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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Nothing is Impossible: Ayman al-Zawahiri

I've had terrorists on my mind. That's partly because I'm editing my first novel and it's filled with terrorists. It might also be because I've been jumping to conclusions and seeing terrorists where there were none.

All that terrorist thinking has reminded me of the time when I selected a terrorist of the week and asked you to pray for them.  It was July 6, 2014 and our terrorist of the week was Nasir al-Wuhayshi. He was the general manager of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and one of the most dangerous men in the world.  

His stated goal was to "destroy the cross. The bearer of the cross is America."

I use the past tense because he was killed in a drone attack in Yemen on June 12, 2015. He was 38 years old.  He left behind a legacy of death and destruction. 

I wept when he died, but not because I was sorry his reign of terror had come to an end. I wept because I had prayed for him to come to a saving knowledge of the Great I AM, but he never did. He died as he lived. A bitter and murderous man.

He had a choice and he made it, but I still grieve the lost potential of a man redeemed and transformed by the blood of Jesus. 

Stranger things have happened. Consider the Apostle Paul. 

My first terrorist for whom I prayed was Ayman al-Zawahiri.  He is Egyptian and was trained as a surgeon. He practiced medicine for a while, but now, he is a full-time terrorist. One of his wives and two of his children were killed by a U.S. bomb in Afghanistan. Their loss fueled his anger, but he was a terrorist before they died and eventually became the head of Al-Qaeda. He was instrumental in helping the ISIS expand and merge with other terrorist organizations to become ISIL. 

As a physician, one who is trained to preserve life, it is unthinkable that one of my colleagues would dedicate himself to the murderous atrocities of ISIL, but al-Zawahiri knows no bounds. 

Assassination. Kidnapping and torture. Bombings. He is responsible for the death of untold numbers of people.

Law enforcement officials around the world have tried and failed to stop him. 

Only God can bring this man to his knees. 

Only God can stop him.

Jesus said, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44 nasb) 

Ayman al-Zawahiri is one of those enemies for whom we are to pray and to love. With the command of Jesus in mind, I'm choosing to pray for him. I'm choosing to ask God to bring him to repentance and salvation. Whether it is through a dream or a vision or the testimony of a believer, I pray this evil man will be transformed. 

He's not the only terrorist for whom we need to pray, but he is the leader of a large group of terrorists. Imagine the impact his salvation could make. 

Praying for our enemies. As disciples, it's not optional. We have it to do. 

There's no better place to start than praying for Ayman al-Zawahiri. 

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, 
but with God all things are possible." 
(Matthew 19:26 niv)

photo from Wikipedia

Kathy McKinsey wrote a beautiful article for Friday Night with Friends, New Beginning. If you haven't read it yet, you can click here. You can read more by Kathy at her blog. Our next Friday Night with Friends guest blog will post at 6 pm this Friday night. You don't want to miss it!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Jumping to Conclusions: The Terrorists That Were Not

You may not know this, but I paid my way through medical school working as a nurse. I took the long way around to a medical career, but economics demanded it.

It was 1977, my senior year in nursing school, and the last course of the final semester. We were taking turns presenting our end-of-the-year projects in class and listening for hours every day. 

I'm not sure why our instructors made the decision to let us do needlework during the presentations, but it made sense to us at the time. The project I did was a needlepoint sampler with a profound truth. 

"A smile is the same in every language." 

I had just returned from three months in Central America doing medical missions. Some days, a smile was all that got me through. The needlepoint piece still hangs on the wall in my home. It's a constant reminder of the days when I was a stranger in a foreign land with nothing but a smile for communication.

That philosophy came back to me recently when two young men sat behind me in church. My first impression was that they were likely Middle Eastern. 

I hate to admit it, but the thought crossed my mind that they might be trouble. I surveyed my options for self-defense. I made a tentative plan. 

It was completely ridiculous. 

LIFE LESSON: Get all the facts before you jump to conclusions.

Just as I was pondering my options for self-defense, those words from 1977 came to mind. 

"A smile is the same in every language." 

The next thing that came to mind was "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 nasb)

At that moment, I blushed with shame as I remembered the months I'd spent praying for terrorists by name and begging God for their salvation. (I've added the links to those blog posts below.)

Although I hate to admit it, my mind was racing in high gear. It sounds really silly now, I know, but, for a few minutes, I thought, "How very like God. After all those terrorist prayers, He has finally brought me some terrorists." If God had brought me some terrorists, I thought, He probably wanted me to try to introduce them to Jesus. 

I could possibly be a little over-zealous, but the Apostle Paul was, too.

