There is no wandering that cannot be ended or reversed in Him.  There is not a hierarchy of wandering whereby degrees of severity are determined – receiving some but disqualifying others.  There are simply wanderers who continue to do so and those who stop.  And Jesus is waiting to take us by the hand.  He is ready to lead us into new places of healing and life that reconcile us to God.  But we must trust Him.  This step is not only unavoidable; it is essential.  Trust Him.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Snow Story

Several years ago, we awoke in the morning to find a beautiful blanket of the white stuff everywhere. Like this morning.  At that time, our home did not have a garage so I decided to start the day by cleaning off our two cars.  I got bundled up and grabbed a broom and scraper.  Just as I was heading out the door, I felt a tug on my coat.  I turned and found my son, Miles, standing there.  He asked, "Dad, what are you doing?"

"Going out to clean off the cars," I replied.

"Can I help?" he asked.  "Sure," I answered.  So I got him dressed warmly and the two of us headed out. 

We decided to tackle our Honda Pilot first since we would most likely be using it to get around in the snow.  As I started on the front windshield, Miles stood back watching me.  Eventually he asked, "Dad, how can I help?  I can't reach that high."

My initial thought was to send him back inside.  Given his insufficient abilities, he might be more in the way than helpful.  But then I got an idea.  I walked him around to the front and back of the car showing him the bumpers.  I said to him, "Miles, you see this area?  Do you think you can help me by getting these really clean?" "Absolutely," he said.  And he dived into it with all his little might.

As the two of us proceeded to clean the car together, I had one of those moments with God.  It went like this:

     God:  "Do you see now?"
     Me:  "See what?"

     God:  "How you and I work together?"
     Me:  "What?"

     God:  "I could do it all myself.  I certainly do not need your help.  And your insufficient abilities are obvious.  But I like being with you just as you like being with Miles.  So I let you clean the bumpers while I tend to the rest."
     Me:  "Hmmm."

I was inspired by two things that day.  First, God Calls us to do nothing where He is not tending to the big stuff.  While we do have a role, the success and completion of our work is not as contingent on our contribution as we think.  This is not an excuse to be lazy;  we are to be diligent in all our efforts.  But it is a comforting depiction of the God that covenants to be on our side.  God does not operate unilaterally rendering us to be mere spectators of His handy work.  Though that is His prerogative if He chooses. But God operates His purposes as a means for us to be with Him, in His presence, where there is great delight.  And outcomes are simply determined by His care and timing.

And secondly, I was reminded to stop taking myself so seriously.  I'm just cleaning the bumpers - not exactly the most important responsibility.  Humanism and enlightenment have conned us into believing in ourselves too much.  We are proud of human achievement and not afraid to talk about it.  And this mindset has crept into the Church.  I wonder if God sighs every time he hears another church brag of their latest accomplishment as though they were responsible for it?  Have we forgotten that our best acts are compared to "filthy rags"by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 64:6)? Imagine if we took God as seriously as we do ourselves.

Miles and I finished cleaning both cars that day.  We worked hard.  But most importantly we were together.  And when we got inside, he announced to the family, "We finished cleaning the cars!"  And we had the cleanest bumpers on the block.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden                         


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Change Their Assumption

During one of the recent snows I decided to take a break from other responsibilities to go sledding with my kids.  Without telling them, I put on a few layers of clothes along with a jacket and positioned myself by the front door.  As I stood there, I began anticipating their excitement.  There was going to be shouts of joy when they entered the foyer and saw me standing there ready to play.  But something very different happened.

Miles spoke up first.  "Dad, what are you doing?"

I said, "Going sledding with you."

"Really?" was his surprised response.  And then he turned to his sister, "Avery, Dad is going with us."  And she replied with a quiet mumble, "Huh?"  And that was it.  The two of them walked passed me and out the door.

It's typically good not to respond with your first reaction.  And this was no exception. I was mad and wanted to give them a big lecture on the busyness of life and how appreciative they should be that I was setting aside some time to do this.  Basically, I wanted to critique them for their response not me. And then the little but powerful voice began to speak to me.  

"Why would you expect them to react any other way?  Their assumption, based on repeated behavior, is that they play in the snow alone or with their mother.  Not you. So get over it or change their assumption," said the little but powerful voice.

