Saturday, March 5, 2016

#writerslife and the Power of Words

Last night was great fun. I attended the library fundraiser, A Novel Affair, as a guest of my friend, Sadie Buchanan. The table of people she had assembled was a perfect mix of long-time friends and new. We talked non-stop, catching up on each other's lives.

From the time I entered the room, people I hadn't seen in ages asked what I'm doing now. 

"Writing," was my answer every time. 

"I'd heard that," several people said, a dubious expression on their faces.

I tried hard not to laugh. Many years ago, I considered trying to be a writer. The only writer I could imagine was Ernest Hemingway. His didn't seem like a life I wanted to emulate. 

I wondered how they envisioned my life.

"I couldn't come up with the first sentence? Do you like writing?" 

"For sure. I get up at 4:00 in the morning to be sure I can write uninterrupted. It's my favorite." 

My questioner just shook her head.

There's a verse that sums up how I feel about being a writer.

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
Psalm 45:1 nasb

The next verse says "Grace is poured through Thy lips..." That's what I want my writing to be. Grace from God, poured through His lips to my heart, spilling out my pen and onto the page.

If I don't achieve that every time, the fault is mine alone.

When it happens, though, it's pure ecstasy, and the joy of it sustains me until the next time.

Some people take delight in a well-hammered nail. Some in an accurate diagnosis or an A1c under perfect control. I like those, too, but I take delight in a well-turned phrase.

Earlier this week, one character talked to another about the peace he'd found when he'd given God his grief and guilt. 

"You can’t measure it or see it, but when peace fills your heart, you know it’s there."

Yesterday, another character told about the last time she was arrested and the peace she'd found in an unlikely place. 

"For the first time, I understood the price of my sin and I wanted to be free of it. I wept a river of tears in that jail cell, but the most profound peace I’d ever known enveloped me and, sitting on a rough cot in a dark, lonely jail cell, I was forgiven and redeemed." 

Broken people find wholeness in Christ. Tormented people find the peace that passes all understanding.

It's the story of my life. It's the story of my characters. 

One day, I hope, these stories will make as much of a difference as the perfectly controlled blood pressure and the elegantly lowered glucose that used to be my goal. 

If grace spills onto the pages, the difference they make might even be more. 

Words matter, whether we're full-time writers or not. Let's be sure our words spill grace onto all we meet.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Honoring Our Heroes

A Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, Jr., was awarded the Medal of Honor recently for his participation in the rescue of an American being held hostage in Afghanistan. He entered the Navy when he was only 19 years old. At 33, he charged into combat against men wielding AK-47's to rescue an American physician who had been abducted by the Taliban.

Byers entered a combat zone, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with armed Taliban members, found the hostage, and covered the doctor with his own body to save him during the battle that ensued.

The rescue was in December, 2012. More than three years later, Chief Byers received the highest military honor for his heroism.

I wept when I read the story of his heroic actions, and I'm thrilled that he was honored in such a significant way. I wondered why it took us so long to recognize him until I read the story of Private Henry Johnson, who, while wounded and armed only with a knife, held off a raiding party of 12 German soldiers and managed to rescue his fellow soldier who being taken prisoner by the Germans. He was 21 years old.

Private Johnson's heroic deeds were performed in 1918. Nearly a century later, we finally honored him with the Medal of Honor. I don't know why his honor was delayed, but, on behalf of our country, I apologize to him and his family. 

There's something wrong with our society when we celebrate the sin of so-called celebrities, yet wait a century to celebrate the heroism of young men willing to die for us. 

When a man willingly offers his life for another, it matters. 

It behooves us to acknowledge it. To appreciate it.

We don't take that kind of sacrifice seriously enough. If we did, we wouldn't wait one hundred years to say thank you. We wouldn't wait three years to say thank you. We'd take care of our veterans and honor them for their sacrifice on our behalf.

An even greater sacrifice has been made on our behalf, and I fear we don't take that sacrifice seriously enough, either. 

God's only Son wrapped Himself in flesh, dwelt among us, took our sin and died for us, then rose again. It was the ultimate sacrifice and we have the opportunity to express our gratitude every day. We honor Him by the way we choose to live. 

I look at my life and have to wonder how well I say thank you to Jesus for His sacrifice. I am grateful. Deeply so. 

Today, let's choose to live in such a way that those around us can see our gratitude and recognize the honor we give Him.

Heroes deserve our thanks, and none more so than the Lord Jesus Himself. 

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." 
John 15:13 nasb

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

#ChiefEdwardByers #PrivateHenryJohnson #medalofhonor #laydownhislifeforhisfriends #heroes #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Grumbling Blogger Repents

I had signed up to help with a project at church. I didn't have a direction from God. I didn't feel called.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to help, but it seemed there was a need I could meet. 

My first meeting was last night, and, from the beginning, I wanted to quit. There was nothing wrong with the project, the project leader, or the project participants. People were eager to please God with the project, and everyone was trying hard to do a good job, but it's not an easy project.

It was harder than I thought it would be. It wasn't what I had expected. It would take more time than I wanted to give. 

I'm ashamed to admit this, but after writing about the perils of grumbling yesterday, I found myself grumbling up a storm last night. 

You name it, I grumbled about it. I wanted to quit, and spoke my intention to the person sitting next to me. "You've only been here thirty minutes. Give it a little time. It won't always be hard. You'll like this." I smiled and pressed on, but I doubted I would ever like it. 

Very few of my grumbles were out loud, but God heard every single one

My friend who sat next to me heard a little of my grumbling.  "I'm gonna pray for you," she told me. This morning, her prayers have already been answered.

As I was driving home, I remembered my blog post from yesterday and thought, "I've joined in with the rabble." I repented all the way home and have continued to repent this morning.  

When it was time to start the blog for today, I was wordless and praying for something that would be helpful. After flipping back through more than 1,300 previous blog posts, I found one of the "least read" posts from 2013. It was about the importance of words and based on the preaching of John the Baptizer. Exactly what I needed to read.

"So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people." (Luke 3:18 NASB)

The Message paraphrases that verse this way: "There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them." The Message (Luke 3:18 MSG)

When John preached, he spoke words that strengthened the people and put heart in them. 

"He helped them find their way through the early days of this remarkably personal faith they had embraced. John spoke with words that they could remember, that they could hold to and use during the difficult days." (LH, 2013)

I read my own words, written more than two years ago, and was filled with sorrow. My words (spoken and unspoken) had not been exhortations that strengthened those around me or put heart into my fellow servants. They had been grumblings that only served to discourage the ones sitting next to me.

I'm so sorry for grumbling.

This morning, I've listened to the rolling thunder and repented. The project is one that will glorify God and give Him great pleasure, but not if I undertake it with a grumbly heart. 

I've decided to embrace it. With a heart of joy and love for the One who first loved me. God loves a cheerful giver, and I'm committing myself to giving this gift of service, time, and talent with a cheerful heart. Even if it's hard and takes a lot more time than I  wanted to give.

If you have a tendency toward grumbling, take a hint from me. It's not worth it.

Let's be sure our words, our actions, and our attitudes give strength to those around us and put heart in them. Let's use the words of our mouths (and the meditations of our hearts) to encourage those who serve, not discourage them.

Serve with a cheerful heart. It's the kind of gift God loves best.

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

#thegrumblingbloggerrepents #godlovesacheerfulgiver #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Grumbling With The Rabble and Getting What We Want

Totally surprised. That's how I feel this morning. The Chronological Study Bible reading today was from Numbers 11-13. Four verses in, I found a surprise.

"And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, 'Who will give us meat to eat?'" Numbers 11:4 nasb

Somehow, I had missed the fact that "rabble" traveled along, although Exodus 12:38 makes it clear that they did. How did the rabble become part of the journey? It appears (to me) that, when the children of Israel went to their neighbors and asked for treasures (gold, jewels), the "rabble" saw the exchange. They wanted to be where the riches were, so they joined in.

The word "rabble" in Hebrew is a word that can be translated "a promiscuous assemblage". They weren't godly. They didn't care about obeying God's laws or celebrating His provision. They didn't go by the standards of the Israelites, but they wanted what being a part of the group offered.

Moses let them come along.

Maybe Moses allowed them because he knew the One he followed. He was in no danger of being led astray by the rabble. The children of Israel were.

Problems developed when the rabble began to grumble. Pretty soon, the children of Israel joined in. They whined, wept, and basically threw a fit because God had given them manna, the food from heaven, when they wanted fish, cucumbers, and onions.

For a moment, let's review what God had done. He had taken slaves who had nothing, made them wealthy overnight, provided food from heaven, led them on a prolonged outing, and given them everything they needed. He demonstrated His great power at the Red Sea, and many times afterward, and had gone before them and with them. It was like nothing ever experienced before.

Much like what He's done for this country. 

All the blessings didn't matter to them, because they wanted what they had in Egypt, when they were slaves. 

I like fish, cucumbers, and onions, too, but really.

The fish, cucumbers, and onions did not represent a healthy meal on the Mediterranean diet. They represented the lifestyle of slavery. The life before God liberated them.

I remember my lifestyle of slavery. You couldn't pay me good money to go back to that life. When God set me free, I fixed my eyes on Him. I'm not saying it was easy or instantaneous. I'm saying it was worth it to leave the old ways behind.

If I had kept my eyes fixed on my past, however, it might have been a different thing. If I had rehearsed the transient pleasures of a life of sin, I would have missed the joys of a life of obedience.

The trouble-making-rabble people were allowed to join the group. When that happened, one of two things were sure to follow. The Israelites could have held to their godly standards and helped the rabble to change or they could listen to the rabble and follow along.

They followed the rabble.

We, too, are blessed beyond measure. When we take our eyes off God and His blessings and put them on what we don't have or what we used to have in our lifestyle of slavery, however, we can quickly become just like the rabble. Complaining. Whining. Angry. Rebellious.

The rabble-followers incited God to anger and experienced a discipline they couldn't believe. He gave them what they wanted, and it nearly destroyed them.

I am deeply concerned for our country. We have longed for the pleasures of slavery, and I fear God is going to give us exactly what we've wanted. 

As the people of God, we can follow one of two paths. Obedience or the rabble. Gratitude or grumbling. We can't follow both, so we much choose. Which will it be?

The discipline of a nation rests on our decision. Choose well.

"If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14 nasb 

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

#grumblingwiththerabble #discipline #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sharing the Blessings of God

When the world looks at the disciples of Christ, they should see something recognizably different, and that difference should draw them to our Lord. 

Peace. Grace. Love. The Power of God.

But do they?

When the cloud was lifted from the tabernacle for the first time, and the children of Israel prepared to move to the wilderness of Paran, Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, packed his things to go back home. (Leanna Paraphrase coming up.)

"No, don't go home. Travel with us. If you join us, you can have all the blessings God has promised us," Moses urged him.

"No. I'm going home."

"Please. Don't leave. We need you. I promise you'll have the same blessings God gives us."

"In that case," Hobab decided, "I'll go, too."

When Moses offered him a share in the blessings of God, Hobab knew that Moses wasn't just offering empty words, because he had seen the power of God at work in the people.

He'd seen the manna arrive in the morning. It had sustained him in his daily work. He'd seen the power of God manifested by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. He'd seen the tabernacle built from the provision of God. 

Hobab wasn't drawn by modern music or slick lighting or fancy slides on a screen. Hobab was drawn by the undeniable evidence of God in their midst.

We, too, serve a God of might and power. We should have the undeniable evidence of God in our midst. When people visit our worship services, it should be the presence of God that impresses them, not the ability of the musicians or the words of the preacher. It is God alone to which our visitors should be drawn. They will be, if He is evident in our lives.

Moses' invitation to Hobab was simple. "You can have what I have." It was effective because Hobab saw something in Moses worth having.

Do people see something worth having in us? Do they see the evidence of God at work in our lives? 

We can make a difference in the world around us, but only if we are willing to live consecrated lives, dedicated to truth, purity, and obedience. 

Today, let's resolve to be the one who serves as a road sign, pointing the way to Jesus. In our actions. In our attitudes. In our words. 

Jesus in us, the hope of glory. 

Let's be sure we have enough Jesus in us to make people hungry for Him.


Monday, February 29, 2016

When Good People Run Things: Considering the Presidential Candidates and Deciding How to Vote

Like most people, I am deeply concerned about the upcoming Presidential elections. My greatest fear about the candidates is that God will give us the one we deserve, not what we need. That fear drives me to my knees, as it should every God-fearing voter in this country.

