Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Tambourine Girl

More than a decade ago, an odd thing happened in church one morning. I don't remember what the music was, but I thought, "It would sure sound better with a tambourine." 

That's not my usual response to worship music, so I was a little surprised. I could imagine a tambourine playing along with the song. It sounded so much better in my head. More joyful. More vibrant. More alive.

Then, it started. Every church song was missing one essential item. The sound of a tambourine.

It drove me crazy at first. I thought it was a devil-attack, designed to distract me. The sound was so joyful, though, that I finally played the tambourine in my head and enjoyed the music. It was nice.

You can probably guess what happened next. I wanted to play a real tambourine. I thought about this a good while before I announced it one night over supper. "I'm thinking about getting a tambourine."
My mother, who was living with Ryan and me at the time, stared at me for a moment. "What?" 

"I want a tambourine. I'm thinking about getting one."

Mama rolled her eyes. She was used to my crazy ideas. "You can probably get one at Wal-Mart."

I did an eye-roll of my own. "Mama, I don't want a kid's toy tambourine. I want a musical tambourine. I want a real one."

I probably shouldn't admit this, but in my mind, I had begun to think about having that tambourine in church and playing along with the music. (Still seated in my usual place, of course.)

I mentioned this to one of my older friends at church. "You should join the orchestra."

"Oh, no. I don't want to be up front where everyone can see me. I just want to play my tambourine while I worship."
She gave me a sideways look and shook her head. "Leanna, honey, if you shake that tambourine in your seat, everyone in the building is gonna look at you. That would have to be one of the most distracting things you could do."

My tambourine-playing dream crashed to the floor and shattered.

As Christmas time neared, the desire for a tambourine was still alive. When I announced that the only thing I wanted for Christmas was a nice tambourine, Ryan just shook his head. "I hope you're not planning to play that thing at church. If you do, I'm sitting in the balcony."

My mama agreed with him. "If she does, I'm going with you."

I got my tambourine, but I never did play it in church. Ryan and Mama didn't much care for my tambourine playing around the house, so I hung it on a hook on the wall and used it for a decoration. When I was alone, however, I would take it down, sing to the Lord, and shake the tambourine to the music. I thought it sounded wonderful.

Years after I got my tambourine, the generosity of Toyota provided a park for Blue Springs. We started having Friday Night Jam in the park and area musicians come together and play. 

You probably guessed it. 

One Friday night, I slipped my tambourine off the wall and into my bag. As the musicians played, I could (as usual) hear how great the music would sound with the addition of the tambourine. I pulled it out, gave it a good shake, and nearly wept over the lovely sound.

I've been playing a tambourine ever since. If there's music at my house, you can expect a tambourine accompaniment. It's a joyful sound and, for me, represents the kind of freedom we should have in worshipping God.

In case you're laughing (which I kinda hope you are), let me remind you of two things. First, I like to live with abandon before the God who created me to live this way. Second, the Bible is full of tambourine-playing worship. 

According to the Blue Letter Bible, a tambourine is a membrane-covered wooden circle with bells attached. Mine's a modern-day version, I guess.

The tambourine is mentioned fifteen times in Scripture and, every time, it's in conjunction with joyful worship. Three of the Psalms specifically mention praising Him with the tambourine.

I learned a lot about God through my tambourine. He loves our praise. He especially loves it when we stop holding back because of pride, worried about what the people around us think. He loves it when we're free to worship Him with all our heart. Even when that includes the tambourine.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 niv

"Praise Him with tambourine and dance, Praise Him with strings and pipe...
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." 
Praise Psalm 150:4, 6 esv

Whether the tambourine is your instrument of choice or not, there's a lesson to be learned. Worship is more authentic when it flows from a heart that's free of pride and full of joy. 

Today, stop where you are and sing to the Lord. 

Go outside. Raise your arms to the sky and thank Him, out loud, for all the gifts He's given you. Literally do this, not just in your mind.

Shout to Him in praise. 

You might feel silly at first, but it's the kind of freedom that pleases our Lord, and what could be better than that? 

Sing Hallelujah to the Lord, and do it right out loud.
Don't forget about my free e-book. It's only free for four more days. (6/3-6/8/16) I still need to give away several hundred more books to meet my goal, but we have a great start, so download it today. Thanks so much! (It's free.) Here's the link: The Clay Papers

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Wonder Dogs and the Chicken Feather

#tambourine #praiseHim #singtotheLord #linesfromleanna

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Wonder Dogs and the Chicken Feather


A few days ago, Sam took the Wonder Dogs for a walk. When they went to the barn, Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy (on the right) found a big chicken feather. She carried the feather in her mouth all the way back to the house. 