As soon as the hand-shaking time started, I turned around, offered my biggest smile, and introduced myself. I shook hands and welcomed the two young men. After church, I talked to them again. 

I was determined to show the love of Christ to these young men, no matter who they were.

LIFE LESSON: Jesus loves everyone, and so should we, no matter who we "think" they are.

As it turned out, God had not brought me some terrorists at all. He had brought two young men who needed Jesus. Just like me. They weren't even from the Middle East.  

They didn't speak much English, so my smile, once again, was my language.

I prayed for those two men all week. Just in case.

Yesterday, during the singing, they walked in, accompanied by an older couple. One of the men had brought his Mama and Daddy. I was so glad to see them that I started to cry. Happy tears streamed down my face. 

LIFE LESSON: That's what praying for someone all week will do for you. 

I was out of my seat like a shot after the service ended. The taller of the men saw me heading his way, threw up a hand in greeting, and smiled. I greeted them all. When I reached my new friend, I told him, "I've been praying for you all week. I'm so glad you're here today." I meant it, and he knew it. He put his hand on his heart and grinned. 

All we could do was smile, but, as it turns out, a smile really is the same in every language, and we communicated just fine.

The next time I see someone who looks a little different, I hope I skip the conclusion jumping and go straight to showing the love of Jesus. 

After all, that's what we're supposed to do. Every single time.

Praying for Terrorists Links: 
The Terrorist Prayer List 
Praying for Terrorists: Nasir al Wuhayshi
Radical Obedience: Ibrahim al Asiri
Radical Obedience: Abubakar Shekau
Radical Obedience: Hamas and Khaled Meshaal
Radical Obedience: Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi
Praying for Nineveh
Remembering 9/11: How to Prevent A Terrorist Attack
Persevering for Paris
Resisting Evil 
Nigerian Nightmare

 #terrorists #smile #JesusChrist #disciple #loveoneanother #jumpingtoconclusions

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Leaving a Legacy: Choices That Last for Generations

I've finally come to the Ten Commandments in my chronological Bible study. Several of the women in my class bought a copy of The Chronological Bible, but I decided to stick with the Bible I've used for two decades and the notes I've accumulated in the margins. Today, I was glad I did.

We'll have a little word study here and then I'll put it all together, so bear with me.

The notes in the margin of Exodus 20 include a few notes from a sermon by Doug Tipps in January of 1977. (copied from the margins of my previous Bible) When God said "You shall not", the "you" in Hebrew is second person singular. It means that God is not just speaking to a multitude of people. He's speaking specifically and personally to each person. 

In a way, "You shall not" actually means, "Leanna shall not." Put your name in the place of the second person singular "you" and read these verses. It's sobering.

In Exodus 20:4, the word for "visiting" has a neutral root that has no emotional content. God "visits" us and reacts to what He finds. He sees us and responds to whatever life choices we have made.

The root word for "iniquity" means to twist or distort and conveys the idea that, when we sin, we twist or distort the perfect image of God He created in us.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at verses 4 - 6.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Exodus 20:4-6 nasb

When we choose to sin, it changes us. It leaves a twist or distortion in us that persists. 

Sin always leaves a scar. 

Those sin-scars may not be long, purplish, snakelike lines running down our face, but there are scars in us, even if they are visible only to God. 

Sin-scars leave an impact that can be felt for generations. 

When we sin, we impact more than ourselves. We impact our children and grandchildren, as well.

That may be hard to believe, but consider what might happen if I decided, in a moment of utter stupidity, to try a highly addictive drug. There's a history of addiction in my family and I, too, could become addicted. The cravings for the drug might drive me to do desperate things that could ultimately cause me to lose my home and property and alienate me from all those I love.

What would that do to my son? To the grandchildren I hope to see riding horses and playing in my pastures someday?

Nothing good would come of it. That's for sure.

We can easily see how a Big Bad Choice might leave scars for generations, but what about something like gossip? It's not less a sin, but is, perhaps, less visible. That, too, can lead to destruction of reputations and alienation of friends that lasts for generations.

Our choices matter.

The choices my parents made impacted me in significant ways. I am partly a product of my environment during my "growing up" years. My son is partly a product of those years, as well. Even his children will see something of the sequelae of my choices and of my parents' choices.

What, then, are we to do?

When temptation comes, and it will, considering our children and grandchild can help. Do we want the sin-scar this choice will cause? Do we want this choice to impact generations of our family or not? 

What we do leaves a legacy. It's our choice whether that legacy will be for good or for evil. 

