Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lessons from Sam: The Importance of Your Word


Today is the last in our Sam Series, at least for a while. There's been such a nice response that Sam will definitely be featured again. I'm glad you've loved him, because I surely do.

I asked Sam what his best piece of advice was. What he said didn't surprise me at all.

"You're only as good as your word, so keep it."

Sam's lived that way as long as I've known him, and I suspect his father before him lived that way, too. Sam's yes is always yes. His no is always no.

If he says he'll do something, he does it. If he says he won't do something, he won't.

He handled his marriage that way and he handles every other aspect of his life that way, too. Because of his faithfulness to his word, I know I can count on him.

The reason Sam lives this way is two-fold. First, it's the right thing to do. Second, it's the way God behaves toward us. 

"God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; 
Has He said it, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Numbers 23:19 nasb

When we read promises in the Scripture, we don't have to worry about whether or not God will keep His word. He will. If He has spoken, He will make it good.

When He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He means it. (Deut. 31:6)

When He says, "I will return for you," He will do it. (John 14:3)

When He says, "I will remember your sins no more," He does not remember them. (Jer. 31:34)

Almighty God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, is good and faithful. He is a God of His Word. He keeps His promises. That's a great comfort to me when I feel alone and when I'm not sure what to do. If I lack wisdom, I can ask, knowing I will receive because His Word says I will. (James 1:5)

Let's learn from Sam and do what he does. We're only as good as our word, so let's keep it. Because that's what God does. Every single time.
In case you missed one of the Sam stories, here are the links:
#Sam Wiley, #Lessons from Sam, #The Importance of Your Word, #Lines from Leanna

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lessons from Sam: Abominations, the Bible, and Praying for Our Nation

Sam Wiley is probably the nicest man you'll ever meet. Children and animals love him, and that's always a good sign. At 86 years old, he's not just nice, though. He's also wise. 

We were talking a few days ago about our culture and how crazy this world has gotten. Sam had an opinion that I thought was pretty good. I've spent a lot time pondering whether or not to write this, and I didn't want to, because I expect some flak. 

This morning, I've decided to proceed because Sam's opinion resonates with me. We don't have all the answers, but we know Who does. We can't solve all the problems of this world, but we know Who can. 

We can't fix the immorality so rampant in our nation, but we know that God promises to heal our land IF His people (not the lost people) humble themselves, seek His face, turn from their sin, and pray. That's what Sam and I try to do. We want to repent of our own sins and pray for our nation.

As a woman who came to Jesus with more sin than most of the people in the Bible, I'm convinced that Jesus can wash anyone white as snow, no matter what their favorite type of sin. I'm living proof of that. Jesus changed everything about me.

Sam feels the same about himself. He'd pretty much made a mess of things, just like me, before he met Jesus. That meeting changed everything, and Sam has never been the same again.

Maybe it's because we are both so familiar with our own sin, but Sam and I aren't interested in casting stones at fellow sinners. People could've thrown stones at us once, and we're glad they didn't. 

Someone asked me recently if I knew a particular behavior was an abomination before God. "What do you think about all this, Sam?"

"Well," he said in his slow Mississippi drawl, "I think a lot of things are an abomination to God. He's good and we're not. You know, I don't think folks read their Bibles any more. They just pick a verse here and a verse there and put them together. But it don't make it right. You've gotta take the whole Bible to get it right.

"My Bible says Jesus didn't come to condemn us. He came to save us. And He didn't stand up for His rights. He just laid them down and took the cross. Even though He didn't have to. Because He loved us. And He loved us while we were still sinning. People might want to think about that.

"God don't like no kind of sin. It don't matter what kind it is, he's agin it. Even mine. I try to remember that when I get to worrying about other people's sins."

It turns out that Sam was right. The Hebrew word translated as "abomination" occurs 117 times in the 39 books of the Old Testament. As it turns out, there are quite a few things that are an abomination to God.

Deuteronomy 22: 5 says it's an abomination for women to wear clothing that pertains to a man. Does that mean women shouldn't wear pants? I don't know. I wore a dress yesterday, but today, I'm wearing pants. It doesn't feel like an abomination, but maybe I need to reconsider.

Proverbs 6:16-19  tells us that seven things are an abomination to the Lord.  

"There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven things which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19 nasb

Proverbs 16:5 says, "Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord..."

Lest you think I'm justifying sin, I'm not. Take a look at Proverbs 17:15:

"He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord."

There's a lot of sin in this world, and I wish I had less of it than I do. I'm not in favor of sin at all. 

God created this beautiful world we live in, He sustains it, and He gets to make the rules. 

If God says something is sin, it is.

It's important to remember that there are many kinds of sin, but it's all unrighteousness. 

We're all sinners. Some of us have been redeemed by the merciful, grace-filled blood of Jesus and some of us haven't, but that blood is available to all.

I know people say that some sinners won't change, but that's what some people said about me. Until three women decided to pray for the worst person they knew. And that worst person was me. And God answered their prayers. Even when a lot of people didn't think He would. 

Neither Sam nor I have the answers to all the problems of the world. 

We don't know what's right in every situation. 

We don't know the best thing to do about every law or every decision.

We're not issuing an opinion on standing up or laying down. 

All we know is that Jesus gave up heaven for us, and, though He didn't enjoy doing it even one little bit, He took the cross for us because we couldn't stop sinning on our own. 

We try to think about that when we get tempted to start tossing stones.

In the meantime, we're trying to do what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says. Humble ourselves. Confess our own sin. Seek His face. Pray. 

That's what God says it'll take to turn this nation around, so we're hoping everyone in the body of Christ will do it. It'll make a difference. Try it and see. 

"...Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." John 8:7 nasb

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

In case you missed one of the Sam stories, here are the links:
Sign up for the Hosea study is still open. Message me or leave a comment.
#abomination #prayer #sin #Jesus #scripture

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lessons from Sam: Just Plain Sam

I've spent the week sharing stories about my friend and neighbor, Sam Wiley. He's been astonished by your reception of the Sam-stories. 

When I told him someone said he was a national treasure, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I don't know about a national treasure. What I am is just plain Sam. That's who I've always wanted to be and that's who I am."

Every once in a while, my family and closest friends will tell me, "You are being so Leanna." They don't usually mean it as a complement, but I take it as one, because I've learned from Sam.

Be who God created you to be.

Not long ago, Sam was worried that he might be getting uppity or putting on airs. He's getting forgetful, and he's worried that he might have forgotten himself a little bit.  Just to be on the safe side, Sam checked in with the man who runs the store where he likes to drink coffee. 

"Am I being Sam?" he asked the man. 

The man didn't quite know what to think, but he smiled and said, "Yes. You're always Sam."

"No. I mean I want to be sure I'm being just Sam Wiley, same as always, all the time."

That conversation may sound confusing to you, but not to me. I've known Sam for nearly 30 years. Sam has never wanted to be called Mr. Sam or Mr. Wiley. He's wanted to be just plain Sam for as long as I've known him. 

Sam says being "plain Sam" helps him remember, "I'm nothing special. Just plain ole Sam." He wants to be who he is, every day, all day long. Nothing put-on. No pretensions.

The important thing about being plain ole Sam is that he never has to worry about what "side" he showed you yesterday. You get the same view of him every time you see him. He's never uppity and he never puts on airs. (He checks with his buddies just to be sure.) 

Sam's as humble as they come, and it's served him well over the years. He's also the most loved and respected man I know. 

I'd like to be a lot more like Sam than I am. Simple. Humble. Gentle. Kind.

When Sam gets to heaven and hears those blessed words, "Well done, Good and Faithful Servant," I think he'll be surprised. He's been plain Sam so long, he'll find it hard to be GFS (Good and Faithful Servant). 

I can hear him now. He'll stare at Jesus, give him a little frown and shake his head like he always does. "What're You talking about? You know I ain't been nothing but Just Plain Sam, all my life."

In the words of Sam Wiley, "Be who God made you, and do it every day." 

"Be completely humble and gentle..." Ephesians 4:2 niv

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." 
Proverbs 11:2 niv

In case you missed one of the Sam stories, here are the links:
Sign up for the Hosea study is still open. Message me or leave a comment.
#humility #Sam #faithlife #linesfromleanna

Lessons from Sam: The Importance of I Love You

This is Sam Wiley week. It started when he turned 86 on Sunday. We hung out together most of the day and he talked about life and the lessons learned. 

I didn't actually intend to have an entire week of Sam sessions, but I've gained so much from him over the years that the wisdom he's shared with me is too precious to hoard. 

As many of you will remember, Sam's wife, Jamie, died back in October. They'd been married for six decades. Their daughter died after three months of a heart problem, so it was just the two of them all those years.

It's just Sam and me now, and these are precious, but hard days. Sam has a good many medical problems and he's no longer strong and vigorous like he used to be.

Life has changed for Sam in ways he never imagined. One of those ways, of course, is the loss of his wife. As we sat on the patio Sunday and watched the waves on the lake, Sam talked about regret. 

"The one thing I regret the most is that I didn't tell Jamie I love her enough. We did love each other, in our way, and we had a good life. We didn't have all some people have, but we had enough."

I disagreed. "Jamie knew you loved her, Sam."

"Well it wouldn't have me cost nothing to say it more. I shoulda done that, and I wish now I had. But it's too late. I'm telling you. You better tell the people you love that you do, because your chance will be over before you know it."

Sam's right. I've been thinking about love languages recently. All my characters in my current novel have taken the love language test, and I have, too. My love language is quality time. Sweet words and a big hug are nice, too, but they don't mean much if you don't back it up by spending time with me. 

Judging by almost 27 years with Sam, his love language is either acts of service or quality time, too. Words are not the tool he uses to say I love you, but he's learning. It's too late to say I love you to Jamie, but he's taking advantage of the time he has left to say I love you to those he loves.

There's not a day that passes now that Sam doesn't tell me thank you. There's not a day that passes that he doesn't say I love you, if not in words, then in his actions and his attitudes. He uses words a lot more now than he ever has.

If Sam Wiley, at 86 years old, can learn a new way of loving, we can, too. 

He's right. Life is short. Too short, in some ways. The people we love can be gone in an instant. We need to be intentional about loving while we can. 

We need to show people we love them, but we need to tell those we love that we love them, too. Don't wait until tomorrow. 

Life is short. Love well and don't forget to say it, too.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 nasb

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

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13 niv
#Iloveyou #lovelanguage #SamWiley

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Bible Study Starting Soon

Don't miss the upcoming Bible study on the book of Hosea. We've had a great response so far, and registration is still open. 

The lessons will not be posted on this blog. There will separate links for them.

 This is a self-paced 14-week study that begins May 1. I will post one week at a time, doing one chapter a week, and you can work through the lessons at your leisure. 

The goal is to learn to dig deep for ourselves. 

I'm studying Hosea and writing the way I study as I go, including the questions I ask, the things I look up to clarify my questions, and they way I pull it all together. (including the links I use) I hope we will be able to pull Scripture together in a deeper way so that we understand both the book of Hosea, how it ties in with the rest of the Bible, with history, and with our times today. 

Everyone is welcome. 

We will have group work, but you don't have to participate in group work to do the study. Message me or leave a comment to sign up. (We need an idea of numbers to arrange for help with the groups.) 

How to leave a comment: If you are using mobile view (on your phone) go to the bottom of the blog, click on "web version" and scroll to the bottom again. You'll see a place for comments. Post your comment or sign up there. Thank you. (You can also message me on FB/twitter/instagram)

#Biblestudy #JesusChrist #Hosea

Lessons from Sam: On Education and Reading the Bible

Sunday, April 10th, was Sam Wiley's birthday. To celebrate, we spent the afternoon talking about life and lessons learned and I'm sharing some of those lessons this week.

Sam's family, like most families in the 1930's, was poor. They were sharecroppers, which meant they worked hard for every bite of food that went into their mouths. They bought things like sugar, salt, and a little coffee, but they grew or raised almost everything else.

Imagine that for a minute. No grocery store. No vegetable market. Just till and hoe and plant and pick. After the vegetables were picked, they were processed and preserved. Some things were sun-dried and some were canned, but nothing was wasted.

We learned yesterday that Sam's daddy had contracted TB while in the service. He wasn't a well man, but he was a hard-working man, despite his illness. Sam and his brothers helped on the farm. His sisters helped in the house. 

"Wouldn't it have been helpful to have the girls work in the garden?" 

"Oh, no. That was the boys' job. The girls had plenty to do in the house and putting up the food. We was a team. We all had a job and we knowed what it was. So we did it."

"What about school, Sam? You finished third grade, didn't you?"

"Well, I quit going to school at third grade, but you can't really say I ever went."

"Your parents didn't send you to school? Didn't they want you to learn to read and write?"

"My parents wanted me to have food to eat so I could stay alive. Yeah. They wanted to me to have learning, but sometimes other things are more important."

Imagine that for a minute. Sam's parents had to choose between living and learning. They chose life. 

Their choices were a far cry from ours today, but they might have been better off than we are in some ways. The most important things were clear, and they weren't gymnastics or cheerleading or sports. The most important things were faith, and life, and food. They dealt with what mattered and left the rest for someone else.

So, Sam didn't go to school much. He didn't learn to read or write. If you ask him, he'll tell you he can't read. That's not quite true, but he doesn't read well.

We talked about reading a few years ago, and he told me he could read better than some of his friends. He had one friend who could read "men" and "women" on the bathroom signs, but he couldn't read it if they used other words like "Gents" and "Ladies." That friend had ended up in the wrong bathroom more than once. Sam was grateful he could read better than that.

There's one thing he can read, though, and it's a constant source of amazement to me. He can't read the newspaper, but he can read his Bible, and he does. 

He opens the King James Version, with all the Thees and Thous and Whithersoevers, and asks God to help him know what the words say. And He does. Every time.

Sam knows the Bible better than most of us with college educations because he's taken the time to read the most precious book he owns. 

Sam's Bible is the only book he owns, because it's the only one that matters.

There are hundreds of books in my house, and I read them, but there's only one book that matters most. My Bible. We may not realize it, but the Bible is always the one book that matters most, no matter what else we have in our houses. 

An interesting thing happened as Sam worked to read the words in his Bible. He labored over ever word and, as time progressed, those words became a part of him. He spent time with them and, without meaning to, he memorized them. 

His vision isn't so good any more, so he listens to the Bible on tape now. One way or the other, Sam Wiley is keeping up with, and in, the Word of God. After 86 years, the Words of Life are planted deep in him, and you can tell it from the life he lives.

If we don't know what God says, we can't obey Him, so let's reevaluate our own commitment to Bible study today. Are we hungry for His truth, His righteousness? 

If we dig into the Word of God, it will be planted in our hearts in ways that change us and are visible to the world around us, so let's dig deep.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105 KJV

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against Thee." Psalm 119:11 KJV
Don't miss the upcoming Bible study on the book of Hosea. We've had a great response so far, and registration is still open. The lessons will not be posted on this blog. There will separate links for them. This is a self-paced study that begins May 1. I will post one week at a time, doing one chapter a week, and you can work through the lessons at your leisure. The goal is to learn to dig deep for ourselves. I'm studying Hosea and writing the way I study as I go, including the questions I ask, the things I look up to clarify my questions, and the way I pull it all together. (including the links I use) I hope we will be able to pull Scripture together in a deeper way so that we understand both the book of Hosea, how it ties in with the rest of the Bible, with history, and with our times today. Everyone is welcome. We will have group work, but you don't have to participate to do the study. Message me or leave a comment to sign up. (We need an idea of numbers to arrange for help with the groups.) 

How to leave a comment: If you are using mobile view (on your phone) go to the bottom of the blog, click on "web version" and scroll to the bottom again. You'll see a place for comments. Post and save your comment or sign up. Thank you.
#literacy #Biblestudy #SamWiley 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lessons from Sam: Hunger and the Importance of Having Enough

Yesterday (April 10th) was Sam Wiley's birthday. As you may remember, he is my much-loved neighbor. This was Sam's first birthday since his wife died, so we spent a good bit of the day together. 

After church, we walked through the azaleas and reminisced about all the years we've planted azaleas together. We'd plant as many as one hundred azaleas each spring. (Those were mainly the years when we found them on sale for $1 apiece because we are both frugal.) 

As you might imagine, it took a while to get all those azaleas in the ground, but it was worth it to us because we love spring. We love flowers. We love azaleas.

We spent some time talking about life and growing older, and I thought the lessons he shared were worth passing along. (You can expect a few more lessons from Sam this week.)

Sam was born in 1930. His father contracted TB while he was in the army, and he received a check every month for $50 from the government because of it. 

I complained that $50 seemed a pitifully small amount for such a dreadful disease, but Sam said the $50 saved his family. That meager amount made the difference between food in their bellies and hunger. "We never had to go hungry."

When he was ten years old, they moved from Center to Blue Springs. They loaded everything they owned into a four-wheeled wagon, hitched it to the mules, and moved to a farm. 

The family had ten acres that they share-cropped there. That was as much as they could farm with only two mules and just two sons still at home, but it was enough. Sam and his brother worked the land. Fifty percent of all they grew went to the landowner. That seemed like a lot to me, but Sam said not, because it still left them enough. They never went hungry. 

"We was just coming out of the Great Depression. I don't reckon it could've been any worse than it was, because it was bad. We didn't have nothing. Nobody ever told us we was poor, because they didn't have any more than we did. No one did. 

"You know, we didn't have much of anything, but we was happy because we had enough."

Sam and his family had food to eat, a roof over their head, and two mules to work the land. He looks back on those years with thanksgiving. He told me several times that he was never hungry, and I realized later that not being hungry was quite an accomplishment. 

Sam and his family were content. They didn't worry about having the latest car or a fancy suit or a pretty dress. His sisters didn't worry about having their nails done or getting a pedicure or having highlights in their hair. They worried about putting food on the table and, when they had food, they were concerned that it would be enough. It always was.

We're not talking steak or lobster. They ate cornbread and peas. Vegetables they grew in the garden. Pork from the hog they raised and slaughtered and preserved. Sometimes they had meat and sometimes they didn't. 

You may have noticed that several words were repeated over and over again. "Enough. "Never hungry". If you've never been hungry, you may not understand the importance of those words, but Sam does.

Sam understands priorities. He knows what matters and what doesn't. Food on the table matters. Going to a fancy restaurant to get the food doesn't. A change of clothes matters. A closet full of clothes doesn't. 

We've lost the perspective on priority that Sam has, and we are poorer for it. We've lost the sense of family and interdependence that his family had. They needed each other to survive, they worked together to make it happen, and they didn't complain. 

Paul wrote to young Timothy about the importance of contentment and the snare of seeking wealth. We'd do well to listen to his words and take heed.

"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6:6-9 nasb

Today, let's take a close look at all the wealth we've accumulated and give thanks to the Lord for His great generosity to us. As we sit down to tables laden with food, let's remember Sam's words, "We never went hungry," and give thanks with a grateful heart for the bounty of the food God has provided. 

Let's look outside our own homes, too. There are people in need all around the world. There are still people who are hungry. We can do something about that, if we will. So let's do it. In the name of Jesus, let's reach out our hand and our hearts. Let's love our neighbors as we do ourselves. 

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" Matthew 25:40 nasb

We've had a great response to the new Bible study starting May 1, but there's still time to sign up. It will be an online course and those who sign up will have a link to access it. (It will not be posted as part of this blog.)  This 12-week study of Hosea is designed to teach the participants to dig out truth for themselves.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Trappings of Religion

#Mondaymotivation #GoodMonday #Jesus #content 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Trappings of Religion

The essence of the Jewish faith and the law can be summed up in a few words. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as (in the same way) you love yourself.  Those words can summarize the Christian faith, too.

Embracing that essence is hard to do. It's more love than most of us want to give without condition. It's more submission than we desire. It's more goodness than we have.

Since the heart of our faith requires more of us than we want to give, it's easy to embrace the trappings of religion instead. 

That's what happened to Israel in the time of Samuel. Everyone knew he was a prophet confirmed by God. They knew his words were true, but they didn't want to follow them. 

So they didn't.

Israel went into battle against the Philistines and they were soundly defeated. 4,000 men died. Afterward, the elders did not go to Samuel for a word from God. They went to themselves. 

"Why has the Lord defeated us?" they asked. They did, at least, recognize that victory and defeat come from the hand of God.

Instead of saying, "He defeated us because of the sin in our lives," they decided to devise a plan of their own. 

Since they knew that God had allowed their defeat, they decided to take the Ark of the covenant (the covenant between them and God) into battle as a kind of good-luck charm. 

They believed the power of the Ark could save them since God (they thought) had not.

When I read these words, I am utterly astonished. Didn't they understand the connection between God and the Ark? Apparently not.

They carried the Ark into battle, just as they planned. The Philistines mistook the presence of the Ark for the power of God (just as Israel had done) and it terrified them. They fought harder than ever, captured the Ark, defeated Israel, and killed 30,000 of Israel's soldiers.

Even after that terrible defeat, Israel did not seek God's face. More than twenty years passed before the people came to Samuel for a word from God.

Samuel had a simple solution. Repent. Get rid of the idols. Turn your heart to God alone. 

At last, that's what the people did. They removed the idols from the land and from their hearts. They turned back to God, and He forgave them and blessed them with freedom.

Israel lived in defeat for decades when the peace and victory only God could give was one bent knee, one changed heart away.  

We are certainly no different from those early Israelites. We, too, sometimes prefer the trappings of religion to the totality of a heart utterly committed to God. 

Peace and freedom cannot be found in the props of religion. Peace and freedom can be found only when we are willing to submit our will to His and bind our hearts to His heart.

If we want the kind of victory God promises, we will have to do things His way. Confess our sin. Repent. Relinquish our sin. Cling to Him alone. 

We cannot have all the blessings of God without bending our will to His.

Which will we choose? Freedom or bondage? Peace or turmoil? Surrender or rebellion? The choice is ours, so let's choose well.
In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Taking the Nazirite Vow and Having a Nazarite Heart

If you're interested in the new Bible study starting May 1, let me know. It will be an online study of the book of Hosea designed to teach us how to go deeper in our understanding of Scripture and how to use available study aids. Message me or leave a comment if you're interested. We've had a great response so far.

#Christian #Jesus #surrender #linesfromleanna