Saturday, September 28, 2013

Every Little Flower and Bird

An old song has been echoing in my head for weeks.  I'm not really sure how it made its way to the front of my brain. It was written by John Peterson and copyrighted in 1948, so it's been around a while.  Lately, I've been singing it all the time.  I had been wondering about this song, as well as several other old songs from a songbook my mother had when I was a child.  That book is long gone, but thanks to the wonders of Ebay, I was able to secure an old copy of the book recently.

The song in my head, "It Took a Miracle" was in there, and for the first time I read all three verses of the song.  It talks of how God's might and miracles are written in the sky.  The last verse especially captured my attention.

"And every little bird and flower are testimonies, too."

When I stepped onto the patio this morning to feed the boys (my two failed barn cats and an elderly dog), I noticed my begonias, Mexican petunias, and roses, and thought, "Every little flower is a testimony to God."  How about that?  My yard is full of God-stories!  What kind of God-story is in your yard?

                                           My Spring Azaleas (of course not in September)

Pin It

The Blazing Fire (Luke 3:15-16)

The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?” But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” (Luke 3:15-16 MSG)

What a word picture! Despite all the years of waiting, the people were still anticipating their Messiah and were wondering about John. "Maybe he's the one," they thought. John did not give those rumors time to get started. "Nope. Not me," he said. He went on to tell them a little about Jesus. I wonder what they thought when he spoke about baptism by fire. It is such a vivid idea in my mind. A blazing fire and somehow being lowered into it but emerging (hopefully) unscathed. It brings Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to mind.

When John explained his metaphor, he painted a beautiful picture, didn't he? The idea of igniting implies that the tender is ready and the fire is laid. Jesus is coming, John explained, to ignite the fire in our hearts with the Holy Spirit. It will give us "kingdom of God life" in our hearts and change us completely. We will be fresh and new. Here's the wonderful part that would be easy to miss: the Holy Spirit is coming to stay, to live within our hearts, and Kingdom life (the life God desires for us) is available permanently.

The pilgrims who walked the Emmaus road with Jesus described the experience with these words, "Our hearts were strangely warmed". In the presence of Jesus, that fire of the Holy Spirit burned within them and made them different.

The fire is laid in our hearts, the tender is ready. How bright is that Holy Spirit blaze? Are we keeping the fire stoked with Bible study and obedience to the commands of our Lord? What a wonderful thing it is to be cleansed, changed, warmed by the fire of His love!

Pray today that we would keep the fire burning bright with our faithfulness and that our loved ones will see that fire in us and want it for themselves.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The incredibly dirty, stinky, yucky morning

It started out like any other Friday.  It was my day off, so I slept a little later.  Maybe that's when the trouble started.  Sleeping a little later (6:45 am later) meant I was late with blog posts, late with facebook notification, and late with twitter notification.  Page views would be down all day.

The good news was that I had a way-overdue lunch date with two friends.  I was excited!  I could dress up, have a fun lunch, and hang out with the girls.  For dessert, I was going to the garden center for mums.  I'd been praying for mums that weren't bloomed yet.

For me, this was a big treat.  You will understand why soon enough.

When I unloaded feed at the barn earlier in the week, I had overlooked a bag on the bag seat.  You may be thinking, "How could she miss a FIFTY pound bag of feed?!!" Well, I don't know.  Maybe because I had already unloaded FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY pounds of feed and I was tired. 

Anyway, I needed to pick up the hopefully-not-bloomed-yet mums to decorate the town hall, so that bag had to go.  Maggie the Wonder Dog was outside, but I needed her inside before I left.  My bright idea was to let her ride with me to the barn (she loves to ride), trap her in the car, drive back to the house, carry her back inside, lock her in the kitchen, and be on my way.  I would be right on time.

It really was a perfect plan.  She jumped in the car just like I planned.  We went to the barn, just like I planned, and unloaded the bag of feed.  Again, just like my plan. 

About that time, a cow mooed really loud.  We call that bawlin' down here.  Anyway, from all that bawlin', it was obvious she was not happy about something.  I walked over to see, and that's when the morning started unraveling.  Her calf was out.

Now, this was the calf that had accidentally imprinted on me when he was born, so usually the problem is to get him to quit following me around like a puppy.  Today, however, imprint was over, I guess, because he was not doing anything I said and was NOT letting me get near him. 

I opened the gate.  Nope.  Not going in. 