What kind of legacy will we leave? The choice is ours, and it's one we make every day of our lives. 

Choices matter, so choose well. Their impact lasts much longer than we know.
Kathy McKinsey wrote a beautiful article for Friday Night with Friends, New Beginning. If you haven't read it yet, you can click here. You can read more by Kathy at her blog

photo courtesy of

#TenCommandments #choices #choosewell #leavealegacy #legacy #thousshaltnot #JesusChrist #disciple

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Special: How to Make Pecan Butter

Last night, I planned to serve banana spring rolls to my guests. Unfortunately, I made two terrible mistakes. I made them ahead and baked them (instead of frying them). I'm not sure which of those dealt the fatal blow, but baked banana spring rolls is not something I will serve again. 

As a topper, I toasted some pecans. That didn't go well either. 

Stirring pecans in a hot skillet, talking, and texting don't mix. Enough said. 

This morning, I was determined to have a little more success, so I retrieved a bag of pecans from the freezer. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, added three cups of pecan pieces, and cooked them for 8 1/2 minutes. (Time would vary if they hadn't been frozen)

While the pecans were cooking, I smeared some peanut butter on a granola bar for breakfast and bemoaned the fact that the jar was almost empty. Suddenly, a fabulous idea burst into my brain. 

Pecan butter. 

I found a recipe at Cookie and Katie's blog. (No relation to my sister and niece of the same names.) I didn't use the recipe, but I did use their concepts. The pecan butter I've made in the past has been a little dry and crumbly. Still delicious, but lacking the smooth texture of peanut butter. 

Keep processing, they suggested. So I did. Wow. Smooth. Thick. Pourable. Delicious. 

No added oil. (Except the butter I used to toast the pecans.) 

No added sugar. 

No added salt. 

Just creamy, roasted pecan deliciousness. 

Here's my recipe:

3 Tbsp melted butter
3 cups pecan pieces

Toss together, then spread pecans on a microwaveable plate. Cook in microwave for 6-8 minutes. Watch it. Don't cook too long. If they aren't ready, cook a little longer. 

(Yes. That's how I cook.)

When the pecans are toasted, process them until they become beautifully smooth, creamy butter. They start out as pecan pieces, then crumbles, then a thick paste. Finally, creamy butter. 

I didn't time it. I just kept going for the goal. Don't settle for crumbles or graininess. Wait for the best. It's sure to come. 

That's a good lesson for life, too. 

Wait for the best. 

Judging by my pecan butter, it's definitely worth it in the end.

#pecanbutter #waitforthebest #recipe #pecanbutterrecipe #howtomakepecanbutter

The Temperament Test and Married Oneness

It was a crazy idea, but I was desperate. 

The characters in my fiction needed greater depth, and my editor had assigned me a variety of books to help. One of those books suggested a Temperament Test to help me get to know my characters. Give yourself the test first, it suggested.

I took the test. My temperament is present in only 1% of the population. Readers will never be able to identify with a character who has my temperament, because so few people do. 

It was a dilemma. 

Each of my characters took the test (well, I answered the questions using their supposed mindset) to learn their category of personality. As you might imagine, this has been a peculiar process. I could understand their general category, but still couldn't visualize how it would play out in their lives.

At last, I had a brainstorm. 

Admittedly, it was a crazy idea, but I thought it might work. I would recruit my friends, give them the test, find someone with the same categories as each of the people in my novel, and use their personalities to help me craft my characters.

It seemed sensible at the time.

I have the greatest friends in the world. Eight of my friends joined me last night for a "test party". We had a blast. As each one arrived, I gave them the "Love Language" questionnaire. When they finished the Love Test, they moved to the Temperament Test. 

I had to beg people to leave their tests and eat dinner. Everyone wanted to help, but, I think, they also wanted to see their "category".

I still can't believe this, but none of the eight people had the same temperament as the doctor, the shooting victim, or the FBI agent. 

I learned something interesting, though. One of the couples had exactly the same love language and exactly the same temperament score. No, they didn't cheat.

"What's up with that?" I asked.

"We've been married so long, we've changed to be just alike." 

In fact, the two have become one. 

I should have anticipated it. These two people have overcome tremendous odds to have a marriage that glorifies God in every way. They laugh together, love together, and serve God together. Their marriage is a rare and beautiful example of the grace and power of God.

I didn't gain what I expected from the test party, but I did gain a glimpse into the plans God has for His children. 

When He first joined husband and wife, He meant for them to become one. When they do, it is a beautiful testimony to the God we serve.

After everyone left last night, I pondered the improbability of two people becoming so "one", and realized that this joining of hearts and minds is a miracle only God can do. 

