Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whose Are You?



            What is this obsession with monograms? They’re everywhere. Tote bags, beach towels, shirts and shorts. Phone cases, sunglasses, caps and even car windshields.
            Now before you think I’m being critical, or have somehow become immune to the largely Southern trend of labeling stuff with our initials, let me admit to purchasing an embroidery machine five years ago. I didn’t want to go into business, but rather be able to add personalization to, well, anything.
            I started by putting my husband’s monogram on the cuff of his shirts, and even mistakenly put his initials on my son’s shirt. Countless items for my daughters went through the machine and emerged identifying the owner of each item.
            And just when I thought there as a lull in my home’s embroidery activity, two granddaughters entered my life. Their names or initials have been added to hair bows, blankets, beach towels, swim suits, dresses, diaper covers… you get the point.
            History tracks this practice of documentation to a time, centuries ago, when the Romans and Greeks labeled coins with initials and names to indicate where they were from or the rulers in office at the time. Ages before that, the prophet recorded God’s words in Isaiah 49:15, 16 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
            That Scripture provokes an incredible image of a God determined to remember His chosen people. John 10:27, 28 offers words, which for me, cement the permanence of my relationship with God. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
             Beautiful monograms clearly indicate a person’s identity. However, in the whole grand scheme of life, who you are is not nearly as important as whose you are

Thursday, May 15, 2014

To the Graduates:



Congratulations to the Class of 2014! You have anticipated this for a very long time. The years devoted to your education will be crowned with a well-deserved degree, and as soon as that diploma is in your hand, your parents will likely breathe a huge sigh of relief. While some may view this day as an end to education, I pray it is only a step to the next level of learning.
            A survey revealed that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives and 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. I hope the Class of 2014 does their job to improve these statistics. Be good stewards of the brain God issued to you and never stop learning. Above all, place the Word of God on your "Must Read" list of books.
            Just as important as the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom are the ways you’ve grown as a person, the friendships you have formed, and the deeper understanding you have acquired of yourself and others. Remember the love of your family and friends.  Remember your own sacrifices and hard work.  And remember God really does have a special plan for your life.
God has blessed you with unique talents and abilities. Use those gifts well. Eric Liddell discovered one of his talents on the track. Running was his favorite sport and he excelled at it.  He said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." 
Prepared to run the 100 meter race in the 1924 Olympics, he was Britain's hope for winning a gold medal. However, Liddell dropped out of the race because it was scheduled on a Sunday and he refused saying, "Sunday is for worshipping God, not sports." Instead, he qualified for the 400 meter race. He not only won that race, but set a world record in the process.
This graduation milestone marks another leg of your race; the end of one endeavor and the beginning of your next. May the future hold many new joys and accomplishments and be a continuation of all of the good things you have already achieved.
In the near or distant future you will be faced with a major decision. Few would argue that it’s the most important decision of your life: your marriage partner. One teenager of American missionaries to China was sent to Korea for high school. Although she envisioned her life as a missionary to Tibet and an “old maid,” Ruth penned her qualifications for a spouse.
“If I marry; He must be so tall that when he is on his knees, as one has said, he reaches all the way to heaven. His shoulders must be broad enough to bear the burden of a family. His lips must be strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no, and tender enough to kiss. Love must be so deep that it takes its stand in Christ and so wide that it takes the whole lost world in. He must be active enough to save souls. He must be big enough to be gentle and great enough to be thoughtful. His arms must be strong enough to carry a little child.”
Ruth never became a full-time missionary to Tibet. Or an old maid. Instead she became the wife of Billy Graham and a missionary to the world.
May the path to your future be lined with prayer and your obedience to His will change your world.
Ronny may be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day



