Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Brotherly Welcome

His shirt was seldom buttoned and didn't always cover his expanding belly.  For some unexplained reason, his face was often cherry red, and more of his teeth were missing than remained.

I was never sure why, but he always called me "Sister."  Never "Dr. Hollis" or even "Leanna."  Just Sister.  He was so gruff that I was afraid of him at first.  He never believed a thing I told him, and he argued with every instruction I gave.  I was never sure why he came to see me in the first place, unless it was for the free samples.

I came to like him pretty well, but I sure never thought I was his "sister."  More often than not, he smelled like stale beer.  I wasn't sure he could read, and, as far as I knew, he had never held a job.

When my farm manager got sick, I was up to my knees in manure, struggling to do all the work myself - just to prove I could.  Late one afternoon, my gruff patient showed up in an ancient, rattling green truck.  "I come to put out a bale of hay for ya'."  I headed to the barn on foot, but he stopped me.  "Ain't no sense in walking.  Hop in, you can ride with me.  I just vacuumed it out this mornin'."  I hesitated briefly, then opened the door, moved a variety of lids and tools, and climbed inside.

Once at the barn, he rejected my late-model Ford tractor in favor of a 40-year-old Massey Ferguson relic.  He hopped on board, cranked it up, and headed out.  "I'll be right back," he said.  I watched from the horse barn as he drove to the hay barn, struggled to load a big bale, and headed back.  Several times it looked as if he would mire down in the mud, but each time he managed to guide the old tractor through the bog.

As I watched, I thought about how kind it was for him to give up nearly two hours of his day and wade through mud to put out hay for someone he didn't know well.  That Still Small Voice whispered in my heart, "Almost like family, isn't it?"  Instantly, I was ashamed of all those times I had resented being called "Sister."  The truth was that I had thought I was better than he was.  I was too good even to be his sister in Christ, yet he was wading through mud and manure for me.  It looked like he had a better understanding of God's family than I did.

He didn't slow down once the bale was in place; instead, he headed straight to his truck.  As he opened the door and climbed inside, he called back, "Hey, Sister, you need me, you know where to find me. You better call me, you hear?"

"I will," I said, smiling as I waved goodbye to my newfound brother.

My heart changed that day.  I became more genuine in my concern for those different from me - more willing to reach out and more willing to welcome in.

How do you see people in the body of Christ who are different from you?  Do they look like brothers and sisters to you, or something less than family?  Are you anything like I was:  friendly on the outside but condescending on the inside?

Take a look at your heart.  Ask Jesus to make your heart more like His, especially toward those who are different from you.  You may find that your "family" begins to grow in the most unexpected ways.

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This article first appeared in Physician magazine, July/August 2004

The Double Portion (Luke 7:42,43)

...When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." (Luke 7:42, 43 NASB)

We are stepping back a verse or two to catch a lovely truth we missed. Jesus, as you know, told Simon the story of two debtors who were forgiven as an introduction to a defense of the woman with the alabaster vial. "Which one will love more?" He asked. Simon knew it was the one forgiven more. 

The unstated implication was that the woman, who was know by reputation as a sinner, loved more because she was forgiven more. Once again, we see the principle of greatest and least in action. When you think about it, the most notorious sinner can end up as the one who loves our Lord with the most extravagant depth, simply because they KNOW the depth of forgiveness they have received. The one least deserving of forgiveness, the woman, became the one with the greatest love! 

Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion... (Isaiah 61:7 NASB)

This verse gives us a glimpse of something else the woman received. Along with the forgiveness, acceptance, and vindication poured out on her that night, Jesus also replaced her shame and humiliation with joy. This was not just a little happiness, this was "shouting time" joy. Isaiah describes it as a "double portion". 

The greatest love and a double portion of joy!  Doesn't that make you want to repent all over again? Our Christ does not respond to repentant sinners with anger and recrimination. He responds with forgiveness, healing, and joy, and it's more than enough reason to embrace the cross and cling to Jesus. 

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will bring our brokenness and sin to Christ and exchange it for the forgiveness, love and joy only He can give. 
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Link to last night's post:  http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/friday-night-with-friends-front-porch.html





Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Night with Friends: Front Porch Time by David Turner

David Turner is our guest writer tonight. He has recently been reminiscing about his childhood and the interaction between him and the adults in his family. A simpler time, or perhaps a better priority time, those adults spent time with David, teaching truth in a variety of forms that he has never forgotten. He shares a sweet front-porch vignette with us tonight. Enjoy! (Don't forget to encourage him!) 

I think, when I first began to write done my memories of life in Saltillo, MS as a little boy, it was more of an exercise to remind me of a time in my life when I really enjoyed life. Saltillo offered to me an opportunity to experience life in a way that has slowly, but surely, fallen by the wayside.
One such memory that will always be very fresh in my mind is what often occurred in the evenings at my grandparents home in Saltilllo. After a long day’s work in Tupelo, and after she had finished with her tasks around the house, my Aunt, Bertie Turner, and I would sit on the front porch. Often we were joined by my Grandmother, Pearl, and one or more of my cousins. 

Back in the 1950s there were not as many lights as there are now and the stars shined much, much brighter. Aunt Bertie must have been one of the smartest people I know. She knew all the constellations by name and could point them out in the sky. She knew the stories behind each one and very often it became a very interesting science class as she talked about them.  Every once in a while she would nudge me in the side and ask “Did you see that?” She was asking if I had seen the shooting star streak across the sky. There were a lot of different stories behind a shooting (falling) star but she would always tell me that sometimes a star had to fall in order for a new star to take its place.
Most of the time I would fall asleep on the front porch but somehow I would always wake up in my bed. Those were the days of my life that I would like to recover. Saltillo was the center of my universe in the 1950s and, through the magical trips down memory lane, it has reemerged as the most important place in the world to me.

The Forgiven Woman (Luke 7:37,39,48)

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume...

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner."...

Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." (Luke 7:37, 39, 48 NASB)

The three selected verses for today's consideration leave out a considerable amount of the story. If you've been following along, you will remember that the woman found the object of her searching, Jesus, seated at the table with Simon and the other guests. She knelt at His feet, overcome with emotion, weeping a river of tears on His feet, drying them with her hair. That vial of perfume was used as a sweet smelling offering to anoint His feet. Her gift of worship suffused the room with a sweet-smelling fragrance that lingered long after she was gone. 

She came to the feet of Jesus as a sinner, yet the fragrance of her worship filled the room. 

Simon knew her sin, and only saw her in terms of that sin. He saw nothing more, and he clearly missed the lovely aroma wafting around him. It was the aroma of a holy love, the aroma of a sinner redeemed by mercy and restored by grace. It was the very aroma you and I can have when we worship Christ with hearts overflowing with gratitude for His amazing grace. 

Jesus knew her sins, too. He knew what He would soon do to purchase her redemption, what He was already doing. Knowing, He loved her and forgave her. In a gift of divine insight, He publicly forgave her sins in the hearing of all those in the room. Lest this seem trivial, remember that she had lived a publicly sinful life. She was known by her sin. With one five-word sentence, Jesus changed her from "the sinner woman" to "the forgiven woman".  

She gave Jesus a lovely gift of worship and love. What Jesus gave her in return was the gift of eternity. 

Dear ones, how easy it is to be a Simon, following the form of religion without the heart!  Following the form of religion, however, is not discipleship. Discipleship requires the repentance and humility to worship at His feet wherever our following leads us. 

Pray today for hearts willing to embrace the humility, repentance, and obedience of true discipleship, not only for ourselves but also for those we love. 
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Last night's link: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/family-surprise.html

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Family Surprise

The ping on my phone indicated an incoming email. That's not usually a momentous occasion, and it was in the inbox a bit before it was opened. If I had known the sweet surprise that ping was announcing, I'd have opened my inbox the minute it sounded! The subject read, "is this". Is this what? There was no attachment. The text said, "Is this you, your mama, and Cookie?"  My cousin, Terry Lee, was trying to identify the people in an old family video. 