If you're married, you, too, can have this kind of "oneness" by the power of God, so dedicate yourself to becoming all God meant you to be. (No. Not everyone will demonstrate unity by having the same temperament test scores and the same love language, but unity will be evident to those who know you.)

If you're not married, take heart. Before God knit my friends together, He drew each of them to Himself, and that's the biggest miracle of all. It's a miracle you can experience, even if you are never joined to a spouse.

"For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." 
                                                         Genesis 2:24 nasb

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men... But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."
                       John 1: 4, 12 nasb

Kathy McKinsey wrote a beautiful article for Friday Night with Friends, New Beginning. If you haven't read it yet, you can click here. You can read more by Kathy at her blog

In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  The Tree That Preached a SermonThe Wounded Deer and the Unsaid WordsBeing Angry Without SinStarting Over: It's Not as Easy as It SeemsBehavior That Demonstrates BeliefAnswered Prayer: The Bulletproof Vest, Bringing Good from Tragedy: Wives of Warriors Make a Difference, and Friday Night with Friends: New Beginning

#marriage #twobecomeone #temperamenttest #lovelanguage #unity #JesusChrist

Friday Night With Friends: A New Beginning

Our Friday Night with Friends guest blogger is Kathy McKinsey. She's a fellow writer with a remarkable story of perseverance and grace. You will be so blessed by her story. Be sure and give her some encouragement, too. Enjoy!
I am almost fifty-five years old, and I believe God has given me a new beginning.

Three years ago, an accident left me with a brain injury. I had to quit work, and since then I’ve often felt unneeded. Always a busy person, I suddenly did not know what I could do of any use to anyone else.

For the last month or more, I have a new spring in my step.

I have been blind my entire life. I never considered myself special, but I believed I lived an energetic, independent, constructive life. After my accident, I suddenly had more disabilities to deal with. I became angry and hurt, and believed other people saw me as disabled far more than when I was “only visually impaired.”

I’ve discovered who dropped this heavy weight of “disability” around me.

It was me.

I decided to give in to all the multiple disabilities. Even as I struggled to find new ways to use my life, I kept reminding myself to allow for what I couldn’t do anymore.

I have much less energy, and I have difficulty with balance. So I let my family do many things for me which I could do myself. I didn’t pick up much work around the house. I worked on my writing and on my certification as a braille transcriber and proofreader, but I told myself it was okay if I didn’t feel like doing much of those things with any strong or regular effort.

I have hearing loss, trouble with memory, and difficulty completing sentences and finding the right word. So I allowed myself not to be n many groups outside the home, not to try to carry on conversations.

All of these difficulties are true, but I decided I could use them to settle back and not be much of a participant in life. I was basically a sit in my easy chair kind of retired lady.

What changed a month or so ago? We bought a dishwasher, and I decided to start doing the laundry again. Seriously. I know it’s more than that, but it’s amazed me how doing these household chores has renewed my sense of being useful.

And my writing.

When I was a teenager, my dream was to be a writer. I sold a few short stories and poems to magazines. I was an author.

Then for more than thirty years, I allowed school, raising a family, and work to convince me I didn’t have much time for writing. I told myself that I’d take it up again when I retired.

I’ve always heard that God may not answer our prayers as soon as we want, and maybe not in the way we think he should. I don’t remember if I prayed much about writing when I was a teenager, but God has certainly made my dream come true much later and in a much different way than I imagined.

When I couldn’t go back to work, I realized that now is my time to write.

For the last three years, I’ve worked on short stories, articles, and started a couple books. I’ve joined a critique group, and I take classes online and read books about writing. Over the past year, I’ve had three articles accepted by a magazine. Again, being disabled, I figured this was good enough. I didn’t need to put any more effort into it than I felt like. Relax and take it slow.

A couple months ago, a publisher asked to see a children’s book I sent them a query for.

This sparked some motivation in me to work more seriously and diligently as a writer. Stretch my limits, work more hours, take some risks, boldly ask God to bless my writing career.

I may never publish a book. My writing may be only for me, my family and friends, and my critique partners. But I’m going to put a new effort into it. It’s going to be a job that I put energy, time, and effort into.

Before my accident, I wasn’t conquered by disability because, with much support, I didn’t let it keep me from doing the things I wanted to do. I wanted to show my children that a person with a disability could be successful. Now I want to show them that disabled person doesn’t have to give up when confronted with new obstacles.

At some points of the day, my mind races—with things I have to do around the house, writing projects I want to work on, research I need to do, critiques I need to finish for others. I’m not retired anymore.