Perhaps there is no greater example of someone changing their assumption than the Apostle Paul.  The early followers of Jesus knew him initially to be strongly religious and a dedicated killer of their kind. So when word began to spread of his conversion, there was great skepticism surrounding his new faith. Paul spent much of the following years walking out his new faith in front of a host of doubters.

On one occasion, in a letter he wrote to the church at Philippi, he penned these words:  One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things (Philippians 3:13b-15a).  The Word of the Lord.

Here are some insights from Paul.

Your Thoughts Not Theirs
Paul understood that he could not control others' thoughts but he could his own.  So he does NOT ask others to forget what is behind.  He does not write, "Forget what I used to do since I am now straining toward what is ahead." Paul is not trying to convince them of his change; rather, he is describing his change process to them. There is a big difference.  When we are implementing some changes, we are tempted to spend energy asking people to change their assumptions toward us.  But words do not change assumptions.  Only behavior and time do.  People need space to determine if the change is a new standard or a new whim.

Memory Control not Memory Denial
When Paul describes that he is choosing to forget what is behind, he is not suggesting a denial of what took place.  It is unhealthy to overly dwell upon or overly deny the past.  Both extremes are destructive in their own way.  To overly dwell upon something is to devalue God's grace and mercy.  To overly deny the past is to disregard our history, running the risk of repeating it.  And Paul is not suggesting that we are capable of eradicating the past from our thinking.  He is, however, describing the ability God gives us to control memories - keeping them in the past where they belong not the present.  Don't drag yesterday into today.

A Marathon not A Sprint
Paul is using the metaphor of a race to describe his growth process.  He paints the picture of a runner who is straining and pushing ahead.  Over the years I have struggled with this imagery because I always envisioned the runner in a short sprint which seemingly equates our spirituality to a short burst of energy that basically produces fatigue. Not very appealing.  But Paul's metaphor is about a marathon not a sprint. The straining is about pace and endurance not quickness.  My friend, Wayne Mancari, is an avid runner.  He told me one time, "In a marathon if you think that your pace is just right, slow down a little. If you think your pace is a little slow, it is probably the perfect speed to ensure completion."  And the same is true for our spiritual growth.  Find your pace.  Strain.  Endure.  But don't sprint.

Why not What
I recently watched a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire.  I highly recommend it. He talks about the importance of anchoring our message in the why more than the what.  He said, "People don't buy what we do; they buy why we do it!" Paul's message clearly focuses on the why: "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Paul not only knows why he is changing but is motivated by it.  The what informs us but it does not inspire us.  And regular inspiration is needed to keep us on the pathway of change - pushing us through tough seasons.  When we get stuck, our tendency is to modify what we are doing.  While that might be helpful at times, it should not be our default assumption. We may just need to revisit and reaffirm the why.        

Mature Audiences Only
Paul gives us a surprise conclusion.  He says that this is a process for "all that are mature."  Up until this point, we assume that he is giving a roadmap for the immature who need to change - not the mature that have supposedly already done so.  But a strong indication of spiritual maturity is not a sense of arrival but of the journey. Those I spiritually admire always have a keen awareness of our continual need for God's grace.  In other words, the closer one draws to God, the clearer one sees ugliness and the inability to fix it humanly or instantly.  Paul knows this in his own life and imparts it to us as well. Changing their assumption is with us till we depart this world.

So I went sledding with my kids that day.  I doubt either of them are prepared to announce that their dad loves to sled.  But this one thing I am sure of.  The next time their assumption will be slightly different.  I'm on my way.

Ex nihilo,

R.J Rhoden



Thursday, January 30, 2014


This week I stood at the bedside of an elderly man who is probably in the final hours of his life on earth. He has lived a noble and good life, serving as a pastor to many in RVA.  Over the years he has stood, as I did last night, at the side of many who were in their final moments.  And now he finds himself not as the one who stands but lays.  I was struck by his peaceful acceptance of the role reversal and wondered how I might handle the same one day.

I opened Scripture to Psalm 121 and began to read to him:
I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber...he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
As the words were coming out of my mouth, I suddenly realized a uniqueness to the moment. Typically I read those words as a way to instruct people - but not so in this case.  No instruction necessary.  For him, I was reading the Psalm not as a recommendation but a description of a life lived.  I was standing at the bedside of one, who many decades ago, had resolved that his eyes would look well beyond the hills to divine help.  He would not be lured by the inadequate idols placed on the tops of hills.  His hope would be in the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth.  And he has personally lived and publicly proclaimed that with great faithfulness.    

