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Monday, May 2, 2016

The Fancy Paint Job and the Crummy Roof



I had a wonderful time over my birthday weekend. My son had planned activities for the entire time. I am still in awe of the gracious love he poured over me like a balm. We made sweet, sweet memories.

Ryan had planned for us to attend a parade and festival in one of the neighborhoods in Atlanta. There were gorgeous old homes, many of which had been restored to showplaces. One house in particular was very impressive. It had been painted a rich forest green with brown and tan trim. It was lovely. 

We rested on the curb for a few minutes and watched as one person after another stopped to photograph the house. As I considered it and the attention it gathered, my eye was drawn to the roof. It was in terrible shape. There were numerous missing shingles.

The owners had taken great care to make the outside look good, but, for whatever reason, hadn't secured the inside by repairing the roof. I wondered if that job was next on their list. If it was a new problem. If they couldn't agree on roofing materials. If they hadn't noticed because their eyes were fixed on things below.

There wasn't a hole in the roof that I could see, but, without attention, the roof would soon be a problem.

I sat on the curb, fanned myself with a hand-fan, and pondered how often my own eyes are fixed on things below. 

How often do I focus on the appearances in my life rather than my Shelter in the storms of life? 

How often do I worry about the cosmetic changes but not the most important structural changes needed in my life? 

My priorities? 

My relationship with our Lord? 

Today, let's take a close look at the entire "house" of our lives. Are we taking care of the one thing that secures our "insides", our souls? Are we focusing our attention on our relationship with God or our relationship with the world? 

An attractive outside may be pleasant to behold, but is of little value if the inside isn't secure. 

"God is our refuge and strength, 
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride."
Psalm 46:1-3 nasb
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ps - the photo is of my house, not the fancy one, and it has a good roof.
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In case you missed it, here's my post from yesterday: My latest adventure
(http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2016/05/my-latest-adventure.html)
The Hosea Bible study has started but it's not too late to join.
#shelter #Mondaymeditation #linesfromleanna

Sunday, May 1, 2016

My latest adventure



It seems like just yesterday, but it was March 31, 2016 that a sweet friend of mine asked me if I had a Bible study she could do. I've written a variety of studies over the years, so I headed to my filing cabinet to find something for her to study. As my hand touched the drawer, I felt so clearly, "You could write something for her." 

I had way too much to do already. There was no way I could add a project of this enormity, but God was in it and it has come together. Pastor Terry Faulkner brought me a laptop loaded with a suite of commentaries to use. Pastor Scooter Noland gave me his own research notes into Hosea. 

The time in which Hosea lived and ministered is so much like our own that it's a sobering look at the result of poor choices and rampant idolatry. 

People have encouraged and prayed and joined in the journey with me. Today, a mere 31 days later, that study my friend wanted is a reality. 

I'm reminded of what happened when Hezekiah reopened the temple.

"Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly." 2 Chronicles 29:36 nasb

I may be the only one rejoicing, but there's no doubt in my mind that God prepared this study and it "came about suddenly." 

I'm including a link in case you want to check it out and/or join us in this adventure. I'm writing as fast as I can and hope to stay a few weeks ahead of the participants. 

There's a Closed Facebook group for discussion (if you want to join just let me know) and a dedicated blog for the study. (http://lessonsindiscipleship.blogspot.com)

If you're interested in a little peek, here's the link to the intro:


and here's the link to the first lesson:


I'd love it if you'd join us for all or part of the study.

God bless,
Leanna
#Biblestudy #Hosea #lessonsindiscipleship

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Worry Trap by Virginia Vaughan

C:\Users\c0510\Downloads\17048581699_3e021fb314.jpg
Our guest blogger today is Virginia Vaughan. She's a Mississippi author and a new friend. You'll enjoy this post about a problem (sin) that is common to us all. I needed this blog, so you may, too. Don't forget to share the love and check out her author pages. 
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The Worry Trap


The other day my mother’s home health nurse commented that her blood pressure was unusually high. She chalked it up to the hammering and movement of the men above us putting a new roof on our house, but I knew the truth—she’d gotten a call about my nephew getting into trouble again at school and was worrying herself sick about it. 

I come from a long line of worriers. 

My grandmother could create a tragedy out of an instance that hadn’t even occurred yet. My mother is the same way and I too have inherited their propensity to worry about circumstances. 

Worry is like a disease of the mind. It ties you up in knots, affects your health and your relationships and ultimately your quality of life. But the worst thing about worry is that it keeps you from moving forward. You’re trapped right where you are, planted in a terrible spot where nothing good can grow. 

I think about all the way back to the Garden of Eden where there was nothing at all to worry about. Everything was provided and all of Adam and Eve’s needs were met by the wonderful environment God had created. 

