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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Sam Trail


Seven months after the death of Sam's wife, we're still finding our way in this new normal of ours. A lot has changed in these few months. Sam's learned to prepare his meals, change his sheets, do his laundry. He knew how to do those things before, but Jamie always did them. Now, he does them himself, and we're both proud of his efforts.

He doesn't drive on the road anymore, so we spend a lot more time together. One of the things we've enjoyed doing lately is feeding the fish in the afternoons. We buy a cartload of "agricultural bread" (old bread) at the bread store, and store it in an old olive barrel. Every afternoon, we grab a few loaves, crumble up the slices, and throw it to the fish. 

Sam takes great delight in seeing the fish churn the water to get bread, and I take great delight in watching him.

It's a long walk for Sam, who's not as spry as he used to be, and it's easier if we stop a few times on the way back. I devised the Sam Trail to help. As you can see in the picture, I've positioned a trail of lawn chairs along the way from my backyard to the lake. Sam stops when he gets out of breath and rests until he can go again.

Yesterday, I scrubbed down the chairs to get the winter's grime off, then repositioned them.

"Why don't you put two chairs at each spot? Then you can have a seat, too."

Sam's words cut me to the core. In that moment, I realized that, while Sam sat to rest, I'd stood over him, waiting to "get going" again. What Sam wanted was for me to slow down and savor the moment, to rest along side him.

I put two chairs at each spot.

Later, we fed the fish and made our way back. When we stopped for Sam to catch his breath, we both sat. The view of the lake was beautiful. Peaceful. Restorative.

Sam often says, "We're not guaranteed another day." He's right. We're not, so it's important to savor every day, treasure every sweet stop along the way. Sometimes, we simply need to stop and watch the lake together.

I've been "wide open" for so long that slowing down for someone else is a big change for me, but it's been a good one. Perhaps you, too, go at a fast pace. Try being intentional about slowing down, savoring the moment, treasuring the days. 

Rest is part of God's plan for us, and Sam is teaching me it's great value. Those few minutes spent in rest on the Sam Trail are as restorative to me as they are to him.

Sam and I are making memories. One day, they'll be all I have of Sam, and they will be even more precious than they are today. 

We can't treasure memories later if we don't make them now, so slow down. Stop. Enjoy. 

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28,29 NASB
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In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Saving America 
#rest #slowdown #disciple #linesfromleanna







Monday, May 30, 2016

Saving America



Not everything you read on the internet is true, especially about Memorial Day. Today, I intended to check the date of the first Memorial Day and was astounded by the number of places that claimed to have started the day of remembrance. According to Wikipedia (admittedly, not always a bastion of truth), there is documentation to support the claim that, in 1862, women in Savannah, Ga. decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers.

That may be true, but here's what I know for sure. After the Civil War, there were mothers who grieved for their sons. Sisters who grieved for their brothers. Daughters who grieved for their fathers. Wives who grieved for their husbands. 

In the South, we visit the graves of those we love. We decorate those graves with flowers, if we can. It's a kind of "sprucing up" that makes the grave seem less cold and barren.

If there was a mother with a son in the ground, that grave was visited and, probably, decorated. She grieved for that son. She remembered him, and not just because some government mandate proclaimed the day. 

She remembered him every single day. She missed her boy as long as she drew breath. Nothing about that grief has changed today. Mothers still grieve for their sons and daughters who die in battle. 

We all grieve for our lost ones.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor the soldiers who died while in service. What's easy to forget is that every solider who has fought and killed the enemy in battle leaves a part of themselves on the battlefield. Every soldier who kills, although righteously, has a little death of their own.

I know about it firsthand because my daddy fought, and was wounded, in World War II. He came home with the scars to prove it. Because he wasn't wounded in battle, he turned down the Purple Heart. It was one of our own soldiers that shot him. That wound, and his time in service, left scars deep inside that plagued him for the rest of his life.

We have lots of veterans who've lost a piece of themselves in service, and, because of my daddy, I see Memorial Day as a chance to remember them all. To honor them all.  A day to pray that our God, who will one day wipe away every tear and heal every hurt, will do that for the men and women who have served our nation.

They bought our freedom with their hearts and with their blood, and we have accepted their sacrifice with such casualness in recent years that I'm ashamed of us. Ashamed of myself for not doing something to bring about a change. But I'm not in charge of changing hearts, though I sometimes wish I were. 