The hills were home to all the efforts by human hands to create and worship gods. People of antiquity would look to and visit the hills seeking help from tangible, counterfeit expressions of divinity.  In response to this the Psalmist asks a rhetorical question, "Where does my help come from?"And the answer is not found on the hills. The answer is found in the one who made the hills and everything around it.  He is the only one who will not let your foot slip - who will watch over your life - who will not grow tired.

It is with great ease that we create idols.  Our sinful hearts ooze with a desire to replace God with people and things that give us immediate satisfaction.   We feel falsely more secure when we are able to see and touch and hold that which is in front of us.  And so we set our eyes on the hills rather than the One beyond them.

But just when it seems that all has forgotten the Lord, there emerges a voice declaring the silliness and insufficiencies of our human efforts to answer the questions of life. We hear the name of the Lord being lifted up by the faithful.  We taste and see again that the Lord is good.  We sense and are refreshed by the touch of His presence.  And our eyes are lifted again to the Source that is higher than the hills.

As I stood at the beside of one who has been such a voice, I wrestled with a question. "Where is his help now," I wondered.  Is there no comfort from this Psalm for those in death?   I found the answer in the final phrase - the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. The help that comes from the Lord is for every stage of life.  God's helpful presence is in the beginning, middle, and end. And perhaps it is most pronounced in the end.  For in the final breaths of life we catch our first glimpse of a line.  We see clearly that what we call an end, God calls a beginning.  The line we see is the starting line not the finish line.  And there are no idols waiting for us.  Just God.  

So once again, even in the silence of death, he was proclaiming.  And I heard and have written.  From where does your help come?  Only you can answer that question. I, like my friend, point your eyes to beyond the hills - to the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.  Though He does more behind our backs than in front of us, His presence is always with us.  Embrace the timing and subtlety of His helpful work.  All else is ultimately unhelpful.

For Reverend Walter Myers

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


In January of 2010 I was invited to Tanzania to do some teaching for a group of African pastors that had gathered for a week of training in the southern region.  My good friend, Scott Hanson, working in Tanzania at the time, was instrumental in securing my invitation and called me to finalize the details of the week.  After some small talk of catching up, he explained to me that I would be speaking 10 times over a period of 5 days (morning and late afternoon each day).  And that each message should be 90 minutes long!  I remember responding to him half serious/half joking, "My goodness, I will have told them everything I know by day 4!"  And his response still lingers in my heart today, "They're hungry."

I decided to prepare a series of teachings out of 2 Timothy - one of the pastoral epistles.  Everything was coming together nicely until about two weeks prior to the trip.  One morning as I was reviewing the teachings my computer crashed, and foolishly, I had not backed up my work.  I lost it all.  To add insult to injury, the next day I was walking across the stage at church, prior to worship, to place the communion elements on the table.  I tripped on a monitor and fell on the broken glass of the chalice. Red liquid flew everywhere and I got a nasty slash on my wrist that needed immediate attention.  It's pretty awkward to come to church and the first thing you hear someone say is, "Pastor Rob was just taken to the ER. He slit his wrist!" I still bear a scar on my right wrist from that accident.  

As if all this was not enough, I found out the next day that a mole removed from my back had come back from the lab as being "not good."  My dermatologist wanted to immediately cut deeper in the spot to ensure that all the tissue around it was clean. This would also require stitches and changing the wound dressings daily.  I could do nothing but nervously laugh.  I was shipping off to Tanzania with an amazing trifecta that included incomplete teachings, a gash in my right wrist, and a surgical wound in the middle of my back that required daily re-dressing (which by the way I could not reach on my own).  Here I come! 

Well, God has a way of helping us to overcome obstacles.  Interestingly, we experience the overcoming not by shrinking back but by forging ahead in His strength and wisdom.  The long flight over provided lots of good time to rebuild my teachings which were still fresh on my mind.  My host, Scott, was a longtime friend who was more than willing to change my wound dressings each day.  And the pastors were impressive, energetic leaders that graciously received teachings that week from this wounded communicator.  