It's May! Flowers are blooming, children are counting down the days to summer vacation, and I just celebrated my 55th  birthday. It's okay.  Really. I'm not upset about getting older, or about anyone knowing my age. I intend to always celebrate birthdays and never stop counting them. Each bears its own significance and I'm eager to see what experiences this year  holds for me.
            In addition, this is the month in which we celebrate Mother's Day. I've been blessed with an excellent mother, Jeanne Keller, who is the most giving person I have ever known. She's the quiet strength that balances my Dad's outgoing and impulsive nature; the role model for every decision I make; and the ever-available grandmother to fifteen grandchildren and eight, soon to be ten, great-grandchildren.
            Though none of us live lifestyles of the rich or famous, Mama has shown us how to celebrate every day. She excels in turning the ordinary into extraordinary and the mundane into magnificent memories. She loves unconditionally, shares unselfishly, and exhibits patience my husband only dreams of being mine. The fastest she ever moves is to pick up the check when we dine out.
            Despite her tremendous example, nothing I've done has been more difficult than parenting.  Or more rewarding. Mothering five children has been one of the greatest joys of my life. It's incredible to watch pieces of my heart walk and talk and move independently from me, overwhelmed by the desperate desire to prevent a child from repeating my mistakes, yet painfully realizing they just might make mistakes of their own. I'm in the process of trying to download everything I think I know, and praying their gradual independence from me will lead to a lifelong, growing dependence upon God.
If you are a woman blessed with a child of your own, you will probably agree that motherhood is, without question, the most important job you have ever held.  From the moment of your child’s conception, you have accepted the responsibility to care for this miraculous life.
Mothers share the incredible challenge to be available 24 hours of every day.  A wise woman realizes this task is impossible without God’s continual assistance, and she seeks His guidance daily. No one but God realizes the amount of time and energy you put into raising your children, and only He can equip you for this lifelong commitment.
I honor you for the job you’re doing with your children, and I know your impact reaches far past your own family.  You often go beyond your borders and touch the lives of all of the children you love… nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, children of friends and your neighbor’s children, as well.
I want to speak for them, for all of the children you have mothered, and thank you for a job well done.  I want to stand, representing them, and applaud your unselfish and often sacrificial gifts of time, energy, love, and, yes, money.  And I want to kneel in their place and ask our Father to strengthen you, to energize you, to fill you and allow you to overflow with His love, joy, peace, mercy, wisdom, and blessings.
Psalm 127:3 beautifully declares, "children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward." May God continue to pour out His grace on all mothers as we daily care for our precious gifts.
Even if you are in the midst of another hectic and demanding day of mothering, whenever possible, call, write, or visit your Mom. If she's anything like mine, the more unexpected the contact, the greater it is appreciated. If your mother is already gone, write a note to a young mother in need of encouragement, or someone who has been a mother figure to you.
Now, please excuse me. I have a call to make.
Ronny may be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Anchor Holds



            Why is there a key on an anchor keychain in my makeup bag? I see it every morning and wonder. Clueless as to which lock it opens, I’m beginning to doubt its importance. How it ended up there is as mysterious as its purpose, yet I’m unsure of what I should do with it.
            The keychain is much easier to explain. I’m drawn to nautical attire, colors, d├ęcor and symbols. In addition to being a nautical icon, the anchor is one of the earliest signs of Christianity and has been found in Roman catacombs. Persecution of early Christians left them with the need to identify themselves to fellow believers with a sign which would go undetected by their enemies. An anchor, a symbol which concealed the shape of the cross, was one such sign. The choice of the symbol may stem from Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
            My hope is weighted, held in place and secured firmly in the unchanging nature of God Who is Truth and cannot lie. His Word is my lifeline. When the winds of change blow, I stay afloat because the anchor for my soul is deeply embedded in Him.  I am not overcome by murky water lapping my little boat, nor am I tossed into a sea of uncertainty, for I am steadied by hope. When the storm has calmed, I draw the anchor even closer as I continue on, filled with trust in the One Who sets my sail.
            So I guess I’ll keep the mysterious little key and anchor keychain. It’s a tangible reminder of hope, which unlocks the door to peace, joy, and contentment. But is it too much to hope the anchor also triggers the memory for the purpose of that key?
Ronny may be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com.