Then the fall happened and everything changed. 

The world looked dark and scary and God must have seemed so distant. 

Did Eve wonder how she and Adam would make it without the security God had given them? Did she worry about the pain of childbirth and stare into her baby’s face and worry about the world he would grow up in? Of course she did. She’d seen paradise and the world outside it was devastating. She had literally seen the face of God and knew Him intimately. She knew his goodness and his power and His mercy. Yet she’d doubted Him even in the midst of paradise. 

Before you’re quick to jump in and judge her, don’t, because we, my friends, are just like her. 

We too have the wonderful gift of knowing God intimately and through it I discovered the key to not allowing worry to take over my life—His Word. Isaiah 59:1 states “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.” God knows our troubles and can fix or change any problem we face. 

I’ve come up with a few simple steps I’ve learned to help me barrel through when the propensity to worry strikes.


  1. Trust that God is good and wants what is best for you.
  2. Store His word in your heart so it will always be with you.
  3. Remind yourself constantly of His promises and His goodness.
  4. Focus your eyes on the Lord instead of on your problem.


I know they seem simple, and they truly are…but simple and easy aren’t always the same thing. We’re no longer in the Garden where things were perfect, but we are still under the protection and grace of the One who created perfection and He has not forgotten us.  


Thank to Leanna for allowing me this opportunity today to share with all of your friends and followers. Have a happy birthday and a blessed time with your son!


Blessings!
Virginia Vaughan
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/85608594@N00/17048581699">Eckhart Tolle Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href= "https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>


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Author Virginia Vaughan was born and raised in Mississippi and has never strayed far beyond those borders. Blessed to come from a large, Southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age and soon started writing them herself. She now writes for Love Inspired Suspense. Her current release Reunion Mission, Book 2 in her Rangers Under Fire series, received 4 ½ Stars Top Pick from Romantic Times while Book 1, Yuletide Abduction won a RT Reviewer’s Choice Award.
Connect with Virginia:



For Which Team Are You Playing? by Darla Grieco

Darla Grieco is a fellow writer, friend, and prayer warrior. She's prayed for me many times over this past year (and I for her). As if that were not enough of a gift, she has given me the gift of her writing with this beautiful blog post. I cried when I read it. Oh, if we would take these words to heart. Be blessed and share some love with her, like you always do, and don't forget to check out her links, below.
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Spring had sprung and soccer season was in full swing. The only problem was that in one particular game, the odds were stacked against us. 

My son’s U10 soccer team trailed the opposing side by many points— so many points, in fact, that we stopped counting. And although defeat was imminent, our young boys never stopped fighting. They poured their hearts out on the field kicking and maneuvering the best they could. 

I especially noticed the excitement of one child who had just joined the team. We will call him Charlie. With only one practice under his belt, Charlie didn’t know the boys too well and neither did they know him. However, they tried to work together the best they could. Everyone really wanted to include Charlie, and he was ready to play. 

As the game went on, Charlie eagerly waited down field for his turn at the ball. He swayed back and forth on his toes just waiting for his chance to attack. Then, suddenly, the ball landed right at his feet. His eyes lit up. There were no defensive players in sight. A smile spread across his face, and he quickly took to dribbling the ball downfield. 

With everyone quite a ways off, he took a moment to line up his shot and swung with all his might. The ball soared through the air and landed square in the net. Our team’s net. He raised his arms in triumphant celebration… until his eyes locked on the exasperated goalie--his friend and teammate. 

I’m not sure about you, but I can relate to Charlie. Some days, life is flying by so quickly, and the excitement runs high. All around me, the world cheers me on to act or behave in a certain way. I know that way sometimes goes against “my rule book,” the Bible. However, in the excitement of the moment, I lose my focus.

I shoot.

I score.

The result: Satan-1 God-0

Years ago, before I understood God’s grace, I would want to run and hide, hanging my head in shame. I, like Charlie, assumed my actions were beyond forgiveness. Fortunately, forgiveness and grace are two of the benefits of being on God’s team. Don’t get me wrong—this is not a license to sin! Rather, this is an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate one’s game plan.
Here are some reminders that I learned from Charlie’s experience and how I apply them to my Christian walk:
  • Know the rule book. (The Bible is chock full of lessons and applications for your life. If you do not know what is in the Bible, you will not be able to identify when you are “breaking the rules”. 2 Timothy 3:16)  
  • Train regularly, and on occasion, with your team. (Spending time in prayer and Bible study every day keeps you plugged into the Holy Spirit and your mind steadfast on how to live a life honoring God. Attending weekly church and/or small groups provides you extra support. John 15:5) 
  • Apply what you’ve learned in the game. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement. Be aware and stay focused! (The enemy prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Apply what you’ve learned in your daily life and be aware of your pitfalls. 1 Peter 5:8)
  • If and when you make a mistake, apologize for your indiscretion and learn from your mistakes. (Repent. Acts 3:19)
  • Receive the grace you’ve been given. (Romans 3:23-24)

Charlie looked devastated that day on the field. Who wouldn’t be after scoring a point for the wrong team? I know I would never want to score a point for the other side if I were on a sports team. Why, then, do I consider letting my guard down in life when temptation comes? 

Choosing which team I’m committed to is a daily struggle. I wake to demands, distractions and personal baggage that woos me back into my old ways of being: a cruel word spoken tempts me to snap back with a wise remark; witnessing an unjust treatment of another can cause me to want to plot revenge; unkindness or betrayal fosters a seed of bitterness to grow in my heart. And the list goes on.  

That is why I must make a point to be an active participant of God’s team—not just on Sunday or when someone is looking, but each and every day of my life, in all my choices, big or small. 

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12
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Darla's website is: dsgrieco.com. Her author page on fb is: https://www.facebook.com/dsgriecowriter and twitter:https://twitter.com/dsgrieco.
 


Friday, April 29, 2016

A Ring for a Prodigal

Janet Ferguson was the first one to volunteer when I put out the call for guest Birthday Bloggers. She's our Friday Night with Friends Guest blogger and shares her story and how God used it to make a novelist. Be sure to share some love with her and check out her author links below.
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A Ring for a Prodigal
Twenty-five years ago this prodigal returned to her Father’s house. I was twenty-six, living for myself, conforming to culture…and empty inside. Satan had sold me a lie—the lie that my ways were better than God’s.
I hit my knees and begged God to take me back. I asked him to put me someplace where I was needed, and if he wouldn’t have me, to let a tree fall me or something. I didn’t want to take another step without Him.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
God met me where I was. He took me back. Not long after, I married and became a mother. I threw myself into doing as many good deeds as I could. I tried to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, daughter, church member…
I wore myself out trying to make up for those lost years. But I knew it would never be enough, so I worked harder.
Then one Sunday, I heard the story of the prodigal, anew. When the lost son decided to go back home, he planned to be a servant. He knew he wasn’t worthy to be called a son. He would ask to be a hired hand.
But the Father would have none of that.
“‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24
I realized I had not fully accepted my place as a child of God. I had kept myself on that hamster wheel of trying to serve my way back. Don’t get me wrong, we should serve, but we should realize that we don’t have to work our way back. Jesus covered our mistakes and our guilt with His sacrifice. Our Father has put a ring on our finger and is celebrating our return.
So, I decided to write a novel about a prodigal to encourage the others out there like me. I want His lost children to know they are never too far gone for Him to save. He is that strong.
That novel turned into a series of novels set mostly in Mississippi. The first is set in Oxford, Mississippi, and just released this month. It’s titled Leaving Oxford. Somehow it turned into a romantic comedy which deals with some deep, realistic issues, otherwise known as Southern contemporary.
If you’re interested, I’d be honored for you to read it or share the story with someone.
Here’s a little of that first story and my contact information.
Leaving Oxford
Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 1

Escaping home to Oxford, Mississippi, seemed like a good idea. Until it wasn’t.
 
A year after a tragic accident in Los Angeles flipped her world upside down, advertising guru Sarah Beth LeClair is still hiding away in her charming hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. And she may well be stuck there forever. Suffering from panic attacks, she prays for healing. Instead, her answer comes in the form of an arrogant football coach and an ugly puppy.
 
Former celebrity college quarterback Jess McCoy dreamed of playing pro football. One freak hit destroyed his chances. Although he enjoys his work as the university’s offensive coordinator, his aspirations have shifted to coaching at the highest level. His plans of moving up are finally coming together—until he falls for a woman who won’t leave town.
 
As the deadline for Jess’s decision on his dream career looms, the bars around Sarah Beth’s heart only grow stronger. But it's time to make a decision about leaving Oxford.

Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space. 


Beauty From Ashes By Dawn V. Cahill

My friend, Dawn V. Cahill, is our guest blogger today and I'm thrilled (and honored) to have her. When I attended my first writing conference last year, she was the first person to greet me. She turned around in the lunch line, noticed my name tag, and said, "Wow. I read your blog." I was utterly amazed and we became instant friends. She gave me the tremendous gift of validation as a writer and I will never forget that moment. You'll enjoy this sweet devotion. Even if you aren't a single mom, you've experienced hurt and barrenness in your life. This will be an encouragement. Be sure to share some love with Dawn and check out her author links below.
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Beauty From Ashes - A Devotion for Single Moms


Isaiah is one of my favorite Bible books. It may seem stuffy and archaic to some, but to me, it magnifies the glory of God. Certain sections in the last third of the book get delightfully apocalyptic in a Back to the Future sort of way. It reminds me of Daniel. Or Revelation.