As the week unfolded I got to know their individual circumstances.  Many of them were pastoring in difficult places that included famine, persecution, lack of clean water, humble surroundings, and other challenges.  Some of them had deathly-ill, family members back home while they attended the conference. Suddenly my little obstacles looked laughable in comparison to theirs.  By the end of the week, I was so caught up in their passion and desire for godliness that I had virtually forgotten the circumstances leading up to my trip.  And it culminated during worship the final afternoon.

After my final teaching we decided to conclude the week with a time of worship together.  I have had the opportunity to worship with many Believers in a variety of countries over the years, but this day would leave an impression like no other.  We only sang one phrase.  And we sang it over and over again for about an hour. Though they were singing in swahili I recognized the song and sang it in english:
Open the flood gates of heaven, let it rain, let it rain (repeat for an hour)    
We were singing Isaiah 45:8.  "You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down.  Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it." It was the fastest hour of singing I have ever experienced.  Though we were repeating the same line over and over again, there was such variety of expression and emphasis in the room.  Some were standing - some sitting- some kneeling - some prostrate on the ground.  At times the singing would have a crescendo effect and at other times it would slow.  And than it would build up again. And each word in the phrase seemed to get emphasized in different ways.  Men were weeping and demonstrating before my very eyes that in Him alone we "live, move and have our being." I was so caught up in the moment that I collapsed to a sitting position on the ground as the presence of God overwhelmed me.  And the following thought arrested me for the better part of the hour:  "I wish I was as hungry as them."  

Well guess what?  We can be.  I don't think I was simply experiencing African culture that day though it was very present.  Something more profound was happening.  They were representing a longing and hunger for the things of heaven - a desire that heaven would be poured out upon all humankind in a way that transcends culture, age, gender, race, and all other human barriers.  That day I was with people who were truly hungry, and their longings were exposing what I lacked.  I needed to get hungry.  I needed to desire the things of heaven in a way that well surpassed my delight in the things of this world - a reality not yet fully realized in my life.  I was reminded that day that fullness on the stuff of this world blocks us from the fullness of heaven.  

To this day I cannot hear that song without being immediately transported back to that magical hour in southern Tanzania.  It is now forever with me and I am grateful. And now you are back there with me as well.  Let it rain.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Small Beginnings

The prophet Zechariah proclaimed during a season that was not marked by moral or spiritual decline, as some other prophets, but a time of rebuilding.  His mission was to speak into the lives of those gathered to rebuild the temple, and at one point, he does so through a series of seven visions.  The fifth vision, a gold lampstand and two olive trees, is ground zero for some words that have sustained and encouraged hearts for 2,500 years.  Let's hear them once again (Read it aloud):
"'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty (v4:6)." And, "Do not despise the day of small beginnings.  The people will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel (v4:10)."   
The Word of the Lord.

The task of rebuilding the temple was at best - daunting, and at worst - completely unrealistic.  It is difficult enough to rebuild when everyone is cheering along the process but to do so with resistance and limited resources made the effort humanly impossible.  Can you imagine the people returning to their home land and seeing, for the first time, a pile of rubble that used to be their central place of worship? Can you imagine them climbing over the mounds of broken stones and picking up shattered pieces of sacred ornaments scattered in the dust?  Can you imagine their thoughts those first few nights as they lay down to sleep knowing that they must face the brokenness, once again, in the morning?  Rebuilding anything begins with courage and hope - not in oneself but in the One who delights in creating masterpieces out of messes.  And God's best work of rebuilding is done in us not buildings.  

Romantic notions of rebuilding are only felt by those who have never done it.  For those in it or having done so in the past, a rebuilding season challenges one's body, mind, and spirit in an unprecedented way.  It requires us to be in a place of total dependence on God which, initially, is misinterpreted as being weak and vulnerable - feelings we instinctively despise.  But later, we come to discover that our total dependence on God actually brings us strength and accomplishment that is only achievable in Him.  And it is not only for seasons of rebuilding but all our days.  To reach for any other facsimile or cheap imitation than the sustaining power of God's presence is to assure failure.  Rebuilding demands a level of trust and faith that, by very nature of its intensity, changes one forever.  It is permanently defining.