This morning, I opened The Message to Proverbs 29. (It's a paraphrase, so I don't study from this book, but I enjoy the different language on occasion.)  What I found spoke so strongly about leaders that I felt it was worth a little discussion.

"When good people run things, everyone is glad; 
but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans." Proverbs 29:2 

We've seen the truth of this proverb more than once over my lifetime. 

For the next four years, we need a genuinely good person to be in leadership. 

I'm not talking about the person who espouses Christianity. I'm talking about the person who has demonstrated, over the course of a lifetime (or most of that lifetime), that they understand the difference between right and wrong. 

We need a leader who has tried to do good and not evil, right and not wrong, on a consistent basis. 

We need a leader who will struggle with the issues to make the best choice, agonize deep into the night if necessary, because the choices our next president will need to make will be hard.

"A leader of good judgment gives stability;
am exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste." Proverbs 29:4 

There has been conflict in our nation for much of my life. We need stability. We need good judgment. Sound values. Right living. 

We need a leader who has demonstrated good judgement on an ongoing basis.

I know the norm for many people is to vote for the one who (they believe) can "beat the other side". For once, let's stop that. 

I'm not pushing for any particular candidate here. 

I've heard quite a bit about which candidate can beat the other side, and it terrifies me. For once, let's look for the candidate who is a good person and has good judgment, then give them our vote and let God deal with "the other side". 

As a local elected official, I can attest to the complexity of the issues facing us. I can also attest to the fact that it is possible to learn what is needed to understand the issues, make sound judgments, and do what is right. It's hard, and it's time-consuming, but it can be done.

As disciples of Christ, we are instructed to pray for our leaders. If there was ever a time to pray for leaders, it's now.

As the time for voting, both in primaries and in the general election, draws near, let's remember that we the people  have the power to decide what kind of leaders we have. Let's spend some time praying for those leaders in advance. 

Pray long and hard about the candidate for whom you will vote. Look for leaders who are "good people" and have "good judgment", not the one who has the greatest potential to beat the other side.

Israel faced such a dilemma once. They demanded a king, so God gave them what they deserved. Saul was tall and handsome and flashy. He was also insane, and a terrible king. He was what they deserved.

I imagine they praised God when He finally gave them the king they needed. King David might not have been outwardly as attractive as Saul, but God looked at his heart and knew he was good.

As we prepare to go to the polls, let's cast our votes for candidates who are genuinely good people. Candidates with a record of sound judgment. Candidates who have shown they can make the world a better place. 

Stability. Goodness. Leadership. It's worth the effort to examine the candidates and vote accordingly. 

Let's not neglect to pray that God's perfect will be done, in our nation and in the leaders He gives.
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

#Whengoodpeoplerunthings #consideringthepresidentialcandidates #decidinghowtovote #presidentialelection #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Telling the Good News

The Wonder Dogs nearly drove me crazy this morning. We got up before dawn because I was speaking early. When I let the dogs out, Maggie started barking like crazy and raced toward the lake. A light in the distance had somehow reflected off the water, and Maggie didn't think it should be there. She barked her heart out at the reflection for longer than I could believe.

There was no danger. There was nothing on the water. It was just a reflection.

Maggie was barking because it's her job to sound the alarm and she is 100% committed to her work.

As disciples of Christ, it is our job to sound the alarm, too.  I wish we were as committed to our job as Maggie is to hers. 

Christ has died for our sin. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again. 

No man comes to the Father except through Him. 

We live in a dark and lonely world where our sin-riddled lives are only a reflection of the adventure God intended. 

Christ came to give us new life and a personal relationship with Him. We, His followers, are charged with the task of spreading the news to the uttermost parts of the earth, beginning with those closest to us. I sometimes wonder how well I'm doing that. I give money to missionaries, which certainly helps carry the cause of Christ to "Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost ends of the earth", but what about my "Jerusalem"? 

It would be tragedy to support missions in foreign lands but fail to share Christ with those closest to us. We have the greatest news of all.  Who have you told about Jesus this week? 

"... you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth." Acts 1:8 nasb

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
 #evangelism #tellingthegoodnews #JesusChrist #wonderdogs #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis