Sunday, June 25, 2017

When You're Craving Rest but There's None In Sight

A few days ago, the study I'm doing now asked, "What are you truly craving?"

I wrote one word. "REST." I meant it, but I didn't know how to get it and I wondered if, in this busy world, anyone else does, either.

"Rest today," my friend messaged me yesterday. As if that was possible. Rest for me involves quiet and solitude. I don't have to be still to rest, but I need to be alone for a while. 

Yesterday, I intended to rest. Really, I did. 

I had planned the day out perfectly. I thought. I had errands to run and a lunch meeting, then home to rest. I prayed it through. All my errands were completed with three minutes to spare before the lunch meeting. 

The two-hour lunch meeting was a sweet time of sharing and learning. I left refreshed. I'm gonna make it, I thought. Rest is just ahead. 

As I drove home, I made my plan. Long walk with the dogs. Read a book on the porch. Listen to the ceiling fan. Watch the geese on the lake. Be still.

When I returned home, I unloaded my shopping and put everything away. Cut stalks of greenery for vases and arranged them. Changed into shorts. Made a glass of tea. I estimated that I had a full 90 minutes before an interruption was likely. 

I was wrong. 

I had just settled in on the screened porch and was almost through the first chapter of my book when someone stopped by. 

After they left, I went back to my book. I was nearly to chapter two when the dogs started barking. There was another car in the driveway. It was Sam.

I met him at the door. "You working?"

"No. I'm reading a book and resting."

"Oh, good. If you was working, I wouldn't bother you, but since you're just reading... I'm bored and need some company." He took his place in a rocker and I took mine. Thirty minutes later, he headed home again.

I went back to my book and rest. This time, I made it through a full chapter before Sam was back. "I thought I'd feed the horses now." We had another visit in the rockers. 

Time with Sam is short. I don't want to waste what we have left, but my ninety minutes were up...

This morning, I awakened and, probably for the first time in years, thought, "Oh, God, I'm too tired to get out of this bed. You'll have to help me." 

You need to rest...

The words were loud in my heart. Tears welled up in my eyes and threatened to spill over. The world won't let me rest, I thought.

Maggie was at the bedside, making her, "Hurry up, Mama," sound. My attention turned to the dogs, and I rolled out of bed. 

When the dogs need to go out to potty, they leave no doubt that's what they need. When they need to rest, they lie down and sleep. When they need to play, they do it. 

Maggie loves to be outside. At least twice a day, she has porch time. If I don't open the door for her at the appointed moment, she doesn't stop pestering me until I do. She takes porch time, without fail.

If dogs know how to rest, surely I can figure it out.

This morning, I read about the Feast of Booths in Leviticus 23. After the fall harvest, the Israelites took a full week off to thank God and celebrate. No work was done during that week. None. 

I have a note in the margin of my Bible. "God has attended to every detail, including the rest needed after harvest." I read those words and was struck again by the truth that rest is part of God's plan, and it's not optional.

Rest is not optional. Consider those words for a bit. Resting is an act of obedience. When I think of rest as obedience, it becomes a little more imperative. A little less optional. 

I need to be more intentional, despite all there is to do, despite my to-do list, despite my responsibilities. I can't go the distance if I don't figure out how to be still. 

Do you struggle with a busy schedule, too? Are you having trouble finding time to rest? Today, let's simply obey God's mandate for rest. STOP the busyness and be still. Know He is God. Rest. 

Today, I'm going to do more than "try" to rest. Today, I'm doing it. I don't know how I'm going to balance my need to rest with Sam's need for company, but, somehow, I will. 

"Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work..." Exodus 20:8-10 nasb
PS - I'd love to hear what you do to rest. Comment below. Thanks!

Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When What You Need Most Has Been Prepared and Waiting for Fifty Years

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#rest #sabbath

Saturday, June 24, 2017

When What You Most Need Has Been Prepared and Waiting for More than Fifty Years

This might  be more information than you want, but, if you don't understand the day I'd had, you might not understand how precious what happened later was to me...

It started like every other Friday. Yesterday, I went over to Sam's house for our weekly shopping trip. He'd just finished the last of the peach cobbler Vivian Boatner had brought him. 