So in the midst of this God speaks to us.  First, He tells us what NOT to rely upon. God says, "Not by might."  The hebrew word is chayil which is used 224 times in Scripture.  It means might in regard to physical strength, ability, wealth, and/or military force.  In addition, God says it is "not by power." Here, the hebrew word is koach - used 125 times.  It is somewhat synonymous with chayil as it points us once again to physical human strength, ability, or even political strength.  So why the repetition?  In essence, God is overly emphasizing something important for us.  He is ensuring that we really get it - that we really hear it - that we really embrace it - and that we really believe it!  All else He will speak is contingent on this starting point.  Miss or downplay it, and all that follows becomes watered-down expressions of faith.

Secondly, God tells us to rely fully rely on His Spirit.  The challenging part of spiritual application is that God continually stretches us to see the "unseeable."  How do we rely on something mystical like "the breath of God?"  Sounds more poetical than practical - more flighty than forceful.  Sounds like a place of denial or excuse for people not smart enough to navigate the challenges of life.  And all this sentiment is complicated by the actions of well-meaning people who have poorly modeled for us spirit-filled living. And so some of us respond with great hesitancy to a life fully immersed and led-by the Spirit of God. And yet it is essential not optional.

We will not in this short blog address all the nuances of a spirit-filled life.  But let me suggest the following.  In the context of rebuilding or remodeling our lives, God's Spirit will bring illumination and discernment.  As we daily renew our minds in Him God's Spirit brings us insight and awareness we never had prior.  We begin to see things differently and comprehend Scripture in a whole new way. Clarity replaces cloudiness.  Focus replaces scattered thinking.  Restfulness replaces restlessness. Patience replaces impetuousness.  Small victories trump big obstacles.  The way of wisdom guides rather than the way of this world.  And people begin to say things like, "You seem different now." This, not hysteria, is the sustaining work of God's Spirit in us.  And we must embrace it.

And finally, God says, "Do not despise the day of small beginnings."  The people in Zechariah's day had to find celebration in each stone they lifted and placed. God rebuilds one stone at a time.  Can He speak and all the stones comply instantly and simultaneously into formation as people merely watch?  Absolutely.  But God's nature is more inclined to process than unilateral intrusion.  He delights more in our outcomes and growth from the process than frivolously displaying His other-world powers. God sees fundamental benefit for us when we learn to rejoice not only at completion but when the right tools are in hand to get the job done.  So He says, "The people will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel." Can you imagine Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, standing on a pile of rubble victoriously holding up the plumb line?  What courage and commitment to the process of God! Many a person has missed the completion of a masterpiece because they were too critical of the small beginning and lacked imagination to envision its completion.

So rebuild.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden      

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Surprise Me

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed many things to come.  But he also spoke frequently of the way of waiting. The people of his day were feeling what we sometimes feel.  Listen to their statement: "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God (40:27)."  And so Isaiah responds to them, but he does so pastorally not prophetically.  He does not tell them of the future; he speaks of how they are to live now in the midst of their circumstance.  And he does so by directing their hearts to two realities.

First, Isaiah begins with the reality of God not them.  He is initially theological not therapeutic.
God is everlasting, the Creator of the ends of the earth, never tired or weary, and certainly not humanly understood.  God gives strength to those who are weary and power to those who are weak and powerless (40:28-29).  
The way of waiting must have its origin in God.  When we start with God, no matter our circumstance, we secure our Source.  It's like being stranded on a deserted island and finding water.  Nothing else matters until water is secured.  But we live in a self-awareness, self-help society where people begin with themselves not God - our therapy tends to shape theology rather than our theology shaping therapy.  It's no wonder we are doing everything possible to eliminate the reality of waiting.  If all the answers are simply within us than all the answers, at best, are flawed by human sin and limitation.  But when the answers are beyond us, hope, pure and without limitation, floods our hearts.  The Source of our hope is in God not ourselves.  The way of waiting is learned from the Father's heart not our childlike restlessness. Starting with God may not get us quick deliverance but it gets us quickly to the Source of everything we need.

And secondly, Isaiah lifts up to them the actual way of waiting.  He says:
Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (40:31).  
This is a popular theme for the prophet, using the hebrew word qavah (to wait or eagerly look for) fifteen different times.  So why is it so unpopular with us?  Apart from human impatience, why is waiting such an unacceptable solution for us?  The rest of nature seems to embrace waiting as good and necessary.  What is wrong with us?  I submit that pride and fear keep us leery of waiting.  Pride makes us say and do things that protect our egos.  We want people to be impressed so we act like we have the answers.  But waiting is about not having the answers.  Only the humble can embrace the way of waiting.  And fear makes us avoid the unknown and crushes our ability to trust.  The way of waiting embraces the unknown and requires a trust in God that significantly stretches our faith.  In short, prideful and fearful people will avoid even the appearance of waiting at all costs.   