After they returned, she stretched out on the floor, held it between her paws, and licked the feather for hours. She held the feather. Carried the feather. She adored the feather. She still does.

Maggie the Wonder Dog knew about the feather and she wanted it, too. When Mamie put the feather down, Maggie took it, held it between her paws, and licked. She adores it, too.

They haven't fought over the feather, but they're both dedicated to it.

The feather smells like a chicken. Maggie has grabbed a chicken by the neck with her mouth (when she got to the barn before I did), so the feather probably tastes like a chicken to her.

The feather is more than a play toy. The feather is a reminder of their past and their wicked ways. 

Maggie and Mamie are chicken-chasers at heart. If truth be told, Maggie is a chicken-shaker-and-killer at heart. Mamie would like to be, but she's not quite big enough to grab a chicken. Her size is the only thing that's saved her from chicken-killing.

Since we take them to the barn on leashes now, they don't have an opportunity to grab chickens. Their enforced abstinence hasn't stopped their longing for it, though. I think the feather reminds them of the old ways and feeds their desire a little bit.

Keeping a reminder, just a taste, of a past sin is probably not a good idea.

I've found that, if I want to get a certain sin out of my life, I need to get it out of my life completely. Sever all ties with the old ways. Turn 180 degrees from the action I want to stop.

It's called repentance, and it's more than saying we're sorry. If we're done with sin, we stop carrying a "feather reminder", turn completely around, and head in a new (sin-free) direction.

An alcoholic can't keep alcohol around and expect to stay sober. A pornography addict can't keep copies of risque magazines around and expect to stay away from them. A glutton can't keep cakes and cookies and expect not to eat them. A gossiper can't keep track of other's business and expect not to indulge in secrets.

When we repent of sin, we choose to let go of that sin. 100%. If we want to stay free of it, we hold on to nothing of our old way. Even holding on to a tiny scrap of seemingly-insignificant-sin will trip us every time.

The worst part of "feather-holding" is that it robs us of the best part of repentance: Times of refreshing.

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." Acts 3:19 NIV

Having our sins wiped away is a wonderful gift from God, but the times of refreshing that comes from repentance are just as precious. That godly refreshment is worth all we give up in the form of sin and reminders.

So let's let go of our sin and our "feathers", take up our cross, and follow Jesus with all our hearts. 

Here's a link to the FREE ebook: The Clay Papers  (Free from 6/3/16 through 6/8/13. Don't miss it!) I hope to give thousands away, so please share with all your contacts.

In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: The Incredible Kindness that Broke My Heart

#repentance #disciple #freeebook 


Five Star Rating

The Clay Papers ebook, a collection of sometimes funny, sometimes poignant stories about lessons learned in pottery class, is free on Amazon from today (6/3/16) through Wednesday (6/8/13). The stories are pictures of God at work in everyday situations. Don't miss it.

Here's the link: The Clay Papers

I'm hoping to give away thousands of e-books, so don't delay. Download. Share with your friends. Enjoy. 

(I don't make money on free books, but free purchases raise my Amazon rank and improve the visibility of the book. It's a perfect example of "more blessed to give..." Thanks for your help.)
#freeebook #kindle #free

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Incredible Kindness That Broke My Heart

A most unexpected thing happened to me Sunday. I'm in a ladies' Sunday School class, but I've attended a "temporary" Mission Mindset class for the last eight weeks or so. That's why I wasn't in my regular class Sunday morning. 

I had just gotten to the sanctuary/worship center when a young woman from my ladies' class came up to me, carrying a cute green gift bag. 

Kacy is a beautiful, petite blonde who is a single mother to two small children. She's a faithful member of our class, and as sweet as can be. Like all young mothers, her life is busy and sometimes overwhelming.

"Miss Leanna, this is for you. I owe you an apology, and I want to tell you how sorry I am." She held out the bag to me.

I stared at her in confusion for moment. How could she possibly owe me an apology? I wasn't sure what to say, but I took the bag and thanked her.

My confusion was evident, I guess, because she explained. "I was insensitive and inconsiderate Friday night, and I'm so, so sorry. My little boy felt so bad about it that we wanted to make it up to you."

She was so sincere, so intent on making amends that I desperately searched my mind. What could she have done that I totally missed? I didn't know what to do. 

Finally, I admitted my confusion. "Kacy, thank you, but I don't know what you mean. When were you insensitive to me?"