He was still congratulating himself for eating a good breakfast when I said, "Sam, you need to eat something that's not just a sweet before we go." 

"It had peaches in it. And whipped cream on top," said my 87-year-old dessert lover. 

Sam should've had a nutrition class a few decades ago, but he didn't. His pure-sugar-diet has been a source of great distress to me for a while.  We went back and forth for a few minutes about eating something else. He refused.

Sam loves sweets, but about thirty minutes after he eats them, he gets a sugar rush and feels dizzy and terrible. About an hour after that, the sugar's burned off and he gets a blood sugar drop. Then he feels weak. Sometimes he falls. I've had to pick him up after he's sunk to the floor more times than I want to recount. 

My knee still hurt from picking him up last week, so I put cheese and crackers on the table and sat down. "I'm not going a step until you eat this." I chuckled and smiled, but I wasn't kidding.

Sam really wanted to get some new tennis shoes, so he sat down and ate. 

The food struggle made us late leaving, but it was worth it because he was less likely to collapse. I loaded Sam and the walker into the car and we headed to the big box store in New Albany.

At the turn, the light was out and a policeman was directing traffic. Up ahead, I could see that a light pole was on the ground. Multiple emergency vehicles were parked around it. None of the businesses on the corner had electricity. 

It was a bad sign.

We got to the box store. Only a handful of cars were parked in the lot. 

Another bad sign.

A woman pulled into a parking space a few rows over, got out, and hollered at us. "You coming or going?" 

"What?" I hollered back.

She walked over. "You coming or going?" 

I'm coming to the box store and going inside, I thought. For a moment, I was tempted to say, "Both," but I didn't. No one likes a smart aleck. 

"We're just getting here," I told her.

All three of us looked at the store. One door stood open. The inside was dark as night. 

About that time, a man walked out and gave us the bad news. The downed pole knocked out a major transformer. It was likely to take 5-7 hours to restore power. All the customers had been sent home.

Sam was for going home, too, but I was determined to get him some shoes and some food. Sam doesn't care a bit for food, but the thought of his new shoes spurred him on. We headed to Tupelo. 

At the next box store, we wandered all over. Sam tried on every shoe in his size that met his criteria. He found a pair that were really comfortable, but they were $17. He didn't want to pay that much for a pair of shoes, but, after a long wrangle, he decided to go for it. 

We headed to the front to pay for our purchases when I remembered I was supposed to buy a t-shirt so my sister could put vinyl on it. Sam was worn out and needed to sit down. We were near the dressing rooms, so I got the lady to let Sam rest in a dressing room for a few minutes.

I was still searching for the t-shirts when the intercom came on. "Code black. Code black. All customers and employees go to the back of the store." 

I didn't know what code black meant, so I stayed where I was until an employee came up and said, "There's a code black. It's a tornado warning. Come on." 

I raced to Sam and we headed to the back. There's no speed with an 87-year old man and a walker, so we were one of the last to the arrive at the shelter. It was completely full. We took a place in the rug/carpet aisle just before another employee came by. 

"This isn't a good place. You're under a skylight." 

Sam and I looked up. There wasn't an aisle that wasn't near a skylight. We waited until the all clear and headed back to the front to check out. 

We had planned to get ice cream after shopping, but Sam was too tired, so we started toward home. We made it to Coley Road, when the rain worsened. It was pummeling us so hard, I couldn't see, so we pulled over to the Orchard parking lot to wait until it slowed. 

"Let's go home," Sam said. 

"We will, but I can't see the road." 

"Well, I'm tired and I want to go home and rest." 

We'd just gotten stopped when the torrent turned to dead silence. No rain. No wind. Only a terrible quiet.

"Look how quiet it is now. Let's go home," Sam said again.

I well remember the 2014 tornado and the dead silence when we were in the eye of the storm. That's what I thought had happened again. As you might imagine, I prayed hard for protection.

No tornado came, so we left. Finally, we made it home and I unloaded Sam's groceries. We had planned to pack up Jamie's clothes to take to Salvation Army, but Sam wanted to rest. He sent me home and said the weather was too bad for him to get out again, and I shouldn't either. (Meaning, "don't come back.")