Well, would it not be great if Isaiah elaborated a little?  A bullet point list of suggested ways to wait would really appeal to us westerners.  We prefer being told what to do rather than discovering it through the working out of our faith.  And a timeframe would delight us beyond recognition!  But God gives neither in advance.  Why?  To be a cruel or vague God?  Not at all.  Consider this.  The "Creator of the ends of the earth" is still creating.  He continues to delight in infinite variety and possibilities- especially in us.  God is not churning out duplicates or repeating the same stories over and over again.  He is crafting uniqueness in each of us.  And this requires waiting - lots of waiting.  The canvas must remain still for the artist to complete the work.

So let's conclude with a prayer.  May this be timely and hopeful as you wait.
God, there is you and everything else.  Nothing is like you.  Forgive me for not seeing your creative work in my life.  Forgive me from being too busy and not still enough to receive from you.  Help me to know the strength and power that comes from You and the insight to see how it is distinct from human effort.  Surprise me with the ability to delight in the wait - to relish in the brief glimpses You show me along the way.  For to see the whole now would overwhelm me.  And as I begin to soar or run without weariness or walk without fatigue may I do so for Your purposes and not my own - Your ways and not the ways of this world.  For You hold the words of eternal life.  Amen.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Path

In the 40th chapter of Isaiah we come across the prophetic declaration commonly associated with John the Baptist.
          "A voice of one calling:  In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make
            straight in the wilderness the path for our God.  Every valley shall be
            raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall
            become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will
            be revealed, and all humankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the
            Lord has spoken(NIV)."
The Word of the Lord.

Why does God not exclusively draw near to us via paths already established?  On many occasions God does. For example, we sense His presence in long standing practices like quiet times, weekly worship, small groups, songs, and other spiritual rituals - all very meaningful.  And than on other occasions, we discover that God wants to prepare a new path for us.

The new path does not rid us of the old ones.  That is a common, wrong assumption. It is not a replacement for long-standing patterns but rather an addition.  It's a means for God to grow us in new ways ensuring the avoidance of complacency and mundaneness.  It's His higher ways that are not our own. God's Spirit is always moving forward.

A new path in could be simple if God would only choose an area of our heart that involves least resistance.  There are plenty of those areas.  But God wants a new path in the wilderness - in the untamed, unrefined, under-regarded, uncultivated, under-developed places that we wrongly assumed were not important to God.  And because of this, work is involved.

We first must address the low points.  Valleys of hurt and despair and disillusionment cannot remain. They are not meant to be a permanent tourist attraction in our lives. They must be raised up. Not forgotten but filled.

Secondly, the big and small obstacles must be removed.  Mountains seem unmovable.  But with only a little bit of faith, Jesus encourages, they can be gone. Most obstacles are reduced one shovel full at a time.  In other words, it takes work and therein lies the frustration.  We lament, "If God wants this obstacle out of the way than why doesn't He damn well remove it himself?'"  God is our strength and energy but He does not force our hands to the shovel.  He co-labors with our wills.

And thirdly, rough and rugged edges need to be smoothed.  Valleys and mountains are easily known but rough edges tend to be in our blind spots.  We often don't know they exist but others close to us do. And so now we must invite others into our preparation of a new path.  There is a kind of strange harmony that surfaces when a trusted companion speaks truth into our lives.  It is one of the few moments in life were humiliation and love become partners.  Like a fine wine paired well with the perfect food.  And so we receive it as a gift.  And the rugged places loose their ruggedness.

Well now the way for a new path is complete.  Now the time has come for all to notice how much we have changed.  For compliments and spiritual fame to emerge as others take note of our accomplishment.  Right?  Not at all.  The establishment of a new path is so that people notice us less and the glory of God more.  Utterly incomprehensible and magnificent at the same time.  The highest indication that a wilderness area of our heart has become a new path is seen in who gets the fame and glory.

          "And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all humankind
          together will see it.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden