Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Unexpectedly Grateful Heart part 8

Today was Sister Saturday. After my mother died, my sister and I wanted to be sure we kept our family close and didn't become adult orphans, so we decided to have a girl day together on a fairly regular basis. Today was our day, and it was a super day! 

We both had gift-making projects that required an extra set of hands for Friday night. Amazingly we were able to complete what we'd planned and I was able to finish my book and upload it to Amazon. There is a lag of twelve hours between when a manuscript is uploaded and when it is available to view. That seemed like two eternities to me, but there was nothing to do but wait. 

My nephew is getting married in two weeks, so there was shopping to do. As we made our way along the aisles of the Charity Sale, I posted about my book, shared the news, checked on how it was doing, and talked nonstop about it. Since it had only been live for two hours and it was not yet 6:00 am, it was really pointless, but I was really excited. Needless to say, I was thrilled by every tiny bit of encouragement. We finished up my Operation Shoebox shopping and my grocery shopping, in addition to my sister's shopping, so we were out for quite a while.  I was non-stop excited the whole time. 

It WAS a super day, but it didn't have a thing to do with the shopping, purchases, or bargains. The best part wasn't the sweet comments and encouragement. It wasn't even the book sales (thank you VERY much!). The best part was that my sister was there to share my joy. She didn't compete with it. She didn't denigrate it. She didn't tell me to hush or that she couldn't stand to hear how excited I was one more time. She just loved me and rejoiced with me. That's not just family. That's love, and I was deeply touched by how sweet my baby sister is, and how kind she was to me today. I am so grateful for her. 

Her response to my joy gives me pause, though. I'm not sure I'm as kind or as willing to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. I want to be though, and I'd like the opportunity to make someone else feel as loved as my baby sister made me feel today.  It would be a pretty tall order on my own. I'm pretty sure that, to love like Baby Sister loves, I'm going to have to let the One who loves us the most love through me. 

An early thanksgiving

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NASB)

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises to our God on the lyre, (Psalms 147:7 NASB)

Today is a day of thanksgiving and praise for me. We will get back to Luke tomorrow, but today is a wow day and I'm spending the day recognizing what God has done and thanking Him for it. 

After 46 days, the blog has had just a few shy of 5,000 views. (By the end of today, it will likely be over 5,000) God has done it. He's given me the words to write and has drawn people to the blog. The stories of lives that have been touched are just thrilling to me. If you haven't heard me say this yet, let me assure you that it has nothing to do with me (except as the typist/plow horse) and everything to do with God. 

Even more amazing to me is that 93 days ago, I wrote the first Luke devotional. In  those 93 days, an entire book has been written, formatted, reformatted several times due to computer glitches, and published as an ebook (a completely new format for me). Everything that was critical worked so smoothly, from obtaining ISBN's to LLCN's (the registration numbers books need) to learning the Kindle format to the upload. When the book was uploaded last night, I received a message back that said the number of misspelled words was zero! He equipped me and trained me and helped me, and He did it in record time. Just for comparison, my last book took ten years to complete. 

I'm later than usual with the post today, and I apologize. I was too excited to sleep last night, and my sister and I had to be up long before dawn to make it to the Charity Sale at Belk. She needed shoes for her son Ben's wedding and I needed a dress for it.  That's a praise all it's own, but a story for another day. 

I want you all to know how much I appreciate your prayers, your encouragement, your kindness. These last few weeks have been so very hard as I struggled to balance my medical practice, the farm, the blog, all my boards and committees, as well as life in general, with writing, editing, and formatting the book. I didn't think I could do it. Actually, I knew I couldn't. God, however, had a plan and He accomplished what He started. 

The Road to Bethlehem went live on Amazon as a Kindle book at 3am today. Please pray now that God will use it to accomplish all He intended. There are thousands, well probably millions, of parents who are broken hearted over the spiritual condition of their children. One of the key words for the book is prodigal so perhaps those parents will find it and get a fresh infusion of hope. There is a brief section at the end that speaks to the parents of prodigals and offers them the opportunity to pray for their children in the same way we have. I promised a dedicated website for parents of prodigals by Dec. 1, so your prayers are needed as I begin yet another whirlwind of work. 

Today, we are thanking God for His faithfulness and the hope He has given us. We are praying, as always, for our children, but today we are also praying for the parents of prodigals who are desperate for the hope that only God can give as well their children who are one bent knee from redemption. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The unexpectedly grateful heart part 7

There are some days that seem so crazy it's hard to believe they are real. I've had several of those lately. Anyway, so much happened today that I can't even remember it all! What I do remember is really a bit of craziness. 

A donkey got in my pasture! I didn't see this, but my neighbor told me he watched the donkey crawl on its belly under the barbed wire fence. He said the donkey had gotten lonesome wherever it is that it lives and had gone in search of some friends. (I am not making even one word of this up!) Since I have three horses in my pasture, apparently it looked like a fun place to hang out. (And it is!). Bill the Magnificent was in charge of feeding tonight, so he let the horses in the barn and in comes the donkey. I only had three open stalls, so the donkey was the odd man out. Or the odd equine out, I guess. 

No one knew what to do with the donkey. Sam (the neighbor) was supposed to call the donkey's owners but decided to leave it loose in the barn. I could not see that going any direction that was good, so I forbid the donkey to spend the night. It's Sister Saturday tomorrow and my sister and I are going to the charity sale. I will be at the barn at 4:45 tomorrow. There is no way I am dealing with a lonely runaway crawling donkey at that hour!  It was all very exciting but, at the end, it was pretty uneventful.  Sam called the owners and they came over and got their donkey. 

That donkey was an interesting diversion, but I was super thankful the owners took him home. I'm even more grateful that there won't be a donkey loose in my barn in the pre-dawn hours of Sister Saturday! 

Have a nice weekend, read lots of blog posts, and happy thanksgiving!

A Demon Comes to Church, part 2

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, (Luke 4:33 NASB)

The story of this demon-possessed man is not included by accident. There are multiple lessons to be drawn from this pasage, but today we will look at the response of the Capernaum congregation. You may remember that the Nazareth congregation was so filled with murderous rage by Jesus's teachings that they tried to throw him off a cliff. The  Capernaum group seems to be of a different mindset. They have a shouting, demon-possessed man in their midst, and apparently no one throws him out, no one tries to quieten him, no one moves against him at all. In a village as small as Capernaum, they certainly knew him, but no one blocked his entrance to the synagogue.

Think about this a minute. How likely is it that a demon-possessed man would even want to go to the synagogue? Undoubtedly, it was previenient grace that drew him there, but it seems that he went to synagogue that day knowing he would be allowed in the meeting. Remember, this was a special day at Synagogue. The miracle-working teacher ( who some said was the Messiah) was the "visiting preacher" that day. As humans do, the people of Capernaum had probably talked about it to their friends and were probably excited and expecting something special. Our inclination would be to impress the visitor and try to "look good" for him. An out-of-control demon-possessed man doesn't really fit with that plan, yet he was there. 
Can it be that they loved the unlovely and welcomed the unruly? I suspect so, or at least this particular unruly man. 

The important point is that, in welcoming him and allowing him to be present when Jesus came, they ushered in the circumstances that led to his healing and redemption. How amazing is that? In welcoming the unruly and unlovely, we can have a part in bringing them to Jesus! 

I often look around my church and wonder why everyone looks just like me. Maybe the building is too big and fancy for the unruly to risk entering. Maybe they aren't sure of a welcome. (I think they would be welcomed, though) The real reason is probably that we are not doing all we could to bring them in. Those of us who live under the Great Commission are supposed to be making disciples (rescuing the perishing), and a part of that requires that we bring them to Jesus and welcome them as we do. 

Today, pray that we have hearts that recognize the need of those around us and eagerly bring them to Jesus, no matter how different or unlovely they are. Pray that we would welcome all who come, just as Jesus welcomed us. Pray too that our children and loved ones will find the body of Christ to be warm and welcoming and that God would send the perfect laborer to bring them back to Christ. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unexpectedly grateful heart part 6:Becoming a Writer

The first meeting of the new Blue Springs Garden Club was tonight. My entire day had been crazy from beginning to end, so, of course, I was late arriving. The speaker had already started and I was trying desperately, but failing miserably, to make an unobtrusive entrance. As I slipped into the room where we were meeting, something on one of the end tables caught my eye. It was a copy of "The Clay Papers", my first book. I smiled and hurried to my seat. "What a kindness to not just remember that book but to display it!" I thought. It felt like a secret blessing from one friend to another. I was thrilled. Remembering all that book meant to me was completely distracting. I'm afraid I missed quite a bit of what the speaker said as I thought about the stories in that book and how I became a writer.

In the mid 90's the internet was still young. People were just beginning to have computers in their homes. It was already clear that much evil would come from this new technology and it seemed like a good idea to reclaim the technology for the Kingdom. I offered a brand new kind of service. It was an email prayer ministry for our church. People signed up and I began by sending out a verse and a little prayer starter. Before I knew it, the sentence was two, and soon became a paragraph. As you can imagine, one paragraph became two and things grew from there. 

Everything changed when I started taking pottery lessons a few years later. I was so moved by the lessons that I would think about them all the way home. As I drove, the lessons began to take shape as little stories. I would type the stories and send them as an "email extra". Pretty soon, I had an entire series. People began to make comments like, "You should put these in a book." That seemed like something that only very super-special people did, but not something that someone as common as me would ever do. 

When the pottery classes ended, I continues to write little stories about my everyday life. Before I knew it, there was a pretty big stack and I couldn't decide what to do with them all, so I started a notebook. You can guess what happened. Of course, I filled that one and started another notebook of little stories.  

Looking back, it makes me laugh. I was going to a Physician Resource Council meeting and, for some crazy reason, I stuffed a manila envelope with stories and slipped it into my suitcase. I wagged that envelope all through the meetings for several days.  In one of those crazy God-orchestrations, Susan Stevens, the editor of Physician magazine came to speak to us and was having lunch with us that last day. I was strongly impressed to give them to her, but thought I would probably die if I did. Finally, I summoned every bit of grit I had and just said I had brought some little stories and wondered if she would take a look. She was so gracious that she made my clumsy approach seem like the most reasonable action I could have taken. I cannot begin to tell you how hard it was to leave that envelope in her hands. It felt like I had cut my heart out and handed it over. Those stories were "me" and I was terrified of what she would say. 

The good news was that she could not critique them until she had read them, so there was no way I would have to face her after she'd gone through the packet. A week or so after I returned home, a letter came that looked very suspicious. I had a feeling it was "the letter". You know, the letter I'd been dreading and longing to receive. It was, indeed, the letter from Susan Stevens. I had to read it over and over to be sure. She said she had loved my stories and she had picked out two years' worth of stories for the magazine. She planned to use one each issue. Two years. I was shocked and thrilled and crying and laughing and astounded. In her letter, she called me a "wonderful writer"! I couldn't even say the words, "I am a writer."  That seemed too mysterious and wonderful to imagine, but a real editor had really said I was a writer, so maybe I really was.   

As you can tell, it turned out that I really was a writer. I wrote for Physician magazine until budget cuts cancelled it. I've written for other magazines, and newspapers, written multiple Bible studies, and finally wrote that book about the pottery lessons. These days, I'm astounded by the frequency and the sheer volume of writing I'm doing. 

What sweet memories that little book on the side table brought back! The thing I'm grateful for today is not just that I've become a writer. I'm thankful for the journey that brought me to this place, all the people who gave me a chance , all the encouraging words along the way, and those precious people who have not only read the words I've written but seen them as valuable. Thank you. 

A Demon Comes to Church

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, (Luke 4:33 NASB

My intention was to take multiple verses this morning and cruise right past this one, but here we are. A man was in the synagogue that day, and he was demon possessed. Just so we are clear, the Greek word here is dī-mo'-nē-on, and, according to Vine's Expository Dictionary, it means an agent of the devil, an evil spirit that seduces us into wickedness and idolatry. We can certainly come up with evil on our own, but the demon's job is one of luring us into evil and, if possible, keeping us there indefinitely. I realize it is not politically correct to believe in the existence of demons, but either the Bible is 100% true or it's merely an interesting book.  If it is not true, then we are a pitiful people, basing our eternal hope on a fairy tale. The good news is that Scripture IS truth, including the passages about demons. They exist. 

Starting from that premise, let's talk about this man who was possessed by the demon. It was an unclean demon, so it filled him with impure thoughts that surely led to wrong actions. We don't know what those actions were, but it's obvious that the demon had him under tight control, because in the meeting, he began to shout at Jesus. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

Think about this demon-possessed man and his presence in the synagogue that day. How likely was that? As a Jewish man, he was expected to be there, so perhaps he went as a matter of routine. It could have been that a concerned friend or family member invited him to hear the visiting preacher. Maybe he went out of curiosity. 

Regardless of how he thought he arrived in that church, Scripture tells us that prevenient grace drew him there. He had a divine appointment with Jesus, and the only way to keep it was by attending the synagogue meeting that day. 

It is the prevenient grace of God that draws all of us to Jesus. Sometimes, it's like a warm, inviting fire on a dark and cold night that draws us in to the light. Other times, it seems the Hound of Heaven pursues us relentlessly until we are captured by what turns out to be His great love for us. 

I suspect someone had been praying for that man, just as we have prayed for our loved ones.  When they least expected a miracle, Jesus came. He WAS  the miracle. 

Today, continue to pray that our Lord will draw our children and our loved ones to Christ. Pray that God will use someone they trust to bring them to Jesus in a redemptive, transforming way. Pray, too, that as parents, we will come to Jesus again and experience His grace in a fresh way today. 

Take heart. He has overcome the world. He can handle any problem we or our children face. He can handle any sin in which we indulge, and wash us clean. He is able to deliver. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Unexpectedly grateful heart part 5

Some years ago, my cousin gave me a stem in a black plastic pot for Christmas. I thought, "What in the world is this?" Much to my surprise, it turned out to be something wonderful. It was a rooted cutting from my grandaddy's rose. It was a special rose that he really wanted, but times were hard and finances were tight, so he wouldn't spend the money to purchase it. My aunt ended up buying it for him and he cherished that climbing red rose. Somewhere along the way, my aunt had taken a cutting, rooted it, and had grown a lovely rose of her own. I'd always admired her rose, but never realized exactly what a treasure it was. My cousin had done the same thing for me.

I was intrigued, but a little skeptical. My grandaddy had been dead for fifty years. I was very young when he died, so I didn't really remember him. It was hard to believe I could grow his rose, but I planted it at the entrance to my herb garden, next to a little arbor. I was surprised when the climbing stem began to grow. I was stunned when the roses began to blossom!  The branches were loaded with deep red blooms that exuded the most remarkable fragrance.  

It's an odd rose, though. Sometimes it blooms at the most unusual times, rather than when I expect it. Earlier this week, I headed to the barn and a flash of red caught my eye. The rose was blooming, and once again I was overwhelmed by the connection from one generation to the next. This rose connects three generations of my family in the most unusual way. My grandaddy and my aunt are gone, but their rose reminds me of them in the sweetest way. 

That rose also teaches me some important lessons about my family. We sacrifice for one another. Times were as hard for my aunt as for my grandaddy, but she made a way. In my family, we love the outdoors, working with our hands, and gardening. We accept responsibility for each other. It's a big job to protect and care for that rose, but if we don't do it, there won't be a rose for my grandchildren. We don't mind thorns because they always come with roses. It's a lesson that's served me well in life. In my family, we share. It took some effort to root that rose for me, but that's what we do. 

I've already started trying to root the rose. I'm pretty sure my grandaddy would want the next generation to have it too. One day, I hope to give green stems in black plastic pots of my own. Until then, I'm grateful to be the custodian of my family's rose. 


and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. (Luke 4:32 NASB)

Exousia is the Greek word that is translated as "authority" in this verse. It is a word that indicates both the power to do something (might or strength) and the right to do something (jurisdiction). defines it as "the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)". The implication here is that he is not only an expert in his area, but also someone who must be obeyed. 

I tend to think of authority as one of three things, either police authority or governmental/legislative authority or expert-in-the-field authority. In this instance, "authority" means all three. When Jesus spoke, there was no doubt that He was an expert on Scripture. He also spoke as one who has some say in how you responded to what He said, as well as the authority to enforce it. There were no threats or new laws, but when Jesus spoke, they could tell He meant business.  

Jesus wasn't just speaking AS one who has authority. He WAS one who has authority. That kind of authority demands a response. It requires that we evaluate our lives, see where we fail to measure up, and make any changes necessary to bring our lives into compliance. 

That puts our life choices in a whole new light, doesn't it? In this world of HIPPA compliance, OSHA compliance, and AHCA (Affordable Health Care Act) compliance, there's a more important kind of compliance with which we need to concern ourselves.  Jesus compliance. Spend some time today looking at your lifestyle. How compliant are you? 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will recognize our failings in comparison to Christ, acknowledge His authority, and make whatever changes are needed to please Him. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Unexpectedly Grateful Heart, part 4

It has been a really long day today, but another thanksgiving-filled day! I wonder if everyone has the wonderful kind of days I have. As always, the most marvelously amazing things happened to me, but I'm just going to give you one highlight from today. 

Angie Barmer is a reporter for the New Albany Gazette and covers Blue Springs. Before most people knew Blue Springs existed, Angie was attending board meetings and writing articles. Over the years, we've learned to trust her. She's not after the sensational. She just wants to inform and educate the public with the facts. 

Angie is a gifted, and award-winning, writer, but she has more than writing on her mind these days. Angie is also an extraordinary photographer. She has longed to have her own photography business. Incredible photographs require an artist's eye and a poet's heart, as well as an impeccable sense of timing, all of which she has. 

What she has also had was a bad case of "busy". For the last six years, her desire to be a photographer has been stifled by her busy lifestyle. She would drive past a field of flowers or cotton in the boll, see breathtaking photos in her mind's eye, but never stop to pull out her camera. She was so pressed by the next thing on her schedule that she completely missed "the moment". Some moments, once missed can never be regained. Flowers die. Cotton is picked. Photography opportunities vanish. 

A few weeks ago, Angie began to make some changes. She says, " I decided to give up the hamster wheel I was running on in my brain and begin to appreciate the beauty around me. I decided to live in the moment."  She has not only opened her eyes to the beauty around her, she has also opened her camera case and her car door. She has stopped on the side of the road to capture an eye-catching image. She has hiked through woods and walked in fields, not only enjoying nature along the way, but also recording it on film. The results are astonishing. 

Angie very tentatively brought her framed photographs into the town hall after the board meeting tonight. What a treat! We were stunned by how lovely her work is. I bought the photograph of a butterfly resting on a daisy as soon as I saw it. The colors were amazing and it was the happiest and most peaceful photograph I've ever seen. It turned out that today was the first day of her new business (Angela Barmer Photography - she has a Facebook page ) and I was her first customer!  How cool is that?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "In the whole of world history there is always only one really significant hour - the present."  He and Angie have it right. The only moment we can affect is now. It's where we are. It should also be where we live. 

My challenge for you tonight is to make an effort this week to slow down, live in the moment, and enjoy now. 

Happy thanksgiving. 

The Flabbergasted Heart, part 2

And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. (Luke 4:31, 32 NASB)

As I was reading Luke 4 again this morning, I noticed something I had missed. The people in Capernaum had gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath, just like always. The readers had read and the pray-ers had prayed, just like always. The one designated to teach taught just like always. What wasn't  "just like always" was that the teacher that day was Jesus. He spoke as if He had a clear word from God. Of course, that was because He IS God. When He taught, He spoke with such authority and clarity that it is no wonder the people in Capernaum were flabbergasted. What is surprising is that the people in Nazareth were not. 

There were two responses to the Messiah and His authority but only one led to eternal life. Today, pray that God will send someone with a clear understanding of Scripture to our loved ones and that they will share truth with the clarity that comes from living truth. Pray that our loved ones will respond with the understand and acceptance that leads to eternal life. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Unexpectedly Grateful Heart, part 3

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know it seems like I'm early with that greeting, but this grateful heart project is changing my perspective on Thanksgiving a bit. Today, the schedule was super long, and I started the day concerned about my ability to stay on time with that many patients. It worked out perfectly, though, and it seemed like I had plenty of time with everyone, but somehow was still ahead of schedule off and on throughout the day. It helped that someone had scheduled me a two-hour lunch break, of course, but we won't discuss that! Being on time is always cause for rejoicing, so many thanks went up because of it. 

One of my patients had had a wound for a very long time, but it was finally healed today. What a celebration we had! There were hugs all around, clapping and cheering! Everyone was thrilled. Of course, this too was cause for rejoicing, and many thanks went up because of it. 

The celebration, however, made me wonder about something. Why don't we celebrate like that when spiritual wounds are healed? How wonderful it is when someone finally relinquishes anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, shame, or any other wound that, allowed to fester, has become an opportunity for sin!  If the angels in heaven are rejoicing over such victory, shouldn't we?  Before we get back to thanksgiving in unexpected places, I want to tell you that, if you have a spiritual wound that gets healed, let me know.  I will happily rejoice with you! I LOVE celebrating! 

When I arrived home, the gate in front of my house was closed. I, of course, immediately thought the cows were out. Looking back, that was a truly dumb assumption, but I was dreading looking for cows in the pitch black dark. It turned out that Bill The Magnificent (who helps me on my farm ) had just forgotten to open it after putting hay out. All was well and I was worried for nothing, but I was rejoicing and thanking God anyway. I have spent more than enough time hunting animals in the dark over the last 24 years! 

Thinking I might have to hunt cows made me remember how much I LOVE cows! I can not begin to tell you how much I love having cows. I like having them better in spring, but even in the dark, rainy nights, I still like them. My cows are so nice, too, that I stopped and thanked God for letting me be a cowgirl all these years. He is so nice to me!!  If you think about my cows and how much I like them, feel free to Eat More Beef. 

There is another truly amazing thanksgiving. I fried oysters for the first time ever tonight!! I have almost never fried anything, so my boss had to tell me how to do it. I was able to follow those directions exactly, and my oysters were golden brown with a wonderfully crispy crust. Perfect! More thanksgiving - for a new skill and for a super yummy dinner. 

I have given thanks all day, and the night is still young. More than likely, there will be more opportunities for thanksgiving before bedtime. What about your day? Have you given thanks today, too? I hope so. 

One other thing... I'm giving thanks for YOU! How precious it is to me that you take time to read all my rambling stories. It means more to me than you can imagine. I'm thanking God for sending you my way, but also thanking you for sharing your time with me. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Flabbergasted Heart

And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. (Luke 4:31, 32 NASB)

The word that is translated "amazed" is ekplēssō, which means (according to "1)to cast off by a blow, to drive out
2)commonly, to strike one out of self-possession, to strike with panic, shock, astonish
3)to be struck with amazement, astonished, amazed"

You don't quite get the idea from that very overused word "amazed", but when Jesus taught in  Capernaum, the people responded in a totally different way than in Nazareth. In Capernaum, Jesus's teaching hit them like a blow and left them reeling. It knocked them out of their self-possession  and not only made them think but brought lasting change. 

What a great way to receive the Word! When was the last time you heard the truth of Scripture in such a way that it totally flabbergasted you and left you speechless with the profundity of it? When did you last allow God's Word to bring lasting change in your life?