I went home and, with my good plans disrupted, decided to move furniture around and clean. I dumped all the books out of a bookshelf I wanted to move, and started sorting them. There was a mission text in the stack. I flipped through it, and a paper fell out.

I unfolded it and saw a few notes in my mother's handwriting. I flipped it over and found what I never expected to see. 

My father's handwriting. 

It's dated 5/8/1962 and is a quote from William Carey. "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God."

They were the words I most needed to hear that day, and they'd been in the book, waiting for me, for more than fifty-five years. I found them right on time.

My dad felt called to ministry when I was just a girl, but, by that time, he had a prescription drug addiction. It had started during a prolonged post-op recovery after a gunshot wound in WWII. He never completely recovered. 

He eventually went to seminary but dropped out when his addiction relapsed. My parents divorced when I was in 4th grade. I rarely saw him again. I have one photo of me with my dad. I have no letters, cards, or notes from him now, but I knew the handwriting.

For a moment, I thought my dad had written that as a message to me. In a way, that's exactly what it was. 

Taking care of Sam is a huge effort, but I gave my word back in 1989 that he could live on the farm until he died and that I'd take care of him. I intend to keep my word. I want those who are watching to understand what living a life of honor looks like, and that it's worth the effort. 

Yesterday was a hard, frustrating, exhausting day, but it was all swept away by the words on that sheet of notebook paper. 

Seated on the floor in the middle of a stack of old books, I had church. I'd expected great things from God that day, and, though it didn't turn out like I'd anticipated, I'd also attempted great things for God. That little scrap of paper reminded me that our Lord sees all, is in all, and never leaves me nor forsakes me, no matter how hard or frustrating the day may be.

I was encouraged and strengthened by the words my Dad had penned. We can all take hope from that little paper written more than a half-century ago. "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." It's not just a catchy quote. It's the way we're supposed to live.

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:6 nlt
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Life Isn't Funny But God is Still Good

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Friday, June 23, 2017

When Your Neighbor is Dying of Loneliness But You're Too Busy to Care

Sam loves being on hospice. 

He has a nurse, an aide, a social worker, and a chaplain. Over the course of a week, that's a lot of visits. 

When I stopped by after work yesterday, He was full of news. The nurse had been by. The aide had come later and helped him with a bath. A friend from church had come by with her grandson. They'd brought peach pie and stayed for a visit. Sam had eaten the pie for lunch. More accurately stated, he'd eaten it instead of lunch. 

"You had a lot of visitors today, Sam. Are you tired out?"

"Oh, no. It's nice to have so many people stopping by now. I like it. I was pretty lonely before them Hostages started coming." 

"Hostage" is what he calls Hospice, but, in an all-too-real way, Sam was the hostage, and they've helped release him.

Even though Sam talks to me twice a day, sees me at least once every day, goes to church with me on Wednesday and Sunday, and spends lots of time with me Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he's been lonely. 

The truth is that Sam sees me more than I see him. Between ministry, home, and Sam, there's always something that needs to be done, always something going undone. 

There are days when I just want to be still and quiet for a few minutes as I clean my house or do laundry. I don't really want to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee and listen one more time. I usually do, but, I'm ashamed to admit, I'm not always completely present. My body's there, but, sometimes, my head is somewhere else entirely.

I'm so independent and self-contained that I could go days without seeing anyone else and never notice, but not Sam. He's very social. Because he doesn't drive anymore (except on my driveway), he's become isolated from the rest of the world.

I've had to surrender my need for stillness and quiet to meet his need for companionship, and I haven't always liked it. 

I listened to Sam tell me about how nice it was to have someone to talk to and, for a millisecond, I bristled inside. I'm not enough? How much more does he expect me to do? How much more am I supposed to sacrifice? I thought. But, just as quickly, I realized the answer. No more. Sam knows I'm doing all I can do. That's why he hasn't complained. He's sat in his house and quietly grieved the loss of human contact. 

It's been killing him.  

It hurts me to admit that, but it's true. The only "therapeutic" thing Hospice has done for Sam has been the thing he needed most. They've spent time with him, and he's brightened considerably. He's eating better, and he's stronger. More hopeful. More energetic. Even his mental status has cleared a little. 

He's needed conversation with someone other than me. Someone in addition to me.

Sam's better off than most. He and I both realize that. We're grateful I can help him, but I'm not enough. 

There are a lot of senior citizens in Sam's situation. Trapped at home. Alone. If there aren't family members nearby, they can go days without seeing anyone. Maybe even if there are family members near. 

We could do better than this, body of Christ.

Senior adults like Sam are full of wisdom and amazing memories, and they love to share... when they have someone who'll listen, someone who'll choose to be fully present. 

You'll never see it on a death certificate, but some of the wisest people in our towns are dying of loneliness. They yearn for human contact while we busy ourselves with things that, in many ways, have no eternal significance. 

I'm living proof that no one person can do it all, but all of us could do a little. If we each took time to visit one elderly person living alone, we could make a difference. 

If we showed appreciation for their wisdom, they'd share it. If we listened appreciatively to their stories, they'd tell us of adventures we can't even imagine. 

Eight or nine decades ago, children were much more adventurous. Their fun didn't come from an electronic device. It was creative and outrageous and real. 

We need to hear those stories. Our children need to hear those stories. 

Thousands of elderly adults like Sam need your help. Your time. Your listening ear. Why not take a few minutes and make a visit? 

One day, we'll be the elderly people spending too much time alone. Let's set an example we want others to follow for us. 

Thirty minutes is not too much to give. 

When I thanked the hospice nurse yesterday, she said something I know from experience is true. "The blessing's mine. It's a joy to spend time with Mr. Sam." 

She's right. It's a great joy.

"The King will reply, 'Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40 niv 
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Life Isn't Funny But God is Still Good

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When Life Isn't Funny But God is Still Good

"You need to get back to your old blog," someone said to me recently. "You know, back when you told everyday-God stories." "You're never funny anymore..."

I've pondered those comments almost every day since they were made more than a month ago. 

I've worried... Have I lost my way? 

What I've come to realize is that my blog's theme has always been "faith lived out loud." There are seasons when things are funny and lighthearted and easy to share. There are seasons when things are not so light and not so easy to share. 

I've moved into one of those hard seasons. I'm still living my faith out loud, but it's not funny right now, and that's part of life. 

Sometimes, I write out of the experience of the day. Sometimes, I write out of the experience of my quiet time. Lately, I'm writing from my quiet time because it's the part of my day that's keeping me grounded and helping me through.

My sweet neighbor, Sam Wiley, has not been doing well. He's frail and wobbly. The highlight of this week was when Hospice brought out a new walker with wheels on it. He's mostly not eating, is losing weight, and has put reality to the term, "skin and bones." 

I'm stretched between Sam and ministry and home. Everything seems important, and there aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. 

Do I still see daily God-things? Yes. Lots. In fact, I see God do much more than I can tell. I can't share most of it because I don't dare risk endangering a missionary in a high-risk country. I won't share many of the things that happen at home because I don't want to be funny at Sam's expense. That's not my kind of humor. 

Sam stories aren't as funny as they used to be, and they're poignant in a very different way. 

I was driving to church with Sam in the passenger seat recently. "I've got to do something about my eyes. I can't see out of my glasses at all," he complained.

I kept my eyes on the road. "Sam the doctor already told you he couldn't do anything to help your eyes. They've done all they can do. New glasses won't help."

"I'm just gonna go blind then?"

"No, Sam. It's about as bad as it's gonna get. But new glasses won't help." I turned to look at Sam for a second and nearly swerved off the road. "Sam, new glasses won't help, but your glasses might."

"What're you talking about?"

"You've got on Jamie's glasses, not yours. It's no wonder you can't see."

After Jamie died, eighteen months ago, Sam put her glasses on the kitchen table. They've been there ever since. That particular day, Sam picked them up and wore then instead of his own.

In case you're wondering, dementia is relentless. It kicks you in the teeth when you least expect it, and it never lets up.

I wanted to cry. 

Instead, I reminded myself that, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. We aren't doing this alone, even when it's hard. 

His rod and His staff protect us and direct us even when the funny is long since over. 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. One day, things will be easier again. They'll probably be funny again, too.

We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Sam and I are confident of that truth, and he's looking forward to that glorious day when He sees our Savior face to face. 

Life may not be funny right now, but it's sweet. It may be difficult, but it's also beautiful. 

I know I could choose an easier path. I know that most people do. I've chosen the path God laid out for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Neither would Sam. 

One day, I'll look back on this hard time and thank God that He helped me through. I'm doing that already. 

Faith lived out loud isn't always easy or funny or interesting, but it's always sweet, and beautiful, and it's worth it. 

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:6 nlt
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Sparkly Top and the Muddy Dog Adventure

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Sparkly Top and the Muddy Dog Adventure

I know my sparkly top had nothing to do with the events of the morning, but the truth is that something crazy happens every time I wear it. Yesterday, I chanced wearing it because it's my favorite item in the closet. 

It might not have been a good idea.

Since I was ready for work early, I decided to enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio. The wonder dogs and I went outside and took our places, I in my favorite chair, the dogs beside me. I breathed in the aroma of the coffee, took a sip, and surveyed the scene before me. The sky was the bluest of blues, not a cloud in evidence. A faint breeze barely stirred the crisp, cool air. Surrounding trees were reflected in the lake's mirror-like stillness. Drops of dew still glistened on the grass.

Without warning, the dogs alerted for a moment, then sped away. Before I could finish a second sip of coffee, they were across the levee and out of sight, barking like hounds. 

I drank my coffee and waited, as time ticked away. 

They didn't come back.

Departure time was imminent, but the dogs were nowhere in sight. I began to pray, "Lord, please send these silly dogs back. I need to leave for the office." 

Still no sign of them. 

I had just pulled on my rubber boots in anticipation of hiking through the tall, still-wet grass, when Mamie came running. She was soaked with dew. I locked her in the kitchen and went in search of Maggie.

Whistling and calling her name, I headed down the slope to the levee. I was nearly there when Maggie came running. She was just as wet as Mamie. She stopped at a dusty spot a few feet ahead of me and, before I could stop her, started rolling in the dirt.

As you might imagine, the combination of dew-soaked fur and dusty ground resulted in a very muddy dog. 

Maggie loves to roll in the dirt, so I wasn't surprised, but I was terribly disappointed.  

"Stop," I told Maggie in my firmest voice. She stopped, stretched out flat on her belly, and looked up at me. She knew she was in trouble. There would be no snuggles with that much dirt. 

There wasn't time to bathe her, so I grabbed her up and held her at arm's length  to keep the mud off my sparkly top. I marched her to the kitchen and locked her in with Mamie.

"Girls, I don't have time to deal with this dirt right now. We'll take care of it when I get back." 

As I switched into my flip flops, I thought about how Maggie had given me such a clear picture of repentance. She'd done exactly what she wanted, then, when she realized her actions hadn't given her the result she wanted (peace with her mama), she's surrendered to my authority and stretched out before me. 

I'd gathered her up, put her in a safe place with all she needed for the moment, and given her time to dry and rest from her antics. Later, we dealt with the dirt. 

It's a little like how God deals with us. When we repent, He gathers us up just as we are. There's usually time for a little rest, but, before long, He begins to deal with the dirt of our sin. The more we're cleansed, the closer our intimacy with Him can be. 

Last night, clean dogs snuggled in my lap and took their place at the foot of my bed. Muddy dogs don't get to do that.

Which is better? Muddy and locked in the kitchen or clean and snuggled at the feet of the master... 

We have a choice every day: the stain or sin or the intimacy that only repentance can bring. Which will we choose?

"Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." Acts 3:19 nasb 
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Fire that Set the World Aflame

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Fire that Set the World Aflame

This morning, my reading was in Acts 2. When I read the verse about "tongues of fire," the image of my own tongue came to mind. I pondered how a flame might look like a tongue, decided it was a bit of a stretch, and turned to Blue Letter Bible for help. The word is glōssa and literally means "tongue." 

I finally realized that the phrase "tongues of fire" is a kind of holy double entendre that describes both appearance and function. The tongues of fire literally looked like dancing flames. I imagine they looked a little like the flame at the end of a hand-held lighter. They metaphorically set the world on fire with the power of the words spoken. 