We were a great nation, built and preserved by men and women willing to die for us to stay free. We, as a people, have chased a dream that cannot satisfy, abandoned our solid foundation of truth, and become shallow and foolish in the process. 

The men and women who died for us didn't die so that we could have big houses and fancy cars and decadent lifestyles.

They fought and died so that we could have freedom of religion, speech, and press. Freedom to bear arms. Freedom from search and seizure. Fair trials by a jury of our peers. Freedom from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. Freedom from excessive federal intervention in our lives (States' rights). 

In case you didn't recognize them, those are the freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. Those rights are our foundation and the cornerstone of these United States.

They are worth preserving because the kind of freedom we've had is rare and precious. If you don't believe me, look around at the nations of the world. Our freedoms are evaporating like dew on a hot morning, and change is coming. We won't like it. I promise you that.

We will have exchanged true freedom for a tawdry sham of freedom, and we will grieve what we've lost. If we have the sense to recognize it.

The people of God CAN make a difference. If we will. But we cannot do it with boycotts and harsh words. I know those things make us feel like we're doing something, and they have their place, but there is nothing in scripture about doing a boycott to change a nation.

What God says about changing a nation, about saving a nation that's dying, is this:

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 nasb

If the people of God do not do what must be done, our nation will perish. 

If the nation doesn't hold us responsible, they should. 

We can save our nation, if we will. But we cannot save America if we continue to be complacent about our own personal sin, arrogant about our supposed righteousness, and halfhearted about our commitment to our Lord. 

It is past time for those who claim to be the people of God to step up to the plate, hit their knees, repent, turn, and pray. We're the only ones who can save America, but we will have to do it on our knees. 

On this day of remembrance, let's honor those who've died for us, but let's also take time to remember the reason they died and what we've lost as a nation. On this day, let's make a start to save this once-great country. 

It's too big a job for us, but I'm confident of one truth. Saving America is not too big for our God.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Wholehearted Living

And here's the link to the snake story: Sam the Snake Handler

#MemorialDay #savingAmerica #ifmypeople #linesfromleanna


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wholehearted Living


Jan, Edith, and I took a field trip to the curb market in Pontotoc yesterday. These two young men both work there. I had several questions about the produce and they were eager to help, happy to answer with a smile, and even offered to carry my produce to the car. 

(I'm sorry to say that Jan and Edith had to carry their own produce, but that was because I made a deal on old cherries and had a lot to carry. It might also have been because I bought more than they did.)

While we shopped, the young men moved cantaloupes from one crate to another. I'm not sure why they needed to be moved, but the guys had a great time tossing the melons. I was surprised (and gladdened) by their accuracy.

"It looks like you guys have fun a work. Is this a good place to work?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am. We love it here. We have a good time every day."

I watched them work and realized that the tasks they perform every day are not easy. They do hard, physical labor. The boxes of fruits and vegetables are heavy. The produce is fragile. Care must be taken not to damage the wares.

They have fun at work because they've decided to enjoy their job. Joy springs up inside them and, though they have physically demanding work, they do it with enthusiasm and without a word of complaint.

It's the way the people of God are to approach life, not just in work, but in matters of faith and family, as well. Whole-hearted living brings joy to our journey and sweetness to our service. It brings contentment, regardless of our circumstances.

As we start a new week, let's commit ourselves to wholehearted discipleship without complaint. Embrace faith, family, and work with everything we have, and serve our Lord and our neighbors with joy and love.

That's what Jesus did, and it's what we're supposed to do, too. 

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." 
Ecclesiastes 9:10 nasb
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For those doing the Hosea study, the link for Chapter Five is now live. (http://lessonsindiscipleship.blogspot.com/2016/05/hosea-chapter-five.html)

Here's the link to the snake story: Sam the Snake Handler and Our Big Adventure
#lovemywork #wholeheart #disciple #linesfromleanna


Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Best Kind of Wall to Have


I scanned through photos this morning, looking for a blog topic, and came across this one from my time in Israel. It's a picture of the Golden Gate taken from the Mount of Olives.

This gate is the only one on the eastern side of the city. It's also sometimes called the Mercy Gate. It's the gate through which Jesus is thought to have arrived on Palm Sunday and through which He is expected to arrive on His second coming.

The purpose of the gate was to allow access to the walled city. The walls, of course, were built to keep invaders and enemies out. Today, as I pondered those walls, I realized that some of the worst enemies of the city were likely inside the walls already.