Tucked inside all this rich, end-times prose, you'll find this jewel:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
(Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV)

If you're a solo mama, you probably know a lot more about ashes than you do about beauty, and mourning than joy, heaviness than praise. But how comforting to know the Lord promises to console those who mourn. Like those of us who mourn the loss of a marriage.

Stability. 

Companionship.

Do you see anything missing in the passage? What about God's promise to take away my troubles and give me everything I ask Him for? You mean it's not there?

So much for health, wealth, and prosperity.

I keep having to come back to this verse every time I start thinking I don't deserve my lot in life. Railing at God for the trials he's forcing me to endure.


But, if I didn't mourn, how would I ever know His sweet comfort?
If I didn't know ashes, how could I know His beauty?

Comfort is much sweeter in the valley than on the mountaintop.

You may be skeptical that God could make anything beautiful from your trials, but I have a real-life, visual example of God's handiwork for you. Check out these two photos:

Before:



After:
Most people aren't familiar with the name Mt. Mazama. But if you say Crater Lake, most folks recognize the name of Oregon's National Park, tucked into the Cascade Range in Oregon. Six thousand years ago, Mt. Mazama blew its top (above) and, over the years, transformed into the beautiful jewel you see below. Don't you think Mt. Mazama is even more beautiful as a crater than she must have been 6,000 years ago as a mountain?
Isn't it amazing how God can take a barren wreck and turn it into a work of art?

#DawnVCahill #beautyfromashes #hope

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Blessing of Family


I intended to write about David and Absalom today. The topics of true repentance and restoration were on my mind but, when I opened my laptop, all I could think about was what happened last night.

I'm working hard, writing non-stop. I'm doing a lot of caregiving. I'm tired. But a break is 24-hours away. I can make it until then. That's what I've been telling myself for the past two weeks.

Last night, the Wednesday night Bible study, as usual, ended with us dividing into groups to pray for the people on our prayer list and for each other. 

"Pray for each other. If you have a need, share it," Pastor Scooter said.

I was afraid I'd start crying if I tried to share my burden, so I intended to keep silent. I knew I needed prayer, but my pride nearly kept me from speaking up. When no one else was quick to share their burden, I finally said, "I'm going out of town for the weekend and I'm worried about Sam." We've prayed for Sam before, so it was no surprise.

When it was my turn to pray, I got out a few words and what I'd feared the most happened. "I don't know what to do, Lord," was as far as I got. Tears started streaming down my face and I couldn't get them to stop. I cried and cried and cried. I was mortified, but I couldn't help the tears.

Caregiving is the most precious act of love you can give, but it's emotionally exhausting. I know about exhaustion and I know about needing a break, but I couldn't see how to take one. 

I was just holding on.

When the amen came, I was still wiping tears. I apologized profusely and the young man who led our group said, "We're family here. It's okay. I'm going to pray for you and your Sam. When are you leaving and when are you coming back?" I told him and he made a note. When he said he'd pray, he wasn't kidding.

A young woman in our group handed me a slip of paper. "My husband's aunt loves to help in this kind of situation. Her husband died of Alzheimer's. Here's her number." 

A friend in the group gave me a hug. She had tears in her eyes, too. "I always cry with people."

No one was over-solicitous. They accepted my pain and did what they could to help. They spoke hope into my situation. They cared.

The circumstances didn't change, but my heart did.

I left church last night strengthened and empowered to go a little further. To love a little more. To hope a little longer.

It would be nice to have a bucket of strength, but I received exactly as much as I needed. The strength for one more day.

I'm probably not the only one who's walking a hard road. I'm not the only one who's teetered on the edge of exhaustion. If you're on this road, don't let pride hold you back from the help and support the family of God longs to offer.

If you're not on this road, look for the ones who are loving so hard, and offer an encouraging word, a bit of help, but most important of all, don't forget to pray them through.

We're family, and that's what family is for. Last night, I was reminded of that all over again. 

I experienced the body of Christ in action, and it was a beautiful sight to behold.

"Bear one another's burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." 
Galatians 6:2 nasb
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I'll schedule the guest blogs later today, but I won't be blogging myself again until Monday. (Be sure to read what our guests have written) God has given me the beautiful gift of a weekend off. For the first time since 9/23/2015. It's long overdue.
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I'm the featured guest on Whispers in Purple today. Check it out! (http://wp.me/p5BLdw-SE)
If you missed yesterday's blogs, here are the links:

#bodyofChrist #burdenbearer #Christian