Another result of my accident. Because of nerve damage, one eye needed to be sewed almost entirely closed, and one side of my mouth doesn’t lift. Vainly, I’ve worried that my face doesn’t look very appealing. But today, I was able to laugh about it with my husband Murray. “A wink and a crooked smile. Most people have to work at that, but I can do it without even trying.”

I know I’ll probably still have times when I’m discouraged and don’t feel useful. But one thing I know for sure, and thank God for. I can still be productive, happy, and I don’t plan to retire for a long time.

James 1:16-17:  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Psalms 73:26: My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
Read more by Kathy at her blog:

#persevere #adversity #writerslife #powerofGod #JesusChrist

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bringing Good from Tragedy: Wives of Warriors Make a Difference

It was December 23, 2013. A news alert popped up on my phone. There had been a bank robbery in Tupelo and two policemen had been shot point-blank. Sargent Stauffer was dead.

Murdered? Someone had murdered a policeman?

The image of our policeman in Blue Springs came to mind and I suddenly understood how fragile life can be for the men, and the families, behind the badge. 

I hit my knees, wept, and prayed for those who had been shot and for their families. I begged God to protect the officers in our area. 

Like I always do when I'm upset, I wrote about it. Tragedy in Tupelo is my most-read blog post of all time. Today might be a good day to read it again. 

When given the chance, our Lord always brings good from evil.

 It should be no surprise that He brought good from the terrible evil that marred the Christmas season that year, as well.

Kim Rushing is the wife of a policeman. As you might expect, the shootings were terrifying to her. When she attended Sargent Stauffer's funeral and looked at the faces of the other officers wives, it was clear they were just as scared and sad as she was. 

It was a seemingly small thing that triggered her next action, but the shift wives had ridden together on the bus over to the funeral. Kim said, "I want a wives' bus. I want to be on it." In that moment, Wives of Warriors began. It didn't have a name. It wasn't even a clear picture in her head, but Kim texted her friend, Darla. "Do you think we could start a wives group?"

Darla replied. "We can try!"

They didn't expect what happened next. 

What they expected is that the wives would get together and complain about life as an officer's wife. What happened was more than 200 women signed up. They meet regularly, averaging 25-60 women per meeting. 

They don't waste time complaining.

The Wives of Warriors are committed to bringing good from the evil that was done, and they aren't fooling around about it. 

They assist when there is an officer in need, when there is sickness or tragedy in the ranks. They love each other. They help each other. They demonstrate support to all law enforcement, throughout this nation.

They aren't alone, and they know that now. 

They play together and they work together. They've made pottery angels and sold them to raise money for a home for high functioning autistic and traumatic brain injury adults.

Together, they have begun an annual Blessed are the Peacemakers Law enforcement Appreciation and Remembrance 5K race. They raised $16,000 at the event this past September. There were lots of ideas about ways to use the money, but the Wives decided to buy bullet proof vests for area officers. 

Every officer needs a bullet proof vest, and they want to help provide them. 

Bullet proof vests aren't cheap. The ones they have provided are custom-made and can cost as much as $1000 apiece. They've provided sixteen for area officers.

My friend, Annette, is married to Brandon. He's the young officer in Blue Springs who received a bullet proof vest because of the generosity of the Wives of Warriors organization. 

I can't imagine the fear Annette must feel when Brandon dons his uniform, straps on his gun, and goes to work. Life, as she and their boys know it, is on the line every single day, just as it is for all the officers and families in our area.

Brandon does it because he feels called to it. Annette does it because she loves and honors her husband. 

It's hard, but the bullet proof vest, I would imagine, has made it a little easier.

When tragedy comes, we can react in a variety of ways, many of them destructive and non-productive.

Two women faced tragedy head-on and chose to make a difference because of it. More than 200 women choose to join the effort.

This week, the families, friends, and coworkers of sixteen men will breathe a little easier because of the good that came from the shootings that cold December day.

Kim and Darla made a choice to make a difference, and we can, too. It started with a simple text message and grew into something that will bless families for years to come. 

Just one person like you. Like me. One person is enough. 

We can make a difference, if we will.

"And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." Genesis 50:20 nasb

In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  Cutting Down a Tree and Praying for Miracles, and The Tree That Preached a SermonThe Wounded Deer and the Unsaid WordsBeing Angry Without SinStarting Over: It's Not as Easy as It SeemsBehavior That Demonstrates Belief, and Answered Prayer: The Bulletproof Vest.

#makeadifference #WivesofWarriors #policeshootings #JesusChrist #Christian