As the attachment finally opened, there was a picture of a little family from fifty years ago.  

This single still frame from an old home movie captured the only picture I have ever seen of my family together. The one and only picture with my daddy. As the photo was loading, I realized all four of us were in the picture and I cried out loud, "It's my daddy!" I was thrilled. I am thrilled. 

Just a few short years after the video was made, my parents divorced, and I rarely ever saw him again, but I loved him, and I was his "Princess".  I realize that the photo speaks volumes about the dynamics of my family, but those issues healed long ago. 

Somehow, that blue sky and those clouds and my daddy all dressed up for church was a reminder that gone does not mean forgotten, and deceased does not mean disposed. One day, I will see him again, and it will be a little like going to church together again, only much, much better. 


Forgiven much and loving much (Luke 7:47)

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:47 NASB)

Jesus was having dinner with Simon, a Pharisee who was well versed in Scripture but perhaps not so well versed in hospitality. It may have been, however, more a matter of not caring than of not knowing. Jesus had arrived for the dinner as requested. Simon had not greeted him with a kiss, offered him water to wash his feet, or used oil to annointed his head, all of which were expected behavior for a host toward his honored guest. They were in the midst of the meal when a. "woman with a past" barged in, went straight to Jesus, and knelt at His feet. Weeping, she washed his feet with her tears, kissed them, and poured perfume over them. 

Jesus had not missed anything happening in the room. While the woman was worshipping at His feet, Simon was fuming across the table and thinking about all the mistakes in her past. Jesus confronted Simon with a little story about two debtors who were forgiven. Simon, a little grudgingly, agreed that the one forgiven more would love more. 

Jesus then asked a surprising question. "Simon, do you see this woman?" He then began to describe to Simon how He saw her and her actions, and contrasted that with how He saw Simon's actions. Simon looked terrible in comparison to the woman! 

Coming to today's passage, we see that Jesus rebuked Simon in no uncertain terms. "Her sins, Simon, were many but they are forgiven because she loved so much, BUT the one who is forgiven little, loves little." There was no doubt that the "one who is forgiven little" meant Simon. In his own eyes, he felt that his sin was considerably less than the woman's. As a result, he felt less in need of forgiveness. 

Simon had the terrible problem of not recognizing his own sin. Since he did not "see" his sin, he felt less in need of the forgiveness of God, as well as less love toward God. How tragic! Simon had spent a lifetime as a religious expert (Pharisee). He knew so much about religion, and so little about God! 

In a way, we all have the same problem Simon had. It is much easier to accumulate a storehouse of religious facts and opinions rather than cultivate an active relationship with Almighty God. It is our human tendency to know about God rather than to actually know Him. The danger comes when we substitute that knowledge for relationship and are satisfied with the substitution.  

Are you, like Simon, satisfied with knowing about God or have you, like the woman, found your longing satisfied at the feet of Jesus?  

Pray today that we and our loved ones would hunger for an authentic, vibrant relationship with Christ, see our failings and need for flegiveness, and find fulfillment at the feet of Jesus. 
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Link for last night's post is here: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/ttglc-soup.html

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TTGLC Soup

The Tuesday-Thursday Gourmet Lunch Club was tossing ideas about in a vain attempt to choose a lunch menu for Thursday. It was raining, cold, and miserable outside. "Let's have something wonderful," one of us said. "Hamburgers on the grill," was another idea. Finally, one of us said, "I'll tell you what I want. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches! Yum!" The soup and sandwich idea seemed to lead the vote. 