She explained that she had been in charge of dessert for the Sunday School class party on Friday night. She and her boys made cookies. I saw them on the counter when we served our plates. They were so beautiful that I considered taking a picture of them to send to my son, and wondered how she'd made them. In fact, they were the most beautiful homemade cookies I'd ever seen. I wished I could make cookies that looked like that.

Not for a moment did I wish to eat the cookies. They weren't gluten-free, and I am. My mama had celiac disease and grieved for every cookie she couldn't eat. Not me. If it's gonna hurt my gut and give me brain-fog, I don't want it. It doesn't hurt my feelings at all.

Kacy said, "I never asked about food intolerances. I was supposed to bring dessert for everybody. Not for everybody but you." She felt she had left me out, and it had broken her heart. It broke the tender heart of her son when he learned about it, as well.

Her grief over what she perceived as a slight to me was so profound, it pierced my heart. I don't grieve over causing an insult like she does, and I'm ashamed of myself. I'm not as inclusive. Not as sensitive. Not as kind.

Her sorrow over causing a slight, her incredible kindness in an attempt to make amends, did more to change my heart than a fiery sermon ever could. 

I wept. And wept. And I've wept again this morning writing about this sweet woman and her tender heart.

She has the heart of God for others and she's teaching her children to have that same kind heart. I often say that, to the sweet, God shows Himself sweet. And He does. I think He must be awfully sweet to Kacy. I pray He is, for she's an example to us all.

Kacy and her boys got up early on Saturday morning. No cartoons. No dawdling in pajamas. They went to the store and searched for gluten-free cookies. Her son picked the vanilla sandwich cookies, the very pack of cookies I'd have picked for myself. 

They might be the best cookies I've ever eaten because they are coated in love and kindness. 

Kacy knows that, for the body of Christ to be unified, we have to include everyone. Even people like me, who makes including me more difficult because of my dietary intolerance. 

When I think of the verse, "Be kind to one another." I think of Kacy. She wants everyone to be a part of the rich blessings only Christ can give. I've learned an important lesson, and I hope I'll be more like Kacy going forward, because she's so much more like Jesus.

We could all learn a lesson from Kacy and the boys. Apologize freely. Love all. Include everyone. No matter how hard it is. 

"And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 nasb

I need your help! 
The Clay Papers e-book is free on Amazon today and tomorrow (June 2 and 3). I'd like to give away at least 1,000 copies (well, I want to give away more than that, but I'm praying for 1,000) so please take a moment and "buy" it for free and ask all your friends to do the same. Here's the link:

(The price has not been adjusted by Amazon as of 6/2 at 6:3 am, but I have contacted them and it should be corrected shortly.)

In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Choosing Dirt
#kindness #bodyofChrist #disciple 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Choosing the Dirt

Maggie the Wonder Dog is funny and smart and a little sassy. Well, sometimes she's a lot sassy, and it's not often to her advantage.

A few days ago, Sam and I were sitting outside, talking and taking a break. We called the dogs, and Mamie came running. She jumped into Sam's lap and settled in for some good snuggling. Sam laughed with delight. He loves to snuggle with Mamie.

I called Maggie again, but she didn't come. "Where is that dog?"

Sam pointed toward the lake. "You ain't gonna like it, but she's rolling around in the dirt."

I followed his finger with my eyes, and he was right. Maggie was under the big pecan tree in a bare area of dirt, rolling around. Well, scrubbing around might be a better description. I could see from our vantage point that she was covered in dust and dirt. 

Sam hollered to Maggie. "She's not gonna let you inside like that. You oughta come now before it gets worse."

Maggie didn't care. She kept rolling.

This may be giving a dog too much credit, but I've often thought that, when Maggie knows a bath is inevitable, she gets as dirty as she can right before it.

Maggie loves the intimacy of snuggling. She loves the comfort of sitting in laps. That day, however, she loved the dirt just a little bit more.

We watched her as she played a while, and I finally said. "She's a lot like some people, don't you think?"

"Yep," Sam agreed. "They sure love the dirt."

Sam's right. Maggie could've had snuggles and laps and back scratches and belly rubs. She could've had all the good things that go with obedience. Instead, she chose the isolation and dirt of disobedience.

I think there are times when we're a lot like her, especially when we've already been disobedient. Somehow, despite the sweet intimacy that comes from repentance, we prefer the isolation of further sin just a little bit more. I do that sometimes, and maybe you do, too.

It's never worth it.

This world is a cold and lonely place when we're separated from our Lord. There's no momentary comfort that's worth the isolation sin brings. So, let's get up out of the dirt we're rolling in, whether that be pride, anger, unforgiveness, lust, or greed. We all have our favorite "flavor" of sin, but no matter what it is, it separates us from God. 

Let's stop piling sin upon sin and come back to our Father. The only thing better than the clean feeling of forgiveness is the sweet intimacy of right standing with our Lord. 

One of the last things Jesus said was, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing." He was right. 

If we understood what our sin cost, maybe we'd choose better. We won't understand, this side of heaven, the full price of sin, but we do know it breaks fellowship with God. That's enough of an understanding for me. 

So today, let's start with, "Father, forgive me..." and let the sweet times of forgiveness and restoration begin.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God... restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:10,12 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Sam Trail

And here's the link to the featured post: Saving America
#repent #disciple #Jesus #MaggietheWonderDog

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Sam Trail

Seven months after the death of Sam's wife, we're still finding our way in this new normal of ours. A lot has changed in these few months. Sam's learned to prepare his meals, change his sheets, do his laundry. He knew how to do those things before, but Jamie always did them. Now, he does them himself, and we're both proud of his efforts.

He doesn't drive on the road anymore, so we spend a lot more time together. One of the things we've enjoyed doing lately is feeding the fish in the afternoons. We buy a cartload of "agricultural bread" (old bread) at the bread store, and store it in an old olive barrel. Every afternoon, we grab a few loaves, crumble up the slices, and throw it to the fish. 

Sam takes great delight in seeing the fish churn the water to get bread, and I take great delight in watching him.

It's a long walk for Sam, who's not as spry as he used to be, and it's easier if we stop a few times on the way back. I devised the Sam Trail to help. As you can see in the picture, I've positioned a trail of lawn chairs along the way from my backyard to the lake. Sam stops when he gets out of breath and rests until he can go again.

Yesterday, I scrubbed down the chairs to get the winter's grime off, then repositioned them.

"Why don't you put two chairs at each spot? Then you can have a seat, too."

Sam's words cut me to the core. In that moment, I realized that, while Sam sat to rest, I'd stood over him, waiting to "get going" again. What Sam wanted was for me to slow down and savor the moment, to rest along side him.

I put two chairs at each spot.

Later, we fed the fish and made our way back. When we stopped for Sam to catch his breath, we both sat. The view of the lake was beautiful. Peaceful. Restorative.

Sam often says, "We're not guaranteed another day." He's right. We're not, so it's important to savor every day, treasure every sweet stop along the way. Sometimes, we simply need to stop and watch the lake together.

I've been "wide open" for so long that slowing down for someone else is a big change for me, but it's been a good one. Perhaps you, too, go at a fast pace. Try being intentional about slowing down, savoring the moment, treasuring the days. 

Rest is part of God's plan for us, and Sam is teaching me it's great value. Those few minutes spent in rest on the Sam Trail are as restorative to me as they are to him.

Sam and I are making memories. One day, they'll be all I have of Sam, and they will be even more precious than they are today. 

We can't treasure memories later if we don't make them now, so slow down. Stop. Enjoy. 

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28,29 NASB
In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Saving America 
#rest #slowdown #disciple #linesfromleanna

Monday, May 30, 2016

Saving America

Not everything you read on the internet is true, especially about Memorial Day. Today, I intended to check the date of the first Memorial Day and was astounded by the number of places that claimed to have started the day of remembrance. According to Wikipedia (admittedly, not always a bastion of truth), there is documentation to support the claim that, in 1862, women in Savannah, Ga. decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers.

That may be true, but here's what I know for sure. After the Civil War, there were mothers who grieved for their sons. Sisters who grieved for their brothers. Daughters who grieved for their fathers. Wives who grieved for their husbands. 

In the South, we visit the graves of those we love. We decorate those graves with flowers, if we can. It's a kind of "sprucing up" that makes the grave seem less cold and barren.

If there was a mother with a son in the ground, that grave was visited and, probably, decorated. She grieved for that son. She remembered him, and not just because some government mandate proclaimed the day. 

She remembered him every single day. She missed her boy as long as she drew breath. Nothing about that grief has changed today. Mothers still grieve for their sons and daughters who die in battle. 

We all grieve for our lost ones.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor the soldiers who died while in service. What's easy to forget is that every solider who has fought and killed the enemy in battle leaves a part of themselves on the battlefield. Every soldier who kills, although righteously, has a little death of their own.

I know about it firsthand because my daddy fought, and was wounded, in World War II. He came home with the scars to prove it. Because he wasn't wounded in battle, he turned down the Purple Heart. It was one of our own soldiers that shot him. That wound, and his time in service, left scars deep inside that plagued him for the rest of his life.

We have lots of veterans who've lost a piece of themselves in service, and, because of my daddy, I see Memorial Day as a chance to remember them all. To honor them all.  A day to pray that our God, who will one day wipe away every tear and heal every hurt, will do that for the men and women who have served our nation.

They bought our freedom with their hearts and with their blood, and we have accepted their sacrifice with such casualness in recent years that I'm ashamed of us. Ashamed of myself for not doing something to bring about a change. But I'm not in charge of changing hearts, though I sometimes wish I were. 

We were a great nation, built and preserved by men and women willing to die for us to stay free. We, as a people, have chased a dream that cannot satisfy, abandoned our solid foundation of truth, and become shallow and foolish in the process. 

The men and women who died for us didn't die so that we could have big houses and fancy cars and decadent lifestyles.

They fought and died so that we could have freedom of religion, speech, and press. Freedom to bear arms. Freedom from search and seizure. Fair trials by a jury of our peers. Freedom from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. Freedom from excessive federal intervention in our lives (States' rights). 

In case you didn't recognize them, those are the freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. Those rights are our foundation and the cornerstone of these United States.

They are worth preserving because the kind of freedom we've had is rare and precious. If you don't believe me, look around at the nations of the world. Our freedoms are evaporating like dew on a hot morning, and change is coming. We won't like it. I promise you that.

We will have exchanged true freedom for a tawdry sham of freedom, and we will grieve what we've lost. If we have the sense to recognize it.

The people of God CAN make a difference. If we will. But we cannot do it with boycotts and harsh words. I know those things make us feel like we're doing something, and they have their place, but there is nothing in scripture about doing a boycott to change a nation.

What God says about changing a nation, about saving a nation that's dying, is this:

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

If the people of God do not do what must be done, our nation will perish. 

If the nation doesn't hold us responsible, they should. 

We can save our nation, if we will. But we cannot save America if we continue to be complacent about our own personal sin, arrogant about our supposed righteousness, and halfhearted about our commitment to our Lord. 

It is past time for those who claim to be the people of God to step up to the plate, hit their knees, repent, turn, and pray. We're the only ones who can save America, but we will have to do it on our knees. 

On this day of remembrance, let's honor those who've died for us, but let's also take time to remember the reason they died and what we've lost as a nation. On this day, let's make a start to save this once-great country. 

It's too big a job for us, but I'm confident of one truth. Saving America is not too big for our God.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Wholehearted Living

And here's the link to the snake story: Sam the Snake Handler

#MemorialDay #savingAmerica #ifmypeople #linesfromleanna

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wholehearted Living

Jan, Edith, and I took a field trip to the curb market in Pontotoc yesterday. These two young men both work there. I had several questions about the produce and they were eager to help, happy to answer with a smile, and even offered to carry my produce to the car. 

(I'm sorry to say that Jan and Edith had to carry their own produce, but that was because I made a deal on old cherries and had a lot to carry. It might also have been because I bought more than they did.)

While we shopped, the young men moved cantaloupes from one crate to another. I'm not sure why they needed to be moved, but the guys had a great time tossing the melons. I was surprised (and gladdened) by their accuracy.

"It looks like you guys have fun a work. Is this a good place to work?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am. We love it here. We have a good time every day."

I watched them work and realized that the tasks they perform every day are not easy. They do hard, physical labor. The boxes of fruits and vegetables are heavy. The produce is fragile. Care must be taken not to damage the wares.

They have fun at work because they've decided to enjoy their job. Joy springs up inside them and, though they have physically demanding work, they do it with enthusiasm and without a word of complaint.

It's the way the people of God are to approach life, not just in work, but in matters of faith and family, as well. Whole-hearted living brings joy to our journey and sweetness to our service. It brings contentment, regardless of our circumstances.

As we start a new week, let's commit ourselves to wholehearted discipleship without complaint. Embrace faith, family, and work with everything we have, and serve our Lord and our neighbors with joy and love.

That's what Jesus did, and it's what we're supposed to do, too. 

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." 
Ecclesiastes 9:10 nasb
For those doing the Hosea study, the link for Chapter Five is now live. (

Here's the link to the snake story: Sam the Snake Handler and Our Big Adventure
#lovemywork #wholeheart #disciple #linesfromleanna