As ever and always, big, blinging thanks to my hubby/hero, Richie Rhea, for being such a shining example of the peace of Christ and for unwavering support, encouragement, and unconditional love and patience. How many husbands could resist making fun of a wife stressing over a book about peace?
Shining thank-yous to Andy Rhea (www.andyrheamusic.com), Jordan Rhea, Kaley Rhea, Allie Rhea, and Daniel Rhea for love, encouragement, inspiration --- and for just being all-around wonderful people. Your love for Jesus, your amazing talents, and your sweet spirits bring great peace and joy to my blessed-mama heart!
More thanks to my faithful prayer team --- what wonderful warrior women! Keeping this project bathed in prayer has been a big task and an inestimable investment. Humble, sincere thank-yous to Janet Bridgeforth, Tina Byus, Diane Campbell, Mary Clark, Theresa Easterday, Chris Hendrickson, Melinda Massey, and Peanuts Rudolph. I cherish you all!
I so appreciate the help at every corner from my favorite agent of all time, Pamela Harty, who shares my heart for ministry, and from all those at The Knight Agency who help make it possible for me to do what I love to do.
How I appreciate gifted editor Jennifer Leep --- a super editor and truly super person. Big thank-yous to all those who make up the talented team at the Revell division of Baker Publishing Group. Art, marketing, publicity, editorial --- every team member is such a gift. Barb Barnes even makes copyediting a joy!
A huge nod of thanks goes to Joanne Sampl of Next-Step-Up Communications, whose techy contributions are always invaluable and whose ministry counsel, web design, and marketing help keep us up and running --- and whose friendship is such a great blessing.
More head-bobs of thanks to my church family at Troy First Baptist Church for prayers and encouragement, and to Halo & Wings, our local Christian bookstore here in Troy, Missouri.
Much gratitude to the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, my heart-sisters who share support, knowledge, godly insights, and powerful prayers.
A personal thank-you to Peanuts Rudolph, assistant and friend, who not only faithfully prayed very specifically over this book, but knew exactly when to offer beautiful words of encouragement. I especially loved Peanuts’ spiritual spunk the day she called to tell me that while she was praying, she started giggling. She said it was because she was overjoyed at the thought that God had already finished this book. I confess that at that point I was just hoping he was using software compatible with mine. Then I remembered that I use “Word,” and that made me giggle too. It was a great reminder to keep it all funneling through, filtered by, and reflected in and from HIS “Word.”
Which brings me to my truest, biggest debt of gratitude. It is ever reserved for my heavenly Father, the God of peace, and the God who gives peace. My heart is full of grateful appreciation to the God who proves again and again that he can truly use anyone. I’m so blessed to be one of his “anyone” servants.
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is
true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever
stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy
of praise. You know the teachings I gave you, and
you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So
follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be
Philippians 4:8–9 CEV
“Keep Your Minds,” . . . and All These Blings Will Be Added unto You
“Finally, my friends, keep your minds”
No doubt I could start a support group for the chronically overaccessorized. Bows, baubles, and bangles --- rings and things and all kinds of bling --- I love to accessorize.
Hello, my name is Rhonda Rhea and I’m a bling-aholic. There’s a good reason I’ll never start that support group, though. Recovery programs don’t work for those who don’t want to recover. And I’m not anywhere near willing to leave the life of over-the-top accessorizing. Is it even possible to overembellish? Not in my bling-book.
Personally, I’m continually adding more and more baubles and bangles. It’s more than just the fact that you rarely have to say, “Do these earrings make me look fat?” Accessories not only add that adorable extra something that gives just the right sparkle, but they’re also great smoke screens.
Cameo or Camo?
I’ll confess that now that I’ve hit the midlife mark, these days it’s not so much about accessorizing as it is camouflaging. Got things to hide? Add a little smoke-screen-sparkle here, a little diamond-decorated diversion there. In the immortal and sage words of Anita Renfroe in her book of the same title: “If you can’t lose it, decorate it!”1 It’s a philosophy that helps with whatever you need to lose, as well as whatever may be sagging, bagging, or otherwise sinking slowly into the sunset.
I’ll just warn you that the midlife need for accessory misdirection hits rather suddenly. It’s like you get up one morning, glance in the mirror, and suddenly find a forest troll looking back at you. More than scary. You’d like to assume you’ve been magically transported to some enchanted woodland. But sadly, it’s real life. In real life, you have to decide what you’re going to do about that troll.
Trolling for Bling
Take it from me, a sister who’s “been there, trolled that”: when you find the lumpy-bumpy hobgoblin in the mirror, don’t try to fight him. Trust me, trolls fight dirty. What do you do instead? You go trolling for bling.
Yes, you rifle through your jewelry box to find yourself a sparkly necklace or some other blindingly shiny, attention-grabbing piece. It’s a little bling that can hopefully create a glare up the face so brilliant that no one notices any imperfections. Just the right bling can be ideally misdirecting --- a helpful thing when you’re talking trolls.
I say, instead of waiting for the troll to ask questions to see if you can pass over his bridge, take the lead. Distract him with earrings that are bigger than your head.
Sadly, there’s an entirely different kind of misdirection: one of a soul living in utter chaos. It’s a misdirected life marked by varying combinations of discontentment, stress, fear, impurity, bitterness, frustration, unfruitfulness, selfishness, loneliness, confusion, discouragement, laziness, worry, or inconsistency --- all the things that are the exact opposite of peace.
I’ve been blessed to meet women from one side of this country to the other. You might be surprised to find that most (not just some, but most) are struggling with at least one of the items in that peacecrushing list. And let me confess right here at the get-go that I’ve been there so many times, it’s downright embarrassing. All too often I’ve chosen to live without peace in a situation where peace was waiting for me --- right there for the asking.
Would you be surprised to learn that many women say peace is their number one greatest need? Every woman does need peace. And every woman desires peace --- I daresay, most would even give up some of their greatest treasures in this life to gain it. But so many find that it always seems devastatingly out of reach. How can that be?
Our natural bent is to reach for that peace in all the wrong directions --- to reach for all the wrong things.
Reaching for the Right Accessories
Let’s get some perspective and reach in the right direction for just the right peace. Never mind the jewelry box. We can find the right peace as we understand what the Bible says about the true and lasting peace of God. When we’re looking for peace, there are certain life “accessories” that are absolute must-haves. And we need to go after them “whatsoever” it might cost us!
The Bible teaches that we “wear” this life in Christ (take a look at the Colossians 3 passage at the end of this introduction). In Philippians 4:8–9, Paul gives the perfect complements to that outfit:
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.
The Philippians 4 passage becomes our outline for keeping our minds on those things that bring us the genuine peace every woman needs. Have you ever done something goofy, then asked yourself the question, “Where was my mind?” This passage gives us some specifics on just the right “wheres” to put our minds --- and where we need to keep them to experience the life-altering peace of God.
Have You Lost Your Mind?
Losing our minds? That’s easy. As a matter of fact, that happens to be one area where I have some pretty impressive expertise. But what can we do to “keep” our mind instead of losing it? “Keep your minds” actually means to focus and meditate on these lovely things. We’re instructed here to spend some focused think-time and some focused think-energy.
Did you notice that our focus passage begins with the “finally” part of Paul’s revealing message to the Philippians on how to live in peace and joy? I might also add that it’s not his only “finally” in his letter --- I thought I was the only one who did that. But a “finally” means that this is a summary of other important truths he’s taught. He’s pointing to this spot as a place to zero in. He wants his readers to walk away after reading the letter with this principle firmly under their belts --- sparkly or not.
Searching through these verses, we can let the truths of Scripture zero us in on learning to “keep our mind,” dwelling on the right things, those things that will bring peace. Let’s reach together for the perfect peace!
Ready, Set, Embellish!
Ready to spend some time basking in and dwelling on his peace? Slip off your shoes --- and your dangly earrings --- pull up a chair, get comfy, and have a peace-filled read.
Or perhaps peace is something that seems absolutely unattainable at this point in your life. Busyness, doubts, troubles, sin habits, bitterness, worry --- there are so many potential peace zappers. Friend, don’t put this book down until you understand that the one and only way to peace is to look into the face of Christ. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). We need to fix our eyes on him before we look to anyone or anything else, or there will be no peace in this life.
O Lord, may we fix our eyes on you. Will you take us
on a journey through this book --- a journey that leads us to a deeper and sweeter knowledge of and trust in you? As we seek peace, Lord, may we seek YOU. And as we seek you, I ask that you would grant a more complete peace than ever before --- a life-altering, right-down-tothe- soul peace. I ask, Father, that you would meet the deepest soul-need of every person who picks up this book, all by your grace and your mercy. Thank you that you are the God of peace. All glory and honor to you!
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV). Need peace? Let’s seek him and his kingdom. All those other things? They’ll soon be just water under the troll bridge.
Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices,
And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.
Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].
Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].
And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].
And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].
Colossians 3:9–10, 12–15 AMP
“Keep your minds on whatever is true”
Earbobs or Doorknobs?
God’s Word Is True
Do you have a pair of earrings that looks more like a pair of doorknobs than a pair of earbobs? Gotta love those plus-size accessories. It’s a little embarrassing, however, to admit that I have some earrings that are bigger and jinglier than a janitor’s key ring. These are the kinds of earrings that are not so much worn as they are hauled. If the dimensions of a pair of earrings get too close to the measurements of the mud flaps on a tractor trailer, it might be necessary to check city and state regulations before taking them out on the road without a license.
Still, I love the crazy, dangly earrings. The danglier, the better. It’s like taking along a couple of friends everywhere you go. Hanging with the homegirls.
Are You Ready to Rumble?
I admit that those gals have given me trouble a few times. Catching on the shoulder of my sweater, tangling in my hair, slapping me upside the head. I have one pair that could pass for matching gongs. My ears ring for a while after I wear them. Then there was that retro pair I used to have. They were shaped like giant daisies. Those things had a power swing that nearly put an eye out. Totally the wrong kind of flower power.
If your earrings are hanging too low, wobbling to or fro, anytime you could actually tie ’em in a knot or tie ’em in a bow --- and anytime they threaten any of your five senses --- they’re probably just a little too hazardously bulky.
A pair of earrings you could trip over? When we’re in physical danger, it’s not a bad idea to hire an ironworker to shear off a foot or two. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to get tripped up by your own bling? Sacrifice though it is, it’s always safer to trim the bling a trifle to better trip-proof your life. It could save us all some big-time strife. And maybe an eye.
Just the Stumble-Proofing We’re Looking For
Want to trip-proof your life spiritually? Psalm 119:165 says, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble” (NLTa). Not only does God’s Word keep us from tripping, but did you notice that loving his Word gives us peace? Exactly what we’re looking for! And not just a little peace. Great peace.
Our focus passage in Philippians tells us to keep our minds on “whatever is true.” And God’s Word is the truest of every “whatever.” Meditating on and understanding his promises brings a sense of serene well-being, knowing he’s got us covered in every way that counts. Peace. The more we read his Word and understand how he loves us and takes care of us eternally, the more we find that sweet inner rest.
And the more we know him through his Word, the more we’re able to pinpoint those things that would threaten to trip us up. As we learn more and more of his Word, we get more of his perspective and we’re able to identify those tricky, peace-crushing obstacles. “My friends, keep your minds on whatever is true.” What a vital passage for our lives!
No need to be blind to those obstacles that threaten to trip us. God’s Word does away with blindness and shows us the way to walk out our faith-lives.
I was watching a commercial for some sort of miracle anti-aging face cream the other day. The announcer lady said it would undo years of sun damage and other skin woes and that researchers rated the cream “best” for results in all categories in a blind test.
That got me wondering. Why would I trust a blind test of a skin care product? Wouldn’t I want all the researchers to actually see the results? If someone is going to promise me that a cream is going to shore up a saggy, sun-damaged face, I want to see the shore, so to speak. Seeing is believing, right?
John 20:31 says, “But these are written [recorded], in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [through Who He is]” (AMP).
A Word to the Wise --- and to the Simple
No need to “blindly” believe. Ours is not a blind faith. We’ve been given God’s Word, written down, so that we may believe. Psalm 119:130 says, “The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand” (NLTb). Sounds like the opposite of blindness to me. It’s light! How gracious that our heavenly Father has granted his light not just for the scholars but for the average simple gal --- for me!
And he will open our minds to understand his Word. Are you thinking you need a seminary degree or special theological expertise to comprehend his Word? There’s certainly nothing wrong with being educated in the things of God, but don’t think for a second that’s what God requires before he’ll grant insight into his truth. There’s one prerequisite for enlightenment in his teaching: a desire
to know him more.
Take a look at what he says in Deuteronomy 32:1–2: “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! Hear, O earth, the words that I say! Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants” (NLTb).
What kind of special degree does grass need to receive rain? Did your flowers need special training to allow you to water them? No, they didn’t need a single lesson, class, or tutorial. God uses his Word like a gentle shower on a young plant. Now there’s some flower power! His Word is sweet like dew. I love that picture. There’s nothing a young plant needs more. There’s no more perfect nourishment. His Word is the sweet rain that can wash away any spiritual blind spot.
Let It Pour
If you’ve been a little too casual about reading and studying God’s Word, are you ready to let its sweet rain wash over you? Are you ready to have your life changed? That’s exactly what will happen as you let it become part of your daily routine and part of . . . well . . . you. Open up your Bible with the desire to go deeper in your walk with God, and you can close it a changed person. With every principle, promise, and truth, you’ll find yourself living the Christian life fuller than before. Psalm 119:144 says, “The way you tell me to live is always right; help me understand it so I can live to the fullest” (Message).
Who wouldn’t want to live this life to its fullest? And who couldn’t use a peaceful renewing? I love how the Message phrases Psalm 119:114: “You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.”
Understand more about your heavenly Father by getting to know his heart through his Word. You can ask him this very minute to empower you, to give you the discipline and the yearning to grow closer to him through studying his Word. He longs to answer! Decide right now to let him become your place of quiet retreat and let his Word daily renew you.
I’m heading to that quiet retreat. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it a quiet retreat by making sure I don’t wear the gong earrings.
I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great spoil. . . . Great peace have they who love Your law; nothing shall offend them or make them stumble. I am hoping and waiting [eagerly] for Your salvation,O Lord, and I do Your commandments. Your testimonies have I kept [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying them]; I love them exceedingly! I have observed Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are [fully known] before You. . . . My lips shall pour forth praise [with thanksgiving and renewed trust] when You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall [sing praise for the fulfillment] of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteous.
Psalm 119:162, 165–68, 171–72 AMP
Excerpted from WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE LOVELY: Must-Have Accessories for God’s Perfect Peace © Copyright 2011 by Rhonda Rhea. Reprinted with permission by Revell. All rights reserved.