Late this afternoon, we began to discuss tomorrow's menu again. My boss wanted his wife's tomato soup. "She uses baking soda in it. It's her secret ingredient," he assured me. The only problem was that she was out of town and he didn't have the recipe. Having learned the fine art of googling from my son, I searched for the recipe and was stunned to find a tomato soup with baking soda recipe. Since I had the recipe, I was elected to make the soup, and had every intention of following the recipe. The dogs were racing in circles around the kitchen, though, and I was very distracted. The soup was wonderful, but the recipe was definitely cobbled together (and super easy).  I thought you might enjoy it.  

TTGLC tomato soup

4 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (12 oz) tomato paste
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1-2 tbsp dried basil (to taste)
3 cups milk
Pinch baking soda
Salt and pepper to taste 
Heavy cream for drizzling

Sautée the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft, then add tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes (longer for richer flavor and thicker soup) then purée in blender, in batches if needed. Return to pot and heat. Sprinkle the baking soda over a few spoonfuls of milk to dissolve, then add this and the remainder of the milk to the soup. Bring to a nice simmer and heat thoroughly. Ladle into bowls, add salt and pepper as desired, and garnish with a drizzle of heavy cream. 

My mama loved creamy tomato soup, especially with grilled cheese sandwiches. Having to give up those rich cans of Campbell's when she was diagnosed with Celiac disease and switched to a gluten-free diet was one of her hardest sacrifices. (Well, giving up Twinkies and Ding Dongs was pretty tough, too.). As I sampled the soup tonight, I wished that I'd had this baking soda soup recipe a few years ago. She would have loved it!  Since I didn't, I'm enjoying it now in memory of my mama. 

When you try this recipe, I hope you think about my mama, too. She loved the beach, MSU Bulldogs, and creamy tomato soup! Yum! 

Do you see this woman? (Luke 7:44)


Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (Luke 7:44 NASB)

When Jesus turned to Simon with "something to say", He asked him a question that might have seemed silly to Simon. "Do you see this woman?" He said. Of course Simon saw the woman! He had just been pondering her wicked past. He saw her, and all the wrong things she had ever done. He saw her, for sure!

Jesus had seen the woman, too. When Jesus began to describe what He had seen, it sounded vastly different than what Simon had seen. It also sounded amazingly better! Simon saw the past. Only the past. Jesus saw the past, too, as well as the havoc the past had created, but He also saw the fresh start she was making. He saw her love for her Lord and the humility and generosity of spirit she had displayed. With the past and the present, He had a glimpse of her future and the woman of faith she would become. His view of this woman brought great compassion and a willingness to invest Himself in her life. 

We see people every day who are struggling and in need of compassion and assistance. Our willingness to be involved in their lives will be dependent, in large measure, upon how we "see" them. Do we see them with "Simon eyes", focusing on their mistakes and their past failures? Do we see them with the eyes of Christ, focusing on the person they are now and all they might become? Being the hands and feet of Christ begins with having the eyes of Christ. 

Do you have the eyes of Christ toward those less fortunate? Do you have the eyes of Christ toward those who have filled their lives with one mistake after another? The woman with the alabaster vial had filled her life with mistakes, but as she wept at the feet of Jesus, repentant and broken, those mistakes were washed away and a new life began. 

Pray today to see those around us (especially those we love most) with the eyes of Christ. Pray, too, that those with mistake-laden lives will have the past washed away at the feet of Jesus, and will rise to become the men and women of God they were created to be. 
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Click here for last might's post:
http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/life-on-farm-greenhouse-compound.html

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life on the Farm: the Greenhouse Compound


After a tortured few months of greenhouse construction, my nephew helped me finish the parts that were too high for me, and I happily moved into my greenhouse. I had visions of filling it with marvelous plants, sprouting all kinda of seeds on shelves, and hanging plants with luxuriant vines dangling. It was going to be a mini-jungle!  I started moving plants inside. 

Unfortunately, I forgot about Mississippi summers. Late one Friday afternoon, I moved a big container garden filled with spinach and Romaine lettuce into the greenhouse, along with quite a few other plant-filled pots. By Saturday afternoon, the greens were ready for life support. Moving them back outside and seriously dousing them with water managed to resuscitate them, so I hauled all the others back outside, as well. 

Not to be deterred, I started filling old pots with seedlings, sets, and cuttings and lining them up along the outside of the greenhouse.  The lawn chairs from the barn came next, and Maggie found a new favorite spot. Bill the Magnificent built a fence around my space to keep the cows and horses out, built a gate, and moved the compost tumbler (now so jam-packed that it barely turns). Before I knew it, the Greenhouse Compound was a reality!

After two decades of growing almost all my food, I had taken a break from vegetable gardening for several years. This was going to be my comeback year, but the thought of tilling, hoeing, and weeding was enough to send me to the produce stand instead. The idea of a raised bed garden was appealing, and I had prayed about it quite a bit, but nothing seemed right. 

Finally, my friend Debbie Hayden posted pictures on Facebook of her raised bed, along with photos of the process of preparation. It was exactly what I had wanted, and looked like an answered prayer.  On Saturday, I headed to the feed store (where farmers get everything) for the concrete blocks. In just a few hours, my raised bed was done. The next day, I stopped by a "box store" for garden soil, found that it was on sale, and headed home with all I needed. Before I knew it, the bed was full of soil, plants were in, and seeds were planted. 


The wonderful thing about the raised bed is the limitation of the block walls. The tendency to extravagant planting and excessive rows is completely squelched by those marvelous concrete blocks. Someone saw my raised bed after it was finished and commented, "That's a mighty small garden.  You gonna do some more of those?"  I had wondered that myself, but as soon as the question was asked, I realized that this little garden is enough. 

I may not be able to raise enough to eat all winter, but the idea is to provide my daily bread (well, really my daily vegetables), not take the place of the grocery store altogether. This year, I want to grow enough, without waste. This goal is born out of a revelation that my tendency toward extravagance, even in good things like vegetable gardens, leads to waste of the time and resources God has entrusted to me. This little raised garden is a step in a different direction, and I'm very excited about it. 

So far, I've had just enough lettuce, just enough spinach, just enough kale. Before long, as God continues to answer my prayers for daily bread (ahem, daily vegetables), I should have just enough squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and watermelon. Yum yum! I can't wait! 

More pictures to follow as the garden grows. 


Motivation

Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:43-47 NASB)

Jesus had just told Simon the story of the two debtors who were forgiven their debt. "Which one will love more?" He asked. Today, we begin to look at Jesus's reply to Simon, who had answered "The one forgiven more."  

What Jesus said to Simon must have been hard to hear. Simon considered himself much better than the woman, who was well known as a sinner. Jesus drew a sharp contrast between Simon and the woman that did not support Simon's opinion of himself at all. 

He began by telling Simon what he had gotten right. The one forgiven more will love more. He then moved to what Simon had not gotten right. Simon apparently was proud that he had invited Jesus to his house, and was not at all happy about the woman crashing his party. He had invited Jesus, but he had not done any of the things that would have been usual for a host with an honored guest. He had not greeted Jesus with a welcoming kiss, given Him water to wash his feet with after a dusty walk, or put oil on his head. The woman, however, had done all that with sincerity, heartfelt love, and tender emotion. 

Jesus must have surprised Simon when he said,  "For this reason I say to you, her sins are forgiven." Simon was a Pharisee. He obeyed the law down to the most obscure detail. If anyone's sins were forgiven, it should have been his, or so he thought. Jesus was telling Simon that, though she had a mountain of sin in need of forgiveness, her love was so great that it counted for more than all the sacrifices Simon had given out of a sense of duty. 

Motivation. Jesus clearly took it seriously and He indicated here that wrong motivation can render all the rule-following of less consequence than that motivated by love for Christ. 

What motivates our actions and obedience? Appearances or love for Christ?