Scripture tells us that kings, priests, and people alike strayed far from God. They replaced a relationship with the Most High God with a form of religion that left their hearts cold and distant. Every man (and woman) did whatever they wanted to do, whatever seemed right to them. 

When God decreed judgment on the nation because of their sin, it was as good as done. There was no military might that could keep the invaders out. There were no walls strong enough to keep the people safe within. 

Eventually, invaders entered the city of Jerusalem and carried the people into captivity. They were able to enter because of the sin in the hearts of God's people, not because of a problem with the walls.

The people of God in ancient times were no different from us today. They did whatever they wanted. They wrapped their action in "God-talk" in an attempt to cover their sin, but God saw their hearts. He knew exactly what mattered to them. He knew their desires, their hurts, and the things they used to ease their pain. Just as He does today.

It wasn't city walls that gave the greatest protection to God's people. It was God Himself. Disaster came when He removed that protection in response to their sin. 

What the people didn't quite understand was that the wall they needed most was the one around their hearts. They needed the wall that kept sin out. 

We, too, are in desperate need of the walls-of-diligence that keeps sin out of our hearts.

Today, let's stop for a moment and consider the spiritual walls of our heart. Are we careful about the things that enter and take up residence there, or have we flung the gates wide to allow anything the world offers inside? 

The best walls aren't made from brick or block or wood. The walls that offer the most protection are the walls that guard our hearts and keep sin out. Let's be sure those walls are in good repair. If it won't please God, let's choose not to let it take up residence in our heart. 

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." 
Proverbs 4:23 NLT

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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Very Dumb Wise Man  (http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-very-dumb-wise-man.html)
And here's the link to the Snake Story: Sam The Snake Handler and Our Big Adventure 
(http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/sam-snake-handler-and-big-adventure.html)
#guardyourheart #faithlife #Jesus

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Very Dumb Wise Man




The book of Proverbs has never made me cry before, until today. This is a book of "wisdom", wise sayings by King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. He learned many of these wise things from his daddy, King David, the "man after God's own heart". (Prov. 4:3)

He addressed "my son" many times, so I assume he was a relatively young man when he wrote these bits of wisdom. I read the first four chapters this morning and wished that Solomon had read his own writing when he was old, because it appears he forgot all he knew.

Here are two of his many "wise bits": 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 nasb

My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
Proverbs 1:10 nasb

For the upright will live in the land;
And the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the land; 
And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
Proverbs 2:21-22 nasb

As I read those words, I remembered all that happened when Solomon was old. His foreign wives enticed him to idolatry and he consented. (1 Kings 11:1-4) He built shrines for the idols and worshiped at them. He even worshiped Molech (the god to whom child sacrifices were made). 

He forgot his own wisdom.

Sinners enticed him and he followed like a lamb going to slaughter. Solomon became one of the wicked whose descendants were cut off from the land; he became one of the treacherous whose offspring were uprooted.

His sin led to a civil war that split the nation and accelerated Israel's descent into idolatry and eventual captivity by the Assyrians.

Solomon, like the church in Ephesus mentioned in the Revelation, had "lost his first love", and it cost his family and an entire nation a terrible price.

At Bible study Wednesday night, a man mentioned something he did when he was young. "Somehow, along the way, I'd quit doing that." He told of how he'd returned to his initial fervor for Christ. 

I wish that Solomon had regained his fervor. But he didn't. 

He was wiser in his own eyes than he was in God's eyes, and that arrogance came with an awful price.

This morning, I'm sobered by Solomon's experience and praying that I will embrace the wisdom from above, not from this world. Praying that, even when I'm older than I am now, I'll cling to Christ. Hold to my initial fervor. Love Him more than at the start.

Bill Gaither wrote a song that sums up how the Christian life should be. The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows.

Today, let's take a close look at our own lives. Have we lost our fervor? Are we wise in our own eyes or in the eyes of God? Let's turn back to the wisdom of God alone. Take a step closer if we've strayed away.

Let's determine to live for God every day for the rest of our lives. When "sinners entice", let's say no and press on. 

The decisions we make, day by day, determine the direction our lives take, down the road. Let's choose God's path and continue on that path for the rest of our lives.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Sam the Snake Handler and the Big Adventure 
( http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/sam-snake-handler-and-big-adventure.html)
#wisdom #Solomon #faithlife

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sam the Snake Handler and the Big Adventure



"You want me to kill him?" Sam stood at the bottom of the stairs, and hollered up into the screen porch.

I was hard at work on Hosea, as I moved between multiple commentaries and my Bible, and typed as fast as I could. It took a few seconds to realize he was talking.

"Kill what?"

Kill this snake that's trying to get in your house."

"SNAKE?!!" 

"Shor' nuff. They's a snake down here climbing up this wall." 

I was out the door in an instant. Sam was right. A snake had started up a low brick wall on his way to terrorize me on the screen porch.

"Kill it." I was not as calm as these two words might imply.

"Well give me a stick and I'll whack it in the head."

I would much rather Sam kill a snake than for me to do it myself, so I handed him a 1"x 2" x 24" piece of wood I'd been saving for a craft project. He whacked away at the brick wall, but never managed to hit the snake. 

"Sam, you're missing the snake." I had forgotten about his very poor vision. He sees everything double, and he couldn't tell which snake was the real snake.

"Hang on. I'm bound to hit it in a minute." He pounded away, but missed every time.

"That's snake gonna bite you. I'll just shoot it."

I ran for the rifle, slammed the clip in place, and prepared to take aim. 

By this time, Sam was determined to kill the snake for me, so he gave another whack. He missed the snake again.

That was the final straw for the snake. He slithered off the wall and under my truck. It was truly amazing how fast a creature without legs could move. I was momentarily in awe. But then I remembered he was a snake trying to get in my house, and his legless running wasn't quite so awesome, after all.

"Back your truck up. That snake's done gone under it," Sam ordered me.

Just so you know, I was in a sun dress and flip flops. I was not at all interested in getting my bare toes near that snake, (which I would have to do when I got in the truck) but I ran for the keys. 

When I got back, the snake was no where to be found. "You chased it off, Sam."

"No, I didn't. That snake has crawled up in your wheel."

"No, it didn't." 

"Yep. It did."

I looked, from a distance, but didn't see the snake. Since Sam's vision is terrible, I didn't believe he could see inside my wheel, but he could. 

This might not have been the smartest move I've ever made, but I took a stick and poked around inside my wheel. The stick hit something soft and mushy and my stomach lurched. I had found the snake.

I made the snake mad with my poking, but he was determined to stay where he was, so I called The Hired Hand. I'd forgotten he was at the doctor's office with his daddy and couldn't come. 

"Just drive around the countryside for a while and you'll fling the snake right out."

That seemed like a reasonable idea, so I climbed in the truck and started backing up. I had a clear vision in my mind of driving down County Road 278 at 45 mph as the snake flew out of my wheel. Dogs and people would be so surprised to see the flying snake, and I would be free of him. 

I was so happy with my new plan.

I backed up as far as the cattle gap, but stopped when I heard Sam holler. "You've flung him out." 

That was not the plan. I slammed my brakes on and got out.

By this time, Sam had managed to step on the snake. There are a lot of things that would have been a good idea at this point, but what Sam did next was not one of them. He picked up the snake. In Sam's defense, he picked it up behind the head, but he thought he could squeeze the snake with his bare hand and choke it to death.

I was yelling, "Put it down, Sam. Let me shoot it."

"No. I've got it now." 

The choking plan did not work. Partly because Sam was laughing so hard at me. 

When he finally decided to put the snake down, he did another thing didn't seem too smart to me. He put his foot on the snake's tail, but left his head free to do all manner of snakey things.

At this point, the snake was furious. He got away from Sam for what might have just been a few seconds but seemed much longer. Since I was the one who had flung him out of the wheel, he came after me, sticking that snakey tongue out as he ran (if running is what you do with no legs). 

I did what everyone should do when a snake starts after them. I screamed and ran. 

You may not believe this, but it is true. As I was running, I thought, this is what we all should do when that serpent, the devil, starts coming after us with temptation. And it is. There's no need to stand around and let a snake bite you, and there's no need to stand around and let temptation overcome you. Flee.

Paul's instructions to Timothy came into my mind. "Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness." (2 Timothy 2:22) I hoped all the Hosea people figure this out while they're studying, so I sent up a little prayer for them, because I didn't have time to send a big one. (This all happened very fast.) 

"I got him." Sam laughed harder than I'd seen him laugh in a long time. He had stepped on the snake's tail again.