I brought a bucket of feed.  Nope.  Didn't want it. 

I had the bright idea, unfortunately, to let Maggie the Wonder Dog herd the calf.  I gave her the command.  "Maggie, move the calf." 

She did just that.  Quick as a whistle, she had the calf back through the gate and in the pasture.  Unfortunately, I was not as quick as a whistle, and all the other cows spotted their big chance.  All four of my cows (I know it's not a big herd but you may be able to tell it's all I can handle) headed through the gate and into the pecan grove, along with a second calf.

Maggie had such success with the first calf that she decided to tackle the second calf without a command.  Boy, could that calf run! 

That was all it took.  Maggie the Wonder Dog thought they were playing chase and she was off, running like the wind, chasing calves.  All three were running like crazy, and I couldn't catch any of them. 

It was not a pretty sight.  Two calves running for their lives, yappy high maintenance Wonder Dog chasing them like the Hound of the Baskervilles, and chubby middle-aged mama running behind, yelling like a banshee. 

Finally, I just stopped. I was wilted and no longer fresh as a daisy.  That surprised Maggie, so she stopped too - right atop a cow paddy.  Of course, she chose that time to take a quick roll in the dirt, aka cow poop. 

She was covered with stinky pooh and ecstatic about her fun morning.

Since the calves had run back into the pasture by now, I trudged back to the pecan grove to work on the cows again. 

These are former show cows and they know how to mind.  My cows will take three steps back when I tell them to do it.  They are great cows.  Usually. 

Today, every one of the cows was deaf as a post.  Or appeared to be.  I tried using the lunge whip, yelling, begging, offering feed.  It was like I was invisible. This was getting ridiculous.  I text'd my friends that I would, at best, be late.

Heading back to the barn for yet another bucket of bribe-feed, I stuck my hand in my pocket for my keys.  It was empty.  All my keys, including the only key I have for my car, were missing.  I had dropped them somewhere during the festivities. 

That was the breaking point.  I was muddy, the dog was covered in pooh, the cows were all out, the calves were terrorized, and I was exhausted. 

I did what anyone would do.  I sat down on the ground and tried to blink back the tears, which was harder than ever when I realized I had sat down on some pooh.  Now the dog and I were both muddy, stinky, and pooh covered.  Yuck. Yuck.  Yuck.

I sent another text, this time to say that I wasn't sure the girl lunch would happen unless I got a miracle. 

Chin trembling, voice quivering, eyes blinking back tears as fast as possible, I sat there and started to pray.  "Lord, what in the world is this about?  My animals never act like this! I can't see any point to it. I have pooh on my cute pants, mud on my cute top, and I'm sweaty and stinky. AND I HAVE LOST MY ONLY KEY!!!! If there is a point here, I sure wish you'd help me see it. I was so glad to have girl lunch, but this is surely not girl morning.  Please help me."

I took a deep breath, hitched up my big girl panties, and started toward the house.  I didn't know what else to do. 

About that time, my neighbor drove up.  "Oh, no" I thought, but headed to his car to greet him.  Just as I arrived at his car, I looked down and saw something wonderful.  My keys!

If I hadn't walked down the drive to greet him, he'd have driven right over them. 

Those keys were covered with hope.  Maybe, maybe this day was about to get better. 

Maggie the Wonder Dog ran up about that time and sat down at my feet.  Much to my surprise, she let me pick her up, poop and all, and carry her to the house.  I locked her in the kitchen with all that pooh, hitched up the BGP's again, and headed back to the barn for one more try. I had begun to consider fresh beef for lunch. 

With the fourth and final bucket of bribe-feed, I headed to the feed trough, dumped it in, and called the cows.  They looked up, their hearing restored, and they walked over as if they had never refused a command in their entire lives.  Into the pasture they went.  I locked the gate and headed to the house.

After a quick scrub-down for Maggie and another for me, I dressed and headed out.  Amazingly, I was only an hour late for the original time, and early for our rescheduled time. We had a fun lunch and parted with promises to get together sooner next time.

On to the garden center for mums.  I didn't want just any mums, remember.  I only wanted mums that had not bloomed yet. 

As I pulled in, they were just finishing up unloading a truckload of mums... that hadn't bloomed yet.  Until the truck arrived, all they had were beautiful, but fully bloomed, mums.  If I had been on time for lunch, I'd had been too early for the mums I needed. Maybe, just maybe, there had been a reason for the delay after all. 