Pray today that we and our loved ones will have the kind of love that comes from an understanding of the great gift of our forgiveness and brings forth actions filled with compassion and tenderness
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Link to last night's post: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-problem-of-stealing.html

Monday, June 9, 2014

The problem of Stealing

I know this is preaching to the choir but I am totally irate about looting and thievery, especially where it concerns tornado victims! It is unconscionable that someone would go into the damaged homes of traumatized people and steal from them. What about "Thou shalt not steal" do they not understand?

This may be too much sugar for a nickel (that's what my mama would say), but I've been reviewing Scripture. I did a search for all the references using the word "steal" and found that there are more than enough for one familiar with Scripture to get the idea. In addition to the well know "Thou shalt not" in Exodus 20, there are some intriguing passages dealing with thievery. I thought you might find them interesting, too.

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. "If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. (Exodus 22:1-4 NASB)

"Men do not despise a thief if he steals To satisfy himself when he is hungry; But when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; He must give all the substance of his house." (Proverbs 6:30, 31 NASB)

"He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need." (Ephesians 4:28 NASB)

Now, this last passage is especially interesting, because t is sandwiched between two very unexpected topics. 
"BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." (Ephesians 4:26, 27 NASB)

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29 NASB)

Did you catch that? Anger, stealing, and gossip are all lumped together in one passage. Perhaps we might need to look a little closer. Anger that leads to bitterness is a kind of stealing because it not only fractures relationships but also steals joy, peace, and the communion of friends. Unwholesome words could include gossip, which is certainly a stealing of reputation. Vulgar language is also unwholesome and can steal your own reputation.

This stealing business is more pervasive than I realized. Perhaps we should just go back to Exodus. Don't steal. 

Don't steal stuff.  Don't steal relationships. Don't steal reputations. 

Just don't do it. 

Seeing and Doing (Luke 7:41-43)

"A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." (Luke 7:41-43 NASB)

Simon was in a hard spot. He had just been thinking about the weeping woman at Jesus's feet and considering what a sinful woman she was.  Before he knew it, Jesus was telling a story about debtors being forgiven. It was like Jesus had read his mind! You can be sure that this very bright Pharisee could tell exactly where Jesus was headed with his story. You can also be sure he was looking for a way out. He wanted an interesting dinner guest, not a life-changing interaction around the dinner table!

Simon gave Jesus a crafty answer to the question of which debtor loved more. "I suppose the one with the bigger debt," he said. This word suppose comes from the root word lambanō.  According to Vine's Expository Ductionary, it can be translated as receiving something "without necessarily signifying a favorable reception". It is a way of saying, "I see what you are saying, but I'm not accepting it for myself." Simon thought he was better than the woman, and he had no intention of seeing things a batter way. 

We respond to Jesus with "suppose" sometimes, too, don't we? We hear "love your neighbor" and "suppose" it means the person we like least of all, but towards whom we have no intention of showing love. We hear Jesus say "forgive" and "suppose" it means the one who has hurt us so terribly, but we don't really want to forgive, do we?  It's much easier to "suppose" than to allow Him to change our hearts. It is easier, but it is not better. 

In what areas are you saying "I suppose" to our Lord?  Why not saying, "Change me, Lord" instead?  

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will be willing to not only see things God's way but also do things His way. 
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Link to last night's post:
http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/maggie-mamie-and-answered-prayer.html


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maggie, Mamie, and Answered Prayer



For those who don't know, Maggie the Wonder Dog is my five year old Shih Tzu, and is just wonderful. She is smart as a whip, and can do everything from dancing like a ballerina to herding cattle.  She's spunky and fun.

A few months ago, I was running errands when my long pondered decision to purchase a second dog suddenly led me to the flea market. In less than fifteen minutes, I had a two pound Shih Tzu puppy named Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy, and was headed home. 

Admittedly, I did not consider the implications of bringing an energetic puppy into the domain of an adult, and very feisty, dog. I wish I had. Maggie was furious with me. In her defense, I did go in the house with the puppy, proclaiming that I had a surprise and calling Maggie to see. She expected beef jerky and found a rival. 

To say Maggie was unhappy is a vast understatement. At one point, I thought she would kill the puppy. Those first few weeks were horrible. My home, usually a peaceful haven, became a battle ground, and I began to reconsider my decision. Maybe I needed to find Mamie a new home to keep her safe. Maybe Maggie needed a dog whisperer. I was desperate. 

As with other problems, I made this one a matter of considerable prayer. I recruited people to help me pray, and I watched to see God at work. It took a while, and I began to wonder what God was teaching me. 

A friend of mine once said that, in dire situations, God often seems to move slowly, all the time working in us rather than our circumstances. She said that, when He finally moves, it seems abrupt and unexpected, but looking back you can see a point where things began to improve and that they were steadily better from there. 

I've found that to be true in several situations, and no less in this one. A few weeks ago, my neighbor wanted to take the dogs for a walk. He had just returned from walking Maggie and was putting the leash on Mamie. Somehow, he fumbled and Mamie yelped. He didn't hurt her, but it sounded briefly like she was in pain. Maggie did not hesitate a second. She growled and jumped to Mamie's defense, barking at my neighbor.  Aggression in a dog is not usually a good thing, but it was the first inkling I had that Maggie and Mamie might become friends. 

Looking back, things gradually (and very slowly) improved. When Mamie is pesty (pretty often), Maggie growls and she backs down. They've begun to play together. Recently, they've begun to share my lap as well. Tonight, I was cleaning the kitchen and looked around for the dogs. I found them peacefully snuggled together on Maggie's dog bed. 
It was a beautifully answered prayer. 

Perhaps you have been waiting for God to move, and perhaps you are waiting for an answer considerably more important than grouchy dogs. I can't tell you how it will look or when it will come, but I can say with certainty that God hears and will respond to your prayer. It may not look like you expected, but He will move.

Take heart and keep praying, dear ones. Your answer is on the way. 

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16 NASB)

Which loves more? (Luke 7:41-42)



"A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" (Luke 7:41, 42 NASB)

Simon, a respected Pharisee and religious leader in his village, watched the "woman who was a sinner" and her extravagant outpouring of love and generosity. He knew who she was and what she had done, and he silently condemned her. It was his house and she was not invited. He would never invite "her kind" into his home! If Jesus really were a prophet sent by God, he would know what kind of person she was, he thought, and surely he would not allow this scandalous display! Simon's thoughts were full of venom towards the woman and her Lord. 

Jesus knew his spiteful thoughts and answered them with a little story. "Simon," He said, "two people owed a debt. One owed a little, and the other owed a lot.  In fact, the second person owed ten times as much as the first one, but neither could repay their debt. In an unbelievable act of generosity, the moneylender forgave them both.  Which person will be more grateful? Which will love him more?"

Poor Simon. He was a really smart man, and he could see that there was no way he was getting out of this with his prejudice and arrogance intact. That was exactly what Jesus had in mind. 

When Jesus looked at Simon and the woman with her alabaster vial, He saw two sinners. One had piled up sin with her body, but one was continuing to pile up sin with his mind and heart. They were both sinners in need of mercy, just like us. 

To God, Simon's sin was just as scandalous as the woman's. To God, our sin and that of our loved ones is equally scandalous, equally heinous. We all have a debt we cannot repay, and we are all dependent upon the mercy of God. Remember that sin always requires a sacrificial payment to bring forgiveness. Only Jesus could pay that once and for all. It is mercy, not giving us the punishment that we deserve for our debt, that erases the balance and removes our guilt. Mercy. What a beautiful word! 

Today, as we pray for our loved ones, remember that the same mercy, the same terrible and severe mercy, was required to remove our sin as well as the most heinous sinner's. We all desperately need mercy. It is the one who both receives the most mercy and recognizes it who loves the most. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones would recognize our sinfulness and the great mercy we require.  Pray, too, that we would love our Lord in like measure, extravagantly and without limit. 

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Link to last might's post: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-sneaky-serpent.html
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