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will hear God's Word with ekplēssō and that we will be struck to the core of our being with truth that brings lasting change and makes us more like Jesus. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Unexpectedly Grateful Heart part 2

If you saw last night's confession, you know that I've decided to make an effort to have a grateful heart, regardless of the trials I encounter. I had my heart set on getting my new advent book finished and uploaded to Amazon this weekend. It didn't happen. My computer picked this weekend to have a crash party. I will spare you the gory details, but I am STILL downloading the software that I needed to be able to re-download the program that crashed. Disappointed? Yes, I am. Defeated? Discouraged? No, I am not. 

Here's my random, no-order list of thanksgivings for today:
- When I awakened at 6:00 am, it was light outside! This was particularly good because I've started feeding my livestock twice a day again, and I'm taking the morning shift. I've gone to the barn in the dark hundreds of times, but I still prefer going in the light. 
- it was a chilly morning, so I slipped into my decade-old Carhartt coveralls, and they still fit!
- I picked up the feed bucket with my right hand!!!! That may not sound like something to get excited about but I shattered a bone in my hand last Christmas and just six months ago I had contractures in my ring and pinkie fingers. Bending it at all is cause for celebration. Having the strength to actually use my hand leaves me deliriously happy!!! Talk about blessings! That is one BIG blessing!
- I lost my new glasses today. I was frantic but finally found them in the leaves on the patio. They weren't broken or scratched! Hooray!
- This morning, my pastor used the very Scripture passage that was my lifeblood more than a decade ago during the worst trial of my life. Everything was going wrong all at once, and this passage in Exodus gave me such hope. When I opened my Bible today, there was a big stain where so many tears had fallen that the ink I'd used to make a note had faded. I could see where the tears had been, but here is the amazing thing. Every tear had dried. He preached a wonderful sermon, but what I kept thinking was how I had tried to do exactly what the verses said (Be still) and God had done exactly what He said He'd do (fight for me). All these years later, every one of those tears are just dried up stains. It was like a little victory celebration right there in the back row. I did a victory dance, but since it is a Baptist church, I just did it in my head. 
- I had asked God for confirmation about something yesterday and it was already there this morning before I finished getting dressed. As I was thanking Him for His answer, I thought about how we have not because we ask not, so I asked God to surprise me somehow today (but to please make it a nice surprise). You are not going to believe it, but three hours later I had the sweetest surprise I've had in a long time. I laughed out loud at how nice our God is to me. 

I could go on and on. My computer is still downloading and my book is still not uploaded, but it was another lovely day.  I had Thanksgiving all day long! 

The heart revealed

and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. (Luke 4:29, 30 NASB)

We saw the angry crowd yesterday, but here we see their anger progressing to murderous rage. What is amazing to me is that they were in church when their anger progressed to murderous rage!! You may remember that the synagogue was a local gathering place where the men met to pray corporately and study the Scripture. It's hard to imagine taking that step toward murder while praying or studying Scripture, but that's how it happened. They clearly didn't have their minds focused on the business at hand!

The men chased Jesus out of the city and to the edge of a hill, planning to shove Him down. With all the pushing and shoving, Jesus managed to quietly move through their midst and walk away. He was right from the beginning. No miracles would happen in Nazareth.

The people in the synagogue looked like they belonged there. They had done everything that outwardly indicated they were godly. They were in the synagogue at the appropriate time and they participated in prayer and studying the Scripture just as if they meant it. Their hearts, however, were not fixed on God at all. When Jesus confronted them, they quickly revealed their hearts that were full of pride, greed, anger, and murder. Yuck. What an ungodly mess!

The question for us is what would our hearts reveal if Jesus confronted us in church today? Are our hearts focused on Christ or our own desires? Do we listen to the Scripture and teaching or just sit quietly while we compose to-do lists in our heads?

Pray today that we and our loved ones would see our hearts the way Jesus sees them and that it would trigger a desire to change.