When I got back to town hall, unloaded the mums, and my fellow alderman and I arranged the decorations, (the marvelously festive, cute decorations) I was really grateful I'd been delayed. 

I'm still not really happy about the cow pooh on my britches, but they will wash.  The best part of all was seeing that, even in adversity, there was a point. 

The incredibly dirty, stinky, yucky morning wasn't a waste after all.  It was really an answered prayer in disguise.

                                                                     The Mamas

Pin It

Countertops and contentment

And he said to them, " content with your wages." (Luke 3:14 NASB)

Yesterday, my family was having a group text chat, and getting sillier by the minute. My nephew asked an interesting question. "Where would y'all choose to be if you could be in three places at once (with one being work) and what would you be doing in said locales?" I knew my sister would want to be at the beach. She loves having sand between her toes. My first thought was "wherever Ryan (my son) is" but, not wanting to appear too mushy, I held back on that.  My very predictable answer was "at home and at home". I love being at home. I don't mind if a thousand people drop by, but I love being right here on the farm. My niece had a good answer. "Watching my kids doing whatever they are doing". The conversation started me thinking about contentment... Being satisfied and at peace with what you have and where you are.

The soldiers in the crowd listening to John wanted to know how they could "bring forth fruit in keeping with righteousness". John basically said, "Don't steal, don't lie, and be content."  It sounds like being content is an action you choose to do, doesn't it?  That's because it is. Being discontented and wanting more, more, more, or always wanting something different or new is not just inconvenient and hard on the pocketbook. It's sin and it can be a habit that becomes a gateway for even more sin.

So... How do you choose to be content? It starts with a grateful heart. Remember that old song, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one"?  That is exactly what we need to do.

Sometimes I look at my kitchen countertops and think, " They need to be updated." My Formica countertops are not trendy, cool, or in style. I know all that.  They serve the purpose, though, and the only real reason to replace them is my discontent. I'm not sure that reason will be very pleasing to God, so I'm holding on to the Formica for now.

As I sit here looking around my home office, I am stunned by all God has provided for me. His generosity knows no bounds.  How selfish it would be for me to complain and be discontented about anything.  I live in a veritable garden. I awaken to a symphony of song birds and retire in the evening to the songs of the night. There is food on my table and a roof over my head. My loved ones are healthy and safe. I have a great job that I truly love. What do I have to be discontented about? Nothing. Nothing at all.

The next line in that "count your blessings" song goes like this. "And it will surprise you what The Lord has done!"  That's the truth. Today, choose contentment and pray that we and our loved ones will not only choose contentment but also recognize how many blessings God has given us.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Maggie's Big Adventure

Thursday is Maggie's big day.  It's PLAY DAY!  Maggie goes to day camp at the vet's office, and she loves it!  Today, when I dropped her off, the assistant had a little fumble with her collar.  "Oh, don't let Maggie get loose!" the secretary said.  We all had a good laugh, remembering her big adventure. (It wasn't at all funny at the time, though.)

It happened like this...

When my son was in high school, headed to Georgia Tech, I began to worry about how I would manage with the upcoming empty nest.  I did what any sensible middle-aged mama would do.  I went back to work, ran for alderman, and bought a high-maintenance dog.  Maggie is an 11-pound Shih Tzu who thinks she is queen and that everyone should pay homage to her.  She can dance like a ballerina, walk on her hind feet like a lady, sit, shake, high five, stay (sorta), and roll over.  I think she can count to three, but maybe not.  She can also herd cows.  (We happened on that by accident, but it's a story for another time.)

In a stroke of a true silliness, my office manager at the time (who owns Maggie's full sister) and I decided they should have Sister Spa Day.  Maggie and her sister would go to the vet for grooming together.  What fun they would have! Or so we thought.  The first trip went fairly well, but not too long after we started this, the two girls went with Aunt Judy to the vet.  Unfortunately, Aunt Judy opened the van door and Maggie saw her chance.  Did I mention Maggie LOVES to run fast?  Maggie jumped out and started running.  She ran across the street and into a field, where she ran and ran.  Suddenly, she spied another field with trees across yet another street.  This particular street, however, was one of the busiest streets in town and it was the busiest time of day.

That second field was exactly where Maggie wanted to be, so she headed out at top speed, dragging her leash behind her, with Miss Judy and the vet's office employees chasing along, desperate to catch up.  Maggie, who has no idea about cars, darted in front of a car, racing across the street.  The first car slammed on the brakes, stopping exactly on the loose leash.  Maggie gave a giant tug, broke free, and kept going.  She was not letting anything keep her from the next field of fun!  As she scooted across the second lane, oncoming traffic screeched to a halt.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Three car pile-up and Maggie just made it past.  She was still running.  (If you were in one of those cars, please don't tell me.  I'm just glad you were safe and thank you for not hitting my wayward dog!)

Unbelievably, Maggie made it to the second field, where she raced around and into the tree line.  Not another sign of Maggie.  By that time, I had left work to search for my dog.  Before long, patients and their families were out helping me look.  Not a sign of the little scamp.  I looked for her until I finally had to get back to the office, then searched again after work until dark.  I was not at all comforted by the people who stopped by and told me the coyotes would eat her during the night.

It was pretty awful to go home to my empty nest without my Maggie. My mama (who lived with me) was as pitiful as I was.  We were both trying hard not to cry, and doing a poor job of it.  Later that evening, I began to pray for Maggie.  She'd never spent a night outside before.  She'd never been alone before.  I couldn't imagine how scared and lonely she must have been.  Not to mention how I was feeling.  "Lord," I prayed, "Please tell someone how to find Maggie and help them to find her."

The next morning, a friend called to say he and his wife were bringing me a dog.  My first thought was, "Good grief! I only lost my dog yesterday.  I'm not ready for another dog!"  There was something so cheerful about his greeting that I paused and asked, "Which dog?" What sweet words followed!  "Your dog," he said.  "I'm bringing you YOUR dog!"  I could hardly believe my ears!

That morning, he had awakened and had known how to find her.  A former pilot, he used aerial photos to examine the area and found a little shed in the woods.  He and his wife drove there, and she walked down the path, straight to the little shed.  You guessed it! Maggie had spent the night (maybe the entire time) on a mattress on the floor of the shed.  She was waiting to come home! She was stinky from the mattress, but didn't even have leaf litter in her fur.  She was unharmed and she was safe.

To this very day, when I look at my big friend, I always think, "the seeker and saver of dogs."  I will never get over how my prayers were answered when the exact way to find my dog was exactly what he decided to do and exactly how he found her.  He's my hero and the answer to my prayers.  I often wonder if he realized that his plan was divinely inspired.

You know, a lot of energy was expended seeking and saving my lost dog, but there are countless people who have also lost their way.  For one reason or another, their desire to be free and their need to run have taken them where they never expected to be.  There is One who came to seek and to save the lost, and those lost ones are a high priority for Him.  The good news is that there is a plan to find them, and we are the hands and feet to carry it out.

Perhaps you are the very one who will seek and bring to safety a lost soul.  How can that happen?  When you know what needs to be done, do it.  Just do it.  That's what my hero did.  He saw a need, recognized a solution, and did what it took to get the job done.  Returning a lost dog is a wonderful thing.  Returning a lost soul... now that is priceless.

Pin It

Proving Our Repentance by Our Actions

John the Baptizer was not the typical itinerate preacher. He dressed in camels' hair, lived in the rocky, barren wilderness, and ate honey and locust. I'd probably have shunned him as a religious nut, but his preaching, just as radical as he looked, drew big crowds. 

People lined up to be baptized.

"Being a descendant of Abraham is not enough. Being baptized is not enough. God's wrath is coming and you don't want to experience it. The Kingdom of God will be here soon. Prove your repentance by your actions," John told them. "Live generously. Be kind. Love."

One day, some soldiers were in the crowd. "What about us?" they asked him. "What should we do?" (from Luke 3:14)

Roman soldiers were the toughest guys in the region, the first century version of our marines, but with considerably less integrity. 

If they wanted more money than they were paid, they could demand and receive it from the populace. 

They could falsely accuse someone, demand a bribe, and be assured of getting it. 

They could double fines and skim the extra. 

The soldiers had free reign and limited consequences, but, on this particular day, John's words struck a chord. "What about us?" they asked.

It's a great question. They weren't just hearers. It seems they wanted to be doers, too. 

There was no doubt John would have instructions for them, and that his instructions would be tough, but they didn't want to be left out. 

If the Kingdom of God was at hand, they wanted to do what it took to be a part.

Ponder that for a moment. Jesus has risen and His return is closer than its ever been. The Kingdom of God is available to us today.

Are we willing to do what it takes to be a part?

Are we willing to do what it takes to please God?

If we want to please Him, here's what we should do: Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love our neighbor as ourself. 

Jesus condensed the entire Scripture into these two laws. They're simple and easy to understand, but they're not optional. 

Love God. Love everyone. 

If we want to be a part of the Kingdom of God, that's where we start.

"Don't just listen to God's Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." James 1:22 nlt
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Shouting Scripture and the Author Who Didn't Want to Write 

*** I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS, and you're invited. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.***

If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the 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, September 25, 2013

The Potty-Place

Some years ago,  I was still reeling from the very public demise of my marriage.  I felt horridly conspicuous, especially at church.  I also felt like a big failure.  It was only natural, then, that I would seek out the most remote, least-used restroom for a quick stop between Sunday School and church.

Miss Geri soon found that same potty-place behind the kitchen, and we became "bathroom buddies." She was the widow of our former pastor, and not at all like any pastor's wife I'd ever known.  She was beautiful, elegant, and had the most dashing way with clothes.  Even then, I longed to be as cool and nice as she.

Miss Geri was well-liked, spirited, and funny.  She never failed to remember my name, greet me with a happy smile, and ask if my "silly husband has gotten his mind back."  To my sheepish, "Well, no," she would wave her hand, laugh, and exclaim, "Pooh on him, then!"  It sounded so funny coming from this lovely older lady that I always laughed.  She would pat my cheek, tell me I was beautiful, and that he must be "blind and dumb.  Is he deaf, too?"By the time I made my way to "big church",  I was prepared with a genuine smile.

I tend to think of pastor's wives as being doers of good deeds, and she probably did her share.  The good deeds she performed in that potty-place, though, were little known but ones I will never, ever forget.  Miss Geri knew my name every time, and she used it, every time.  She gave me acceptance when I needed it more than I can now imagine.  She offered me humor, and hope, and love.  I didn't realize it then, but she was pouring out the balm of Gilead and turning that little bathroom into a chapel of healing.

A few years ago, she moved from our town to be closer to her children, and I missed her terribly.  A few days ago, she moved to her eternal home, and I imagine heaven (admittedly too marvelous to imagine) is an even brighter, sweeter place with Miss Geri there.

When I grow up (which should have been a few decades ago) I'd like to be just like Miss Geri.  She just pretended to discover that bathroom about the same time I did.  She'd been in that church for years.  It was no surprise to her.  She had seen a need, followed it into the little potty-place, and met it with such grace and kindness that it took me years to realize she had come in just for me. 

With her gone to heaven, someone needs to pick up her standard of meeting needs, no matter how unlikely the route, and pouring out the balm of Gilead with every fiber of her being.  I guess that someone might as well be me.

Do you have a Miss Geri?  Better yet, why not be the Miss Geri to those in need around you.  Humor, hope, and love.  It was an unbeatable combination that brought healing in the most unlikely of places.

Two tunics (Luke 3:11)

And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." (Luke 3:11 NASB)

This is not my favorite verse. I'm telling you that right up front. I would much rather read "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Instead, for today, we are at the "what to do with two tunics" verse.

John's listeners were people who had spent a lifetime making sacrifices as payment for their sins and throwing a few coins in the offering as an extra gift. There was an order to it. A plan.

John emerged from the desert with something altogether different. He told them they needed more than a sacrifice. They needed a repentant heart. A changed heart.  It was much easier to just give up an animal. Forgiveness? Reconciliation? Repentance? Much harder, but essential for getting right with God.

It was not a familiar idea, and they asked John what they should do. What does this "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance" look like? John's answer was startling. "If you have two tunics, give one to the man who has none..."  An extra tunic was a precious thing. We are accustomed to closets full of clothes. They were not. They were not giving away unused leftovers. It was something that mattered.

Why did John (the man wearing a camel hide) tell them to give away their extra tunic? First of all, generosity is a theme throughout Scripture. We are to be as open-handed with others as God is with us. Secondly, receiving from God requires open hands and open heart. When we cling so tightly to the stuff of this world, it's not only harder to cling to our Lord, it's harder to receive all He has for us. Extravagant giving requires that we look past our own life and recognize the needs around us.  It requires us to risk being uncomfortable as a result of our giving.

Maybe more important, extravagant giving requires us to recognize Who is in charge and who is not. We are not the source of everything we have.  No matter how hard we work nor how much money we make, God is ultimately the One who provides. It's all His, and when we share what He has given to us, we acknowledge that in a very tangible way. We take our eyes off ourselves and get them on others and on the Giver of all good gifts.

John was trying to help his listeners learn to live their lives in a way that matched up with the new-found repentance they claimed to have. Live like you mean it. That's what John was saying 2000 years ago and it's good advice for us today.

How many tunics are you holding?  Today, live like you believe the faith you claim. Let go and give.

Live like you mean it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Grocery Cart Inspector

The last chart was finished with an hour to spare before my next meeting.  There was just enough time for the dry cleaners or a quick grocery run, but not both.  I, of course, opted for groceries.  

As soon as I grabbed my cart, I headed past the cheese and olives (two favorites) in favor of fresh produce, feverishly trying to remember what in the world I had intended to buy in the first place.  I filled the "baby basket" part with lettuce, mushrooms, and gluten free bread.

I hate to admit it, but I was actually heading to the chip aisle when I noticed a little boy examining the gluten-free food section.  "That's odd," I thought, and headed over to take a closer look.  

I didn't need anything.  I was just being nosy. 

Just about that time, his mom appeared.  It didn't take her but a quick glance to assess my basket.  I had wisely, and carefully, stacked my produce atop the two sticks of peppered salami, just in case of basket inspectors, and it was a good thing I had.  

She assumed from what she could see that I was a healthy eater (and I am) and gluten-free (and I am).  Based on her assumptions, she struck up a conversation about how the food you eat affects you, how bad she felt, and what food choices I thought she could make that would help her feel better and improve her health.  

This lady was asking for health advice on the basis of my grocery cart. (Well, what she could SEE of my grocery cart.) 

I gave her what I thought was good advice and sneaked on over to the chip aisle.

When I looked at all those chip bags, I remembered that sweet lady and her cute little boy.  I did buy chips, but they were organic mixed vegetable chips... just in case I ran into another basket inspector.

I confess I'm guilty of being a basket inspector myself, and I'm not usually the one who takes note of all the healthy choices in the basket.  

Sometimes I look at a basket filled with hotdogs, chips, and soft drinks and think, "I hope they are having a cookout."  

Sometimes I look at a basket filled with nothing but unhealthy choices and think less charitable thoughts.

Unfortunately, grocery baskets are not the only things I notice (well, inspect), and  I'm probably not the only one.  

We might call ourselves "fruit inspectors", but most of us take note of the people around us and the lives they live. For the moment, I'm not worried about the inspections I make. That's an issue for another day. Today, I'm concerned about how well I stand up to the inspection of others.  

Just like the salami hidden under the lettuce, I probably have some things in my heart and my life that would not look quite so great on close inspection.  

How about you?  What are you hiding in your heart where no one can see?

Well chosen grocery carts are great, and I was pretty proud of mine.  That basket could stand up to any inspector (as long as I kept the salami under wraps), but I wonder if my life could do as well. 

Sometimes I'm impatient and downright cranky.  Sometimes I'm worse than that.  You don't need my list... you probably have one of your own.  

Today, I'm looking at my life and trying to make it as presentable as the cart was... with one exception.  

Nothing hidden.  

The Inspector who really matters sees it all anyway.

Why not join me in introspection?  

Let's all take a look at our lives and do a serious inventory.  How well would they stand up to close inspection?  

Maybe it's time to "ditch the salami and head to the produce" - get rid of the mess in our hearts that is doing us no good and will only end up hurting us, and choose the things that are good and right.  

Someone hopes to find an answer to their most pressing questions and they may look to you for that answer.  Give them something worth seeing.

Make a life that's worth inspecting.

"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Deadwood and Divine Pruning
This ministry of prayer and outreach (digital and in-person) is only possible because of the generosity of your support. Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, 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.

Best Choices

An 18-wheeler passed me on the other side of the four-lane.  Emblazoned across the side panel was an ad.  "BEST CHOICE" it proclaimed.  I've recently been thinking about choices and where those choices lead us, so "best choice" caught my eye. The "best choice" they were advertising was a brand of ice cream. Imagine that! I really like ice cream a lot, and it is a good choice for dessert, but I'm not sure ice cream is exactly what I'd call "best choice".

Andre Crouch wrote a song some years ago about choices. "Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there's no other. Jesus is the way."  Jesus.  Now that is a choice worth making!

If you want to make the best choice you possibly can, in any situation, in every situation, choose Jesus and His ways.  That's the best choice of all.

Deadwood and Divine Pruning

The shrubs and landscaping in front of my house were overgrown and threatening to completely block the sidewalk. It seems crazy now, but even though it looked messy and was becoming an azalea jungle, I couldn'tt figure out how to fix it. 

I didn't realize it, but I needed an expert.

My friend, Linda Buchanan, mentioned her new yard man one day. Mr. Bailey was a wonder and a great help, she said, so I called him. That first day, I instructed him to clean up the front and trim the shrubs a little. 

I had no idea what he was about to do.

A few hours later, I walked outside to see an enormous pile of brush. Mr. Bailey had trimmed more than I expected. My heart sank as I thought, "My azaleas! He has cut down my azaleas!" I hurried around front to find, not destruction, but order. He had trimmed up the mess and brought it under control. 

Instead of a jungle, I had lovely landscaping again.

John the Baptizer's listeners were in a similar situation. They knew they had a mess in their lives and that something needed to be done. That's why they had come out to the banks of the Jordan to hear him. Their heritage wasn't enough to save them, nor their sacrifices. They were in a quandary. What then? What could they do?

He began by giving practical examples of sacrificial behavior. Shortly, however, Jesus would come for baptism, and John would recognize exactly what they all needed. The Lamb of God would take away their sin. They couldn't do anything to rectify their guilt but Jesus would do it for them and He would soon set them free.

Maybe you, too, are wondering what to do about problems in your life or in the lives of loved ones. You may not realize it, but, like me, you need an expert. 

The answer is incredibly simple. Look to Jesus. 

He can clean up the mess of your life as well as that of your loved ones. He can clean up the guilt and shame and set you free.

Today, let's pray for a heart willing to accept the kind of divine pruning only Christ can do.

And the crowds were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" (Luke 3:10 NASB)

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NASB)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lesson of the Fig Tree (Luke 3:9)

What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.” (Luke 3:9 MSG)

The fig tree at my home has been there for decades. When I first moved there, it bore a few figs, but gradually the yield was less and less. After a few years, there was essentially no yield at all. As the fig count waned, my frustration with the tree grew. Nothing I did helped it. Finally, I just cut it down, nearly to the ground. Imagine my surprise a few years later when Sam, my farm worker, said, "Hey, have you seen that tree you cut down? It's loaded with figs!"

I am not an expert on trees, but it seemed clear to me that all the non-productive parts of that tree needed to go. A severe pruning (to the ground) saved it.

It's easy for us to allow dead wood to accumulate in our lives, isn't it? It's not so much that it looks dead as that its non-productive. When I prune, I lop off the branches that look diseased, but also the ones that don't bear fruit. In our lives, it's not just the sin and hurt (diseased branches) that need to go. Those things in our lives that do not make us more like Jesus or demonstrate the love of Christ to a lost and dying world may need to go too.

Just about anything can be deadwood in our lives. I have a friend who says she didn't have time for Bible study until one day she realized how much time she spent reading the newspaper every morning. When she stopped beginning her day with the news and started it with the Good News through Bible study, she found she had plenty of time for God, and now has a life that bears much fruit for him.

Just about anything can end up being deadwood because it keeps us from doing what Christ intended. Internet browsing, Pinterest, Facebook, shopping can all be good things. They can also be time-stealers that keep us from something better.

What is the deadwood in your life? Take a serious look at your life today and at all the activities you include. Does it make you more like Jesus? Does it demonstrate Christ to a world that is perishing? If not, it's time for some pruning. Choose today to have a life that is "green and blossoming", then do whatever it takes to get there.

Pray today for pruning that yields a tremendous harvest, both in our lives and that of our loved ones.

(c) Leanna Hollis 2013


Welcome to my new blog! I am currently writing on the gospel of Luke.  I will be adding daily blogs, so be sure to check back frequently. The pattern for posting will be a morning devotional and an evening story, hopefully funny or touching or both.

Weekday posts should be up by 6:30 am CST and evening posts should be up by 9:00 pm CST.  The weekend schedule may be a little different.  Even enthusiastic bloggers have to sleep late sometimes!

Someone has said the evening story is more like evening confession, and perhaps it is.  A little story from my heart to yours.  If it works that way, it will be just perfect.

Thanks for stopping by!  Have fun reading!