He had the snake in a manner of speaking, but the snake was now determined to have Sam. That snake struck at Sam's boot like crazy. Sam was so tickled, all he could do was laugh. Then, the snake struck at Sam's skinny jean-covered leg but he couldn't get his teeth through the denim. 

I thanked God for that, and stepped closer to warn Sam, but the snake turned and started striking at me. He'd have bit me, too, if I hadn't screamed and run. 

Sam was laughing so hard, he had tears in his eyes. While he tried to hit the snake with the 1x2, which worked no better than it had before, I ran for the pruning shears.

Together, Sam stomped the snake and I applied the pruning shears to his body. The snake was still writhing, but Sam pronounced him dead. I wasn't satisfied.

A wonderful thought popped into my mind, so I put the pruning shear blades around that snake's head and announced, out loud, "I am crushing your head like Jesus crushed that serpent the devil when he rose from the grave." And the snake's head split and he died.

That's just how fast Jesus defeated the serpent devil, Satan. He died on the cross, and the devil thought he'd won. When everyone least expected it, Jesus burst open the grave and came out in all His splendor. The devil's head was crushed under His feet, and He won the victory over sin and death.

We don't have to live defeated. 

That one quick crushing sealed the victory. We can live free, if we want to. So run when temptation comes your way, and embrace the One who rose again, for He is the Conqueror, the King, and the for-all-time Serpent Crusher, and (if you're willing) He has set you free. 


"And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel. Genesis 3:15 nasb

______________________
P.S. The picture above is of a different snake that Sam killed. We got excited and forgot to get a picture of this one.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Importance of Purpose (http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-importance-of-purpose.html)
#snakes #Jesus #crushedhishead

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Importance of Purpose


 

Why? Why? Why? Even as a child I wanted to know why. Why do things one way and not the other? Why do these words mean this and not that? Why is this right and that wrong? Why do things a certain way? Teachers and family grew tired of my incessant "why's", but I truly wanted to know.

And I still do.

I want to know the reason for actions, the rationale for thought processes, the purpose behind a certain path. Knowing my purpose has helped me keep the goal in sight and press on to achieve it.

King David, for the most part, understood who he was and why he was in leadership. He saw himself as a shepherd who was king, but he also knew his primary position was "servant of God". King David knew his job as the king-who-served-God was to shepherd God's people, and that's what he did.

I'm not sure Solomon ever understood his purpose in life. The more I read about him, the more convinced I am that Solomon served Solomon. He was king and he spent his life accumulating gold, and horses, and wives. He built houses and traveled, but he spent very little time worshipping God.

Except for the dedication of the temple, there is only limited evidence of Solomon having a heart for God.

I found it interesting to read the account of the Queen of Sheba's visit. Solomon spent time answering questions and demonstrating his wisdom. He showed her the things that mattered most to him. He revealed his riches and dined with her using goblets, plates, and utensils of gold. 

Queen Sheba was impressed with Solomon. Stunned by his wisdom. Astounded by his wealth. In some ways, though, she was far more wise than Solomon.

She summed up the visit with these words:

"Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; Because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness." 1 Kings 10:9 nasb

The Queen of Sheba understood what Solomon, perhaps, did not. God loved Solomon, but He didn't make him king to give him a storehouse full of gold. God made Solomon king to practice justice and righteousness in order to bless Israel.

We, too, have a purpose, and it is one of righteousness, obedience, and love. We are to love the Triune God, our Lord, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Our purpose is not to accumulate wealth or gain knowledge. Our purpose is, like David, to serve God. We may gain riches and wisdom along the way, but, when we die, we will leave all our accumulated treasure behind. 

Only our relationship with the Almighty will matter in eternity.

Today, let's stop and ask ourselves that little question that matters so much. Why?

Why do I do the things I do?

Why did God place me in this place at this particular time?

God's goal for us is a relationship with Him that results in righteousness and justice. That should be our goal, too.

Let's live in such a way that we pursue His goals, His righteousness all the days of our lives.
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The photo above is the field that once belonged to Boaz, the field in which David shepherded his sheep. It's also the field where the angels appeared to the shepherds the night Jesus was born.

In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Prosperity Does Not Equal Godliness (http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/prosperity-does-not-equal-godliness.html)

For those doing the Hosea study, the Chapter Four lesson is now live and here's the link: Chapter Four 
(http://lessonsindiscipleship.blogspot.com/2016/05/hosea-chapter-four.html)

#purposeinlife #goals #disciple