Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus


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When you don’t know what you don’t know

We joined the YMCA a couple of months ago, and in the meantime, my wife has been teaching the kids about exercise and nutrition and trying to get them to cut down on snacks like ice cream. She posted this Scripture on the refrigerator:

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.—Psalm 145:15 (NIV)

When I saw it, I thought that it was her way of using God’s Word to encourage the kids not to overeat and snack too much between meals.

Last night, our kids had their end-of-year awards for Awana, and when we arrived, their leader gave them some cards to read, one of which was the Scripture above that was posted on the refrigerator.

Why did they have the same verse as the one on the refrigerator? Because the kids recited Psalm 145 for the parents, and one of my kids was memorizing that verse.

It’s not irony or coincidence that this verse was on the refrigerator when it was a verse about food, and even though it was up for the purpose of one of our kids memorizing it for a recital, it still taught me something else from God’s Word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.—2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NIV)

Has God ever used His Word in a way you didn’t expect to teach you something?


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What I learned on my summer vacation

Children are a gift from the Lord; babies are a reward.—Psalm 127:3 (NCV)

Last year, our family took a trip to Florida and Walt Disney World. Nine months later, I took another week off… more of a staycation, I guess. A lot happened over the course of a week, so here’s what I learned:

  • Even though my wife and I learned she was pregnant the day after we got back from Florida nine months ago, it is mathematically impossible that our new baby Caroline was ever created there. We won’t be going back to that hotel anyway. I guess some parents show their older kids where they were conceived? I would rather keep them as blissfully ignorant as I am.
  • By the way, did I mention that we had the baby on August 12? 7 lbs 13 oz… the tiniest of the Ray girls. She will need some extra helpings of mashed potatoes to get up to acceptable Irish fighting weight. Caroline Eloise Joy is her full name. She did inherit the posing gene from my wife.I mean, I’m seriously thinking about putting together one of those Anne Geddes calendars for next year, and I strongly dislike Anne Geddes calendars.


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Sleep to the beloved

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 127:1. I put it on my email signature for school, and I used it for the toast when my brother-in-law got married. I can’t even remember the first time I saw it, but when I did I thought that it was obscure enough most people wouldn’t know it, but the message was powerful enough that they would want to remember it after they had heard it. I felt like the champion of Psalm 127:1.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I mean, that’s a simple, yet poignant Scripture, isn’t it?

At least 4 years later (how long I’ve been working at Indiana Wesleyan), and I never thought to look at Psalm 127:2. For me, that is a WAY more convicting verse.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

That almost sounds like crazy talk coming from the Bible. For all the Scriptures that say things like laziness is bad and if you don’t work, you shouldn’t get to eat, and even that lazy people sleep all day, here’s a verse that says that it’s okay to sleep.

I used to work on our VBS programs at our old church. I would come home from work, go through our nightly routine with the kid and my wife, and I would start working on VBS from just before midnight until I either passed out at the computer or Erika chased me off to bed. I would manage 3 or 4 hours of sleep, get up the next day, and when I got home I would usually crash in the bed.

Does that look like a God-honoring life of victory through Jesus to you?

There just never seemed to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. There always seemed like there was pressure to complete VBS and get it out of the way, and while I enjoyed the creative process behind this ministry, it became the object of my attention and devotion. It became, “Look what I’m doing!” I felt like I was using a unique talent to further God’s kingdom, but I was determined to use it at the expense of everything else.

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God’s plan

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.—Psalm 138:8 (NLT)

Last weekend, I considered writing a post entitled “So long…” with the only text “…and thanks for all the fish.” It was to be a farewell post (if you don’t get the joke). Really, who could have blamed me? I’m still working through my dad’s issues since his stroke 3 weeks ago, and I’m pretty sure I will be working on his affairs will be a part-time job for the next 3 months. After that, I guess I can trade part-time jobs to become Daddy a third time, so that’s a push.

I have two more real part-time jobs on top of that. I teach grown-ups for two different colleges. I don’t really talk much about that, but I did quit one of them this week, so maybe that will help some of the stress factor.

I read all these people who know more about blogging than me say that I need to post every day. I wonder where I can fit that time with my day job, 2 or 3 night jobs, and making sure I don’t completely ignore my family. I figure if I can’t do that, then maybe I should just give it up until I can.

A month ago, I had other plans about life. Now, it’s about keeping all the balls juggled in the air. I thought it was time to put some of them down.

Until yesterday.

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Counting sheep, blessings

I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.—Psalm 63:6 (NLT)

When I go to bed, I usually try to do one of two things: try to forget what happened that day if it wasn’t so great, or try to think of good things and ideas for the next day that I will hopefully remember in the morning.

I am usually a pretty sound sleeper, so I don’t usually get up in the middle of the night. My wife has been doing this a lot lately, because she’s pregnant and the baby likes waking up at 3 AM in utero for some reason. Hoping that’s not a trend in August… anyway, she likes to tweet in the middle of the night, and usually it’s something about what she’s been reading in the Bible or reflecting on that night.

My wife has a lot more fortitude than I do. If I woke up at 3 AM, I would probably check Facebook, and then Twitter, and then pull up Zynga Poker and play until I pass out in the chair. But this goes back to what I was talking about the other day. You have to fill your head with God in order to crowd the rest of the crap out of your head.

This Scripture is talking about night, but the concept is a night or day thing. If you constantly have God on your mind and God in your heart, then you will always have God in your thoughts and react to others with love as God would. And, I guess I’m just not there yet.

Do you have a favorite nightly ritual? Does it have something to do with God?