After Jesus ascended into heaven, His closest friends gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer. This was not a hold-hands-in-a-circle-and-everyone-say-a-sentence kind of prayer. 

They went to their place of prayer and continued to pray until something happened. They probably didn't expect tongues of fire to descend from heaven, but they were ready for anything because they'd been on their knees before the Father for days on end. 

When Peter looked around and saw new, fiery tongues being given to everyone in the room, he probably realized he had a new tongue, too. What do you do with a fire-tongue? Speak fiery words. That's exactly what he did. 

He walked out of the prayer meeting and spoke to the people who had assembled outside. His words were filled with passion and power, fueled by the flame of God's Spirit, and they changed the world.

Every foreigner in Jerusalem heard the truth of Jesus proclaimed in their own language. Three thousand men believed and were baptized that very day. After the Pentecost celebration, those new believers went home to Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans and Arabs among them. 

That morning, the news about Jesus was limited to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of Israel. A few days later, it had spread around the world as those present that day carried the fiery words back to their families and friends.

To emerge with such power that everyone who hears you speak is overwhelmed with the truth of your words seems impossible. It is, unless we're willing to stay on our knees until the power of God descends, unless we're willing to let the fire of God's Spirit flow through us, regardless of the consequences.

The same Spirit is available to us. The same power can be ours. The same kind of opportunities can come our way as those the first century church experienced. 

To have what they had, however, we must be the kind of disciples they were. They stayed on their knees until God moved, lived in community, loved all, and demonstrated that love with their actions. When persecution came, they clung to their faith and were willing to die for it.

What they didn't do is hurry through prayer, fill their lives with busyness, put their families and activities ahead of God, or keep one foot in the world and a toe or two in the kingdom of God. 

They were all in. 

If we want what the first century church had, we must be willing to adopt the priorities they had. Love God more than anything. Love your neighbor as yourself, and do it with deeds, not just words. 

It's time for us, the 21st century church, to take a look back at what's possible, take a look inside us at our reality, and take a look at the future to decide how we want to live. Will we be content with this modern version of fake-church that so many of us live, or will we embrace Christ with our entire being and live as He intended?  

The abundant life is a Spirit-led life. It's big and bold and fun. Sometimes it's hard, and painful, too. Most important, though, is that it worth it. 

Do we want abundant living or not? It's a decision we all must make, so choose well. A lost and perishing world depends on us.

"But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words...'" Acts 2:14 nasb
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When the Grass Seems Greener But It's Really Not

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When the Grass Seems Greener but It's Really Not

(The events in this story happened several years ago, but I'm sharing this again because... why not? The language might sound as if it happened yesterday, but it didn't...)

Usually when the mayor calls, there's a municipal issue to discuss.  A while back, however, she called with bad news.  

"Leanna," she said. "You at home? 'Cause your cows are up here in the road."  

It's unusual for my cows to get out.  My fences are good and the cows are all well-trained and content.  On this particular day, however, they had run through two fences to get out, then continued to run up the gravel driveway and out to the road. 

I was already dressed for an evening meeting, in my cutest sparkly, beaded top.  It's my favorite.  With cows out, though, I didn't have time to change. Cows on the road are an enormous risk for motorists and a huge liability for me, not to mention incredibly risky for the cows.  

I headed to the barn for a bucket and feed, then went in search of the cows, still wearing my favorite sparkly top.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the cows grazing in my neighbor's yard, and rattled the bucket, calling them as loudly as I could.  

"Here girls, come on girls."  

That's what I always say, and they ALWAYS come. Except yesterday.  They didn't come yesterday.  In fact, they didn't even look up.  They were munching away at the grass that must have seemed greener (being on the other side of the fence).

Lest I was bested by a small herd of cows, I headed toward them, still rattling the feed in the bucket. Much to my surprise, they turned around and started running up the road that runs alongside my farm. 

Running is not quite the best description of what they were doing.  Sprinting at break-neck speed was more like it. I tried to run, too, but my two fleshy legs couldn't keep up with them. 

As I headed up the road, my neighbor, Sam, offered to help. Our plan was that he would drive us up the road, get in front of the speeding cows, turn crossways in the street, and I'd jump out and lure them back to the farm with the bucket of feed.  

They do that all the time in the movies. Well, they do the driving and turning crossways part.  I've never seen a movie where a middle-aged woman in a sparkly top with a big bucket of feed jumps out and herds cows. You don't want to, either. 

That plan worked pretty well, once we got the cows to get in a single-file line.  That was no easy task itself.  

Sam whipped around crossways in the road, I hopped out, and for a moment I caught their attention.  I thought they were headed to the bucket, but no, they weren't.  

They whirled around again, this time headed back to the main road, running all out.  How could cows that are not just well-proportioned but still nursing babies run like that? I wondered.  

Not to be outdone, I jumped back in the car, and we started following them again, hoping to do another whip-across. 

They must have figured out our tactic, because they soon veered over to another neighbor's farm and ran up to his barn.  I was really grateful when they paused in front of the barn door. That little bovine rest-stop gave me time to jump out of the car and rattle the bucket again. 

It did about as much good as a pair of maracas, because they realized the car that had blocked them was now stopped.  The road was clear, and they took full advantage, racing like a lion was chasing, right back up the road from which we had just come.  I voice-texted like crazy, recruiting people to pray that these silly cows would stop and head home. 

By this time I was doing more than glistening, my hairdo was a total loss, and my favorite sparkly top was decidedly less than fresh, but there was nothing to do but head back after them.  

Of course, I had to jump back in the car as Sam revved the motor to race up the road again.  By the time we did the whip-around once more, we were further up the side road than ever before.  

At last, Sam successfully accomplished a decisive turn crossways in the road with such authority that the cows stopped.  The mama-moos looked like they were still having fun, but I was more than a little breathless with the adventure.  

I just stood still, prayed, and begged them to come to me.  Glory hallelujah! They did! I let Miss Freckles stick her head in the bucket for a bite.  She nearly knocked it out of my hand, but I held on firm.  Betsy lumbered over for a bite, and I took a few steps forward.  

A quick glance back revealed a line of cows, calmly following along behind me.  I wanted to collapse with relief, but we weren't home yet. 

I walked a bit, then let a cow sneak a bite, then walked a little more. Gradually, we made our way back home and down the long gravel drive.  When I opened the gate, they all walked in and headed toward the barn.  I followed along and filled the feed trough, then locked them in the pecan grove. They all ate a few bites, but left most of the food in the trough.  

They hadn't gotten out because they were hungry, they just wanted an adventure, I guess. 

Once the cows were safe, (and the motorists were safe from the cows), I quickly changed clothes and headed back to repair the fence.  Bill, who helped on my farm, arrived just in time, and before long we had completely repaired/replaced the fence, the cows were back in their usual pasture, and calm reigned again. 

I have no idea what precipitated those cows to run wild.  They weren't hungry.  They had a safe, green pasture.  I may never know why they ran. 

One thing I did realize, all over again, was that running wild after them didn't help.  

It was only when I was still, centered, and holding something more attractive than the road on which they were running, that they finally turned and headed back to me. There's a lot of truth in that, isn't there? 

One really good thing came of the adventure.The fences they tore down were the last pieces of fencing that had not been replaced.  That stretch of fencing had bothered me for quite some time. Thanks to the race-cows, I had excellent fencing in the worst stretch, and it happened so fast I could hardly believe it.  

There are several lessons we can draw from this experience, but let's focus on the restlessness that drove cows with excellent pasture, a steady source of provision, and a nice owner to break free and frantically run straight into danger. 

We humans are no better than cows in resisting that restlessness that entices us to run away from the security of our Heavenly Father's care and lush pastures. When we succumb, we can find ourselves running headlong into the danger that can wreck our lives and leave untold destruction in our wake.

Drugs. Alcohol. Adultery. They can glitter like gold in the seductive light of temptation. Bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip, gluttony and a plethora of other sins can be just as enticing. When we step outside safe pastures, no matter what the temptation, we can find ourselves in a world of woe from which it's difficult to find our way back.

Scripture makes it sound so simple, and it is. Resist the devil. Flee temptation. Embrace truth. 

Stay inside the fence. It's there for a reason.

"With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments." Psalm 119:10 esv
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When the Giving is More Blessed than the Receiving

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.